34. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, March 15, 1955, 3:05 p.m.1



  • Australia
  • Robert Gordon Menzies, Prime Minister
  • Sir Percy Spender, Ambassador to the United States
  • Arthur Harold Tange, Secretary of the Australian Department of External Affairs
  • United States
  • John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State
  • Herbert Hoover, Jr., Under Secretary of State
  • Livingston T. Merchant, Assistant Secretary for European Affairs
  • Walter S. Robertson, Assistant Secretary for Far Eastern Affairs

[Here follows discussion of unrelated subjects. For portions regarding China, see volume II, page 368.]

Menzies asked, “What about Indonesia?” The Secretary replied that it would of course be a very serious matter to have this archipelago fall into Communist hands. What we can do is not clear. He had talked with Ambassador Cumming at Manila.2 Cumming thought the situation in Indonesia was better than generally believed. He felt that the elections would be held and that Muslim Party would win. Menzies pointed out that the elections, however, would come after the Bandung Conference which presumably would bring great prestige to the present Government. The Secretary said we had been making investigations through certain agencies to see what could be done. A discussion followed as to the effectiveness of our propaganda efforts. The Australians felt that their shortwave broadcasts had been effective. It was suggested by the Secretary that we might explore the possibility of such broadcasts from the Philippines.

Menzies said that his Government was very much concerned about the defense of Malaya. His military people agreed that the defense position should be at a line in Thailand on the Kra peninsula. The problem was how and when could we get there. Would we await an overt invasion through Thailand? The threat on the other hand might not come by overt aggression. Thailand might possibly go Communist by infiltration and subversion. Whichever way Thailand might go to the Reds, he said, we could not afford to wait for such an event before taking a stand. If Malaya should be lost, we [Page 68] would never get it back again. In the London talks it was suggested that we might get some general agreement under which if a Manila Pact country is menaced by infiltration and subversion such country would welcome the troops of the other Pact countries. It was essential, said Menzies, to work out some arrangement whereunder we could prepare for a stand on the Kra peninsula on a legal basis which would avoid charges of aggression by the Communists. Menzies said the question had not been thought through and asked that we be thinking about it. The Secretary suggested that his people might get in touch with MacArthur for further consideration of the problem.3 Both Menzies and the Secretary agreed that the principle of stationing troops in another territory could not be applied to Indochina without involving violation of the Geneva Agreement.

Spender then brought up the question of West New Guinea which he said under no circumstances should be allowed to fall into Communist hands. The Secretary stated that we were also concerned and fully sympathized with their position but as explained to the Dutch we were equally concerned with keeping Indonesia with its 80 million people from falling into Communist hands. For this reason we did not feel that we should jeopardize our influence with the Indonesians by taking sides in the dispute. However, the Secretary said, if it came to a real showdown about New Guinea, then the United States would back Australia “right or wrong”. The Prime Minister said he thought that spirit was reciprocated in Australia.

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 60 D 627, CF 439. Top Secret. The time of the meeting is from Dulles’ Appointment Book. (Princeton University Library, Dulles Papers) No drafting information is on the source text, but apparently it was drafted by Robertson on March 22.
  2. No other record of this conversation, apparently held during the Chiefs of Mission Conference, March 2–5, has been found in Department of State files.
  3. See Document 36.