262. Telegram From the Embassy in the Netherlands to the Department of State0

1524. Paris also for USRO, Thurston and Finn.

Foreign Minister Luns requested that I call on him at 5:00 p.m. May 27. 40-minute discussion ensued with Luns and Doctor N. S. Blom, Government Commissioner for Indonesian Affairs, Ministry Foreign Affairs.
Luns opened conversation by stating he had just conferred with British, French, and Australian Ambassadors in joint session. He had, however, requested me to come by myself as he had an additional matter to discuss. Luns also stated that he had been conferring with Prime [Page 504] Minister Rahman of Malay Federation and expects to consult with him further this evening. Tomorrow Luns will have conversations with Indian Ambassador, [3-½ lines of source text not declassified], (Embassy happens to know that Australian Ambassador is in London and was represented at meeting by Chargé H.W. Bullock.)
Luns was as deeply upset as I have ever seen him, and I believe very sincerely disturbed by what he described as “a serious emergency situation relating to Indonesia.” He said he had every reason to believe that Indonesia was preparing for attack on West New Guinea which could possibly take place middle of next week. Luns said he was urging UK, France, Australia and USA in strongest possible terms to make immediate representations to Indonesian Government against any military operation or threat of military operation. Luns would like to see us tell Indonesia in no uncertain terms exactly what we would do if Indonesians launched an attack, and he was most insistent that substance this conversation be relayed to Seventh Fleet. Luns went on at some length insisting that his intelligence sources were reliable and corroborated by variety press items. As an example, he handed me a Reuter’s despatch, datelined Djakarta May 26, relating to a 24-hour alert for Indonesian military units on islands near West New Guinea and implying that Dutch were responsible for unidentified aircraft seen over these islands; also, another article with Djakarta dateline May 27 emphasizing Indonesian military units brought maximum state of readiness; cancellation of all officer leaves in east Indonesian territory; and reports of unidentified aircraft repeatedly seen over east Indonesia. Luns then said that these articles and other public statements should in themselves be sufficient justification for US to make representations to Indonesians against possible military action.
Luns also said that, in addition to Indonesian Army units stationed on nearby islands Indonesians already had some MiGs, bombers, landing craft, as well as quite a large number naval units in area. In response to my questions, Luns thought that military action, if it did come, would be in nature of “major minor attack.” By this he meant a sizeable landing of Indonesian troops with landing craft and naval and air support. Luns also at same time emphasized weakness of present Dutch forces in New Guinea area and fact that meagre forces already there necessarily had to be widely deployed to maintain morale of local population.
Department will note that Luns reference to timing of such contemplated military action generally coincides with sailing of Karel Doorman and escort vessels from Holland (Embtel sent Department 1522,1 [Page 505] Canberra 73, Djakarta 95, Paris 236). Luns flatly stated that he believes Indonesia is ready to declare war on Holland and feels this supported by his conversation with Malay Prime Minister. According Luns, Malay Prime Minister stated that Sukarno will be out very shortly and that new Indonesian regime will move against New Guinea. Luns corroborated fact that Japan and Philippines had been approached with request they bar their territorial waters to Doorman, and Japanese had advised Luns they regarded this request as “silly.” He said he not heard from Filipinos.
Luns had come directly from special Cabinet session this afternoon at which all military Chiefs of Staff were present to discuss this emergency situation. According Luns, various courses of action were contemplated, but for moment they decided on following:
Immediately advise the countries mentioned above and urge them to put up strong political deterrent;
Continue with Karel Doorman voyage and strengthening of New Guinea Defense Forces;
Alert and have ready for immediate transfer to New Guinea reinforcements of 600 marines—300 from Curacao and 300 from Netherlands—who would be shipped out unarmed by KLM aircraft (already alerted) first of next week, if necessary;
Call for special session of Security Council first part of next week if deemed advisable. Luns admitted course of action (D) would only be invoked reluctantly.
Reverting to his talks with Malay Prime Minister, Luns said he was conferring with him at 7:00 tonight to discuss a joint communiqué to be issued May 28. Luns read me rough draft of this communiqué which specifically stated that Prime Minister Rahman supported Dutch statements that Netherlands had no aggressive intent concerning Indonesia and that he felt Dutch had every right and justification in taking measures which they now contemplate.2 Luns also has scheduled meeting with New York Times correspondent Gilroy at 11:00 a.m., May 28 to give him statement reiterating fact that Dutch have no aggressive intent.3 Luns feels that joint communiqué with Malay Prime Minister, his interview with Gilroy, and announcement of Karel Doorman cruise route tonight should do much to alleviate Indonesian fears and reduce tensions.
There is no doubt about fact that Prime Minister De Quay, Cabinet, and Chiefs of Staff regard present situation as very tense and do not discount possibility of Indonesian military action in immediate future. [Page 506] Dutch Government has issued very specific instructions through its various channels to all personnel, military and civilian, in West Guinea against doing anything which could be construed as provocative in nature or even interpreted as anti-Indonesia. I questioned Luns at some length why he felt that Indonesia could run risk of being labelled an aggressor by initiating kind of action he was worried about. Although Luns denies that unidentified planes over Indonesian islands near New Guinea were Dutch, he is afraid Indonesians will make this charge or a similar one a basis for claiming Dutch to be the aggressor and thus provide grounds for retaliation. I told Luns so far as I knew, these planes were not U–2’s.4
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 656.9813/5–2760. Secret; Niact. Transmitted in two sections and repeated to Djakarta, Paris, Canberra, London, Kuala Lumpur, New Delhi, and CINCPAC for POLAD.
  2. Telegram 1522, May 27, transmitted a translation of the communiqué issued by the Netherlands about the Karel Doorman cruise. The communiqué noted that the aircraft carrier, escorted by two destroyers and a tanker, would depart the Netherlands on May 31. (Ibid.)
  3. This communiqué, issued on May 28, is summarized in an October 18 memorandum by Tanguy. (Ibid., SPA Files: Lot 63 D 436, West New Guinea Problem)
  4. For text of this story by Harry Gilroy, reporting his interview with Luns, see The New York Times, May 27, 1960, p. 2.
  5. In telegram 1523 from The Hague, May 27, Young commented that most of the substance of Luns’ remarks were based on a recent [text not declassified] message, which was already available, to the Department dealing with the Indonesian military threat against West New Guinea. “Department, therefore,” he noted, “is in position to make its own assessment reliability basic information.” (Department of State, Central Files, 656.9813/5–2760)

    In telegram 1525 from The Hague, May 28, Young reported that during his conversation with Luns the previous day the Foreign Minister also referred to the possibility of Eisenhower being invited to visit Indonesia on his Far Eastern tour. “He asked me to make ‘strongest possible representations’ to Department,” Young noted, “that this would be regarded as ‘a very distinct slap in face’ and a deliberate action against a tried, true and trusted ally. Luns said that Dutch reaction would be violent.” (Ibid., 711.11–EI/5–2860) See Supplement.