20. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Netherlands Approach to NATO re Arms for Indonesia


  • Baron S. G. M. van Voorst tot Voorst, Netherlands Minister
  • Mr. D. Ketel, First Secretary, Netherlands Embassy
  • Mr. Robertson, Assistant Secretary for Far Eastern Affairs
  • Mr. Mein, Director, Office of Southwest Pacific Affairs

The Minister stated that he was calling under instructions to inform us that his government is instructing its representative on the North Atlantic [Page 41] Council to request all NATO members to agree that no arms shipments will be made to Indonesia and to request the support of the United States representative when the matter is raised. The Minister referred to previous discussions by the North Atlantic Council of the Dutch Government’s request for bilateral consultations prior to any shipments being made by any NATO member to Indonesia. He said that the earlier request had been based on Dutch apprehension that such arms might be used by Indonesia against West New Guinea, whereas the present approach was based primarily on the current situation in Indonesia and the fear that any arms shipped to Indonesia might be used by the Central Government against the dissidents. He explained that his government was not seeking an agreed policy but only a statement by each member that it would on its own undertake not to ship arms to Indonesia. He said that a similar approach is being made to the British and to other NATO governments.

Mr. Robertson informed the Minister that we had recently authorized our representative to the North Atlantic Council to make a statement concerning the Indonesian request for the purchase of arms from the U.S., which he summarized, and that such a statement had been made. Mr. Robertson added that we have been dragging our feet on the Indonesian request and that we have no intention of supplying the government with any arms which might be used to eliminate the moderate and anti-Communist elements in Indonesia. Mr. Robertson stated that the policy of the United States Government is therefore that which the Netherlands is now proposing, if he understood the Minister correctly, and that we have no intention of doing otherwise. Mr. Robertson expressed the opinion that a discussion of this subject in NATO might be inadvisable since should it become known it might jeopardize the chances of those forces in Indonesia which are trying to change the situation. He said that we are hopeful that a moderate government will be set up in Indonesia and we must be very careful, as Ambassador van Roijen had recently agreed with him, that by our actions we not destroy that which we wish to see come about. [2 lines of source text not declassified]

The Minister mentioned two frigates and two corvettes now being built in Italy for the Indonesians as an illustration of the type of equipment which might be affected by such a policy. Mr. Robertson commented that we had been given to understand that the Dutch Government had within the last few weeks informed the Italian Government that it had no objections to the delivery of these ships to Indonesia. The Minister stated that this position had been taken when the order had first been placed with the Italian Government but it was his impression that recently the Dutch Government had made a new approach to the Italian Government. He said that if a common line, such as the Netherlands [Page 42] Government was proposing, were adopted it would be easier for Italy, for instance, to say no to the Indonesians.

(Mr. Ketel telephoned Mr. Mein later in the afternoon to inform him that the Dutch Government had made an approach to the Italian Government concerning these ships during the latter part of January. In this telephone conversation he also informed Mr. Mein that the Indonesians have placed a new order with the Italian Government and that the Dutch have informed the Italians that they do not agree with the Italian Government filling the order. The ships ordered by Indonesia are:

  • 2 Corvettes Type APE, capacity 600 tons, maximum speed 16 knots
  • 2 Minesweepers, Type DINO, capacity 600 tons, maximum speed 14 knots
  • 7 Minesweepers, Class 400, capacity 85 tons, maximum speed 18 knots
  • 3 Motor torpedo boats, type WASPER, capacity 40 tons, maximum speed 48 knots
  • 1 Frigate, type GRENADIER, capacity 1500 tons, maximum speed 28 knots
  • 4 Escorters, type SIRIO, capacity 1000 tons, maximum speed 26 miles per hour

All these ships would be equipped with radar.

(Mr. Ketel also informed Mr. Mein that the British Foreign Office had indicated that it would support the Dutch position in the North Atlantic Council. As to the timing, he said that the Netherlands approach would be made at one of the informal sessions of the Council within the near future.)1

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 756D.56/2–2058. Secret. Drafted by Mein. Mein briefed Robertson for this meeting in a memorandum dated February 20. (Ibid., 611.56/2–2058)
  2. The Department transmitted a summary of this conversation in telegram 1569 to The Hague, February 26. (Ibid., 756D.56/2–2658) On February 27 Jandrey spoke with van Voorst about the question of arms shipments to Indonesia. He stated that he wished to inform the Netherlands Minister that the U.S. position on the request that the Minister made to Robertson was as follows: “1. The United States hopes that the Dutch Government will not raise this question in NATO at this time. 2. The Dutch know the United States and other NATO members are not furnishing military equipment to the Indonesian Government at present. 3. The United States believes that the present situation in Indonesia is of such delicacy that any knowledge of NATO consideration of this matter would have most unfortunate results on both the Indonesian Government and the Sumatran movement, as well as elsewhere in the Far East.” (Memorandum of Conversation by Cameron; ibid., 756D.56/2–2758)

    At a closed NAC meeting on March 6, Netherlands representative Eelco van Kleffens made another statement on the question of arms shipments to Indonesia. He stated that the Netherlands Government wanted all of its NATO partners to abstain for the time being from delivering any arms and war material to Indonesia. The text of this statement was transmitted to the Department in Polto G–74, March 10. (Ibid., 756D.56/3–758)