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234 Curtin to Evatt

Cablegram L53 [1] CANBERRA, 3 July 1943


Your telegram EC.28. [2]

I have given close consideration to this question and agree generally with the reply which you have returned to the United Kingdom Government associating Australia with the general assurance that Portuguese colonial sovereignty will be maintained.

Without prejudice to any general post-war colonial settlement which may eventuate, we have no hesitation in giving this assurance as regards the Portuguese colonial empire generally, including Macao.

2. On the other hand, the present is, as you suggest, a favourable opportunity for raising the issue of the special rights which we desire as regards Timor. To my mind the success or failure of an approach now on this question will depend on the presentation of the case. We must be careful not to present it in a manner which would give the Portuguese an excuse for hesitation and delay, with consequent prejudice not only to the immediate question of the Azores, but to our ultimate plans for Timor. We should endeavour to obtain Portuguese agreement in principle now to common defence measures which may later be expanded.

3. I suggest, therefore, that the Australian assurance to the Portuguese Government be along the following lines:-

(begins) (i) The Commonwealth Government is glad to be associated with the general assurance furnished by the United Kingdom, United States and South African Governments that Portuguese sovereignty will be maintained in Portuguese colonial possessions after the war.

(ii) The maintenance of Portuguese sovereignty is of particular interest to Australia because of the proximity to its shores of Timor, in the defence of which against the Japanese invaders Australian troops have been giving their lives since December 1941, when they landed in the colony solely to forestall the imminent Japanese invasion. The Commonwealth Government notes with satisfaction the proposal that Portuguese troops be associated with the United Nations forces which will ultimately undertake the liberation of Timor.

(iii) In order to prevent future aggression against Timor and Australia, the Commonwealth Government believes that measures should be concerted for the common defence of this area. It hopes that the Portuguese Government shares this view. To this end the Commonwealth Government would welcome staff conversations between Australian and Portuguese Service authorities to discuss how this might best be effected.

(iv) In the realisation that satisfactory economic relations and development would greatly strengthen mutual defence, the Commonwealth Government also suggests that the desirability of a general commercial agreement, covering inter alia air communications between Australia and Timor, be kept closely in mind.

(v) The Commonwealth Government from time to time has informed the Portuguese Government of the barbarous and brutal treatment of its nation[al]s and its native subjects in Timor by the Japanese [3], and feels that the Portuguese Government might consider immediately the denunciation of the continued Japanese occupation and give public recognition to the Australian struggle to preserve Timor from its invaders.


4. I think you might also inform the United Kingdom Government that, if the scope of the proposed military conversations referred to in the anti-penultimate paragraph of the Aide-Memoire goes beyond immediate considerations in the Azores to general matters, the Commonwealth Government assumes that Australian special interest in Timor, both now and after the war, will receive proper consideration. [4]

1 Sent through the External Affairs Office in London.

2 See Document 233, note 1.

3 See Document 130.

4 The information Contained in paragraph 3, subparagraphs (i) to (iv), of this Cablegram was Conveyed to the Portuguese Prime Minister (Dr A. de Oliveira Salazar) on 14 September by H. L. D'A.

Hopkinson of the U.K. Embassy in Lisbon. Hopkinson reported that in reply: 'Dr. Salazar expressed the satisfaction of his Government at receiving this communication and asked that the Commonwealth Government should be informed that the Portuguese Government accepted with pleasure the idea of discussing the problems relating to common defence against possible future aggression and to the possible development of economic relations between Timor and Australia. He saw no objection in principle to an attempt to conclude a general commercial agreement, which might cover air communications between Australia and Timor.' See Hopkinson's dispatch of 14 September on file AA:A1608, Q41/1/9 and Cross's letter to Curtin of 11 October on file AA:A1608, J41/1/9, ii.

Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History