159 Cablegram from Department of External Affairs to Embassy in Moscow

Canberra, 8 July 1969


For your information.

The following are extracts from notes of an address by the Minister for Defence1 to a conference of Liberal Party candidates in Sydney on 7th July 1969.

Full text with some background follow by bag.


'Our military thinking at this time is dominated by the United Kingdom's forthcoming withdrawal from South East Asia. But this is part of a historic process. It follows upon the end of the colonial era which has seen the emergence, in our part of the world, of new nationalism spread across Asia. It has also brought the emergence of a new China-communist, militant, aggressive.

True, the rest of the world is not standing still. In Europe, the Soviet Union has, in recent years, captured both Hungary and Czechoslovakia with no effective protest from the western world. Indeed, Russia adds constant provocation over many issues.

Russia's growing interest in the Indian Ocean and South East Asia-to say nothing of the Middle East-adds to the dangers of that particular situation. Meantime, the balance of terror between present nuclear powers is threatened by China's developments in that field, while she continues to foster revolution, particularly in under-developed countries.

It is fortunate for the free world that the United States has assumed-even with some reluctance-the burden of counter-balancing communist expansion around the world, aided only in any substantial way by a somewhat disunited Europe.

The withdrawal of the United Kingdom into Europe is, in itself, a facet of Europe's growing concentration on its own affairs and disinterest in what is happening elsewhere. This situation invites us to take the distant view of Europe and to concentrate our attention, militarily and politically, in South East Asia as our immediate sphere of interest.

It goes without saying that Australia's strategic position is kept under constant review. However, two matters-the impending withdrawal of the U.K. from South East Asia, and developments in Vietnam and their possible effect on the United States' attitude to continued Asian involvement-have obliged the government to make a strategic study of something more than the ordinary depth, despite the unknowns and uncertainties which affect the South East Asian situation.

[matter omitted]

China's numbers continue to grow, as does her industrial and military competence. She is already a nuclear power, is reaching for the means of delivery to back her support for communist revolutionary movements around the world, her stance is aggressive and threatening'.

[matter omitted]

[NAA: A1838, TS919/10/5 part 20]