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40 Note by Curtin of Conversation with Johnson

CANBERRA, 3 February 1944

When handing the attached document to me the United States
Minister was very cordial.

After glancing through the document I informed Mr. Johnson that I
felt certain that Mr. Cordell Hull would be satisfied that we were
animated only by the strategic position as it affected the
security of New Zealand and the Australian Commonwealth.

I pointed out to Mr. Johnson that the general question as to
whether regional agreements should precede a general world
agreement, or the other way around, was at present a matter for
consideration. I felt free to tell Mr. Johnson that Mr. Cordell
Hull need have no disturbance of mind as it did not appear to be
reasonable that there could be an early conference arising out of
the Australia - New Zealand discussions owing to the problems
associated with the sovereign Governments' control of such areas
as New Caledonia, Timor and Dutch New Guinea, as well as the
British Government's interests in other islands. I stated that we
fully recognised that the war had yet to be won and although
formalised discussions could not be regarded as leading to a
settlement of problems, the truth was that New Zealand and
ourselves felt that we should put into an agreement all the
matters on which we were in agreement, and this of course without
prejudice to the rights of other nations and the duties which each
of us owes to them.

J. C.


Johnson to Curtin

Letter CANBERRA, 3 February 1944

Acting under instructions from the Secretary of State, I have the
honor to quote herewith the text of a message which I have
received by telegraph from him:

'I have read the text of the Australian - New Zealand Agreement of
January 21 [1] expressing the views of the two Governments on
certain matters of common interest relating particularly to the
South and Southwest Pacific region. I am, of course, aware that
this Agreement, in so far as it undertakes to deal with matters
affecting territories other than those of the two Governments, is
wholly without prejudice to the interests of other countries. I am
certain that both the Australian and New Zealand Governments are
likewise aware of this and that they have no desire to affect the
interests of other countries prejudicially.

'It is understandable that Australian and New Zealand Governments
should wish to reach agreement between themselves on matters of
common concern, and that they should wish to make their views
known to other Governments. I am frankly disturbed, however, at
the proposal of the two Governments to call an early conference of
powers with territorial interests in the South and Southwest
Pacific to consider the problem of regional security and related
matters. I have discussed this with the President, and while we
agree that these matters must be given utmost attention, we have
considerable doubts that it is yet time for discussing them at a
formal conference of interested powers. our doubts have, I
believe, already been communicated informally to the Australian
Government. Despite all the progress we have made, the war in the
Pacific has still to be won, and in our opinion it has not yet
reached the stage which would warrant the type of formalized
discussions which appear to be contemplated.

'There is also the question of approach, which should be carefully
considered. In our opinion, it is necessary to agree upon
arrangements for a general international security system before
attempting to deal with problems of regional security. Any attempt
to deal with regional security in the Southwest Pacific in advance
of agreement on a general security system might well give rise to
efforts on the part of other regional groups to make their own
exclusive arrangements for security. Thus, such a conference as is
proposed might in the end result in a number of independent
regional systems and seriously interfere with efforts to achieve a
general system of world security.

'We have also to consider the effect of such a conference upon our
immediate war effort. The President and I have some fears that a
formal conference of the powers for the purpose contemplated would
possibly do more harm than good to our united war effort. Such a
conference might well arouse suspicions and possibly bring into
focus conflicting opinions on matters which do not require
decision at this time. We are sure you share our strong feeling
that nothing should be done at this time to impair existing
harmony among all the United Nations fighting together against our
common enemies.

'We hope, therefore, that you will not take any steps toward
calling such a conference until we have had an opportunity to
discuss these matters fully together personally. I understand that
you may be coming to Washington within the next month or two. The
President and I look forward with pleasure to seeing you at that
time, and believe that your visit will give us an excellent
opportunity for a full and frank exchange of views on all these

'I am also communicating with Prime Minister Fraser in this


1 Document 26.

[AA:A1608, Y41/1/1]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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