Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Perkins) to the Secretary of State


Subject: Call of Australian Ambassador, the Honorable Norman Makin, January 18.


The Australian Ambassador, Mr. Makin, has an appointment to see you at 4 o’clock this afternoon and at that time will give you a message from the Australian Prime Minister1 on the subject of Netherlands New Guinea.


Our Embassy at Canberra has reported that the Australian Foreign Office was somewhat disturbed by our recent messages to Indonesia and to the Netherlands in which we urged the two Governments to seek, “in a spirit of cooperation, an accommodation with respect to the New Guinea problem”. The Australians took our notes to mean that we were advocating further recession by the Dutch from their original position, and they apparently did not give due weight to the fact that our suggestion of “accommodation” was addressed to both parties.

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Our Embassy responded by pointing out that the notes to the Netherlands and to Indonesia indicated that the United States’ desire was the same as heretofore, namely that settlement of the question of Netherlands New Guinea be achieved through bilateral negotiations between the two parties.2

In April of last year we sent a message to the Australian Foreign Minister expressing concern at the manner in which Australia was proposing to assert its interest in the disposition of Netherlands New Guinea. The basic point made in our message was that the United States adhered to the RTC formula for settlement of the New Guinea question through negotiations between Indonesia and the Netherlands. We stated that in our opinion the two parties should be permitted to exhaust all possibilities for reaching a workable solution through bilateral negotiations before consideration was given to other methods of solving the problem. Our recent notes were consistent with this position.

In our message to Mr. Spender3 last April, after affirming our support for the RTC formula, we stated that we favored the retention of Netherlands control of the territory in some form and had so advised the Netherlands. The Australian Government, before the recent breakdown in negotiations between the Netherlands and Indonesia, requested this Government to intervene in an effort to moderate the Indonesian claims and to strengthen the Dutch in their opposition to these claims. This we declined to do because of our basic position that the parties to the dispute should seek a solution through bilateral negotiations without outside interference.


1. It is recommended that, if he raises the question, you explain to the Ambassador that our notes to Indonesia and the Netherlands did not represent any change in the policy we have consistently maintained with respect to this problem.

2. It is further recommended that you emphasize the fact that the notes were identical, were addressed to both parties and merely called upon the parties to continue their efforts to arrive at a solution.

  1. Robert Gordon Menzies.
  2. The Australian reaction to the joint note sent to The Hague and to Djakarta (printed in telegram 682, January 6, p. 585) and the observations of the U.S. Embassy in Australia were reported to the Department of State in telegram 191 from Canberra, January 11, not printed (756C.00/1–1151).
  3. Percy C. Spender, Minister for External Affairs.