18. Telegram From the Delegation at the SEATO Council Meeting to the Department of State1

Secto 6. Following opening public session with statements2 council recessed and reconvened in closed session.

Prince Wan elected permanent chairman, agenda adopted and agreed representative each delegation meet with Secretary General Luang3 [in?] conference after each meeting to agree on any statement to press.

Summary of Secretary’s statement under agenda item two4 follows: Despite cynical views sometimes expressed by press, US believes SEA in fact can be maintained as free area. However, we fully recognize gravity of situation and formidable opposition that we are up against. Russia as leading element of international communism and Chinese Communists as second represent enormous power. Their technique has been to gain control of governments and then to assure planned coordinated action. They now control 15 governments and more than 800 million people. Their actions are well planned; what is done in Asia is coordinated with actions in Europe. We have hope that these 15 countries will be able resume their independent existence. Soviet Russia, we suspect, has overextended its undertakings. [Page 39] It is under tremendous pressure trying match military power free world. At same time, it at least talks about trying raise standard living its people. We cognizant of considerable signs unrest in Soviet European satellites. There are internal forces at work in Russia as shown in Malenkov affair which, in long run, may minimize peril to free world. However, in meantime it possible these pressures might mean period of even greater danger to free countries as despotisms often divert energies to external targets when confronted with difficult internal problems. We see no evidence any reduction expansionist ambitions Chinese Communists. We must not permit cruelty and ruthlessness that lies back of Communist despotism to be forgotten. Overwhelming evidence slave labor in Russia and Communist China is appalling.

We must recognize danger viewing our problem in national, isolated terms; not enough attention is paid to meeting menace on broad base. We must recognize that areas most vitally affecting security to Manila pact powers are not their own but others—Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Laos, and free Vietnam.

In this connection experiences in war show power of Japan alone when China was at war with Japan and Soviet neutral and we must realize possibilities if, because of economic considerations, Japan forced into accommodation with Russia and Communist China. The US is taking action to prevent Japan from becoming economically dependent upon China and this should be also the interest of other members.

Re ROK it now has 20 Korean divisions equipped and financed by US which with economic rehabilitation in Korea costing us $500 to $600 million a year.

Republic of China’s armed forces of approximately 300 thousand men equipped by US. We also provide economic aid to permit this number to be in armed forces.

Need now exists to build an effective army loyal to independent government Vietnam. Prospects in Vietnam much superior to what they appeared be two months ago. Doubts that existed with respect to Diem have been resolved his favor. If he were to collapse it is too late to think of any successor. There is good hope however that free Vietnam can be saved from Communist domination. United States program in South Vietnam calls for expenditures from 400 to 500 million dollars. Cooperation between Generals Ely and Collins has been excellent.

Cambodia has shown vigorous independence; in recent referendum people have shown approval of government. Prospects of Cambodia retaining its independence relatively good.

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Situation Laos not as good as Cambodia. Two northern provinces now controlled by Communists. Government must be strengthened.

Altho some critical governments of Korea and Republic China it must be recognized great deterrent further open aggression Asia is that Chinese Communists would have to fight on three fronts. It unlikely any war started by Communists SEA would be confined there. Existence anti-Communist potential north and on Formosa deters possible Chinese aggression against SEA.

Possibility internal subversion by Chinese minorities Southeast Asia would increase greatly if they had no basis loyalty except to Chinese Communist Government.

United States forces in area included approximately: Navy—400 ships, including the largest carriers, 350,000 men; Army—5 divisions, 300,000 men; Air Force—30 squadrons, jet fighter bombers and interceptors and readily available strategic air power. Effectiveness our power in Pacific, with modern weapons, in excess of what it was at height our power during war.

Some sentiment exists for chopping up this power and tying part it to specific areas where we have obligations. Our view we should maintain mobile power capable of being used where needed on short notice. This does not mean we wish exclude full exchange views on how each can contribute to security of area. We hope for initial meeting military advisors on how to get on with their job immediately following discussion this item on agenda. Effectiveness of cooperation re military matters will depend in large part on ability all safeguard classified material.

Re countering subversion, Philippines have provided excellent paper on anti-subversive activities. Subversion more immediately threat than open armed aggression.

Economic matters are another item on agenda. We believe we can lay foundation for progress in this field.

No one should doubt our solid intention carry out clear and definite commitments as provided in the treaty to come to aid of any state which is victim of aggression.

End Secretary’s Summary.

Begin Summary.

Casey’s remarks:

In signing treaty signatories recognized Communist aggression greatest threat to area. Also clear Communist objective to dominate entire treaty area. In approaching problem participants should make fullest use experience pact members such as Philippines who had been most directly concerned with problem Communist expansionism. Paid particular tribute selfless contributions United States has made and is making to meet problem. Referred to his recent visits to [Page 41] Indochina area, expressing opinion this area represents most critical immediate problem within treaty area. Noted recent progress Diem’s Government saying point passed where any alternative Diem conceivable. Because talks will begin July between South Vietnam and Viet Minh on elections scheduled by Geneva agreements for July 1956, particularly important South Vietnamese Government’s control be rapidly consolidated and friendly powers must assist Diem so he can present detailed set conditions in freedom and supervision elections. We must not fail recognize even if South Vietnam holds, Cambodia and Laos will not necessarily be safe. Although King of Cambodia too popular,5 essential instability within country illustrated by infiltration of Democratic Party by crypto-Communist elements and King must have support right and center of party which his recent constitutional proposal has tended alienate. In Laos the Pathet Lao record does not bode well for future. Because of critical nature of problems Indochina, pact members should assist three Indochina Government every practicable way.

Alluding briefly to Indonesia, reported his government’s grave concern over deterioration Indonesia’s domestic situation.

In closing, stated subversion constitutes most direct problem to security treaty area, underlined urgency situation as he sees it and filled up in [sic] members approach their discussions in full appreciation that urgency.

End Casey Summary.

This ended February 23 morning session.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 396.1–BA/–2355. Secret; Priority. Repeated to Manila, Saigon, Karachi, Djakarta, New Delhi, Singapore, Rangoon, London, Paris, Phnom Penh, Vientiane, Canberra, and Wellington.

    The U.S. verbatim record of this meeting, USVERB/1, First Closed Session, February 23, is ibid., FE Files: Lot 56 D 679, Manila Pact.

  2. Council document MP(C)(55), February 23–25, not printed, is a verbatim record of all the sessions, open and closed, of the First Council Meeting of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization. (Ibid., 790.5/2–2355) For text of the Secretary’s statement made at the opening public session, see Department of State Bulletin, March 7, 1955, p. 373.
  3. Luang Bhadravadi, who served as Secretary General of the meeting, was Thai Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  4. “Exchange of views on matters affecting the Treaty area.” (Working Group proposal, MP(C)(55) “Bangkok Agenda”, dated February 23; Department of State, FE Files: Lot 56 D 679, Bangkok Conference—Agenda)
  5. According to Council document MP(C)(55), Casey referred to King Norodom Sihanouk as being “widely” popular.