256. Telegram From the Embassy in Indonesia to the Department of State1

510. Deptels 375,2 395.3 Although in Dutch view and possibly in ours New Guinea may not be colonial question, in Asia it is. Communists are constantly and increasingly hammering at issues such as New Guinea. Most recently Oman. There is no question that our position presents Communists most effective issue on which they have ably capitalized to our detriment. Attitude on New Guinea is not confined to any particular political segment or group in Indonesia. It is the one point on which every political party here can agree. Opinion here toward communism and free world can not be successfully changed in our direction as long as we maintain our present position. If we support the Dutch, our prestige and influence throughout Asia will suffer a severe blow. If we remain neutral, our position will continue to lack the appeal of Communist policy. In either case in Indonesia and other parts of Asia we will continue to work under a self-imposed handicap and will lose any opportunity we have to gain the support of uncommitted political elements.

The degree of support we have throughout Asia may be measured in part by our attitude toward colonial issues. Our propaganda, our claims to be the champion of freedom and right will fall on deaf ears if in our actions we consistently support the vestiges of colonialism.

This is not a question of giving full and complete support to either Indonesia or the Netherlands for sovereignty over West New Guinea. It is a question of whether we will oppose a request for the UN to offer its good offices to settle an international dispute arising out of an agreement in which the UN played a major part. This active and continuing dispute, if Dutch reports of Indonesian activities re New Guinea can be believed, offers a threat to peace. It is the [Page 427] opinion of Indonesians and doubtless other Asians that the UN was created for the purpose of settling such disputes. We are in the position of saying that UN consideration of a threat to peace is desirable when it suits our purposes but not otherwise. The Indonesians will find it hard to understand why we voted against Great Britain and France on Suez issue and are seeming reluctant to do so against little Holland.

Re The Hague’s 319 to the Department, sent Djakarta 395 from the Department.

Numbered point one: To support the Dutch contention re New Guinea will convince many Indonesians who are now friendly to the US or UN committed [sic]that the only support they have on what they view as their most important foreign policy problem comes from the Communist camp. I know of few changes in our policy vis-à-vis Indonesia that would be better calculated to drive this country closer to the Communists.

Point two: Continued cooperation with our Dutch ally is desirable. Must this cooperation extend to the point that we associate ourselves with the desperate Dutch attempts to salvage the remnants of her colonial empire even to the extent of refusing to use the machinery, which we were largely responsible for establishing, for settlement of such disputes? Would our opposition to the Dutch really weaken NATO? Would the Dutch weaken their own defenses? Would they withdraw from NATO or reduce their contribution to NATO if we take the position that the UN should be used for the purposes for which it was created? Is not the purpose of NATO as much if not more for the defense of Western Europe as it is for the defense of the UN?

Point three: Peaceful and amicable relations between Dutch and Indonesians are most desirable. The present Dutch position is that they will not even discuss this matter in spite of their agreement at roundtable conference to do so. Their position on the specific issue of UN good offices is that they will not permit the UN to try and aid the parties in reaching a settlement. I submit this does not contribute to amicable relations. The best road to peaceful and amicable relations between the Dutch and the Indonesians is further attempts for a settlement of the basic issue of the future of West New Guinea. Under present conditions UN good offices appear to be the best method of achieving this end. Embassy Hague says “continued agitation in UN hardly seems best way accomplish desired result.” If not through UN how can a small and militarily weak power hope to settle such issue? Dutch inflexibility has made the UN logical and possibly only avenue of hope for settlement.

Point four: It is desirable to keep West New Guinea out of Communist hands. The question is not whether we support Indonesian [Page 428] claims to New Guinea at this time but whether we agree to use the UN. However from the viewpoint of an eventual settlement certain points should be answered by military experts. How is the strategic importance of New Guinea affected by technological development of warfare? If all the rest of this country of eighty million were in the hands of Communists would the question of who held New Guinea be of major strategic importance? Under such conditions would the Dutch be able to hold it? The opinion of the JCS on these and similar questions might be taken into consideration. Further, from a political point of view, is maintaining the Dutch in New Guinea worth the loss in prestige and influence which we suffer in all Asia when we follow a policy Asians view as pro-colonial and in view of fact that it could well help to bring about complete communization of Indonesia which we seek to avoid? These are questions that we may have to answer but they are not essential to the immediate point of trying to get a peaceful settlement through UN good offices.

Point five: I cannot assess what would be in the best interest of the indigenous population of New Guinea at this time. Certainly the Dutch have a more stable political base from which to operate and probably have more resources and skills available to aid in the development of New Guinea. However if we may judge by the example of Dutch preparation of Indonesia for independence, I would expect the results in New Guinea to be less than spectacular. Is it not conceivable that the interests of the people of New Guinea would be best served if neither the Dutch nor the Indonesians had absolute control (which both admittedly want) over the destiny and development of New Guinea? With the influence of the UN, and the US through the UN, compromise could be achieved through the offer of good offices. Short of violence compromise is the only solution. Such a compromise could embody safeguards for the people of New Guinea as well as security safeguards for free world.

Embassy The Hague eschews elaboration “unpleasantries which this situation would produce, not on the bilateral context but in whole sphere our NATO associations”. I understand that French will not oppose discussion Algerian issue in UN. Would attitude of France or UK toward NATO be seriously changed if we supported idea UN good offices for remote West New Guinea? Would they reduce their support of NATO? Embassy The Hague finds nothing but “unfulfilled hopes and speculations” as reasons for not supporting the Dutch position. I believe that the considerations very briefly outlined in this message constitute something more than “unfulfilled hopes and speculations”. I agree with Embassy The Hague that a “hard look” should be given to “determine what we want and hope to accomplish”. What we hope to accomplish in Asia will not be achieved through support of Dutch colonial policy. I recommend we [Page 429] look carefully at what we hope to accomplish in Asia and compare it carefully with what in reality we will be losing in Europe by supporting an uncommitted nation in its desperate attempt to use the methods established for the peaceful settlement of disputes to settle a dispute of profound significance to them.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 656.56D13/8–2757. Confidential.
  2. Telegram 375 to Djakarta, August 22, repeated telegram 340 to The Hague; see footnote 2, Document 252.
  3. Printed as telegram 319 from The Hague, Document 252.