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158 Sir Earle Page, Special Representative in the United Kingdom, to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister

Cablegram P8 LONDON, 4 December 1941, 1.50 p.m.


On the receipt of Halifax's telegram, M.412 [1], after
consultation with Bruce [2], I urged that Australia as being the
most vitally interested Dominion in the Far East should
participate in framing the reply or if that was not possible at
any rate should be fully consulted before it was sent. After long
argument, a compromise was struck by the proposed reply being
brought down to the Defence Committee meeting where I was able to
secure insertion of that part of Clause 2, Circular M.418 [3],
dealing with the Netherlands East Indies, reading:- 'We note
particularly the President's [4] statement that in any direct
attack on ourselves or the Dutch we should all be together. We
fully endorse this statement.'
I urged that the cable should be briefer and simpler, that in view
of the tone and the terms of the President's statement one
comprehensive sentence could take the American aid for granted in
the case of attack on British possessions, on the Netherlands East
Indies, or on Kra Isthmus, and this would fix this point
definitely in an official document. The balance of the cable in
that case would be devoted to saying exactly what we propose to do
in the three remaining eventualities named by the President. It is
impossible however to alter the form of a cable in a meeting of
twelve or fourteen. [5]

Clause 2 does make the position definite. It assumes that an
actual invasion and a movement of considerable troops by water
south are the same thing and suggests joint issue of a warning to
Japan regarding Indo-China.

The President's suggestions regarding Thailand are met in three
and four.

I took the opportunity of the presence of practically the whole
War Cabinet to secure some clarification on the five points raised
in your telegram 765. [6]

(1) China
Cabinet thought that the proposed position should remain as it
was, that America would take the lead here.

(2) Japanese attack on Thailand
It was felt that the statement of America's attitude in Halifax's
telegram had radically changed this issue so far as Kra Isthmus
was concerned. The assurance in reply to Halifax covered the
position now.

(3) Japanese attack against Russia
In this the feeling of War Cabinet was that we should try and
attune our attitude to that of the United States, who were certain
to be engaged in any war that took place with Japan and would need
to be consulted. As the action suggested by Australia depends on
reciprocal aid of Russia, Cabinet did not think that the question
would immediately arise as the
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs [7] felt sure that Russia
was not yet prepared to give such reciprocal aid especially if the
Japanese attack looked to be concentrating on the South.

(4) Netherlands East Indies
The last two sentences of Clause 2 which I had inserted cover the

(5) Portuguese Timor
Eden said that an important question on the defence of this area
had been raised by the Dutch which was immediately to be
considered with them.


1 See Document 157, note 1.

2 High Commissioner in the United Kingdom.

3 Document 157.

4 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

5 Bruce also was dissatisfied with the reply to Halifax,
describing it as 'a somewhat draughty reply to a most forthcoming
attitude on the part of the President'. He had suggested that the
U.K. Govt send Halifax a further cablegram instructing him to tune
his presentation to the atmosphere in Washington but doubted that
this would be done and hoped that R. G. Casey (Minister to the
United States) might be able to persuade Halifax to take this
course. See cablegram 116 of 3 December (repeated to Washington as
no. 86) on file AA : M100, December 1941.

6 Document 153.

7 Anthony Eden.

[AA : A1608, A41/1/1, XXV]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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