The British Embassy to the Department of State 1
The exploratory conversations held by Mr. Dulles on the subject of a Pacific Defence Council and the informal suggestions that have been made have been considered by the Cabinet.
2. The Cabinet are of the opinion that there are the following objections to the setting up of such a body or to a “declaration that there was in fact sufficient interdependence between the islands making up the chain so that an attack upon one link would be a matter of serious threat to the other links”:—
- A declaration of the kind proposed would equate an attack on Japan with an attack on Australia or New Zealand and involve the commitment of Australian and New Zealand forces for Japanese defence. It would thus cut across Australian and New Zealand commitments to Middle East.
- It is very doubtful whether such a declaration could in practice both provide for the inter-dependence and mutual assistance of the countries of the group and at same time provide against an attack by one member (Japan) on another (Australia or New Zealand).
- Indonesia’s adherence to the Dulles’ plan is considered unlikely.
- The conclusion of a pact or declaration confined to the “Island chain” might have serious repercussions in countries not included particularly in South East Asia. The will to resist in Indo-China, Siam and Malaya might be gravely affected. United Kingdom Government is particularly anxious that whatever arrangement may emerge from these discussions should not be in such a form as to lead the populations of Hongkong and Malaya to fear that United Kingdom might be disinteresting itself in their defence. This effect would be intensified if, contrary to our expectations, Indonesia were included in the pact. It would be highly dangerous to give the French any impression of a betrayal as regards Indo-China. All this might both increase the threat in South East Asia and leave defences there and south eastward through Malaya to Australia weakened.
- His Majesty’s Government want to keep in mind the long term desirability of a pact or system of pacts including the countries of South East Asia and ultimately India, Pakistan and Ceylon. This is [Page 155] not at present a practical proposition but we are anxious to avoid any development which would make progress towards it more difficult.
- A “white man’s pact” on lines contemplated would operate against our efforts to secure closer co-operation from India, Pakistan and Ceylon in South East Asia which is what we are trying to do through Colombo plan.2
- It does not appear to be contemplated that the declaration should apply to United Kingdom islands such as Fiji and those of Western Pacific High Commission. Their inclusion would not help us in relation to above difficulties but their exclusion would be equally difficult.
- It appears to have been overlooked that the United Kingdom does in fact possess territory in the island group or chain referred to—to wit, North Borneo, Brunei and Sarawak. The exclusion of the United Kingdom from any such arrangement would therefore be unacceptable.
3. In the view of His Majesty’s Government every effort should be made to find alternative means of allaying the anxieties of Australia and New Zealand, e.g. by a United States guarantee of their security in war.
4. His Majesty’s Government would be grateful for a fuller expose of the informal suggestion for a tripartite pact—United States, Australia and New Zealand—on the basis of which each would go to the aid of the others in the case of hostilities occurring which would affect the interests in the Pacific of any one of the parties.
- This note was delivered on the 14th of February by H. A. Graves, Counselor of the British Embassy. The memorandum by Mr. Emmerson of the conversation held on that occasion is not printed. (790.5/2–1451)↩
- For documentation concerning the interest of the United States in the Colombo Plan, see pp. 1 ff.↩