I conveyed to Addison yesterday the points made in your 183 and 186 and this morning talked to McNeil, once more emphasising the advantages to be gained by holding Commonwealth meeting in Australia and the importance to the Commonwealth as a whole of building up Australian prestige in the eyes of the Asiatics.
2. McNeil said he saw the force of our arguments and would be glad to visit Australia. As he saw it, however, there were two main objectives. The first was to try to reach agreement within the Commonwealth on procedural questions before conferring with the United States. The second was to recognise Australia's special interest in the Japanese settlement and in the Pacific generally.
He feared that neither of these objectives would be gained from anything but a conference on Ministerial level. Decisions could not be made by officials and Australian prestige might suffer rather than benefit if delegates were not of sufficiently high rank.
3. Therefore, of the following three courses, he favoured the second.
(a) A conference in Canberra about July on the official level which he could probably attend.
(b) A conference in Canberra of senior Ministers, including Addison and himself, beginning the end of the second week in August.
(c) A conference of senior Ministers in London.
[4.] With regard to (b) McNeil said the United Kingdom would be prepared to urge the Canadian and South African Governments to send suitable Ministers to Canberra, but they would first like to ascertain whether this plan meets with the approval of the Australian Government.
5. When I pointed out the danger of the United States taking the initiative from us, McNeil replied that Inverchapel had recently told the State Department we wanted to hold British Commonwealth talks and asked that United States authorities should meanwhile refrain from committing themselves to any definite procedural proposals. I am told the State Department have agreed to this request, but have asked that publicity in connection with the Commonwealth meeting be avoided as far as possible.
6. Regarding a subsequent International Conference, the Foreign Office do not wish to see the Far Eastern Commission become a peace making body or be connected with the Peace Conference. What they are contemplating is that it might be suggested to the United States Government that they address invitations to the Peace Conference to the eleven countries, members of the Far Eastern Commission. McNeil said the purpose of this was to avoid any suggestion that the Japanese settlement be prepared by the Big Four.
7. Addison and McNeil would in my view be able to visit Australia, but I am afraid their difficulties at this end might prevent either both or one of them making the trip earlier. McNeil, whilst anxious to go, feels that a senior Minister, like Addison, should be there and that is why I strongly recommend that you telegraph agreeing to August meeting. If you do I feel that the United Kingdom will press both Canada and South Africa to be represented on the same level.