309 Bruce to Curtin

Cablegram 202A LONDON, 22 October 1943

SECRET

My telegram No. 193A. of the 18th October-Japanese Exchange. [1] I have now received the views of the United Kingdom Government. They are as follows-begins- The observations of your Government regarding inclusion of certain Japanese merchant seamen in proposed repatriation exchange with Japan have now been considered.

As arranged with you, we have consulted Admiralty on question of security considerations involved in repatriating these Japanese and the following represent Admiralty views on this matter.

On the question of usefulness of the men, they feel that it is overstating case to argue that services of these particular individuals will be of exceptional value to Japanese in view extent of Japanese pre-war fishing industries. Moreover, we are committed to view that utility for war effort shall not be a bar to the repatriation of the individual concerned and this is provided for in repatriation agreement. In fact, in earlier correspondence Commonwealth Government have strongly maintained view that it is proper to give high priority in repatriation to persons whose services are required for war effort, and it is clearly difficult to argue against this principle in the case of Japanese for whom Japanese Government have expressly asked.

As regards question of security, Admiralty view is that there is no real security objection to repatriation of these men, since it is almost certain that all intelligence which they may have acquired would have been transmitted to Japan before the outbreak of war. Moreover, it is understood that the view of Commonwealth Government now is that there is no serious and immediate danger of Japanese operations for the invasion of Australia in respect of which special knowledge which these men may have acquired would be a dangerous asset to Japanese.

In general, having regard to Japanese attitude on this question as set out in message from Japanese Government communicated in Dominions Office telegram to Commonwealth Government No. 308 of 18th October [2], it is clear that the non-inclusion of these men will prove an insuperable bar to completion of the repatriation arrangements. In circumstances, the Admiralty view, which is supported by other competent Departments of the United Kingdom Government, is that it would be best to agree to the repatriation of these 331 men, and we hope that, in light of these considerations, your Government will find it possible to agree to the Japanese request that these men should be included in the proposed exchange. Ends.

BRUCE

1 On file AA:M100, October 1943. It reported that Bruce was continuing to press the U.K. Govt to give its views on the repatriation of Japanese seamen from Australia.

2 On file AA:A989, 43/460/10/2, ii. It transmitted a note from the Japanese Govt contesting the Commonwealth Govt's view that Japanese seamen interned in Australia at the beginning of the war were prisoners of war, and hence ineligible for repatriation.

[AA:M100, OCTOBER 1943]