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48 Minute From Watt to Spender

Minute, [Canberra], 15 February 1951


Comments on Dulles Talks - First Day
My interpretation of Dulles' remarks to-day is as follows.

2. I think that Dulles is showing great skill in handling this complicated problem. Before he left Washington, he allowed Allison to speak to Australia and New Zealand and to some extent to the United Kingdom about the possibility of an 'off-shore' arrangement.[1] Dulles scarcely identified himself with this proposal - which in no sense could be regarded as an expression of considered United States opinion. By this means, Dulles was able to sound out the reactions of three countries to the proposal, which from the American point of view might have made it possible, if it had been accepted, to include Japan in a regional pact.

3. Dulles has discovered that the United Kingdom has violent objections to the off-shore plan. He now seems to have discarded it completely. In any event, it seems clear that Japan will not be included in any such pact - possibly because Dulles feels that not only the United Kingdom but also Australia and New Zealand would oppose such an arrangement. Perhaps this is one of the very reasons why Dulles has now gone 'cold' on an off-shore arrangement.

4. Dulles himself, and possibly Rusk and others in Washington, have apparently been prepared to give some consideration to the question of a tripartite arrangement which would include only the United States, Australia and New Zealand. Coming through the Philippines, however, he has run into trouble on this issue. The Philippines Government must have discovered by some means that a tripartite arrangement was being considered and has made it clear to Dulles that it would object to such an arrangement - indeed that the Philippines would object to any arrangement which appeared to give two so-called 'white' countries (Australia and New Zealand) a tighter guarantee than the Philippines itself now has. As a result, Dulles has mentioned the difficulty and, in effect, handed over the problem to Australia and New Zealand and asked them to find the answer.

5. By skilful factual account of conditions in Japan, he has left the impression that the danger of a resurgence of Japanese militarism is at least remote. One of the implications of this would be that a pact in the Pacific is less necessary. On the other hand, in one or two arguments he used, he has left himself open to the reply that apparently there is considerable doubt whether Japan will stay on the side of the Western powers - it might be to her advantage to associate herself with China and perhaps Russia. We could use this as an argument in favour of a security guarantee for Australia.

6. Without making any positive suggestions himself, Dulles has made it clear that guarantees by the United States -
(i) cannot be one hundred per cent effective; and
(ii) must not be one-sided.

A guarantee under the terms of the Vandenberg resolution[2] would require 'continuous and effective self help and mutual aid' between the partners. Even the protection which the actual presence of American troops in Japan and the Philippines gives those countries is obtainable only if the country which benefits is ready to give bases to the United States or to permit American troops to be stationed within its territory.

7. In short, as the position stands at present, Dulles has made a case for reducing our fears of a resurgence of Japanese militarism, while at the same time he has given no real indication that a tripartite arrangement can be procured. In these circumstances, it is clear that the hardest of fighting is necessary if we are really to secure a guarantee from the United States. I suggest we have to play up the following arguments:-

(a) If no restrictions upon armaments are written into the Japanese Peace Settlement and no safeguards are included, the risk of a resurgent Japan is real - particularly if Japan goes over as a temporary ally to Communist China, if the Western world should be preoccupied in Europe and the Middle East.

(b) The plain fact is that, in the absence of a guarantee from the United States, the possibility of effective Australian aid in the Middle East in pursuance of admittedly sound global strategy is rather remote.

(c) Australia and New Zealand, which are not members of N.A.T.O., but have planned to support the objectives of N.A.T.O. by sending forces to the Middle East, for that very reason deserve a guarantee from the United States. The Philippines is in a different case. In any event, we do not suggest that the United States should refrain from giving a similar assurance to the Philippines if she so desires.

(d) Australia and New Zealand, as the last war showed, are essential support areas, with industrial capacity, for United States forces.

(e) If a regional pact is ever to be built up in the Pacific, it could grow from the nucleus which the United States, Australia and New Zealand - countries with common interests and background - represent.

1 See Document 37.

2 The Vandenberg Resolution of 11 June 1948 was a declaration of foreign policy which affirmed American faith in the United Nations but stressed United States determination to defend itself through collective security arrangements. It called for voluntary agreement to remove the veto on Security Council actions concerning Pacific settlements and the admission of new UN members, and for maximum efforts to secure agreements on arms reduction and the establishment of UN forces. It also called for United States association with 'such regional and other collective arrangements as are based on continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid, and as affect its national security' and declared United States 'determination to exercise the right of individual or collective self-defense under Article 51 [of the UN Charter] should armed attack occur affecting its national security' (see note 2 to Document 2 for Article 51).


The President's Special Representative, John Foster Dulles, visited Canberra for discussions with Australia and New Zealand from 15 to 18 February 1951.

In preparation for the visit the Defence Committee, consisting of the various Chiefs of Staff of the Services and a representative of the Secretary of the Department of Defence, was asked to examine a possible security arrangement in the Pacific. The Committee met on 8 February 1951, and although giving its general blessing to an off-shore arrangement, noted certain problems that might arise and that required further examination. Among these was the position of Malaya, for whose defence Australia had accepted certain responsibilities under ANZAM, and the possible adverse impact that the proposed security arrangement could have on Thailand and on French policy in Indochina. The Committee noted that the United States was considering whether to include Indonesia in the proposed arrangement, and concluded that until the future of West New Guinea was clarified and the political stability of Indonesia was more assured Indonesia should not be included.

Spender was uneasy about the strength of the New Zealand position during the proposed negotiations with Dulles, fearing it might agree to a simple Presidential statement of support rather than a firm and binding treaty.[2] A Presidential statement was known to be favoured by Britain whose influence on New Zealand in regard to this matter was considered by Spender to be far greater than it was on Australia. Immediately before the talks with Dulles, preliminary discussions were held with the New Zealand delegation in an effort to strengthen its commitment to a treaty. It was agreed between Spender and Doidge, the New Zealand External Affairs Minister, that in the event that Japan was to be permitted to rearm, Australia and New Zealand would need a suitable guarantee of their security; that the United States was the only power capable of giving such a guarantee; and that the United States should be pressed to agree to a tripartite security arrangement.[3]

Spender took the submission dated 15 February[4] to Cabinet on the morning of 16 February to obtain agreement for his proposed negotiating position. In doing so, he dealt with two particular UK criticisms of the off-shore pact proposal. He argued that any adverse repercussions that the proposed arrangement could have on mainland South-East Asia could be negated by an accompanying statement that the participants in the arrangement were not thereby disengaging from South-East Asia. As to the UK objection that an arrangement such as that proposed would make it difficult for Australia and New Zealand to meet their commitments to help defend other major trouble spots such as the Middle East, Spender argued that the reverse was the case, that the guarantee of security that the proposed arrangement would provide would make it easier for the two countries to release forces for service outside their immediate neighbourhood.

During the talks on 15 and 16 February, Dulles appeared to be reluctant to broach the topic of the proposed Pacific security arrangement. When Spender and Doidge argued in favour of a tripartite arrangement on 16 February, Dulles spoke about the difficulties that this would cause for the Philippines which had only the informal guarantee of its security provided by the presence of United States forces. Dulles referred to the objections raised by the United Kingdom, against an off-shore pact, and commented that the United Kingdom did not want to see the conclusion of a pact which excluded it, and that it did not want to see a pact which excluded the Asian mainland.[5] Responding to questions about why he had not raised in Canberra the issue of a Pacific security treaty, Dulles revealed that he had left Washington for Japan and later Australia intending to suggest the conclusion of a multilateral treaty based on the United States island chain concept, but he had been so shocked by the objections that the UK Political Representative to Japan, Sir Alvary Gascoigne, had raised to the suggestion, on instructions from London, that he had concluded that his ideas would have to be reconsidered.[6] When Dulles questioned the need for any formal security arrangement such as was preferred by Australia and New Zealand, Doidge suggested that the two countries might be satisfied with a public Presidential statement of support. Spender, however, rejected this as worthless to Australia and a difference of opinion between Australia and New Zealand became apparent.

Spender, who had not previously known of the United Kingdom's intervention pointed out that the United Kingdom was not a principal in the area, while Australia was, and argued that UK objections could hardly apply to a tripartite arrangement. He rejected as politically impossible any Japanese association in a collective defence arrangement with Australia. Spender also informed Dulles that the Australian Cabinet had concluded on 16 February that the type of security arrangements that were eventually to be agreed would determine Australia's approach to the conclusion of a peace treaty with Japan as well as Australia's capacity to meet its obligations in the Middle East and elsewhere.[7] After some discussion Dulles agreed to examine a possible tripartite agreement, something simpler than the NATO arrangements, setting the stage for the later possible association of the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia and some Asian mainland countries. On Dulles's inquiry whether Australia or New Zealand had drafted an outline of a possible tripartite pact, Spender suggested that officials should jointly prepare a draft to be considered by the principals subsequently.[8]

Ralph Harry, who had been in Washington when the NATO Pact was negotiated, had in fact already prepared a draft treaty. As both Harry and Watt later recorded, Harry had made a study of the NATO treaty and other treaties to which the United States had subscribed, and had drawn up a draft, based largely on the North Atlantic Treaty, with modifications to meet the different circumstances of the Pacific area.[9] In order to ensure that the United States would find the text acceptable Harry's objective was to 'produce a draft for every point of which there would be precedent in some other treaty to which the US was a party'. When the Australian delegation returned from the discussions with Dulles, Watt commented that the United States was prepared to look at a possible draft and said, 'What a pity we don't have a draft. I think we could be in business'. At that point, by his own account, Harry produced the draft that he had roughed out earlier.[10] The draft, although amended to meet various points raised by the United States, provided a solid base for discussion by Dulles, Spender and Doidge on 17 February.[11]

According to the official record made by New Zealand, Dulles reverted in the discussions on 17 February to the position of the Philippines, arguing that the United States might find it necessary to seek its inclusion in any pact that might be concluded with Australia and New Zealand.[12] Spender then made it clear that he would not veto the inclusion of the Philippines but suggested that the best solution would be the conclusion of a separate bilateral treaty between the United States and the Philippines. Towards the end of the discussions he announced that, subject to United States confirmation of the draft treaty, he was prepared to recommend that Australia should sign a peace treaty with Japan that did not impose limitations on Japanese rearmament. At the conclusion of the meeting on 17 February, the three principals agreed on a text of a draft treaty to be considered by their respective three Governments.[13]

1 No record of the discussions with Dulles seems to have been made by the Australian Department of External Affairs. Nevertheless Brigadier H. G. Rourke of the Department of Defence made some notes of the meetings, which he seems to have joined on 16 February, under cover of a letter dated 21 February (see separate editorial note - Department of Defence Notes on Discussions With Dulles - 16-18 February 1951).

2 Sir Alan Watt, Australian Diplomat, Angus and Robertson in association with the Australian Institute of International Affairs, Sydney 1972, p. 178.

3 See Robin Kay (ed.), The ANZUS Pact and the Treaty of Peace with Japan, Government Printer, Wellington, 1985, p. 590.

4 Document 47.

5 Kay (ed.), op. cit., p. 598.

6 ibid., pp. 161-2.

7 Foreign Relations of the United States, 1951, vol. VI, part 1, Washington, 1977, pp. 156-7.

8 ibid., p. 163.

9 Watt, op. cit., p. 181.

10 Harry, The North Was Always Near in Australians in Asia Series (No. 13), Griffith University, 1994, p. 12.

11 Watt, op. cit., pp. 181-2.

12 Kay (ed.), op. cit., p. 609.

13 Document 50.

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