288. Memorandum of Conversation0




  • US
    • The Secretary
    • Mr. Henri Sokolove (FE) (Reporting Indonesia Officer)
  • Foreign
    • H.E. Foreign Minister Soebandrio, Indonesia
    • Minister Nugroho, Indonesian Embassy, Washington


  • Use of Force re West New Guinea

Secretary Herter opened the conversation by saying that he was glad that President Eisenhower and President Sukarno had met in Washington and had a good conversation.1 Dr. Soebandrio agreed with the Secretary’s sentiments.

Then the Secretary said that he had been disturbed by a phrase which had appeared in President Sukarno’s speech before the General Assembly. The President in speaking of West Irian had used the phrase “surgical operation.” The Secretary asked if this implied the use of force in the settlement of the West Irian dispute.

Dr. Soebandrio said that the problem of West Irian had existed for many years. He hoped that the Netherlands would ultimately agree to a peaceful solution of this problem. Indonesia had promised Australia that there would be no use of force in solving the problem of West Irian. However, the Dutch seemed bent on reinforcing their military in West Irian and in carrying out military reconnaissance in a provocative way. If the Dutch continue these activities it will provoke a section of the army interested in a military revenge on the Dutch and other elements in Indonesia which would not be above promoting a military conflict over West Irian. President Sukarno is trying to suppress such warlike sentiments.

Secretary Herter pointed out that the U.S. has wanted to be meticulous in assuring that U.S. arms which were being made available to Indonesia [Page 563] would not be used in any military conflict with the Dutch. At this point Dr. Soebandrio again referred to the Dutch activities mentioned above and Secretary Herter emphasized that he wanted to be sure that U.S. arms will not be used unless there is some provocation. Soebandrio said that Indonesia bears the possible use of NATO arms by the Dutch in this conflict; and he asked Secretary Herter to please do whatever he could to calm the Dutch. To this the Secretary replied that we have done everything we could to calm the Dutch and he repeated that we do not want to have our arms used for conflict in this dispute. Dr. Soebandrio brought this part of the conversation to a close by referring to the fact that the Karel Doorman seems to have disappeared. He mentioned that the cruise of the Karel Doorman hurt relations with Japan and he underscored the fact that the Indonesians are very sensitive about this dispute. At this point both the Secretary and the Minister agreed that the West Irian dispute gave the communists a subject on which to stir up trouble which is in accord with their general policy.

Referring to the discussion on the use of force, Dr. Soebandrio asked the Secretary for suggestions on how to solve the West Irian problem. The Secretary said that the U.S. had always hoped that the problem would be solved when the Indonesians and the Dutch set down to develop an amicable and peaceful plan. To this Soebandrio countered that the Indonesians had introduced a resolution into the United Nations calling on the Dutch to negotiate; but the resolution had failed. The Secretary then suggested that since the Dutch had turned over certain islands to the Republic of Indonesia and retained certain others, without arousing any complaint from the GOI, he wondered whether the case of West Irian could not be settled by the International Court of Justice. To this Soebandrio countered that the dispute is really a political one rather than a juridical one. Secretary Herter asked if it really is political. He expressed the belief that it is a good case for the ICJ to handle. Then he said that he understood that by using the word “political” Dr. Soebandrio was in fact drawing attention to the domestic emotion involved in the dispute.

Dr. Soebandrio, still pursuing the problem, explained that ethnic differences between various sections of Indonesia are as great as between West Irian and Indonesia. However, he felt that the Dutch were becoming more tolerant and that there was a trend “to get rid of West Irian.” There was the matter of Dutch public opinion, but Dr. Soebandrio felt the Dutch public opinion would eventually permit the Dutch government to get rid of West Irian if it could find a suitable formula. He expressed the hope that the U.S. could sound out the Dutch on a solution to the dispute. Both Secretary Herter and Dr. Soebandrio discussed briefly the Luns proposal on West Irian at the U.N. and concluded that while it was unclear, he was suggesting some sort of [Page 564] trusteeship arrangement. Dr. Soebandrio seemed to feel that this would be a possible step in the direction of permitting the Dutch people ultimately to accept the transfer of West Irian to Indonesia.

Concluding the discussion, Secretary Herter stated that we have been counselors of moderation regarding West New Guinea.2

  1. Source: Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 64 D 199. Secret. Drafted by Sokolove of FE and approved by S on October 19. This conversation was held at the Waldorf Towers.
  2. See Document 286.
  3. In telegram 521 to The Hague, October 13, the Department informed the Embassy of this discussion. (Department of State, Central Files, 320/10–1360)