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160. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Kohler) to Secretary of State Rusk0


  • Proposal for the Resolution of the Dutch-Indonesian Dispute over West New Guinea

It is agreed that the long-standing dispute between the Netherlands and Indonesia over the ownership of West New Guinea is approaching a critical phase. Both sides have maintained an intransigent attitude, although the Dutch have given some indication that they would be prepared to “internationalize” the problem on the condition that the natives be guaranteed the right of self-determination. Indonesia considers the territory hers and insists on its immediate transfer to Indonesian jurisdiction. However, Indonesian officials have indicated a willingness to agree to a “transitional trusteeship” which would assure the transfer of the territory to Indonesia in one or two years. The increasing build-up of Indonesian military potential and the prodding of the Communists makes more likely the possibility of armed hostilities on a significant scale. Clearly the US should attempt to achieve an acceptable solution to the problem before hostilities break out. We have already informed the Dutch that we are thinking of proposing a solution for the current dilemma.

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As instructed, Mr. McGhee has discussed the idea of a trusteeship as a possible solution with Senator Fulbright who expressed his approval of this approach.

The Under Secretary has assured the Netherlands Ambassador (Tab D)1 that we would not introduce our proposals for a solution without first consulting with the Dutch. The Netherlands Foreign Minister, Mr. Luns, will visit you, the President, and other officers on April 10. We strongly urge that a decision be taken in time to explain and explore the policy aspects of this problem with Mr. Luns at that time.

This matter has been studied in great detail over a period of months. The consensus of the bureaus charged with responsibilities in this area favor a trusteeship under UN aegis. The terms of reference of this mandate should clearly state that its purpose is to move the indigenous population promptly toward democratic political institutions and ultimate self-determination of the territory’s political status. Accordingly, I would propose that we undertake to obtain acceptance by the interested parties of the following steps:

  • A. The establishment of a UN trusteeship for WNG making the government of Malaya trustee with full powers and authority to administer the territory.
  • B. The arrangement of a consortium of states to support the Malayan mandate with personnel and funds. This consortium might include those interested and friendly states which have the personnel and means to assist. Obviously it will be necessary to obtain the agreement of the Dutch, Indonesians and Malayans in the first instance, as well as the members of the proposed consortium.

In the event that we are unable to achieve sufficient agreement on the above proposal to give reasonable assurance of success, we would then propose to the interested parties, after discussion with SYG, a direct UN trusteeship, fully realizing the problems of obtaining UN approval.


Authorize us to proceed toward the establishment of a trusteeship as outlined in A. above including the fall-back position of a UN trusteeship.
Undertake to explain our position and explore the problem with Foreign Minister Luns on April 10. There is attached a proposed talking paper for your conversation with Mr. Luns. (Tab A)
That you sign the attached telegrams at Tabs B and C to Embassies Kuala Lumpur and the Hague.3
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 656.9813/4–661. Secret. Drafted by Beaudry and cleared by McGhee, Wallner, and Jenkins. Also sent to Under Secretary Bowles.
  2. Not attached. Tab D was apparently a memorandum of conversation, March 27, between Bowles and Netherlands Ambassador J.H. van Roijen. Bowles informed van Roijen that, contrary to previous indications, the United States would not send a representative to the inaugural ceremony of the first representative Council in West New Guinea. Van Roijen considered this appeasement of Indonesia. Bowles assured him that the United States would make no proposals on West New Guinea without first consulting the Netherlands. (Memorandum of conversation, March 27; ibid., 656.9813/3–2761)
  3. Rusk initialed his approval of these recommendations on April 7.
  4. The talking paper was attached but is not printed. The two telegrams, not attached, were sent as 513 to Kuala Lumpur and 1600 to The Hague, both April 7. (Both in Department of State, Central Files, 656.9813/4–761)