62 Letter From Spender to Menzies

Letter, Canberra, 15 March 1951


Pacific Security Arrangements As I interpret the message[1] from Gordon Walker to you of 14th March, 1951, United Kingdom Government agrees to support completion of a security arrangement in the Pacific along the lines of the tripartite pact[2] drafted in Canberra during the Dulles talks. Strong objection, however, is now raised to the completion of a quadripartite pact including the Philippines. The first objection is a repetition of the argument levelled against the original 'island chain' proposal of Dulles, which would have included Japan and possibly Indonesia, that conclusion of a pact will prejudice the position of countries excluded from the pact. My view is that such an argument is unsound. The Philippines is regarded by the whole of Asia as already in the American camp. It is known that any attack upon the Philippines will automatically bring about war between the attacking country and the United States because American forces are stationed there. Secondly, I fail to understand the argument that a quadripartite pact including the Philippines is open to objection because it might be thought that the United Kingdom was renouncing responsibility in the area. It is perfectly clear to the whole world that for some years past the United Kingdom has been restricting its interests and activities in the Pacific and in the Indian Ocean area. Again, I should have thought that, if such an argument has any validity, it would have been applicable in respect of a tripartite pact as well as a quadripartite pact.

I feel, therefore, that, while Australia and New Zealand should still do their best to give effect to the United Kingdom point of view by endeavouring to secure a tripartite pact, a decision should be taken by us immediately that such an attitude will not be pursued to the point of endangering in any way completion of a quadripartite pact, if the United States insists on the inclusion of the Philippines. In this connection, I draw your attention to the text of a personal message[3] from Dulles which I have received to-day through the American Embassy. A copy of this message is attached hereto. There are two main points in this message. Firstly, it seems clear that the United States will insist on inclusion of the Philippines. Secondly, Dulles expresses optimism, based upon informal discussions after his return to Washington, that a security arrangement including the Philippines can in fact be completed. In these circumstances, I suggest we should indicate to New Zealand immediately that, if we fail to secure a tripartite pact, Australia will accept a quadripartite pact instead.

A draft telegram from you to Holland is attached hereto.[4] When we have consulted with New Zealand, I suggest we should both inform the United Kingdom Government of our attitude. So far as Australia is concerned, I suggest that in our eventual message to London we should make clear our disagreement with the basic views contained in Walker's message and indicate our hope that such views should not be pressed by the United Kingdom in Washington but that it should be left to New Zealand and to Australia to seek to secure a tripartite agreement. The message to London should also, I think, make it clear that it is our firm intention to secure a quadripartite pact if we fail to secure a tripartite agreement.

You will note that in paragraph 7 of Walker's message he asked for the agreement of the Australian and New Zealand Governments to the United Kingdom discussing the whole question with the United States Government. Our reply to London should, in my opinion, make it clear that the United Kingdom can be given no authority to speak in Washington on behalf of Australia. If the United Kingdom Government decides to put forward its own views in Washington, they will do this in their own name and on their own behalf without in any sense purporting to speak on behalf of Australia.

I am disturbed at the message which Harrison sent you to-day on this subject (telegram 1439 of 13th March).[5] I feel that Harrison is unconsciously reflecting a United Kingdom attitude. He does not appear to understand that it is not Australia or New Zealand which wants the Philippines included, but the United States. I cannot understand the relationship which he suggests might exist between conclusion of a quadripartite pact and the appointment of an American Admiral in charge of the Atlantic naval forces, but the chief reason for my concern is the following sentence in this cable: 'This could be used in a way which would be not only most damaging to the British Commonwealth but would strengthen the attitude held by Dulles that the Empire and the Commonwealth are out-moded and of no future value in world affairs'. No conversation which I have ever had with Dulles and no information which I have ever received from any other person in any part of the world justifies such a statement about Dulles. On the contrary, during the whole of our four day's talks in Canberra, I found him extremely sympathetic to British Commonwealth problems, particularly the problem of the use of Australian forces in the Middle East. Such an account of Dulles' views can only have been put around by some malicious person and I feel that it should immediately be discounted on the record. A draft telegram which you may care to send to Harrison in reply is attached hereto.[6]

I telephoned Doidge to-day and found that he seemed to share my own views. Nevertheless, the talks with New Zealand representatives which we had in Australia before Dulles arrived made me very conscious of the fact that New Zealand was anxious to avoid any association with any other country except Australia and the United States. I feel that New Zealand may well be receptive to United Kingdom pressure to refuse to accept a quadripartite pact and to press objections to such a point that we may fail to secure any pact whatever. In these circumstances, I have authorised Watt of my Department to leave immediately for New Zealand to discuss there the various aspects of the problem. He has given the closest attention to this subject-matter, knows all the details and is fully aware of my own views. I mentioned this tentatively to Doidge and he said that such a visit would be welcome.

1 Document 61.

2 Document 50.

3 Personal and secret message from Dulles to Spender (15 March) conveyed via the American Embassy, Canberra. Dulles advised Spender that as 'a result of our private discussions here in the State Department and with members of Congress since our return, we are convinced of the necessity of the Philippines being invited to be a party to the contemplated security arrangement from the beginning and we made this clear to Franks'.

4 Document 63.

5 Document 59.

6 Document 64.

[NAA : A6768, EATS 77, iii]