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Historical documents

106 Attlee to Chifley

Letter LONDON, 29 December 1948


You sent me with your letter of the 24th May about defence co-
operation [1], copies of two memoranda produced by the Australian
Council of Defence. [2] We have studied these memoranda with great
interest; but I deferred sending any comments on them as the
subject of defence was included in the agenda for the Commonwealth
Prime Ministers' Conference.

2. I now enclose two copies of a paper [3] giving the views of the
United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff, which are endorsed by the United
Kingdom Government, on the memoranda. We hope that the way is now
clear for the military staffs of our two countries and of New
Zealand to embark on strategic planning; the United Kingdom
comments on the extent of the Australian 'Zone of strategic
responsibility' to be covered in the planning are included in the
Chiefs of Staff paper enclosed with this letter. The United
Kingdom Service Liaison Staff are ready to begin discussions in
Australia whenever your Chiefs of Staff wish.

3. We interpret the 'Australian zone of strategic responsibility'
in peacetime to be the region in which Australia would assume the
initiative for defence planning in peacetime. I should like to
emphasise that such planning does not involve any executive
control in peacetime and that we do not contemplate removing the
present United Kingdom command in the Far East either in peace or
war. Our treaty commitments with the Malay rulers entail very
special responsibilities in that area for the United Kingdom and
we feel it necessary to reserve the right to make it clear to the
local population, if necessary, that we have no intention of
transferring to other countries, either in peace or war, the
responsibilities for and in Malaya which now rest with us.

4. We have noted that you have authorised strategic planning to
proceed strictly on the official level and that it does not
involve any commitment by your Government. This applies also to
the United Kingdom Government and you will see that the United
Kingdom Chiefs of Staff have recognised this in their paper. But
with this understanding I hope that military planning between
Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom will progress
satisfactorily and lead to eventual agreement between the
Governments concerned on their exact responsibilities in order to
put the defences of the Commonwealth on a sound basis.

5. In view of New Zealand's close interest in this question, may I
suggest that you send a copy of your letter to me of the 24th May
and of this reply to Mr. Fraser?
6. I had this letter before me ready to sign when I received your
letter of the 10th December. [4] The further points which you
raise will require careful consideration here. I will, however,
try to let you have a full reply as soon as possible.

1 Document,98.

2 See Document 98, paragraph 6 (i) and (ii), and footnotes

3 Not published.

4 Document 105.

[AA: A816/52, 14/301/1353]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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