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

Cablegram 117 WASHINGTON, 13 February 1941, 12.22 a.m.

MOST SECRET

For Chief of Naval Staff [1] from Naval Attache. [2]

(1) Conversations are proceeding and have reached following stage:-

(a) In their view main United States contribution should be in Atlantic and Mediterranean. With this United Kingdom delegation has agreed but United States representatives are most reluctant to recognise that position in Far East must be held with minimum force and that security of Singapore is an essential element in our joint strategy for the prosecution of the war against Germany and Italy. United States representatives would contemplate in the last resort abandoning the Far East in order to ensure maximum concentration in Atlantic and Mediterranean.

(b) United States representatives intend that United States Pacific fleet should operate from Hawaii with the object of protecting the West Coast of America and at the same time restraining the Japanese from conducting major operations against Malaya.

United Kingdom delegation have yet to divulge the precise operations which are envisaged but they press for an active and progressive policy.

(c) United States representatives maintain that any reinforcement of their Asiatic fleet, present strength of which is 1 heavy cruiser, 1 light cruiser, 13 destroyers and 17 submarines, would serve no useful purpose in the event of war.

(2) At the request of United States representatives, United Kingdom delegation have submitted an appreciation elaborating the views of the Chiefs of Staff on the strategic importance of the Far East position in relation to the main object, defeat of Germany and Italy. Needless to say the United Kingdom delegation have presented the strongest possible case and it is just possible that this may yet influence them to appreciate our point of view and agree at least to some reinforcement of their Asiatic fleet, but the United Kingdom delegation must discard finally any hope of this reinforcement including a United States capital ship-such naval cooperation to operate from Singapore.

(3) With regard to the present critical situation in the Far East, the United States representatives agree that everything possible should be done to keep Japan from coming into the war, and also that there is now no advantage to be obtained from a policy of appeasement. United Kingdom delegation tentatively suggested that a temporary reinforcement of their Asiatic fleet with forces of the order of 1 carrier, 4 heavy cruisers and auxiliary craft would have a salutary effect, but the United States representatives hold that this would serve no useful purpose and would in fact be provocative.

WATT

1 Admiral Sir Ragnar Colvin.

2 Commander H. M. Burrell.

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