119 Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister, to Sir Earle Page, Special Representative in the United Kingdom

Cablegram unnumbered CANBERRA, 20 November 1941

MOST SECRET

I acknowledge with thanks your cablegrams P.2 to P.6 inclusive and have studied with interest the statement made by you to United Kingdom War Cabinet and the summary of the discussion. [1]

Your cablegrams are being submitted for early consideration by War Cabinet [2] and in the meantime the following observations are furnished:-

(i) Representations for increase in air strength in Far East. The reasons of the Air Ministry outlined in your P.5 as to why in their opinion immediate action to strengthen air forces in Malaya is not practicable at present are noted, together with the promise to review the position if the Middle East operations are unsuccessful or in the event of the intensification of the Japanese threat. It is observed that you are continuing to press the urgency of immediate reinforcement. This attitude meets with our full support.

In regards to expediting Beaufort production, War Cabinet has been giving urgent consideration to expediting the programme. [3] Any assistance you can render in regard to the delivery of machine tools as requested in my cablegram of 18th November [4] will be of the greatest importance in accelerating the programme.

(ii) Possibilities of Japanese attack on neighbouring nations. In regard to the four possibilities referred to by you [5] :-

(a) Japanese attack on Russia;

(b) Japanese attack on Kunming and the Burma Road;

(c) Japanese attack on Netherlands East Indies;

(d) Japanese invasion of Thailand;

our views on (a) and (b) were contained in cablegrams Nos. 714 and 722. [6]

In regard to (c) it is noted that you have had discussions with the Foreign Office on the question of an undertaking with the Dutch. Our most recent advice on this subject is Dominions Office cablegram No. M.295. [7]

The main factor on (d) appears to be the President's statement to the Prime Minister at the Atlantic Conference. [8]

(iii) General Policy in the Pacific. The objectives as stated by you are:-

(a) To keep Japan out of the war;

(b) If we are unsuccessful in doing this we must ensure that we will have the co-operation of America.

The viewpoint which you put forward towards the end of your P.3 does not appear to have been very comprehensively dealt with by the Prime Minister, according to the third paragraph of Part 2 ofyour P.4, though the constitutional difficulties of the President are of course fully understood.

This subject is being further examined for consideration by War Cabinet, and you will be advised as soon as possible.

(iv) Naval Defence. We have agreed to the four Australian destroyers joining the Far Eastern Fleet after refitting, subject to their return to the Australia Station when other destroyers become available.

The Australian Chief of the Naval Staff is proceeding to Singapore for the Naval Staff Conversations in December, and War Cabinet has had a discussion with him regarding the United States Naval Staff contention that it is unnecessary to maintain so many Australian and New Zealand cruisers in Australian and New Zealand waters. [9] This matter is being further examined before Admiral Royle's departure.

CURTIN

1 Cablegrams P3 and P4 containing Page's statement to the U.K. War Cabinet and his summary of the subsequent discussion are published as Documents 110 and 113. Cablegrams P2, P5 and P6 of 14 and 15 November are on file AA : A981, Pacific 8, i.

2 Page's cablegrams were attached as Appendixes 1-5 to War Cabinet agendum 384/1941 of 19 November and the cablegram here Published was appended as supplement 1 to this agendum on 20 November (see file AA : A2671, 384/1941). There is no record of a formal discussion of this agendum by War Cabinet, but cablegrams P2-P6 were considered by the Advisory War Council on 28 November (see minute 574 on file AA : A2680, 141/1941).

3 See War Cabinet minutes 1478 of 6 November and 1498 and 1503 of 17 November in AA : A2673, vol. 9.

4 AA : A3196, 1941, 0.19154.

5 See Document 110.

6 Documents 97 and 106.

7 Dispatched 6 September. On file AA : A1608, B41/1/9, i. it advised that the U.K. Govt was addressing a note to the Netherlands Govt pointing out that while the latter's request for 'ratification' of the Singapore conference reports was inappropriate in the circumstances and while the U.K. Govt was not yet in a positon to approve those conversations in which the U.S.

Govt had been involved, it was ready to give 'general approval' to the recommendations arising from the British-Dutch conversations.

The note emphasised that 'the recommendations were specifically stated to involve no political commitment' but that the governments concerned had agreed 'to co-operate fully in the event of any one of them being forced to take military action to counter Japanese aggression'. The U.K. Govt, however, would have to remain 'the sole judge' of what actions or military measures were appropriate and practicable.

8 For Roosevelt's statement to Churchill see Document 40.

9 This was presumably a reference to the War Cabinet discussion of 17 November at which Royle was present. See AA : A2673, vol. 9, minute 1499.

[AA : A3196, 1941, 0.19371]