372 Note by Sir Frederick Stewart, Minister for External Affairs, of Conversation with Mr T. Kawai, Japanese Minister to Australia
SYDNEY, 28 March 1941
I saw the Japanese Minister for 60 minutes today, during which he spoke for 50 minutes and I for ten. The single subject was that of Attaches. I advised him that we would prefer that the request for an exchange of Attaches should be deferred for the time being, owing to the extraordinary international circumstances. He at once indicated that this would be regarded in Tokyo as evidence that we suspected the good intentions of Japan, and that as the Minister would be personally responsible for any misconduct on the part of his Attaches, we could rely upon him, for his own protection, seeing that no such misconduct or ground for suspicion was allowed to develop.
Mr. Kawai also reiterated the claim that by international usage, Attaches were an automatic part of the Legation staff. I dissented from this, and indicated that mutuality was the greater consideration and that we could not agree that the inclusion of a couple of Attaches was essential to effective ministerial representation. I also drew his attention to Japanese obligations for exchange of information with the Axis powers.
In the course of conversation, I mentioned the case of Major Hashida, who was recently arrested in Batavia after he had visited Australia. I was careful to refrain from indicating that we had been apprised of Hashida's espionage activities in Australia, but in response to a direct question repeated several times by Mr.
Kawai as to whether we had evidence that Hashida had been spying in Australia, I left an implication that our military authorities were not altogether unaware of some things which we were not at the present moment prepared to disclose.
Mr. Kawai at one stage suggested that the refusal to accept Japanese Attaches would be interpreted in Tokyo in such a manner as to destroy much of the benefit following the exchange of Ministers. I suggested that Tokyo's attitude would surely be influenced by Kawai's own report on the matter and that there was no occasion whatever to interpret our attitude in this manner.
I informed him that it was our opinion that the benefits of the Ministerial exchanges would be enhanced rather than otherwise by the absence of Military or Naval officers from his staff He finally asked us to reconsider the whole position. This, of course, I promised to do, although I indicated the unlikelihood of any variation of our attitude so long as the present international situation obtained.