343. Memorandum on the Substance of Discussion at a Department of State–Joint Chiefs of Staff Meeting, Pentagon, Washington, January 14, 1955, 11:30 a.m.1

[Here follow a list of 27 persons present, including Admiral Arthur W. Radford, General Matthew B. Ridgway, General Nathan F. Twining, Admiral Donald B. Duncan, H. Struve Hensel, Robert Murphy, Walter S. Robertson, and General Charles P. Cabell, and discussion of Admiral Radford’s recent trip to the Far East comprising the first five items on the agenda.]

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6. Philippines

Admiral Radford said that the JCS were anxious to go ahead with the Philippine base negotiations. He said that he understood that President Magsaysay has instructed Ambassador Romulo to approach the Department to request a delay.

Mr. Robertson said that the question of opening the base negotiations was complicated by the attitude of Senator Recto, who had been making inflammatory anti-American remarks.

Admiral Radford emphasized that we must get on with the matter. We have a perfectly good case. Our position is an honorable one, and we have nothing to hide. … In the Admiral’s opinion, President Magsaysay’s position is so strong that he is well situated to come to grips with Senator Recto ….

It was brought out that Ambassador Spruance favors negotiations now, and feels that the longer we wait the worse the situation will get. Admiral Duncan echoed the view that the passage of time was harmful to our interests, but Mr. Robertson pointed out that at the request of President Magsaysay, who had by-passed Ambassador Spruance, Ambassador Romulo had made a strong plea to President Eisenhower that the U.S. not precipitate the negotiations, and implored us to postpone them for the time being.

Admiral Radford said that he had told President Magsaysay that the matter must be settled. Admiral Duncan noted that the Manila Pact Conference2 was coming up, and that it would be wise to settle this matter before then. Admiral Radford repeated that Magsaysay was much too timid: he had more power than he knew.

Mr. Murphy suggested that there was some feeling in the Department that a major political crisis would be precipitated if we pressed for negotiations at the present time. Mr. Robertson said that the Philippine Republic was one of our most valuable allies, that there were many aspects to be considered, and that the question of timing was again important. He assured the Admiral that the State Department was giving the matter urgent consideration, for decision at the earliest possible moment.

Admiral Radford said that Ambassador Spruance was anxious to leave Manila, but that he would be willing to stay on to conduct the negotiations if they took place in the reasonably near future. Mr. Robertson gave his view that there was, of course, no adequate replacement for Ambassador Spruance, who would be perfect to conduct the negotiations.

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Admiral Radford hammered again on the point … our public information program had been poorly handled. Mr. Robertson tended to agree with the Admiral’s opinion about our public information program but he emphasized that according to his sources the Philippine people were psychopathic on the subject of base negotiations.

Admiral Radford did not get that impression. He said that if Magsaysay does not come to grips with Recto, he (Magsaysay) will kill himself politically.

Admiral Duncan interjected that he had recently talked to a Philippine senator who expressed a view that the time was ripe for negotiations, and that therefore it seemed that opinion in the Philippines was not unanimous on this subject. Admiral Radford nodded, and again referred to the fact the Ambassador Spruance favored negotiations now.

. . . . . . .

Admiral Radford concluded that he thought that the more we wait the worse the situation will be; and that what was needed is a well-planned public relations campaign.3

[Here follows discussion of current trends in Formosa, Korea, and Japan and several matters affecting the Far Eastern region as a whole.]

  1. Source: Department of State, State–JCS Meetings: Lot 61 D 417. Top Secret. No drafting information is given on the source text. A note on the title page reads: “State Draft. Not cleared by any of the participants.”
  2. The Manila Pact (or SEATO) Conference was scheduled for February 23–25 in Bangkok. The Philippines was an original signatory of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty, signed at Manila on September 8, 1954. (6 UST 81)
  3. At a National Security Council meeting that same day, Admiral Radford gave a similar assessment of his trip to the Philippines, and recommended that the Department of State change its instructions to Ambassador Spruance so that negotiations for the base agreement could be promptly undertaken. (Memorandum of discussion at the 231st meeting of the NSC by Gleason, January 13; Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records)