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60 Cablegram From External Affairs Office, London to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram, London, 13 March 1951


Your 1071.[1] Dulles talks.

Following is text of aide-memoire handed to the Resident Minister this morning by Gordon Walker in reply to the points raised in your telegram. Begins:

The United Kingdom Government have given careful consideration to the memorandum handed to the Prime Minister by the Resident Minister for Australia on 22nd February 1951.

2. The United Kingdom Government are glad to note the views of the Australian Government regarding consultation between Canberra and London. They fully agree with the Australian Government that the only kind of consultation which counts is consultation on matters of vital importance at a time when the views expressed can be taken into account by the respective governments before decisions are taken. The United Kingdom Government have, throughout, been guided by this principle and it is in this spirit that they have from time to time made known their views to the Australian Government. In particular in making certain comments[2] available to the Australian Government on 8th February they had had it in mind that time would be available for further consultation, if the Australian Government should wish it, in advance of Mr. Dulles' talks at Canberra.

3. The United Kingdom Government wish to make it clear that from the outset they fully recognized the security needs of Australia and New Zealand. They started from the position that in the interests of global strategy, the desire of Australia and New Zealand for assurance in the Pacific area must be met: it is merely a question of the best means whereby these assurances could be provided.

4. The position of the United Kingdom Government regarding the recent talks with Mr. Dulles is as follows. The United States Government intimated to the United Kingdom Government informally the proposals regarding the so-called 'island chain' which Mr. Dulles intended to put forward during the course of his tour. They stated that they were similarly communicating with the Governments of Australia and New Zealand.[3] The New Zealand Government also communicated to the United Kingdom Government the information which they had received from the United States Government and asked for the United Kingdom Government's views. Comments on the American proposals were communicated to the United Kingdom High Commissioners in Canberra and Wellington from time to time. These comments were passed to the Australian and New Zealand Governments in a series of communications.

5. Mr. Dulles arrived in Tokyo at the end of January and entered into discussions with Sir A. Gascoigne on proposals for a Japanese peace treaty and other related issues including his proposals regarding the 'island chain'. On the 30th January Sir A. Gascoigne was sent certain preliminary comments by the Chiefs of Staff on the 'island chain' proposal. The comments of the Chiefs of Staff were also telegraphed to the United Kingdom High Commissioner in Canberra and were made available to the Australian Authorities (vide paragraph 4 of Mr. Williams' letter). In the course of those comments the view was expressed that an assurance to Australia and New Zealand of United States protection would be among the advantages of a Pacific Defence Council but that it should be possible to obtain such an assurance without resorting to the elaborate machinery proposed which appeared to give rise to difficulties in other directions. Sir A. Gascoigne was instructed to make use of this material with Mr. Dulles on a purely informal and personal basis, explaining that it represented the views of the Chiefs of Staff (after consulting interested United Kingdom Departments at official level), but not of the United Kingdom Government. The views of the United Kingdom Authorities were later further developed and formed the subject of Mr. Williams' letter to Mr. Fadden of the 8th February.

6. On the 7th February the United Kingdom Embassy in Washington reported that they had received from the United States Government an enquiry as to whether the views of the Chiefs of Staff as communicated to Sir A. Gascoigne were endorsed by the United Kingdom Government. Before, however, the matter could be considered by the United Kingdom cabinet a further report was received from the United Kingdom Embassy in Washington on the 9th February to the effect that the United States Authorities were reconsidering the question of the 'island chain' proposal and that they were turning to the idea of a tripartite pact - between the United States, Australia and New Zealand - though they made it clear that the idea had not been thought out in any detail. The Cabinet considered on the 12th February 'island chain' proposals and endorsed the views previously expressed. As regards the proposals for a tripartite pact the cabinet recognized that this new idea was still entirely in the formative stage and felt that they would not be able to reach any firm views until it had been further developed and its implications could be properly assessed. The United Kingdom High Commissioner reported on the 15th February that they had been explained at meetings with Mr. Spender on the 14th and 15th February.

7. It appeared that the fact that the United Kingdom Government saw difficulties over the 'island chain' proposals led to some confusion and misunderstanding on the part of the Australian Government of the United Kingdom's approach to these problems. It is true that they saw serious objections to the 'island chain' proposals as put forward by the United States Government, they thought it right [to] let the Australian Government know in all frankness of their difficulties in relation to this particular method of securing the agreed objective of the United States guarantee for Australia and New Zealand. But as far as the idea of a tripartite pact is concerned the position is that the United Kingdom Government did not feel able to consider the matter until the proposal took shape and had made no comments before Mr. Dulles' talks in Canberra. The United Kingdom Government now note that their views on the 'island chain' proposals are in fact largely shared by the Australian Government themselves and, since these proposals are no longer a live issue, it seems unnecessary to comment on them further.

8. The United Kingdom Government would however wish to make the following comments on four points in Mr. Williams' letter to Mr. Fadden in which specific reference is made in the Australian memo. In general they fail to understand the Australian suggestion that 'inaccuracies and certain phrases' might find their way into the press. Consultation of the kind envisaged in paragraph 1 of the Australian memo can only be effectively carried out on the basis of the utmost confidence.

(i) Japanese Re-armament:

The United Kingdom Government fully recognise that there is some difference of view between them and the Australian Government as to how far and in what way Japanese re-armament might be restricted. Both view-points were made clear at the recent Prime Ministers' meeting. The United Kingdom view was stated in P.M.M. (51)5[4] as being that they consider that 'the only restrictions which will be effective (because the Japanese will accept them) are those which will result from the provision by the United States of certain weapons and forces whose production is extremely costly', and they concluded that a peace treaty with Japan should 'allow her a reasonable measure of re-armament'. The United Kingdom Government appreciate that the whole question of the security aspect of a Japanese peace treaty has still to be fully discussed between the various Governments concerned. Their intention in referring to the matter as in Mr. Williams' letter was not to question this in any way but to take up the point which the Resident Minister for Australia made at the Prime Ministers' meeting on the 9th January that, in relation to the security aspects of a settlement with Japan, Australian public opinion would be considerably reassured if the United States were willing to guarantee Australia's security.

(ii) The Middle East:

The attitude of the Australian Government towards planning in the Middle East was made quite clear by Mr. Menzies in the course of the Prime Ministers' meeting in London in January. There is no misconception on the part of the United Kingdom Government on this matter, they fully accept that in the strict sense there does not exist any formal Australian Government 'commitment' in the Middle East and they agree that this precise term should not have been used.

(iii) Indo China:

The United Kingdom Government note that the words used have given rise to misunderstanding. There was, of course, no question whatever of referring to the intentions of the Australian Government. In view of the highly emotional state of opinion in the disturbed country of Indo China the United Kingdom Government thought it right to draw attention to the potential reactions on the part of the French and Vietnamese Authorities, and to the effect of these on the security of Malaya and the ANZAM area generally in which the United Kingdom and Australia have a common interest. The United Kingdom Government would also observe that their views expressed as a comment on the 'island chain' project as proposed by the United States Authorities and did not in any way purport to question the desirability of Australia obtaining a security guarantee from the United States which has, on the contrary, had the support of the United Kingdom Government throughout. The position of the Republic of Ireland in relation to the North Atlantic Treaty (to which reference is made in the Australian memo) is quite different since the Government of the Irish Republic themselves have repeatedly and publicly stated that they do not wish to be a party to it.

(iv) 'White Man's Pact':

The attitude of many countries in South and South East Asia towards defence arrangements has already been made clear, and there is a risk that the task of future cooperation with those territories might be made more difficult. This is a task to which the United Kingdom Government attach the utmost importance and, in close cooperation with Australia, they have been making every effort to bring about better economic cooperation with the countries in this area. The United Kingdom Government regret it if the term 'White Man's Pact' was used loosely in a way that could be misunderstood. At the same time, they would regret the situation far more if they felt that they could not speak to the Australian Government in complete confidence and with the utmost frankness.


1 Document 51.

2 See Document 43.

3 On 29 January the New Zealand Government had conveyed to the UK High Commissioner in Wellington remarks made by Allison to Berendsen on 19 January. These remarks reflected the substance of Document 37. See Robin Kay (ed.), The ANZUS Pact and the Treaty of Peace with Japan, Government Printer, Wellington, 1985, pp. 438-41, 556-7.

4 PMM (51) 5 was dated 2 January 1951 and was considered by the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Meeting in London on 9 January. The paper stated that the UK Government 'believe that the conclusion of a peace treaty with Japan at the earliest possible moment is essential. The treaty should return full sovereignty to Japan, put no unreasonable restrictions upon her, and allow her a reasonable measure of rearmament. In the view of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, any arrangement short of a peace treaty would be open to many objections'. See Robin Kay (ed.) The ANZUS Pact and the Treaty of Peace with Japan, Government Printer, Wellington, 1985, pp. 425-31, especially pp. 430-1.

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