48 Makin to Chifley and Evatt

Cablegram 503 LONDON, 23 January 1946, 12.41 p.m.

TOP SECRET IMMEDIATE

1. A meeting on the question of South Pacific bases between British Commonwealth and Byrnes who was accompanied by Dunn [1] took place in Bevin's room this morning. [2]

2. Byrnes said their objective was to maintain facilities for defence and preservation of peace and not to allow them to fall into state of disrepair at important key points. Costs of maintenance were going to be heavy and he wanted to know who would be responsible for those places the Service Chiefs deemed essential. He said we did not want to be caught as before and experience has shown however close you may have your bases to a potential danger you must also have a good rearward chain to support them.

3. Bevin suggested a Joint Commission comprising of Political and Military experts representing the four countries primarily concerned (United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand) who might consider, (1) which bases should be retained and how they were to be used such as Joint control.

(2) as to which territory there might be a transfer of sovereignty.

(3) how to deal with disputed territory.

(4) which bases were to be used for civil air bases. He said this was only a rough idea and terms could be carefully worked out. It was agreed this would be the best way to handle the question and that a meeting at Washington after the present conference [3] would be most convenient. During discussion I formed the impression that the United States had already considerably modified their views and apart from civil air bases were now mainly interested in Canton and Manus.

4. It would be helpful if we had your concurrence immediately.

Fraser, New Zealand agrees fully with suggested course.

1 U.S. Assistant Secretary of State.

2 In fact, on the morning of 22 January.

3 Presumably the U.N. General Assembly.

[AA:A6494 TI, SPTS/1/4]