122 Mr R. G. Casey, Minister to the United States, to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 260 WASHINGTON, 16 September 1940, 11.47 p.m.

SECRET

Repeated to London 85.

With reference to my telegram 198 [1], 68 to London and my telegram 246 [2], 81 to London.

I called on the Secretary of State [3] today with the British Ambassador. [4]

The Secretary of State was more forthcoming and even more militant than on the previous visits.

He started by telling us of his recent interview with the new French Ambassador. [5] He said that he enquired what Government he was speaking to when he spoke to the French Ambassador. Was it a Government at Vichy with some degree of freedom of action or was it Hitler outright? Was [sic] he and his Government just a channel for information to Hitler? For instance was the French Government's instruction to the Governor-General of Indo-China [6] done on Hitler's instructions? The Secretary of State said that he got no specific replies to these questions.

He proceeds [sic] to tell us that he was pleased at the way the American press had played up our last visit to him and that he was taking steps further to arouse American public opinion in respect of the situation in the Far East.

He said American public opinion was not ready for anything that could be called a military alliance in the Pacific but that [short of that he believed] [7] a great deal could be done by 'keeping the Japanese guessing'. He repeated that it was possible for the British Empire and the United States to take 'parallel action' but not 'joint action' in present state of public opinion.

He said he did not believe it was in the interest of the British Empire or United States of America to go to war with Japan in present circumstances or even in the future. He thought America's role central producer of weapons and munitions for us at least in present circumstances.

He said United States aimed at continuing to put the screw on Japan to shorten the war.

He said in great confidence that various alternative methods of exerting pressure were now under discussion-(1) loan of 25 million dollars to China (2) more serious embargo on petroleum and scrap to Japan (3) embargo on import of Japanese silk.

We asked that we might be advised in advance what it was decided to do on above lines. He said he would do what he could to tell us beforehand although he wanted to be able at all times to say United States' actions vis-a-vis foreign countries were 'off their own bat' and not after collaboration or at instance of any other country.

He said he was well aware of the fact that further embargo on petroleum might have repercussions in Netherlands East Indies and that he had this fact in mind.

When asked if he could say what the United States would do to support the British Empire in opening Burma Road on October 18th he said we must follow situation along step by step. He believes if Britain can resist the German onslaught until mid-October Japanese attitude will modify considerably. He implied that before mid-October United States would have to use further diplomatic and economic action against Japan.

I said His Majesty's Government in the Commonwealth of Australia were greatly interested in knowing what degree of support the United States would provide as Burma Road problem was very close to Australia. He said we would continue these periodical discussions and keep each other informed.

The British Ambassador asked what action the United States would take in respect of request for some fighting aircraft for the French in Indo-China. He said this was under discussion now with the army and navy to see what could be made available and he hoped to see the President [8] this afternoon about it. Implication was that the United States would endeavour to make aircraft available.

Australian press representatives here most anxious to learn what is going on. I have only told them that it is important to give some prominence to the conversations with the Secretary of State for the benefit of the Japanese but to stop short of giving Australian public to believe that mutual defensive arrangement is about to be consummated.

CASEY

1 Document 60.

2 Dispatched 5 September. See file AA:A3300, 9.

3 Cordell Hull.

4 Lord Lothian.

5 Gaston Henri-Haye.

6 Vice Admiral Jean Decoux.

7 Corrected from the Washington copy on file AA:A3300, 9.

8 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

[AA:A981, FAR EAST 21A]