44 Minute From Tange to Watt

Minute, [Canberra], 8 February 1951


The Dulles Outline The following represents a rather general approach to the problems which deserve examination apart from one or two observations on Mr. McIntyre's draft submission[1] which has been read only once.

The Nature of the Commitment:

2. Australian thinking about a Pacific Pact has not gone much further than a project involving mutual obligations among the United States, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. While other countries have from time to time been mentioned, I think it is true that our assumption has been that obligations would be exchanged only among countries which have identical interests and that, in fact, a formal pact would do no more than formalise obligations which were, in any event, likely to be accepted in a crisis.

3. Inclusion of Japan and the Philippines seems to me to place the project on a different footing both strategically and politically. By 'politically' I mean primarily our position vis-a-vis Asia (and I think that this aspect is perhaps not dealt with as fully in the submission as it should be).

4. Asia probably regards Australia as being now in a political and security liaison with the United States and Western Europe for obvious historical reasons. We have not so far undertaken any commitments in Asia (although our position is becoming more definitive as the result of formal action such as the United Nations policy on China).[2] Entry by Australia into a defence pact with the United States involving only Australia, New Zealand and, possibly, the South Pacific Islands would, to my mind, merely affirm to the Asians the nature of our strategic and political position as it now stands.

5. I think we should consider the Asian attitude towards a sudden development of Australian policy towards the acceptance of military commitments to Japan and the Philippines. We engage in a defensive alliance in Asia. Against whom is this alliance organised? Although we no doubt start from the position that our main preoccupation is with Japan and, perhaps secondarily, with communist aggression, this Australian motive would not be self-evident from the nature of the proposed arrangement, which includes Japan.

6. I think we should have great misgivings about obligations to Japan. A great deal naturally depends on their nature, and that is a matter for discussion with the Americans. But, at the least, we should be required to identify ourselves with the policy that, regardless of the extent of provocation of which Japan might be guilty 5 or 10 years hence in her relations with, say, China, Australia is committed to support Japan in greater or less degree. We should perhaps have less misgivings about the Philippines. From the political point of view, I would think again that there were disadvantages in any arrangement which committed Australia (or which appeared to Asian countries to commit Australia) to stand by the Philippines Government in the face of any 'reform' movements which developed in the Philippines. But, in the case of the Philippines, it may be that its evident strategic importance to Australia is such that we are forced here and now to overcome any political 'queasiness' about supporting a government without reservation.

7. The Cabinet submission appears to imply that, if we take a firm position at the outset on Japan, we will prejudice the prospects of getting what we want from the Americans. I am inclined to differ and to believe that we should begin by stating all reasonable objections to our undertaking advance commitments in Asia at all, whether the mainland or off shore. At least this would be a basis from which to test United States motives in producing these proposals. Why is it necessary for American policy towards Japan, which we assume to be one designed to revive Japanese strength and use Japan as an outpost of American strength, to build regional machinery, involving Australia and New Zealand, for this purpose? I would have thought that it was open to the United States to make arrangements bilaterally with Japan. Is it that they want to help us, and think that inclusion of Japan in formal arrangements (which may be unnecessary) will enable them to get Congressional support for doing something for us which they could not do by an arrangement confined to the South Pacific? 8. I think we should find a basis for opposing acceptance of obligations to Japan in our traditional political and military policy: namely, that we are prepared, in time of war, to make troops available to assist in the meeting of aggression wherever it may arise consistent with the protection of our own position at home; that we realise that the threat to Australia might in future come from a source much closer to home than formerly, but that our policy would still rest on the avoidance of any formal commitments in any defined area apart from a commitment to assist the United States to the full. This argument could be supported by detailed political and military considerations.

9. If, however, we are prepared to discuss seriously the acceptance of commitments towards Japan, the nature of that commitment becomes of great importance. Consideration might be given to making any obligation upon any of the parties dependent upon a declaration by the United Nations that aggression had been committed. This would be a limitation upon our commitment to support Japan (or the Philippines) under any circumstances. It would be noted that such a limitation presupposes a policy to get a prompt declaration by the United Nations. It should not, in my opinion, limit in any way our own freedom of action to take measures consistent with our own self-defence in advance of any United Nations action, since this is provided for explicitly in the Charter.

10. These thoughts are rather hastily thrown together before going to a meeting at East Block.[3]

1 A reference to a draft of a cabinet submission by McIntyre on the forthcoming exploratory talks with Dulles on the Pacific Defence Pact.

2 Following the intervention of Chinese military forces in the Korean conflict on 28 November 1950, the UN General Assembly on 2 February 1951 ratified the US resolution condemning Chinese aggression in Korea. The voting was 44 in favour (including Australia) and 7 against, with 9 abstentions. The resolution also called for the creation of a Good Offices Committee of three to try to arrange a cease-fire in Korea, and a special Committee to study possible additional collective measures to be taken to meet aggression.

3 West Block was the Canberra office of the Department of External Affairs. East Block housed the Prime Minister's Department.

[NAA : A1838, 532/11, ii]