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

Cablegram 384 WASHINGTON, 27 May 1941, 6.14 p.m.


Repeated to Tokyo No. 22.

My telegram No. 373. [1]

Information contained in my telegram No. 378 [2] was conveyed to the Secretary of State [3] in a form that irritated him considerably and caused him to tell the British Ambassador [4] quite abruptly that he did not appreciate being lectured by the British Government on how to conduct himself. The incident will take at least a few days to blow over.

(2) The British Ambassador meanwhile has received instructions from London to the effect that, following on the speech of the Netherlands Minister for Foreign Affairs [5] on May 5th and subject to the concurrence of the Dominion Governments concerned he should inform the United States Government confidentially that the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs [6] proposed to make a public statement closely corresponding to that of the Netherlands Minister for Foreign Affairs and saying, in effect, that we will join with the Dutch in defending the line from Malaya through the Netherlands East Indies to New Zealand.

I have discussed the above proposal with the British Ambassador and I agreed with him that in view of the first paragraph above it would be inexpedient to say this to the Secretary of State at this moment as it would be likely to be interpreted as arising out of the above incident and to indicate the decision to go our own way in the Pacific independent of the United States which might have unfortunate results.

The British Ambassador has telegraphed the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs suggesting that he (Halifax) should call the Secretary of State's attention to the speech of the Netherlands Minister for Foreign Affairs and to the fact that the Dutch have been pressing His Majesty's Government for a statement of the intention to defend the Netherlands East Indies and that the British Government believe that they must in the near future give the Dutch assurances they seek. Halifax suggests then asking for the views of the United States Government as to whether such assurances should be public or confidential.

There is also this point. It is well known to Japanese that United States, Dutch and ourselves have been in active discussion on the Far East problems. If we now announced defensive agreement with Dutch, Japan may well make capital out of non-participation of strongest party.

I believe, therefore, that a confidential undertaking with the Dutch is preferable at the present stage to a public statement.

Approach suggested in your telegram No. 47 from the Acting Prime Minister [7] has been delayed for the reason given in the last sentence, Para (8) my telegram No. 373. [8] I believe that the State Department may be ready to talk by June 2nd. I will, of course, co-ordinate the views with British Embassy and make joint approach with them.


1 Dispatched 22 May. On file AA: A981, Far East 21A. It reported that the Japanese Ambassador to the United States, Admiral Kichisaburo Nomura, 'had opened the question of the possibility of reaching some agreement with the United States Government and of settling the China war on terms involving the independence of China, withdrawal of Japanese armies and no discrimination'.

2 Dispatched 23 May. On file AA: A1608, A41/1/6, v. It read:

'There now seems to be fairly definite evidence that Japanese initiative in approach to United States is done with knowledge and approval of Axis Powers and military authorities, designed to enable Japan to rid herself of the China incubus and at the same time to double-cross both United States and Britain.' 3 Cordell Hull.

4 Lord Halifax.

5 Dr E. N. van Kleffens. For further information on his speech see Document 464.

6 Anthony Eden.

7 A. W. Fadden's cablegram has not been found.

8 This read: 'Only disadvantage of such a manoeuvre [the U.S.

State Department's policy of 'keeping the Japanese "guessing" 'I from our point of view is that it might result in the suspension for the time being of more militant American economic and other action against Japan.'

[AA: A981, JAPAN 178A]