501.BC Indonesia/10–1749: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Embassy in the Netherlands 1


898. Ushic 29. Neth Amb called his request Asst. Sec Far East. He said his govt, fearing that transfer sovereignty would result in some sort of power vacuum in Indo, was eager that clear definition of Neth responsibility for the maintenance of maritime security throughout Indo be incorporated in the agreements now in course of negot at [Page 532] RTC. At Asst See’s request Neth Amb later dictated fol notes to describe his Govt’s position this matter:

Indo delegates at Hague at present advocate an agreement on naval affairs according to which all naval forces of Neth would be withdrawn from Indo at transfer of sovereignty, it being understood that within four months thereafter the URI would ask Neth Govt for help in naval matters.

According to Neth view, settlement would be acceptable and show promise of giving satisfactory results along fol lines:

Soon as sovereignty is transferred, maintenance of security at sea throughout Indo is matter for URI along [alone].
Therefore, there is no further task from that moment for Neth Navy in Indo as an organ of Neth.
Insofar as maintenance of security at sea in Indo cannot be assured at once by URI, URI would ask at once for Neth assistance which then would be rendered on basis of naval aid on behalf of Indo (and not of Neth).

Duties any navy operating in Indo would have undertake at once are broadly:

Immediate organization of a navy for URI. Assuring security at sea in broadest sense, so as to include collection customs revenue, prevention of piracy and illicit traffic in arms and narcotic drugs;

Sweeping such Japanese mines as remain;

Hydrographic work, including maintenance of lighthouses and buoys, etc.;

Salvage activities in ports and their approaches;

Maintenance and repair of naval units operating in Indo (this would make it indispensable that naval base Soerabaja be left intact).”

In answer to questions Neth Amb stated that his approach had nothing to do with Neth desire to retain bases since it was his information that Indos would not accord Neth bases under conditions which his Govt would regard as practical. When asked if considerations he had set forth would be placed in different light if Neth and Indos agreed on Neth retention of bases, Neth Amb replied that it did not. As his answer seemed illogical, further questions were directed at Neth Amb which resulted in his reading portion of his tel instruction some phrases of which revealed that Neth Govt wished to seek US, UK and Australian expression of their interest in Neth retention of bases and Neth continuance maintenance security at sea.

Asst Sec asked Neth Amb if, in view Brit interest in protection trade and commerce Southeast Asia, similar approach had been made to Brit. Neth Amb replied that telegram he recd had been repeated to Neth Amb London and Canberra. Asst Sec took this occasion to tell Neth Amb that Dening had left him and other officers under impression that Brit had informed Neth that problem of bases had best be left to gentlemen’s agreement, not for agreement RTC. Neth [Page 533] Amb evidenced keen interest this matter saying he had no previous knowledge thereof.

In answer to Asst Sec’s question Neth Amb said he did not believe Indians could be useful in this matter.

It is not clear to Dept what Neth Amb or his Govt meant to achieve by this approach. Two possibilities seem plausible (a) that in this manner Neth means to draw attention of US to eminence [imminence?] of assumption of maritime security by Indo state and to emphasize importance of function which navy in Indo must perform, none of which, in Neth belief, can be performed by Indos; (b) that Neth means to suggest possible basis for agreement with Indos on bases: Indos will grant base rights to Neth in return for Neth assurance that it will intrude on Indo scene only at request of USI.

Please comment.2

  1. Repeated as 513 to Batavia.
  2. In repeating this telegram in 3785, October 20, 8 p. m., to London and as 154 to Canberra, the Department added that it wished to know the character of Netherlands representations regarding maritime security and retention of bases in Indonesia by the Netherlands and the reaction of the British/Australian Government thereto. “If US position this matter queried you may say Dept engaged in careful study this subject.” (501.BC Indonesia/10–2049)