302 Mr R. G. Casey, Minister to the United States, to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 126 WASHINGTON, 15 February 1941, 9.52 p.m.

MOST SECRET

Repeated to London No. 7, repeated to Tokyo No. 7.

I saw Hornbeck [1] yesterday. State Department have no evidence that Japan intends early southward action. He believes it more than probable that they will consolidate Indo-China and prepare springboards for future use against possibly Netherlands East Indies and/or Singapore probably after Germany has demonstrated that she has reasonable prospects of success against Britain in the spring.

Hornbeck is so well disposed that I asked him what he advised us to do or say now. He believes that we would be well advised to emphasize continually to those in high places here the vital importance of Singapore and global aspect of the war effort against the Axis, stressing the fact that the integrity of Singapore is second only to the integrity of Britain itself, and that if Singapore were to fall to Japan, cohesion of the British Commonwealth war effort and of the Chinese resistance would be most seriously affected.

Following on the above, the British Ambassador [2] and I saw the Secretary of State [3] this morning.

The Secretary of State began by describing the initial interview between the President [4], the Secretary of State and the new Japanese Ambassador [5] yesterday. It was made clear to the Japanese Ambassador that American public opinion was greatly and increasingly disturbed by information of the Japanese policy of aggression in the Far East, and that it would not take a great deal more to inflame American opinion over the Far Eastern questions. The President took the aggressive attitude and the Japanese Ambassador was put on the defensive. The latter was most profuse in his professions that he was one of the individuals who hoped for and was working for peace.

The Secretary of State told us that he was not convinced that the Japanese Ambassador was sincere in the above expressions and that he proposes to say to him at the next interview that it was deeds not words that counted. The Secretary of State believes that sending a Japanese Ambassador professing love of peace to Washington is a smoke-screen behind which the extremists will work just as actively as before. Every opportunity will be taken to ensure that the Japanese Ambassador has plenty of material to report to his Government that will agitate them, and cause them apprehension as to the American attitude.

I said that it was difficult to over-emphasize the importance of Singapore in the eyes of Australia, New Zealand and India, and I believed also, China. If Singapore fell, the war effort of all these countries would be vitally affected. The Secretary of State said that I need not develop this point of view further as there was no one more convinced than himself of the supreme importance of Singapore to all those who were opposed to the Axis Powers and that he was constantly pressing this on the President and all others concerned. On our enquiring what further deterrent action the United States had in mind, the Secretary of State said that he was not at the moment in a position to inform us but that something worth while was under discussion, and that it was something more than bluff British Ambassador left with the Secretary of State copy of a powerful and closely argued memorandum on the importance of Singapore in the global aspect of the British war effort in which it was more than hinted that should Singapore be jeopardised it was not impossible that the Mediterranean might have to be abandoned in favour of the defence of Singapore with the obvious setback to the British war effort against Germany and Italy in the main theatres of war.

I feel that the interview was a useful one, not the least of its usefulness being that it marks the resumption of a series of joint talks begun in the period of the late British Ambassador. [6]

By chance the Netherlands Minister [7] saw the Secretary of State immediately after our interview and the American press has already featured both interviews.

CASEY

1 Adviser on political Relations, U.S. State Department.

2 Lord Halifax.

3 Cordell Hull.

4 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

5 Admiral Kichisaburo Nomura.

6 Lord Lothian.

7 Dr Alexandre Loudon.

[AA:A981, JAPAN 185B, i]