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91 Cablegram From Spender to Casey

Cablegram, Washington, 6 June 1951


There are some aspects of the question of the provision of additional Australian Forces for Korea which I might bring to your attention whilst awaiting final reply from the President to the Prime Minister's message of 15th May.[1]

(1) Australia's reputation is apparently very high in this country.

(2) Public opinion, however, is emotional and unstable and could easily react against us if a general impression were developed that we were not pulling our weight in Korea.

(3) Although, during the course of the testimony to the Senate Committees, several witnesses have remarked on the disparity of other United Nations contributions in Korea in comparison to that of the United States, this aspect is a relatively minor facet of the hearings and has been largely submerged by the broader domestic and foreign policy overtones of the hearings.

(4) We receive from time to time enquiries from the press as to Australia's precise contribution to Korea and, as far as security permits, we inform them of what we are doing in Korea, Malaya and Japan. As far as we are aware press enquiries to date have not been made with a view to hostile criticism of our effort.

(5) The reasoning behind the Prime Minister's message to the President is appreciated by the administration and of course by myself. However, even if security permitted us to disclose publicly the difficulties we face in providing additional forces, the people of this country and Congress would be little swayed by our arguments should the issue arise publicly. In addition the President's interim reply indicates, as will be seen, a strong desire for an increase in our contribution.

2. The question of the provision of additional forces is particularly important in respect of the projected Security Pact. As you are aware Dulles anticipates that the Pact might be ratified by the Senate in January and I feel it is important, in the interests of ratification and from a long range viewpoint, that we should not be the subject of criticism in relation to Korea. Frankly, there seems no sign of such criticism at present but as you are aware public and Congressional feeling is capable of being whipped up very quickly. Moreover, the longer the Korean war continues, the more impatient are the Americans likely to become. The Administration will seek I think to do all it can to bring hostilities to an end before 1952 - the Presidential election year - and this desire will probably intensify at an early date pressure for further measures against China. We would be in a better position to bring influence to bear upon the United States - though that influence may not prove to be greater than it has been - if we had increased our contribution in Korea. (one of the reasons behind the despatch of a Canadian Brigade[2] to Korea was, I gather, to strengthen Canada's hand in her dealings with the United States Government on matters affecting the Far East.) Admittedly the provision of additional forces would in the short term be inconvenient to and impose special strain upon Australia in its defence programme but I am sure it would pay big dividends in the long run.

3. I hope it may prove feasible to provide some increase in our ground troops or failing that to our air force in Korea in the very near future.

1 See Document 89 and note 2 thereto.

2 The 25th Canadian Infantry Brigade arrived in South Korea on 5 May.

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