890.0146/2–2046: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant) to the Secretary of State

top secret
us urgent

2090. McIntosh of New Zealand4 has wished to discuss Pacific Islands with Dunn5 preparatory to conversations which he and Prime [Page 2]Minister Fraser expect to have with Dept this coming Saturday6 or Monday. Arrangements had been made Monday and again yesterday for Dunn to meet McIntosh at Colonial Office but Dunn was unable to keep either appointment owing to meetings of Deputies. Yesterday he asked Allison7 and Achilles8 to substitute for him. Meeting was held in Gater’s9 office. McIntosh, Mason of Foreign Office, and Robinson of Dominions Office were present. Gater began by saying he was not empowered to discuss our claims to sovereignty of disputed islands but that British Government would appreciate clarification concerning what we had in mind and why we had broached the matter at this particular time.

We replied that Dept had long had in mind seeking at appropriate time mutually satisfactory agreement concerning these American islands to which the British also asserted claim, that before the war the Dept had tentatively suggested discussions but had met the British desire that discussion be postponed until after the war since no question had arisen as to use of the islands for war purposes. Now that the war was over and active consideration was being given to security requirements in the Pacific area it seemed appropriate to seek a solution.

Gater inquired whether our interest arose solely from security point of view. If so, he felt that satisfactory arrangements could be made for these as well as other islands if the question of sovereignty were not raised. We replied that the principle importance of the islands was undoubtedly strategic, although they might possibly have some use in connection with civil aviation, but that the question of sovereignty remained to be determined since both Governments claimed it.

Gater remarked that he considered the British claim unassailable and that an American claim to the islands came as somewhat of a surprise.

He inquired as to the basis of our claims. We replied that we were not empowered to discuss the merits of the case but that full information on the American position would undoubtedly be given in the Washington talks.

McIntosh stated that American claims to the seven islands under New Zealand administration had come as a surprise to them, particularly that with respect to the Cook Islands which they considered an integral part of New Zealand. He hoped that a full statement of the basis for our claims would be given Mr. Fraser in Washington this [Page 3]weekend. He also expressed hope that we would this weekend furnish as specific information as possible as to our wishes in regard to a base in Samoa, as this would affect the trusteeship arrangement for Samoa on which the New Zealand Government was working, and which it hoped to lay before the Assembly in September. New Zealand would prefer to have the Samoa trusteeship arrangement come under the Trusteeship Council rather than the Security Council.

Gater again stated that if the question of sovereignty were not raised it should be easier to reach a mutually satisfactory security arrangement. We again replied that we of course had no authority even to discuss the waiving of claims to American territory.

Mason indicated that the UK Government were not yet prepared to discuss either the question of sovereignty over the disputed islands or bases elsewhere in the Pacific with US, but that they hoped to be shortly. Gater indicated that it would be difficult for them to discuss the question of sovereignty unless they knew in advance the basis for our claims.

It is hoped that the Dept will be in a position to hold discussions with Fraser and McIntosh on February 23 or 25. They will not be accompanied by military advisers. They would appreciate a definite appointment being made and the New Zealand Legation being advised.

  1. A. D. McIntosh, Secretary for External Affairs.
  2. James Clement Dunn, Assistant Secretary of State and Deputy for the Secretary of State at the Council of Foreign Ministers at London.
  3. February 23.
  4. John Moore Allison, First Secretary of Embassy in the United Kingdom.
  5. Theodore C. Achilles, First Secretary of Embassy in the United Kingdom.
  6. George Gater, Permanent Under Secretary of State in the British Colonial Office.