45 Cablegram from Department of External Affairs to Embassy in Washington

Canberra, 28 July 1959

906. Top Secret Guard

Deterrents

Your telegram 1473.1

[matter omitted]

  1. For the longer term we have to ask ourselves whether it would be realistic to expect the United Kingdom and United States ever to let a situation over New Guinea develop to a point where hostilities, or even the threat of hostilities, had to be countered by military force.2 We believe a working assumption we should adopt is that in a crisis the United Kingdom and United States would take some political action to avert fighting. The questions we need to work towards-and these must for obvious reasons never be put directly-is what kind of action the United Kingdom and United States would favour. For example, would they try to bring the parties together or seek to seize the tactical initiative in the United Nations? If some kind of trusteeship arrangement is thought by them likely to stabilize the situation, what should it be and how should it be brought about?
  2. This indication of our thinking […] should be treated with great care. On no account must we give the United States administration any impression that we are thinking of changing our policy on Netherlands New Guinea. In fact we are not. We want to see deterrents remain effective. But the need remains for us to have some idea of what the United States and United Kingdom would regard as a tenable position in the longer term for Western countries in relation to Netherlands New Guinea. This is not to say that we shall agree with the United States and United Kingdom-their interests are not identical to ours-but we are seeking to build up a picture of the likely limits governing our national policy in the future. This will necessarily be a piecemeal exercise and we do not expect rapid progress.

[NAA: A1838, TS681/6 part 6]