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170 Lord Cranborne, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister

Circular cablegram M438 LONDON, 7 December 1941, 5.06 a.m.


Following for the Prime Minister.

My immediately preceding telegram M.437. [1]

1. Since the possibility remains open that the immediate
destination of the Japanese convoys is another port in Indo-China
there may still be time for warning to Japan by the United States,
Dutch and ourselves on the lines contemplated in recent exchanges
with President Roosevelt. We have therefore thought it desirable
to continue preparations for the delivery of such a warning in
order to be in a position to proceed with it if and when the
President should give the signal to do so.

2. We have not yet heard whether the President has decided to send
the message to the Emperor or not. If he has not yet made up his
mind the decision may now be influenced by the news of the sailing
of Japanese convoys. We must assume in any event that he may wish
to proceed with some form of warning at any moment in which case
warnings from ourselves and the Dutch may be required to follow
almost immediately afterwards.

3. It would we feel add to the impressiveness of warning (if the
President should wish us to proceed with it) if it could be
delivered on behalf of all His Majesty's Governments jointly. We
very much hope His Majesty's Governments in the Dominions will
feel able to concur in this course and identify themselves in this
manner with the warning proposed.

4. In view of the urgency of the matter as explained in paragraph
(2) we have thought it desirable to prepare and telegraph to His
Majesty's Ambassador at Tokyo [2] a draft note to the Japanese
Government conveying a warning in the sense agreed in the recent
discussions with the President. The text is contained in my
immediately following telegram [3] and it will be seen that in the
hope that the suggestions made in paragraph
(3) above will be acceptable it has been drafted as a joint
communication. Sir R. Craigie has been instructed to hold this
draft note in reserve pending receipt of further instructions and
it has been explained to him that the text as well as the form is
subject to the concurrence of His Majesty's Governments in the
Dominions. The draft has been telegraphed simultaneously to His
Majesty's Ambassador at Washington [4] for the observations of the
President. It has also been sent to the Netherlands Government
which is entirely in agreement with the line taken by us and is
preparing to act similarly.

5. We should be grateful if we could be informed by most immediate
telegram whether you concur in the terms of the draft note and in
the procedure suggested. [5] In the circumstances it would be
helpful if you would cause your reply to be repeated to His
Majesty's Ambassador at Tokyo. [6]

6. It will be appreciated that in drafting the note we were
presented with a special difficulty owing to the desire of the
President that the Burma Road should be omitted from the warning
(see my telegrams M.433 paragraph (2) and M.434 paragraph (1)[7]).

In the circumstances we have thought it best to relate the warning
directly to the concentration of troops in southern Indo-China.

The draft note thus brushes aside the Japanese explanation about
north Indo-China and leads logically to the Japanese threat to
Thailand [8] as well of course as the Netherlands East Indies.

This has the merit of being in accordance with immediate realities
and the fact that the Philippines are also omitted (in accordance
paragraph (3) my telegram M.433) should, we feel, make the absence
of mention of the Burma Road less noticeable.

1 Dispatched 7 December. On file AA:A981, Japan 185B, iii. It
reported the sighting of two Japanese convoys off Cambodia.

2 Sir Robert Craigie.

3 Circular cablegram M439 of 7 December is on the file cited in
note 1. The draft note warned the Japanese Govt 'that if Japan
attempts to establish her influence in Thailand by force or threat
of force she will do [so] at her own peril and His Majesty's
Governments will at once take all appropriate measures. Should
hostilities unfortunately result, the responsibility will rest
with Japan'.

4 Lord Halifax.

5 The Commonwealth Govt replied on 8 December (cablegram 775 on
the file cited in note 1): 'subject to the condition ... that the
President gives prior approval to the text of the warning ... and
also gives signal for the actual delivery of the warning as so
drafted, we concur in the draft as a joint communication from all
His Majesty's Governments'.

6 The draft copy of this cablegram (on file AA:A816, 19/304/431)
indicated that it was to be sent also to Craigie with a request
that he show it to F. K. Officer, Charge d' Affaires in Japan.

7 Both dispatched 6 December (see the file cited in note 1).

8 On 8 December Sir Josiah Crosby (U.K. Minister to Thailand)
reported that 'under duress'the Thai Govt had agreed that morning
to allow the passage of Japanese troops across Thailand to attack
Malaya or Burma. See circular cablegram M445 of 9 December on file
AA:A981, Japan 174, iii

[AA: A981, JAPAN 18511, iii]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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