14. Telegram From the Embassy in the United Kingdom to the Department of State1

3581. Embtels 3110 Jan 142 and 3465 Feb 4.3 Commonwealth PriMins Conference. UKG greatly encouraged over outcome regional defense discussions for Malaya, resulting as they have in unqualified endorsement of so-called Harding4 proposals by New Zealand and somewhat more tentative endorsement by Australia. Plans based on assumption that, in event of major act of aggression by ChiComs against Southeast Asia, US will employ nuclear weapons against major Communist ports and communications centers and that therefore ChiComs will be able employ only fraction of their potential in their expansion into SE Asia. It is therefore contemplated that one over-sized “fire brigade” with supporting naval and air units will be able to deal with situation effectively. This brigade will comprise a New Zealand battalion, perhaps two Australian battalions, and the balance will be made up of UK forces; and it will have permanent station in Malaya. Supporting units will include two aircraft carriers and miscellaneous smaller vessels. It is hoped its mere presence in Malaya will act as deterrent. On basis this undertaking, New Zealand and Australia are being relieved of all responsibility for defense of Middle East.

As earnest of its willingness implement this agreement, New Zealand is transferring immediately its No. 14 fighter squadron from Cyprus to Malaya. Other contributions will be “one or two” frigates, an air transport squadron, and small unit of ground forces which will be sent to Malaya in near future for training in local terrain.

Australia will have to proceed more slowly. Before Menzies feels he is ready to introduce necessary enabling legislation, he must explore thoroughly with US. He will hope to obtain some info as to basic US planning for defense of Southeast Asia and to get some sort of commitment from US to assist Australia in procuring necessary additional military equipment. Menzies will doubtless wish discuss these problems during his visit to Washington. (Emb will tel later this month re Menzies visit.)

Both Australia and New Zealand would have hoped that portion of troops to be sent to Malaya could have been withdrawn from [Page 34] Korea, but both appreciate such a move would not be welcomed by US at this time.

Agreement was reached as well on a basis for new approach to defense planning in Middle East. Here again, assumption is US nuclear weapons will play major role in interdicting approaches to Middle East in face of massive Soviet attack southward. Considered that defense organizations in area already established or under contemplation will with aid of US–UK forces in area be able contend successfully with such Soviet forces as may break through. UK contribution is to be one mechanized division each to be stationed in Cyprus, Central African Federation and South Africa respectively which be used cope with any conceivable internal disorder in their respective areas and can be transferred quickly to Middle East in event of an emergency. Only major disappointment is South African attitude; while admitting responsibility for share in Middle East defense, South Africa has refused commit itself in any concrete or practical manner.

Planning in both Middle East and Southeast Asia is based on assumption that major UK ports will be put out of commission by Soviet nuclear weapons in early hours of any major war and British and Allied forces in Middle East and Southeast Asia will have to be deprived for indefinite period of logistical support from UK. At appropriate time UK will wish approach Dept with regard to these problems, explain in detail its planning for Middle East and Southeast Asia, and solicit comment.

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 60 D 627, CF 427. Top Secret; Limit Distribution.
  2. Not printed. (Ibid., Central Files, 790.5/1–1455)
  3. Not printed. (Ibid., 741.13/2–455)
  4. Field Marshal Sir John Harding, Chief of the British Imperial General Staff.