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

Cablegram 98 WASHINGTON, 7 February 1941, 4.01 p.m.

MOST SECRET

For Chief of Naval Staff [1] only from Naval Attache. [2] With reference to your telegram No. 336. [3]

(1) Summary of United Kingdom delegation's instructions.

Begins.

(A) Conversations to be based on hypothesis of war between Germany, Italy, Japan and British Empire, present allies, United States. Hypothesis is without prejudice to any developments in the political situation and implies no political commitments.

(B) Conversations to be conducted in spirit of complete frankness.

(C) Object to co-ordinate on broad lines plan for employment of forces of associated powers in above hypothesis.

(D) Discussion will be within framework of general strategic policy of Chiefs of Staff Any agreement reached will not have any binding effect until confirmed by His Majesty's Government.

(E) His Majesty's Government advocated following strategic policy:-

(a) European theatre of war vital theatre where decision must first be sought.

(b) General policy should therefore be to defeat the Germans and Italians first and then deal with Japan.

(c) Security of Far Eastern position including Australia and New Zealand is essential to our strategy. Retention of Singapore as a key to the defence of these interests must be assured. End of summary.

Please repeat to Chief New Zealand Naval Staff. [4]

(2) Appreciate the desirability of the results of staff conversations here being available prior to the Singapore conversations beginning February 22nd and every endeavour will be made to give as much information regarding progress as is possible. I should make it clear however that it is most unlikely that discussions will have reached definite conclusions in time.

(3) Your remarks as to the importance of the bases to north and east of Australian possessions noted especially by United Kingdom delegation, and this question will be raised with United States committee.

WATT

1 Admiral Sir Ragnar Colvin.

2 Commander H. M. Burrell. It appears that copies of this and the following cablegram from Burrell (Document 279) were not shown to the Acting Prime Minister, A. W. Fadden, until he asked to see them on 13 February. In a teleprinter message to the Minister for External Affairs, Sir Frederick Stewart, on 13 February the Secretary of the External Affairs Dept, Lt Col W. R. Hodgson, explained that these cablegrams had been sent by Burrell 'direct to his Chief only. In such cases as these operational and strategical messages, we regard ourselves as channel of communication only, the responsibility for showing them to the Minister or the Acting Prime Minister being the Chief of Naval Staff's'. See file AA:A1608, Y27/1/1. Subsequent progress reports on the conversations (Documents 294, 316, 318, 365 and 380) were teleprinted to Fadden on receipt.

3 Document 267.

4 Commodore W. E. Parry.

[AA:A981, FAR EAST 25B, i]