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

Cablegram 714 [1] CANBERRA, 4 November 1941


Reference your cablegrams M.337, M.338 [2] and M.342. [3]

1. While Japan's Policy will probably be determined more by the result of the German-Russian struggle than anything else, it would appear that great significance is to be attached to the proposed return to London of Mr. Shigemitsu [4] in view of the moderate elements he represents and their influence on the constitution of the new Government, vide your cablegram M.330. [5]

2. Having constantly before us the desirability of keeping Japan out of the war and reaching a general settlement with her, it is important that any measures to safeguard our defensive position in the war against the Axis Powers by deterring Japan from acts of aggression, which threaten our vital interests or Russia, should not close the door to an understanding while the possibility exists and so long as we do not sacrifice any vital interests during the course of any discussions. Accordingly it is our view that any warning issued to Japan on the lines contemplated should reiterate our willingness and desire to seek a general settlement in the Pacific which respects the rights of all parties.

3. We consider that the warning should then proceed to state that any attack by Japan on Russia will be resisted by force by the British Commonwealth irrespective of the attitude of the United States of America.

4. While the Commonwealth Government does not think that the notification should be conditional upon any reciprocal undertaking by United States, Netherlands or China, it considers every endeavour should be made to obtain the maximum collaboration of these countries in the event of a Japanese attack on Soviet Russia.

5. While the notification to Japan should not be conditional upon such assurance, a reciprocal guarantee should be sought from Russia that if Japan attacks in a southward direction Russia will declare war on Japan.

6. The foregoing view was unanimously endorsed by the Advisory War Council, which includes representatives of all Parties. [6]


1 Repeated to the N.Z. Prime Minister as no. 456. Curtin also instructed the High Commissioner in the United Kingdom to see the Dominions Office copy of this cablegram (see unnumbered cablegram of 4 November on file AA : A816, 19/304/430).

2 Both dispatched 24 October. On file AA : A2671, 363/1941.

Circular cablegram M338 referred to a request from the U.S.S.R.

Ambassador to the United Kingdom (I. M. Maisky) that the U.K. and U.S. Govts should issue a strong warning to Japan.

3 Dispatched 30 October. On file AA : A981, Japan 181, iv.

4 Japanese Ambassador to the United Kingdom.

5 Dispatched 19 October. On file AA : MP1217, Box 554, Far Eastern Crisis-October 1941 to break-down in United States-Japanese conversations in Washington and outbreak of hostilities with Japan.

6 Both the Advisory War Council and War Cabinet had expressed these views on 30 October. See minute 555 in AA : A2682, vol. 3 and minute 1464 in AA : A2673, vol. 9 The U.K. Govt replied on 7 November (cablegram 745 on file AA :

A981, Japan 172A) that the Russian question had been deferred in the light of the urgent request from China for U.K. and U.S.

assistance against an expected Japanese attack on Yunan province (see Documents 98 and 102). The U.K. Govt's view was, however, that 'we should avoid bringing about a situation in which we found ourselves at war with Japan without the assistance of the United states'.

[AA : A981, JAPAN 169, iii]