229 Minutes of Meeting of Prime Ministers

PMM(46) 11th Meeting LONDON, 3 May 1946, 11 a.m.


Military Bases in the Pacific: Proposed Cession of Tarawa I. MR. ATTLEE said that Mr. Bevin had had some conversation in Paris with the United States Secretary of State on the general question of bases in the Pacific. A detailed report of this conversation would be available shortly; and discussion of the general question might be resumed during the following week, in the light of that report.

Meanwhile, Mr. Attlee said that he wished to report to Dominion Ministers a specific proposal which had been put forward by Mr.

Byrnes in the course of this conversation, viz., that His Majesty's Government should make an immediate announcement of their readiness to cede to the United States the island of Tarawa in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands. Mr. Byrnes had recalled that this island had been the scene of one of the most glorious actions of the United States Marines during the war, and had said that its cession to the United States in memory of that action would make a deep impression on public opinion in the United States and would assist materially the proceedings in Congress on the proposed loan to the United Kingdom.

Mr. Attlee said that he had discussed this proposal with his Cabinet colleagues earlier that morning; and they had agreed that it must be rejected. It would be contrary to our principles to cede territory without taking any steps to ascertain the wishes of the inhabitants. It was essential that any such request should be considered as part of the general problem of bases in the Pacific, in consultation with other interested Governments of the British Commonwealth. Finally, it was doubtful whether a sudden announcement of a decision to cede Tarawa to the United States would, in fact, influence favourably the Congress discussions about the loan. His Majesty's Government had, therefore, decided that Mr. Byrnes must be informed that they were unable to deal in isolation with his request for Tarawa, but they would be willing, together with the Governments of Australia and New Zealand, to consider this request sympathetically as part of the general problem of bases in the Pacific.

MR. CHIFLEY and MR. NASH said that they were in full agreement with the reply which His Majesty's Government had decided to send to Mr. Byrnes's suggestion about the cession of Tarawa.

Atomic Energy 2. The Meeting discussed questions relating to the development and use of atomic energy. The discussion is recorded in a Confidential Annex. [1]

Regional Organisation in South-East Asia and the South Seas (Previous reference: P.M.M.(46) 1st Meeting, Item 3.) [2]

3. The Meeting had before them a memorandum by Mr. Chifley on Economic and Welfare Co-operation in the South Seas and South-East Asia Areas (P.M.M.(46)17).

DR. EVATT, Speaking at Mr. Chifley's request, said that at the first meeting Mr. Bevin had emphasised the importance of international cooperation in South-East Asia. The Australian and New Zealand proposal for regional co-operation in the South Seas had then been mentioned. The paper now before the Meeting had accordingly been circulated to give an account of the history and present position of this matter.

Dr. Evatt recalled that in the Agreement signed at Canberra in 1944 the Australian and New Zealand Governments had agreed to promote the establishment of a regional organisation with advisory powers. The body they had in mind would have no executive responsibilities, but they had thought that it might be very useful to have meetings from time to time with representatives of the United Kingdom and, perhaps later, of France and the United States to discuss their common affairs. The Australian Government felt that a similar organisation for South-East Asia would similarly serve a useful purpose.

Section 3 of the paper now before the Meeting described a School of Colonial Studies, which already existed in Australia, and a School of Pacific Studies, which it was proposed to set up at Canberra. Dr. Evatt thought that these Schools might provide one positive means of international co-operation in the Pacific.

Mr. Bevin had also mentioned broadcasting. A powerful short-wave station had been set up by the Australian Government during the war as an instrument of political warfare. Broadcasts were continuing in many languages. This station might serve as a centre for broadcasting activities throughout both the South-East Asia and the South Pacific regions.

Dr. Evatt thought that it would be very useful if all these matters could be discussed while Dominion Ministers were in London, as he would like to see the proposals made by the Australian and New Zealand Governments followed up.

MR. HALL said that he entirely agreed that it would be useful if a South Seas Regional Commission were established on the lines indicated in the first part of the paper before the Meeting. His predecessor, Colonel Stanley, had circulated to Dominion Governments in 1944 a paper dealing with the regional idea. The idea was one to which he attached considerable importance. The United Kingdom Government had now some experience of the working of these bodies. In 1941 a regional organisation had been established in the Caribbean. This had started as an Anglo- American body, but it had now been broadened to include the French and the Dutch. It had done a good deal of useful work on very much the same lines as those on which the Australian and New Zealand Governments proposed that a South Seas Regional Commission should work. Again, in West Africa a satisfactory liaison had been established with the French, and the consultations there between the two Governments covered much the same ground. He hoped that the Belgians would also in future take part in these consultations.

The United Kingdom Government, therefore, would be extremely ready to see a regional commission established in the South Seas, and he suggested that the details should be discussed between officials of the three Governments. He would prefer that, in the first instance, the organisation should be limited to the United Kingdom and to the two Dominions. Other Governments might be invited to join in later on. The Dutch might well welcome the organisation and possibly the French would do so too.

Turning to South-East Asia, Mr. Hall said that he thought that it would certainly in the future be desirable to have a regional organisation of the same type there, but he doubted whether the time was ripe for the formal constitution of such a body at present. Civil government had only recently been resumed throughout the area and a great deal of reorganisation was required. Lord Killearn had been appointed recently as Special Commissioner for the area: his primary responsiblity at the moment would be in regard to food supplies, but his organisation might provide the nucleus round which a more formal organisation could later develop. He thought it would be very useful if the Australian and New Zealand Governments could attach liaison officers-either permanently or from time to time as occasion demanded-to Lord Killearn's staff, and he asked Dominion Ministers to consider this suggestion.

He said that he had been much interested in the Australian Government's arrangements for Colonial studies and he suggested that it would be useful if officials of the Colonial Office could discuss these plans with officials of the Australian Government.

It would be very valuable to have an interchange of ideas on this subject. There had been a number of developments in the field of Colonial studies in recent years.

In regard to broadcasting, the United Kingdom Government entirely shared the view that a more extensive scheme of broadcasting should exist for South-East Asia and for the Far East generally, and they were now considering the subject. One proposal was that a powerful station should be established at Singapore. it might be, however, that greater use could be made of the facilities already in existence in Australia, and he suggested that this matter might also be discussed on an official basis.

Mr. Hall said that there were already a number of Australians and New Zealanders in the United Kingdom Colonial Service. He welcomed this fact very much and would be very happy to see more officers in the Colonial Service from the Dominions, possibly on secondment. He hoped very much that Dominion Governments would consider this.

LORD NATHAN said that, during the conferences which he had already held since he arrived in South-East Asia, Lord Killearn had had the utmost assistance from New Zealand and Australia. The Australian representative [3], at his recent conference, had been most helpful and, as a result, he hoped that Australia would be providing extra flour for the area and also consumer goods which were very necessary for procuring rice from Siam.

MR. NASH said that the New Zealand Government were anxious to push ahead with the proposal for a Regional Commission for the South Seas. He thought that there was great opportunity for co- operation, particularly on welfare matters and on health. Our objective should be to help the inhabitants of this area to exploit their own resources for their own benefit. He supposed that a Commission in South-East Asia would have the same objective and it seemed to him that such a body might well be useful. He would, however, wish to consider further this question and the precise nature of any relation between the Government of New Zealand and Lord Killearn's organisation.

He was not in a position to commit himself to any specific arrangements in regard to Colonial studies for the Pacific or broadcasting.

MR. CHIFLEY said that the proposal that an Australian liaison officer should be appointed to Lord Killearn's staff would be quite satisfactory to his Government and he would be happy to consider the details of it. [4] LORD ADDISON said that there should be an immense field for development of the resources of the area for the benefit of its inhabitants. In regard to broadcasting, he felt sure that the B.B.C. would be very anxious to help in improving the services to the Pacific and, indeed, to all the Dominions.

DR. EVATT said there appeared to be general agreement that the three Governments should proceed with the proposal for a South Seas Regional Commission and that the details should be further discussed between officials. He thought that it was important to press on with this development because, if there were to be a regional organisation for defence, it would be well that it should be balanced by a similar organisation for welfare and development.

As regards South-East Asia, Australia would certainly be willing to maintain liaison with Lord Killearn's organisation. There should be further discussion between officials regarding Colonial studies and broadcasting.

There was general agreement that this correctly represented the position and it was agreed that talks between officials should start as soon as possible. It was understood that the Foreign Office would be associated with the discussions.

Future Business 4. Discussion took place regarding the arrangements to be made for future meetings.

MR. ATTLEE suggested that some outstanding questions should be discussed in the following week. These discussions might be completed by the middle of the week, after which he suggested that the meetings might be adjourned until after the arrival of Mr.

Mackenzie King on the 18th May.

After discussion it was agreed that the time-table for the following week should be as follows:-

Monday, 6th may.

(1) United States Request for Bases in the Pacific.

(2) Procedure in the Peace Settlements.

Tuesday, 7th May.

(3) Political Situation in India.

(4) Future of the Ruhr and the Western Frontier of Germany.

Wednesday, 8th May.

(5) Draft Peace Treaties with Italy, Balkan Satellite States and Finland.

The meetings should then adjourn until Mr. Mackenzie King arrived.

It was also agreed that it would be useful to have a preliminary exchange of views on the subject of Imperial Preference; this would best be deferred until the arrival of Mr. Mackenzie King.

FIELD-MARSHAL SMUTS suggested that the problem of the nationality of married women might be discussed. It was agreed that it would be best to defer discussion of the subject until after Mr.

Mackenzie King's arrival, when it could be considered in connection with Canadian proposals regarding citizenship legislation.

Mr. Chifley 5. MR. ATTLEE expressed the regret of the Meeting that this was the last occasion on which Mr. Chifley would be able to attend. He said that it had been a very great pleasure to him and his colleagues to meet Mr. Chifley and to have this valuable opportunity for exchanging views with him, and he thanked him for undertaking the visit to London.

MR. CHIFLEY expressed his regret at being obliged to leave. He said that he had much appreciated the opportunity for consultation with his British Commonwealth colleagues, and extended his warm thanks to Mr. Attlee for the hospitality and courtesies extended to himself, Dr. Evatt and their staffs.

1 Document 230. The text of the Confidential Annex was not given in the copy cited here.

2 See Document 206.

3 Officer and Massey attended the conference as Australia's representatives. See Document 197.

4 H. A. Stokes was appointed Australian Political Liaison Officer with Killearn's staff and reached Singapore in late May.

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