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Percy Spender and the origins of ANZUS: an Australian initiative.

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Dr Sandra Penrose

School of Social and Cultural Studies University of Western Australia

Refereed Paper presented to the

Australian Political Studies Association Conference

University of Adelaide

29 September - 1 October 2004


The ANZUS alliance has been a peculiarly long-lived alliance.1 There has been

considerable dispute about the origins of the ANZUS Treaty upon which the

alliance is based, and in particular the initiatives that Australia took to obtain the

treaty, as well as differences about the value of the alliance to the continuing

participants. The aims and, in particular the role, of Percy Spender in the original

achievement of the ANZUS Treaty has been undergoing reassessment in some of

the literature. This reassessment has given more prominence to the interest of the

United States in having the alliance and downplayed the role of Spender in

achieving the alliance. It also suggests that the outcome of the ANZUS alliance was

a disappointment to Spender. The evidence amassed here supports Sir Percy

Spender’s claims for his role in achieving the alliance and shows American

reticence and even reluctance to engage in such an alliance, a reluctance which

persisted even beyond the signing and ratification of the alliance documents in

some sectors of the US government, particularly the military. Far from being

disappointed at this result, Spender proudly 2echoes Menzies statement describing

the ANZUS Treaty as ’the keystone of our Pacific structure’ and ‘one of the major

achievements’ of the sixteen years of the Menzies administration.

Part of such disputation can be explained by a failure to understand the

attitudes taken by the participants at the time of the negotiation of the ANZUS

Treaty. It is proposed to examine the perspectives of the continuing parties,

Australia and the United States at the origins of the Treaty, the question of

Spender’s initiatives in obtaining the treaty, and also to briefly consider the effect of

Britain’s attitude on the original negotiations.

Historical Continuity of the ANZUS Objectives

The Howard government’s White papers on foreign affairs and trade, In the

National Interest and Advancing the National Interest still refer to the relationship

with the United States in terms which echo those that were used in the Australian

foreign policy documents surrounding the formation of the ANZUS alliance and

1 A point analysed by Henry Albinski and William Tow in their article, ANZUS - Alive and Well after Fifty Years, Australian Journal of Politics and History vol 48 no 2 2002, pp. 153-73. 2

Percy Spender, Politics and a Man, Sydney 1972, p 304 and of course gives a detailed treatment in his Exercises in Diplomacy Adelaide 1969, part 1 pp 13-190, which displays no disappointment and again considerable pride in the achievement.


show similar preoccupations to those of Mr Percy Spender, Australian Minister for

External Affairs, in his determination to achieve the Australian American alliance.

The 1997 White Paper states ‘…Beyond its significance to the defence of Australia,

the alliance strengthens United States strategic engagement in the region: an

engagement which has underwritten the regional stability on which the East Asian

economic miracle has been built….In short the United States will remain an

indispensable participant in the security and the economic affairs of the Asia

Pacific over the next fifteen years…’3 The 2003 White Paper says ‘…Australia has a

vital interest in supporting long-term US strategic engagement in East Asia,

because of its fundamental contribution to regional stability and prosperity…’.4

Although the relative strengths of the emphases placed between strategic and

economic interests have varied from time to time, these interests in having the

American alliance were those of Percy Spender when he negotiated the agreement.

He was concerned for Australian strategic security and believed that the interest of

the United States in the Asian Pacific region needed to be demonstrably secured so

that Australia could pursue its interests in the region.

Spender’s Claims Over the Origins of ANZUS

Sir Percy Spender had a relatively short period in his office as the first post-war Liberal Minister for External Affairs, serving from December 1949 until the

election of April 1951 when Spender retired from parliament. Spender claimed the

lion’s share in negotiating, signing and ratifying the ANZUS Treaty.5 Support for

Spender’s claims has also come from major interpreters of Australian foreign

policy.6 There have however also been authors who have inflated the role of the

United States in the origins of ANZUS7 and do not give Spender his due


3 Commonwealth Government of Australia, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, In the National Interest, ch 4 section 137, Canberra 1997. 4

Commonwealth Government of Australia, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Advancing the National Interest, Overview p. xvi, Canberra 2003. 5

Percy Spender, Exercises in Diplomacy, Adelaide 1969, Part One, pp13-190. 6 Barclay, Bell, Edwards, Harper, Miller, O’Neil and Reese are among these authors. However not all these authors were able to work from the documentary material, as in many cases publication of their works preceded the release of the documents. 7

See for instance Joseph Camilleri, ANZUS :Australia’s Predicament in the Nuclear Age, Melbourne 1987, chapter one. This chapter incidentally relies entirely on secondary sources although the documentation for the period was open at the time of writing. Camilleri, despite some recognition of Spender’s initiative, makes it seem that Spender, even in this initiative was merely the puppet of the Americans, a perspective which this paper will


The recognition of Spender’s role in the origins of ANZUS has most recently

come under challenge by David McLean8 and David Lee9, who has closely

followed McLean’s view. Although many of the major interpreters of Australian

foreign policy since the second world war have formulated their views before the

documentary evidence became available, McLean and Lee have based their

interpretations upon the documentary evidence but never-the-less underestimate

the role of Spender.

McLean makes claims for American initiative in the matter of the ANZUS Treaty

and has used the available documents (or at least some of them) to come to a

conclusion, which overrates the American, and therefore underrates Spender’s,

contribution, to the origins of ANZUS. In this case the explanation lies in the focus

on the February meetings of 1951 when the draft ANZUS Treaty was drawn up by

the representatives of Australia, New Zealand and the United States. McLean

draws the conclusion that when Spender later claimed the success for the origins

and negotiations of ANZUS that he was inflating his own role in the process by

underestimating American willingness to reach such an agreement in the February

talks. Spender’s claim to be the father of the ANZUS agreement however does not

rest solely upon the February talks but includes the negotiations which preceded

and succeeded them. By February 1951 the Americans were willing to negotiate on

the matter, after many months of badgering by Spender and a careful consideration

of both his arguments and his threats over the necessity for some American

guarantee of Australian security in the Pacific. An expression of British

disapproval over the membership of the possible treaty created last-minute

complications for the Americans at the February talks which Spender’s arguments,

doggedness and tactics overcame. There was reluctance at the February talks but it

was created by British rather than American reservations.

demonstrate to be a false one. Eric Andrews, who represents the Americans blackmailing Australia into non-recognition of Communist China in exchange for ANZUS was also mistaken in this view. 8 David McLean, “ANZUS Origins : a Reassessment”, in Australian Historical Studies, vol 24 1990 pp 64-82.

9 David Lee, Search for Security: The Political Economy of Australia’s Postwar Foreign and Defence Policy, Canberra 1995, pp 117-119.


The Historiography of ANZUS

A brief word on the historiography of explanations for Spender’s success in

obtaining American agreement to the ANZUS Treaty adds to the composite picture

of the ANZUS negotiations and assists in evaluating Spender’s performance.

Dorling’s monograph of 1989 gives a brief account of this in his introduction.10

Although it is widely understood that Australia was able to secure the ANZUS

Treaty as a quid pro quo for agreement to a ‘soft’ Japanese Peace Treaty, Dorling

cites with approval the view first put by Alan Watt, that “Australia could not have

secured American assent to ANZUS simply by refusing to sign the Japanese Peace

Treaty”, and that a second crucial factor was American goodwill aroused by

Australia’s military participation in the Korean War. Dorling regards this view as

being supported by Barclay, Bell, Camilleri, Harper, McGibbon, O’Neill and

Pemberton. He further maintains that a major and perhaps the most important

factor underpinning the successful conclusion of the ANZUS Treaty was the ability

and the willingness of Australia and New Zealand to contribute to the defence of

the Middle East in the event of a global war.11

The argument to be pursued in this paper shows that the securing of Australian

acceptance of the soft peace treaty with Japan was by far the most important

consideration of the American administration. To add yet another fragment of the

composite picture, it will also be argued that the means by which Truman chose to

pursue this objective, in appointing John Foster Dulles to secure the agreement of

all parties to the desired American version of the Japanese Treaty, was also

important to the successful pursuit of the negotiations over ANZUS.

Spender’s Performance as Minister for External Affairs

At the time of Spender’s accession to the External Affairs portfolio in December

1949, the Pacific Pact was no new idea in Australian politics.12 The post war

situation had given this issue new urgency and the previous Labor administration,

and in particular its Foreign Minister, Dr Evatt, had made considerable efforts

10 Philip Dorling, The Origins of the ANZUS Treaty A Reconsideration, Flinders Politics Monographs no 4. Adelaide 1989. 11


12 Trevor Reese gives a brief history which he dates back to the early days of federation in his book Australia, New Zealand and the United States: A Survey of International Relations 1941-1968, Melbourne 1969, pp 107-8.


towards forming a Pacific pact including the United States.13 These efforts had been

made primarily to counter-balance Japan. All major Australian political parties

were concerned that the terms of the peace settlement took insufficient precautions

against Japanese rearmament, and felt that Australia had too little say in the

counsels of the nations concerning the Pacific region.

At the Colombo Conference of January 1950 it became apparent to Spender

that the Asian countries of the Commonwealth were not likely to agree with him

on the importance of a Pacific pact. Mr Bevin of the United Kingdom had also

seemed unenthusiastic and it was only the Australians and New Zealanders who

appeared to be strong supporters of the idea14. His subsequent tour of Southeast

Asia en route home to Australia convinced Spender of the worth of the economic

assistance envisaged in his Colombo Plan but also of the necessity of a Pacific Pact

with United States participation. Spender summarised his views in a speech in

February15 in which he stated that a Pacific Pact without the United States would

be a meaningless gesture. In response to the January speech of Mr Acheson

defining the American defensive perimeter in the Pacific to exclude Australia and

New Zealand and indicating that such countries would have to rely on their own

efforts to resist armed attack together with possible support from the United

Nations, Spender recognised that states in the Pacific region needed to give

evidence of a readiness to defend themselves. If that were done, Spender

suggested that it would be reasonable to hope for the support of the United States.

A beginning could be made on a Pacific Pact by Australia, the United Kingdom and

other Commonwealth countries and then other countries, especially the United

States, could be invited to join them.

Throughout 1950 Spender promoted the idea of a Pacific pact through the press

and in parliament. In June he told the Australian parliament that Australia would

be prepared to have a bi-lateral treaty with the United States.16 In a press

conference in Strasbourg in August he was asked to comment on the views of other

13 Trevor Reese, op cit, pp 108-116, Coral Bell, op cit, ch 2, T.B.Millar, Australia in Peace and War, 2nd edition, New York 1991 pp 163-4. 14

Accounts of discussions at Colombo can be found in AA CRS A1838 340/1 and PRO FO 371 84818 15 Percy Spender, speech to The Constitutional Club, Sydney on the 20th February 1950, AA CRS A1838 494/2/10 part 4. 16

Percy Spender, Minister for External Affairs, speech to the Australian parliament, June 1950.


governments to his idea of a Pacific Pact and he indicated that not much progress

had been made but that Australia was prepared to participate. Spender added that

an unexpected effect of the Korean War had been to retard the process because

some governments argued that Korea had demonstrated that the countries of the

United Nations were prepared to join against aggression and there was therefore

no need for a formal pact.17

Despite their own interests in Southeast Asia, the British were not keen on

Australian defence attention being turned towards the Pacific. The British and

American strategy in the case of the outbreak of a major international war required

Australian defence of the Middle East. The triumph of communism in China, the

issue of Formosa which was under their active consideration during 1950, and the

Korean War led the Americans to reformulate their policy in relation to the Pacific.

In talks between Mr Rusk of the United States and Mr Dening (later Sir Esler), of

Britain in July 1950, Rusk queried whether the government of the United Kingdom

would welcome, or expect, Australian sharing of responsibility for Southeast Asia,

to help safeguard the area from Hong Kong to Burma. Dening replied that

Australia, and to a lesser extent, New Zealand, were already helping the British in

Southeast Asia. If Russian aggression were started in earnest however, the Middle

East was the more important strategic area and Britain wanted the assistance of

Australia and New Zealand there.18 During the visit of Mr Menzies to Britain in

July 1950 he had been the subject of British pressure to commit Australia to the

Middle East strategy and indicated that the Australian government accepted for

planning purposes the idea of the Middle East as the focus of Australia’s efforts in

a major war. He had also indicated that the Australian public had still to be

brought to accept it.19

Spender and the Pacific Pact

In his book Exercises in Diplomacy, Spender maintained that he discussed his

proposals for a Pacific pact with both Bevin and Mr Attlee during his August-September 1950 visit to Britain and that neither of them gave him any

17 Papers of Sir Percy Spender, NLA MS4875/13 box 3. 18 Talks between Dean Rusk of the United States and M.E. Dening for the United Kingdom in Washington, July 1950, PRO FO 371 83014. 19



encouragement or even displayed any interest in his plan.20 The documentation

prepared in the Foreign Office both in anticipation of and during the visit, supports

this contention. It stated that there had been Australian references to the

desirability of a Pacific Pact.21 However in his talks with the Canadian Ministers in

Ottawa, Menzies had agreed that the idea was unrealistic and described it as “an

attempt to erect a superstructure on a foundation of jelly”. The British brief also

indicated that Menzies had said that the pact was “Percy Spender’s baby” but that

no-one took Spender seriously on the subject and that he hoped that the Canadians

would not do so either.22

Bevin and Spender discussed the Pacific Pact among other topics in early

September. Bevin stated that economic co-operation in the Asian region was a real

possibility and that later military co-operation might become possible. Spender

argued however that some form of defence organisation was needed in the Pacific.

The Korean War had revealed a lack of preparation. He agreed that the Pacific

countries did differ from the Atlantic ones but still thought that the question of a

Pact should be discussed with some urgency in New York. The United States had

begun to show some interest. Spender had offered the Americans bases in the

north of Australia. The Americans had responded that they were not necessary at

present but that they would bear the idea in mind. Bevin concluded this matter by

stating that he would be happy to explore the idea of a Pacific arrangement

informally in New York.23

In September Spender had talks in the United States with President Truman, Mr

Acheson, Mr Rusk, Mr Dulles and various US Senators on the Pacific Pact. Menzies

had visited the United States in July and August and spoken with the President

and Mr Acheson, prior to his trip to Ottawa. The briefs prepared by the State

Department in anticipation of his visit, included material on the Pacific Pact which

20 Percy Spender, op cit, Adelaide 1969, pp 35-37. 21 PRO DO 35 2776. 22

PRO FO 371 83014. 23 Discussion between E. Bevin of the United Kingdom and P. Spender of Australia at the Foreign Office 1 September 1950, PRO FO 371 84537 and Mr Bevin’s private papers, FO 800/462.


the Americans expected him to discuss.24 In the event Menzies did not raise the

issue of a Pacific Pact.25

One of the difficulties which Spender experienced in dealing with the

Americans on the subject of the Pacific Pact was that he was not sure what group of

possible participants would most appeal to the Americans, or even whether the

group should be extensive or narrow. His list of suggested participants on the

occasion of his September talks consisted of the United States, the United Kingdom,

Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the Philippines, Mexico and appropriate Central

and South American Pacific states.26

A major plank of Spender’s arguments for the necessity of a Pacific pact during

these exchanges was the fact that Australia made a valuable contribution to global

defence whilst having no real say in global strategy.27 Australia could be relied

upon to resist aggression but felt that she was entitled to some assurances with

regard to her own security. The Americans expressed some sympathy for

Spender’s position and acknowledged Australian dependability in global defence

thus giving some credence to the supporters of the Korean War argument,

although the Americans were also taking into account Australia’s role in World

War Two and her proposed role in case of the outbreak of another major war.

Never the less the American officials were not empowered to hold out any hope

that the United States would be able to give any guarantee of Australian security

either individually by a bi-lateral arrangement28 or by participation in a regional

pact of the kind proposed.29

Spender then associated the pact talks with the issue of the peace settlement

with Japan. He pointed out that the terms of the Japanese Peace Treaty which were

envisaged by the United States, were unacceptable to Australians who feared

24 See Background Memoranda prepared in the Department of State, 24 July 1950 US NA RG 59 743.13/7-2450 and Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, Perkins, to the Secretary of State, 27 July 1950, US NA RG 59 743.13/7-2750. 25

Report prepared by the Department of State on the visit of Menzies RG 59 743.13/8-750.

26 Memorandum of Conversation by H. Smith of the meeting between Spender, Makin and selected US Senators, US NA RG 59 611.43/9-1450. 27

Memorandum of Conversation by J Simmons of Spender’s talk with Truman, US NA RG 59 611.43/9-1350 28 Spender had raised the possibility of a bi-lateral arrangement in his talk with Acheson on September 18 1950, US NA RG 59 Lot 53D444. 29

PRO FO 371 84537


Japanese rearmament. There could be no assurance that Japan would remain in

any particular camp. Under these circumstances Australians felt the necessity for a

Pacific Pact in which the United States would have a role.30

The US Attitude to the Pacific Pact

In the first week of October Spender made an effort to hurry proceedings by

telling the United States Delegates to the United Nations that he wanted a

definitive answer from the United States on a possible Pacific Pact within a week.31

As a result of their September meetings with Spender the officers of the American

State Department had been giving considerable attention to the question of a

possible Pacific Pact or some other alternative arrangement which would satisfy

Spender’s suggestions as the Americans perceived them.32 After receiving

Spender’s request for a definitive answer, Rusk instructed Mr Hickerson of the

United States delegation to the United Nations to speak informally with Spender in

order to ascertain more specifically what he had in mind.33 Rusk stated that it

should be made clear to Spender that the formulation of any plan with such vast

implications could not be accomplished speedily. The State Department was open-minded on this subject but was aware of the tremendous difficulties which would

have to be overcome before any arrangement such as the Pacific Pact could be

consummated. While no United States position had been established, Rusk could

see no reason why Hickerson should not indicate general sympathy on the part of

the United States with the efforts of non-communist states to form regional

associations. Specific complications would involve the inclusion or exclusion of

India, Nationalist China, France, the Netherlands and Latin American west coast

states. Spender should be asked for his considered view on these problems and for

an exposition of Australia’s conception of a Pacific Pact, its membership, objectives,

30 PRO FO 371 84537 and Talk between Spender and Acheson, September 18 1950, US NA RG59 Lot 53D444. 31 Emmerson to Rusk, 9 October 1950, US NA RG 59 790.5/10-950. 32

See for instance the Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Rusk) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Matthews), October 9 1950, US NA RG 59 790.5/10-950, Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Perkins) to the Secretary of State of October 27 1950, US NA RG 59 743.5811/10-2750 and The Secretary of State to the Secretary of Defence, Acheson to Marshall of November 24 1950, US NA RG 59 743.5811/11-2450. 33

Rusk to Hickerson, 12 October 1950, US NA RG 59 790.5/10-1250, also Foreign Relations of the United States (hereafter FRUS) vol VI for 1950 pp 148-152.


form of organisation and method of bringing it into being. Acheson also signed

this document and a copy was forwarded to Canberra.34

In response to Rusk’s orders, Hickerson and Mr Allen immediately called a

meeting with Spender and Sir Keith Officer on the subject of a Pacific Pact.

Hickerson opened by making it clear that while the United States had a

background of sympathetic interest with respect to regional pacts, there were a

large number of questions relating to a Pacific Pact, regarding the participants,

scope of the area, the nature of obligations and so on, on which Spender was

invited to comment. Spender responded that as far as obligations were concerned,

he wanted a provision embodying a definitive and general obligation similar to

article V of the North Atlantic Treaty; and for machinery, a continuing council with

some adjunctive mechanism, though not as elaborate as that of NATO. Spender

had varied lists of possible participants. To be realistic, Spender believed that the

parties should be Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, the United States, the

United Kingdom and Canada, those states capable of undertaking military

commitments in the area. 35 Hickerson queried whether without a non-white

country the Pact would be regarded as a white alliance. Spender and Officer were

inclined to dismiss this concern and thought that the Pact could be sold to Asians

on the grounds that it would prevent war and keep it from Asia. Hickerson

pointed out that with such a membership the Pact could hardly be effective to

protect the mainland to which Spender responded that it would be difficult to

defend in any case. Allen wondered whether Spender had in mind that the Treaty

would become operative in the event of attack on certain countries even though

they were not parties to the treaty. Spender indicated that the strategic area

extended through Indonesia, Malaya and Thailand but that the question required

further consideration. In response to American doubts about the need for such a

pact, Spender argued that no Pacific war could be fought without Australia and

that the pact would serve a real strategic purpose in helping Australia to discharge

its world responsibilities. There was a rising feeling in the Australian Labor Party

34 Ibid

35 Memorandum of conversation between F.Officer, P. Spender for Australia and J. Hickerson and W. Allen for the United States, New York, 12 October 1950, US NA RG 59 790.5/10-1250.


against overseas service, and although if war came, Australia would send its troops

where needed, Spender argued that it would be much easier if Australia had the

assurance of a Pact. Australians did not understand why, when they were

prepared to stand with the United States if it was attacked, they got no response.

Every time the NAT was extended, as in the case of Greece and Turkey,

Australians felt that they were ‘not getting a fair go.’ Spender further argued that a

Pact would have a preventive value and would improve general stability. He did

not think that other means to let Australia’s voice be heard, such as intensified

diplomatic consultation, would serve the same purpose. However he agreed that

some bi-lateral agreement would help. Hickerson concluded these talks by saying

that the United States government saw the Australian problems and were

sympathetic but there were major difficulties involved and the United States did

not yet have the answers.36

In the following months the officials of the State Department canvassed the

arguments which Spender had presented in the September and October meetings

and continued to address the issue of the meeting of Australian concerns.37 The

chief focus of American concern centred on the threat that Australia would not

agree to a ‘liberal’ Japanese Peace Treaty without firm guarantees against Japanese

aggression in the form of a Pacific Pact or treaty arrangement.

Spender’s argument that Australia had played and would continue to play a

role in the Pacific and elsewhere and yet had little formal representation for its

views, was also received with some sympathy.38 The State Department, and to a

greater extent, the Joint Chiefs of Staff39 were concerned about the possible

membership and scope of such an alliance as the Pacific Pact, but the suggestion of

a tri-lateral pact began to assume importance in the last months of 1950 and the

early months of 1951.

36 Ibid

37 See footnote 31 for a number of these considerations. 38 See for example US NA RG 7695.00/10-250 and Percy Spender, Exercises in Diplomacy, Adelaide 1969, pp 44-8. 39

More will be said of the nature of the concerns of the Joint Chiefs of Staff later in this paper.


The Appointment of Dulles to Secure the Japanese Peace Treaty

As their concern over finalising the Japanese Peace Treaty grew, Truman

decided to allocate the responsibility for pursuing the matter to John Foster Dulles.

Dulles was asked to meet with UN delegation members in New York to sound

them out on the Japanese Peace Treaty during the last months of 1950. When

Dulles reported to Truman and Acheson on his progress in November, Truman

decided to authorise Dulles to continue the negotiations, suggesting that they

should meet and review the matter in December in the light of any further

information that they would receive and decide on the next steps to be taken.40

Acheson and Dulles had become convinced that Australia, and possibly also New

Zealand, would not agree to the terms of the liberal treaty with Japan that the

Americans favoured, without some form of Pacific Pact. In mid December

Acheson in a letter to the Secretary of Defence proposed that the American

government should explore the possibilities of a mutual assistance arrangement

among the Pacific island nations and by early in January the discussions between

the Departments of State and Defence had become concentrated on a possible

Pacific Pact.41

Truman in a letter of 10 January 1951 gave Dulles the personal rank of

Ambassador, Special Representative of the President, with the responsibility for

conducting the negotiations which were necessary to conclude the Japanese Peace

Settlement. The crucial issue for Australia was Truman’s attitude that the US

would commit substantial force to the defence of the island chain of which Japan

was a part, that the US desired that Japan should be increasingly able to defend

itself and that in order to implement that policy the US was willing to make a

mutual assistance arrangement among the Pacific island nations (Australia, New

Zealand, the Philippines, Japan, the US and perhaps Indonesia) which would have

the dual purpose of assuring combined action as between members to resist

aggression from without and also to resist attack by one of the members. Truman

emphasised that the US should agree to such a course of action only as the other

40 Memoranda of Dean Acheson, November 16 1950, Acheson papers, Truman Library. 41 Letter from Acheson to Secretary of Defense (Marshall), December 14 1950, Dean Acheson Papers, Harry S Truman Library, Independence.


nations would accept the general basis on which the US was prepared to conclude

the Japanese Peace settlement. Dulles was to avoid giving the impression that he

could finally commit the US government on the matter.42 Dulles was to make a tour

to discuss these issues of the Japanese Peace Treaty and possible security

arrangements. Accordingly he cabled Menzies in London in mid January a few

days after Makin, at Spender’s behest, had once again urged the Americans to

report any progress on the Pacific Pact.43 Dulles offered to visit Australia in order

to discuss the two issues.

Although it was true that the British had shown little interest in Spender’s

initiatives for a Pacific Pact, and that the British had accepted the idea that

Australia and New Zealand should have a guarantee from the United States which

might take the form of a Pacific Pact,44, when the time came the British became

anxious about the negotiations and the agreement itself. A perusal of the

Australian, British and American documents indicate that there were differences

within the British cabinet about how the issue ought to be handled and that the

differences in the British administration resulted in some conflicting advice being

received by the Americans in particular.

The Japanese Peace Treaty and the Pacific Pact

Spender, not being privy to the American discussions and documentation of the

previous months, was unaware that of all his arguments, the one upon which the

Americans had focused was Australian unwillingness to see a liberal peace

settlement for Japan without some American guarantee of Australian security.

Dulles proposal to discuss the two issues of the Japanese settlement and the Pacific

Pact, indicated a willingness to associate the two issues. The existence of such

willingness however appeared questionable, when upon Dulles’ arrival in

Australia, he made no mention of the Pacific Pact in his opening remarks.45 It was

for this reason that Spender presented a picture of American reluctance in his

subsequent description of the February talks. MacLean dismisses such reluctance,

42 Letter from Truman to Dulles, January 10 1951, PSF, Truman Papers, Truman Library. 43 Memorandum of conversation between Makin and Webb, Washington 11 January 1951, US NA RG 59 743.5/1-1151. 44

For example at the Sixth Meeting of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers in January 1951, as reported in the Cabinet Meeting of PRO CAB 129/45. 45 PRO CAB 129/44 number 64 of 27 February 1951.


suggesting that because the Americans had initially come prepared to make some

security agreement with Australia, Spender overemphasised the difficulty of

obtaining the agreement. The difficulty was real enough but it was of British rather

than American origin at this juncture. The explanation of Dulles’ failure to mention

the Pacific Pact on his arrival in Australia was his encounter with Sir Alvary

Gascoigne in Tokyo en route to Australia.

The US/UK Interraction Over the Pacific Pact

The British and Americans had been conferring on the matter of Pacific defence

over a long period. The Americans had gained the impression that some form of

American guarantee of Australian security in the form of a Pacific pact, or some

other arrangement was acceptable to the British. The British seemed unprepared

for the speed with which matters had moved in the last months of 1950 and when

the United States government canvassed the possibility of some security

arrangement with those nations with major Pacific island territories with the British

Ambassador Sir Oliver Franks in January 1951, Counsellor Graves asked whether

the United Kingdom would be included. Dulles replied that British membership

had not been contemplated since it had been thought best to limit the area to the

major island nations of the Pacific and that any fuller participation might raise the

question of French, Dutch or Portuguese participation.46

Dulles called on Sir Alvary Gascoigne while in Tokyo in order to obtain the

British reaction to the latest American proposal for a Pacific defence council

consisting of the “Island Chain” of the United States, Japan, the Philippines,

Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand. The British Cabinet had taken a most

unfavourable view of this proposal. Although the British Chiefs of Staff recognised

the undeniable advantage of giving assurance of United States protection to

Australia and New Zealand, they considered the proposals for a Defence Council

to be unacceptable because it would be interpreted as British renunciation of their

responsibilities and the exclusion of the Asian mainland countries would

46 Memorandum by Allison of conversation on the Japanese Peace Settlement between Franks and Graves of the British Embassy with Dulles, Magruder, Babcock and Allison on January 12 1951, US NA RG 59 694.001/1-1251. There is also an account of this meeting in a background paper prepared by the State Department on July 24 1952 in readiness for Acheson and American delegates to the first ANZUS Council meeting in August 1952, Acheson Papers, ANZUS folder, Truman Library.


encourage communist aggression against them. The American documents indicate

that Gascoigne gave the unfavourable views of the British Cabinet and Chiefs of

Staff and at the conclusion of his summary said: “That is the end of that, but there

is a...” He then paused, leaving the sentence incomplete and continued, “This is

from the Foreign Office, not from Her Majesty’s Government but the Foreign Office

and myself. We feel strongly opposed to the idea of a Pacific Defence Organisation

which would exclude the United Kingdom and I would stress that most

emphatically to you, sir.”47

The February Talks between the US, Australia and New Zealand

Spender, however, was determined to associate the two issues of the Japanese

Peace Treaty and the Pacific Pact in the February talks and informed Dulles and Mr

Doidge of New Zealand that the Australian cabinet could not accept a treaty such

as that provisionally outlined by the United States, which imposed no limitation on

Japanese rearmament, unless there were accompanying arrangements to ensure

Australian security. The nature of the security arrangements arrived at for

Australia would condition its approach to the terms of the settlement with Japan.

The cabinet had also noted that Australia’s capacity to live up to its obligations in

the Middle East would depend directly upon the extent to which it was secure in

its own territories. The Prime Minister desired an exploration of possible security

arrangements. A tri-partite agreement of the United States, Australia and New

Zealand seemed best to Australia, but if a stalemate developed over this or

alternative arrangements, the Australian government could not approve a treaty

permitting unrestricted Japanese rearmament. Spender mentioned that he had

received a cable the previous day from Rusk who said that he had been impressed

by the possibility of achieving a three-cornered arrangement. Australia had put up

a case for a Pacific Pact in the previous October but Spender did not know what, if

any, progress had been made. The idea of a Pact seemed to have dissipated in the

course of Ambassador Dulles’s travel. Spender was aware of the objections

interposed by other countries but he felt that Australia’s position must be

recognised by the United States. If Australia was asked to accept a Japanese treaty

47 Memorandum by Allison of conversation between Dulles and Gascoigne, February 2 1951, US NA RG 59 694.001 Box 3007.


without attendant arrangements for Australia, it could not do so. Some one of the

various possible types of security arrangements, could and must be concluded and

the objections were not something to which to bow, but must be overcome.48

Dulles’ response indicated that he had left Washington with the broad authority

to make a security pact which would include Australia, New Zealand and the

Philippines, Japan, the United States and possibly Indonesia. The British

Ambassador in Washington had been informed but that it was not until Dulles had

reached Tokyo that he had been told of United Kingdom opposition. This had

thrown the United States off balance and would mean that the matter would have

to be reconsidered and a number of pertinent factors reopened. Dulles conveyed

that he now felt that things could no longer be finalised in Australia. Dulles

outlined a series of possible security arrangements and concluded that there was

no hesitation or reluctance on the part of the United States regarding the substance

of what was wanted by Australia and New Zealand. The Americans had thought

that they had a satisfactory formula but the British did not like it.

Spender commented that he was surprised that the Americans were so deterred

by British objections. Australia regarded itself as the principal in the area since

Australians lived there. Dulles responded that they had not indicated to Britain

that they regarded the objections as valid, but that they saw difficulty in

proceeding if the British felt so strongly. Spender thought that the British

objections could be met by a series of bi-lateral arrangements and proceded to

comment on and attempt to circumvent the British objections individually. Doidge

asked why there should not be a tripartite arrangement which would give time to

condition the minds of the peoples to the bigger concept. Dulles then inquired

whether Australia and New Zealand had any written outlines of possible

arrangements so that substantive issues could be studied while leaving the

question of participation aside.49

The following day the three men went through the text of a possible treaty

article by article. Spender returned to the idea of a tri-partite treaty and stated that

48 Notes on conversations between Dulles, Spender and Doidge by R. Fearey, 16 and 17 February 1951, US NA RG 59 lot 54D 423. 49



discussion with the British plenipotentiary Sir Esler Dening who was in Canberra

during the talks, had indicated that there would be no objection on the part of the

United Kingdom. It was Spender’s view that there could not be any such objection.

Having gone through the treaty article by article, Spender said that he proposed to

make the following recommendations to his government. That, pending

determination of whether the proposed pact was satisfactory to the United States

Government, Australia reserved the right to propose limitations on Japanese

rearmament in the treaty; that if the pact was acceptable to the United States,

Australia not insist upon provisions for the restriction or supervision of Japanese

rearmament in the treaty; that if the pact was acceptable to the United States,

Australia proposed that after the treaty was signed, Japan of its own accord enter a

unilateral or multilateral agreement with Australia and possibly other countries,

under which it would agree not to revive militaristic policies and not to accumulate

dangerous military might. Dulles responded that the United States were anxious

that the Japanese would not recreate adequate armed forces which the Americans

wished to see used for purposes of collective security.50

The British Again!

It was clear that the British expected to be included in, or at least closely

informed of, the discussions between the United States, Australia and New

Zealand on the Pacific Pact. Their expectations of inclusion were dashed and even,

to some extent, their expectation of being closely informed while the talks were in

progress. In his correspondence with the British Foreign Office Sir Esler

complained of this and attributed it, rightly, to Spender’s influence.51 Spender’s

views on the matter have been subsequently set out in both his Politics and a Man

and his Exercises in Diplomacy, which reveal his consciously independent conduct

of these affairs.52 When the talks were concluded Spender related that he

communicated the result of the discussions and the draft treaty directly to the

Labour Government of Britain, seeking not approval but a statement that Britain

was not opposed to it. Spender regarded this as critical because of the British

50 Ibid

51 Sir Esler Dening to Sir William Strang, 5 February 1950, PRO FO 371 93016 and Sir Esler Dening to R. Scott, 17 March 1950, PRO FO 371 92236 52

See particularly Percy Spender, Politics and a Man, Sydney 1972, pp 266-8.


objections raised with the United States and because British influence with the

United States might be important.53

Dulles’s message to Acheson of February 19 indicated that the four day

conference with Spender and Doidge had resulted in a tentative agreement on a

draft of the security pact. The Commonwealth had preferred a tri-partite form but

Dulles made clear that the United States had some reservations and might still

want to include the Philippines. It had been made clear that the United States was

not committed in any manner but also that the security arrangement and the

Japanese Peace Treaty were interdependent so that none of the parties was

obligated to accept the one without the other.54

Menzies was also in communication with the British Prime Minister, Minister for

Commonwealth Relations and the Foreign Minister over the Canberra talks and the

proposed security pact. The Australians, with the scent of victory in their nostrils,

were not prepared to entertain any suggestions that might hinder or delay reaching

agreement with the United States. Menzies conveyed these views to the British in a

letter of 22 February. The Australian Government, in entering negotiations with

the representative of any foreign country, bore in mind the interests of the

Commonwealth and the United Kingdom in particular. The talks with Dulles had

been ‘exploratory’ and there would be ample time for consultation with the United

Kingdom before decisions were reached. The ‘island chain’ had been an American

proposal. Australia preferred a simpler arrangement including only the United

States, Australia and New Zealand. Before the talks Australia had doubts as to

whether the United States would enter into such a limited arrangement in view of

their responsibilities to the Philippines and Japan. However, the result had been a

draft treaty prepared for the consideration of the three governments. Menzies

continued by stating that his Government regarded the adoption of a treaty of this

kind as of the first importance and took it for granted that the United Kingdom

Government would lend its utmost efforts to achieving that end. Menzies firmly

believed that the treaty did not conflict with United Kingdom interests and that

53 Percy Spender, Politics and a Man, Sydney 1972, p 268. 54 Dulles to Acheson, 19 February 1951, US NA RG 59 790.5/2-2151.


Australia regarded its adoption as an outstanding contribution to the security of

Australia and New Zealand which would facilitate the carrying out of

responsibilities in the area outside the Pacific. Menzies was confident that after

careful consideration the United Kingdom would take the view that even if the

United States insisted upon the inclusion of the Philippines, such inclusion would

not be prejudicial to the United Kingdom or Allied interests in the Far East.55

Spender/Dulles Communications over ANZUS

The British Joint Chiefs of Staff were generally favourable to the draft treaty, as

was the Prime Minister Mr Attlee, but some delay was created by differences in the

Cabinet.56 The delayed response and the hint of British concern caused Spender to

write a personal and secret communication to Dulles on 8 March.57 He had

appreciated Dulles’s personal message about his (Spender’s) appointment to

Washington. He had followed Dulles’s statements with interest and hoped that he

had interpreted them correctly as meaning that favourable consideration was being

given in Washington to completing a Pacific security arrangement. Spender

recounted that immediately after Dulles had left Australia, the draft agreed text

had been sent to London. The Australians had made it clear that Dulles had

reserved the position of the United States on the matter and also on the inclusion of

the Philippines. The Australians had given at length answers to United Kingdom

arguments against certain forms of pact and strongly pressed for British support

for the arrangement discussed in Canberra. The Australian High Commissioner in

London had personally conveyed these views to Attlee and had received a

sympathetic hearing. He had been informed that the British Chiefs of Staff and the

Cabinet would give urgent consideration to the matter. Despite this assurance he

had received no word from London. Dening had conveyed in Canberra that he

could see no objection to the treaty as drafted except possibly for some verbiage in

the preamble but Spender was unaware whether there had been any variation in

this view. Having regard to what Gascoigne had conveyed to Dulles, Spender

wondered whether some people in London would express opposition to any

55 Menzies to Attlee, 22 February 1951, PRO CAB 129/44 Appendix ‘B’. 56 PRO CAB 129/44 57

Spender to Dulles, 8 March 1951, Percy Spender papers, ANL MS 4875 Box 1, file 5.


security arrangement in the Pacific, even one on the tri-partite basis discussed in


Spender continued that he knew that Dulles would not mind him saying that

Australia was a metropolitan power in the Pacific and he hoped that the Australian

view would predominate, even though there were objection from elsewhere. It

was difficult to assume otherwise than that London had been in close consultation

with Washington on the subject and Spender would be grateful for any information

Dulles could convey by any channel. Dulles might take it as the view of the

Australian government clearly and unequivocally that Australia did not intend to

be deflected from the policy she had deliberately arrived at. Spender felt that his

primary task was to follow up the views he had expressed for Australia in

Canberra. Although parliamentary reasons would make it difficult, these matters

were so important that, if necessary, Spender could make a quick trip to London or

Washington or both to personally expound the Australian point of view and to

meet any possible objections which, in Australia’s considered view, were

unjustified. It would greatly assist Spender in making his plans if Dulles felt able

to give him a lead on these subjects.58

Within a few days, Dulles responded with a personal and secret letter to

Spender, indicating his thanks for Spenders ‘good’ letter. Dulles had been glad to

learn that the Australians had presented London with the draft agreement and that

the United States position on the Philippines had been made clear. Dulles had

discussed the matter with the British Ambassador and requested him to obtain the

official views of the United Kingdom on the inclusion of the Philippines. Pending

further word from London, he had not attempted to obtain final clearance of the

Canberra draft but informal discussion led him to be optimistic. Dulles agreed

with Spender that every effort should be made to get ahead as fast as possible.

Among other reasons were the state of public opinion in Japan, which called for a

prompt affirmative action on the peace settlement and the Americans knew that

the Australians considered that the peace treaty and the subject of the Canberra

talks should move ahead pari passu. Dulles would keep Spender informed of

58 Ibid


developments and would have communicated earlier except that he had been daily

expecting to hear from London. If there were trouble, Dulles might suggest that

Spender make a quick trip to London or Washington or both but he still hoped that

the representations which they had both made, would make it unnecessary.59

Finally in the first week of April the British Ambassador informed the

Americans of his government’s formal viewpoint. They opposed a single

arrangement incorporating Japan, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand and the

United States, or the latter four. There was no objection to a tri-partite arrangement

between Australia, New Zealand and the United States and a similar, even

simultaneous bi-lateral arrangement between the United States and the Philippines.

Dulles decided to approach the President to issue a statement embracing the tri-lateral security pact.60

The Concerns of the US Military Over ANZUS

The British however, were not the only ones making difficulties and delays over

the treaty drafted in Canberra. The United States Chiefs of Staff were also putting

up a stiff opposition and they were opposed to any form of a formal pact,

preferring instead a “simple understanding or public declaration”.61 If a pact was

to be made it was to avoid any reference to military plans, planning or

organisations for such purposes. Article VIII of the proposed treaty was

unacceptable to the military.62

Dulles’s response was to argue that the particular concerns of the military

could be met by adjusting the wording of the proposed treaty to make it clear that

any organisation under the treaty would not have the right to demand knowledge

of and to participate in planning by, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the

Organisation of American States or any other security organisations not directly

related to the Pacific area. He completely ignored other of their suggestions as, for

instance their suggestion that the statement on Pacific security ought not to be

made by the President but by some less authoritative source. Dulles was clearly

59 Dulles to Spender, 13 March 1951, US NA RG 59 790.5/3-1351, also in FRUS vol VI, 1951, pp178-9. 60 Dulles to Marshall, 6 April 1951, US NA RG Lot 56D527 box 3. 61

Marshall to Acheson, 13 April 1951, US NA RG 59 790.5/4-1351, also in FRUS vol VI, 1951, pp201-2. 62 Ibid


concerned that his mission to obtain Pacific peace in the form of acquiescence to the

Japanese Pace Treaty would be imperilled by the suggestions of the Chiefs of

Staff.63 Dulles was anxious that the President should make his statement on the

acceptability of a security arrangement with Australia and New Zealand prior to

the Australian election.64

Acheson and Spender conferred over the possible date and substance of the

Presidential announcement and the announcement of the Australian Government

on the subject of the proposed pact from the first week of April. Finally on April 18

Acheson was able to convey to Spender that the President had made an

announcement indicating America’s intention to press forward to an early

conclusion of the Pacific security arrangement with Australia and New Zealand.65

His statement made it clear that the initiative for the agreement came from

Australia and New Zealand.66 Despite the continued objections of the Joint Chiefs

of Staff, the President approved the Treaty on July 10 and it was made public on

July 12.67

Summary of Spender’s Role

This survey of the American and British documentation about the origins of

ANZUS leads to the conclusion that Spender’s role in the origins of ANZUS could

scarcely be overrated. Though neither the British nor the American governments

eventually proved unwilling to entertain the idea of such an agreement, neither of

these governments displayed any initiative in the matter. The Americans were,

and saw themselves as, responding to Spender’s initiatives in the matter. The issue

of the security treaty became inseparable from the successful conclusion of the

Japanese Peace Treaty in the minds of the Americans and it was this issue that

provided the impetus to a serious discussion of the Pacific Pact. Lee sees McLean

as having convincingly refuted this interpretation68 but in view of the evidence of

the American documents, it would not be possible to convincingly refute this


63 Memorandum from Dulles to Acheson April 13 1951, US NA RG 59 Lot 54D423. 64 Memorandum from Dulles to Acheson, April 13 1951, US NA RG 59 Lot 54D423. 65

Acheson to Spender, 18 April 1951, US NA RG 59 790.5/4-1851. 66 Statement by Harry S Truman 18 April 1951, WHCF:OF 48D; Truman Papers, Truman Library. 67

FRUS, vol VI 1951, p 222. 68 David Lee, op cit, p 117.


President Truman’s handling of the issue also had its impact on the

successful conclusion of the Treaty. The singling out of Dulles as early as October

1950 to elicit what was required to reach a successful completion of the Japanese

Peace Treaty and the subsequent commissioning of Dulles to obtain that

completion, was fortuitous in view of all the concerns of the Administration in the

subsequent months. Dulles was able to single mindedly pursue his task and

Spender had convinced him that Australia and New Zealand would not agree to

the American version of the Japanese Peace Treaty without an American guarantee

of Pacific security. The determination of Dulles to succeed in his assigned task, led

him to claim that his arrangements met the objections of the Chiefs of Staff, though

he was certainly fudging the issues, a matter which concerned Allison who felt that

the Chiefs of Staff would have to be met head on.69 Dulles however continued to

gloss over the differences, with the result that the resistance of the Chiefs of Staff to

various proposals arising from the completed treaty continued for some time even

after its signing.70

ANZUS/Pacific Pact

Truman made a priority of bringing the Japanese Peace Treaty to a conclusion

that would enable Japan to begin to take its place again in the world community on

the American side of world politics. This priority, together with the other

arguments that Spender had advanced, caused the Americans to become more and

more sympathetic to the so-called Pacific Pact. Both Spender and the American

officials referred to the ANZUS agreement interchangeably as the Pacific Pact.

What later became the ANZUS Council was also initially referred to as the Pacific

Council, which created some later difficulties for the Americans.71 It needs to be

recognised however that whatever the terminology and rhetoric surrounding it,

this ANZUS agreement was not a broad Pacific Pact, but a tri-lateral security

arrangement between Australia, New Zealand and the United States and that is

what it remained. This does not necessarily mean that this was less than Spender

69 Memorandum by Allison to Dulles, 23 April 1951, US NA RG 59 694.001/4-2351. 70 See Memorandum on the Substance of Discussions at a Department of State-Joint Chiefs of Staff meeting, Washington 23 April,1952, Foreign Relations of the United States 1952-54, vol 12, part 1 pp 80-84, Washington, USGPO, 1984, for some examples. 71

Allison refers to this use of terminology and the problems it subsequently created in the proofs of his book Ambassador From the Prairie included in the Allison papers in the Truman library, pp 223-229.


wanted,72 or that the suggestion of a narrower pact originated with the Americans

as McLean indicates73 and Lee reiterates.74 As previously shown in this paper it

was Spender who had made the initial suggestion of a bi-lateral treaty as well as

the broader Pacific Pact. Spender was aiming for a security arrangement with

America that would reassure the Australian public and give the Australian

government a more secure environment in which to pursue their foreign policy,

and whether the agreement was broad or narrow seems to have been of little

concern to him75.

At its negotiation it was Dulles who reminded Spender and Doidge that the tri-lateral arrangement was envisaged to be the beginning of a Pacific Pact. Spender

acquiesced readily enough with this view as Australia had been pressing for such a

pact over a long period. Doidge was more non-committal according to the records

kept by the Americans.76 The Treaty itself contained the seeds for expansion into a

Pacific Pact in Article VIII to which the Chiefs of Staff had taken exception, one of

the many issues over which they had disagreed with the State Department. At the

initialling of the Treaty in July 1951, Dulles pointed out that the tripartite treaty

was one of a series of arrangements being worked out by the United States to

strengthen security in the Pacific, that these arrangements were ’initial steps’ which

would be followed by others to achieve what the preamble and article VIII

described as ‘the development of a more comprehensive system of regional

security in the Pacific Area’ and Spender observed that the draft agreement was

‘but one but nonetheless an exceedingly important step in building up the security

of the Pacific area’. Acheson and Spender expressed similar sentiments at the

signing of the Treaty in September 1951.77 The other immediate steps were to be bi-lateral agreements between the US and Japan and between the US and the

Philippines, thus linking all these western Pacific countries in a series of treaties, an

alternative to the “island chain” proposal that had upset the British.

72 David Lee, op cit, p 118. 73 David McLean, op cit, p 69. 74

David Lee, op cit, p 118. 75 Percy Spender, Politics and a Man, Sydney 1972, p.266. 76

See the memoranda by Robert Fearey of the Canberra meetings between Dulles, Spender and Doidge, US NA RG 59 Lot 54D423 of 14 February, 16 February and 17 February, particularly the morning of 17 February. 77

Background Paper entitled ANZUS Council Preparations Honolulu August 1952, prepared in the Department of State 24 July 1952, ANZUS folder, Acheson Papers, Truman Library.


However the membership of the ANZUS Treaty itself was not subsequently

expanded, nor was there significant pressure from Australia to expand it, which

suggests that Australia had achieved what she desired, whatever the quibbles of

McLean and Lee. The Australian public felt that they had an insurance policy

against future Japanese expansion and the Australian government had a direct

access to strategic planning of the United States and a secure environment in which

to unfold and expand their self consciously independent foreign policy. This was

due to the international circumstances of the time which helped to persuade the

American administration that they needed to direct attention to the security of the

Pacific area but in the immediate sense to Spender who had taken the initiative to

establish a security pact with the United States and continued to badger the

Americans until all opposition was overcome and the ANZUS Treaty was signed

and ratified.



PRIMARY SOURCES (Archival Material)


Australian Archives A 1838

Australian National Library MS 4875 Sir Percy Spender Papers MS 4936 Sir Robert Menzies Papers

United Kingdom

Public Record Office CAB 128 CAB 129 DO 35 FO 371

United States of America

National Archives, Washington RG 59 State Department Central Decimal File 611.43 711.47 743.13 743.5811 790.5 843.00 RG 59 State Department Lot Files LOT 53D LOT 54 D LOT 56 D

Harry S Truman Library, Independence H. Truman papers D. Acheson papers J. Allison papers J.F.Dulles papers State Department Correspondence (1948-52)



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