174. Telegram From the Embassy in Indonesia to the Department of State0

2308. CINCPAC for POLAD. Paris for USRO. The Hague 1157 to Department.1 As I read reference telegram Dutch have decided to force issue of US neutrality on New Guinea by insisting on answer to question as to whether US in fact believes continued Dutch presence that area essential to free world interests.

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Whether or not Dutch do force issue this manner I believe time has come to answer this question in clear negative. If we do so, we must of course have alternative which would better serve free world interests than continuation of status quo and at same time be compatible with Dutch, Australian, Indonesian national interests.

In suggesting that time has come for Dutch to lay down admittedly heavy burden West New Guinea, I do not imply that immediate acquisition of sovereignty by Indonesia need be involved. On contrary, there could be continuation free world control until such time as there no longer any danger Indonesia passing under Communist domination.

This control could take many forms, such as a UN trusteeship with or without interested parties as trustees; a consortium outside UN or even unilateral US custodianship.

Important factor to obtain Indonesian cooperation, and thus remove issue as political hand hold for Soviet Union, would be an immediate end Dutch sovereignty and assurance that in long run there would be very good possibility Indonesia obtaining sovereignty by peaceful means. Meanwhile whoever assumed responsibility for area should be required prepare population for self-determination in as brief period as possible—for example five years—with provision for appropriate extension should this prove be too short period for such preparation.

For their part Dutch would be relieved of burdensome responsibility and most likely would be able obtain substantial compensation from Indonesia for nationalized Dutch assets—this would be question of bargaining. Australians would be protected against extension communism nearer their boundaries, and a source friction with future power in this part of world would have been removed in timely fashion.

My approach to whole problem is based on conviction that ultimately Dutch will be forced relinquish West New Guinea in any event and that it is in their interest as well as ours do so while some advantage may be gained thereby.

Colonialism is finished and the longer we continue support small western enclaves in Asia the longer we delay winning Asians to our cause, the more we intensify danger of major explosion over minor issue.

Even if it be argued that transfer West Irian to Indonesia is to substitute Asian for western colonialism, fact is that it is combination of white west over colored east that Asians are fighting, rather than imperialism or colonialism per se.

That Dutch withdrawal from the area is inevitable appears clear on other grounds than fact colonialism is dead. These grounds are eloquently stated in reference telegram—business and labor opposition, mounting expense, fear of attack, lack of international support, et cetera.

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While US has given and must honor assurances that [it] would stand with Holland in event Indonesian aggression against New Guinea, it certainly in our interest that such situation not arise. Presumably degree popular support among American public for military defense New Guinea could hardly be classed as enthusiastic.

In terms strategic importance New Guinea could not be classed with other places in which free world has dug in, such as Berlin, Okinawa or Taiwan. So far as defense ANZAM concerned, there are several parts of Indonesian archipelago which would present more of a threat to that area should they fall into unfriendly hands than would New Guinea.

Of course there are many practical problems in attempting work out such solution as I have outlined. We should evaluate such difficulties in the light of what it might be worth to US and free world to remove for all time principal anti-west issue in Indonesian politics, to draw teeth of extreme nationalists and Communists alike, to free Indonesia from political dependence on USSR, to facilitate rapprochement between ANZUS and Indonesia.

Certainly it cannot be said that such a solution as I have suggested would damage Netherlands. On contrary our NATO ally would be strengthened.

Thus I think our approach to Dutch at this time should be that while we appreciate sacrifice they have so loyally made in defense of free world, we cannot in all conscience ask them to continue longer, that we prepared instead help them work out solution that will relieve them of their burden and at same time obtain recompense from Indonesia for their nationalized properties.

If there is to be a settlement this problem, there no other nation except US which has capability of taking successful initiative.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 656.56D13/1–2359. Secret; Priority. Transmitted in two sections. Also sent to CINCPAC and repeated to The Hague, London, Paris, and Canberra.
  2. See footnote 4, Document 171.