230 Evatt to Hodgson

Cablegram EC15 LONDON, 26 June 1943, 6.30 p.m.

IMMEDIATE PERSONAL SECRET

Your L.36 Japanese exchange. [1]

Following is correspondence with the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs.

1. Letter from the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to me 18 June:-

'I understand that your Government have asked you to look into the question of the proposed exchange of internees with the Japanese.

This matter has become extremely urgent as the American exchange is scheduled to take place at Goa on about 20th August and unless we move quickly, our own exchange which we had hoped could take place at the end of July might have to be postponed until after the American exchange. In the hope of saving time the Foreign Office have now drafted the enclosed telegram to His Majesty's representative at Berne for communication to the Japanese. [2] You will see that it has been drafted in anticipation of agreement of the Commonwealth Government to the Japanese proposals and I should be glad to know whether in fact you are prepared to agree to its despatch in its present form. If so any reservations or additions the Commonwealth Government might wish to make on such subjects as withholding individual Japanese on security grounds or Mr. Bowden [3] and his staff could most conveniently form the subject of a separate communication upon the drafting of which we should like your advice. [4] I also enclose a separate draft telegram about priorities. [5]

If however the Commonwealth Government are unable to withdraw from the views expressed in earlier telegrams [6] the enclosed note would be sent on behalf of all Governments other than the Commonwealth Government whose views could be set out in a separate communication.

I should be most grateful if you could let me know at a very early date whether you agree with this draft note; I need not say that if you would like a talk about the matter I would be glad to arrange a meeting at which opportunity you and I and the Foreign Secretary might get together. I would however stress the importance of the time factor; time is now so short that it is I am afraid true to say that every day that can be saved is of real importance.'

2. This letter crossed with a letter of 18th June from me to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs:-

'My Government has telegraphed to me asking that I should personally take up with you the question of the second exchange of officials and civilians with Japan.

You will recall that as early as September last the Commonwealth Government informed the United Kingdom Government that the first exchange had been overwhelmingly in Japan's favour and that in any further exchange the Commonwealth would insist on the inclusion of all Australian civilians from areas covered by the first exchange plus Hong Kong. We asked also for the repatriation of all Australian officials and non-officials from New Guinea, Nauru and other Pacific Islands. [7] We have reason to believe that our officials have been transferred northward by the Japanese and are now in the areas covered by the second exchange.

We assumed that our proposals would in due course be submitted to the Japanese Government.

I understand that at the present stage the U.K. Government considers time to be the overriding factor in negotiations and that delay may lead to a break-down involving an adverse effect on the persons to be repatriated especially women and children in Hong Kong.

Under the circumstances I am prepared to agree that Australia should take part in the exchange provided that our right to refuse repatriation of individual Japanese on security grounds is reserved and a request is included for the repatriation of Mr.

Bowden and his staff of two from Singapore.

I also request that the Japanese be asked to include in the exchange any Australian officials from Mandated Territories and other Pacific Islands who have been transferred northwards into the areas included in the present exchange.

In view of the fact that this exchange no less than the first is overwhelmingly in favour of Japan I must ask very emphatically that in any future arrangements greater regard should be paid to the Australian point of view and the interests of Australian Nationals in Japanese hands. Unless this is done I fear that we shall be forced to consider separate exchange with Japan.'

3. The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs reply to me of 22nd June:-

'Thank you for your letter of 18th June.

I note that you are prepared to agree to Australia's taking part in the exchange provided that your right to refuse repatriation of individual Japanese on security grounds is reserved and a request is included for the repatriation of Mr. Bowden and his staff from Singapore.

I also note your request that the Japanese be asked to include in the exchange any Australian officials from Mandated Territories and other Pacific Island[s] who have been transferred northward into areas included in the present exchange.

The Netherlands Government have stated that if any other Government is not prepared to accept the Japanese proposals in their present form they will be forced to reconsider the whole matter and we shall therefore have to inform them of the Commonwealth Government's reservations, more particularly of the last. I hope however that they will not withdraw their agreement and that we shall thus be in a position to send out further note to the Japanese. My letter of 18th June which crossed yours contained a draft of the proposed communication to the Japanese.

As a matter of convenience we suggest that your special reservations should be communicated in a separate note (to which reference would be made in the principal note).

I trust that you will agree that if unfortunately the Japanese should reject any of the Australian requests, the Commonwealth Government will nevertheless be prepared to continue with the exchange on the basis of the original Japanese proposals. I am sure that we are all anxious to avoid further delay with its consequent ill effects upon the internees.'

4. My reply to the Secretary of State of Dominion Affairs of 23rd June:-

'Thank you for your letter of 22nd June.

I note your suggestion that our reservations should be communicated in a separate note to the Japanese to which reference would be made in the principal note and I am in agreement with this. I feel sure that you will be able to adjust the matter with the Netherlands Government so that they will not withdraw their agreement.

In the last paragraph of your letter you refer to the position which would arise if the Japanese should reject any of the Australian requests and expressed the hope that the Commonwealth Government would nevertheless agree to continue with the exchange on the basis of the original Japanese proposals.

I do not think that we should take this fence before we come to it but I can promise you an immediate answer from the Commonwealth Government in such an eventuality so as to avoid any delay which might have ill effects upon the internees.'

1 Not found. On 14 June Curtin had dispatched a cablegram to Evatt in New York summarising earlier cablegrams on this question and instructing him that as he (i.e. Evatt) 'held very definite views of this subject' he should take up the matter personally when he arrived in London (see undated draft cablegram on file AA:A989, 43/460/10/2, i and AA:A3643, 9, entry 0.16055). Cablegram L36 probably conveyed a request for information on the progress of negotiations.

2 Not found on Commonwealth Govt files. Attlee dispatched a copy of the message to Canberra on 30 June in his cablegram 161 (on file AA:A989, 43/460/10/2, i).

3 See Document 2, note 1.

4 For the final text of this communication see Attlee's cablegram 162 of 30 June on the file cited in note 2.

5 Not found on Commonwealth Govt files. For the final text see Attlee's cablegram 163 of 30 June on the file cited in note 2.

6 See cablegram 16 of 16 January (on the file cited in note 2) and Document 202.

7 See cablegram 429 of 22 September 1942 on file AA:A981, Japan 117.

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