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287 Fraser to Chifley

Cablegram 77 WELLINGTON, 15 June 1949, 10.25 p.m.


Thank you for your telegram setting out the views of the
Australian Government. [1] The first question as I see it is
whether or not the United Kingdom is to retreat before aggression
if it should occur. Having decided to make a stand at Hong Kong
the second point is whether the United Kingdom is entitled to look
to us for assistance in defending British territory against such
aggression having regard especially to the part which we rightly
claim and wish to play in the settlement of questions of
Commonwealth security in the Pacific Area.

Matters such as the failure of Chiang Kai-shek to reform and
liberalize his regime, the combatting of Communism by all positive
means, the regularisation of the position in China and the
recognition of the Communist Government seem to me to have no
bearing on these two points and are in fact matters for
consideration and discussion at a later stage.

I agree of course that the recognition of the rights of people to
Self-Government and to better economic standards of life is the
best way to resist Communism. The record of the New Zealand
Government is sufficient guarantee of its support of such positive
measures in other countries.

Personally I consider it would be disastrous for the United
Kingdom to yield in the face of aggression whether Communist or
otherwise and I note from your telegram to me that Australia also
does not favour British withdrawal from Hong Kong and feels that
the British are entitled and bound to endeavour to retain
possession and to this end that a show of force may be desirable
and, from your telegram to Mr. Attlee on 30th May [2], that the
Australian Government supports the recent decision to reinforce
the Hong Kong garrison.

We in New Zealand entirely agree and in view of the United
Kingdom's commitments elsewhere and its depleted resources at the
present time we are prepared to give what help we can, especially
in an area where we feel our own interests are involved.

While we do not wish to anticipate that aggression would
necessarily be undertaken by a Communist China nevertheless in
view of the record of newly formed Communist regimes elsewhere we
think it would be most unwise to count upon the opposite policy in
this particular case. Moreover we know how appeasement failed in
the past particularly when it came to conciliating and temporising
with Germany and Japan.

I agree that it would be a mistake to give excessive publicity to
any measures which might be taken to defend Hong Kong and we would
endeavour to avoid publicity unless challenged in Parliament and
even then I would hope to limit our statement to a general reply.

We would very much regret any political repercussions in Australia
which our offer of material assistance might cause but on the
other hand failure on our part to respond to any such requests
would involve the Government in most serious political
repercussions here. There is no doubt that any assistance we might
give would receive the widest support of the New Zealand people.

We fully recognise Australia's continuing commitments in the
Occupation Forces in Japan which must rightly be taken into
consideration by your Government. Having regard to our own
manpower shortages we would not find it possible to offer Army
personnel for Hong Kong but on the other hand Naval Units which
contain a large proportion of United Kingdom personnel do not
represent so heavy a commitment. As for bringing to the Security
Council the question of any threat of aggression to Hong Kong I
regret to say that I have little faith in the capacity of that
Body as at present constituted to settle anything. I am not clear
from your paragraph 8 whether you are proposing to bring the
situation before the Security Council in the near future or to
await developments and see whether any threat of aggression
actually occurs.

In any event I assume that the matters would only be brought
before the Security Council after full consultation and with the
full agreement of the United Kingdom as the Commonwealth
Government principally concerned. I would myself wonder whether it
would be construed as a friendly gesture by the United Kingdom and
other Commonwealth and Foreign Governments, especially if such a
course put the United Kingdom in a position whether she might be
called upon by a Conciliation Body to make concessions in the face
of aggression.

For all these reasons and while we have considered the viewpoint
expressed in your telegram I regret that we would feel unable to
withdraw the offer we have made of the Frigates. On the general
issue it seems to me that the right course is for the United
Kingdom to remain firm in the face of any force at a point such as
Hong Kong where a stand could and should be made and moreover that
in this particular case it is our duty to accord our full support.


1 Document 286.

2 Document 283.

3.On 25 July Fraser cabled Chifley informing him his government
had decided to make three Dakota aircraft available in Singapore
with appropriate support personnel based in Singapore to be
employed on transport duties between Malaya and Hong Kong.

Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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