81 Beasley and Makin to Evatt

Cablegram 946 LONDON, 9 February 1946, 11.52 p.m.


1. Your 686 bases. [1]

2. A Conference was held this morning [2] between representatives of the Commonwealth governments. Addison briefly reviewed the case and referred to the Australian proposal to widen the contemplated purposes of discussion and hold a Conference at Canberra.

3. We spoke of the impossibility of settling the question piecemeal, of our main concern in the whole of the Pacific, our particular interest in Manus and aviation bases and our objections to a Conference at this stage with limited objectives.

4. Fraser and Addison both felt they had committed themselves to Byrnes to hold such a Conference and that it would create misunderstanding if they withdrew the proposal which the United States had accepted. They emphasised that this advance was a good one and should not be jeopardised.

5. Further nothing would be lost it was claimed by purely exploratory and preliminary discussions which would give us at least a clear idea of what the United States had in mind. We made the following reservations- (i) Question would have to be referred to the Australian Government.

(ii) We wanted it to be understood that at this stage we did not accept the restricted approach.

(iii) If we entered into preliminary talks we would propose that the discussion be wider in scope or alternatively that a full Conference be held later in Canberra.

6. During the general discussion the following points were made by various speakers- (i) We had to be careful in regard to our obligations as regards the Security Council. We had fought hard to get military agreements strategical areas and regional agreements linked closely with the Security Council and it might be unwise if we went right outside the Security Council at this early stage.

(ii) It would be difficult to talk about overall defence in the Pacific without including the Japanese islands.

(iii) in overall talks would we not have to consider including France, Netherlands, China and the Soviet Union.

(iv) The Soviet Union was already very suspicious about any prior British-American understanding about the Pacific Islands and bases.

(v) The Secretary of State for Colonies asked if anything might be gained to have talks in London now with Dunn, United States, on the question purely of the Sovereignty of the disputed islands.

There was no objection to this as islands were British or New Zealand.

(vi) General Jacob on behalf of Chiefs of Staff wanted clarification as to whether they should prepare documents for exploratory talks on restricted or wider basis and stated he would welcome any Australian staff suggestions as to the matter and the best method of approach in regard to wide conversations.

(vii) Fraser emphasised his idea was that the Washington talks were merely informal and private to clear the ground and that if it were desirable in the light of developments anyone could then raise wider proposals and the question of further Conference elsewhere.

1 Dispatched 6 February and responding to Document 55, it sought information on the progress of negotiations.

2 The conference was held on the morning of 8 February.

[AA:A3300, 46/386]