171. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • U.S. Military Assistance to Indonesia


  • Dr. J.H. van Roijen, Ambassador of the Netherlands
  • Mr. David Ketel, Counselor, Embassy of the Netherlands
  • EUR—Mr. Merchant
  • SPA—Mr. Mein
  • WE—Mr. Stabler

1. NAC Statement

The Netherlands Ambassador, Dr. Van Roijen, said he has been instructed to speak to the Department further about the question of U.S. arms deliveries to Indonesia.1 He said that Foreign Minister Luns hoped and expected, on the basis of his talks with the Secretary in Paris,2 that when we made our statement on arms deliveries to Indonesia in NAC, we would recognize and stress the responsibility which these deliveries imposed on us in connection with the possible use of these arms by Indonesia against West New Guinea. [11 lines of source text not declassified]

[Page 319]

[1 paragraph (15-1/2 lines of source text) not declassified]

2. Exchange of Military Information

Dr. Van Roijen said that his Government was most anxious to get on with the exchange of military information regarding Indonesia’s intentions and subsequently to proceed to the next stage of secret military talks with United States and others on what should be done if Indonesia should attack West New Guinea. The Dutch Government felt that even though there was a difference between us on the evaluation regarding Indonesian intentions, the possibility still remained that aggression might occur. This aggression could be in a variety of forms. He said that although his Government had mentioned, on the basis of intelligence reports, March as a possible date for Indonesian action against West New Guinea, his Government was not tying itself to this date. His Government believed that we should proceed without delay along the above lines, since this was the minimum which could be done so that the necessary precautions might be taken against Indonesian action.

Dr. Van Roijen said that another important point was the building up of a public deterrent against Indonesian action. The Dutch believed that the statement which the Secretary gave to Mr. Luns in October had been useful in this respect, although it had not gone far enough. The Ambassador said that his Government was also anxious to obtain an open commitment of support from the United States. At the present time Dutch public opinion was becoming restive, since it believed that the Netherlands was isolated in its policy with respect to Netherlands New Guinea. The Netherlands held on to New Guinea in the interests of the West. However, it was increasingly difficult without public recognition of this fact, by the United States and others, for the Netherlands to follow this policy. In this connection he referred to the possibility that the Labor Party might be in opposition after the forthcoming elections and that this might complicate the present policy with respect to West New Guinea.

Mr. Merchant said that although the paper on the Indonesian situation which the Ambassador had handed him on December 22 was under study, we could not finalize our comments until we had received the more detailed analysis which Mr. Luns had told Ambassador Young was now being prepared in The Hague. As soon as we received the new paper, we would complete our comments. Dr. Van Roijen said that he was unaware that an additional paper was under preparation in The Hague.

Mr. Merchant said that although we and the Dutch are in agreement on general objectives in connection with Indonesia, we have from time to time disagreed with regard to tactics. He reviewed the nature of our military assistance program to Indonesia and said that we place [Page 320] great reliance on our effort to influence the Indonesian Government. He recalled the strong statement which the Secretary had made to Subandrio that the United States would be opposed to the use of force by Indonesia against West New Guinea.3 There were, of course, great difficulties for us in connection with military planning for an area which was not covered by a treaty commitment. Any action on our part with respect to such areas would be limited to self-defense or to an action pursuant to a Security Council resolution. Dr. Van Roijen said he realized the difficulties involved for us in this situation. The main thing was to build up a public deterrent so that Indonesia will realize the grave consequences which would ensue if it should undertake aggression. Even though we might not be able to proceed as the Dutch desire, his Government believed that it was only fair that we should be warned regarding the possibility of an attack against West New Guinea.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 756D.56/1–1459. Secret. Drafted by Stabler.
  2. In a memorandum of January 13, McBride briefed Merchant for this meeting with Van Roijen. (Ibid., 756D.56/1–1349) See Supplement.
  3. See Document 168.
  4. See Document 162.
  5. The Department summarized this conversation in telegram 1068 to The Hague, January 14. (Department of State, Central Files, 756D.56/1–759) Ambassador Young met with Foreign Minister Luns on January 19 and discussed the West New Guinea problem. In telegram 1157 from The Hague, January 20, Young reported that the Netherlands Government is “making strong effort obtain as far-reaching commitments as possible, both public and private, from US, UK, and Australia to buttress their position in New Guinea based on assumption they must remain in best interests of west. Dutch Government sincerely appreciates US policy and assurances US has given them. However, they will undoubtedly seek statement from US in due course that US wishes Dutch to hold on to New Guinea and will continue to press us for some public demonstration of support.” (Ibid., 656.56D13/1–2059) See Supplement.