483. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, December 12, 19551


  • Call on the Secretary by Prince Wan 2


  • The Secretary
  • HRH Prince Naradhip Phongpraphan, Thai Foreign Minister
  • His Excellency Pote Sarasin, Ambassador of Thailand
  • The Honorable Max Bishop, Ambassador to Thailand
  • FEWalter S. Robertson
  • PSAKenneth T. Young, Jr.
  • PSARockwood H. Foster

Prince Wan called on the Secretary in order to discuss matters of common interest before he returned to Thailand.

Prince Wan opened the meeting by indicating his interest in running for the Presidency of the next General Assembly. He indicated that next year was the turn for an Asian nation and hoped that the U.S. could give him its support.

Prince Wan was informed that the U.S. would vote for him as it had previously. It was difficult, however, to foretell at this early date what other pressures, as had unfortunately happened before, might prevent the U.S. from actively campaigning on Prince Wan’s behalf. The hope was expressed nevertheless that in the following months matters would so arrange themselves that the U.S. would not be prevented from campaigning actively for the Thai candidacy.

Prince Wan remarked that SEATO activities had so far been carried on quietly and that the general public knew very little about progress which had been made. He added that the U.K. had been particularly cautious. He indicated Thailand’s devotion to SEATO, and reaffirmed his government’s attitude against neutralism as expressed by the Council of Ministers and the Prime Minister in recent statements to the public. He indicated that Thailand realized that peace would not be guaranteed for some time yet as a result of the discussions on disarmament being held in the General Assembly. Therefore, he said, fifty per cent of the Thai budget was going for defense against aggression and subversion, and Thailand realized fully the need to take its own precautions for defense. He added that the SEATO meeting in Pakistan, to be held next year, would be useful in showing the world that SEATO was still alive.

[Page 843]

Prince Wan was informed that SEATO was very much alive for the U.S. but that many compared it incorrectly with NATO. NATO, in the U.S. view, had a relatively short line to defend, and the countries making up the NATO organization were industrial in nature with a long tradition of military activity. In Southeast Asia, however, a commitment of forces to the defense of a specific place would tend to strip other equally vulnerable areas of their defenses. For this reason the area had to depend on mobile striking power as a deterrent to aggression. Nevertheless, the U.S. felt that each country should develop for itself sufficient power to defend its territory to the most practicable extent, and by doing so indicate to friendly nations that its “Will to Win” merited outside support. In this connection Prince Wan indicated that he had read with interest the Secretary’s speech at Chicago on December 83 and agreed with the conclusions therein.

Prince Wan stated that the Thai internal security programs presently underway seemed to be adequate, but indicated that a need existed for SEATO to develop economic programs in support of Article III.4 He understood that the U.K. was particularly interested in furthering the Colombo Plan,5 and the U.S. wished to continue its bilateral economic program under ICA. These programs, together with other sources of bilateral financing, could well undertake to implement projects developed and approved under SEATO auspices. As an example, Prince Wan mentioned the Mekong Survey now under way and indicated that perhaps some of the projects recommended by this survey might be suitable for SEATO sponsorship. In this connection he mentioned that Burma, too, was a riverine nation and thought that such projects as the development of the Mekong might some day entice Burma to take an interest in joining SEATO.

Prince Wan was informed that the Mekong Survey and its recommendations were the kind of activity in which the SEATO might be interested if sufficient economic justification were forthcoming.

Prince Wan indicated that Thailand was seeking to improve its relations with Laos and that the Lao had expressed their desire to work more closely with Thailand and SEATO. He thought that Lao membership in the United Nations might facilitate its acceptance as a member of SEATO—particularly from the U.K. viewpoint.

[Page 844]

Prince Wan was informed of the concern with which the U.S. viewed Kruschev’s and Bulganin’s recent activity. The view was expressed that the Soviet Union was deliberately going into areas where historic conflicts existed and attempting to stir them up. The Soviets were apparently using the device of taking one side in such disputes in order to force the U.S. to take the other. This put the U.S. in a position of incurring the enmity of the other party, and it was expected that a similar tactic would be used in the historically sensitive relationship between France and Germany. The U.S. did not consider the Soviet economic offensive as such to be serious, since the Soviet Union had no surplus except in obsolescent arms and technicians. By making promises of economic aid, however, the Soviet Union was able thereby initially to place large numbers of technicians in the country concerned. Once the technicians were on the spot and had done their subversive work, no real Soviet economic assistance would ever be forthcoming. The Soviet Union’s own standard of living is so low that it cannot spend money solely to raise the standard of living in foreign countries. When important political gains will result, however, the Soviet Union does give limited financial help at the expense of its own people. Only because the U.S. has such a high standard of living at home can it afford to seek to raise the standard of living abroad, and give unselfish assistance to friendly nations.

Prince Wan inquired whether the U.S. had decided where to locate the Asian nuclear center proposed by Mr. Hollister at the recent Colombo Plan meeting in Singapore. He was informed that no decision had yet been reached but that locally available technical and educational facilities would probably be the deciding factor in selecting a location.

Prince Wan was urged to render as much assistance as possible to Laos, but the U.S. view was expressed that matters concerning the defense of Laos might better not be raised in SEATO at this time. It was felt that bilateral talks between Laos and Thailand on this subject would achieve more in this initial stage outside SEATO, although consultation with the U.S. and France would be useful if desired. Prince Wan made no direct answer.

Prince Wan replied, however, that Laos needed assistance in almost every field. As an example, when he was in Ottawa the Lao asked for technical assistance from Canada with French-speaking experts. He recalled with amusement that when the Lao were asked specifically in what fields they would like to receive such Canadian assistance, they replied, “In all fields”.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.92/12–1255. Secret. Drafted by Foster.
  2. Prince Wan was in the United States for the autumn meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.
  3. For text of the Secretary’s speech, see Department of State Bulletin, December 19, 1955, pp. 1003–1007.
  4. Article III of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty, signed at Manila on September 8, 1954, pledged the signatories to cooperate to develop measures that would promote economic progress. (6 UST 83)
  5. The Colombo Plan was a program calling for regional economic development adopted by the Commonwealth Consultative Committee on South and Southeast Asia in 1950. The United States agreed to participate in the development of the Colombo Plan in 1951.