Skip to main content

Historical documents

59 Cablegram from Spender to Harrison

Canberra, 4 May 1950


Telegram A.46 20th April from the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations,2 of which Heydon will have a copy, sets out the agenda for the meeting of Bevin, Schuman3 and Attlee from 11th to 13th May.

2. You should know the following background reported from Washington. At the end of February, the French Embassy presented an aide memoire proposing that the United Kingdom and United States and French Foreign Ministers hold a meeting to discuss the situation in Germany and South East Asia.

With regard to South East Asia the aide memoire suggested that the Foreign Ministers make a declaration as to the inviolability of the Tonkin border, and that service chiefs of United States, United Kingdom and France me[e]t to discuss strategy in South East Asia.

The aide memoire also requested economic assistance from the United States for Indo China. The Foreign Office informed the United States Embassy at the time that they would not welcome discussion by the Council of Foreign Ministers on the situation in South East Asia since other British Commonwealth countries might object to discussions of matters of common interest 'behind their backs'.

Please convey the following personal message immediately to Bevin with my personal regards and good wishes and let me know his reactions:–

'We have received from Gordon-Walker the agenda for the talks you be having with Acheson and Schuman from 11th to 13th of this month.

I was most interested to note that you will be seeking to reach agreement on common world-wide objectives and the course of action which should be followed (inter alia) in South East Asia. As you know from our conversations at Colombo, we attached the highest importance to the situation in that area, and to the attitude of the United States towards both immediate and long range developments which may vitally affect our interests, indeed our very existence. It is for this reason that we suggested the holding in Australia of the Consultative Committee which will begin its work in Sydney on 15th May, and I know you share our determination that the British Commonwealth shall make a constructive contribution in South East Asia.

Clearly your talks with Acheson and Schuman will have an important bearing on the outcome of the Sydney meeting and I trust you will keep us informed both generally as to the progress of your conversations and in detail on these questions which are of immediate and direct concern to us.

I am sure you will agree that in any global planning due weight must be given to South East Asia and the Pacific. While we welcome the recent evidence that the United States, is paying increased attention to this area we cannot help but recall a tendency during the war to regard South East Asia and the Pacific as unimportant or secondary in the first instance. It would be a matter of grave concern to us if, in the present critical situation, a similar �strategic decision� were to be made which might involve major risks to Australia'. Ends.

You should also ensure that Bevin knows the latest developments in connection with the Consultative Committee about which he may not have been adequately informed by C.R.O. See particularly our telegrams 95,4 1005 and 1066 to C.R.O.

[NAA: A3320, 3/4/2/1 part 1]

1 E.J. Harrison, Australian Resident Minister in London.

2 20 April. The provisional agenda for the tripartite talks consisted of discussions on the following subjects: a review and agreement on 'common world-wide problems', a determination on what was required to achieve 'closer association of European and North Atlantic areas', problems in Germany, Austrian treaty problems, South-East Asia, United Nations developments, Chinese representations in and the Soviet walkout from the United Nations, a proposed special meeting of the Security Council, general attitudes towards the Soviet Union, and a discussion of the. 'means of continuously reviewing world wide commitments and capabilities and [the] most effective manner of conducting future discussions of this nature'.

3 Robert Schuman, French Minister of Foreign Affairs.

4 Document 51.

5 Document 55.

6 Document 58.

Last Updated: 10 January 2017
Back to top