Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State

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Lord Halifax called this morning at his request.

The Ambassador said that he had had a message from Bevin19 with regard to the questions which had been discussed in London about bases.

Lord Halifax said that the Secretary was no doubt familiar with Bevin’s views, but what Bevin would like now to suggest is that the talks should begin any time the Secretary wished. Bevin thought that these talks should be regarded as preliminary and informal and that they should be concerned with technical considerations on a military level.

The Ambassador said that the purpose of this discussion was to clear up a number of things before any progress could be made on larger issues. Bevin would therefore like to have the preliminary military examination in regard to the Pacific bases disposed of. A great deal of the work would deal with the military phase of the question, and he thought that this would be the most profitable and best way to begin.

The Secretary said that he was going to fix a time to talk with the Army and Navy people. He wanted to try to make them revise their views about bases to see if we couldn’t make further reductions.

The Secretary said that these bases cost too much money to maintain and that it would be useless to maintain bases this year and then have Congress cut down on funds the following year.

The Secretary said that any time after the middle of next week he would be prepared to talk with whomever the British wish. He said he agreed with the Ambassador that it was important that we get busy on this matter and reach an agreement and do something about securing these bases.

The Ambassador said that once these discussions were finished, information would be available for higher-level talks in San Francisco.

The Secretary said that Fraser had mentioned something about a meeting at San Francisco. The Secretary went on to say that, as he had told Fraser, he thought it would be much better not to have a formal meeting since it would only serve to create a lot of talk. Since Fraser had stated they were in substantial agreement now, it would be useless for New Zealand to be bothered further, and the agreement they have now could be used as a pattern for the Australian agreement. Fraser expected to talk with the Australians about an agreement when he returned.

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The Ambassador stated that there was some division of opinion between Fraser and Evatt. Evatt, of course, was very keen about getting all these matters taken care of in a conference in Canada—he did not want the talks here. He said that Evatt had been told that they were prepared to talk with Fraser and us and also have his people sit in on the technical and military discussions. He went on to say that the idea was to get the Australians gradually in on the general planning of the matter.

The Secretary replied that Manus was the only place in which the Australians were interested. He said that the reason we were interested in it was because we had spent $156,000,000 on it. Because we were interested in it when we were at war with Japan, however, does not mean it is so essential now unless we expect another war with Japan.

The Secretary said he wanted our military people to look at the islands. We do not want to try to maintain anything more than is absolutely essential for defense purposes. Once the matter has been discussed with the military, we can then determine how we will go about it.

The Secretary reiterated that he did not think it would be wise to send representatives to San Francisco for a meeting. The Ambassador agreed that this would be too conspicuous.

The Ambassador said that it would be useful to let Fraser’s people sit in with our military because they were interested in the whole setup, and leave the Australians out of the discussion since they wanted to be left out anyhow. He added that Bevin wanted to let the New Zealanders sit in because they were willing to come along with the British in these talks. This was a help to them in view of Evatt’s attitude.

The Ambassador concluded by saying he would advise his Government that we would be ready to have the talks any time after the middle of next week.

  1. Ernest Bevin, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.