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41 Cablegram from Embassy in Washington to Department of External Affairs

Washington, 18 March 1950


Our 210.1

As a result of informal enquiries of State Department in relation to significance of reference to Minister's speech in Acheson's address, and of Reston's comments, we were glad to interview with Butterworth2 today.

Butterworth stated that reference to Minister's speech was intended to convey Acheson's general interest in the speech and his approval of six points quoted.3 He emphasised that there was no intention to indicate approval of any particular point or of the elaboration of these points in Minister's speech. He said the Reston's article was not inspired, was speculative and did not convey the United States official view.

Butterworth stated that United States view on regional arrangement had not changed since Acheson's statements in May, 1949, and the termination of Quirino's visit.4 United States still favoured an indigenous development. He expressed interest in knowing why Australia had decided against attendance at Baguio Conference5 and emphasised desirability of encouraging indigenous initiative, especially from coloured country.

Discussing Colombo proposals, he asked in what ways Colombo resolution6 was an improvement on existing E.C.A.F.E. machinery, and mentioned that E.C.A.F.E. originally drew up extensive plans, which it had expected United States to finance, but was now settling down to useful work. Butterworth's statement may have been intended as hint that United States is not prepared to underwrite Colombo plan.

Butterworth referred to two questions which Dr. Burton had put to Foster7 and which Minister might subsequentially put to Jarman.8 Butterworth indicated informally that he did not think Minister would ask the questions and, in any event, would not be likely to get satisfactory answer as they were too hypothetical. He mentioned that United States was also concerned about being left out on a limb in the area.

Butterworth's general approach appeared to aim at clamping down any undue enthusiasm in Australia regarding Acheson's address. We felt that views expressed in our memorandum 509/50 of 24th February9 were confirmed insofar as United States wished to see constructive steps taken in area before committing itself. Also its own views probably still uncrystallised. Butterworth, however, did say that Department had continuing interest in a regional, economic and political pact in Pacific area which looked forward to some form of defence arrangement.

[NAA: A1838, 381/3/1/3 part lb]

1 The cablegram stated that Acheson's speech delivered before the Commonwealth Club of California at San Francisco on 15 March 1950 had mentioned Spender's speech to the House of Representatives on 9 March and had been extensively reported. It added that James Reston was reporting that the United States Government was exploring the need for joint economic action in South-East Asia.

2 W. Walton Butterworth, US Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs.

3 The principles quoted were that the real democracies of the world must (1) understand the true causes of present international tension; (2) realize that the preservation of their own way of life called for sustained and determined efforts in all fields; (3) accept the fact that appeasement was completely ineffective and even dangerous; (4) put their own domestic houses in order; (5) cooperate in the many international agencies that already existed to preserve the values in which the believed; and (6) give thought to the creation of more effective methods of cooperative action in those areas in which their vital interests were affected.

4 Inspired by the recent discussions of an Atlantic Union, Quirino and Chiang Kai-shek called for the creation of a non-communist economic union for Asia. The so-called Pacific Union Pact proposed mutual aid along the lines of the Marshall Plan, primarily funded by the United States. On 18 May 1949 Acheson had declared that the United States government was not then considering a Pacific Pact along the lines of the North Atlantic Treaty, but subsequently invited Quirino to Washington for further discussions regarding US-Philippine regional interests. Concerned at the poor state of the Philippine economy and wary of Chiang Kai-shek's eagerness for military backing, United States officials were unenthusiastic about the plan. On 14 July 1949, Quirino declined the offer to visit Washington claiming that although he was grateful for past American assistance he was embarrassed by his country's continued reliance on US financial support. See Foreign Relations of the United States, 1949, vol. VII, part 2, Washington, 1976, pp. 1143-64, and, Department of State Bulletin, 18 May 1949,Vol. XX, p. 696.

5 A conference on aid and mutual protection in South and South-East Asia, organised by President Quirino of the Philippines, was scheduled to take place in Baguio, the Philippines, during May. In the event, Australia did attend, as did India, Pakistan, Ceylon, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.

6 Presumably a reference to the recommendations made by the Commonwealth Foreign Ministers (see Document 19).

7 Andrew B. Foster, First Secretary, US Embassy, Canberra.

8 Pete B. Jarman, US Ambassador to Australia.

9 The memorandum reported that it was difficult to ascertain the US attitude towards the Colombo proposals. The Embassy gained the impression from public statements, the general temper of Congress and from private contacts in the State Department, that although the United States was becoming more interested in South and Southeast Asia, it was still wary of increasing its foreign aid commitments. The memorandum stated: 'It seems likely that United States would not for the moment favour being drawn into a joint scheme for aid for South and South East Asia but would prefer to extend such assistance as it sees fit and administer such assistance itself. It is also probable that United States would prefer to see the Colombo Plan develop into something tangible before giving any indication of its willingness to assist. The United States already feels that it is carrying an unduly large proportion of the burden of aid to the non-communist world and is anxiously looking for assistance to this end. It is felt that the initial enthusiasm of the United States to the Colombo plan could be quickly dissipated if it were thought that it were largely a means of bringing United States into the area and committing her to additional obligations. Having this in mind it might be undesirable to make an approach to the United States for active participation before it established exactly what aid the Commonwealth is prepared to extend'.

Last Updated: 10 January 2017
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