161. Memorandum From Robert H. Johnson of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Deputy Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Rostow)0


  • The Luns Visit and the West New Guinea Issue

Attached are two stories from this afternoon’s AP and FBIS tickers.1 They report that the Dutch are “put out” about a long standing British invitation to Sukarno to visit Britain but that the British Government “has made certain promises as to the subjects to be discussed with the Indonesian President.”

Despite the statements in the story, which presumably originated in Dutch sources, the invitation has been extended by the British in the last several days as a result of strong Dutch pressure upon them. The Dutch want the British to invite Sukarno to London for the specific purpose of having the British warn him against using force in the settlement of International disputes. I understand that as a result of the obsession of the Dutch with this matter and their constant requests to us along similar lines, we have made similar démarches to Sukarno fourteen times since August 1958!

It is the view of the State people most concerned that this is the third in the series of Dutch acts intended to “queer” the Sukarno visit to the [Page 344]United States. The first was the affair of the New Guinea Council, the second, the recent Dutch effort to get us to seek Indonesian agreement to permit the United States to represent the Netherlands in Djakarta now that the Indonesians have refused to permit the British to do this.

The paper that the President will receive from State this afternoon or early tomorrow morning on the Luns visit will recommend that the President assure Luns that the President will reiterate, in his discussions with Sukarno, our opposition to the use of force to settle the West New Guinea issue. It is highly likely in the view of the officer to whom I spoke in State that the Dutch press will then carry a story on the morning following the President’s conference with Luns to the effect that we have given the Dutch certain “assurances” relating to the Sukarno visit. Such action would be in line with the attached story relating to the Sukarno visit to Britain.

It is obvious that the Luns visit presents real dangers to the success of the later Sukarno visit. A “leak” to the Dutch press indicating in a vague way that the President had given certain assurances to Luns could most seriously damage the prospects for success in the Sukarno visit. In the light of this new development, I suggest that we seriously consider whether we wish to give Luns any such assurance or other assurances that might be similarly twisted to suit Dutch purposes.

The information on which this memorandum is based was an “informal” conversation with one of the responsible officials concerned in State. It should obviously be used with circumspection to protect the source. On this, as on most “colonial” issues there are differences in State which may preclude more formal expressions of concern.

Robert H. Johnson2
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, West New Guinea, Vol I. 4/1/61–4/15/61. Confidential.
  2. Not attached.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.