213 Minutes of Meeting of Prime Ministers

PMM(46) 5th Meeting LONDON, 26 April 1946, 11 a.m.


Military Bases in the Pacific 1. Ministers had before them a memorandum prepared in the Foreign Office (P.M.M.(46)9) as the result of the discussion at the Third Meeting [1], setting out the suggested terms of a communication to be made by Mr. Bevin to Mr. Byrnes on the United States request for bases in the Pacific. Mr. Chifley also handed round the draft of a revised formula and Ministers proceeded to discuss this document.

MR. CHIFLEY and DR. EVATT said that it was essential, in the view of the Australian Government, that rights should not be conferred on the United States Government to bases in the British Commonwealth without the acceptance of obligations on her part.

For this reason [t]he[y] thought that the desirability of establishing a regional security arrangement or arrangements should be put in the foreground of the proposals. It would, in their view, be a mistake to invite the United States Government to discuss the question of use of bases except against the broader background of regional security. If they were not prepared to agree to a regional arrangement on the lines desired, they might nevertheless be ready to make compromise proposals.

DR. EVATT explained that it had been thought well to refer in subparagraph (i) to 'regional arrangement or arrangements' as it might be considered advisable to have separate organisations for the South-West and South Pacific Areas. He said that the object of the revised Draft was to put the necessity for a broad regional arrangement in the forefront and to make it clear that the question of bases could only be considered as ancillary to that larger question.

MR. NASH said that, while it was the agreed objective of the Australian and New Zealand Governments that regional security arrangements should be established, he doubted whether it would be good tactics, for the purpose of the present approach to the United States Government, to emphasise this aspect. Mr. Byrnes might be precluded by political difficulties from accepting a specific invitation to discuss regional security in the Pacific.

He suggested that Mr. Byrnes should be invited to come over from Paris for preliminary discussions while Dominion Ministers were still here. This could be followed by fuller discussions later. As to the scope of an ultimate regional arrangement, France should probably be included, but discussions at this stage might best be confined to the British Commonwealth Governments concerned and the United States Government.

MR. McNEIL said that he felt sure that the Foreign Secretary would welcome the Australian Government's proposal for the question of bases to be approached against the wider background of regional security. It might, however, be preferable at this stage not to aim at the establishment of any formal regional arrangement. This would involve negotiations with other foreign Governments and it might be politically embarrassing to Mr. Byrnes. It was undesirable to run the risk of deterring Mr. Byrnes from entering into discussions at all.

The point was also made that the proposed discussions should cover the grant to the British Commonwealth of rights to use United States bases in the Pacific as well as the grant to the United States of bases in British territory.

There was general agreement with this view.

LORD ADDISON suggested amendments:-

(i) to place less emphasis on the establishment of a regional security arrangement;

(ii) to provide for the possible participation of other Commonwealth Governments in the arrangements;

(iii) to leave open for later decision the location of the proposed Conference.

LORD ALANBROOKE said that the revised formula, proposed by the Australian Government, was in accordance with the views of the United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff expressed in paragraph 30(b) of the Report annexed to P.M.M.(46)3. [2] As regards tactics, he thought it would be preferable not to lay too much emphasis in the formula on the desire to approach the problem on a regional basis.

The Meeting finally agreed that Mr. Bevin should be invited to make a communication to Mr. Byrnes in the terms of the draft annexed to these minutes.

MR. McNEIL under-took to arrange for the text to be communicated to Mr. Bevin without delay. He hoped that if Mr. Byrnes did not feel able to negotiate on the regional basis this would not rule out any negotiation at all.

It was agreed that it was not desirable to preclude negotiations on any basis, but that the question could be further considered if it arose.

Organisation for Commonwealth Defence 2. LORD ADDISON referred to the discussions at the Fourth Meeting on Organisation for Commonwealth Defence (P.M.M.(46)4). [3] The discussion had revealed, he thought, a very large measure of agreement, but there were one or two points which required clearer definition. He thought it was most desirable to take advantage of the presence in London of the representatives of the Australian and New Zealand Governments to give precision to the principles of the organisation proposed. The visiting Ministers would then have a clearer basis on which to discuss the proposals when they returned home.

MR. ATTLEE proposed that the advisers of Mr. Chifley and Mr. Nash should consult with the Service advisers to the United Kingdom Government.

MR. CHIFLEY said that the proposals would have to be fully considered by the Australian Government in the light of the views of their Service advisers, and he expressed doubt whether time would permit of redrafting of the papers during the present meeting. He agreed that there might be a discussion on the official level in which an explanation could be given of the status and functions of the Australian machinery in amplification of the points he had made. From the Australian viewpoint, it was also necessary to prepare a memorandum commencing with the agreed conclusions of P.M.M.(46)4 and elaborating them in detail in relation to the Australian machinery. Time would not permit of this being done before his return to Australia.

MR. NASH urged that the opportunity of the present meeting in London to define the proposals should not be lost. A postponement would be likely to lead to a long delay.

DR. EVATT said that the four conclusions set out in paragraph 12 of P.M.M.(46)4 appeared to be acceptable as a basis of discussion, subject to amendment of conclusion (c) by the addition of the words 'and in other Dominions as required'. [4] other amendments of the paper would be desired by the Australian Government, e.g., the omission of the first sentence of paragraph 1 [5] and amendment of paragraph 6 (a). [6]

After discussion it seemed that no very drastic amendment of the memorandum would be required and it was agreed that officials of the Australian and New Zealand delegations should discuss the amendments required.



Revised formula agreed at 5th Meeting of Prime Ministers on the 26th April, 1946

During the present consultations in London the Governments of the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, having taken into consideration certain United States proposals for the future status and use of bases in the Pacific, have agreed- (1) to favour the establishment of a regional arrangement or regional arrangements for the maintenance by the parties thereto of international peace and security in the South Pacific and South-West Pacific areas;

(2) to invite the participation in such arrangements of the United States;

(3) to consider as a part of any such arrangements, the future administration and use of Pacific bases, including the defence bases established in whole or in part by the United States during the war in territory in the Pacific area administered wholly or in part by the Governments of the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

The Governments of the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand accept the principle that all such regional arrangements in the Pacific must be consistent with the Principles and Purposes of the United Nations and made in accordance with Article 52 of the United Nations Charter.

As a first step it would be advantageous if the United States Secretary of State could join in the consultations now being held in London, with a view to a subsequent conference between the United States Government and the British Commonwealth Governments concerned which the Australian Government would be glad to convene at Canberra.

1 See Document 208.

2 See Document 208, first paragraph, (a).

3 See Document 210.

4 Paragraph 12 reads: 'We conclude that- (a) A centralised system for Commonwealth Defence is unlikely to be generally acceptable and might restrict the freedom of action of the individual members of the Commonwealth in making bilateral arrangements for co-operation with Allies.

(b) We must therefore set up some looser system for co-ordination which we suggest should be based upon the national defence organisations to be maintained in the United Kingdom and each Dominion.

(c) The essence of this system is that the United Kingdom should maintain a mission in each Dominion while the Dominions should maintain similar missions in London.

(d) It may not be possible to bring this system fully into operation immediately but, provided the essentials as set out above are agreed, the necessary framework upon which the full organisation should grow will be available.' 5 The first sentence of paragraph 1 reads: 'The United Nations Organisation is not designed to prevent war between the Great Powers.' 6 Paragraph 6(a) reads; 'The duties of Service Missions would be:-

(a) To act as Service Members of a Joint Staff Mission, responsible to their own Chiefs of Staff, whose views they would represent.'

[AA: A6712, [3]]