287 Mr A. W. Fadden, Acting Prime Minister, to Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister (in Cairo)

Cablegram 57 12 February 1941,

War Cabinet today gave consideration to cablegrams Nos. 49 and 50 of the 28th January from the United Kingdom Government dealing with report of Singapore Conference in event of war with Japan.

[1] In latter cable suggestion made that we might agree not to insist on total Commonwealth and New Zealand Naval Forces returning to Australian waters, reasons being- (A) Major expedition against Commonwealth and New Zealand can be ruled out initially.

(B) Main defence in Far East is maintenance of the security of Singapore and sea communications from Singapore through Indian Ocean to the United Kingdom.

(C) Latter communications also vital to us as regards supplies and maintenance our troops in Middle East.

Government has replied emphasizing among other things necessity protection Tasman Sea area as vital to both Australian and New Zealand interests and emphasizing the importance of giving effect to conclusions of Singapore Conference that minimum naval forces considered necessary in Australian and New Zealand waters can be provided only by the return of all Australian and New Zealand naval forces now serving overseas.

Government also expressed concern as to the naval strength in the Far East and has asked for full statement both as to naval strength at present available and the action proposed to augment it in the event of hostilities with Japan. We suggest you should also press for this information.

I have not furnished you with the full text of these cables as you can obtain them when you arrive in London, but my main reason for cabling you is to express the concern of the Government in regard to the present Japanese position and the lack of information in our possession as to the intentions of the United Kingdom Government to counter any move she may make. We feel that as a partner in Empire affairs with a brigade of our troops in the forward danger area that we should know in advance what hostile actions on the part of Japan are likely to be regarded by the United Kingdom authorities as a casus belli.

We suggest that you press for a frank appreciation from the United Kingdom Government as to the probable actions of Japan in the immediate future that would be looked upon as a casus belli and the possible moves that she might make which would be countered by other means. The areas of particular interest are Hong Kong, penetration into Thailand and Indo-China and irritation tactics generally in the southern area apart from direct attack on Malaya or Netherlands East Indies which would result in immediate hostilities. The extent [2], if any, that America or Netherlands East Indies might be expected to take in these measures should also be indicated.

1 See AA:A2671, 61/1941 and Document 282.

2 This word was deciphered in London as 'action'. See copy on file Defence: Special Collection I, Box 629, Prime Minister's Visit to United Kingdom, 1941 Paper No. 5. Staff Conversations with United States of America and Netherlands East Indies.

[AA:A3196, 1941, 0.1829]