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

Cablegram unnumbered 8 August 1940,


Your telegram No. 641. [1] We have considered your examination of alternative policies in Far East as set out in your memorandum to Halifax. [2] This appears to us in principle to be a reiteration and expansion of the views expressed in your telegram 576 [3] which received the particular attention of the full Cabinet during recent consideration of all aspects of Far Eastern situation.

My telegrams of 25th July [4] and 6th August [5] to you stated the considered conclusions of the Government on these issues and was in fact our exposition of what we considered the wisest and most feasible policy in existing circumstances. As such it was intended for the information of the United Kingdom Government and for your own guidance.

We accept as axiomatic that it would be to the Empire's great advantage to be able to achieve a common policy in the Far East with the U.S.A. But on all experience so far of the working of the indefinite and variable U.S.A. policy in the Far East we can only conclude that even with agreement on common objectives we shall in fact be left to deal according to our own methods with each specific problem as it arises because it is obvious that present Japanese intentions are to ensure that such problems will be those primarily affecting British and not American interests.

Largely for this reason we have been led to the conviction that our policy in the Far East must for some time be on the lines we have indicated. Your two suggested alternatives appear to be an over-simplification and it was precisely the purpose of my telegram above referred to to indicate a possible third course of action which seems to be the only practical one in the circumstances, that is to say, in default of (1) of early prospect of general settlement with Japan and (2) of definite assurance of U.S.A. support in application of policy outlined in your alternative (2).

We do not agree that an intermediate policy will necessarily lead to war. It seems much more probable on the other hand that war would be precipitated by your alternative (2) which appears to envisage the application of a policy of maximum irritation to Japan by the Empire single-handed.

At the same time firm and exact assurance of support of U.S.A. in such course of action would naturally change the situation. We would attach such great importance to agreement with the U.S.A.

leading to this result that we would consider a substantial modification of Empire policy as justified in order to secure it.

For this reason we are entirely in accord with your insistence, and in fact have taken every opportunity of ourselves stressing that discussions with the U.S.A. on Far East should be on basis of utmost frankness.


1 Comment 52.

2 U.K. Foreign Secretary.

3 Document 29.

4 Document 34.

5 Document 50.

[AA:A981, FAR EAST 20B, i]