214 Embassy in Washington to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 1641 WASHINGTON, 16 December 1947, 5.46 p.m.

SECRET

Your 1389 and 1408.

1. Following is substance of information obtained by Plimsoll chiefly in conversation with Richards [1] of State Department.

2. United States of America has been pressing United Kingdom for over a year on Canton etc. United Kingdom has stalled on ground that matter is not urgent compared with other world problems and that full account must be given of Australian and New Zealand views and interests.

3. State Department feels that the most important point is for United Kingdom to recognise United States of America sovereignty of Canton, Enderbury and Christmas Islands, to which United States of America maintains their title is clear. Richards indicated that as last resort if agreement appeared unattainable United States of America might agree to let present agreement on Canton and Enderbury run on unchanged for the present since there were still 42 years to go. But no such agreement existed as to Christmas and was urgently needed. United States of America wanted final settlement now on all three islands because difficulties were consistently arising, e.g. on fishing rights, native immigration, legal jurisdiction over residents, nationality of residents.

United States of America at present was raising question of these three islands [alone, but] [2] if United Kingdom wished to extend discussions to cover other Pacific islands such as Funafuti, United States of America would be prepared to take part in such discussions and to incorporate results in final agreement.

However, United States of America would not discuss regional security arrangements in connection with the settlement for these three islands. In regard to [many] minor [islands] whose sovereignty was at present disputed, United States of America felt that it was immaterial to whom they were awarded as long as some definite decision was made. Rights to Civil and military air facilities and other rights on Canton etc., would be a matter for discussion during the negotiations, but United States of America thought that on such points there would be little diff[iculty] in obtaining agreement that would be satisfactory to all parties.

4. United States Civil Aeronautics Administration is about to spend considerable sums developing Canton and replacing coral strip with concrete or asphalt.

1 Arthur L. Richards, Assistant Chief, Division of British Commonwealth Affairs, Department of State.

2 A sign here indicates 'mutilated'. Words in square brackets have been inserted/corrected from the Washington copy on file AA:A3300 T1, 578A.

[AA: A6494 T1, 1/6]