236. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Parsons) to Acting Secretary of State Dillon0

SUBJECT

  • Recent Developments in Indonesia

Notwithstanding the persistent instability stemming from Indonesia’s precarious economic situation and still sputtering rebellion, there has been perceptible if not precisely measurable progress during the past six months towards the achievement of United States policy objectives in Indonesia. In the main, the important recent developments described below reflect this improvement:

Strained Indonesian-Chinese Communist relations. As a result of its efforts to exclude Indonesia’s economically powerful Chinese minority from certain areas of domestic economic life, the Indonesian Government has received repeated threatening protests from Communist China. Asserting that these protests constitute interference in its internal affairs, Indonesia has stood its ground and gone ahead with the anti-Chinese measures. Although Indonesia seems anxious to maintain good relations with Communist China, the incident has already served United States interests in the sense that the arrogant, aggressive nature [Page 460]of the Chinese Communist regime has been clearly exposed to the Indonesians.

Restrictions on Communist activity. Although the Communist Party (PKI) remains one of the principal political forces in the country, Indonesian authorities—chiefly the Army—have continued in recent months gradually to curtail propaganda and political activity by the domestic Communist apparatus. The extraordinary powers employed to this end since early 1958 were scheduled to expire December 17, 1959, but President Sukarno significantly acted on December 16 to extend them indefinitely. He decreed continuation of the so-called State of War (which has prevailed since December 1957), under which he will administer what amounts to martial law throughout the country. The anti-Communist Army leadership, which is heavily represented in the present government, is expected to continue to play the principal role in implementing martial law.

Improved relations with Indonesian Navy and Air Force. Although aid to the Army will be emphasized in the United States program for military assistance to Indonesia in FY 1960, as in FY 1959, the program will also take into account our improving relations with the other armed forces. Relations with the Navy, which was until recently rather reserved in its dealings with us, have improved considerably. In the words of our Ambassador in Djakarta, the Navy has recently indicated an apparent inclination to enter into “… all-out cooperation with the United States on somewhat the same basis as the Indonesian Army.”1 This assessment finds substantial confirmation in the view of the British Far East naval commander, as reported by our Naval Attaché in Singapore in mid-December, that “… never at any time before has ALRI (Indonesian Navy) been closer to the Western camp.”2 The Indonesian Air Force, while less responsive than the Navy, is showing increased interest in United States material and training.

Australian Prime Minister’s Visit to Indonesia. Prime Minister Menzies spent about two weeks in Indonesia earlier this month. The visit was successful on two counts: (1) Menzies had a number of frank discussions with Indonesian leaders including Sukarno, and seems to have developed good personal rapport with the latter (in a Djakarta press conference Menzies said he was greatly impressed by Sukarno and thought him a man of remarkable personality); (2) Sukarno stated publicly that Indonesia had no intention of using force in the West New Guinea dispute (renunciation of force has been stated Indonesian policy [Page 461]since February 1959 but Sukarno has never before personally stated this policy).

Trial of American flier. The trial by military court of Allen L. Pope, a United States citizen shot down and captured in May 1958 while flying a bomber for the Indonesian rebels, began December 28 in Djakarta. After the first day’s sitting it was recessed until January 2. In an effort to capitalize on widespread public interest in the trial and resentment against Pope, Djakarta’s Communist press is trying to stimulate popular demand for the death penalty for Pope. Pope’s capture in 1958 intensified then extensive Indonesian suspicion that the United States Government was at least indirectly encouraging the rebels. The current Communist press campaign also hints at supposed United States Government involvement in Pope’s activities. However, there has been no indication thus far that the prosecution will make any such accusations in connection with the trial.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.56D/12–3159. Secret. Drafted by Moore and cleared with Mein and Steeves. According to a handwritten note on the source text Dillon saw this memorandum.
  2. As reported in telegram 1468 from Djakarta, December 11. (Ibid., 756D.5622/12–1159) See Supplement.
  3. Ellipses in this paragraph are in the source text.