163 Mr A. Eden, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, to Commonwealth Government

Cablegram 105 LONDON, 19 April 1940, 6.25 a.m.

IMPORTANT MOST SECRET

Your telegram 17th April, 156. [1]

We appreciate the reasons for your suggestion that His Majesty's Ambassador at Washington should be requested to discuss question of Netherlands East Indies with the United States authorities in order to ascertain their attitude, and had in fact already considered sending instructions to Lord Lothian in this sense. We felt, however, that such an approach might prove embarrassing to the United States Administration owing to their well-known dislike to [sic] committing themselves in advance to a course of action which, on account of public opinion or for other reasons, they might not be able to carry out when the time came.

2. In the meantime it has been reported in the press that the United States Secretary of State has issued a statement warning other nations to respect the status quo of the Netherlands East Indies regardless of what happens in Holland: in the course of his statement Mr. Hull is reported to have said that 'intervention in the domestic affairs of the Netherlands Indies, or any alteration in their status quo by other than lawful processes, would be prejudicial to the cause of stability, peace and security, not only in the entire Netherlands Indies, but in the entire Pacific area.' 3. We regard Mr. Hull's statement as most satisfactory from our point of view and feel that in all the circumstances and particularly for the reason explained in paragraph one, an official approach to the United States Government would not be likely to be helpful at present stage.

4. According to the Netherlands Minister in London [2] the Netherlands Minister in Tokyo [3] was informed by the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs [4] that the Japanese Government could not look with equanimity upon any alteration in status quo in Netherlands East Indies in the event of the Netherlands being involved in the European war. A protectorate over the Netherlands East Indies by any belligerent would involve an alteration in the economic and political status quo in East Asia, which Japanese could not accept. Similar communication had been made by the Japanese Minister at Hague [5] to the Netherlands Minister for Foreign Affairs. [6]

5. We feel, therefore, that the best course for us to pursue would be to inform the Japanese Government that we hold similar views, and that like them we should be deeply concerned over any developments in the European war which might affect the status quo in Netherlands East Indies. Before acting along these lines we are consulting His Majesty's Ambassador at Washington.

6. See also my telegram Circular D.138. [7]

1 Document 152.

2 Jonkheer E. Michiels van Verduynen.

3 General J. C. Pabst.

4 Hachiro Arita.

5 Itaro Ishii.

6 Dr E. N. van Kleffens.

7 On file AA: A1608, B41/9, i.

[AA: A981, JAPAN 158, iv]