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Singapore was central to Australian and British defence planning in the Asia-Pacific region in the inter-war years. 64 However, it was not until the mid-1930s, when the storm douds of war were again building in Europe and Asia, that serious aftention was devoted to the task of completing the base. By 1935, fears were already being expressed in Australia that the Singapore stratery was seriously flawed. Former Prime Minister Hughes frequently proclaimed, in his ascerbic way, that Britain was no longer mistress of the seas, that the Singapore base was still incomplete and that there was no guarantee that the British Navy could reach the Pacific in time to defend Aushalia, even if the rnain fleet could deploy from its principal area of operation in the Atlantic and 63 P.

L. 'lE of Iapan is not a The Changing Balance of Power in the Pecific While these assessments had undeniable credibility in the decade following the end of the First World War, by tlre early 1930s their central assumptions had been invalidated by the drarnatic in the Pacific strategic balance. These induded the emergence of Japan as a mairr military and economic power, the retreat of the United States into isolationism, and the palpable decline of British naval strength. Following the creation of the puppet state of Manchukuo by japan and the despatch of an expeditionary force to Shanghai in February 1932, the ten-year no threat ruling was revoked changes 45 The Pacific Branch of the Prime Minister/s Department was established by the goverrunent in May 1919, tD acquire and evaluate intelligence on 'the affairs of the countries of the Far East and of the Pacific' insofar as they might affect Australia.

Speech by P. C. Spender, Minister for External Affairs, 9 March 1950. 565. 97 e6 e7 ibid. 564. the fighest importance to CHAPTER 3 REGIONAL CONFLICTS: THE MENACE OF COMMUNISM By the end of the decadg a new threat had emerged which was to relegate Australia's traditional fear of |apan to the background and provide a mapr stimulus to Australia's search for a regional security arrangement anchored by the military, economic and political power of the United States. The global competition between the two supelpowers of the post-war era, the Soviet Union and the United had already impacted on Europe, ushering in a new set of menacing and destabilising politico-strategic tensions.

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