132 Advisory War Council Minute 573

Extract CANBERRA, 28 November 1941

MOST SECRET

AGENDUM No. 140/1941 -CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN U.S.A. AND JAPAN [1]

[matter omitted]

POSITION OF CHINA 3. The importance of safeguarding the interests of China was discussed and the representations of Chiang Kai-shek [2] referred to in Mr. Casey's cablegram 1037 [3] were noted.

4. Mr. Menzies [4] suggested that a cablegram be sent to the Australian Minister at Chungking [5] requesting him, in collaboration with the British Ambassador [6], to put to Chiang Kai-shek the following points:-

(a) Our settled policy is to do nothing to prejudice the interests of China;

(b) The present negotiations with Japan are of great value, and they should continue, in view of the importance of gaining time;

(c) It may appear from the course of the negotiations that Chinese interests are not being safeguarded;

(d) This, however, is not so, as the greatest possible advantages accrue to China by reason of the fact that the United States are firmly in the middle of the negotiations and they are becoming more and more involved. In the long run, this is the best thing that could happen to protect the interests of China.

This was endorsed by the Council. The Minister for External Affairs [7] stated that he would arrange for a cablegram to be sent to the Australian Minister at Chungking on these lines. [8]

CONCLUSIONS 5. The position was summarised by the Prime Minister [9] as follows:-

Objectives of Policy The following is a summary of objectives of Policy:-

(i) To endeavour to gain time to strengthen the defences of the A.B.C.D. Powers [10] in the Pacific and the completion of joint plans of operation.

(ii) To deter Japan from further aggressive action, the initiative in this respect resting mainly with the U.S.A.

(iii) To explore the possibilities of a general Pacific settlement with Japan, the initiative again resting mainly with the U.S.A., in view of the necessity of ensuring a common front with her.

(iv) To keep Japan out of the war.

(v) If we are unsuccessful in doing that, to ensure that we will have the co-operation of America.

Main Initiative with U.S.A.

As we do not wish to become involved in war with Japan without U.S.A. co-operation, there is no choice but to leave the main initiative to U.S.A., whilst at the same time maintaining contact as to what is happening and expressing opinions where asked for or where it is deemed prudent to suggest a word of advice.

The advantages of this course of action outweigh greatly the possibility of finding ourselves in the position that we have to go to war with Japan without American help, because of some sudden reversal of policy on the part of the latter, or of some lead by us which American opinion might not support.

Gaining Time The Commonwealth Government has insisted that the door should not be closed to an understanding with Japan while the possibility exists, so long as we do not sacrifice any vital interests during the course of any discussions.

It is important to note, however, that the door can be kept open only so long as the Japanese are prepared to negotiate and the point is not reached at which the U.S.A. and the British Empire are called upon to sacrifice the vital principles for which they stand. However, if Japan thinks that time is on her side and she is awaiting the outcome of the German-Russian conflict or other decisive military action, it is all to the good. We are each backing our own opinions, and if we are right, Japan will have more time to think before acting rashly.

The above views were noted and endorsed by the Advisory War Council.

1 On file AA : A2680, 140/1941.

2 Chinese Prime Minister.

3 Document 129.

4 United Australia Party M.H.R. for Kooyong.

5 Sir Frederic Eggleston.

6 Sir Archibald Clark Kerr.

7 Dr H. V. Evatt.

8 See Document 136.

9 John Curtin.

10 See Document 44, note 9.

[AA : A2680, 140/1941]