3 Discussions on Asia with Representatives of the United
Kingdom and new Zealand
Canberra, 11 November 1949
Following the conference of United Kingdom representatives in East and South East Asia at Bukit Serene, Johore, on 2–3rd November, Mr. M.E. Dening, Assistant Under Secretary in charge of Far Eastern affairs at the United Kingdom Foreign Office, paid a b rief visit to Australia, at the invitation of the Australian Government, to discuss problems affecting the region of East and South East Asia in the light of the conclusions reached at Bukit Serene. The value of having the New Zealand Government associated in any such discussions was immediately apparent, and arrangements were made for Mr. A.D. McIntosh, Secretary of the New Zealand Department of External Affairs, to visit Australia at the same time. In order to have available up-to-date and first hand information on developments throughout the region, Australian representatives in Japan, China, Philippines, Thailand, Malaya and Indonesia were also recalled to Australia.
The discussions opened at Canberra on 1Oth November with an all-day session under the Chairmanship of Dr. Evatt, Minister for External Affairs. It was understood from the outset that no commitments were involved, and that the sole purpose was an informal exchange of views on the situation throughout the various countries of the region and problems likely to arise therefrom. At the first session attention was devoted mainly to Japan and China.
Views were exchanged on the question whether any basis exists at the present for close cooperation among countries in South East Asia through some form of regional pact or association. The meeting debated whether a regional organisation of the kind envisaged on the one hand by the New Delhi conference on Indonesia of January this year, or on the other hand by President Quirino of the Philippines,1 might provide a firm foundation for co-operation and joint action for defensive, political, economic, cultural or other purposes.
The discussion was inconclusive; on the one hand it was considered that the New Delhi conference had shown a remarkable degree of unity among the countries represented, but on the other hand it was held that mutual suspicions among countries of the region were deep-seated and must be eradicated before much real political co-operation could be expected. The first objective should be the establishment of economic co-operation. Mr. McIntosh made it clear that the New Zealand Government was reluctant to enter into any commitment which would involve New Zealand directly in the affairs of South East Asia.
[NAA: A1838, 532/5/1]