178 Lord Cranborne, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister

Cablegram 812 LONDON, 10 December 1941, 8.12 p.m.

MOST IMMEDIATE MOST SECRET

My telegram 803 Portuguese Timor. [1]

The Portuguese Government are arranging to send a representative to Singapore but it is unlikely that he can arrive before 25th December at the earliest and it seems very important to make some immediate provision against the possibility of Japanese attack on Portuguese Timor. From discussions held with the Portuguese Ambassador [2] it is apparent that the Portuguese Government would not agree to admit Allied troops at this stage without further evidence of Japanese designs on their territory but we think that they might be prepared to authorise the Governor [3] to make a local request for Australian military assistance without reference to Lisbon if and when he has reason to apprehend that a Japanese attack may be threatening. Would it be in accordance with the wishes of the Commonwealth Government that the Portuguese Government should be asked if they would issue such authorisation immediately? If so could we inform Portugal that Australian Forces would be ready to give all assistance within their power? The Dutch have made representations here and in Lisbon on the need for safeguarding Portuguese Timor and we should hope to arrange that the Portuguese Government give their Government in Timor similar authority to invite the Dutch to co-operate. The matter has been explained to the Netherlands Government who agree to the action suggested so far as they are concerned.

We think that this arrangement though not precise on paper should meet the situation in practice. It is designed to take account of Portuguese difficulties as a neutral. You will understand the vital importance of urgency.

1 Dispatched 9 December. On file AA: A981, Timor (Portuguese) 3, i.

2 Dr A. R. de S. Monteiro.

3 M. de A. Ferreira de Carvalho.

[AA:A981, TIMOR (PORTUGUESE) 3, i]