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64 Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in London, to Mr J. A. Lyons, Prime Minister

Cablegram unnumbered GENEVA, 22 September 1937, 10p.m.


Advisory Committee of 23 on the Far Eastern situation, which was
set up in 1933, to follow the then existing Sino-Japanese
situation, to assist the Assembly in performing its duty under
Article III paragraph 3 and to aid members of the League of
Nations in concerting their action and their attitude among
themselves and with non-member states, held meeting yesterday
afternoon as the result of a decision of the Council taken last
week to reinvoke it. It originally consisted of members of the
Committee of 19 set up early in 1932 Plus Canada and the
Netherlands. United States and U.S.S.R. later joined it, United
States of America representative acting as observer and not
voting. All the original members attended yesterday's meeting,
including the United States Minister, Berne [1], but excepting
Italy which although still of the Council is taking no part in
League affairs owing to Abyssinia still being regarded as member.

On the proposal of the United Kingdom and France, an invitation
was extended to the Governments of the parties to the dispute,
China and Japan, and to the Governments of Germany and Australia
to be represented on the Advisory Committee. This invitation I
have now received formally for transmission to you. Next meeting
is fixed for Monday, 27th September, but if replies are received
from the four invitee Powers before then it will meet earlier.

Invitation to Australia due to the fact of our interests in the
Pacific and to my remarks in the Assembly cabled to you. [2] With
regard to the latter, action taken is not in accordance with my
suggestion. My idea was that the League should make it clear that
qua League with its limited membership effective action was not
possible but that in view of the seriousness of the situation and
vital interest in the dispute of certain nations inside and
outside the League, an attempt should be made by whatever means
were deemed most expedient to bring about meeting of such Powers
with a view to getting in touch with the countries concerned in
the dispute and endeavouring to arrange some settlement or, if
this were impossible, of concerting such measures as might be
necessary and practicable. This meeting to be limited to Powers
vitally concerned, which in practice would have meant the Great
Powers, with the possible exception of the Netherlands and
Australia. Action down these lines might have been taken in a way
to make it extremely embarrassing and difficult for any Power to
refuse to attend. Had an invitation to such a Conference been
extended to Australia, our decision would clearly have been
acceptance. A more difficult situation arises under the proposals
that have been adopted. Japan and Germany will almost certainly
refuse the invitation, and Italy will be absent owing to her
attitude of non-co-operation with the League at the present time.

This would mean a Committee composed of members of the League of
Nations with the half-hearted co-operation of the United States of
America. Such a Committee would, in my view, be impotent and
futile and would tend to bring the League into further contempt. I
appreciate that this position would be altered if the active co-
operation of the United States could be looked for, but I see no
indication of such an eventuality. The determination as to the
wisest course for Australia to pursue in response to an invitation
to join the Committee presents great difficulties. For us to
refuse the invitation would come as a considerable shock to all
the members of the League and would be regarded by Great Britain
as an unfriendly act. On the other hand to accept without any
indication of our attitude places us in a somewhat false position.

An alternative would be to accept but at the same time to make our
position clear down the lines that we do not consider the League,
without the active co-operation of countries at present outside
the League can take any effective steps other than to ascertain
and publish to the world the facts and that in view of the serious
issues involved, vital interests concerned, and menace to world's
peace constituted by the present situation, Australian delegate on
the Committee will be instructed to urge that further steps should
be taken to bring about co-operation of the Powers outside the
League whose vital interests are seriously jeopardised by the
present position in the Far East. Before making final
recommendation as to course we should adopt, I should like to have
your reaction to the points I have indicated above. As reply to
invitation must be sent by Monday next it is urgent that you
should let me have them at the earliest possible moment.

1 Leland Harrison.

2 Not found.

[AA : A981, CHINA 114, ix] BRUCE
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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