191. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Indonesia


  • Dr. Joseph Luns, Foreign Minister of the Netherlands
  • Dr. J. H. van Roijen, Ambassador of the Netherlands
  • FE—Mr. Robertson
  • SPA—Mr. Mein
  • WE—Mr. Stabler

Dr. Luns opened the discussion by expressing his regret over the news which he had just heard regarding Mr. Robertson’s resignation.1 He then said that in the talk which he had just concluded with Mr. Dillon2 he had indicated that the political deterrent against an attack by Indonesia on West New Guinea had worked so far. The Indonesian intention to mount such an attack had been shelved for the time being. Dr. Luns said he thought that it would be most useful for the United States and the United Kingdom to keep up the policy of public and private deterrents against the use of force by Indonesia.

Mr. Robertson recalled that the Secretary had spoken most forcefully to Indonesian Foreign Minister Subandrio last November on the question of force. In Mr. Robertson’s opinion Indonesia realized that the state of the world was such that attempts to settle issues between nations through the use of force would not be tolerated. The Secretary had told Dr. Subandrio that if Indonesia used force against West New Guinea, the United States would be against Indonesia. Dr. Subandrio had replied that he knew this and he also knew that if Indonesia should attempt to use force, the opinion of the entire world would be against it. The dispute between Indonesia and the Dutch was not the only dispute in this world, said Mr. Robertson, and the world would not tolerate the use of force to settle these disputes.

Dr. Luns said that while this might be true, there was irresponsible elements in Indonesia which might not be sensitive to world opinion. [Page 365] Mr. Robertson replied that in our opinion the responsible elements which were the important ones in Indonesia fully realized that the use of force would not be tolerated.

Dr. Luns said that the Netherlands had no doubt that Indonesia had a plan to use force against West New Guinea and that the plans called for an attack some time in March. The fact that the Indonesians had called it off had caused much disappointment among Indonesian agents in West New Guinea. Dr. Luns then said that his Government was most worried about the intention of Swedish shipyards to build two destroyers of the “Halland” class for Indonesia. These destroyers would be as powerful as any ships the Dutch have in the West New Guinea area. Mr. Robertson said that Indonesia’s actions in building up its defensive capacities was because Indonesia held that its most dangerous enemy today was Red China. Dr. Luns pointed out that the Indonesians had taken action against the Chinese Nationalists in Indonesia and not the Red Chinese. Mr. Robertson replied that our reports were that Indonesia had taken action against the Chinese population as a whole because the Indonesians were concerned about the activities of the Chinese population in Indonesia. In our opinion, Mr. Robertson said, Indonesia was more acutely aware of the menace of international Communism than ever before. It was increasingly concerned about becoming overly entangled with the Communists and in this connection Indonesia recently turned down a Soviet loan. With regard to the question of arms, if the Indonesians could not get arms from the United States, they would get them from the Soviets. The Soviet bloc was ready and willing to provide such arms as Indonesia desired. However, the Indonesians did not wish to depend solely on the Soviets for their supply.

Dr. Luns said that he agreed that if the Indonesians had to depend on a foreign source of supply, it would be better for United States to be this source. However, he could not agree that Indonesia’s request for arms from Sweden was desirable since the Swedes were only interested in the commercial aspect and had no means whereby they could exercise any responsibility with respect to the use of these arms. The Swedish destroyers were a very heavy type with strong armament. Dr. Luns requested that we look into this question in Stockholm. Dr. Luns added that he would almost prefer the Indonesians to obtain Soviet destroyers because at least there was a chance that at some future time the Indonesians might not be able to get the necessary spare parts.

Dr. Luns summed up by saying that there were two points involved in Indonesia’s attitude toward West New Guinea. The first was the political deterrent and this had worked so far. The second point was that if the political deterrent failed, there would be a vaccum because no plans had been devised in anticipation of that situation. If the political deterrent failed, it would mean the failure of the entire Western policy, since [Page 366] Indonesia would be supported by the Soviet bloc in its actions against West New Guinea.

Mr. Robertson said that the disagreement between the Dutch and ourselves was on how to ensure a non-Communist Indonesia, not on the objective which we and the Dutch shared. The United States believed that there has been steady progress in achieving the objective. Dr. Luns said that in a sense the rabid anti-Dutch feeling in Indonesia has helped United States policy because the Indonesians derived a certain amount of satisfaction from their belief that we were working with Indonesia against the Dutch. Mr. Robertson replied that we took no sides in this matter and that our only aim was to keep Indonesia out of the Communist sphere.

Dr. Luns pointed out that since 1945 almost 288,000 Dutchmen had returned to Holland from Indonesia. Of this number about one-half were Eurasian. The last 50,000, who came last year from Indonesia, arrived in a nearly destitute condition. The influx had placed a heavy burden on the Netherlands whose population had increased during the last six years from about 10,500,000 to about 11,600,000.

Mr. Robertson inquired what in Dr. Luns’ view would be the best solution to the West New Guinea question. Dr. Luns replied that he thought the Papuans on the whole, both in Australia and Netherlands areas, should form a single unit. In response to Mr. Robertson’s question, Dr. Luns said this would be achieved through self-determination and through the guidance of those now governing and administering the areas. Dr. Luns said that the Papuans detested the Indonesians. They recalled their treatment at the hands of Indonesian officials whom the Japanese had put in charge in the area during the War.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 756D.00/4–159. Secret. Drafted by Stabler.
  2. Robertson was planning to resign for health reasons; see The New York Times, April 2, 1959, p. 8.
  3. As reported in a memorandum of conversation, April 1. (Department of State, Central Files, 656C.56D/4–159) See Supplement.
  4. Later that day Luns met with Acting Secretary Herter to discuss Indonesian nationalization of Netherlands properties and the need for NATO solidarity. (Memorandum of conversation by Cameron; Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 64 D 560, CF 1235)