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

2913. CINCPAC also for POLAD. Paris for POLTO. Pass Ambassador Jones upon arrival.1 Deptel 1731 repeating The Hague 1315 to Department.2 Embassy foresees likelihood serious repercussions from forthcoming naval visit Karel Doorman3 and reinforcement Biak with Hawker Hunter squadron. Both will be occurring at time acute internal stresses here, with distinct possibility that climactic showdown between Sukarno forces and opponents may be underway by then. Past few months have seen increasing indications that unchecked economic deterioration and growing frustration over failure drastic Sukarno moves of past year to ease country’s political problems are combining bring about situation in which further decisive changes seem inescapable sooner or later. Next 6 to 9 months most likely to be crucial period, although climax could come much sooner. Direction this change will take obviously of vital importance US interests.

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Fact that Dutch carrier will be in West New Guinea water or en route during this period will be serious irritant in situation. Universal hypersensitivity Indonesians all political complexions toward West New Guinea issue will be further sharpened by what virtually all will interpret as aggressive Dutch act. Army, anti-Sukarno parties, other forces pressing for reversal present Sukarno policies will be placed at disadvantage in closely-balanced struggle by long-standing personal identification Sukarno with this highly emotional issue.

May reach serious proportions if Sukarno, feeling position endangered utilizes Karel Doorman presence and reinforcement Biak to embark on fiery West Irian liberation drive confound foes and divert country from internal issues. Although has [at?] minimum, genuine apprehensions certain to be created at all levels by Karel Doorman visit, it could well tip balance his favor, force opposition either fall in weakly behind him or be branded pro-Dutch. Even without Sukarno seizure of issue, visit will add strong measure irrational xenophobia, greatly enhance suspicion of west at time when balance vote highly precarious.

Danger also exists intrusion Karel Doorman into what Indonesians claim as own inland waters could spark serious incident. In this connection, should be recalled Foreign Minister Subandrio specifically warned former Dutch Chargé Hasselmann that entry Dutch naval vessel “Indonesian waters” would be regarded “causus belli.” (Deptel 4264 repeated The Hague 401.) Although Indonesians do not at present press their claim to sovereignty over these waters so far as other nations’ ships are concerned they may well attempt to do so in case of Dutch.

While likelihood GOI knowingly precipitating incident probably not too great (although not inconceivable as desperate Sukarno gesture hold own position), somewhat greater possibility unpremeditated incident resulting from chance encounter. March 5 Air Force pilot attack on palace evidence individual members armed forces capable such gestures.

Further result forthcoming Dutch moves may be intensification Indonesian determination speed buildup own armed forces, greater pressure on US and other western countries supply arms including “offensive arms.” Temptation accept Soviet bloc arms also likely increase, particularly since Khrushchev visit showed that Soviets eager provide.

In this respect, must be recognized many Indonesians genuinely believe Dutch capable launching aggression against country.

In view foregoing, Embassy believes forthcoming Dutch actions dangerous US interests and, according best Embassy estimate, they are [Page 480]unnecessary from military point of view. Dutch assertion these actions necessary counteract Indonesian “master plan” seize West New Guinea through infiltration seems highly exaggerated. Without questioning accuracy actual cases infiltration reported by Dutch (The Hague despatch 728)5 who attempt utilize them as evidence “master plan” appears thorough misreading conditions in country in which central authority outlying areas as tenuous as Indonesia. Also flies in face repeated assurances highest Indo officials, including Sukarno and Subandrio, that only peaceful methods obtain West New Guinea will be utilized. Latest such assurance given by deputy ACS Jani April 12 (Embtel 2891,6 repeated The Hague 89 Canberra 61) in unequivocal terms.

Even if these assurances completely discounted, logic of current situation makes it improbable Indonesia intends armed move against West New Guinea in near future. Army admittedly strained to limit overcoming PRRI-Permesta rebellion, DI depredations, with Nasution stating publicly rebel defeat not expected for 2–3 years. Granting highly unlikely assumption Indonesia willing jeopardize world standing by West New Guinea aggression, seems clear that for years to come they will not have uncommitted forces do so.

Re “master plan” which Dutch claim Indonesians now implementing (memo conversation HuydecoperMein March 24),7 Embassy has found no evidence its existence. Not impossible such plan drafted at one time as emotional exercise, but if so, it probably resting in file cabinet with rest Indonesia’s plethora unrealized and abandoned plans.

Dutch decision take such unsettling actions on basis such apparently slim evidence and at time when they, too, must be aware delicate internal situation here raises question as to actual motives. Embassy hopes Dutch not counting on taking what appears deliberately provocative act in expectation such act will create incident, force US take sides in West New Guinea dispute. If Dutch decision in any way calculated influence possible UNGA action in event West New Guinea issue submitted next session, would seem entirely counter-productive; most likely result will be solidification lukewarm Afro-Asian support behind Indonesia, [Page 481]attraction new support Indonesian position, creation wider rift between Afro-Asians and West.

Embassy realizes little, if any, possibility Dutch can be induced give up plans Karel Doorman visit, Biak reinforcement. Hopes, however, that Dutch can be made aware serious nature their actions on Indonesian developments. While good deal damage our mutual objectives in Indonesia unavoidable under circumstances, explosive possibilities of situation could be minimized to some extent if Dutch exercised more effective control over publicity given plan, refrained from further public announcements and comment. (See Embtel 2822,8 repeated information Hague 88 for Acting Foreign Minister Leimena comment re Dutch handling publicity aspects visit.) Of utmost importance, Dutch should not under any circumstances bring vessel to Indonesian Archipelago waters. Despite legal right traverse Java Sea or East Indonesian waters, attempt do so certain to be taken here as virtually direct aggression.9

Henderson
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 790.5856/4–1460. Secret; Priority. Transmitted in two sections. Also sent to CINCPAC and repeated to The Hague, Canberra, Paris, and London.
  2. Jones was on home leave and scheduled to arrive in Washington on April 19 for consultations.
  3. Telegram 1315 from The Hague, April 8, reads in part as follows: “As Department aware, none of us here had any advance information re Dutch plans. I can only conclude that Dutch are so seriously worried over state New Guinea defenses, that they wished avoid protracted discussions and possibly adverse results of advance consultations.” (Department of State, Central Files, 790.5856/4–860)
  4. On March 31 the Netherlands Navy Information Service announced that the aircraft carrier Karel Doorman and two destroyers would be making a flag-showing tour of the Far East, including a stop in West New Guinea, between May and December. (Telegraph 1278 from The Hague, March 31; ibid., 790.5856/3–3160) The Netherlands informed the NATO Standing Group, in a letter dated March 30, that because of urgent national commitments in the Far East it was compelled to withdraw the Karel Doorman and two destroyers from the NATO Command area temporarily. (Telegram 1385 to The Hague, April 4; ibid.) The Netherlands informed the North Atlantic Council of their decision in a meeting on April 6. (Polto 2026 from Paris, April 6; ibid., 790.5856/4–660)
  5. [text not declassified]
  6. Dated March 31. (Department of State, Central Files, 656C.98/3–3160) See Supplement.
  7. Dated April 13. (Department of State, Central Files, 656.9813/4–1360) See Supplement.
  8. In a meeting with Mein on March 24, Huydecoper left an undated 3-page paper on “Indonesian threats to the Netherlands New Guinea,” indicating that it was the paper referred to during the Van RoijenSteeves meeting of March 10. Huydecoper said that he would be prepared to discuss the Dutch paper or to answer any questions that it might prompt. Memorandum of conversation, March 29. (Department of State, Central Files, 656C.98/3–2460)
  9. Telegram 2822, April 5, reported a conversation between Henderson and Acting Foreign Minister Leimena regarding the Netherlands announcement of the planned Karel Doorman visit. (Ibid., 656.9813/4–560) See Supplement.
  10. Telegram 1398 from The Hague, April 29, was based on the “combined efforts of Attachés, Embassy and MAAG officers,” and offered information and recommendations regarding the proposed Karel Doorman cruise and the planned strengthening of West New Guinea’s defenses. (Department of State, Central Files, 790.5856/4–2960) See Supplement.