269 Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister, to Mr A. W. Fadden, Acting Prime Minister

Cablegram BA52 GAZA, 4 February 1941, 12.10 p.m.

IMMEDIATE MOST SECRET

Reference Latham's suggestion relative to Thailand [1], it will be recalled from the British Minister's observations before my recent visit that the Thais did not desire it to be of official nature at the present time, for reasons stated. [2] While in Bangkok, I spoke to Crosby, re returning the visit of the Mission and he was of opinion that while it might be fulfilled at a not too distant date, the immediate present was not an appropriate time.

While international courtesy requires that the visit of the Thai Mission to Australia should ultimately be returned, my call on the Prime Minister [3] when at Bangkok will cover this aspect until Thailand is ready to receive a Mission and we can arrange for appropriate personnel.

The dilemma in which the Thais find themselves has arisen from circumstances beyond our own control. France's obduracy to territorial adjustments and the U.S.A.'s stoppage of supply of arms have combined to leave Thailand with a feeling that she is at the mercy of Japan and is powerless to offer much opposition.

You will recall from staff conversations between the United Kingdom and Netherlands East Indies representatives that it was proposed that the crossing of latitude 6 degrees north by the Japanese forces should be regarded as a hostile act, but the United Kingdom Government intimated that a decision as to an act of war would have to be taken in the light of circumstances at the time, though planning should proceed on the assumption that war might break out. [4]

While not expressing any definite conclusions at this stage as to what action would constitute an act of war, I would point out that staff conversations contemplated in my cablegram from Singapore [5] will afford an opportunity for the fullest review of questions of this nature.

If the Thais are to be urged to oppose Japan they will want to know in the last resort what military and/or material assistance they can expect.

A visit by an Australian Mission would no doubt make a contribution to better relations but as the decisive considerations are military I think that the immediate course is to press on with staff talks at Singapore to which I attach the greatest importance and at which, as advised separately [6], we should be represented by senior officers.

MENZIES

1 On 28 January Sir John Latham, Minister to Japan, suggested that the visit of the Thai Goodwill Mission should be returned by a mission from Australia led by a 'person of culture and distinction'. See cablegram 57 on file AA:A981, Japan 174, ii.

2 Opposition to an official visit in fact came from the U.K.

Foreign Office. See Document 253.

3 Menzies met Maj Gen Luang P. Pibulsonggram in Bangkok on 29 January. See copy of Crosby's letter 34 to Anthony Eden, U.K.

Foreign Secretary, of 30 January on file AA:A981, Thailand 24.

4 For a general report of the substance of the U.K.-N.E.I.

conversations see Document 245.

5 Document 261.

6 Document 268.

[AA:A981, JAPAN 185B, i]