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26 Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister, to Lord Cranborne, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

Cablegram 499 [1] CANBERRA, [2 August 1941] [2]


My telegram 486 of 30th July [3]: we assume that the approach to
the United States Government will be comprehensive and will
attempt to elucidate United States attitude not only in general
contingency of war in the Pacific arising out of retaliatory
measures taken against Japan but also in relation to specific
questions of Netherlands East Indies and Thailand. We are strongly
of opinion that the piecemeal consideration of possible
developments in East Asia and the Pacific is no longer
satisfactory and that effort should now be made to define a, line
which the British Commonwealth and the United States of America
might follow in this region in conjunction.

1. N.E.I. Since receiving your telegram 440 of 21st June [4] we
are not aware that any further consideration has been given to the
question of (a) declaration, or (b) a private assurance of support
to the Netherlands East Indies in the event of an attack by Japan
on Dutch territory. We understand, however, that the British
Ambassador in Tokyo [5] privately conveyed to the Japanese
Minister for Foreign Affairs' in effect that forcible Japanese
action against the Netherlands East Indies would involve the
British Empire as an ally of Holland. [7] Presumably the
corresponding assurance has not yet been given to the Netherlands
Government although it is noted from your telegram M. 167 [8] that
consultation took place with the Netherlands Government regarding
Dutch co-operation in present economic restrictions against Japan.

The Commonwealth Government would be glad to know what your
present views are on this matter. We are inclined to doubt whether
any good purpose will now be served by attempting to renew the
proposals from the point where they were left in June, i.e., on
the basis of a unilateral public declaration or private assurance
by the British Empire, leaving the question of United States
participation to be settled subsequently. In the circumstances
that have arisen since that date, it seems to us desirable that
consideration of the matter should now be on the basis of an
understanding or assurance on the part of the United States. [9]

If this is accepted, we assume that maximum use will be made with
the United States Government of the important argument that both
Netherlands East Indies and Malaya are major sources of supply to
the United States for essential war materials, notably rubber,
which it would be greatly to the advantage of the Axis to cut off.

2. THAILAND. On indications that Japan is contemplating some early
move towards subjection of Thailand, we consider that this
contingency should also be urgently raised with the United States
Government. We are strongly impressed with the views of the
British Minister at Bangkok [10], and Sir John Latham [11] has
also expressed from Tokyo his opinion that we should, without
delay, enlist the co-operation and support of the United States in
handling the matter. We entirely endorse this view and suggest
that as preliminary step the British Ambassador in Washington [12]
should be asked to ascertain, in conjunction with his general
approach to the United States Government, what course of action
the United States Administration has in mind, either as a
deterrent to Japan or as a counter measure in the event of
fulfilment of Japanese designs.

1 Repeated to the Minister to the United States as no. 85 and to
the Legation in Tokyo on 4 August as no. 10 (AA : A3196, 1941, 0-

2 Inserted from Prime Minister's Dept outward cablegram register
(AA : A3643, 2).

3 Document 24
4 This appears to be an incorrect reference to cablegram 440 of 27
June, published as Document 521 in Documents on Australian Foreign
Policy 1937-49, vol. IV
5 Sir Robert Craigie.

6 Admiral Teijiro Toyoda.

7 The U.K. Ambassador to Japan had been given authority to speak
in these terms, at his discretion, to the Japanese Foreign
Minister. The U.S. Ambassador (J. C. Grew) had similar
instructions. Menzies, however, was incorrect in assuming that
such a communication had actually been made (see Document 31)
8 Dispatched 20 July. On file AA : A981, Far East 20B, i.

9 The U.K. Govt replied (cablegram 549 of 7 August on file AA :

A981 Japan 185B, ii) that it was ,most grateful' for the
Commonwealth Govt's views and noted that in his conversation with
the Netherlands Minister (Jonkheer E. Michiels van Verduynen) on 6
August the U.K. Foreign Secretary (Anthony Eden) had 'pointed out
that the attitude of the United States Government was of great
importance in this connection'. See Document 34.

10 See for example Sir Josiah Crosby's cablegram 509 of 29 July on
file AA : A1608, A41/1/1, xxiii.

11 Minister to Japan.

12 Lord Halifax.

[AA : A3196, 1941, 0. 11129]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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