790.5MAP/7–2150: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Douglas) to the Secretary of State


455. Substance Deptel 282 July 18 rptd Rangoon 351 given Glass, Fonoff. He agreed consultations between MDAP Mission and BSM, as well as Brit mil authorities Singapore, wld be helpful. He thought it cld be left to US–UK Ambs Rangoon work out problem of contact between MDAP Mission and BSM.

Comment: Fact that MDAP Mission will take into consideration special Anglo-Burmese military relationship appreciated by Fonoff, which clearly hopes be kept fully informed our intentions re furnishing Burma any mil aid. Fonoff, for its part, apparently intends provide us with fullest info available re Burmese arms position. Fonoff attaches great importance to coordination US–UK efforts particularly in view difficulty accurately determining Burma’s mil needs as result GOB’s persistent failure supply adequate background info and refusal Ne Win cooperate with BSM. Fonoff feels these two factors are crux of mil aid problem.

War Office has already forwarded to Joint Services Mission Wash for discussion with US officials data on Burma arms position referred to para 5 Embtel 220, July 11.2 Glass promised us copy which we will forward for Dept’s info. Fonoff also sending copy to Rangoon and will instruct Brit Amb see that info is made available to MDAP Mission.

Fonoff estimates that Burma now has army of about 26 battalions (as well as armed police force of 21 battalions). Trend Fonoff thinking [Page 248] is that Burma cld not hope resist invasion by organized mil forces but that Burmese army shld be strong enough maintain internal security, protect communications and repel border raids and minor infiltration. According UK estimates, Burma now has arms sufficient for 26 battalions and when supply under 1949–50 annual demands submitted last August is completed it will have equipment for 9 additional battalions.

There is continued confusion over special Burmese request of May 17 for “re-equipment” 30 battalions and maintenance requirements for three years (not two as Glass previously told us). Responding to Fonoff inquiry, Brit Emb Rangoon has reported that May 17 request is in addition to annual demand for maintenance requirements for 30 battalions to be submitted, according customary procedure, in about month’s time. Fonoff now wondering whether mistake has been made in duplicating maintenance demands or whether Burmese really thinking now in terms total 60 battalions (the 30 included in May 17 request being new battalions in spite Burmese use term “re-equipment”) as reply from Brit Emb seems indicate. Fonoff querying Brit Emb again on this point.

No decision has yet been taken re May 17 request and Fonoff continuing try clarify what Burma actually wants and needs in way mil equipment. Meanwhile, Fonoff considering policy decision on following lines:

Pending decision on Future BSM, important consideration from UK viewpoint is to avoid antagonizing Ne Win in any way likely prejudice outcome this question; therefore, UK will endeavor postpone showdown on arms supply until at least end of year.
UK will agree now to furnish Burmese with equipment for four new battalions, treating this as special demand requiring urgent consideration and ignoring condition that GOB first furnish adequate justifying info.
Re remainder May 17 request, UK will inform Burma that any further demands this nature for additional mil equipment must be included in annual request, which will be treated in ordinary way, or else submitted as special request thru Commonwealth Ambs Comite supported by adequate info justifying request.
Meanwhile, UK will continue with efforts make available special items (armored cars, radio equipment, etc) which have been recommended by Ambs. Comite and for which there appears to be clear and urgent need.

Comment: Foregoing represents tentative views reached at Fonoff working level and given us in confidence by Glass. While we gather it substantially represents position UK likely adopt, no decision by Fonoff has yet been reached.

  1. Not printed; it authorized the Embassy in London to tell the Foreign Office that a joint military defense assistance, program survey mission would visit Southeast Asia including Burma. The mission would talk to British officials in Singapore about the Burma situation, but, because of the delicate nature of the British relationship with Burma, it would not contact the British Services Mission in Burma without prior consultation with the Burmese Government. (790.5MAP/7–1750)
  2. Not printed.