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1 Evatt to Chifley

Cablegram 887 WASHINGTON, 1 July 1946, 1.38 a.m.


Your telegram A71. [1]

1. Thank you for your telegram A71 on Pacific Bases.

2. I have at Byrnes' suggestion discussed bases problem with Acheson (Acting Secretary of State) and other officials of the State Department and with high United States Service officials including Admiral Nimitz, United States Navy Chief.

3. As was pointed out to us at London Conference the United States Government is very disinclined to consider at present the assumption of specific Defence obligations covering the South-West Pacific.

4. My strong impression is that the United States desire the use of facilities at Manus although it is intended that Guam will become their main Western Pacific Naval Base.

5. The essential feature of our approach to the problem has been to associate the use of Manus with other bases and territories in the South West Pacific Region and to see that if United States gets the use of facilities they will be required in return to give us definite and tangible benefits of a Defence character.

6. Therefore when it was again emphasised by their officials that to get the United States to enter into specific Defence obligations would be practically impossible from a political point of view, I suggested by way of possible alternative, for informal consideration only, a plan which would provide for the use by Australia of United States base facilities (the bases to be specified) as well as the use by the United States of base facilities (the bases to be specified and to include Manus).

7. Under this proposal if for instance we were at liberty to use United States facilities in Guam that would, from our point of view, at least compensate for their use of facilities at Manus, particularly as they created the facilities at Manus. The particular facilities and bases would have to be selected after conversations between Service Authorities. Further they would have no administrative or other control over Manus.

8. From Australia's point of view such an alternative plan would be based on Reciprocity and could properly be regarded as a practical regional arrangement as paragraph 2 of your telegram indicates. It could also lead to assumption of definite obligations at a later period. In some respects the arrangement would be more satisfactory than a mere undertaking to co-operate in resisting aggression in the South West Pacific area. The latter undertaking is implied in the United Nations Charter whereas the alternative plan is a visible manifestation of long-term Defence association for mutual benefit without any suggestion whatever of interference with Australian sovereignty.

9. Admiral Nimitz seemed receptive to, and even attracted by, this alternative approach. He emphasised the need for care and patience in working out any plan as it would not be wise politically to place too great an emphasis on future United States Defence obligations, particularly in the early stages of the United Nations Charter. But he was undoubtedly inclined to recommend some arrangement for the mutual use of prescribed bases and their facilities as being businesslike and at the same time justifiable and as implying effective continuation of wartime cooperation between United States and Australia. He repeatedly said that our two countries would always work together and that the alternative plan would, in effect, be notice to any aggressor that we would act together.

10. As you know, Nimitz was the great Naval Leader of the United States in the Pacific War and I have the greatest admiration for his achievements which parallel those of MacArthur. He is extremely friendly to Australia.

11. If such an alternative plan were approved in principle as to which, of course, Nimitz could give no definite assurance, Nimitz said that staff conversations could follow as to selection of bases and the detailed terms of use of facilities.

12. Of course, as your paragraph 3 implies, the United Kingdom and New Zealand would have to participate in the plan. Nash has not yet arrived in Washington but I have kept the United Kingdom Ambassador [2] and the New Zealand Minister [3] informed generally.

13. In reply to your paragraph 5, the door is still quite open. My strong impression is that Nimitz will do his utmost to recommend an arrangement for the mutual use of base facilities particularly if in the initial stages the area covered is not too extensive and the bases involved are not too numerous.

14. (A) For your personal information the publication in Canberra and repetition here of the story of a Regional Defence Conference at Canberra covering all Pacific countries is at present embarrassing to the United States. It is also embarrassing to Australia as the United States has to issue some sort of denial as there is no Conference proposed at present. [4]

(B) Premature publication of the negotiations would also be prejudicial.

(C) Byrnes' absence in Paris makes difficult any definite statement by the United States Government.

15. Subject to your endorsement am hopeful, though not overconfident, of getting some approval in principle to the plan, leaving it to the Service authorities to proceed with all details by way of further conversations which necessarily would take a considerable time.

1 Volume IX, Document 332.

2 Lord Halifax.

3 Carl Berendsen.

4 Presumably a reference to newspaper reports of Chifley's speech of 19 June in the Australian Parliament on the Commonwealth Prime Ministers Meeting in London. He said that Australia's contribution to British Commonwealth defence 'could best be done in the Pacific, and that a common scheme of defence should be agreement between the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, thereafter with the United States, and later with other possessions in the area'. On 26 June, the Canberra Times carried a New York Times report that the United States had rejected any such agreement.

[AA:A6494 T1, SPTS/1/5]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History