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109 Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister, to Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in the United Kingdom

Cablegram 6735 CANBERRA, 14 November 1941


Reference Dominions Office Circular telegrams M.357 and 358 of
10th November. [1] In view of Latham's absence Tokyo and
possibility that message to Officer [2] might not enjoy same
certainty of immunity, this message is sent to you for information
of United Kingdom Government and transmission to Craigie:

'It occurs to us that danger of Japanese armed aggression may
reach its maximum pending arrival of ships at Singapore. Therefore
it should be possible for Craigie to gain valuable time by

1. our very substantial and special interest in success of United
States/Japanese talks, and
2. our intention to assist as much as possible in their
satisfactory outcome. [3]

It is very important to prevent Japanese suspicions culminating in
a desperate overt act by her. Precipitate intervention by us in
preliminary United States/Japanese talks may be harmful, but if
Japan supposes that we are trying to intervene in such preliminary
talks, no harm and some good should result. In that event also
time will be gained.' [4]


1 On file AA : A816, 19/304/431. They reported that the Japanese
Foreign Minister (Shigenori Togo) bad told the U.K. Ambassador to
Japan (Sir Robert Craigie) that the Japanese were becoming
increasingly impatient with the slow progress of the U.S.-Japanese
conversations. Togo had expressed surprise that the U.K. Govt was
not directly involved in the conversations and had hinted that its
intervention at this point might be fruitful. Craigie had reported
these remarks to the U.K. Govt with the comment that Togo seemed
genuinely anxious to avert conflict. Craigie had suggested that a
request to the U.S. Govt for a full progress report on the
conversations would be timely. He had been instructed, however, to
inform the Japanese Foreign Minister that the U.K. Govt was
content to leave discussions in the hands of the U.S. Govt until a
basis for negotiations had been established and to urge on the
Japanese 'the advantages of a supreme effort to reach agreement
with the United States Government as against the desperate risks
to Japan of allowing a situation to develop in which it may no
longer be possible to control the issue of peace or war'.

2 Charge d'Affaires in Japan since the departure of the Minister,
Sir John Latham, on 26 September (see Document 80, notes 1 and 3).

3 Officer reported on 21 November (cablegram 512 on file AA :

A981, Japan 178) that he had emphasised both these points to the
Japanese Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs (Haruhiko Nishi) in an
interview that day.

4 This cablegram and a similar one to the Minister to the United
States (R. G. Casey) were based on drafts prepared by the Minister
for External Affairs (Dr H. V. Evatt). The cablegram to Casey (no.

983 of 14 November) requested him to 'discreetly and without
slightest importunity ascertain whether any progress has been made
in United States-Japanese preliminary talks'. These cablegrams,
together with a draft cablegram to the U.K. Dominions Secretary
(not in fact sent), indicate that the thinking of the External
Affairs Dept was more in line with Craigie's than with that of the
U.K. Govt. Casey, however, believed that there was 'considerable
advantage' to be gained from the United States continuing the
negotiations alone. He pointed out (in cablegram 996 of 19
November) that because the United States had greater strength in
the Pacific than did the British their arguments would carry
greater weight. If negotiations failed and war resulted the
principal onus would be on the United States and their
participation would therefore be more likely. All documents are on
the file cited in note 3.

[AA : A816, 19/304/431]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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