30 Evatt to Chifley

Cablegram 1003 WASHINGTON, 19 July 1946, 11.29 p.m.


Yesterday I had a further conference with Byrnes, Secretary of State, in relation to Manus and the general question of Pacific bases. I am very pleased to report that he now favours an acceptance of the principle that there should be reciprocal use of facilities. In other words, that in return for America's right to use facilities at Manus, they are prepared to afford Australia facilities at some place, or places, to be determined, which are under United States control.

I pointed out to Byrnes quite frankly our arrangement to co- operate with Britain and New Zealand, and he was quite understanding of the position. He will communicate with Bevin on the general principle in the expectation that at Paris the three of us will be able to carry the proposal forward to a further point of practical completion. I think it is remarkable to find this acceptance of the principle for which we have contended, namely that the United States, in return for the use of facilities which they have created at Manus, will be prepared to confer upon us a right to similar facilities in a territory or territories which they themselves control. We have carefully avoided any detailed discussion on the actual facilities and bases where the facilities are situated, although I have suggested Guam as an obvious place corresponding to Manus. I visualise an arrangement by which not only Australia, but Britain and New Zealand will be able to use facilities at Guam, provided the United States were able to use facilities not only at Manus, but on other South Pacific bases controlled by the United Kingdom and New Zealand. In short, there should be an effective pooling of facilities.

It may be that the arrangement will not in the first period be as extensive and cover so many places as might ultimately be desired, but it would establish a working principle of reciprocity and mutuality and I believe it would, as your cable itself suggested, constitute a practical business-like regional arrangement of decisive importance to Australia.

If we can succeed in maintaining the position I reached yesterday, and I am now confident we can, we will be able to explain to the Australian people that we are making an arrangement of a joint and reciprocal character, in which Australia will not only be giving something, but getting an equivalent return of value to our defence system in the Pacific, and benefiting not only Australia and the United States, but the United Kingdom and New Zealand as well.

Of course I have not made any definitive arrangement, but I hope that before July 30th you will have the report of the Defence Committee [1], and will be able to tell me in Paris that you approve in principle the new approach which, as I explained before, was made by me when it became obvious that by some new approach we might obtain an arrangement of the general character we desired. My own feeling is that such a practical arrangement as is now suggested might in the long run be far preferable to mere undertakings which would be probably indefinitely delayed through political differences in the United States, and which might add little in the long run to the obligations already resting upon the United States and ourselves as members of the United Nations.

2. In a word, I think it now looks practically certain that we will get an arrangement which will be a crushing answer to those in Australia who would give away control or use of Australian territories without getting anything in return. The United States would not respect us if we were prepared to do that. The truth is that we are one of the leading Nations outside of the major powers themselves. The United States is treating us in that way, and Australia's self-respect as well as her vital defence interests in British Commonwealth would be assisted by the new proposal. No question of finance for upkeep of facilities has been raised by me, but my idea is that if Bevin agrees on the general principle we should, subject to your approval, refer the detailed terms of use for conversations amongst the technical experts, Naval or financial.

3. Frankly, I am surprised, but also delighted at the turn in the negotiations and I feel we owe a great deal to Admiral Nimitz who is a great friend of Australia.

1 On 4 July, Chifley had informed Evatt that a report on his conversations with U.S. service officers had been referred to the Defence Committee for comment.

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