226. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • U.S.-Dutch-Indonesian Relations


  • For the Netherlands
    • Dr. Joseph Luns, Foreign Minister1
    • Dr. J. H. van Roijen, Ambassador
    • Mr. Emil Schiff, Minister
  • For the United States
    • The Secretary
    • Ambassador Philip Young
    • SPA—Mr. Mein
    • WE—Mr. McBride
    • WE—Mr. Chadbourn

Mr. Luns said he had told Mr. Wilcox the day before that he expected that Indonesia would bring up the West New Guinea issues next year in the United Nations General Assembly.2 He hoped the United States would support the Dutch position on this matter. He went on to [Page 439]say that the Dutch position on this question was the same as the French position on Algeria (i.e., the United Nations is not competent to change the territorial status of a member state). If, however, an Indonesian resolution were passed in the United Nations, the Dutch would simply disregard it.

Mr. Luns then reviewed for the Secretary the history of his talks with Secretary Dulles in regard to a possible Indonesian attack on West New Guinea. He had told Mr. Dulles a year ago that the Dutch were very concerned about Indonesian plans to attack West New Guinea. As a result Mr. Dulles had spoken in very clear terms to Mr. Subandrio about this question, stressing the point that the United States was against the use of force in the settlement of such issues. This had had the desired effect on the Indonesians. Mr. Luns then expressed his gratification that this political deterrent had been successful in restraining Indonesia from any West New Guinea ventures, although he still felt that this was in the nature of a postponement rather than a change in objectives.

Mr. Luns then said he would like to have a reaffirmation of U.S. policy in regard to the possible use of force by Indonesia against West New Guinea. He read a copy of the public statement of October 7, 1958 (see memorandum of conversation, Oct. 7 [8], 1958)3 and asked whether this remained our policy, to which the Secretary replied in the affirmative. Mr. Luns went on to say that there were two aspects or elements to this problem of West New Guinea, the first being the application of the deterrent in time of peace. The second element was the question of what assistance the U.S. was prepared to give the Netherlands in the event an attack actually occurred. He then read the Dutch version of the private assurances Mr. Dulles had given Ambassador Van Roijen during their conversation on October 7, 1958: (The verbatim Dutch text is as follows: “We are not in a position to make advance statements. I expect that if that occurs we would give you logistical support and find other ways to help. You could count on the same pattern as we have shown in other parts of the world. We acted as you know very vigorously in Lebanon and in the Formosa Straits.”)

Mr. Luns then urged that the U.S. take prompt action should an attack occur. Even though the Dutch have virtually nothing left in Indonesia, certain Indonesian leaders still continued to threaten the Dutch. As an example, he cited the fact that Subandrio had recently told the Dutch Chargé in Djakarta that the presence of a Dutch naval ship in Indonesian territorial waters would be a casus belli. The Indonesians apparently now define these waters to cover all inter-island waters. It was this type of Indonesian statement that continued to disturb the Dutch. He felt the [Page 440]situation needed careful watching. The confiscation of Dutch properties in Indonesia, of course, was a sore point for the Dutch. Many of the refugees were now in West New Guinea, resulting in the presence of 18,000 Dutchmen in West New Guinea. Mr. Luns thought Indonesia was now going downhill rapidly, one of the principal reasons therefor being the fact that they will not accept any technical assistance from the Dutch because the Dutch are their whipping boys. This increasingly chaotic situation augmented the danger of Indonesia falling to the Communists. He expressed the complete agreement of his government with the U.S. objective of keeping Indonesia from falling to the Communists. It was a great pity that all this was going on because, in his opinion, there was no basic hostility of the Indonesian people to the Dutch as people as evidenced by the fact that not a single Dutchman had been murdered or hurt in the past few years in Indonesia. It was all caused by the hatred held by the top Indonesian leadership. The Secretary asked Mr. Luns what he thought of the alleged differences between Sukarno on the one hand and Djuanda and Nasution on the other. Mr. Luns replied that Nasution was the best element in the top leadership. Since all of them were very close friends, however, one could not expect that Nasution would ever make any move against Sukarno.

Reverting to the Dulles statements and specifically to the mention of logistical support therein, Mr. Luns asked if we could study ways to help. (It is assumed that Mr. Luns was referring to joint military planning and planning for logistical support.) The Secretary explained that the difficulty in maintaining absolute secrecy in these matters posed a serious problem. Mr. Luns replied strongly that, of course, there would never be any publicity on such a matter. In the case of the “shopping list” for instance, no public mention of the real intended use of the equipment had been made, or ever would be, other than to say that the equipment was intended for “general use.” Mr. Luns asked the Secretary for his help in obtaining the items the Dutch have requested on the shopping list. A discussion ensued in which it was agreed that progress on the shopping list had been made, and that the Department of Defense was trying its best to meet the Dutch requirements. The problem had narrowed itself down to questions of specifications and cost; it was the helicopters that were so expensive. It was also brought out that the items on the list were replacements for deteriorating equipment used in the defense of West New Guinea. Mr. Luns said that without our help the Dutch would have to reduce their commitments to NATO in order to maintain the present minimum level of security forces in West New Guinea. This minimum defense posture was designed to boost the morale of the 18,000 Dutchmen on the island as well as the native Papuans, and to discourage an Indonesian attempt at infiltration.

[Page 441]

The conversation then turned to an unrelated matter and at this point the Secretary was interrupted by a telephone call. When the Secretary resumed the conversation, Mr. Luns reaffirmed his understanding that the two elements of U.S. policy regarding a possible attack on West New Guinea as expressed by Mr. Dulles on October 7, 1958, remained unchanged. As he understood our thinking, however, the U.S. reserved its position as regards advance planning. The Secretary replied that we were obliged to reserve on this point. Ambassador Young made the point that the fact the Dutch had given us all available information on their military establishment in West New Guinea was in a sense a kind of joint planning and would facilitate any U.S. planning in the future. It was important, he went on, for the Dutch to keep us currently informed on all military aspects of this situation.

The discussion of other matters is being reported in separate memoranda of conversations.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 656.56D13/9–2959. Secret. Drafted by Chadbourn. Approved in S on October 9.
  2. Luns was in Washington for a series of discussions with U.S. officials on matters of mutual concern, September 28–29. He met with Parsons, Murphy, and Wilcox on September 28. A memorandum of the former conversation is ibid., 756D.00/9–2859; the other conversations are summarized in telegram 454 to The Hague, September 29. (Ibid., 611.56/9–2959)
  3. See Document 267.
  4. See Document 159.
  5. The discussion on Indonesia was summarized in telegram 461 to The Hague, September 30. (Department of State, Central Files, 611.56/9–3059) In a 6-page letter of October 2 to Chargé Fales, Ambassador Young summarized his impressions of the Luns visit, indicating that the visit had been quite successful even though very little of a concrete nature had been accomplished. (Ibid., WE Files: Lot 63 D 221, Luns Visit 1959)