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Historical documents

52 Cablegram From Spender to Forde[1]

Cablegram, Canberra, 22 February 1951


Dulles Talks
Further to our telegram 24.[2]

Please transmit immediately to Pearson text of draft Pacific security treaty communicated to you in our telegram under reference together with the following message from me:-

Begins -
The discussions between Dulles, Doidge and myself were most valuable. While the approach of the United States to the question of a Japanese peace treaty is substantially different from that of Australia, which was expressed at the Conference of Prime Ministers in London, our respective points of view were explained freely and frankly. I made it clear to Dulles that it would be quite impossible for Australia to accept a Japanese peace treaty containing no restrictions of any kind upon Japanese re-armament if no action were taken at the same time to protect Australian security. In any circumstances, it was my view that Japan should bind herself to certain covenants, if not in the treaty then in a subsequent unilateral declaration which would have the effect of reassuring the countries against which she had fought that she had no intention of reviving armaments for offensive, nationalist purposes.

From Australia's point of view, the most important result of the Dulles talks was the drafting of a security treaty for the Pacific, the text of which I am asking Forde to communicate to you for your most confidential information. You will notice that it is drafted as a tripartite arrangement between the United States, Australia and New Zealand. While Dulles assisted in the drafting, no doubt having in mind what he thought might be acceptable to the United States, he made it clear that he had no authority to commit the United States at present to accepting it. He also specifically reserved the position of the Philippines as a possible party. During the discussions we assumed that Canada, with her wide existing commitments in the Atlantic area, would not wish to be a party. If, by any chance, this view was mistaken, I personally would be delighted were Canada able to participate.

The draft security treaty, if adopted, would facilitate the carrying out by Australia and New Zealand of responsibilities outside the Pacific area. This fact was specifically recognised by all parties during the discussions. Dulles at no stage made any suggestion that the result of such a treaty would be to tie Australian forces in the Pacific. In our view, we regard it as vital that the 'back door should be bolted' through such a treaty, in order to make it possible for Australia to carry out military responsibilities outside the Pacific area.

It is our considered view that there is nothing in the treaty which is detrimental to the interests of parties not included. I therefore express the earnest hope that the Canadian Government will do its utmost through friendly, positive action to secure acceptance of this agreement by the United States. We need the help of all our friends - particularly as we are not yet certain of the attitude of the United Kingdom towards any Pacific pact. Officially London has informed us that it is in favour of 'appropriate assurance being given by the United States to Australia and New Zealand'. Nevertheless, the opposition of London to the original American proposal for an 'off-shore' Pacific pact, which would have included Japan, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand and possibly Indonesia, was so vehemently expressed to Dulles in Tokyo that we desire to take every available step to ensure that the policy of the Australian Government expressed in this draft tripartite limited arrangement is brought to a successful conclusion. Such a limited arrangement has, of course, at all times been completely acceptable to Australia and New Zealand, and, if it has to be widened, to include the Philippines, this will be solely at the instance of the United States. So far as 'appropriate assurances' are concerned, it is the Australian Government's considered view that, in the circumstances in which Australia is likely to find itself placed in connection with the Japanese peace settlement, nothing less than a formal guarantee (such as the guarantee contained in the draft treaty) is acceptable to the Australian Government and the Australian people.

We have replied at some length to British views regarding the wider 'off-shore' arrangement, pointing out that, in our considered opinion, their objections were unjustified. There were only two objections of substance. The first was that such a Pacific pact might cut across Australian and New Zealand 'commitments' in the Middle East. Our simple answer to this is that the chances of Australia sending forces to the Middle East depend directly upon the securing of some such arrangement with the United States as that contained in the draft treaty. The second argument was that conclusion of an 'off-shore' arrangement might be interpreted as indicating a readiness to abandon to the Communists mainland countries not included in the pact. While we admit that this is a real problem, we by no means agree that it cannot be met. If an off-shore arrangement were ever concluded, it would, of course, be essential to take simultaneous action through collateral declarations to make it clear that the interests of Western powers in mainland Asiatic countries had in no way been diminished. Thus, Australia would, I have no doubt, declare its continued interest in Malaya and its determination to assist that country. The United States would, no doubt, take similar action with regard to other areas.

Conversations with Sir Esler Dening, who is now in Canberra, lead me to hope that the United Kingdom may accept the security arrangement now proposed. In any event, it is my understanding that Dening sees no objection to the arrangement, even if the Philippines were to become a party. In these circumstances, I should be most grateful for the help of the Canadian Government, both in reassuring London and in encouraging Washington to agree to early adoption of the draft treaty. This would mark an historic event in our history, comparable to the declaration by the President of the United States that the United States would not stand idly by if Canada were attacked. Warmest regards.[3]


1 The Rt. Hon. Francis Michael Forde, Australian High Commissioner in Canada.

2 21 February. It advised Forde that the immediately following cablegram would convey the text of Document 50. It added that the terms should be 'kept completely secret' until Forde received a subsequent cablegram which would contain a 'message from Mr. Spender to Mr. Pearson which will deal with the question of communication of the substance or the text of the draft treaty to the Canadian Government'.

3 Cablegram 36 (17 March) from Forde conveyed Pearson's message to Spender. Pearson explained that Canada's 'heavy commitments in the North Atlantic area ... must limit our participation in security arrangements in the Pacific'. He considered however, that the proposed Pacific association would be an 'important contribution to the defence of freedom by increasing stability in the area to be covered by the Treaty' and that the Canadian Government would 'be glad to take advantage of any suitable occasion which may arise to express to the United Kingdom and the United States Governments our agreement with the objectives of such security arrangements as you have outlined'.

[NAA : A4534, 48/2]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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