374. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Jones) to Acting Secretary of State Dillon0


  • NSC Action 1550 Determination re Road Construction in Yemen

There is attached for your approval a determination1 prepared in accordance with NSC Action 15502 relating to a proposed commitment that the United States Government will contribute, subject to annual Congressional appropriations, up to $12,605,000 in the four year period FY 1960–FY 1964 for the construction of a gravel road in Yemen joining Mocah, Taiz, and Sana’a. This amount would be in addition to the $2,395,000 from FY 1960 funds which have already been allocated for the Taiz-Sana’a portion of the proposed road. The total cost of the approximately 258 mile stretch of road is estimated at $15 million.

Such an advance commitment is essential if we are to maintain the OCB-approved United States objectives in Yemen, viz: (a) denial of the [Page 819] area to Soviet domination, and (b) countering and reduction of Communist influence in the area. Sino-Soviet penetration of Yemen during the past three years constitutes the most significant Communist incursion yet made in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula area. The Soviets are building a major port at Hodaida, while the Chinese Communists are constructing a first class asphalt road from Hodaida to Sana’a.

Sino-Soviet influence in Yemen has recently been at least partially balanced by the initiation of a modest United States economic aid program. This has centered in offering to improve the Taiz-Sana’a road by bringing it up to acceptable second class standards through gravel paving. We have now had indications that the Chinese Communists, in a clear effort to eliminate our economic aid program aborning, have offered to construct the entire Mocha-Taiz-Sana’a road. The Imam of Yemen has asked—in terms which our Legation in Taiz describes as an “ultimatum”—that the United States construct this road. If turned down, public pressure would doubtless compel him to accept the new Chinese Communist offer. The Soviet Bloc appears to be making an all-out effort to enlarge its already preponderant influence in Yemen and to remove, if at all possible, the recently established Western beachhead. If it succeeds, Sino-Soviet influence in Yemen will be unchallenged and Sino-Soviet domination of Yemen may well not be far off.

The United States cannot and should not attempt to match the magnitude of Soviet aid to Yemen. The maintenance of the United States beachhead in this strategically located country of southwestern Arabia, does, however, in both NEA and ICA’s view, warrant favorable consideration of the Imam’s request.

Also germane to any consideration of this matter is the fact that the proposed United States gravel paving will not be as impressive as the asphalt road which the Chinese Communists are building in Yemen. The Bureau of Public Roads estimates that asphalting the Mocha-Taiz-Sana’a road would cost an additional $12 million. The possibility cannot be excluded that Imam may yet ask that our road commitment include asphalt paving. In such an event, our present disposition would be to try to stand by our gravel paving proposal.


That you sign the attached memorandum.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 886H.2612/7–760. Top Secret. Drafted by Eilts.
  2. Not printed.
  3. NSC Action No. 1550, approved on May 3, 1955, stated that U.S. foreign aid commitments should not be promised without consideration of the following factors: compatibility with approved policy, the funds being appropriated or authorized by Congress or a determination made by the Executive to seek such authorization, the recipient country’s ability to support the contemplated aid program, and a consideration of the probable time-span for the assistance. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)
  4. In telegram 18 to Taiz, July 9, the Department of State sent the Legation a letter for the Imam informing him that the United States had expedited the purchasing and shipping arrangements of approximately $1 million in road-building equipment “more quickly than in the entire history of ICA.”] The equipment would begin arriving in the designated port of Mocha within 20 to 30 days. (Ibid., Central Files, 886H.2612/7–960 )