202 Commonwealth Government to Attlee

Cablegram 128 [1] CANBERRA, 28 May 1943

MOST IMMEDIATE SECRET

1. Your telegram No.100. [2] Priority. If system of priorities were adopted we would desire inclusion in high priority of persons who would be of use in war effort, especially men with experienced knowledge of Japanese language of whom we are in great need. In this connection we have noted remarks in annex 1 to memorandum transmitted with your Circular Despatch D.31. [3] We believe qualified technicians should be given a high priority. We would be disposed not to submit any system of priorities to Japanese Government thus leaving ourselves free to select persons by name.

This was the course adopted by the Japanese Government in connection with first exchange. It was quite obvious that Japanese selected key men in compiling lists of persons of whom repatriation was requested.

2. You will recall that in our telegram No.16 [4] we requested inclusion of all remaining Australian officials. We have noted that Japanese Government refuses to enlarge the area to be covered (except in regard to Hong Kong) but we have reason to believe that many, if not all, of our officials from New Guinea and other places have been transferred to the Japanese Empire proper or Indo-China and we would insist on the repatriation of all our officials now, or at any time before the exchange arrangements are finalised, located within the area covered by the second exchange.

3. It is noted from your 115 of 24th May [5], that Japanese desire repatriation of Japanese from Mandated territories interned in Australia. We do not see why converse should not apply, i.e., that Australians from those territories, interned by Japanese, should be repatriated.

Apart from this we are of opinion that they should be obliged to release all Australian officials wherever they may be located. For our part we have already released all Japanese officials. The argument in paragraph 2 also applies to all civilians transferred northwards, and we would desire proportion of them to be included also.

4. There are 93 Australian officials from New Guinea, and 5 from Nauru; and 174 civilians from New Guinea. In addition there are 600 missionaries, of whom, however, 367 are Germans.

5. As stated in our telegram 16 we would be prepared to release from Australia a number of Japanese interned by the Commonwealth equal to but not exceeding number of Australian nationals actually repatriated.

6. We still feel that we must reserve the right to refuse the repatriation of any individual Japanese held by us on behalf of New Caledonia or other Pacific Islands not under Japanese occupation on security grounds.

7. We would also reserve the right to refuse repatriation on security grounds of any individual Japanese interned by the Commonwealth Government.

8. We repeat that we do not accept the Japanese replies that Bowden [6] and staff left Singapore before the occupation. We received cable advice from him on the 14th February [7] and reports right up to the occupation were to effect he intended remaining at his post. We therefore press for them to be included in list of officials to be exchanged.

9. We recognise that the successful negotiation of another exchange may provide the only opportunity likely to be available for some time for shipment of Red Cross Stores for relief of Allied prisoners of war and internees held by Japan and have taken full account of that important factor when formulating our views.

10. As you are aware we still hold 3,324 Japanese in Australia, and regard it as reasonable that our requests should be strongly pressed upon the Japanese Government.

1 Repeated to the N.Z. Prime Minister as no. 95.

2 Dispatched 10 May. On file AA:A989, 43/460/10/2, i.

3 Dispatched 15 April. On the file cited in note 2.

4 Dispatched 16 January. On the file cited in note 2.

5 On the file cited in note 2.

6 See Document 2, note 1.

7 Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. V, Document 333.

[AA:A989, 43/460/10/2, i]