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47 Submission to Cabinet by Spender

Submission, Canberra, 15 February 1951

Pacific Defence Pact: Forthcoming Exploratory Talks with Mr. John F. Dulles
1. The question of a Pacific Defence Pact, which would help to maintain peace throughout the Pacific Ocean area, and would in particular contribute towards Australia's security against aggression from any quarter, has been under consideration by myself and my Department throughout the past year. I am convinced that the general state of insecurity that prevails throughout the whole of Asia under the threat of Communist aggression, and also the danger of a recurrence of Japanese militarism demand that we should take steps without delay to ensure that Australia has firm understandings with the United States and with such other friendly countries as may agree to become parties to an arrangement that would provide safeguards against any peril that may arise.

2. The conclusion of the North Atlantic Treaty has served to underline the need for some form of adequate security arrangement for the Pacific Ocean area. Firstly, it underlines the fact that Australia has no direct part in the supreme direction of global strategic planing, while at the same time we are looked to to contribute our resources to the defence of the free world. Secondly, it is certain that the United States, United Kingdom and other western democracies will tend to become preoccupied to an increasing extent with security arrangements to resist the spread of Communism in Europe and with the provision of troops and equipment for the protection of Western Europe. It is above all becoming clear that the United Kingdom, with added commitments in the Middle East over and above its responsibilities to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, will have few resources to spare for active participation in the defence of the Australasian region. We can accept the principle that the European theatre is of the first importance in the world-wide fight against the spread of Communist imperialism. The danger is that it may come to be regarded, from the point of view of global planning, as of exclusive importance, to the neglect of the security problems of the Far East and the Pacific.

The record of Australian-United States collaboration during the Second World War, and the continuing good-will shown by the United States towards us, does indeed give good reason to believe that the United States, even in the absence of any formal commitment to do so, would want to go to considerable lengths to help us if she was satisfied that we were in real danger. But having regard to her many commitments today, it would seem unwise to rely entirely on American good-will to lend us timely and effective aid in the event of a rapidly developing threat. Our objective should be to obtain from the United States a firm assurance of its active interest in the peace and security of the whole Pacific area, and an undertaking to participate in a joint defence arrangement.

3. The matter has assumed additional urgency because of the likelihood of an early peace settlement with Japan. (Australian policy on the question of a Japanese Peace Settlement forms the subject of a separate submission.) The United States now regards the conclusion of peace with Japan as urgent, in order that the Japanese can be in a position to contribute substantially to their own defence and help to prevent their industrial and manpower resources from falling into Communist hands. In many other countries, including nearly all the independent countries of Asia, there is a growing demand that Japan be restored to equality with other nations and freed from all political and economic restrictions. It can be expected, therefore, that there will be a strong movement in favour of allowing Japan to undertake at least a limited measure of rearmament. It is significant that the United Kingdom as well as the United States Government is now opposed to any direct restriction of Japanese rearmament. This conflicts with the view consistently held by the Australian Government, which is that there is no evidence that the Japanese have undergone any fundamental change of heart, and that the danger from a revived and militant Japan, prepared to embark upon a campaign of aggressive expansion either by its own efforts or perhaps even in collaboration with Russia and Communist China, must not be ignored, even though it may seem remote at present. A peace settlement which removed all restrictions and limitations on Japan would in my view invite risks to Australian security against which in common prudence we must seek insurance.

Preliminary Discussions with United States Government
4. When I was in the United States in September of last year I took the opportunity of sounding out the Secretary of State and other Government leaders on the likely attitude of the United States towards a Pacific defence pact involving some kind of explicit commitment on the part of the United States south of the Equator. I found them at that time cautious but receptive, and they promised to give the suggestion their full consideration.

5. Since then there has been a development in the United States Congress which suggests that some sections of the United States public opinion are thinking upon somewhat the same lines, or are at least in favour of some extension of United States defence commitments in the Pacific area. On 3rd and 12th January of this year identical resolutions calling for the negotiation of a Pacific Pact were introduced into the House of Representatives by Representatives Judd[1] and Zablocki[2] respectively. On 23rd January a group of eight members of the House of Representatives, including Messrs. Judd and Zablocki, joined together to reintroduce the same resolution, the text of which is as follows:-

'Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring) that the Congress favours the negotiation of a Pacific Pact, consistent with the provisions of the United Nations Charter, for the common defence of the Pacific Ocean area, and the participation therein of the United States'.

Present United States Proposals
6. Mr. John Foster Dulles, who has since May 1950, been a Special Consultant to the Secretary of State, has been in Japan discussing matters connected with the Japanese Peace Settlement, which has been his particular responsibility. He has accepted an invitation to come to Australia to discuss with the Government problems arising from the likelihood of an early Japanese Treaty and other matters affecting the Pacific area. He has been authorised by the President and the United States Government to discuss with us, on a purely exploratory basis, certain United States proposals for a Pacific Defence Pact. These proposals have not yet been formally communicated to me, and I am in any event given to understand that they are still quite provisional and tentative. I have nevertheless had some hint of their general form and content. They appear to envisage:

(i) The establishment of a multi-lateral security arrangement among 'the island nations of the Pacific'. The precise limits of the area to be covered by the arrangement are not clearly defined, but they would not include any part of the Asian mainland.

(ii) The foregoing arrangement to be concluded between the Sovereign Governments in the Area, as distinct from Governments having interests there. These would be the United States, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and possibly Japan, and perhaps Indonesia. The United Kingdom is envisaged as being a party in a consultative capacity only.

(iii) The arrangement to be embodied in a declaration, to be signed by all member governments, providing for the establishment of a Pacific Defence Council. This would be composed of representatives of the governments at the ministerial level, and provision would also be made for meetings of deputies and for military staff consultations. The machinery contemplated is therefore somewhat on the lines of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

(iv) The declaration to be signed simultaneously if possible with the conclusion of the Japanese Peace Settlement.

I. Japan
7. From the Australian point of view the obvious difficulty in the way of an arrangement on the lines suggested by Mr. Dulles is the possible inclusion of Japan within the scope of the pact and as a signatory of the declaration. This would have the effect of turning Japan from an enemy into an ally over-night, and would cause political complications in Australia and possibly abroad, for example, in our relations with South-East Asia. We would clearly find it most difficult to accept.

II. Formosa
8. We do not yet know whether the United States wants to include Formosa within the geographical limits of the pact. The question of Formosa may not arise, and we would, of course, not raise it or entertain the presumption that it is part of the 'island chain' Mr. Dulles has in mind. In view of the complications the question of Formosa would raise in connection with our relations with Communist China, there are good reasons why it should be excluded from any consideration of a Pacific Defence Pact until Cabinet has had an opportunity to formulate its policy on China in the light of developments.

III. United Kingdom Views
9. The United Kingdom Government has submitted a number of reservations towards the Dulles' proposals. Of these, the one containing the most substance, in my view, is that which maintains that the conclusion of a pact or declaration confined to the off-shore territories of Asia might have serious repercussions in South-East Asian mainland countries, particularly in the direction of weakening their will to resist Communist expansion. A second United Kingdom reservation and the one to which, in my view, they attach the greatest importance, is that a pact of the kind proposed would result in a diversion of resources from Europe to the Pacific, and would in particular, interfere with possible Australian and New Zealand defence commitments to the Middle East. The first of these reservations is, in my view, satisfactorily provided against later in this paper. (See paragraph No. 12.) The second can be fully answered with the argument which forms the main justification for our asking for some form of defence guarantee from the United States - namely, that Australia has traditionally placed her troops and resources, in time of global war, where they can be used in the best over-all interest of the Allies, whether it be Europe, the Middle East or the Pacific, and she would like to be able to do so in any future war; but without some form of guarantee of her security at home, she may not be able to risk sending troops to distant theatres. In other words, by having a specific guarantee of the safety of the Australian mainland, Australia would be in a better position to commit her troops to such theatres as the Middle East.

IV. Participation of European Countries
10. Inclusion of the United Kingdom in a Pacific defence arrangement, even on a consultative basis, might be said to raise the question whether France, The Netherlands and Portugal should also be included. It is in the first place not certain that the United Kingdom would wish to be associated with the suggested arrangement, at any rate in a merely consultative capacity. My present view is that any such arrangement should be confined to the metropolitan countries of the area, and not enlarged to include European countries having interests in the area.

Australian Approach to United States Proposal
11. Australia's prime interest lies, of course, in securing a firm United States guarantee of our security. Our first objective should be to try to obtain this without entering into unaccustomed and undesirable commitments throughout the Pacific. But the importance of obtaining a United States guarantee is so pre-eminent that we may have to consider whether, in order to obtain it, we may not be called upon to go at least part of the way towards meeting the United States desire for a wider multi-lateral security agreement.

12. The fundamental justification for a United States guarantee of Australian security rests essentially on the argument set forth in paragraph 9 above, and would form the basis of our case in discussion with Mr. Dulles. It is founded on the following considerations:

(i) Australia at present has no voice in the higher strategical planning for global war.

(ii) Nevertheless, pending the acquisition of such a voice, Australia can be expected to do all in her power, as she has in the past, to use her troops and resources in the best interests of all her friends, as determined at the highest strategical level.

(iii) At the same time Australia cannot allow herself to be committed at the sacrifice of her own vital interests as a metropolitan Pacific power.

(iv) If it should be determined that Australia can best serve the common interest of her friends in time of global war by sending troops to distant theatres, we have a right to insist that our security at home should be absolutely assured while our troops are abroad.

(v) We had this brought home to us by our experience with Japan in the Second World War. We now know that the United States is anxious to conclude a Peace Treaty with Japan which would impose no restrictions on the right and the capacity of the Japanese to rearm.

(vi) We cannot, in common prudence, dismiss Japan as a threat to Australian security, remote as this may seem at the moment.

(vii) If the United States and other former allies are unwilling to impose any effective restrictions against a possible resurgence of Japanese militarism, we must insist on a firm defence guarantee from the United States if we are to be expected to play a substantial part in global plans for resisting Communist imperialism.

13. Although in my discussion in the United States I endeavoured to deal with the Japanese Peace Settlement and the possibility of a Pacific Defence Pact as separate questions, it is obvious that the two questions must now be regarded, from Australia's point of view, as closely inter-related.

14. As regards the Peace Treaty, we shall continue to exert the strongest possible pressure for the inclusion of what we regard as essential safe-guards against future Japanese aggression. We might be compelled to accept the need for some limited measure of Japanese rearmament provided specific limitations were written into the Treaty. It is possible, however, that despite all our efforts the final form of the Treaty may contain no effective restrictions and may be impossible for Australia to accept.

15. This brings up the question of a United States security guarantee. If we should find ourselves presented with a Japanese Peace Treaty which was acceptable to a majority of the signatories but unacceptable to Australia, it would be all the more essential that we should beforehand have received a suitable guarantee from the United States.

16. Our first objective should be to try to obtain United States consent to enter into a firm tripartite agreement, ratified by the United States Senate, between the United States, Australia and New Zealand, an agreement that would provide for mutual assistance in the case of an attack on any of the parties from any quarter, and would provide for appropriate machinery for consultation and planning. This would give us what we need without involving us in the complications and possible commitments involved in a wider multi-lateral agreement of the kind envisaged by Mr. Dulles.

17. It is possible that, using the arguments set forth in paragraph 12 above, we may succeed in convincing Mr. Dulles of the virtue of an agreement of this kind. We shall not be able to judge this until we have heard Mr. Dulles' views. However, it may be that we shall find ourselves compelled, if we are to secure an American guarantee against the consequences of a soft Japanese Peace Treaty, to leave the door open for our association with the wider agreement suggested.

18. If this becomes desirable, and we have to enter upon a discussion of the details of an 'island chain' arrangement, there are certain points on which we should make our attitude clear to Mr. Dulles:-

(i) EXTENT OF COMMITMENT. It is obviously impracticable for us to consider entry into a commitment that might involve the despatch of Australian troops to Japan for her protection in the event of an attack. It would also be undesirable for Australia to assume the same obligation towards the Philippines. Any commitment undertaken by the signatories of an agreement on the lines suggested should therefore go no further than the obligation contained in Article 5[3] of the North Atlantic Treaty, namely, that in the event of an attack on any signatory each of the other parties will take, 'individually and in concert with the other parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic Area'. Our object would in fact be to confine the obligation to an undertaking to consult with the other signatories.

(ii) POSITION OF SOUTH-EAST ASIA. We can accept at the outset the United States desire not to extend the arrangement to the Asian mainland, with the possible contingency of entanglement and heavy commitment in land warfare on the Asian continent. But having regard to the valid misgivings of the United Kingdom as to the possible effects of an off-shore pact on the morale of South-East Asian countries, we should insist that every precaution be taken to disabuse opinion in those countries of any idea that they are being abandoned to Communism. We would seek to do this in two ways:-

(a) Simultaneously with the conclusion of an agreement there would be published a separate declaration or declarations making it quite clear that there was no intention on the part of the signatories, to disinterest themselves in South-East Asia; that, for example, Australia would continue to help with the defence of Malaya, and the United States would continue to send munitions and equipment to the Government of Vietnam and to the French in Indo-China.

(b) It could be made clear that South-East Asia did not come within the ambit of this agreement. In order that there should not be any appearance of discrimination as amongst South-East Asian countries Indonesia would not be invited to become a signatory. (It is in fact highly unlikely that Indonesia would accept an invitation.)
19. It is evident that a pact containing the limited commitment on each signatory referred to in sub-paragraph (i) above, even though subsequently ratified by the United States Senate, would not give Australia the kind of guarantee needed. We would aim to make our acceptance of it conditional on a firm independent guarantee of Australia's security against attack from any quarter. Such a guarantee might take the form of a Presidential declaration which to be fully effective should receive the approval of the United States Senate.

20. It is recommended that the matter be discussed with Mr. Dulles along the foregoing lines. I have already had informal discussions with the New Zealand Minister for External Affairs, Mr. Doidge, and he is in substantial agreement with this basic approach.[4]

1 Walter H. Judd.

2 Clement J. Zablocki.

3 See note 2 to Document 20.

4 The discussions between Spender and Doidge were held in Sydney on 13 February and were continued in Canberra on 14 February before their talks with Dulles. Spender claimed that Doidge's preference, before the discussions in Canberra commenced, was for a presidential declaration along the lines of that made in 1938 in respect of Canada, in which the President would declare the intention of the United States to assist New Zealand in the event of aggression against her. Spender claimed that he told Doidge that he was unable to accept such a declaration since it would have no binding effect unless it were provided in the form of a treaty approved by the US Senate. See Sir Percy Spender, Exercises in Diplomacy, Sydney University Press, Sydney, 1969, pp. 104, 109-10. According to the New Zealand account of the meeting between Doidge and Spender, agreement was reached that Australia and New Zealand should jointly approach Dulles to obtain a US guarantee of Australia's and New Zealand's security and that the 'best form such a guarantee might take would be a tripartite arrangement between the United States, Australia and New Zealand'. See Robin Kay (ed.) The ANZUS Pact and the Treaty of Peace with Japan, Government Printer, Wellington, 1985, p. 590.

[NAA : A1838, TS250/7/10]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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