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

Cablegram 7509 [1] CANBERRA, 29 November 1941

MOST SECRET AND MOST IMMEDIATE

We are naturally disturbed at probability of immediate breakdown of Washington talks. Hull [2] seems to attribute this to two factors, first and foremost, Chinese opposition to any agreement whatever, second, reserve shown by United Kingdom Government at critical moment in the talks. Our general view accords with your own, namely, talks should be prolonged. [3] Even now it may not be impossible to achieve that end. If we were certain that United States lead in talks would be followed by similar lead in armed defence against armed aggression position would be transformed, but there now seems grave danger of further armed aggression by Japan without any United States armed intervention. I am sending you copy of wire which has been despatched to Eggleston [4] and it indicates China aspect of problems. If talks could be resumed by United States at United Kingdom suggestion something might be gained. Our attitude is not one of appeasement but is governed by need for time and commonsense at very critical period of war.

Another aspect is equally important. At the War Cabinet meeting which Page [5] attended he mentioned the possibility of Japanese aggression in four separate quarters with a view to obtaining an understanding as to what we should do in each one of the four events. Four quarters were Thailand, Netherlands East Indies, further attack on China, and Russia. At the present moment there is no understanding as to what should be done in any one of these four events although two of them seem imminent. We agree with your comment that Page was to some extent side-tracked by Cabinet. [6] We agree Churchill's view that elasticity is desirable, but in view of impending events we should know what is understanding of action by Britain-(1) in absence of United States armed support, (2) with assistance United States armed support, of course such understanding may itself be subject to variation.

Will you see Page with a view to reconsideration of such matters by War Cabinet at earliest possible moment. Evatt [7] just had telephone talk with Casey and I am sending Casey copy of this message. [8]

1 Repeated to the Ministers to the United States and China (R. G.

Casey and Sir Frederic Eggleston) as nos 131 and 1.

2 U.S. Secretary of State.

3 See Bruce's cablegram 105 of 20 November on file AA : A981, Japan 178.

4 Document 136.

5 See Documents 110 and 114.

6 See Document 112.

7 Minister for External Affairs.

8 This cablegram embodied a decision by the Advisory War Council (see minute 574 of 28 November in AA : A2682, vol. 3). Bruce replied (cablegram 110 of 30 November on the file cited in note 3) that while he could and would 'strongly press' Curtin's view that the talks should be resumed he believed Lord Halifax (U.K.

Ambassador to the United States) was in the best position to advise the U.K. Govt what could be done to encourage Hull in this direction. Page would take up immediately the other questions raised in the cablegram.

[AA : A981, JAPAN 178]