164 Mr R. G. Casey, Minister to the United States, to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister, and to Dr H. V. Evatt, Minister for External Affairs

Cablegram 1088 WASHINGTON, 5 December 1941, 5.53 p.m.


British Ambassador [2] saw the President [3] late last night.

Owing to its importance I repeat below the British Ambassador's telegram to London of this morning.

MOST SECRET (1) Your telegram No. 6720. [4]

(2) I had long talk to the President this evening and expressed your deep appreciation for his prompt [and] helpful response.

(3) As regards your proposal that the warning to Japan should apply to an attack by Japan on Thailand, Malaya, Netherlands East Indies and the Burma Road from Indo-China, the President was very doubtful about the wisdom of including an attack On the Burma Road. Apart from the fact that the Chinese war stood on a different footing to some new aggression, his recollection was that in the summer of 1940 Japanese had blocked the Indo-China route to China at Hanoi where the United States had had supplies for China which had consequently been obstructed without, he thought, any serious protest by the United States., This precedent made it difficult for him to take so much stiffer a line now on the attack on the Burma Road. Moreover, if hostilities come he will have to make his case here on defence grounds which he feels he can well do on the other cases you mention but not (repeat not) on the Burma Road issue. He hopes, therefore, that you may not think it necessary to include this in the warning.

(4) Subject to the above and to paragraph (5) below he agrees with the warning covering any attack by Japan on Thailand, Malaya or Netherlands East Indies. He thinks that, if the warning is given by the United States, ourselves and the Dutch, we should each act independently all within 24 hours, using different language to mean the same thing. He would prefer for the United States to get in first. On account of political consideration here it was important that their action should be based on independent necessities of United States defence and not appear to follow on ours. He assumed you would be concertina with the Dutch.

(5) He said, however, that he had received indirectly a communication from Kurusu [5] that matters were not yet hopeless and that a direct approach to the Emperor might produce result.

Kurusu had also said that if the President would make the move it might still not be impossible to secure a truce and even settlement between Japan and China. Kurusu had sketched the possible lines of arrangement provided that the President would endeavour to act as 'introducer' between China and Japan with a view to their dealing directly with each other. These possible lines included a truce, withdrawal of the bulk of Japanese troops from Indo-China and withdrawal of Japanese troops from north of China on a time-table to be satisfactory between Japanese and Chinese Military with an American assessor or arbitrator (he was not clear which). President said that Japanese would obviously want some economic relief. He did not attach too much importance to this approach but was naturally reluctant to miss any chance and thought that the communication would strengthen his general case if things went wrong. He asked my opinion.

(6) I said on the question of approach to the Emperor the main point seemed the danger of delay in putting in the warning on the assumption that Kurusu's approach was worthless. Could he make his communication to Emperor, if he made it, serve as definite warning. President agreed and said he could and would include such warning if he decided to do it tomorrow morning after he has received Japanese reply to his question two days ago.

As to treatment of Kurusu's approach in general, I said no doubt he would be particularly careful not to put a foot wrong with Chinese after last week's experiences and that therefore it might be wiser to avoid any detail[ed] suggest[ion] at first stage, merely combining with message and warning a hint that if Emperor's reply gives him any reason to think it would be helpful he might be able to make a suggestion that would assist maintenance of peaceful relations. President agreed.

(7) He will decide whether he does or does not communicate with Emperor tomorrow, Friday, morning and meanwhile wishes us to suspend delivery of warning while making all preparation for it with Dutch. If he does approach Emperor he would hope that a three-power warning might be deferred until he had Emperor's reply for which he would ask urgently.

(8) As regards communication to Thai Prime Minister [6] of our plans regarding Kra Isthmus, President suggests our confining ourselves at present to informing British Minister at Bangkok [7] of our plans so that British Minister can communicate them at short notice to Thai Government if and when necessary.


1 Words in square brackets have been corrected/inserted from the Washington copy on file AA:A3300,100.

2 Lord Halifax.

3 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

4 Not found on Commonwealth Govt files.

5 Japanese special envoy to the United States.

6 Maj Gen Luang P. Pibulsonggram.

7 Sir Josiah Crosby.

[AA:A1608, A41/1/1, xxv]