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87 Cablegram From Embassy in Washington to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram, Washington, 7 May 1951


United States request for additional troops for Korea.

Our 739.[1]

Recent events give strong ground for belief that contributions by Allies will come in for increasing public criticism in the immediate future. MacArthur referred at last Friday's hearings by the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees to the paucity of support by Allies to the United States. He said inter alia, 'We have plenty of Allies but numbers of them do not contribute in the same generous and noble way in which you do'. This has not so far caused much comment, having been neglected by the press in favour of other aspects of MacArthur's testimony more directly affecting United States internal politics. However, further questions may well be raised during General Marshall's testimony which began today and probable further testimony by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and perhaps Acheson. There will, therefore, be plenty of time for press and public criticism to develop. Last week's resolution by Senator Capehart[2] referred to in our telegram 775[3] is a clear pointer to this development.

The State Department and Pentagon will, therefore, be waiting with close and anxious interest for whatever emerges from the deliberations of the Australian and other Governments regarding troops for Korea.

It is a fair conclusion that the Administration is so oppressed with its own domestic difficulties as largely to disregard those of other countries. If, therefore, the Australian Government is not able to make what United States Administration deems an adequate response, it is to be hoped that, no matter how strong our domestic reasons may be, they are not likely to carry much weight here. Indeed they will very likely not penetrate to quarters where they need to be understood the most, i.e. in Congress.

This could in turn have repercussions on the United States attitude to many matters of considerable importance to Australia, the most immediate perhaps being the completion and approval by the Senate of the Pacific Pact negotiations and also the speed with which these are conducted. As you know emphasis has been laid by the United States Administration and press on the principle of 'mutuality'.

There will also be a tendency for representations we have made or do make on such matters as the Japanese Peace Treaty, policy in Korea, bombing of enemy air bases in Manchuria[4] and Additional Measures Committee[5] to be viewed in the light of our response to request for additional troops.

It would be foolish to exaggerate the importance of this in a long-term context because of the fundamental importance the United States attaches to good relations with Australia. However, the short term effects on immediate policies could be considerable and could be manifested in a general slowing up of action and lessening of enthusiasm by the United States Administration in response to Australian ideas and proposals. There may be a tendency to make us 'work our passage' in company with other countries who want things from the United States or make representations to the United States Administration.

The above comments are put forward to give you an indication of likely developments and reactions here, in the event of Australia's not being able to go all or most of the way desired by the Americans.

1 Cablegram 739 (1 May) from Washington reported that the State Department was asking, in view of the re-election of the Menzies Government on 28 April, whether the Australian Government could give early consideration to its request for additional troops to be sent to Korea.

2 Senator Homer E. Capehart.

3 Not published.

4 On 15 May the Australian Embassy in Washington presented an aide-memoire to the US Government on the subject of retaliatory bombing of Manchurian air bases. The Australian Government accepted in principle the view that, if massive air attacks from Manchurian bases occurred, then counter attacks upon such bases might have to be made but hoped that the US Government would consult Australia before such attacks were made. The Australian Government also believed that counter attacks should be limited to the bases from which the enemy aircraft came and to the aircraft themselves wherever they might be found.

5 The UN resolution of 2 February condemning Chinese aggression in Korea had also called for a special Committee to study possible additional collective measures to be taken to meet aggression.

[NAA : A11536, [3]]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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