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16 Letter From Moodie to Shaw

Letter, Washington, 4 August 1950


It may be useful to you to have some background to our telegram 622[1] sent on 3rd August regarding a talk between Dean Rusk and Allen Brown. The telegram was prepared in rather more of a hurry than I like in the last minute bustle before the P.M.'s delegation departed.

In the first place Brown was extremely punctilious about the whole thing and most reluctant to get dragged into any discussions on foreign affairs. On the other hand Rusk had indicated in casual talks to a couple of other members of the delegation whom he had met at parties that he would like to have a talk to Brown and it would have been difficult for him to refuse. Brown asked McNicol and me to go along with him.

The talk was very helpful to us since Rusk got us round a table with the Chiefs of his regional offices and then set out their views. His observations on the Pacific Pact idea gave a pretty clear indication, both Brown and I thought, of his own views. It is only fair to record, however, that David McNicol who knows far more about Far Eastern matters than I, and who does much of the dealing with State Department people on them, didn't draw the same conclusions as we did. David felt Rusk was interested in having further discussions about a Pact or arrangement, whereas we thought the questions Rusk raised suggested that behind them lies a general reluctance on his part to go any further with the idea.

It seems to me likely that the State Department have had reports from the American Embassy in Canberra that members of the Australian Government are not in entire agreement on the advisability of a regional arrangement in the Pacific. They may perhaps have had a report that the Prime Minister is dubious about it. If so, Rusk would obviously be interested in meeting the Secretary of the Prime Minister's Department and talking to him with the hope of getting some confirmation of these reports. If so, it must be said that Brown took an entirely correct line and gave no indication of any such division of opinion. He simply listened and encouraged Rusk and his colleagues to talk.

This is clearly not a matter for an official report, but I thought you and Alan Watt might be interested to know about it. I consequently thought it worth while to depart from the rule regarding communications from overseas officers to officers in the Department. I should add that all the time I have been here, I have got the impression from nearly all State Department people, when the Pacific Pact question cropped up, that they didn't want it, or at least didn't want any white country to take a lead.

1 Document 15.

Spender's Cable S92 of 15 September from New York elaborated on his thinking about the scope of the Pacific Pact. Spender communicated to Watt that he had publicly commented in the United States that the Australian Government desired the area covered by the Pacific Pact to be as wide as possible, 'including countries of the Indian Ocean capable of entering into firm military commitments, but that if that were not possible, then an area generally including Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and North America and Great Britain, because of her varied interest therein, would form a reasonable basis for a Pact'.[1] He had also indicated that he saw no objection to South American countries joining the Pact or to Indonesia coming within the area.

Earlier in the year on 8 June 1950, in closing the debate in Parliament which he had initiated on 9 March, Spender had referred to the Pacific Pact. After pointing to the desirability of achieving an arrangement for the preservation of peace in the Pacific area, he noted that certain conditions that had led the West to conclude the NATO Pact did not yet exist in Asia, such as similar political institutions, economic structures, armed forces and common cultures. The development of a common defence policy would therefore be slower in Asia than in Europe. Spender noted that 'any pact aiming at the preservation of peace in the Pacific area would need to embody specific military provisions'. He added that no such pact could succeed without the support and co-operation of the United States. While he had earlier expressed the hope that the countries of the British Commonwealth might form the nucleus of a Pacific alliance, Spender made it clear that this was not intended to exclude any other regional initiative: 'Any move which might contribute to the development of an effective regional organisation in the Pacific area should be encouraged and supported. Australia alone, if called upon to respond by the United States, would be prepared to enter into such an agreement'.[2]

1 Cablegram 497, S92 from New York (I. 14414).

2 Current Notes, vol. 21, 1950, pp. 402-16, especially pp. 403-4.

[NAA : A1838, 383/1/2/8, v]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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