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19 Lord Cranborne, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, to Commonwealth Government

Cablegram 515 LONDON, 26 July 1941, 9.07 p.m.


Japan: Your telegram 25th July, 477. [1]

1. We are very glad to know that the Commonwealth Government agree
with our view both as to the difficulty in the present
circumstances of securing a guarantee of armed support from the
United States and also as to the inadvisability of our informing
the United States that in taking our action we have done so on the
assumption that we can rely on their armed support if need arises.

2. In our judgment it would have created deplorable effect on the
United States Government if the latter had gained the impression
that we were seeking to attach conditions to our action or were
not wholehearted in following their lead. We are convinced that
the right course was to act quickly and without reservation.

Indeed, the importance in relation to public opinion both in Japan
and the United States of our appearing closely united with the
United States Government on this issue can in our view hardly be

3. A further point of material significance was that although the
United States Government at first hinted that they did not
necessarily expect our action to be taken simultaneously with
theirs, they later let it be known to His Majesty's Ambassador [2]
that they had delayed their action until today in order to give us
time to reach a decision ourselves.

4. Nevertheless we would assure you that we entirely appreciate
and indeed share the preoccupations expressed in your telegram.

The objective which we both have in view is to secure from the
United States Government the clearest possible indication of their
support, and if we are counselling a less direct method of
approach on this question it is merely because we feel sure that
this will in fact prove to be the best means of securing the
desired result. In defining our attitude in paragraph 4 (3) of my
Circular M.172 [3], we said that 'if we are called upon to go to
lengths which involve the plain risk of war with Japan every
effort should be made etc.' Whether the action now taken by the
United States and ourselves will involve the plain risk of war
depends in the first instance on the reactions of Japan and these
cannot yet be estimated. The object both of the United States
measures and our own is to deter Japan and if possible deflect her
from the course which less strong counter measures might encourage
her to pursue.

5. We agree, however, we must in any case expect a state of
tension for some time ahead, the outcome of which must hang in the
balance and now that we have boldly followed the United States
lead and taken parallel action with them without reservations, we
should see less objection to opening the question of an assurance
with the United States Government at the earliest suitable
opportunity. In our view the appropriate line of approach would be
to say to them that measures corresponding to theirs having been
taken both by ourselves and by the other British Commonwealth
Governments, we sincerely hope that our united action will succeed
in achieving the object of deterring Japan from her programme of
southward expansion. We must naturally be prepared, however, for
the possibility that the measures taken may have the contrary
effect of driving Japan to some further move. We are, of course,
fully alive to this risk and are doing what we can in our own
defence. But naturally what would have the greatest deterrent
effect and a correspondingly encouraging effect on those more
directly threatened by her present move would be the clearest
indication that the United States Government feel able to give
assurance that we can count on their support if we are attacked by
Japan or become involved in war with her through an attack on the
Netherlands East Indies.

6. On the assumption that this would meet the views of the
Commonwealth Government we will consult His Majesty's Ambassador
as to the most suitable moment for the approach on these lines.


1 Document 16.

2 Lord Halifax.

3 See Document 14, notes 2 and 4.

4 S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, also
doubted whether it would have been possible for the U.K. Govt to
gain an assurance of armed support from the United States before
committing itself to parallel action. However, he believed that
'the action having been taken ... we should now discuss with the
Americans in the frankest way the position that will arise if
serious Japanese reactions are provoked'. In view of what he
regarded as the 'leisurely' approach of the Dominions Office
reflected in cablegram 515 Bruce advised Menzies to cable urging
immediate discussions. See Bruce's cablegram 590 of 28 July on
file AA : A98 i, Far East 20A, ii.

[AA : A981, JAPAN 185B, ii]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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