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61 Message From Gordon Walker to Menzies

Message, 14 March 1951


Text of Personal Message From Mr. Gordon Walker to Mr. Menzies.[1] 14th March, 1951.

I got back from my visit to Southern Africa last week after a most interesting but exhausting tour. I had of course kept in touch with developments and had followed with very great interest the discussions which you and the New Zealanders had with the Americans about the project for a Defence Pact.

2. This obviously is a development of the first importance not only for you but also for us as well. We certainly take it most seriously and the Cabinet here had already had the matter in front of them before I got back. Indeed the sole reason why we have not been able to let you have a reply earlier is that the Ministers here wanted time to consider it carefully. This is a very big thing and we want to help in every way to bring it to fruition, with the maximum benefit to the common cause.

3. I was very disturbed to find that there had been some misunderstanding between us about the earlier stages of this business. If we on our side have done anything in any way to cause this misunderstanding then I am very sorry. It was certainly not our intention to put a spoke in the wheel in any way: all we were anxious to do was to let you have our preliminary views at the earliest possible moment so that they could be taken into account before policy was formulated. The memorandum[2] which Harrison gave to the Prime Minister on the 22nd February shows that your Government feels strongly on a number of points. We quite understand your anxieties and I am seeing Harrison and giving him an aide-memoire[3] which deals with these points of detail. I wish to make it clear that we fully understand the defence requirements of Australia and New Zealand, and have always been anxious to help you to secure a guarantee of your security by the United States. We completely accept your thesis that it is essential for your back-door to be bolted. A guarantee by the United States would make a significant contribution to the strengthening of joint plans for global strategy and for the defence of the Middle East which I know from our recent talks in London is so much in your mind.

4. I am, therefore, glad to be able to tell you that the United Kingdom Government welcome this development and will in response to your request be glad to do their utmost to bring about its adoption.

5. At the same time there are two important questions of principle which cause us some anxiety. First a regional defence system extending from the Pacific through South East Asia and South Asia to the Middle East is a most desirable long-term objective as completing the world wide defence chain of which the North Atlantic Treaty was the first link. In this context we welcome the conclusion of a Pacific Pact between Australia, New Zealand and the United States. We are, however, greatly concerned at the American suggestion that the Philippines should be included. In our view the Treaty should be confined to the Pacific area proper and not extended to the adjoining area of South East Asia as it would be by the inclusion of the Philippines. To include one country [in the S.E. Asian][4] area while excluding others would raise many of those difficulties regarding the position of neighbouring territories in that area (e.g. the North Borneo territories and Malaya as well as Indo-China and Siam) which we found so decisive against the 'island chain' proposal. We therefore feel it is essential that the whole area of South East Asia including the Philippines should be left outside the Pacific Pact in the hope that that area could be included in a separate but interconnected regional pact as soon as that may prove practicable.

6. Our second anxiety is that in view of the United Kingdom's essential interest in the Pacific arising from her Commonwealth connections as well as her territorial possessions, there the Treaty in its present form might be read as implying that the United Kingdom was renouncing its proper share of responsibility in the area. Again it might give the impression that the United Kingdom was being unduly subservient to the United States in the Pacific which, at a time when public opinion in the United Kingdom is particularly sensitive on this point in relation to naval appointments in the Atlantic, would not be in the best interests of Anglo-American relations. Indeed neither of these impressions would be helpful to our common cause which is why I feel justified in speaking to you so frankly on the subject. Both of these impressions would in fact be strengthened if while the United Kingdom did not participate in the Treaty the Philippines were permitted to do so. This consideration, therefore, reinforces the case for the conclusion of a Pacific Treaty without Philippines participation.

7. We ourselves are ready to inform the United States Government that we would welcome a Treaty on the lines of the present draft.[5] But for the reasons given in the two previous paragraphs we should feel bound to explain to them that we should be extremely concerned if it were proposed that the Philippines should be included. I hope that you and the New Zealand Government will share our views about the Philippines and will also feel able to press the United States that they should not be included. In view of the highly important bearing of the question on Anglo-American relations we should like the agreement of the Australian and New Zealand Governments to our discussing the whole question with the United States Government equally frankly and letting them know our views as set out above. As you know the overall strategic plans into which the proposed Treaty seems to fit so well were worked out in consultation with the United States Chiefs of Staff and we should therefore like to confirm with them that they share our view. We shall, of course, not say anything to the Americans until we hear from you.

8. I expect that your experts are looking into the detailed drafting. There is one point which occurs to us. The Treaty as at present drafted does not contain any definition of the area over which it would operate and I wonder if you have any comments on this.

9. When the time comes we would, of course, wish to state publicly the attitude of the United Kingdom Government welcoming the Treaty and making it clear that we had been consulted throughout. It would help us greatly if both our Governments and the New Zealand Government also were to make concerted statements laying emphasis on the value of the Treaty as a contribution towards Commonwealth security and as a reinforcement of the vital interests of the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand in the whole Pacific area: and stating that our three Governments regard the Pact as complementary to the mutual support and co-operation between our three countries which have always been so essential a part of our relationship. I hope that you will agree that such statements should be made at the appropriate moment.

10. We assume that you and the New Zealand Government will arrange to let other Commonwealth Governments know what is proposed. You will no doubt bear in mind the risk that knowledge of the possibility of a Pact may get known before there is a formal announcement.

11. I am sending to Mr. Holland a similar message expressing our welcome for a Tripartite Pact and explaining our anxieties about the Philippines.

1 Conveyed through the Office of the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom, Canberra.

2 See Document 51.

3 See Document 60.

4 Words in square brackets were added by hand.

5 Document 50.

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