790B.5/10–2252: Telegram

No. 25
The Ambassador in Burma (Sebald) to the Department of State

top secret

658. Ref USAIRA 090540Z and ALUSNA 200350Z Oct.1 Reftels clearly indicate growing impatience of GUB and particularly defense officials with what to them appears dragging of feet by BSM and lack of forthrightness in supply of needed arms and munitions. Review of recent file this subj will I believe lend substance to Burm sensibilities and suggest possibility Brit policy purposely makes available just enough equipment to keep Burma campaign moving but not enough to create risk capture important quantities by possible aggressor. (We are not of course informed of Brit supply position or capability meet Burm requests.)

There also appears growing appreciation on part responsible Burmese offs of mil, econ and polit strength of US (in contrast with [Page 34] relative mil and econ weakness UK which they note itself being assisted by US) and ability US furnish large quantities arms and munitions not only NATO countries but Far Eastern countries as well. Believe also Burmese inclined feel they are not being adequately supported by UK although they realize aid from US as alternative source circumscribed by certain and to them onerous polit conditions. PriMin U Nu recently remarked Burma wld be happy obtain by purchase (at reasonable price) even small fraction of what being furnished by US to other countries. Ne Win mission2 clearly indicative GUB exploring possible advantages reliance on US rather than UK for mil assistance.

If pacification Burma and especially battle against local Commies is to succeed and if defense forces are to be strengthened to point where it wld be possible Burma conduct delaying action against Chi Commie overt or concealed aggression it appears essential that UK and BSM as operating agency must be awakened to need adopting more realistic policy designed meet needs and aspirations GUB. My fear is Brit are treading too softly and moving too slowly when in SEA time is of essence and GUB determination defend themselves against aggression and discernible swing towards free world sorely need encouragement. Burmese are increasingly becoming aware constructive nature US policies toward Asia in gen and Burma in particular but conversely are also hoping US will implement its word by deeds. I am convinced Burmese leaders themselves have no illusions unrealistic nature their “neutral” policy but without practical assurances from free world (to them meaning US) are unable or unwilling take risk openly leaning too far in our direction.

Above highlights dilemma Burmese break with BSM wld pose for US. Unless Burma cld be assured alternative (or secondary) source munitions supply it must perforce continue present arrangement which to GUB is unsatisfactory, frustrating and parsimonious. Further continuation this situation might conceivably have effect encouraging Burma seek polit accommodation with Commie China in hope thereby lessening possibility aggression.

I am not of course advocating that US take over primary responsibility for Burma from UK (mytel 237 Aug 14)3 and hope that Dept will make clear to Ne Win that UK under existing agreements has primary responsibility for military assistance Burma. At [Page 35] same time Dept may wish take advantage presence Ne Win informally explore some of these problems as basis for formulation realistic policy toward assisting GUB in its struggle maintain itself as independent country.

  1. Neither printed.
  2. A military mission headed by Lt. Gen. Ne Win was in the United States to observe U.S. military organization, training, and equipment and to explore the possibility of arms procurement; see Document 27.
  3. Telegram 237 recommended that the United States, without attempting to take over British responsibilities for military training and assistance, should supplement British aid to Burma in coordination with the United Kingdom. (490B.118/8–1452)