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4. ANZUS Negotiations

The outbreak of the Korean War signalled to American policymakers that Communism was a growing danger in the Asia-Pacific region and stronger efforts must be made to prevent its spread. It could not, however, continue to do so alone. The US was bearing the overwhelming brunt of the war effort through both the financial cost of funding military equipment and the loss of lives. In consideration of this heavy burden, the State Department lauded Australia’s quick response to the Korean War. “The prompt reaction of Australia to the invasion of Korea and the unanimous vote of approval given by the Australian parliament to the military measures taken by the Government”, a State Department memorandum noted on 24 July, “afforded a good indication of the close identity of views between the United States and Australia on matters of fundamental importance.”1 It is interesting to note that little mention was made of New Zealand, suggesting that perhaps Berendsen was correct in his previous concerns that Wellington’s contributions in Korea would be overshadowed by the Australian contribution.

In any event, the State Department quickly began manoeuvring for discussions to conclude a formal defence treaty. Allen Brown, Australian Secretary for the Prime Minister’s Department, reported this change in US policy in early August 1950. While visiting Washington, he cabled Spender on 3 August to say that in a meeting with Assistant Secretary for Far Eastern Affairs Dean Rusk and other members of the US Far Eastern Bureau, Rusk told him that the State Department’s views toward a pact were now “very fluid” and they were “willing to exchange ideas.”2 This willingness stemmed from an increasing need to finalise a suitable peace settlement in Japan as the situation in Korea worsened.

Australia and New Zealand were outspoken opponents of a soft peace treaty without suitable assurances that Japan would not again be a menace in Asia. In September 1950, the United States entered discussions with other governments in the Far Eastern Committee about the Japanese Peace Treaty. Dulles, charged with the primary responsibility of reaching an agreement over Japan, made it clear that the basic American aim was a treaty that restored Japanese sovereignty and kept Japan as an American ally. American desire for a multilateral peace treaty with Japan offered Australia an opportunity to achieve its own objectives; namely, an American guarantee of its security in exchange for Australian acquiescence to the Japanese Peace Treaty.

Spender was excited by the prospect that the United States was now more open to discussions about a Pacific Pact. As a result, he worked harder than ever to “sow the seeds” for a formal defence commitment from the United States.3 Spender undoubtedly saw such a commitment as vital to Australian security interests, but in his discussions with American policymakers after the Korean War had begun, Spender also stressed that Australia desperately needed a pact in order to be more closely involved in the global planning and international decision-making processes among Western powers. Meeting with President Truman on 15 September, Spender stressed that in the Japanese war Australia had “thrown all she had into that conflict.” He added that its recent commitment to Korea demonstrated further that Australia “could be counted upon in an emergency to give the utmost of her manpower and equipment to meet all new crises.” This, according to Spender, “should merit a greater degree of consideration in matters of consultation among the great powers.” “Australia did not have any say in most of the important international decisions now being made by the friendly powers”, Spender told Truman, suggesting that it was a “great handicap to his country.”4

Truman sympathised with Spender and the Australian position, but suggested that this was a matter that he should take up with Secretary of State Dean Acheson. Disappointed by this response from the President, Spender commented publicly at a UN General Assembly in New York that Australia was keen for a regional defence pact and had clear ideas about what scope it should take. He told Alan Watt on 15 September that a Pacific Pact should be as wide as possible, “including the countries of the Indian Ocean capable of entering into firm commitments, but that if that were not possible, then an area generally including Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, North America and Great Britain.”5 He also had no objection to including South American countries.

Figure 8. President Truman (second left) meeting with US Secretary of Defense George Marshall (left), Secretary of State Dean Acheson (second from right) and Secretary of the Treasury John Snyder (right), October 1950. Photo by Abbie Rowe (1950), US National Archives Catalog,, unrestricted use.

Spender soon received a clearer idea of US thinking towards Japan and a regional pact. On 22 September, Dulles pulled Spender aside during US negotiations with Far Eastern Commission nations for the peace settlement in Japan. Dulles presented a seven-point memorandum which outlined that the United States had plans to revitalise Japan as a military power that was friendly to the United States. According to Dulles, this was because Japan was no longer an isolated problem but part of a broader struggle against Communism. It was in America’s self-interest that “Japan should be denied to [Russia] and attracted to the side of the Western democracies.” Spender was not pleased by this memorandum. Recalling the meeting, John Allison, Director of Northeast Asian Affairs in the State Department, penned that “[Spender’s] face grew more and more suffused with colour. At one point, I thought he would burst a vessel.”6 Spender told Dulles that Australia could not subscribe to a Japanese treaty unless there were adequate assurances for Australia’s protection. In other words, to “allay Australia’s fears”, he wanted a “formal commitment by the United States.” In response, Dulles told Spender that Australia’s security was assured through a continued US presence in Japan. Nevertheless, he recognised Australian trepidations and suggested “some compromise might have to be found.”7

At the same time, New Zealand Minister for External Affairs Frederick Doidge surprisingly cooled towards the idea. Although Doidge had initially been a strong supporter of a Pacific Pact, his enthusiasm dropped once the war in Korea began. Again, unlike Spender, he also had no clear idea of what form a pact should take. In September 1950 Doidge proclaimed in the New Zealand Parliament

My own view now, and I think the view of the government, is the pact is not as necessary as we thought it was six months ago. It is unnecessary now because of what is happening in Korea. Today the United States of America is in the Pacific. I think she is there now as a permanent partner in the policing of the Pacific.8

There was equally little enthusiasm from the New Zealand Department of External Affairs to collaborate with Australia on the matter. It was not a surprise that Spender complained that “even New Zealand displayed little active interest” in the pact proposals he made in late 1950.9

Doidge, nevertheless, left for Washington in October to discuss a regional defence pact with the United States. While in Washington, New Zealand-American talks appeared to reignite Doidge’s interest in a pact but it did not take the shape he had advocated previously. Doidge recalled that after the discussions in Washington, the US was still a crucial signatory to any regional agreement but suggested different treaty signatories than did Spender. He told Parliament on 2 November that there can be “no satisfactory pact without the United States, Canada and India”, and that the “Pacific pact should be the natural corollary to an Atlantic Pact.”10 This was not the same view he had had several months earlier when he thought such a pact was unnecessary. A pact similar in scope to the Atlantic Pact would most likely entail a direct New Zealand military commitment to defend US interests in the region.

This was also not the pact Spender was suggesting. A month earlier, Spender had stressed to US Assistant Secretary of State John Hickerson in a meeting on 12 October that Indian inclusion was “unlikely” and that the United States, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and possibly the Philippines were the only “essential” potential treaty signatories. Spender also dismissed Canada because it had “heavy obligations in Europe” and was “not deeply interested in the Pacific.”11 Disagreement over the scope of membership aside, Spender’s desire to pursue a regional pact had an additional layer that Doidge was not considering. As well as seeking reassurance of support in the event of future Japanese aggression, Spender wanted a Pacific Pact because Australia was not associated with any “body of nations dealing with global strategy or similar questions.” If there were a Pacific Pact with Australia as a member, it could be “brought into consultation” with US military planning that the Pentagon was currently unwilling to share with Canberra.12

Dulles’s task to find a solution in Japan became even more urgent once Chinese forces intervened in the Korean War in late November 1950. With Chinese involvement in Korea and the situation fast deteriorating, Dulles informed New Zealand that he hoped to devise “some satisfactory means of assuring the government and people of New Zealand” as soon as possible. At the same time, the State Department told Spender that they were giving “active consideration” to his proposals for a Pacific Pact.13 Further interest came from Undersecretary Dean Rusk, who appeared more sympathetic to Australia’s and New Zealand’s desire to secure US protection. As a means of enlisting Australian and New Zealand support for the Japanese Peace Treaty, Rusk proposed a plan for a Presidential Declaration that announced that both countries were defensively tied to the United States. “There is merit in tightening our relationship with Australia and New Zealand”, Rusk told Deputy Under Secretary of Political Affairs Elbert Matthews on 9 October, and the US should consider “a more formal statement of mutual security commitments.”

This statement, Rusk thought, would be welcomed by Spender and the Australian government. “It is unlikely that the Australians would press for more than this”, Rusk added, “[Australia and New Zealand] appear to be interested not so much in written assurances of military protection as in an opportunity to participate more closely in military and political planning.”14 Doidge and New Zealand would have been content with such a statement, but Spender wanted a more binding commitment. He later told Rusk that while he appreciated Rusk’s sincerity in his desire to establish a closer Australian-American relationship, a Presidential Statement was “not sufficient at all.” Australia, in Spender’s view, required “something of more substance.”15

After Spender rejected a Presidential Statement, Allison suggested to Dulles in early December that he and the US should consider a formal defence arrangement with Australia and New Zealand. For Allison, a security treaty was a worthwhile commitment to ensure a speedy Japanese settlement after the recent intervention of Chinese forces in the Korean War. “In my opinion”, Allison told Dulles, the United States should consider concluding “mutual defence arrangements with New Zealand, Australia and the Philippines.”16 Five days later, Allison again raised the pact idea with Dulles. Allison’s general proposal for a Pacific collective security pact would “have the dual purpose of defending Japan from Communist aggression and assuring our friends that Japan would be on their side and not a menace to them.” After these discussions, Dulles wrote to Acheson and stressed that the US must consider all measures that might hasten an acceptable settlement. In other words, Dulles thought that a Pacific Pact with Australia and New Zealand might be necessary.

Figure 9. John Foster Dulles, US Negotiator to the ANZUS Treaty and US Secretary of State (1953-1959). Photo by US Department of State (n. d.), Flickr,, unrestricted use.

Allison also told David McNicol, Australia’s Second Secretary in its Washington Embassy, that discussions for a formal defence arrangement were now being given greater consideration in the State Department. “There was now considerably more support in the State Department for a Pacific Island Pact”, he told McNicol confidentially on 9 December, adding that Dulles had “come around to the support of a Pacific Pact.”17 In response, Spender and the Australian government increased their demands for a pact with the United States in exchange for agreeing to the Japanese Peace Treaty and remilitarisation plans. After Spender was informed of Allison’s briefing, he announced publicly that the need for a regional pact has become “more urgent.” Australia was “not satisfied that Japan [could] be trusted with military power”, Spender said on 11 January 1951, because it was “too great a gamble for Australia to be asked to take [without] effective regional security.”18

At the 1951 Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference in January, Australia continued to take a noticeably hard line toward the Japanese Peace Treaty. Australia was alarmed at the “tendency to slip into an easy treaty” as Australian High Commissioner in London Eric Harrison said. Australia objected to the possibility of Japan’s military resurgence and distrusted Japan to remain a loyal ally. Australia, Harrison said, needed security against future Japanese aggression.19 In London, New Zealand Prime Minister Sidney Holland took a similar line but was more flexible than the Australians. While he conceded that New Zealand interests were “much the same” as Australia’s, its fear of Japanese aggression was “slightly less.” In terms of opposing a soft peace treaty for Japan, Holland was “not prepared to push this point too far.”20

Holland’s reluctance to follow the Australian line in London and press hard for a comprehensive Pacific Pact reflected a growing belief in the External Affairs Department that New Zealand’s political and military interests would be best served by concluding an arrangement with the United States that was as informal as possible. Shortly after the Prime Ministers’ Conference, an External Affairs Department memorandum that was prepared for the New Zealand Chiefs of Staff in late January considered three possible types of arrangement that might be struck with the United States in exchange for agreeing to the Japanese Peace Treaty. The report concluded that the disadvantages of the comprehensive NATO-type pact that the Australians were pursuing would outweigh any advantages for Wellington, citing that it would “provide little reassurance against the long-term threat from Asia […] and impair the ability of Australia and New Zealand to meet that threat.”21 Alternatively, the usefulness of a “limited” pact similar to the idea Berendsen proposed could not yet be determined because New Zealand’s military capacity needed to be studied further, while its commitments continued in the Middle East. Dismissing these two possibilities, the report concluded that the best outcome was a declaration from President Truman that the United States would defend New Zealand, even though the Australian attitude to such an arrangement would be unfavourable. “Such an undertaking”, the report conceded, “would be insufficiently precise to afford Australia real assurance of American assistance in the event of hostilities in the Pacific.”22

Meanwhile, the State Department proposed to the Australian and New Zealand External Affairs Departments that Dulles visit in mid-February to discuss the Japanese Peace Treaty and the question of a Pacific security arrangement. Holland and his External Affairs Department were unsure of whether Dulles would also stop in Wellington or whether there would be joint talks in Canberra. When his visit was first proposed, New Zealand got word that Dulles thought combined talks in Canberra would be better in case “time did not allow him to visit both countries.”23 As the weaker party, New Zealand thought joint talks were best and proposed that Doidge and the New Zealand delegation would meet Spender and Dulles in Canberra. From a New Zealand perspective, joint talks potentially disposed of the possibility that major policy differences between Australia and New Zealand would be noticeable to Dulles. There was also a danger that if Dulles met with Doidge after he had seen Spender, Australia would make “impossible demands” and it would be difficult for Doidge or anyone else in New Zealand to argue against them.24 If the discussions proceeded independently in Canberra and Wellington, New Zealand could be faced with an agreement it did not like and one it would find difficult to change.25

For their part, the Australians feared that having Doidge at the talks with Dulles would be inhibiting. While his presence might project solidarity between Australia and New Zealand, it could also prevent Spender from putting forward his point of view as forcefully. New Zealand had not, after all, shown the same level of opposition to Japanese rearmament at the recent Prime Ministers’ Conference in London. In other words, New Zealand and Australia did not approach the Dulles talks with the sense of solidarity and confidence in one another that might have been expected from two neighbouring countries importuning the United States.26

Allison drew up US plans for Dulles’s visit. These drafts were then forwarded from Dulles to US Ambassador at Large Philip Jessup. So far as membership of a pact was concerned, the draft proposed six signatories: the United States, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand. Dulles explained in early January that one major consideration was to “give significant reassurance to Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines so that they will consent to a peace treaty with Japan which will not contain limitations upon rearmament.” To alleviate these fears, Dulles raised the possibility of a defence council, where Australia and New Zealand could be afforded a “voice in how Japan’s defence forces progressed.” Above all else, however, Dulles stressed that it was essential that the US “should not become committed to the Pact unless it is assured that the other Parties will agree to the kind of Japanese Peace Treaty the United States feels is necessary.”27

Allison forwarded Dulles’s plans to Australian Second Secretary in Washington David McNicol on 21 January. The confidential brief emphasised strong US support for a Pacific Pact. The Department of Defense “favoured” a pact and some of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) were “very keen.” The Far Eastern sub-committees of the House and Senate Foreign Relations Committee also both approved of the idea. Allison stressed that Dulles had in mind “an arrangement not quite as formal as [NATO].” In other words, US thinking did not necessarily contemplate an “attack upon one, attack upon all provision” and an “organic link” with NATO.28

Meanwhile, the New Zealand military reconsidered its preferred structure and scope of a defence arrangement with Australia and the United States. The New Zealand Defence Chiefs concluded that an informal guarantee of New Zealand’s security in the form of a Presidential announcement seemed to best suit its interests. In reaching this conclusion, it was decided that a formal pact could never be confined to the Southwest Pacific. Rather, a pact would only serve US interests in Northeast Asia and commit Australian and New Zealand forces there. “The United States cannot give a direct and precise guarantee to New Zealand and Australia which are in any case remote from the centre of the danger”, the Chiefs concluded, adding that it was “only in connection with [American] arrangements in the Philippines and Japan that sufficient Congressional and public support could be given for an extension of American commitments to Australia and New Zealand.”29

As New Zealand policymakers decided that a formal defence arrangement with the United States did not meet their strategic interests, the External Affairs Department agreed that a Presidential declaration announcing a US commitment to the defence of Australia and New Zealand was the best course of action. The Department suggested that Doidge should keep this possibility in mind during talks with Dulles later in February. Since Wellington did not see “any immediate threat to New Zealand or the Pacific”, no formal pact was required. Instead, a “Presidential Statement would be useful.”30 Doidge left for Canberra with the proposal for a Presidential guarantee as his first preference.

Australia wanted no part in the Presidential Statement, nor could it accept any arrangement other than a formal commitment from the United States. In Spender’s view, any agreement short of a formal guarantee of US protection in Asia and the Pacific would be worthless to meet Australia’s security needs. Spender argued that the preferred arrangement was a “treaty in solemn form.” Dulles’s visit might be the “last opportunity” Australia and New Zealand had to secure an American guarantee, he told Doidge, so it was imperative that they cooperated and did not squander the opportunity.31 In the end, it was agreed that it would be counterproductive to propose different things to Dulles. Spender and Doidge finally agreed to push for the same tripartite pact, after which Spender commented that New Zealand had finally “seen the light.”32

After meeting with Japanese representatives in Tokyo to finalise the arrangements for a peace treaty, Dulles flew to Canberra where official talks began on 15 February. Dulles stressed immediately to both Spender and Doidge the US plans for post-occupied Japan and unlimited rearmament. He stated that a continued US military presence in Japan should quell Australian and New Zealand concerns over revived Japanese aggression. Moreover, any restrictions on Japanese rearmament were counterproductive for American efforts to prevent the spread of Communism. As he was concerned by the perception of a “White Man’s Club” in Asia, Dulles also pushed for a broader security treaty that included the Philippines. This echoed Acheson’s original instructions to Dulles, which specified that the US was willing to enter some sort of “mutual assistance arrangement” with countries including Australia and New Zealand but also Japan, the Philippines and possibly even Indonesia. The condition attached to these types of arrangement was that these countries must support US objectives regarding the peace settlement in Japan.33

For his part, Spender seemed unconvinced. Whether he truly disagreed with Dulles or was cunningly using “the negotiating value of Australia’s agreement to sign a peace treaty as a lever to obtain an effective security guarantee”, he told Dulles that Australia could not so easily accept a soft policy toward Japan. He argued that Australia needed adequate assurances that it was safe from any future Japanese aggression. “[Australia] is not satisfied that in the long-run, it was wholly unlikely that [Japan] would not […] present any menace to peace” Spender replied.34 As for including the Philippines, Spender and Doidge successfully resisted Dulles’s efforts even though Spender later admitted he would have been prepared to accept the Philippines if the alternative was no form of defence arrangement.

As Thomas K. Robb and David James Gill concluded, the reasons for this resistance reflected a range of geopolitical, security, and racial motivations.35 That said, there is certainly enough evidence from these meetings to praise Spender’s and Doidge’s diplomacy, particularly because it was likely they would have begrudgingly accepted the Philippines into ANZUS if there was no other option. It is also worth noting that these efforts were well received in London. The British were keen to ensure that the Philippines were not included in ANZUS, because such an inclusion would completely undermine British influence in the region.

With respect to the Japanese Peace Treaty, New Zealand had always been more pessimistic about Australia’s and New Zealand’s chances of influencing its conclusion. For example, regarding Japan, McIntosh had long thought “all [New Zealand] could do is to plug the old line and see what, if anything can be salvaged.” For McIntosh, it seemed unrealistic to hope for the demilitarisation of Japan based purely on Australian and New Zealand objections. The only acceptable compromise was a “guarantee against Japanese aggression.”36 In a similar spirit, Doidge expressed New Zealand’s reservations about the long-term possibility of revived Japanese aggression. Doidge told Dulles that his explanation for the US plan for Japan in the short term was “highly convincing”, but it “did not seem to cover the long term possibilities.”37 Australia and New Zealand needed some other guarantee to cover themselves against the long-term prospects in Japan.

Doidge also raised concerns about New Zealand military commitments elsewhere. Holland had told him that he was concerned about what a Pacific Pact might mean for its obligations in the Middle East if its provisions did not adequately protect New Zealand’s security concerns closer to home. “We cannot do both”, Doidge said to Dulles, passing on Holland’s reservations, “a Pacific Pact [cannot] lead us into obligations which would conflict with those we undertook to fulfil in the Middle East.” Doidge also pointed out the “folly of securing the front door and leaving the back door open.” New Zealand’s military commitment to global strategy could only be met, as Doidge stressed, with a “guarantee from the United States” in New Zealand’s “back door.”38

As a possible compromise, talks moved towards a trilateral regional security pact. When Spender and Doidge argued for a pact on 16 February, Dulles spoke about the difficulties it would cause for the Philippines, which only had an informal US guarantee. He also raised Britain’s clear objections to a pact, as the British Foreign Office did not want to see a US treaty with two Commonwealth nations that excluded Britain as a signatory. Spender, who was unaware Britain had pressed the United States to reconsider discussions for a pact with Australia and New Zealand, protested vehemently. He pointed out that Britain was no longer a major Pacific power and its objections were not relevant.

After lengthy discussions, Dulles agreed to examine possible draft tripartite pacts. Ralph Harry, part of the Australian delegation during the talks, prepared a possible treaty. Harry had studied the NATO treaty and hoped to model his draft on its provisions, suggesting that Dulles was more likely to accept its clauses if “every point […] [had a] precedent in some other treaty to which the US was a party.”39 Harry’s draft, although amended to meet Dulles’s more specific demands about the scope of any commitment, provided a solid base for discussions between Spender, Doidge and Dulles on 17 February. After the meeting, the three representatives agreed that the draft should be presented to their respective governments for further consideration.

Even after a draft treaty was agreed upon, there were still three potential issues that threatened to derail the entire project. The first was getting the treaty through the US Senate. In the lead up to its presentation to the Senate, Spender and Berendsen were still discussing changes to the wording with Dulles. Berendsen was particularly apprehensive about what these discussions might entail. “Here we have been offered on a platter the greatest gift that the most powerful country in the world could offer to a small and comparatively helpless group of people and we persist in niggling and naggling about what seems to me to be the most ridiculous trifles”, Berendsen told McIntosh on 25 June. He added that this sort of “stupid pin-pricking” could “cost us very dearly.” Berendsen feared that late objections to the treaty’s provisions would prevent getting it through the Senate. “It is not Acheson, Rusk, Dulles, the President and the State Department that we need to worry about”, Berendsen suggested, “it is the Senate, and my mind is on the Senate all the time.” Senate approval, according to Berendsen, was the “most difficult hurdle”, and trying to get further assurances from Dulles could “ruin the whole thing.”40 It certainly appeared that Berendsen had come around to the idea of a more binding commitment with the United States.

The second issue was British objections to the conclusion of the ANZUS Treaty. From London’s perspective, ANZUS demonstrated to the world that Britain was incapable of protecting Commonwealth countries in the Pacific and potentially threatened its positions in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaya. While Whitehall was pleased that the Philippines was not ultimately included in the draft treaty and British Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Kenneth Younger acknowledged publicly that ANZUS was “a most useful contribution to Commonwealth strategy”, the British Government deeply resented the conclusion of ANZUS without being included as a signatory. “We are most certainly a Pacific power”, British Foreign Secretary Herbert Morrison argued, and “it would not have been unwelcome to us if we were included in the proposed pact.”41

British efforts to stifle and undermine ANZUS came well before the treaty’s presentation to the Senate. While Dulles was in Tokyo finalising the peace treaty and post-occupation plans, Political Representative of the British Liaison Mission Sir Alvary Gascoigne told him that the UK Chiefs of Staff were reluctant to accept the US as Australia’s and New Zealand’s chief protector. “From the standpoint of the United Kingdom’s position as a world power”, he told Dulles on 2 February, the proposed Pacific Pact “would be interpreted in the Pacific and elsewhere as a renunciation of [Britain’s] responsibilities and possibly as evidence of [a] rift in policy between Britain and the United States.”42 He also argued that excluding Asian countries would encourage aggression in areas where Communist activity was highest.

Then, during ANZUS negotiations, Britain went to great lengths to prevent the US signing a formal agreement with Australia and New Zealand by voicing its strong discontent in Washington. London “hated” the idea of the ANZUS Treaty and had been doing its best to “head the Americans off and get them to substitute a Presidential Declaration”, McIntosh suggested in March 1951. The British also played on Dulles’s concerns over the inclusion of the Philippines. As McIntosh described shortly after Dulles’s visit to Canberra,

The British are obviously doing their best to torpedo the whole thing and they want to represent to the Americans the undesirability of including the Philippines because of the adverse effect it would have on United Kingdom prestige, more particularly in United Kingdom territories like Borneo, Malaya, Hong Kong and so forth. The Australians are ropeable about the British. They say they have been doing everything they can before Dulles arrived and since he arrived to stop the treaty.43

Although New Zealand still considered itself tied firmly to the Commonwealth and the British Empire, even the New Zealand External Affairs Department was upset by British efforts to stifle conclusion of the pact. Along with Britain’s sudden recognition of Communist China in January 1950, which caused a noticeable rift in Anglo-American relations, Berendsen argued to McIntosh in early April that Britain were “behaving like stupid children” and had done a “great deal of harm.”44

Another distraction was the development of a Middle East Command, which was already being discussed in depth by US and British officials to protect Western interests in the region. Britain contacted Australia and New Zealand about the possibility of forming a Middle East Command in mid-1951. Australia and New Zealand shared similar post-war interests in the security of the Middle East. For both countries, the Suez Canal was the major shipping route to Britain and the rest of Europe. Access to the region’s oil reserves was also especially important for the post-war industrial development schemes of both countries. However, it was only after New Zealand protestations over how little opportunity it had to influence policy and defence decisions that it accepted a formal British invitation to participate in the Middle East Defence Command.

Australia, on the other hand, was far less forthcoming in its support for a defence commitment to the Middle East. While Canberra “agreed in principle” to the Command and was willing to participate in discussions, the Australian External Affairs Department stressed that its agreement “[did] not involve any commitment to provide forces to the Middle East.” Its final position on the Command would be “substantially affected by arrangements for higher political direction and by views which are worked out as to the place of Southeast Asia in those elements of strategy which are relevant to Australia.”45 For Australian policymakers, ANZUS had to remain the priority.

Lastly, the final version and scope of the ANZUS Treaty had to be approved by the US military. Spender was particularly anxious about the military reaction to the ANZUS Treaty, as he hoped that it might provide a means for Australia to access US strategic plans and influence global strategy. After Dulles left Canberra in February, Spender wrote to him on 8 March and said, “I know you won’t mind me saying directly that we in this country are a metropolitan power in the Pacific and we hope that our view will be predominate.” He also hoped that closer ties with the United States might become a pretext for further US assistance in meeting Australia’s own defence production needs. In the same letter to Dulles, Spender wrote that “our objective is to get into full production, to increase our military forces and to take steps necessary to ensure that defence needs have priority. The lead which the United States has given on these matters is an inspiration”, Spender added, but urged that Australia needed more assistance to deal with “serious industrial troubles.”46

While the Department of Defense had already indicated in January that the conclusion of the treaty was a favourable outcome for the United States, many top-ranking US military officials now argued that the scope of American military and strategic consultation obligations should be as narrow as possible. In a combined State Department-Joint Chiefs of Staff meeting on 11 April, Chief of Naval Operations Forrest Sherman stressed the “value of informality in establishing joint planning” and indicated his preference for “leaving such arrangements out of the treaty.” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Omar Bradley agreed with Sherman’s conclusions. In Bradley’s estimation, combined planning was “theoretically all right but practically objectionable” because too many countries would have access to US strategic plans and could thereby complicate the policymaking process.47

Two days after this meeting, Secretary of Defense George Marshall suggested even at this late stage that, from a military perspective, any formal commitment to Australia and New Zealand’s defence was not an ideal outcome for the United States. “Any trilateral agreement with Australia and New Zealand should be made a simple understanding or public declaration rather than a formal pact.” Marshall wrote to Acheson on 13 April. At the very least, Marshall argued that “if political considerations are so overriding that a formal pact must be made, the Joint Chiefs of Staff oppose the inclusion in the pact of any reference to military plans, planning or organisations.” Recognising that a formal treaty was necessary for Australian and New Zealand acquiescence to the Japanese Peace Treaty, Dulles and Acheson refused to make a public declaration rather than a formal commitment. However, they accepted these military views and made sure to omit any reference to secret military planning under the ANZUS Treaty. “In the case of the trilateral arrangement with Australia and New Zealand”, Dulles told Acheson, “we can, I think, make it clear that any organisation thereunder will not have the right to demand knowledge of and to participate in planning.”48

Figure 10. ANZUS logo. Archives New Zealand (n. d.), Flickr,, CC BY 2.0.

Despite these uncertainties, the US Senate approved the ANZUS Treaty. Several days before the Japanese Peace Treaty was signed formally, Acheson, along with Australian and New Zealand representatives Percy Spender and Carl Berendsen, signed the ANZUS Treaty at a ceremony at The Presidio in San Francisco on 1 September 1951. The treaty was planned to enter into force on 29 April 1952. Australia, New Zealand and the United States were now allied formally and agreed to respond to mutual dangers in the Asia-Pacific region. After securing the agreement with the Americans, Spender declared that ANZUS was a momentous landmark in Australian history. In his view, ANZUS did more than express formally the close ties of comradeship between the parties; it also marked “the first step in building of the ramparts of freedom in the vast and increasingly important area of the Pacific Ocean.” He added that the treaty was “directed to regional security in the Pacific” and took the “first step towards what we hope will prove to be an ever widening system of peaceful security in the vital area.”49

Spender’s New Zealand counterpart, Frederick Doidge, also welcomed the conclusion of the treaty but appeared less convinced about its significance. The treaty represented “nothing new in the relationship of the three countries”, Doidge announced to the New Zealand House of Representatives on 13 July, as there was already “a deep and firm understanding on security between the United States and ourselves.” Unlike the other ANZUS powers, Doidge also alluded to the possibility of future British membership or consultation. In the same address, Doidge announced that “the New Zealand Government looks forward, in giving effect to the provisions of this treaty, to the closest consultation with the United Kingdom and other powers concerned with the security of the Pacific […] both New Zealand and Australia have special obligations in defence as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations.”50 The issue of British membership of ANZUS surfaced later once the treaty came into effect.

Doidge’s comments aside, the ANZUS Treaty undoubtedly signalled a crucial new era of Australian-New Zealand-American relations. In finalising its conclusion, Spender achieved what most people thought might be impossible. Given the circumstances, he could not have secured a more binding commitment from the United States at the time. Dulles certainly meant what he said when he told Spender’s wife Jean that “there would have been no ANZUS without Percy.” Achieved in the face of active opposition within the United States, Britain and most of the Commonwealth, it was one of the most impressive achievements by any Australian foreign affairs minister. If the ANZUS Treaty would be effective in practice, however, remained to be seen.

1 State Department Policy Background Memorandum, 24 July 1950, NARA, RG 59, 743.13/7-2450.

2 Cablegram from Embassy in Washington to Spender, 3 August 1950, NAA, A1838, 250/7/10 part I.

3 Jean Spender, Ambassador’s Wife, 21.

4 Notes of Meeting between Spender and Truman, 15 September 1950, NARA, RG 59, 611.43/9-1550.

5 Spender Cablegram, 15 September 1950, DAFP: ANZUS, 21-22. Spender’s ideas for a Pacific Pact can be found in Percy Spender, Exercises in Diplomacy: The ANZUS Treaty and the Colombo Plan (Sydney: Sydney University Press, 1969).

6 John Allison, Ambassador from the Prairie or Allison Wonderland (Boston: Houghton Miffin, 1973), 151.

7 Australian Mission to the United Nations to External Affairs, 22 September 1950, NAA, A816, 19/304/451; Cablegram to the Department of External Affairs, 22 September 1950, NAA, A1838, 532/11 part i.

8 Doidge Statement, 5 September 1950, NZ Parliamentary Debates, Vol. 291, 2142-2143.

9 Spender, Exercises in Diplomacy, 35.

10 Doidge Statement, 2 November 1950, NZ Parliamentary Debates, Vol. 292, 3942.

11 Spender, Exercises in Diplomacy, 33. See also Meeting Between Spender and Truman, 1 September 1950, NARA, RG 59, 611.43/9-150.

12 Note by Officer, 13 October 1950, NAA, A1838, 532/11 part I; NZ High Commissioner in Canberra to McIntosh, 27 October 1950, DNZER Vol. III, 548-550.

13 New Zealand Embassy in Washington to the Secretary of External Affairs, 5 January 1951, DNZER Vol. III, 424-425; O’Neill, Australia in the Korean War, 177.

14 Rusk to Matthews, 9 October 1950, NARA, RG 59, 790.5/10-950; McNicol to Officer; 31 October 1950, NAA, A1838, 532/11 part i; Spender to Watt, 1 November 1950, A6768, EATS 77 part i.

15 Spender, Exercises in Diplomacy, 65; McNicol to Officer; 31 October 1950, NAA, A1838, 532/11 part i; Spender to Watt, 1 November 1950, A6768, EATS 77 part i; Spender to Watt, 3 November 1950, A1838, 535/6 part i.

16 Allison to Dulles, 2 December 1950, FRUS 1950 Vol. VI, 1354-1355.

17 Makin to Spender, 9 December 1950, NAA, A6768, EATS 77 part iv.

18 Spender Statement, 11 January 1951, NAA, A4534, 46/2/4 Part II.

19 Paper by the United Kingdom Government on the Japanese Peace Treaty, 2 January 1951, DNZER Vol. III, 425-431.

20 Report of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Meeting in London, 9 January 1951, DNZER Vol. III, 433-434.

21 External Affairs Notes on a Pacific Pact, 30 January 1951, Archives NZ, EA, 111/3/3.

22 Ibid.

23 External Affairs Minister to the NZ High Commissioner in Canberra, 27 January 1951, DNZER Vol. III, 555.

24 Trotter, New Zealand and Japan, 152.

25 Shanahan to McIntosh, 26 January 1951, Archives NZ, EA 102/9/4.

26 Trotter, New Zealand and Japan, 152.

27 Allison to Jessup, 4 January 1951, FRUS 1951 Vol. VI, 132-134; Dulles to Jessup, 4 January 1951, FRUS 1951 Vol. VI, 134-137; Allison Memorandum, 11 January 1951, FRUS 1951 Vol. VI, 790-792.

28 Makin to Spender, 21 January 1951, NAA, A1838, TS250/7/10.

29 Notes on the Defence Aspects of the Japanese Peace Settlement, 30 January 1951, DNZER Vol. III, 558-563.

30 Memorandum for Doidge, 8 February 1951, Archives NZ, EA, 111/3/3 part 3.

31 Note on Discussion between the New Zealand and Australian Ministers of External Affairs, 13 February 1951, DNZER Vol. III, 590-591.

32 Spender, Exercises in Diplomacy, 124.

33 Acheson to Dulles, 9 January 1951, FRUS 1951, Vol. VI, 789.

34 Spender to Harrison, 21 February 1951, NAA, A6768, EATS 77 Annex A.

35 Robb and Gill, “The ANZUS Treaty during the Cold War”, 139.

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

37 Notes on the Australian-New Zealand-United States Talks in Canberra, 15-17 February 1951, DNZER Vol. III, 599-606.

38 Ibid., 599.

39 The Dulles Visit to Canberra, DAFP: ANZUS, 78.

40 Berendsen to McIntosh, 25 June 1951, in Undiplomatic Dialogue, 265-266; Berendsen to McIntosh, 13 July 1951, in Undiplomatic Dialogue, 267.

41 Spender Memorandum, 19 April 1951, Spender Papers, Box 1, NLA.

42 Dulles to Rusk, 2 February 1951, FRUS 1951 Vol VI Part I, 143-144.

43 McIntosh to Berendsen, 16 March 1951, in Undiplomatic Dialogue, 255.

44 Berendsen to McIntosh, 2 April 1951, in Undiplomatic Dialogue, 257-259.

45 Middle East Command Report, 11 October 1951, NAA, A4462, 439/1/10 Part 1.

46 Spender to Dulles, 8 March 1951, Spender Papers, Box 1, NLA.

47 Department of State-Joint Chiefs of Staff Meeting, 11 April 1951, NARA, RG 59, Lot 64, D 563.

48 Marshall to Acheson, 13 April 1951, FRUS 1951 Vol. VI Part I, 202; Dulles to Acheson, 13 April 1951, FRUS 1951 Vol. VI Part I, 203.

49 US Department of State Bulletin, 24 September 1951, reproduced in ANZUS Council Preparations, 24 July 1952, Acheson Papers, TL.

50 Doidge Statement, 13 July 1951, New Zealand Parliamentary Debates Vol. 294, 1951, 318-319.

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