358 Sir John Latham, Minister to Japan, to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 137 TOKYO, 18 March 1941, 7.40 p.m.

SECRET

Your telegram 87. [1] I am in agreement completely with the attitude you have adopted in your second and third paragraphs but suggest that you urge in addition the difficulty of receiving the Attaches under the present conditions of Japan being bound to our enemies to exchange Naval and Military and Air intelligence. She is doing so through the military commission appointed under the express terms of the Tripartite Pact as well as other concealed methods. In the circumstances movements of Naval and Military Attaches would have to be strictly limited and would be liable to be a source of friction rather than of good relations. I suggest it should be urged that to press for such appointments in the present circumstances would go far to undo all good results already achieved and others hoped for by reason of exchange of Ministers. Object should be to prevent formal request being made or, if made, to secure its withdrawal so as to avoid refusal.

Refusal would be difficult to justify as such Attaches are part of the normal staff of Ministers. Attaches here are very closely watched and are not allowed to see or visit anything of importance (see my M.S.5 of January 27th [2]).

In the case of Naval and Air Attaches their written instructions limit their contacts to two officials at the Navy Office and they have to give prior notice of intention to visit any place outside Tokyo district. We would be justified in insisting on Naval and Air and possibly Military Attaches residing in Canberra and only travelling outside the F.C.T. [3] after giving prior notice and exercising the strictest supervision of their movements but the inevitable result would be friction and unpleasantness.

I think every endeavour should be made to have appointment of such Attaches postponed for the present. In case of failure we should appoint Attache here and impose in Australia conditions corresponding to the domination applied here.

LATHAM

1 Dispatched 14 March. It transmitted to Latham the information contained in Documents 342 and 351. See file AA:A981, Japan 121.

2 See file AA:A981, Japan 40B, iv.

3 Federal Capital Territory.

[AA:A981, JAPAN 121]