146. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Parsons) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Hare)0


  • Reiteration of Warning to Indonesia Against Use of Force

FE cannot concur in the EUR proposal1 that our opposition to the use of force in settling international disputes again be reiterated to the Indonesians with specific reference to the West New Guinea problem for the following reasons:

Such an approach to the Indonesians would have no effect. We have, largely at the instigation of the Dutch, conveyed a warning to the Indonesians 13 times in the last 30 months. The Indonesians have absolutely no doubt about our policy. In this regard, an Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman on January 16, 1961, when discussing the subject of augmentation of Dutch forces in West New Guinea, said, “it would be most unwise on the part of some Western circles to ask a guarantee merely from the Indonesian side that the West Irian dispute will be settled through peaceful means.”
The Indonesians have cautiously suggested that they anticipate an improvement in relations with us under the new Administration in the United States. To start off by reiterating the position they know so well would severely damage this favorable climate. Reiteration now might cause Sukarno to question the sincerity of President Kennedy’s recent message to him which stated, “I am extremely anxious that the friendly relations between our countries continue to prosper.”
The intelligence community and FE are in agreement that there is little likelihood of an Indonesian attack on West New Guinea during the next six months.2
In FE’s view the way to prevent such an attack is not to continually admonish the Indonesians on the instigation of the Dutch, but rather to seek a change in the situation which would make an attack less likely. We are now in the process of discussing a plan which, if successful, would put a UN presence in West New Guinea. This, in our opinion, [Page 311]would be a more effective deterrent than any further comments we might make to the Indonesians.
In recent months there has been considerable discussion of the West New Guinea problem and Sukarno most probably perceives that the international community now realizes that some solution to the issue must be forthcoming. The increased strength of the Afro-Asian group in the UN is a favorable element for Sukarno. In these circumstances, he is unlikely to make a military move designed to change the status quo when it is probable that a diplomatic move in the UN would have a good chance of success. A military move against West New Guinea would be an act of desperation, and there is no present reason for Sukarno to assess the situation as desperate.
It seems to me that this boils down to a question of whether we take an action which will further alienate the Indonesians and drive them closer to the Communists by again acceding to a Dutch request or whether we refuse to further jeopardize our position in Indonesia and cause the Dutch some annoyance.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 656.9813/2–1361. Secret. Drafted by Bell and Lindquist and cleared by Steeves.
  2. The proposal was made in a memorandum from Kohler to Parsons, February 6. (Ibid., 656.9813/2–661)
  3. As stated in a memorandum from Charles N. Spinks, Director of the Office of Research and Analysis for Asia, to Bell, January 27. (Ibid., 656.9813/1–2761)