287. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Conversation With Luns


  • The President
  • Joseph Luns, Foreign Minister of the Netherlands
  • Dr. J.H. van Roijen, Ambassador of the Netherlands
  • Foy D. Kohler, Assistant Secretary
  • Philip Young, US Ambassador to the Netherlands
  • General Goodpaster

(The President received Foreign Minister Luns privately on the understanding that no public reference would be made to the meeting until after Mr. Luns returned to The Hague in mid-October.)

After the opening exchange of amenities and in response to a reference by the President to his reception of Indonesian President Sukarno yesterday,1 Mr. Luns launched into a presentation of the Dutch concern about the situation of West New Guinea. In this connection he said that Sukarno, having tried four times unsuccessfully to secure a UN resolution [Page 560] on the question, had been saying that it was now clear the New Guinea issue could only be settled by a “surgical operation.” Mr. Luns said the Dutch could not mount a substantial military effort in WNG and that the only thing which could surely stop Sukarno from aggressive action would be a US warning that it would act against such aggression. After Mr. Luns’ exposition, the President asked Mr. Luns why the WNG problem had not been settled at the time of the “shotgun separation” of the Netherlands and Indonesia. Mr. Luns replied that WNG had always been separate from Indonesia. They were different races of peoples. At the Round Table Conference the Dutch had said that the Papuans were not yet in a position to make a choice. The matter was to be reconsidered in a year but in that year Indonesia had by force changed the Indonesian Union into a unitary state thus destroying the basis on which a solution had been contemplated. Since that time Sukarno had been using the Dutch as a whipping boy over the issue of WNG. Dutch nationals had been ousted, property confiscated, debts repudiated, diplomatic relations terminated. Now no instrument was left to Sukarno except the use of force. Mr. Luns reiterated the fear he had expressed to Secretary Herter in his interview on September 23 that Sukarno would stage an alleged Dutch attack on Indonesia to justify moving into West New Guinea.2 At that point Sukarno would have Soviet support. A major crisis would develop which would also seriously affect NATO. Ambassador Van Roijen supplemented Mr. Luns’ statement by pointing out that Indonesia had no rights whatsoever to WNG; in fact the Dutch had proposed that this question of alleged rights and obligations be taken to the International Court of Justice but the Indonesians had refused.

The President then inquired as to the feelings of the Indonesian people about Sukarno’s claims to WNG. Mr. Luns replied that the Indonesian government was a dictatorship. The people were in fact uninformed but they supported Sukarno on the basis of his political power. He went on to say that the threat to the Australian position in eastern New Guinea, if Indonesia took over WNG, would be very serious. The President replied that he recognized this and was concerned. He had made these inquiries in order to know more about the problem. He had the impression that WNG was much more an expense to the Dutch than an asset. Mr. Luns confirmed that this was the case. However, he said, the Dutch have a responsibility toward the Papuans to uphold the same principle of self-determination under which Indonesia itself had become independent. The President then asked what would happen if the West New Guineans themselves wanted to unite with the eastern part of the Island. Mr. Luns replied that this would be all right. What the Dutch [Page 561] were now doing, he said, was preparing the Papuans to make a choice. It was possible that they would choose union with Australian New Guinea or that they would seek links either with the Dutch or with the Australians or with both.

The President then inquired about the state of the population in West New Guinea, particularly as respects literacy. Mr. Luns replied that there were about 500 schools including a number of high schools. The first Papuans were now ready for university studies. The Papuans were increasingly being brought into the governmental administration and the Dutch goal was to make the administration 95% Papuan at the earliest possible moment. He then repeated that the population of WNG was no kin to the Indonesians. The President asked whether they were a type of Polynesian as found in the other Pacific Islands. Mr. Luns replied affirmatively and went on to say that he had had a long talk with Prime Minister Nehru about this problem. Nehru had admitted that the Dutch were on the right track but he did not know whether this would be reflected in the Indian position in the UN. He then reiterated his fear that Sukarno would launch trumped up charges as a prelude to military intervention. He hoped that Sukarno could be discreetly warned against any such action. Ambassador Young commented that Secretary Dulles had delivered a rather sharp warning to the Indonesians in 1958 which had been effective at that time.

The President then said he had asked about the literacy situation because in his talk with Sukarno yesterday Sukarno had said that at the time of Indonesian independence 94% of the population was illiterate but that this figure had now been reduced to 40% and that the Indonesians expected to reduce it to zero by 1965. Sukarno had said that there were 15,000 new schools in Indonesia. Mr. Luns said this was a typically false statement. Sukarno himself was an example of the educational system the Dutch had developed in Indonesia and was a graduate of the University of Batavia. The President said that Sukarno had admitted this but alleged there were only eleven such graduates. Mr. Luns retorted that in his speech to the United Nations Sukarno had actually equated “democracy” with “unanimity” also. In Indonesia itself he had destroyed the free press. Mr. Luns repeated that this was a grave problem to which he would ask the President to give earnest consideration. The President replied that he would discuss the matter with Secretary Herter and that Mr. Luns could be sure that he would not forget.3

[Here follows discussion of other matters.]

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Eisenhower Diaries. Secret; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Kohler and approved by the White House on October 12. Another copy of this memorandum of conversation is in Department of State, Central Files, 033.5611/10–760. Briefing papers for Luns’ visit are ibid., WE Files: Lot 63 D 221, Luns Visit 1960, and WE Files: Lot 63 D 136, Netherlands Miscellaneous.
  2. See Document 286.
  3. See Document 279.
  4. Tosec 71 to New York, October 12, reported on an October 10 conversation between Kohler and Van Roijen regarding U.S. warnings to the Indonesians on the use of force in West New Guinea. (Department of State, Central Files, 656.9813/10–1260) See Supplement.