Skip to main content

Historical documents

214 Embassy in Washington to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 1641 WASHINGTON, 16 December 1947, 5.46 p.m.


Your 1389 and 1408.

1. Following is substance of information obtained by Plimsoll
chiefly in conversation with Richards [1] of State Department.

2. United States of America has been pressing United Kingdom for
over a year on Canton etc. United Kingdom has stalled on ground
that matter is not urgent compared with other world problems and
that full account must be given of Australian and New Zealand
views and interests.

3. State Department feels that the most important point is for
United Kingdom to recognise United States of America sovereignty
of Canton, Enderbury and Christmas Islands, to which United States
of America maintains their title is clear. Richards indicated that
as last resort if agreement appeared unattainable United States of
America might agree to let present agreement on Canton and
Enderbury run on unchanged for the present since there were still
42 years to go. But no such agreement existed as to Christmas and
was urgently needed. United States of America wanted final
settlement now on all three islands because difficulties were
consistently arising, e.g. on fishing rights, native immigration,
legal jurisdiction over residents, nationality of residents.

United States of America at present was raising question of these
three islands [alone, but] [2] if United Kingdom wished to extend
discussions to cover other Pacific islands such as Funafuti,
United States of America would be prepared to take part in such
discussions and to incorporate results in final agreement.

However, United States of America would not discuss regional
security arrangements in connection with the settlement for these
three islands. In regard to [many] minor [islands] whose
sovereignty was at present disputed, United States of America felt
that it was immaterial to whom they were awarded as long as some
definite decision was made. Rights to Civil and military air
facilities and other rights on Canton etc., would be a matter for
discussion during the negotiations, but United States of America
thought that on such points there would be little diff[iculty] in
obtaining agreement that would be satisfactory to all parties.

4. United States Civil Aeronautics Administration is about to
spend considerable sums developing Canton and replacing coral
strip with concrete or asphalt.

1 Arthur L. Richards, Assistant Chief, Division of British
Commonwealth Affairs, Department of State.

2 A sign here indicates 'mutilated'. Words in square brackets have
been inserted/corrected from the Washington copy on file AA:A3300
T1, 578A.

[AA: A6494 T1, 1/6]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
Back to top