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164 Mr R. G. Casey, Minister to the United States, to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister, and to Dr H. V. Evatt, Minister for External Affairs

Cablegram 1088 WASHINGTON, 5 December 1941, 5.53 p.m.


British Ambassador [2] saw the President [3] late last night.

Owing to its importance I repeat below the British Ambassador's
telegram to London of this morning.

(1) Your telegram No. 6720. [4]

(2) I had long talk to the President this evening and expressed
your deep appreciation for his prompt [and] helpful response.

(3) As regards your proposal that the warning to Japan should
apply to an attack by Japan on Thailand, Malaya, Netherlands East
Indies and the Burma Road from Indo-China, the President was very
doubtful about the wisdom of including an attack On the Burma
Road. Apart from the fact that the Chinese war stood on a
different footing to some new aggression, his recollection was
that in the summer of 1940 Japanese had blocked the Indo-China
route to China at Hanoi where the United States had had supplies
for China which had consequently been obstructed without, he
thought, any serious protest by the United States., This precedent
made it difficult for him to take so much stiffer a line now on
the attack on the Burma Road. Moreover, if hostilities come he
will have to make his case here on defence grounds which he feels
he can well do on the other cases you mention but not (repeat not)
on the Burma Road issue. He hopes, therefore, that you may not
think it necessary to include this in the warning.

(4) Subject to the above and to paragraph (5) below he agrees with
the warning covering any attack by Japan on Thailand, Malaya or
Netherlands East Indies. He thinks that, if the warning is given
by the United States, ourselves and the Dutch, we should each act
independently all within 24 hours, using different language to
mean the same thing. He would prefer for the United States to get
in first. On account of political consideration here it was
important that their action should be based on independent
necessities of United States defence and not appear to follow on
ours. He assumed you would be concertina with the Dutch.

(5) He said, however, that he had received indirectly a
communication from Kurusu [5] that matters were not yet hopeless
and that a direct approach to the Emperor might produce result.

Kurusu had also said that if the President would make the move it
might still not be impossible to secure a truce and even
settlement between Japan and China. Kurusu had sketched the
possible lines of arrangement provided that the President would
endeavour to act as 'introducer' between China and Japan with a
view to their dealing directly with each other. These possible
lines included a truce, withdrawal of the bulk of Japanese troops
from Indo-China and withdrawal of Japanese troops from north of
China on a time-table to be satisfactory between Japanese and
Chinese Military with an American assessor or arbitrator (he was
not clear which). President said that Japanese would obviously
want some economic relief. He did not attach too much importance
to this approach but was naturally reluctant to miss any chance
and thought that the communication would strengthen his general
case if things went wrong. He asked my opinion.

(6) I said on the question of approach to the Emperor the main
point seemed the danger of delay in putting in the warning on the
assumption that Kurusu's approach was worthless. Could he make his
communication to Emperor, if he made it, serve as definite
warning. President agreed and said he could and would include such
warning if he decided to do it tomorrow morning after he has
received Japanese reply to his question two days ago.

As to treatment of Kurusu's approach in general, I said no doubt
he would be particularly careful not to put a foot wrong with
Chinese after last week's experiences and that therefore it might
be wiser to avoid any detail[ed] suggest[ion] at first stage,
merely combining with message and warning a hint that if Emperor's
reply gives him any reason to think it would be helpful he might
be able to make a suggestion that would assist maintenance of
peaceful relations. President agreed.

(7) He will decide whether he does or does not communicate with
Emperor tomorrow, Friday, morning and meanwhile wishes us to
suspend delivery of warning while making all preparation for it
with Dutch. If he does approach Emperor he would hope that a
three-power warning might be deferred until he had Emperor's reply
for which he would ask urgently.

(8) As regards communication to Thai Prime Minister [6] of our
plans regarding Kra Isthmus, President suggests our confining
ourselves at present to informing British Minister at Bangkok [7]
of our plans so that British Minister can communicate them at
short notice to Thai Government if and when necessary.


1 Words in square brackets have been corrected/inserted from the
Washington copy on file AA:A3300,100.

2 Lord Halifax.

3 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

4 Not found on Commonwealth Govt files.

5 Japanese special envoy to the United States.

6 Maj Gen Luang P. Pibulsonggram.

7 Sir Josiah Crosby.

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