457. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Robertson) to the Secretary of State1


  • Imminent Political Crisis in Singapore: Recommendations

We have informed the British in Singapore that should they find it necessary to revoke Singapore’s constitution, we would probably endorse their action as a last resort (Deptel to Karachi Tosec 29, Tab A2). For the reasons given below, we believe our view should now be emphasized by repeating it to the British here and in London.

Already this year there have been two serious outbreaks of communist violence in Singapore. The impending conjuncture of three anticipated developments points up the increased possibility of further violence in the near future: (1) a mass labor demonstration is set for May 1; (2) May 12 is the anniversary of last year’s serious riots which resulted in the death, among others, of an American newspaperman; and (3) the British are committed to holding talks with the Singaporeans in London beginning April 23 with regard to possible further steps toward self-government for Singapore.

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The British will be reluctant to make sweeping concessions in April because of the political weakness of the Singapore moderates; if, however, they do not make substantial concessions they will provide the strong pro-communist groups with political ammunition.

A communist bid for power may, therefore, come at an early date. If so, the British may soon be forced to consider the desirability of revoking the Singapore constitution. We would doubtless then be forced to make our own position clear.

We should, therefore, act now to place ourselves in as favorable and clear a position as possible.


That FE inform the British Embassy (Sir Hubert Graves) of our agreed tentative position on endorsement of a return to direct British rule of Singapore (Tab B3).
That Embassy London similarly inform the U.K. Foreign Office.4
That the Secretary, during his April 4 conversation with the Australian Ambassador, express our concern over developments in Singapore. (Briefing paper being prepared.)5
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 746F.00/3–3056. Secret. Drafted by Kocher and Smith.
  2. In Tosec 29 to Karachi, March 7, the Secretary was informed that the Consulate General at Singapore had informed British officials there that the United States would support a British decision to revoke the constitution of Singapore should such an extreme measure become necessary. (Ibid., 746F.00/3–556)
  3. Tab B was the memorandum of conversation of March 13, Document 455.
  4. There is no indication in Department of State files that recommendations 1 and 2 were implemented.
  5. A handwritten notation by the Secretary at the end of the source text reads: “Reconsider after hearing from Australia”. The briefing paper cited has not been found in Department of State files. A memorandum of the Secretary’s conversation with Australian Ambassador Spender is Infra.