296 Mr A. S. Watt, First Secretary of the Legation in Washington, to Lt Col W. R. Hodgson, Secretary of Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 120 WASHINGTON, 13 February 1941, 5.46 p.m.


Reference my telegram No. 114. [1]

(1) For what they are worth my purely personal comments are as follows:

(a) No man (not excluding President Roosevelt) can foretell precisely how American opinion will react to Japanese attacks on Malaya, Australia or New Zealand.

(b) Sympathetic interest in Australia and Australian prestige, particularly since the Libyan campaign, has never been higher here.

(c) Opinion in the State Department is divided on the question of American action in the Pacific. One school of opinion substantiates the strongest British viewpoint. It is very significant that Ambassador Grew [2] has come down on the side of early action to keep Singapore in British hands.

(2) Reports from Australia, published in American press, of warning issued yesterday by War Advisory Council [3] have been given considerable prominence here and have suggested an immediate crisis not quite supported by other news items from the Far East.

We have had numerous press requests for information prompted by the statement issued in Australia. You no doubt have considered fully the risk of Japan interpreting such warnings as indicating that Australia believes that war is inevitable and of Japan deciding therefore to move sooner than she may otherwise have planned.

(3) Minister [4] is expected to arrive in Washington 10 p.m.

tonight. [5]

1 Document 292.

2 U.S. Ambassador to Japan.

3 See Document 289.

4 R. G. Casey, who had been recovering from an illness.

5 On 14 February Sir Frederick Stewart, Minister for External Affairs, replied to this cablegram as follows: 'No scare statement was made. Statement issued following normal meeting of War Advisory Council. Purpose of statement is to bring home to industrial organisations and the people generally the seriousness of situation and to weld all sections of community in the common cause thus preventing strikes and threats of further industrial unrest.' The same day Casey asked the External Affairs Dept to inform him urgently of the reasons for expecting early Japanese action southward. On 15 February Stewart replied in part: 'We have had no special information beyond that which has no doubt been available in Washington of which important part was communication from Eden [U.K. Foreign Secretary] to Halifax [U.K. Ambassador to the United States] referred to in your telegram No. 101 [see Document 277, note 6].' See Stewart's cablegram 361 on file AA:A981, Japan 101, iii and Stewart's 362 and Casey's 121 on file AA:A981, Japan 185B, i.

[AA:A981, JAPAN 185B, i]