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

Cablegram 7509 [1] CANBERRA, 29 November 1941


We are naturally disturbed at probability of immediate breakdown
of Washington talks. Hull [2] seems to attribute this to two
factors, first and foremost, Chinese opposition to any agreement
whatever, second, reserve shown by United Kingdom Government at
critical moment in the talks. Our general view accords with your
own, namely, talks should be prolonged. [3] Even now it may not be
impossible to achieve that end. If we were certain that United
States lead in talks would be followed by similar lead in armed
defence against armed aggression position would be transformed,
but there now seems grave danger of further armed aggression by
Japan without any United States armed intervention. I am sending
you copy of wire which has been despatched to Eggleston [4] and it
indicates China aspect of problems. If talks could be resumed by
United States at United Kingdom suggestion something might be
gained. Our attitude is not one of appeasement but is governed by
need for time and commonsense at very critical period of war.

Another aspect is equally important. At the War Cabinet meeting
which Page [5] attended he mentioned the possibility of Japanese
aggression in four separate quarters with a view to obtaining an
understanding as to what we should do in each one of the four
events. Four quarters were Thailand, Netherlands East Indies,
further attack on China, and Russia. At the present moment there
is no understanding as to what should be done in any one of these
four events although two of them seem imminent. We agree with your
comment that Page was to some extent side-tracked by Cabinet. [6]
We agree Churchill's view that elasticity is desirable, but in
view of impending events we should know what is understanding of
action by Britain-(1) in absence of United States armed support,
(2) with assistance United States armed support, of course such
understanding may itself be subject to variation.

Will you see Page with a view to reconsideration of such matters
by War Cabinet at earliest possible moment. Evatt [7] just had
telephone talk with Casey and I am sending Casey copy of this
message. [8]

1 Repeated to the Ministers to the United States and China (R. G.

Casey and Sir Frederic Eggleston) as nos 131 and 1.

2 U.S. Secretary of State.

3 See Bruce's cablegram 105 of 20 November on file AA : A981,
Japan 178.

4 Document 136.

5 See Documents 110 and 114.

6 See Document 112.

7 Minister for External Affairs.

8 This cablegram embodied a decision by the Advisory War Council
(see minute 574 of 28 November in AA : A2682, vol. 3). Bruce
replied (cablegram 110 of 30 November on the file cited in note 3)
that while he could and would 'strongly press' Curtin's view that
the talks should be resumed he believed Lord Halifax (U.K.

Ambassador to the United States) was in the best position to
advise the U.K. Govt what could be done to encourage Hull in this
direction. Page would take up immediately the other questions
raised in the cablegram.

[AA : A981, JAPAN 178]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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