488 Mr A. T. Stirling, External Affairs Officer in London, to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister

Cablegram ET9 LONDON, 13 May 1942, 10.20 p.m.

IMMEDIATE SECRET

Following for Prime Minister from Evatt. [1]

Your S.L.12. [2] Exchange of officials with Japan. Following is summary of views, as ascertained by Stirling, of Dominions Office after consultation with Foreign Office officials.

Begins: On one hand, they point out that Japan- (a) has refused to include American officials captured at Singapore;

and (b) is in extremely strong position, holding 555 British officials and over 11,000 non-officials as against 250 Japanese officials and under 5,000 non-officials held by United Kingdom and Dominions.

They also point out (a) if Australia is taken as a separate unit we have a strong numerical advantage;

(b) although, as the Japanese imply in their note of rejection, Singapore and Timor were not mentioned in the United Kingdom's reply to the original Japanese proposals that reply reserved the position of the Dominions by pointing out that their comments would be communicated later;

(c) Japanese did in fact agree to include United States officials captured in Hong Kong and British officials at Manila and it is understood Canadian Government contemplating asking for the inclusion of the Canadian Trade Commissioner [3] and Staff captured at Hong Kong.

(d) Although the United Kingdom decided to waive the position of their officials in Singapore, Bowden's [4] case is different, as he is not a member of the Colonial Administration but the representative of a sovereign power. Ends.

My own opinion is- (1) that we should not yield over Bowden and Ross [5] under any circumstances, even if it means our negotiating a new and separate agreement with Japan:

(a) we are bound in honour to them to insist on their inclusion in any scheme of exchange;

(b) both men will have information about the Japanese which will be invaluable to us.

(2) I also think highly dangerous to return from Australia 1120 internees many of whom will be able to imperil our security during the critical period of war.

1 Minister for External Affairs.

2 Document 482.

3 P. V. McLane.

4 See Document 333, note 1 and Document 482, note 4.

5 See Document 337, note 5.

[AA:A981, CONSULS 13, i]