275 Mr A. S. Watt, First Secretary of the Legation in Washington, to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 92 WASHINGTON, 6 [February] [1] 1941, 7.22 p.m.

MOST SECRET

Your telegram No. 341. [2]

No press references to current talks [3] have been made here.

Talks are unknown outside the very restricted official circles.

On 2nd February references to the Hull-Casey talks of last year [4] appeared in the press. They originated in Wellington New Zealand on 14th January and apparently came to America by mail.

Reports claim that 'understanding' existed between the United States Australia and New Zealand in accordance with which Australia and New Zealand had agreed to grant 'refuelling facilities at ports' and 'flying fields' in return for some unspecified American 'limited guarantee' allegedly connected with the defence of Singapore.

Before publication Editor 'New York Times' [5] asked Hamilton of State Department and myself for confirmation and we refused to comment.

Burrell [6] subsequently learned that Admiral Stark [7] was very disturbed at the publication of reports.

Utmost secrecy regarding the present talks which are proceeding very slowly is so essential that I suggest that the Censor should continue to hold up reports which originated in New Zealand. If this should become impracticable, reports should be linked clearly with Hull-Casey conversations which occurred at the end of last year and perhaps passing reference made to Minister's recent illness.

I have discussed your telegram with Butler [8] who agrees (1) utmost secrecy concerning present talks necessary. (2) Australian censor should hold up reports if possible, (3) if (2) impracticable they should definitely link with the Hull-Casey conversation of last year.

WATT

1 The original incorrectly read 'January'.

2 Document 273.

3 U.K.-U. S. staff conversations commenced in Washington on 29 January.

4 See Document 216.

5 Charles Merz.

6 Naval Attache at the Legation in Washington.

7 Chief of U.S. Naval Operations.

8 Minister at the U.K. Embassy in Washington.

[AA:A981, USA 79, i]