43 Letter From Williams to Fadden

Letter, Canberra, 8 February 1951


I have been asked by my Government to say that they have received through the United Kingdom Ambassador in Washington a general outline of a regional arrangement that the United States has in mind to meet the security requirements of Australia and New Zealand and which it is understood is to be discussed with the Australian and New Zealand authorities by Mr. Dulles during his visit to Canberra next week.

2. The Prime Minister will be fully aware from the discussions which took place at the recent Prime Ministers' meetings[1] of the strategic plans for the defence of the Middle East, which the United States regard as a Commonwealth responsibility, and of the vital importance of Australian and New Zealand reinforcements for this purpose. In the interests of global strategy it is of great importance that Australia and New Zealand should be able and willing to send forces to the Middle East in case of need and that they should be prepared to accept the need for a restricted measure of Japanese rearmament. The United Kingdom Government recognise that for both these purposes Australia and New Zealand feel the need for assurances in the Pacific area. It is, in the view of the United Kingdom Government, a question of finding the best means of providing these assurances and they have grave doubts about the desirability of the present United States proposals from this point of view.

3. As regards Japanese rearmament, the views of the United Kingdom Government are as generally set out in the Memorandum on the Japanese Peace Treaty circulated by the United Kingdom Government to the Meeting of Prime Ministers as P.M.M. (51)5 - copies of which will be in the possession of the Australian authorities - and their views have been conveyed to Mr. Dulles.

4. Certain difficulties which the United Kingdom Government see in connection with Mr. Dulles' proposals are referred to in a paper by the United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff, a copy of which has already been communicated to the Australian authorities. These difficulties are dealt with more fully in the following paragraph.

5. In the view of the United Kingdom Government (a) A declaration of the kind proposed would equate an attack on Japan with an attack on Australia or New Zealand and involve the commitment of Australian and New Zealand forces for Japanese defence. It would thus cut across Australian and New Zealand commitments to the Middle East.

(b) It is very doubtful whether such a declaration could in practice both provide for the inter-dependence and mutual assistance of the countries of the group and at the same time provide against an attack by one member (Japan) on [another] Australia or New Zealand.

(c) Indonesia's adherence to the Dulles' plan is [considered] unlikely.[2]

(d) The conclusion of a pact or declaration confined to the 'island chain' might have serious repercussions in countries not included, particularly in South-East Asia. The will to resist in Indo-China, Siam and Malaya might be gravely affected. The United Kingdom Government is particularly anxious that whatever arrangement may emerge from these discussions with Mr. Dulles should not be in such a form as to lead the populations of Hong Kong and Malaya to fear that the United Kingdom might be disinteresting itself in their defence. This effect would be intensified if contrary to expectations Indonesia were included in the pact. It would be highly dangerous to give the French any impression of a betrayal as regards Indo-China. All this might both increase the threat in South-East Asia and leave defences there and south eastward through Malaya to Australia weakened.

(e) It is necessary to keep in mind the long-term desirability of a pact or system of pacts including the countries of South-East Asia and ultimately India, Pakistan and Ceylon. This is not at present a practical proposition but the United Kingdom Government are anxious to avoid any development which would make progress towards it more difficult.

(f) A 'white man's pact' on the lines contemplated would operate against the efforts to secure closer co-operation from India, Pakistan and Ceylon in South-East Asia which is what is now being attempted through the Colombo Plan.

(g) It does not appear to be contemplated that the declaration should apply to United Kingdom islands such as Fiji, and those of Western Pacific High Commission. Their inclusion would not help in relation to the above difficulties but their exclusion would be equally difficult.

6. As regards the participation of the United Kingdom, the general consideration is as pointed out in the Chiefs of Staff papers that from the point of view of her position as a world power the proposal would be interpreted in the Pacific and elsewhere as a renunciation of her responsibilities and possibly as evidence of a rift in policy between the United Kingdom and the United States. Such a development could not be welcome either to the Commonwealth or the United States.

7. In communicating to you the above observations I have been asked to add that the difficulties foreseen would, as it seems to the United Kingdom Government, directly affect the interests of Australia and New Zealand as much as of the United Kingdom. My Government therefore express the hope that the Australian and New Zealand Governments may be able to proceed cautiously and not commit themselves until there has been an opportunity for further consultation between our Governments. They hope that the Australian Government will agree with their appreciation of the difficulties and that if so they will make the above points strongly in discussion with Mr. Dulles. The United Kingdom Government, of course, fully recognise that Australia and New Zealand need safeguards but they wonder whether for their purpose a simpler solution, which would avoid the major difficulties, might be a United States declaration at the Governmental (and not the planning) level in effect guaranteeing the sea approaches to Australia and New Zealand on the lines of that already given at the military level and referred to in Mr. Garnett's letter of 14th December (your reference E337/1/11.)[3]

8. As the Australian authorities will be aware Sir Esler Dening will be in Canberra during Mr. Dulles' visit and the United Kingdom Government would greatly appreciate it if should the Australian Government see no objection both Sir Esler and myself could be kept informed as to the progress of the discussions with Mr. Dulles.

9. A communication similar to the above has been addressed by the United Kingdom High Commissioner in New Zealand to the New Zealand Government.

1 The British Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference (see note 1 to Document 31).

2 Words in square brackets were added by hand.

3 Garnett's letter has not been located. W. J. Garnett, Deputy UK High Commissioner in Australia.

[NAA : A6768, EATS 77, i]