109 Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister, to Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in the United Kingdom

Cablegram 6735 CANBERRA, 14 November 1941


Reference Dominions Office Circular telegrams M.357 and 358 of 10th November. [1] In view of Latham's absence Tokyo and possibility that message to Officer [2] might not enjoy same certainty of immunity, this message is sent to you for information of United Kingdom Government and transmission to Craigie:

'It occurs to us that danger of Japanese armed aggression may reach its maximum pending arrival of ships at Singapore. Therefore it should be possible for Craigie to gain valuable time by emphasizing:

1. our very substantial and special interest in success of United States/Japanese talks, and 2. our intention to assist as much as possible in their satisfactory outcome. [3]

It is very important to prevent Japanese suspicions culminating in a desperate overt act by her. Precipitate intervention by us in preliminary United States/Japanese talks may be harmful, but if Japan supposes that we are trying to intervene in such preliminary talks, no harm and some good should result. In that event also time will be gained.' [4]


1 On file AA : A816, 19/304/431. They reported that the Japanese Foreign Minister (Shigenori Togo) bad told the U.K. Ambassador to Japan (Sir Robert Craigie) that the Japanese were becoming increasingly impatient with the slow progress of the U.S.-Japanese conversations. Togo had expressed surprise that the U.K. Govt was not directly involved in the conversations and had hinted that its intervention at this point might be fruitful. Craigie had reported these remarks to the U.K. Govt with the comment that Togo seemed genuinely anxious to avert conflict. Craigie had suggested that a request to the U.S. Govt for a full progress report on the conversations would be timely. He had been instructed, however, to inform the Japanese Foreign Minister that the U.K. Govt was content to leave discussions in the hands of the U.S. Govt until a basis for negotiations had been established and to urge on the Japanese 'the advantages of a supreme effort to reach agreement with the United States Government as against the desperate risks to Japan of allowing a situation to develop in which it may no longer be possible to control the issue of peace or war'.

2 Charge d'Affaires in Japan since the departure of the Minister, Sir John Latham, on 26 September (see Document 80, notes 1 and 3).

3 Officer reported on 21 November (cablegram 512 on file AA :

A981, Japan 178) that he had emphasised both these points to the Japanese Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs (Haruhiko Nishi) in an interview that day.

4 This cablegram and a similar one to the Minister to the United States (R. G. Casey) were based on drafts prepared by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr H. V. Evatt). The cablegram to Casey (no.

983 of 14 November) requested him to 'discreetly and without slightest importunity ascertain whether any progress has been made in United States-Japanese preliminary talks'. These cablegrams, together with a draft cablegram to the U.K. Dominions Secretary (not in fact sent), indicate that the thinking of the External Affairs Dept was more in line with Craigie's than with that of the U.K. Govt. Casey, however, believed that there was 'considerable advantage' to be gained from the United States continuing the negotiations alone. He pointed out (in cablegram 996 of 19 November) that because the United States had greater strength in the Pacific than did the British their arguments would carry greater weight. If negotiations failed and war resulted the principal onus would be on the United States and their participation would therefore be more likely. All documents are on the file cited in note 3.

[AA : A816, 19/304/431]