115. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Dutch Protest Lack of Consultation Concerning Indonesian Developments


  • Dr. J. H. van Roijen, Ambassador of the Netherlands
  • Baron van Voorst, Minister, Netherlands Embassy
  • Mr. D. Ketel, First Secretary, Netherlands Embassy
  • The Secretary
  • FE—Mr. Robertson
  • EUR—Mr. Jandrey
  • WE—Mr. Cameron

Ambassador Van Roijen came in to see the Secretary at his own request. On instruction of his Government, the Ambassador strongly protested the lack of prior consultation with the Dutch Government and with NATO concerning recent United States approval of export licenses for the purchase of small arms and aircraft spare parts by Indonesia, reports of which had appeared in the press on May 22. The Ambassador characterized these transactions as “arms deliveries to Indonesia”. He recapitulated a series of conversations which he and the Dutch Foreign Minister had had with the Secretary and other officials of the Department [Page 207] during the course of which he asserted the Dutch had received assurances that such deliveries would not be made to Indonesia and that the Dutch Government would be informed of any change in United States policy towards Indonesia, particularly in the fields of military and economic assistance. The Ambassador stated that without consultation or even an informal exchange of views the United States Government had acceded to Indonesian requests for military and economic (the substitution of rice for cotton under the 1956 P.L. 480 Agreement) assistance. He emphasized that the Dutch Government was sorely disappointed by these developments; its confidence in “promises given by the American Government had been severely shocked” and consequently it will be compelled to draw its own conclusions. He said further that there was no assurance whatsoever that the Indonesian armed forces would not receive additional United States support. In view of this situation and in view of Soviet bloc military assistance to Indonesia the Netherlands Government would have to consider seriously “adapting the defense forces of Netherlands New Guinea to this new threat”. Such a move on the part of the Dutch Government, he continued, would necessarily have effects on Dutch contribution to the defense of Western Europe. The Dutch Government considered it necessary, therefore, to inform the other members of NATO of these developments so that they could take fully into account the changed situation. The Ambassador handed the Secretary a note covering these statements, the text of which is attached.1

The Secretary replied that if he had understood the Ambassador correctly it would appear that the Ambassador was saying that the Dutch Government no longer had any confidence in the United States Government because of what the Dutch read in the newspapers. He said that this was an extreme and unjustified conclusion for the Dutch Government to reach. Why, he asked, had not the Dutch Government inquired about the facts? The Ambassador referred to a talk which Baron van Voorst had had with Mr. J. Graham Parsons (FE) on May 22, and asserted that Mr. Parsons had not been responsive to Baron van Voorst’s request for information on this subject.2 The Dutch Government, therefore, had been impelled to give great weight to the press reports. Mr. Robertson commented that he had complete confidence in Mr. Parsons and that he was certain that Mr. Parsons had been correct and helpful in his conversation with Baron van Voorst. Mr. Robertson added that in his experience it was unusual to raise questions of this nature during the course of a talk which had been arranged as a courtesy call.

[Page 208]

The Secretary referred to his conversation with Foreign Minister Luns on April 243 and recalled that he had told the Foreign Minister at that time that the United States was considering supplying the Indonesians with a few things (some rice had been specifically mentioned) in an attempt to maintain some influence in Indonesia by giving the Indonesian leaders the idea that they could play both sides. The Secretary said that he did not consider that the approval of export licenses for a very limited list of items constituted arms deliveries to Indonesia. He explained that the only arms covered by these licenses were 250 Colt revolvers for the Indonesian Navy, four sporting rifles and three 22-caliber pistols. The value of these items was $14,582. The total sum involved amounted to approximately $1.2 million. Of the items covered by the licenses 95% were aircraft spare parts. All involved commercial purchases from private American companies. It had not occurred to the Department that the Dutch would consider these transactions as arms deliveries to Indonesia. The Secretary said he could now see that we had been wrong in not informing the Dutch Government and he regretted that we had not done so.

Ambassador Van Roijen said that the Dutch Government not only felt very strongly about the lack of consultation but that it was completely in the dark concerning the reasons for United States assistance to Indonesia at this time. The Secretary explained again as he had done on May 13 in his conversation with the Ambassador4 that the United States was attempting to create a situation in Djakarta which would permit the United States to continue to exercise some influence in the swiftly moving and very delicate Indonesian developments. We hoped to use this influence to encourage the Indonesian civil and military leaders to institute government reorganization and other steps favorable to the Free World. We were pursuing these objectives in the interest of the Free World. He noted with regret that we seemed to receive only sniping and a complete lack of understanding from the Dutch.

The Secretary then commented that he also placed a high value on consultation but he did not consider that consultation was a substitute for confidence. He believed that in this case the ally which had the primary responsibility in a very difficult situation was due a modicum of confidence and a certain degree of flexibility of action. Over-emphasis on consultation could result in a web so entangling that the consequences would be only more consultation and no action.

The Ambassador then asked why the Dutch Government had not been informed concerning the moves which the United States had decided [Page 209] to take in Djakarta. The Secretary replied that the emotional involvement of the Dutch in the Indonesian situation was so great that he had judged it unwise to keep them as closely informed as he would have liked. He emphasized this point by saying that he was taking a calculated risk in talking as frankly to the Ambassador as he was doing today. He stressed the confidential nature of his remarks and said that any public disclosure would have disastrous consequences. The Secretary again described the insignificant character of the actions which the United States had decided to try in Indonesia. These, he said, were in effect tactical moves designed to let the Indonesian leaders think that they had an alternative to Soviet assistance. Should these actions have the results which we all desired of encouraging the anti-Communist elements in Indonesia and reversing the leftward movement there, which he personally thought very doubtful, the United States would be disposed to consider further steps designed to strengthen this trend. The exact nature of these steps could not be anticipated. However, our actions would be geared to concrete moves which the Indonesian Government might take to reverse the current Communist orientation. The Ambassador asked whether he should take the Secretary’s statement to imply that if this reversal takes place the United States would be prepared to consider furnishing additional military assistance to Indonesia. The Secretary replied that he questioned the Ambassador’s use of the word “additional” and repeated that we did not consider the export licenses in question as constituting deliveries of military assistance to Indonesia. He said, however, as he had done to the Ambassador on May 13, that if we were satisfied with steps being taken to reverse the anti-Communist trend the possibility should not be excluded that we would be prepared to consider the desirability of furnishing arms and military assistance to Indonesia under certain circumstances.

In response to a statement of the Ambassador about the concern of the Dutch Government for the security of West New Guinea, the Secretary said that he would like to repeat that the Dutch Government need have no concern now or in the future about the United States attitude towards an Indonesian military attack on West New Guinea. He said that the Dutch Government knew officially that the United States would be greatly concerned about such an attack. He added that we had recently received a new declaration from Foreign Minister Subandrio that Indonesia had no intention of using force against West New Guinea. He said this declaration had been responsive to a statement by Ambassador Jones in Djakarta that good relations between the United States and Indonesia would have to exclude the use of force against West New Guinea. The Secretary said he remained strongly opposed to a public statement to this effect which in his considered judgment would make impossible the achievement of the desired orientation of the Indonesian [Page 210] Government. Unless we are successful in bringing about such an orientation Free World Nations will not be able to influence developments there.

Ambassador Van Roijen introduced at this point the Dutch Government’s strong feeling that aid to Indonesia should be contingent upon a satisfactory settlement of Dutch-Indonesian problems. He said that the observance of international obligations which such a settlement would imply was in the interest of the entire Free World. The Secretary said that the United States also placed great weight on the sanctity of international obligations, but that in this case, as in the case of Iran which the Ambassador had raised, it was necessary first to have a government amenable to Western influence and willing to carry out its obligations. Without such a government it was clearly impossible to expect observance of international obligations and commitments. The Secretary then said that the United States and the Netherlands should face squarely the fact that in our relations with Indonesia we placed emphasis on different things. The United States placed primary emphasis on preventing a Communist take-over of Indonesia, whereas the Dutch appeared to place primary interest on their economic and business interests in that area. The United States would not like to be identified with the idea that commercial interests are primary.

The Secretary said he wished again to confirm to the Ambassador that we had no intention at the present of furnishing arms or military equipment to Indonesia. He said he was prepared to consider how we might make consultation between our two governments on Indonesian matters more effective. In conclusion he suggested that Ambassador Van Roijen and Mr. Robertson agree on the line the Ambassador might take with the press concerning this conversation.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 756D.56/5–2758. Secret; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Cameron on May 28.
  2. Not printed.
  3. A memorandum of this conversation is in Department of State, Central Files, 756D.56/5–2258.
  4. See Document 71.
  5. See Document 95.