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3. Movement Toward an Alliance

The early years of the post-war Australian-New Zealand-American relationship were often frostier than cordial. Yet, after several rapid international changes during 1949 and 1950—such as the Soviet Blockade of Berlin and its first successful test of an atomic bomb; Mao’s Zedong Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War; and the outbreak of the Korean War—Australian, New Zealand and American interests began to coincide more closely. Against this backdrop the United States began seriously to consider the idea of a defence pact with Australia and New Zealand, an idea first proposed by Australian diplomats. Under a new Australian External Affairs Minister, Percy Spender, Canberra pushed for a binding commitment with the United States. Spender’s New Zealand counterpart Frederick Doidge initially thought along similar lines, although this was a minority view in Wellington. Most other New Zealand diplomats and military officers did not want a formal commitment with the United States. Across the Pacific, policymakers in Washington refused to consider the idea of a Pacific Pact until the outbreak of the Korean War, which made obtaining Australian and New Zealand support for a speedy peace settlement in Japan highly valuable, and the State Department reasoned that concluding a defence pact with the Australia and New Zealand was a practical trade-off.

Under the Ben Chifley Government (1945-1949), one of Australia’s primary foreign policy objectives was to secure a formal defence pact with the United States. This plan was spearheaded by Australian External Affairs Minister Herbert Evatt. A regional defence scheme had always been Evatt’s “pet plan”, as John Minter, the US Chargé in Canberra, commented as far back as 1946. He wanted to “keep the United States and Australia in the closest association”, Minter noted, adding that Evatt proposed a regional pact not once but “many times.”1 Across the Tasman, New Zealand policymakers did not share Evatt’s views on a formal defence arrangement with the United States. On 6 July 1948, New Zealand Prime Minister Peter Fraser thought that a regional pact would only “effectively contribute to our security” if Britain was a member. A pact would only develop “if the need arose” for New Zealand, Fraser announced in January 1949. In his view, that need “had not yet arisen.”2

In any case, the State Department was unconvinced by Australian arguments for any kind of regional defence scheme. In a bid both to reassure Western Europe that the US remained committed to NATO and to deter unwanted pressure for a pact in the Asia-Pacific region, Secretary of State Dean Acheson dismissed a NATO-type pact in the Pacific. “While [NATO] does not mean any lessening of our interest in the security of other areas”, Acheson announced at a press conference on 18 May 1949, “the United States is not currently considering participation in any further special collective defence arrangements.” In his view, NATO was the product of a “solid foundation” of defence collaboration with Western Europe, whereas no such foundation existed in Asia and the Pacific. Yet beyond any foundation for a defence partnership in the region, Acheson feared that if the United States committed to a defence treaty in Asia and the Pacific it might overextend US forces into areas that were not primary interests (such as the long-simmering conflicts in Indochina, Malaya and Indonesia). “A Pacific Pact could not take shape until present internal conflicts in Asia were resolved”, Acheson said. He simply thought that “the time was not ripe for a pact.”3

The time for a regional defence arrangement with Australia and New Zealand might not have seemed “ripe” for Acheson in May, but by late 1949 to mid-1950, several events drastically changed the situation for the three countries in Asia and the Pacific. The declarations of Indonesian and Vietnamese independence from Dutch and French colonial control presented two uncertain security challenges to Australia, New Zealand and the United States in Southeast Asia. However, the most concerning development in Asia was the establishment of a Communist government in Beijing. After a protracted civil war between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC), PRC Chairman Mao Zedong announced the establishment of the People’s Republic of China on 1 October 1949. The defeated Nationalists, led by Chiang Kai-shek, fled to the island of Taiwan (also known as Formosa). As Cold War tensions continued to rise between the United States and the Soviet Union, the emergence of a major Communist government in Northeast Asia was an uncertain and disruptive situation that challenged the West. Mao’s victory especially provoked extensive debate in Australia, New Zealand and the United States over whether to continue supporting Chiang’s government, or instead recognise the PRC by opening diplomatic relations in Beijing and supporting its claim to hold China’s seat in the United Nations. On the one hand, the ROC appeared fragile and corrupt, and struggled to justify its claim to represent all of China while its government only controlled the island of Taiwan. On the other hand, Western governments feared that awarding recognition to the PRC would strengthen the Soviet bloc and encourage further aggression from mainland China.

Figure 4. Chairman Mao Zedong proclaiming the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), 1 October 1949. Photo by Hou Bo (1949), Wikimedia,, public domain.

For the United States, peaceful co-existence with the PRC and eventual formal recognition of its status as China’s governing party remained a possibility due to a lingering hope that Mao might avoid aligning China with the Soviet Union. However, in the immediate aftermath of Mao’s announcement, the State Department shaped its policies toward the PRC on the premise that mainland China was entrenched firmly in the Soviet bloc and should not yet be awarded recognition. In an address to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 12 October, Secretary of State Dean Acheson stated that the “Chinese Government is really a tool of Russian Imperialism in China. That gives us our fundamental starting point in regards to our relations with China.”4

Australia and New Zealand held their own bilateral talks over whether to recognise the PRC in November 1949. During these discussions, New Zealand Secretary of External Affairs McIntosh noted with frustration that the trans-Tasman talks appeared aimed only to increase Australia’s international prestige and to encourage New Zealand to support Australian views on China. “It was a typical Australian show”, McIntosh wrote to Berendsen on 18 November, “the object was publicity for Evatt, External Affairs and Australia in that order.” According to McIntosh, Australian Secretary of External Affairs John Burton organised the talks as a “publicity stunt.” Burton, convinced recognition was “necessary and inevitable”, continually pressed McIntosh and the New Zealanders about supporting the Australian position.5

Indeed, the Australians appeared entirely ready and willing to abandon the Nationalists and instead recognise Mao’s government on mainland China. Even before the Australian-New Zealand talks began in November, Canberra recalled its diplomatic mission in Nanking. Some of the Australian staff returned to Canberra, while other staff members established a temporary post in Hong Kong that could be quickly moved to Beijing once recognition was granted. “Personally”, Australian External Affairs Minister Evatt wrote to British Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin only three days after Mao’s announcement, “I do not see why [mainland China] should not be recognised.” In Evatt’s view, Australia and the rest of the Commonwealth could take the lead in recognising Beijing. He told Bevin that Mao’s government could be recognised as the legitimate government of mainland China, whereas the Nationalists could similarly retain recognition of their government in Taiwan.6 For New Zealand, McIntosh did not think that the Tasman countries should take the lead in recognising the PRC. He did, however, think that there might be substantial benefits of recognition. He thought that doing so would prevent the PRC from acting aggressively and counter Russian influence in China. Moreover, if for no other reason, McIntosh concluded that on legal grounds the PRC should be awarded recognition because it already controlled mainland China.

Irrespective of these early views, Australia, New Zealand and the United States all opposed recognising the PRC even after Britain did so in early 1950. In both Australia and New Zealand, responding to the threat of Communism in China and elsewhere was a hotly debated topic and became a pertinent election issue. In New Zealand, after fourteen years in power, the Labour government was defeated at the polls in November 1949. Sidney Holland led the newly-formed conservative National government, with Frederick Doidge as his External Affairs Minister. Holland turned out to “dominate the NZ Cabinet”, as “one man or two men” often do, Berendsen complained. Yet, in contrast to his predecessor Peter Fraser, Holland had “almost no interest in foreign affairs.”7 Revealingly he took the Finance rather than the External Affairs portfolio in addition to the prime ministership, and when he did intervene in foreign affairs, he “frequently made gaffes.”

Figure 5. New Zealand Prime Minister Sidney Holland (1949-1957), 1951. Photo taken by Crown Studies of Wellington (1951), Wikimedia,, public domain.

The new External Affairs Minister, Frederick Doidge, was better equipped to handle New Zealand’s foreign relations than was Holland. In contrast to the long-standing convictions of many in New Zealand that a US guarantee for New Zealand’s security was undesirable, Doidge, at least in the early stages of his time as External Affairs Minister, was one of the strongest advocates for a Pacific Pact with the United States. Doidge was “very pact-minded” and was convinced that the United States had to be a signatory to any regional arrangement. In January 1950 Doidge raised the idea of a pact at the Colombo Conference, an international meeting held in Sri Lanka to discuss how the living standards of people in the Asia-Pacific region could be improved. At the conference, he suggested that a pact would be useless without the inclusion of the United States, Canada and India. According to Doidge, the security of Australia and New Zealand could not be ensured without the United States to “wall in the tide of Communism.”8

In Australia, the Liberal Country Coalition led by Robert Menzies won the 1949 election. Menzies’s victory ended Evatt’s term as External Affairs Minister. He was replaced by Percy Spender, a move that signalled a new era of Australia’s external relations with the United States. The new Menzies Government recognised that Australian security interests in the region rested squarely with the US, and as part of this assessment, External Affairs Minister Percy Spender continued Australia’s push for a formal defence pact. US policymakers certainly recognised early on that Spender was determined to secure a closer relationship. After “differences of opinion rising from dissimilar views of the Japanese occupation policy […] and by the difficult personality of Evatt”, the State Department concluded, “Spender is desirous of establishing the closest and most cooperative relations with the United States and has in effect made this a cardinal point in his foreign policy.”9

Figure 6. Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies (1939-1941, 1949-1966), 1950. Photo by unknown (1950), National Library of Australia,, copyright expired.

The Holland Government clearly recognised that a close relationship with the United States was important to New Zealand, yet policymakers in Wellington still described the relationship as less fundamental to its security interests in the Pacific compared to their Australian counterparts. While the American-Australian relationship was described as a “cardinal point” of Australian foreign policy by the State Department, Counselor of the New Zealand Embassy in Washington George Laking told US Assistant Secretary of State William Butterworth that it was simply “very sensible” for New Zealand to have a “close association between the United States [and] New Zealand.”10

As for Spender, New Zealand responses to his appointment and its impact on trans-Tasman relations were mixed. Berendsen was concerned that Spender might be a mere successor to Australia’s “irresponsible” and “hoodlum” behaviour in international affairs that he witnessed with Evatt. When it came to Spender, he was afraid that, like most Australians, either by nature or by upbringing, they seemed to him to be “impossible people.”11 McIntosh and Doidge were even less complimentary about Australia’s new External Affairs Minister, fearing that he would be just as difficult as Evatt. Spender was an “absolute little tick”, McIntosh told Berendsen, complaining that he was just as “great an exhibitionist as Evatt” and that “Doidge took an instant dislike to him.” Spender and Doidge’s relationship—and, consequently, Australia and New Zealand’s relationship—did not improve in the immediate future. Less than four months later, McIntosh noted that not only do Spender and Doidge “not get on”, but that there is “no common link” between the Australian and New Zealand Cabinet.

This lack of a common link between the Australian and New Zealand Cabinets stemmed in part from Spender’s relentless pursuit of a regional defence arrangement with the United States as well as his ambitious Colombo Plan (a multinational initiative to assist in the economic recovery of South and Southeast Asia), which he introduced at the Colombo Conference in January 1950. He might not have been the ideal man to improve Australian-New Zealand relations, yet as far as the pursuit of Australia’s foreign policy objectives were concerned, Spender was more than a capable replacement for Evatt. He was, as Berendsen pointed out, a man of “intellectual gifts” and was blessed with an “incomparably more attractive personality” than Evatt. On first glance, he also seemed more likely to succeed where Evatt could not in securing a US guarantee. He was headstrong, experienced, and more than willing to stand up to Menzies—or anyone in Washington for that matter, should he think it was in Australia’s interest—to ensure that Australia’s post-war protection was secured; namely, through a pact with the United States. The “future peace of the whole Pacific rested, almost entirely, upon the United States”, Spender had argued shortly before his appointment.12

Spender also recognised that Communist insurgencies in Southeast Asia presented just as clear a threat to Australia as did a potential resurgence of Japanese imperialism and aggression. Upon being handed the External Affairs portfolio, Spender’s primary task remained clear: enlist the United States as a guarantor of Australian security to repel these threats. His first job was to ensure that all his officers, diplomats and staff members understood his vision for Australia’s relations with the world as revolving around a closer relationship with the United States. Because of their “common British heritage” and “greater technical and industrial development”, Australia and the United States were the “two countries which can, in cooperation one with the other, make the greatest contribution to stability.” In Spender’s view, it was only by “concerted action” that this was possible. Later, during a comprehensive speech in the Australian House of Representatives, Spender made his vision for Australia’s external relations clear to both the Parliament and public. As part of Spender’s outlook, maintaining Australia’s peace and security rested on four pillars: the Pacific, in Western Europe through cooperation with the British Commonwealth, the United Nations, and the United States. In outlining this last pillar, Spender said

I have emphasised how essential it is for Australia to maintain the closest links with the United States for vital security reasons […] we propose actively to maintain the official and personal contacts and interchanges which resulted from the urgent needs of a common military effort.

To maintain these links at the highest level possible, Spender had a clear idea in mind:

What I envisage is a defensive military arrangement having as its basis a firm agreement between countries that have a vital interest in the stability of Asia and the Pacific, and which are at the same time capable of undertaking military commitments […] I fervently hope other Commonwealth countries might form a nucleus […] [but] I also have in mind particularly the United States of America, whose participation would give such a pact a substance that it would otherwise lack. Indeed, it would be rather meaningless without her.13

On top of convincing the Americans, Spender had to persuade his own Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, that Australia needed a formal pact with the United States. Such a task was perhaps surprising, as during Menzies’s first term as Prime Minister (1939-1941) he had hoped for some form of US security guarantee and appealed to US President Franklin Roosevelt for American aid during World War II. However, Menzies believed that such a pact might compromise Australia’s close relationship with the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth and Australia simply “did not need a pact with America”, as Menzies told his Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Fadden in August 1950, because “they are already overwhelmingly friendly to us.”14 Menzies was sceptical about the pact until it was nearly completed. At one stage, while Spender was straining every effort to conclude the alliance, Menzies remarked provocatively that “Percy is trying to build a castle on a foundation of jelly”, much to the annoyance of Spender and his wife Jean.15

New Zealand Minister to the United States Carl Berendsen shared Menzies’s misgivings about the proposed pact. For Berendsen, a Pacific Pact as it had been spoken about so far was “superficially attractive” and “ambiguous, imprecise and completely impracticable.” He feared the result might be Australia and New Zealand having to “defend the indefensible” in areas outside of their primary strategic interests. The New Zealand military was equally unconvinced. The Chiefs of Staff in Wellington produced a defence report in April 1950 which outlined their strategic thinking from a purely military perspective. It concluded that there were “no reasons on military grounds” to approach the United States for a Pacific Pact because Washington would see no direct threat to New Zealand. From a US perspective, any New Zealand deployment would in fact be more useful in the Middle East than in the Pacific or Far East. The United States, the Chiefs of Staff maintained, would certainly “prefer to see a New Zealand Division and RNZAF (Royal New Zealand Air Force) tactical forces employed in the Middle East rather than tied down in the Far East in operations which would have no decisive effect on the ultimate outcome of the war.”16

Berendsen, however, thought there was some merit to the narrow arrangement that the New Zealand Defence Chiefs proposed. He recognised, for instance, that Australia and New Zealand’s limited defence capabilities and the grim realities of the world in the early 1950s left these countries little choice other than to secure a formal guarantee with the major sea power in the Pacific, the United States. Convinced that society was moving toward a third world war that would be brought about by the “thugs and gangsters” of the Soviet Union, Berendsen thought that Asia was a “boiling cauldron” that was “vibrant with resurgent nationalism.” In this cauldron, the situation seemed ideal for Soviet “fishing in muddy waters.” Since the dangers were so great and a world system of collective security so distant, he was “entirely ready” to accept a regional system as the best compromise available. To this end, Berendsen recognised that Spender and Doidge’s efforts to reach some sort of pact with the United States were perhaps in Australia and New Zealand’s best interests. “We are forced to look for something more real, more actual, more practical”, Berendsen told Doidge. “From our point of view”, he went on to suggest, “the logical conclusion which is so simple and obvious that it is present in everybody’s mind, and has been frequently advanced by Spender, is that what we essentially need in our defence is the assistance of the United States.”17

To strike a compromise between his reservations about a complete defence arrangement and his desire to meet New Zealand’s security requirements, Berendsen proposed a limited pact. Under this pact, the United States would commit to the defence of Australia and New Zealand in return for their support in defending Japan and the US position in Northeast Asia. The response in Wellington was disappointing. Doidge had not discussed the idea for over a month after Berendsen’s proposal was sent. When Doidge finally replied, he said he would be “very happy to consider it” because he regarded an American guarantee of New Zealand’s security as “the richest prize of New Zealand diplomacy.”18

Doidge did not give much more consideration to this proposal. Instead, he remained convinced that New Zealand needed a full commitment from the United States. McIntosh informed Berendsen on 12 April that Doidge had not given his idea any deliberation, writing that “[Doidge] had not thought the thing out, indeed none of them (the Cabinet) will.”19 McIntosh himself was reluctant to pursue Berendsen’s limited pact proposal. He was particularly dismayed by the prospect that New Zealand would have to take part in a guarantee of Japanese integrity so soon after fighting a major war against them.

In any event, up until mid-1950, there was no sign that the talk of concluding a defence agreement with Australia and New Zealand, either limited or full-scale, had been considered seriously in the United States. As Second Secretary of the East Asia Section in the Australian Department of External Affairs David Dexter noted, “between the end of 1947 and mid-1950 the Americans showed little inclination to be involved in […] a Pacific pact.”20 In Far Eastern matters, the Japanese Peace Treaty and its impact on the US-Soviet balance of power in East Asia had been the major subject of deliberation between the State Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). The former favoured moving toward a peace treaty, whereas the latter wanted no diminution of its control in Japan. Given the deadlock between restoring normal political and economic relations with Japan and a continued occupation—neither of which were “wholly desirable” for the United States—US Secretary of State Dean Acheson appointed John Foster Dulles as a special advisor for reaching a suitable peace settlement.

Dulles’s appointment was crucial for three reasons. Since he was a Republican, Truman and Acheson could fend off criticism that the Democrats were failing in Asia and were unwilling to take a bipartisan approach to meet their objectives. As a specialist in international affairs—he was a legal counsel with the US delegation at the Versailles Peace Conference in 1918, an adviser at the San Francisco Conference in 1945, and helped draft the preamble for the United Nations Charter—Dulles brought considerable experience to the role and was able to reach a settlement with Japan in little over a year. From a historian’s vantage point, it is also possible to see that as a future US Secretary of State from 1953 to 1959, his relationship with Australian and New Zealand policymakers would be pivotal in shaping the contours of the relationship for most of the decade. Dulles’s first task was to visit Tokyo to discuss a Japanese peace settlement with SCAP Commander Douglas MacArthur, as well as members of the Far Eastern Commission. His second task was to get Australia and New Zealand, the two most outspoken opponents of a soft peace treaty, to agree to a settlement that was also acceptable to the United States. Although their support was not essential, the State Department believed that Australian and New Zealand support for American policy in Japan was still “highly desirable.”21

Obtaining Australian and New Zealand support for the Japanese Peace Treaty as quickly as possible became even more urgent after mid-1950. In the early morning of 25 June, North Korean (DPRK) forces crossed the 38th parallel on the Korean Peninsula and began a full-scale invasion of South Korea with the support of the Soviet Union. The United States, believing that the North Korean advance was Soviet-inspired aggression, was quick to commit US ground forces which were readily available in Japan. With an American need for an increased war effort, Australia and New Zealand were uniquely placed to provide much needed military support to the United States. It was the perfect opportunity to demonstrate that Canberra and Wellington were prepared to support the US bid for UN intervention in Korea, which was approved shortly after the North Korean invasion (The Soviet Union could not veto the resolution because at the time it was boycotting the UN over the non-recognition of Communist China). Both Acheson and MacArthur urged Canberra to supply material aid and battalions to Korea.22 Menzies was in London where he argued that Australian troops should not be sent to Korea due to their small number and that deploying these forces would prevent an Australian contribution to the Commonwealth defence in the Middle East.

Figure 7. A Soviet-made North Korean T-34 tank knocked out during the UN led intervention on the Korean Peninsula. Photo by Curtis A. Ulz (1950), Wikimedia,, public domain.

Spender, however, saw Korea as a blessing in disguise with respect to his Pacific Pact ambitions and pushed for a speedy Australian response. Spender cabled Menzies in early July, warning that the “heat may be put on us for further aid” after UN Secretary General Trygve Lie urged over fifty UN members to supply more ground forces in Korea. Receiving no response and growing agitated, Spender wrote to Menzies again on 17 July arguing that from “Australia’s long-term point of view, any additional aid we can give to the US now, small though it may be, will [be repaid] in the future one hundred fold.” Spender added that “if we refrain from giving any further aid, we may lose an opportunity of cementing friendship with the US which may not easily present itself again.”23

Menzies, who was abroad at the time and unable to take direct part in policy decisions, was unconvinced by Spender’s push for Australian support in Korea. After attending a British Cabinet meeting, he pointed out that for Australia there was a “great danger in allowing the Korean affair to disturb our strategic planning based on the importance of the Middle East and on our national service scheme.”24 Menzies’s stance on Korea became increasingly isolated, especially after the Australian Embassy in Washington suggested “the Korea attack has given fresh impetus to the consideration of Spender’s initiative and ideas.” Embassy staff also suggested that “prior consultation between Australia and the United States would have been helpful in meeting the sudden crisis” and that “some machinery for automatic consultation would be helpful in meeting future crises.” Determined not to let this opportunity slide, Spender phoned Acting Prime Minister Arthur Fadden to issue a statement that Australia had decided to send troops to Korea, who agreed reluctantly. Even without their Prime Minister at home to object, Spender was able to push for an Australian contribution to Korea in the hope that it might encourage the State Department to better see the benefits of a Pacific Pact with Australia. It was certainly an audacious move by Spender, so much so that external affairs officer Arthur Tange commented later that it left his colleagues “somewhat bewildered” that he would push so quickly and without the support of the Australian Prime Minister.25

Spender’s swiftness, however, made a strong mark on policymakers in Washington. There was “genuine gratification at Australia’s prompt response” in the United States, the Australian Embassy in Washington cabled to Canberra. After observing US sentiments starting to shift on Australia’s strategic value in the Asian region, Spender certainly felt encouraged and motivated to keep pushing at home for a closer defence relationship with the United States. More specifically, he stressed again to Menzies that Australia should capitalise on this response and seek a formal defence pact. “This immediate action by Australia made a strong impression on official and unofficial American opinion which has resulted in the closest of friendly relationships”, Spender argued. He added that in order for Washington to realise the benefits of a pact, Australia should demonstrate to the United States that it was wholeheartedly prepared to support US policy in the Pacific. Otherwise, the “Australian attitude might be misunderstood and the genuine warmth of [the] present relationship since the opening of the Korean conflict may be diminished.”26 In this regard Spender’s persistence on such an important matter is commendable, particularly given Menzies’ reluctance to accept that the United States had to replace Britain as the new bulwark of Australian security.

Across the Tasman, New Zealand preempted the Australian response by announcing first that it would support the US and UN to repel the North Korean advance. On 1 July, Holland declared that two warships, Pukaki and Tutira, would be sent to the Korea area. He later committed a special combat unit to the fighting. In so doing, Wellington demonstrated that New Zealand was likewise willing to support the global fight against Communism and that it was a reliable ally in the Pacific theatre. Carl Berendsen, New Zealand Ambassador in Washington, was particularly happy with this quick response: “we have got kudos and widespread appreciation [in the United States] for this immediate indication that we are one of those who do not confine our support of the principles of freedom to words alone.”27

Yet over and above any benefit this move had in Washington, New Zealand’s hasty response was primarily due to British consultation and consideration of London’s attitudes. Wellington’s decision to make a naval deployment into Korean waters and its subsequent land-force contributions were made because New Zealand was “unprepared to undertake a military, and through it a political commitment which required it to act independently of a familiar and secure British-led Commonwealth.”28 After incessant pressing by the Australian Government, the New Zealand military response was likewise not part of a combined ANZAC Brigade. “That is the very thing we do not want to do”, McIntosh told Berendsen on 7 August, “we can supply artillery, [and] we would feel safer in having this particular type of unit and my own view is that we should stick to it.” Berendsen agreed and thought such a plan would be “disastrous.” If New Zealand cooperated with Australia militarily in Korea, “there [was] no doubt at all about it that the Australians would shove us right into the background and we will get no credit whatsoever for this force which will be represented as, and certainly accepted as, Australian.”29 Despite these concerns both Australia and New Zealand later contributed soldiers to the creation of the 1st Commonwealth Division, a unit that formed part of the British military presence in Korea. This division was made up primarily of British and Canadian forces, but also included troops from India and South Korea. At least with this type of multinational military arrangement, McIntosh and Berendsen could be assured that it would be quite difficult for Australia to claim credit for any contributions made by New Zealand.

As for China, American-Australian-New Zealand views against recognition hardened considerably after the PRC intervened in Korea in November 1950. US President Harry Truman responded by completely rejecting any possibility of recognition and instead approved a National Security Council (NSC) recommendation to impose strict political and economic sanctions on the PRC. In addition, the Truman Administration threw its support behind Chiang Kai-shek as the legitimate head of the government of China. Fighting alongside American forces in Korea, respective Australian and New Zealand Prime Ministers Robert Menzies and Sidney Holland enforced similar sanctions and publicly declared their support for Chiang’s embattled regime.

The possibility of recognising Beijing in the short-term future was dismissed. In Australia, Spender feared that recognising the PRC after its intervention in Korea would encourage Beijing to act aggressively elsewhere. “If Communist Chinese demands for Taiwan and recognition are accepted”, Spender asked fellow Australian diplomat Keith Officer rhetorically on 11 December, “what guarantee is there that she [China] will not press in Indochina or elsewhere?” Despite these concerns, Spender thought that recognition should not be completely ruled out. He told Officer that “on the question of ultimate recognition of Communist China, the door should not be barred.” In other words, Spender thought that “if a reasonable settlement can be arranged regarding Korea, the question of recognition will be reconsidered.”30

Meanwhile, as the Korean situation worsened, several UN countries introduced a draft resolution in the First Committee of the General Assembly on 12 December to form a separate committee that would work towards reaching a ceasefire. This committee also decided to vote upon whether the PRC should be admitted as a temporary UN member to assist in reaching an immediate ceasefire. During these negotiations, another tussle broke out between Australian and New Zealand representatives after Australia tried to pressure New Zealand into abstaining from voting. Berendsen, who was representing New Zealand, was “infuriated” when Australian delegate Keith Officer told him that “he (Officer) intended to vote for [Beijing’s] admission” temporarily to work towards reaching a ceasefire, and “hoped that I (Berendsen) would abstain.” “I could scarcely believe my ears”, Berendsen told McIntosh after hearing that Australia wanted New Zealand to simply step aside and not get in the way of its own decisions. “The long and short of it is I don’t understand the Australians any more than I understand the British” on Chinese matters, Berendsen complained.31

Although his reasons for wanting to New Zealand to abstain while he voted for Beijing’s temporary seating are unclear, it is evident that Officer questioned whether hardline US policies were a prudent means of calming hostilities in Korea and subduing Chinese aggression. “My own view is that the attitude of the United States at the moment is quite unreal”, he wrote to Spender, “I can see few practical arguments against a ceasefire.”32 It is possible that Officer’s demands on the committee issue were part of a broader Australian concern that New Zealand, with strong British ties and a demonstrated propensity to consider PRC recognition, saw the committee as a partial step toward potential recognition without consultation with Australia. Any such move would be disastrous for Australia, especially because, at the time, Spender was working hard towards reaching a formal defence arrangement with the United States.

The Korean War, the PRC and new conservative governments in Canberra and Wellington meant that concluding some form of a defence arrangement became more practical for Australia, New Zealand and the United States. American policymakers began to view a treaty with Australia and New Zealand as a means to reach a speedy settlement regarding the Japanese Peace Treaty. In Australia, Spender accepted this trade off and hoped to conclude as binding an arrangement as possible with the United States. New Zealand, however, continued to favour a limited understanding through a Presidential Declaration. There was in fact significant apprehension amongst New Zealand diplomats and military officers about concluding a binding arrangement with the United States. Negotiations for some form of alliance nonetheless played out in late 1950 and early 1951, and had a decisive impact on the future of the relationship.

1 Minter to Byrnes, 9 April 1946, FRUS 1946 Vol. V, 28.

2 Fraser to Duff, 6 July 1948, DNZER Vol. III, 477-478; Fraser Memorandum, 11 January 1949, Archives NZ, EA, 10/4/7.

3 Cablegram to Canberra, 18 May 1949, NAA, A1838, 383/1/2/8, Part I.

4 Supplemental Notes on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 12 October 1949, Harry Truman Papers, President’s Secretary’s Files, Box 140, TL.

5 McIntosh to Berendsen, 18 November 1949, in Undiplomatic Dialogue, 186-187.

6 Evatt to Bevin, 4 October 1949, NAA, A1838/278, 494/2/10 Part I.

7 Berendsen to McIntosh, 28 March 1950, in Undiplomatic Dialogue, 222; McKinnon, Independence and Foreign Policy, 114.

8 Doidge to Berendsen, 9 May 1950, DNZER Vol. III, 546; Doidge Statement, 9 May 1950, DNZER, Vol. III, 547.

9 Department of State Policy Statement, 21 April 1950, NARA, RG 59, 611.43/4-2150.

10 Meeting between Laking and Butterworth, 18 November 1949, DNZER Vol. III, 291-297.

11 Berendsen to McIntosh, 14 February 1950, in Undiplomatic Dialogue, 212; Berendsen to McIntosh, 15 December 1949, in Undiplomatic Dialogue, 194-195.

12 Spender Statement, 16 February 1949, Commonwealth Debates, House of Representatives, Vol. 201, 358.

13 Spender Statement, 9 March 1950, Current Notes on International Affairs (hereafter CNIA), Vol. 21, 1950, 153-172; See also Roger Holdich, Vivianne Johnson and Pamela Andre ed. Documents on Australian Foreign Policy: The ANZUS Treaty, 1951 (hereafter DAFP: ANZUS) (Canberra: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2001), 9-10.

14 Menzies to Fadden, 3 August 1950, NAA, A11782, 1950/1.

15 Bell, Coral. Dependent Ally: A Study in Australian Foreign Policy (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1988), 45. See also Jean Spender, Ambassador’s Wife: A Woman’s View of Life in Politics, Diplomacy and International Law (Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1968), 23.

16 The Assistant Secretary of the Chiefs of Staff Committee to the Secretary of External Affairs, 28 April 1950, DNZER Vol. III, 537.

17 Ibid., 531.

18 Doidge to Berendsen, 9 May 1950, DNZER Vol. III, 546.

19 McIntosh to Berendsen, 12 April 1950, in Undiplomatic Dialogue, 225.

20 Dexter to Shaw, 27 October 1950, NAA, A1838, 535/6 part i.

21 Department of State Policy Statement, 21 April 1950, NARA, RG 59, 611.43/4-2150.

22 Acheson to UK Embassy, 28 June 1950, FRUS Vol. VII 1950, 223; Watt to Spender, 15 November 1952, Spender Papers, Box 1, National Library of Australia (hereafter NLA).

23 Spender to Menzies, 17 July 1950, NAA, A462/2, 443/1/8 part i.

24 Robert O’Neill, Australia in the Korean War: Volume 1, Strategy and Diplomacy, 1950-1953 (Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service, 1981), 66.

25 Arthur Tange, Defence Policy-Making: A Close-Up View, 1950-1980, Peter Edwards ed. (Canberra: ANU Press, 2008), 4,

26 Spender to Menzies, 21 July 1950, NAA, A11537 [1].

27 Berendsen to McIntosh, 14 July 1950, in Undiplomatic Dialogue, 234; NZ Ambassador in Washington to Doidge, 20 July 1950, DNZER Vol. III, 390.

28 McKinnon, Independence and Foreign Policy, 118. See also Ian McGibbon, “New Zealand’s Intervention in the Korean War: June-July 1950”, International History Review 11, no. 1 (1989), 272-290.

29 McIntosh to Berendsen, 7 August 1950, in Undiplomatic Dialogue, 238; Berendsen to McIntosh, 15 August 1950, in Undiplomatic Dialogue, 242.

30 Spender to Officer, 11 December 1950, NAA, A11537 Part I.

31 Berendsen to McIntosh, 25 November 1950, in Undiplomatic Dialogue, 250.

32 Officer to Spender, 12 December 1950, in Stuart Doran and David Lee ed. Documents on Australian Foreign Policy: Australia and Recognition of the People’s Republic of China, 1949-1972 (hereafter DAFP: China) (Canberra: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2002), 33.

© 2018 Andrew Kelly, CC BY 4.0