790.5/9–854: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Embassy in Australia 1

top secret

[Unnumbered.] Eyes only Ambassador. Please immediately deliver following personal message to Prime Minister.2

My good friend: We have just concluded signing of the Southeast Asia mutual defense treaty. This act will I believe have great positive value particularly if we see it through. Certainly failure to have concluded the treaty would have endangered us all by exposing weakness and indecision.

I realize that your government felt towards the end that certain issues were involved which would have made it easier for you if the signing had been delayed or if your Foreign Minister had signed with formal reservation. I felt bound to tell Casey that either course would in my opinion have had the gravest consequences. I am personally under the greatest pressure to return to the critical European scene and must leave early tomorrow morning. Therefore, delay was out of the question, if the whole project were not to be abandoned. The making of a formal reservation at this late [Page 900] stage would have led every delegation to reconsider its position and this too would have jeopardized the treaty. We had only with the greatest difficulty persuaded the Philippine Government not to make such a reservation and had to secure the intervention of President Magsaysay to that end. Our principal argument was that if the Philippines started, Australia would follow and that would jeopardize the treaty. You can see in face of this situation that neither delay nor formal reservation was practical and consistent with the great purpose we jointly try to serve.

Casey did make a statement concurrently with this act which I think amply protects the position of your government and will enable you without any breach of faith to others to consider your position on the particular issue of non-Communist aggression. I hope however, that you will decide against making such a reservation. The position of the United States is different and has been made clear from the beginning because we ourselves are not territorially a part of the area. But I am bound to say that if some of the countries of the area make the reservation others will feel that the treaty loses much of its value to them and the ultimate result might still be very grave. The United States has of course, made clear that in the event of non-Communist aggression we would join in consultation to decide on action and I believe that, practically, we are in the same boat3 even though our remoteness from the scene makes it impossible for us honestly to say that non-Communist aggression would be a danger to the peace and security of the United States.

  1. Repeated to the Department of State as Dulte 21. The source text is the Department’s central file copy.
  2. See the telegram infra regarding the background of this message.
  3. In telegram 101 from Canberra, Sept. 13, the Embassy indicated that due to an error, the word “position” was substituted for “boat” in the message as given to Menzies. (396.1 MA/9–1354)