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234 Curtin to Evatt

Cablegram L53 [1] CANBERRA, 3 July 1943


Your telegram EC.28. [2]

I have given close consideration to this question and agree
generally with the reply which you have returned to the United
Kingdom Government associating Australia with the general
assurance that Portuguese colonial sovereignty will be maintained.

Without prejudice to any general post-war colonial settlement
which may eventuate, we have no hesitation in giving this
assurance as regards the Portuguese colonial empire generally,
including Macao.

2. On the other hand, the present is, as you suggest, a favourable
opportunity for raising the issue of the special rights which we
desire as regards Timor. To my mind the success or failure of an
approach now on this question will depend on the presentation of
the case. We must be careful not to present it in a manner which
would give the Portuguese an excuse for hesitation and delay, with
consequent prejudice not only to the immediate question of the
Azores, but to our ultimate plans for Timor. We should endeavour
to obtain Portuguese agreement in principle now to common defence
measures which may later be expanded.

3. I suggest, therefore, that the Australian assurance to the
Portuguese Government be along the following lines:-

(i) The Commonwealth Government is glad to be associated with the
general assurance furnished by the United Kingdom, United States
and South African Governments that Portuguese sovereignty will be
maintained in Portuguese colonial possessions after the war.

(ii) The maintenance of Portuguese sovereignty is of particular
interest to Australia because of the proximity to its shores of
Timor, in the defence of which against the Japanese invaders
Australian troops have been giving their lives since December
1941, when they landed in the colony solely to forestall the
imminent Japanese invasion. The Commonwealth Government notes with
satisfaction the proposal that Portuguese troops be associated
with the United Nations forces which will ultimately undertake the
liberation of Timor.

(iii) In order to prevent future aggression against Timor and
Australia, the Commonwealth Government believes that measures
should be concerted for the common defence of this area. It hopes
that the Portuguese Government shares this view. To this end the
Commonwealth Government would welcome staff conversations between
Australian and Portuguese Service authorities to discuss how this
might best be effected.

(iv) In the realisation that satisfactory economic relations and
development would greatly strengthen mutual defence, the
Commonwealth Government also suggests that the desirability of a
general commercial agreement, covering inter alia air
communications between Australia and Timor, be kept closely in

(v) The Commonwealth Government from time to time has informed the
Portuguese Government of the barbarous and brutal treatment of its
nation[al]s and its native subjects in Timor by the Japanese [3],
and feels that the Portuguese Government might consider
immediately the denunciation of the continued Japanese occupation
and give public recognition to the Australian struggle to preserve
Timor from its invaders.


4. I think you might also inform the United Kingdom Government
that, if the scope of the proposed military conversations referred
to in the anti-penultimate paragraph of the Aide-Memoire goes
beyond immediate considerations in the Azores to general matters,
the Commonwealth Government assumes that Australian special
interest in Timor, both now and after the war, will receive proper
consideration. [4]

1 Sent through the External Affairs Office in London.

2 See Document 233, note 1.

3 See Document 130.

4 The information Contained in paragraph 3, subparagraphs (i) to
(iv), of this Cablegram was Conveyed to the Portuguese Prime
Minister (Dr A. de Oliveira Salazar) on 14 September by H. L. D'A.

Hopkinson of the U.K. Embassy in Lisbon. Hopkinson reported that
in reply: 'Dr. Salazar expressed the satisfaction of his
Government at receiving this communication and asked that the
Commonwealth Government should be informed that the Portuguese
Government accepted with pleasure the idea of discussing the
problems relating to common defence against possible future
aggression and to the possible development of economic relations
between Timor and Australia. He saw no objection in principle to
an attempt to conclude a general commercial agreement, which might
cover air communications between Australia and Timor.' See
Hopkinson's dispatch of 14 September on file AA:A1608, Q41/1/9 and
Cross's letter to Curtin of 11 October on file AA:A1608, J41/1/9,

Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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