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122 Cablegram From Menzies to Casey

Cablegram, Canberra, 8 November 1951


Reference paragraph 6 your telegram GA2.[1]

Security Arrangements in Pacific
I have had full background discussion with Watt regarding recent developments. It is of undoubted interest that Indonesia is showing some faint signs of readiness to adopt a more positive attitude of collaboration with Western countries, even, perhaps, in matters of security. Nevertheless, for reasons set out below, I feel that, for the time being at least, Australia should exercise the utmost caution and refrain from taking any positive initiative to extend three-power security arrangements.

2. In the first place, our three-power pact is not yet ratified. Ratification of the present arrangement must clearly be a cardinal objective because such an arrangement will give us for the first time in our history an American guarantee of security. As you know, we were extremely fortunate to avoid being forced into a four-power arrangement including the Philippines. I would view with serious concern any action by us which might complicate the ratification of the three-power pact, for instance, through any reopening of the question of the range of parties to the pact. Any suggestion that one more party should be added would, of course, raise the question whether several other parties should be added. This would involve consideration of such matters as inclusion of mainland countries and, at its worst, could conceivably result in no pact coming into effect at all! Surely our first objective, therefore, must be to take no step which may delay or endanger ratification of the three-power pact. New Zealand would undoubtedly share this view. If and when the three-power pact is ratified, we will be in a far better tactical position to consider the delicate and complex question of its possible extension.

3. Secondly, extension of Australian military obligations to Asian countries might well disturb Australian public opinion. On the one hand, there might be considerable criticism of any move to bind Australia to support by arms certain Asian regimes and defend their territories. On the other hand, even if Australian public opinion were ready to accept extension of such Australian obligations, there could well develop the point of view that South-East Asia alone is the special zone of Australian military obligation and operation - to the exclusion of the vital Middle East area. Thirdly, the United Kingdom could scarcely wish to see created wider security arrangements in the Pacific unless they covered British territory. This, however, would immediately raise the fundamental question whether the United States is willing to guarantee mainland territories in Asia. At the moment I know of no real evidence to support such a view.

4. I should have thought, therefore, that it was not in our interest to take the initiative. For Australia, the vital consideration is the securing of an American guarantee. This we shall have when the three-power arrangement is ratified. Any extension of security arrangements will increase the range of Australian obligations without equivalent compensation. In these circumstances, is it not for Indonesia or the Philippines or perhaps even the United Kingdom Government to take up the running - at least until the three-power arrangement becomes effective?
5. I fully appreciate the importance of strengthening such areas as Indo-China and Burma in order to keep South-East Asia out of Communist hands. However, apart from the basic question whether the United States is willing to give a formal guarantee to such mainland areas, there is also the point that conclusion of a pact is not the only way of helping these countries. American aid is already going to Indo-China. If it is not sufficient, we could perhaps help the French case by lending diplomatic support to their representations. Perhaps we could also help secure some American aid for Burma. In short, our initiative would be limited, for the time being, to pressing upon the United Kingdom and the United States the importance of South-East Asia, improving our representation in the area and supporting the case for increased aid.

6. I should be glad if you would keep the above considerations in mind in any discussions with Eden and Acheson. I would be very uneasy if any action taken by us at the present time reopened the question of the scope of the three-power pact. In any event, I do not think that Australia should be put in the position - for the time being at least - of taking the initiative in a proposal which would have the inevitable result of extending Australian military obligations in Asia. Let other countries seek extension to them of present security arrangements. When the three-power pact is ratified we can take a good look at the situation as of that date and then decide where our best interests lie.

1 5 November. Casey advised Menzies that he had told Anthony Eden, the UK Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, that he would like to discuss, either in Paris or London, the possibility of a more broadly based security arrangement in South-East Asia.

[NAA : A6768, EATS 77, v]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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