26 DECEMBER 1941, Page 2

The Allies and Timor

It needs no casuistry to justify the occupation of Portuguese territory in the island of Timor by a force of Aus- tralian and Netherlands troops. Timor is the easternmost of the long line of islands which constitute the Dutch East Indies, one half being under Netherlands control, the other Portuguese. It is no more than 30o miles from the Australian coast, and in enemy hands it would form an ideal jumping-off point for an attack on Port Darwin and the Australian mainland. If the Portuguese were effectively defending their neutrality in this vital strategic island no case for Allied occupation would arise ; but since they have only sixty Portuguese soldiers in Timor and about 300 lightly armed native troops they could scarcely make even a show of resistance ; and already Japanese submarines are approaching. If action had not been taken quickly the enemy would have established themselves there, ousting the Portuguese, and using the airport for bombing raids on Australia and the sea-approaches. It appears that the Portuguese Government had actually accepted a proposal for Allied assistance in the event of Japanese attack, though Dr. Salazar states that a general offer of protection (pre- sumably before attack occurred) had been rejected. His un- willingness to anticipate the event is perfectly comprehensible. Hitler is pressing the Spanish Government for facilities to march through the Iberian peninsula, and at any moment he may do so with or without its consent. For the Portuguese Prime Minister it is discreet to preserve the letter as well as the spirit of neutrality, and therefore his protest against the Allied occupa- tion of Timor is not surprising. But our good friends the Por- tuguese are not likely to doubt our bona fides when we promise, as we have done, that the Allied troops will be withdrawn as soon as the threat from the enemy is removed. They know well that the Japanese would never withdraw.