HC Deb 25 July 1941 vol 373 cc1169-71
The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)

I ask the leave of the House to make a brief statement on recent developments in Indo-China.

The Japanese Government have presented demands to the Vichy Government for the occupation of naval and air bases in Southern Indo-China. Although there is as yet no official news of the conclusion of a definite agreement between the Japanese and Vichy Governments, or of the occupation of further bases by Japanese forces, it is quite evident that both these events are imminent. That this new aggression was meditated by Japan has been clear for some time past. I made allusion two days ago to the cloud of accusations against the authorities in Indo-China and allegations that it was the intention of Great Britain to make an attack on Indo-China, not to mention other assertions of an equally baseless character. Propaganda of this kind is the customary prelude to a fresh act of violence by the Axis and their associates. In the present case the fact that the occupation of bases in Southern Indo-China is talking place with the consent of Vichy does not obscure the fact that Japan has achieved her object by making demands backed by threats of force if they were not complied with. The miserable plight of the Vichy Government in the face of these demands provides one further example of the blessings of collaboration with the Axis. To the sorry tale of humiliation to which the Vichy Government have subjected the French people is added the new indignity of having to accept the so-called protection of Japan against a threat which, as everyone knows, does not exist.

His Majesty's Government regard these developments as a potential threat to their own territories and interests in the Far East. In anticipation of them, His Majesty's Government have been in close communication with the United States Government, the Government of the Netherlands, and of course, with His Majesty's Governments in the Dominions. The attitude of the United States has been publicly announced in no uncertain terms by the Acting Secretary of State, and I am sure that the House will join me in welcoming that timely and salutary statement.

I do not propose to-day to give an account of the measures which His Majesty's Government have prepared to meet these and other possible developments. I will give the House further information at an early date, but I can state at once that certain defence measures in Malaya have already been enforced in view of the plain threat to our territories which the Japanese action implies.

Mr. Pethick-Lawrence

The right hon. Gentleman did not mention anything about any collaboration with the Chinese Government. Has he anything to say with regard to that?

Mr. Eden

I do not think I can add to what I have already said.

Mr. Thorne

Will the interests of South Africa be affected in any way?

Mr. Eden

I think that would be for the South African Government to decide, but the direct threat is obviously to territories much nearer to Indo-China.

Mr. Maxton

Are we to understand from the right hon. Gentleman's reply to the right hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) that although the Dominions and other Governments have been consulted, China has not been consulted in this matter?

Mr. Eden

I am obliged to my hon. Friend. My statement was not intended to be exclusive at all.

Sir Henry Morris-Jones

May I ask whether it is possible to have a joint declaration on behalf of the British Commonwealth of Nations, the United States of America, the Netherlands East Indies and China that they would not tolerate any further aggressive steps by Japan? Would not that in itself be a deterrent?

Mr. Eden

Obviously that goes beyond my competence to say.

Mr. Benson

Why cannot we have a straight reply to the question whether China was or was not consulted?

Mr. Eden

We have, of course, diplomatic contacts with China the whole time. These particular measures which I have in mind and which I do not want to announce to-day do concern other Governments. That is the point.

Mr. Gordon Macdonald

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether our attitude to China remains what it has been?

Mr. Eden

Certainly; I have said that many times, and I am only too glad to repeat it.

Mr. Maxton

The right hon. Gentleman referred to consultations with the Dominions. Does he include India?

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir.