177 Commonwealth Government to Lord Cranborne, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

Cablegram 788 CANBERRA, 10 December 1941


My telegram 783 of 10th December. [1]

We have no telegrams from Australian Charge d'Affaires, Tokyo [2], since Saturday last except short notification in clear that Japan had declared state of war with Australia received today. [3] We have telegraphed Argentine Ambassador, Tokyo [4], direct informing him that we have permitted Japanese Minister in Australia [5] to communicate in plain English with his Government and asking him to secure from Japanese Government permission to send and receive messages on behalf of Australian Charge d'Affaires at Tokyo.

Meantime we assume that you will advise us of any proposals regarding the evacuation of British, Commonwealth, American and Japanese diplomatic and consular officers. We would suggest that consideration be given to the possibility of evacuation through some neutral South American country.

1 It reported that the Commonwealth Govt had asked the U.K.

Ambassador to Argentina, Sir Esmond Ovey, to request the Argentine Gorr to take over Australian interests in Japan and Manchuria.

This arrangement had been agreed to in principle early in 1941 (see Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. IV, Document 258), but on 17 December Cranborne advised that the U.S.

Govt, which hoped to bring Argentina into the war on the Allied side, had suggested that the care of U.K. and Dominion interests in Japan and Manchuria should be entrusted instead to the Swiss Govt (cablegram D744). The Commonwealth Govt accepted this proposal on 18 December (cablegram 809), but on 28 December Cranborne advised that the Argentine Govt did not want to surrender the responsibility and the existing arrangements would therefore remain in force, at least until the results of the Rio Conference were known (cablegram D778). On 1 April 1942 Cranbome's successor, Clement Attlee, advised that the U.K. Govt was now prepared to transfer the care of its interests in Japan and Manchuria to the Swiss Govt (cablegram D183) and the Commonwealth Govt replied on 15 April that it welcomed the proposal (cablegram 248). The Swiss Consul-General in Australia (Hans Hedinger) assumed responsibility for Japanese interests in December 1941 (see Cranborne's cablegram 841 of 17 December and Commonwealth Govt's cablegram 812 of 19 December). All cablegrams are on file AA:A1608, D33/1/5.

2 F. K. Officer.

3 See Document 174, note 2.

4 Dr Rodolfo, Moreno. See draft cablegram on file AA: A981, Consuls 7A, i.

5 Tatsuo Kawai.

[AA:A981, CONSULS 7A, i]