740.0011 P. W./201

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State

The Minister of Australia called at his request. Before he proceeded to say anything, I undertook to make oral reply to the recent suggestion of the British Ambassador and the Australian Minister87 that our three countries, jointly or on parallel lines, broadcast a statement of views relative to our respective interests in the Pacific area, warning Japan that we are closely observing developments and giving every attention to our rights and interests and otherwise disposed to protect them, et cetera, et cetera. I said that my present general view is that at this stage actions rather than words are decidedly more important; and I referred to my statement some months ago to the effect that, if the Japanese raised a question of special economic relations with the Netherlands East Indies, this would not only interfere with American rights and interests, but would raise the question of peace throughout the Pacific area. Since that time public conferences often held here between the British Ambassador, the Australian Minister and myself, and always widely broadcast to the Far East as well as other parts of the world, together with regular statements to Japanese representatives located here reminding them of our concern for the safety and protection of Americans and American interests in the Far East, are it seems to me amply sufficient so far as words are concerned.88 Speaking in very strict confidence, a message was recently sent to Matsuoka from London and he took advantage of it to shout loud threatening words in reply. I said that the use of words or public [Page 140] statements at this time are liable to play into the hands of the fire-eating or extremist elements in Japan, which are only influenced now by definite action on the part of the British, the Australians and the United States, such as, for instance, the recent visit of American naval vessels to Australian ports. This seemed to satisfy the Minister, or at least he offered no further argument.

I inquired as to the reenforcements at Singapore, and he replied that the British were getting more airplanes in that area and the Australians were sending some troops there. He said that Mr. Willkie89 had been unable to accept their invitation to visit Australia and Singapore, and inquired whether I had any other suggestion in mind. I replied that, unfortunately, I did not have at the moment.

The Minister then inquired whether it was in the minds of the Administration, with reference to patrolling the seven seas, actually to do patrolling in the Pacific. I replied that each of the seven seas was, of course, referred to in this connection by the President. I said that we should bear in mind that the primary purpose in patrolling the Atlantic is due to the fact that German naval vessels and airplanes are undertaking to attack and destroy British vessels and shipping and the British forces, whereas in the Pacific there is no such evident movement of force at this stage, and that, therefore, the patrolling question might not become acute in that area either from our standpoint or that of any unfriendly country. This seemed to satisfy the Minister.

C[ordell] H[ull]
  1. See memorandum by the Secretary of State, April 22, p. 136.
  2. The Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs (Hamilton) suggested in a memorandum of May 1 that this oral reply by the Secretary of State to the Australian Minister (Casey) obviated the necessity for individual replies to the British Ambassador and the Netherland Minister on the same subject, as it could be assumed that Mr. Casey would inform them of the “substance of the Secretary’s comments.” (740.0011 P.W./213).
  3. Wendell L. Willkie, Republican candidate for President in 1940.