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Historical documents

5 Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister, to Mr Tatsuo Kawai, Japanese Minister to Australia

Letter MELBOURNE, 11 July 1941

The Government has given very careful consideration to your letter

of 27th June [1] regarding the desire of your Government to secure

supplies of copra from the Territory of New Guinea, and has made

enquiries regarding the position.

You are doubtless aware that Japan is normally an exporter of oils

and fats. Our advices are that recently Japan has been importing

very large quantities of copra, coconut oil, castor seed oil,

etc., and has been exporting fish oil, whale oil, coconut oil,

soya oil, and soya beans to Germany. Japan has also, we are

advised, acted as a channel for the supply to Germany of foreign

lard and tallow.

Australia has contributed to Japan's imports of oil by permitting

the export of certain quantities of copra to Japan, despite the

fact that, normally, Australia supplies to Japan negligible

quantities of this commodity. In these circumstances it does not

at present appear practicable for the Australian Government to

issue any further licences for the export of copra to Japan.

Recently the Japanese Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs [2]

informed the Australian Minister at Tokyo [3] that the shortage of

food oil in Japan was due to the failure of the soya bean crop in

Manchoukuo, whereas your understanding appears to be that it is

due to a reduced production of fish oil. I feel bound to say that

on the facts before it, it seems to the Australian Government that

any shortage in food oil in Japan is due to substantial exports to

Germany with whom we are engaged in war.

On this question of Japan's food supplies, I earnestly hope that

your Government does not overlook the ready co-operation that has

been forthcoming from Australia. Since the outbreak of the war,

Australia has supplied to Japan very large quantities of wheat,

flour, and barley, and has granted credit for long periods on

liberal terms. The most recent evidence of our desire to assist

Japan is the decision to permit the export to Japan of Corriedale

Sheep to the total of 20,000 during the present year. Your request

in this instance was gladly granted because you emphasised that

the sheep were required for distribution to small farmers, whose

general economy depends partly on the possession of a few sheep.



1 On file AA : A981, Japan 152.

2 Chuichi Ohashi.

3 Sir John Latham;

4 The Commonwealth Govt's decision was communicated to Latham in

cablegram 207 of 21 July and to A.T. Stirling, External Affairs

Officer in London,in cablegram 290 of 23 July. Both cablegrams and

Kawai's reply to Menzies (dated 21 July) are on the file cited in

note 1.

[AA : A1608, G59/1/3, ii]

Last Updated: 2 February 2011
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