301. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, November 27, 19571


  • Dutch-Indonesian Relations


  • Dr. Joseph Luns, Foreign Minister of the Netherlands
  • Dr. Herman van Roijen, Ambassador of the Netherlands
  • The Secretary
  • EUR—Mr. Jones
  • IO—Mr. Walmsley
  • WE—Mr. Cameron

The Foreign Minister reviewed the First Committee vote (42 in favor, 28 against, 11 abstaining) on the West New Guinea resolution which had taken place on November 26.2 He said that he was very gratified by this outcome and commented that the United Kingdom and France had worked actively with his Government to achieve this result. The Foreign Minister said that he had discussed with Sir Leslie Munro the desirability of having an early vote in the Plenary on this question and that Sir Leslie had scheduled the vote for Friday3 afternoon.

After reviewing the history of Dutch-Indonesian relations since 1948, the Foreign Minister said that in his opinion UN action on the New Guinea Resolution would have in fact very little influence on Indonesian policy toward the Dutch. He explained that as late as last summer Sukarno had decided to proceed actively against the Dutch. Therefore, The Hague had already anticipated current Indonesian threats to nationalize Dutch property in Indonesia and to break off economic relations with the Dutch if the West New Guinea resolutions failed to obtain the necessary 2/3 majority. Sukarno appeared determined to take these steps although they would result in greater injury to Indonesia than to the Netherlands. The Minister said that the Netherlands at present derived about 3.1 percent of its national income (20 percent before the war) from its economic relations with Indonesia. Dutch investments in Indonesia amounted to approximately 5 billion guilders. In contrast to this, approximately 50 percent of the Indonesian budget was derived from Dutch economic interests in the islands. The Foreign Minister told the Secretary that the Netherlands had one means of retaliating if Indonesia broke off economic relations with the Netherlands and nationalized Dutch investments [Page 519] in Indonesia. He referred to the intercoastal shipping system which was Dutch owned. He said that there would undoubtedly be strong pressure to withdraw this service from Indonesia. If it was withdrawn it would have very serious economic effects on Indonesia and would undoubtedly contribute to a further breaking up of Indonesia. He regretted very much the possibility that Indonesia would take these actions which would have such serious consequences for Indonesia itself. He believed that a stern warning from the United States concerning the consequences of these acts would be the only way to prevent their being taken. He informed the Secretary that his Government had requested the British to take over the protection of Dutch interests in Indonesia if the Indonesians went further and broke off political relations with the Dutch.

The Foreign Minister said that he had taken advantage of his current visit to the UN to explore the attitudes of the other Asian countries towards the West New Guinea problem. With the exception of the representative from Ceylon he had found them all to be quite reasonable. Many told him privately that they did not think that Indonesia had a good case. However, they had added that because of the importance of maintaining Asian solidity they would vote for the resolution on West New Guinea. The representative of Nepal, for example, had said that the justification for Indonesia’s claim to New Guinea gave him great concern because it was the same justification which Red China might use to take over his own country. The Foreign Minister also said that recently the Dutch had noted a real improvement in their relations with all Asian countries except Indonesia. He commented that this might be the oriental way of balancing off support for what they generally considered an unjustified Indonesian position.

He rejected the allegation that the Netherlands was anti-Indonesian. Quite to the contrary his Government fully recognized that it was in the Dutch interest and in the interest of the Free World for Indonesia to be politically and economically viable. He had been convinced for some time, however, that Sukarno’s actions and policies made this impossible. He took a very pessimistic view of the increasingly pro-Communist direction of Sukarno and his associates. There were prominent Indonesians, among whom he included Hatta and Subandrio, who were opposed to the way things were going in Indonesia but who were unable to do anything about it as long as Sukarno remained in power.

As for the future of West New Guinea, he said that the Dutch Government stood by its position which he himself had repeated only yesterday in the First Committee that it was willing to have the legal question of the sovereignty of West New Guinea referred to the International Court of Justice. Indonesia was opposed to this since it [Page 520] knew that it would lose the decision. He referred to the joint Dutch-Australian declaration on the future of New Guinea and said that both Governments were very serious in their determination to take concrete steps which would contribute to the development of the island to the point where the population could exercise its right of determination. He referred to recent conversations which the Dutch Minister for Overseas Territories had had with the Australians and said that further planning would go forward rapidly at the technical level. Both countries he added were thinking in terms of decades not in terms of generations. The failure of the current resolution on West New Guinea to pass the Plenary would lend an added impetus to these joint Dutch-Australian efforts. He said that he had discussed Dutch-Australian determination to proceed along these lines with Secretary General Hammarskjold who had commented to him that the Indonesian claim for New Guinea was the “most hollow case” ever presented to the United Nations.

At this point he mentioned to the Secretary the United States request for return of 15 million guilders worth of U.S. Lend-Lease silver which the Netherlands had advanced to Indonesia for currency support purposes. He said that the Dutch Government found such a request very difficult in the midst of Indonesia’s consistent failure to live up to its obligations to the Dutch Government. Indonesia had refused to return the silver to the Netherlands. He asked whether the United States could get Indonesia to honor this debt to the Netherlands.

The Secretary said that he was not familiar with the details of this question. However, he understood that there were legal requirements which had resulted in the US request to the Dutch Government for the return of the silver.

The Secretary then commented that the problem was to determine what would be the most effective program for stopping a Communist take-over in Indonesia. He said that we had been considering a number of alternatives but that we had not yet made up our mind with respect to the program which should be adopted… .

He referred to the Foreign Minister’s statement that a stem warning from the United States was necessary at this time and asked what the Foreign Minister had in mind. Mr. Luns said that in his judgment the Indonesians had come to believe that they could continue to count on American economic assistance regardless of what actions they might take. He suggested that the Indonesians should be made aware of the possible consequences of further and even more drastic action. The Secretary said that it was his impression that our program of economic assistance to Indonesia was a modest one. He added that as a matter of principle the United States did not attach political strings to its economic assistance. He commented that in the [Page 521] past there had been many suggestions that such strings be attached but that in each case we had decided against abandoning our principle. He told the Foreign Minister that we would seriously consider what he had said and see if we could come up with something that could be appropriately done because we too were concerned about the direction which Sukarno and his Communist-infiltrated Government had taken in Indonesia.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 656.56D/11–2757. Confidential. Drafted by Cameron, Officer in Charge of Swiss-Benelux Affairs.
  2. The United States abstained.
  3. November 29.