279 Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister, to Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in London

Cablegram 54 26 May 1940,

FOR HIGH COMMISSIONER

Reference your No. 357. [1] Netherlands East Indies. Please convey following information to United Kingdom Government:-

(Begins) On 16th May, 1940, Consul-General of Japan [2] called on Minister External Affairs [3] and on behalf of his Government requested attitude of Commonwealth Government towards Netherlands East Indies. Minister invited attention to declaration he had made in Parliament on 15th May to the effect that Australia as Pacific Power was vitally concerned in maintenance status quo of Netherlands East Indies and for its part would take no action likely to affect present position. Minister added this was view of Commonwealth Government.

Consul-General expressed gratification with this declaration and stated he would communicate it to his Government. He added this was also attitude of Japanese Government, and Consul-General gave assurance to that effect.

Discussion then ensued as to general position in Europe and question was raised as to press report of naval understanding between Italy and Japan. Consul-General denied any such negotiations were in progress or contemplated. He further stated that on 10th May Japanese Cabinet had reaffirmed decision of previous Government that Japan would maintain policy of strict neutrality in present European war and would not enter into any entanglement or involvement with any European Power at the present time.

Minister asked if he could make use of this in any public statement or answer to question in Parliament. Consul-General answered 'Yes' as that was the decision of Japanese Government, and he repeated his assurance to this effect. (Ends) [4]

MENZIES

1 Document 277.

2 Masatoshi Akiyama.

3 John McEwen.

4 This cablegram repeats without significant alteration the text of a record of the conversation prepared by the Secretary of the External Affairs Dept, Lt Col W. R. Hodgson, and signed by McEwen on 16 May 1940. The original is on the file here cited.

[AA: A981, NETHERLANDS 33]