42 Mr P. Fraser, N.Z. Prime Minister, to Commonwealth Government

Cablegram unnumbered WELLINGTON, 30 July 1940, 9.10 p.m.


I am very much obliged to you for your telegram July 27th [1] and for the opportunity of perusing the instructions you have forwarded to your High Commissioner in London [2] with reference to the Far East situation. Our own views remain very much as expressed in my telegram July 3rd [3] and while we entirely agree that it is in the highest degree advisable to avoid hostilities with Japan in our present circumstances, we have never felt that the concession to aggression and threats is the best or indeed at all a promising way of achieving that end. We have never believed and we do not now believe that it was either wise or proper to attempt to placate Japan on the question of Burma Road, especially as any concession in this respect was necessarily at the expense of China, was a violation of International undertakings to which we are a party and involved a grave risk of misunderstanding and resentment in the United States of America.

We have never understood why the policy set out in the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs' telegram to us No. 201 [4] of 2nd July (containing British reply to your telegram 27th June [5], which seemed to us to be as reasonable and sensible as circumstances would allow, and with which we, and I believe you also, expressed agreement, was changed without further consultation with us to one of retreat and concession. The policy of 'appeasement' is in our view no more likely to be successful in the Far East than it was in Europe; if indeed, as evidenced for example by the recent change of Government in Japan, it has not already failed, and we would be most reluctant to associate ourselves with any further attempt of this nature which would, we feel, be wrong in principle and in practice more likely to precipitate aggression even against us than to provide a solution of the difficulties between Japan and China, or still less form a foundation for a better international order in the Far East. It may well be, however, and we say it with regret, that having now adopted a policy of concession, any alteration, and particularly any reversal of that policy, may now have become very dangerous.

In short, while we neither understand nor sympathize with the policy that has been adopted vis-a-vis Japan, we are nevertheless unwilling by stressing this view to add unnecessarily and perhaps uselessly to the difficulties of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom whose decision on this difficult and delicate matter we have accepted in the past and will no doubt accept in the future.

We have no specific comments and no objections to make to the considerations set out in your telegram except that we gravely question the possibility of enlisting United States support for any policy of concession to Japanese aggression and, while we would support your suggested attempt to obtain United States and Russian collaboration in this matter, we would not feel that this offers any substantial promise of success.

We warmly endorse your suggestion that His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom should be requested to afford to us in future the opportunity of considering and commenting upon any further proposed action with [sic] the Far East and, particularly in respect of any further negotiations with Japan, in ample time to allow expression and consideration of our views before the position is compromised.

Finally we attach the greatest importance to the fullest possible exchange of views on this matter between New Zealand and Australia of which we for our part fully assure you and which we confidently assume is the policy of Australia also.

In our opinion, the position in the Far East whatever its day to day fluctuation is very serious.

The text of this communication is being repeated to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs as telegram No. 299.

1 The cablegram printed as Document 34 was repeated to Fraser on 29 July with a request for his observations and support. See file AA:A1608, A41/1/6, iii.

2 S. M. Bruce. See Documents 13 and 34.

3 Document 4.

4 This was a repeat to the N.Z. Govt of the cablegram printed as Document 3.

5 Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. III, Document 452.

[AA:A981, FAR EAST 20B, i]