166. Telegram From the Embassy in Australia to the Department of State1

117. Department pass Defense, Army, Navy, Air and POLAD CINCPAC. Embtels 1162 and 86.3 Official Prime Minister’s department gave Embassy officer in strict confidence account first round Sandys’ talks, which took place August 19–20.

Official showed Embassy officer briefing paper prepared for Menzies by Prime Minister’s department. This stated that Sandys’ primary aims would be to obtain Australian approval for UK plans for Far East, convert UK responsibility for Malaya into Commonwealth responsibility, and get Australia increase effort in Malaya. Main advice paper gave Menzies was to avoid inferring approval UK Far East plans before they had been given careful consideration and to avoid making further commitments in Malaya without United States concurrence.

During talks, Sandys outlined UK plans for Far East and tentative force strengths, which differed from those previously given Australians in London and Singapore. He committed Sir William Dickson, Chairman British chiefs staff, to submit later proposed force strengths in writing. (Official commented that Menzies made it clear in London that Australia would not even consider increasing effort in Malaya until UK decides definitely what it prepared do. UK Ministers indicated then that Sandys would give UK intentions during trip here. In view fact force strengths outlined by Sandys still tentative, official commented that Prime Minister Menzies beginning wonder when Australia will get firm plans.)

(Only specific proposal made by Sandys was strengthen ANZAM4 by formation joint command for Malaya. This would be responsible ANZAM defense committee Melbourne, which would presumably assume primary responsibility now held by UK.) Official said Australia defense committee decided unanimously Thursday5 to [Page 374] recommend against acceptance. Committee agreed any effort now bolster ANZAM would run counter Australia desire use SEATO as primary vehicle for defense planning. Official commented that proposal previous effort convert Malaya into Commonwealth instead of UK responsibility.

(Sandys will return Canberra first part next week to conclude talks.)

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 790.5/8–2357. Secret. Repeated to Wellington, London, Kuala Lumpur, and Bangkok.
  2. In telegram 116, dated August 22, the Embassy reported on the Australian press reaction, largely favorable, to a statement by British Defense Minister Duncan Sandys that British forces in East Asia would be equipped with nuclear weapons. (Ibid., 790.5/8–2257) Sandys was in Australia during the last 2 weeks of August.
  3. Telegram 86, dated August 2, contained information on Sandys’ projected itinerary. (Ibid., 033.4143/8–257)
  4. A military group made up of the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, engaged in planning for the defense of the Western Pacific area (including Malaya). The ANZAM Defense Committee, chaired by Australia, met in Melbourne.
  5. August 22.