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

Cablegram 714 [1] CANBERRA, 4 November 1941


Reference your cablegrams M.337, M.338 [2] and M.342. [3]

1. While Japan's Policy will probably be determined more by the
result of the German-Russian struggle than anything else, it would
appear that great significance is to be attached to the proposed
return to London of Mr. Shigemitsu [4] in view of the moderate
elements he represents and their influence on the constitution of
the new Government, vide your cablegram M.330. [5]

2. Having constantly before us the desirability of keeping Japan
out of the war and reaching a general settlement with her, it is
important that any measures to safeguard our defensive position in
the war against the Axis Powers by deterring Japan from acts of
aggression, which threaten our vital interests or Russia, should
not close the door to an understanding while the possibility
exists and so long as we do not sacrifice any vital interests
during the course of any discussions. Accordingly it is our view
that any warning issued to Japan on the lines contemplated should
reiterate our willingness and desire to seek a general settlement
in the Pacific which respects the rights of all parties.

3. We consider that the warning should then proceed to state that
any attack by Japan on Russia will be resisted by force by the
British Commonwealth irrespective of the attitude of the United
States of America.

4. While the Commonwealth Government does not think that the
notification should be conditional upon any reciprocal undertaking
by United States, Netherlands or China, it considers every
endeavour should be made to obtain the maximum collaboration of
these countries in the event of a Japanese attack on Soviet

5. While the notification to Japan should not be conditional upon
such assurance, a reciprocal guarantee should be sought from
Russia that if Japan attacks in a southward direction Russia will
declare war on Japan.

6. The foregoing view was unanimously endorsed by the Advisory War
Council, which includes representatives of all Parties. [6]


1 Repeated to the N.Z. Prime Minister as no. 456. Curtin also
instructed the High Commissioner in the United Kingdom to see the
Dominions Office copy of this cablegram (see unnumbered cablegram
of 4 November on file AA : A816, 19/304/430).

2 Both dispatched 24 October. On file AA : A2671, 363/1941.

Circular cablegram M338 referred to a request from the U.S.S.R.

Ambassador to the United Kingdom (I. M. Maisky) that the U.K. and
U.S. Govts should issue a strong warning to Japan.

3 Dispatched 30 October. On file AA : A981, Japan 181, iv.

4 Japanese Ambassador to the United Kingdom.

5 Dispatched 19 October. On file AA : MP1217, Box 554, Far Eastern
Crisis-October 1941 to break-down in United States-Japanese
conversations in Washington and outbreak of hostilities with

6 Both the Advisory War Council and War Cabinet had expressed
these views on 30 October. See minute 555 in AA : A2682, vol. 3
and minute 1464 in AA : A2673, vol. 9
The U.K. Govt replied on 7 November (cablegram 745 on file AA :

A981, Japan 172A) that the Russian question had been deferred in
the light of the urgent request from China for U.K. and U.S.

assistance against an expected Japanese attack on Yunan province
(see Documents 98 and 102). The U.K. Govt's view was, however,
that 'we should avoid bringing about a situation in which we found
ourselves at war with Japan without the assistance of the United

[AA : A981, JAPAN 169, iii]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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