50 Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister, to Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in London

Cablegram unnumbered 6 August 1940,

MOST SECRET

Please advise United Kingdom Authorities that we considered measures contemplated in M. 44 [1] and proposed to advise that in our opinion further consideration would be desirable before action.

In this we were influenced by the belief that delay of a few days would enable consultation with United States which we regarded as of greatest importance.

It also appeared to us that the Japanese declaration of policy on August 2nd [2] and the reported release of certain of the arrested persons might be matters affecting United Kingdom Government's attitude.

We noted that Matsuoka [3] made no specific reference to closer ties with Axis powers. Our impression was that the arrests were the result of pressure by militants and that Moderates might yet regain sufficient influence to hold the position.

We wish you to make it clear that we are completely hostile to a policy of mere appeasement of Japan. On the other hand Empire naturally does not want to get into war with Japan. We have enough to handle in Germany and Italy. If it appears that Japan is bent upon pursuing provocative acts our policy in reply should be firm but such as will if possible avoid war and if that appears out of our control secure for us the maximum time.

How such a policy would be implemented must no doubt be decided on the occasion and issue of the moment. We would respect the judgment of the United Kingdom Government on this point, but we feel strongly that where the ultimate issue is a war in which we cannot afford to become involved tactics of bluff should not be used.

To us it appears that counter arrest and irritant tactics will not serve to restrain the present Japanese administration but on the contrary would prove an aid to those elements who see the present as the moment to exploit British European preoccupation.

Before we could express these views we received M. 45 [4] informing us of action taken and we now note that it proved impossible to prevent these steps from being published and becoming a public issue. The very adequate explanation given on enquiry by the Japanese Ambassador [5] Will nevertheless not serve to explain tactics of delay and irritation set out in sub- paragraphs B and C of paragraph 2 of M. 44.

We understand the United Kingdom Government's intention to be to minimise the consequence of the incidents and avoid provoking further acts by Japanese military extremists.

We will no doubt be fully and promptly consulted before further steps are taken. [6]

MENZIES

1 Document 46.

2 A copy of the Japanese Govt's statement on basic national policies, including the ultimate construction of a new order in Greater East Asia, was dispatched to the Commonwealth Govt on 3 August by the Japanese Consul-General in Sydney, Masatoshi Akiyama. See file AA:A981, Japan 181, iv.

3 Japanese Foreign Minister.

4 Circular cablegram M45, dispatched 2 August (AA:A3 195, 1940, 1.6212), reported the U.K. Govt's intention to arrest seven Japanese nationals in various British territories and deport three others. Circular cablegram M46, dispatched 3 August(AA:A3195, 1940, 1.6249), reported that the arrest of two Japanese in the United Kingdom had been referred to in the British press, despite an official request that nothing should be published on the subject.

5 A report of a meeting between the Ambassador, Marrow Shigemitsu, and the U.K. Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax, was received in cablegram M47, dispatched 5 August (on file AA: A1608, A41/1/6, iii).

6 This cablegram was repeated to Peter Fraser, N.Z. Prime Minister, and to R. G. Casey, Minister to the United States.

[AA:A3196, 1940, 0.5487]