163. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • West New Guinea


  • United States
    • The Secretary
    • Mr. Kohler, EUR
    • Ambassador Rice
    • Mr. McBride, WE
  • The Netherlands
    • Foreign Minister Luns
    • Ambassador van Roijen
    • Mr. Meijer, Dutch Foreign Office
    • Minister Schiff, Netherlands Embassy

Foreign Minster Luns opened the conversation, saying that he had explained the Dutch viewpoint to the President. He said there had been a steady deterioration of relations between the Netherlands and Indonesia as Sukarno had more and more grabbed power in that country. Now there was no Parliament in Indonesia, and really no government. The free press had also disappeared and Indonesia today is very comparable to Cuba. He said that the Dutch had been right all along in their view of Sukarno and believed him to be a hopeless case. He noted that Sukarno had operated entirely improperly in the field of international relations and had broken relations with the Dutch without telling them in advance. They had also given no advance warning when they had forced the British to give up handling Dutch interests in Indonesia. He said the great characteristic of the Indonesians was the lack of civic courage and a tendency not to react against disorder. Ambassador van Roijen said that Sukarno had quite a magnetic power which had enabled him to consolidate control.

Luns said that the Indonesians had claimed West New Guinea as part of their territory only two years after the Round Table Conference. He thought that Indonesian policy was to see the Dutch humiliated as much as possible. He noted that Indonesians had also abolished the Dutch-Indonesian Union. He said that Sukarno had a habit of tearing agreements to pieces. He did not think that the Prime Minister of Malaya could win Sukarno’s cooperation on West New Guinea even if he indicated that the Dutch had changed their position and were willing to see the territory go to Indonesia. Luns said he thought that the Indonesians would not accept even this position because they wished to concentrate on humiliating the Dutch.

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Luns continued, saying that the Dutch position favoring self-determination for the Papuans had also been their position with regard to all parts of Indonesia. He noted that the Japanese had suppressed the other states of Indonesia, especially the Amboinese. He said the Dutch had not included West New Guinea in the 1949 transfer of sovereignty to Indonesia because the Papuans were racially different and not yet capable of exercising self-determination. He repeated that the Dutch would not violate their pledge to the Papuans. In this context, he referred to the financial contribution which the Dutch had made and said that the Dutch spent more on aid to under-developed countries on a per capita basis than any other country. He said the Dutch were also opposed to setting a timetable for self-determination in West New Guinea now since they were only at the present time building the infrastructure of the country. He said he was dismayed that the United States was giving the impression to the Asians that we had abandoned in this case our policy favoring self-determination for opportunistic reasons. He said the United States was in fact opposing self-determination in West New Guinea.

Luns went on to say that the Dutch have no problems with the Afro-Asian countries except with Indonesia. He said he thought that India was quite friendly to the Dutch. The Secretary asked if the Indians had been invited to the West New Guinea Council. Luns said that only South Pacific Commission countries had been invited. Adverting to the Indian attitude he said that Nehru was extremely cautious and, while opposing the use of force in the West New Guinea dispute privately, at the same time requested that he not be dragged into the dispute. In response to a further question from the Secretary, Luns indicated that he thought Nehru had already told Sukarno that he was opposed to the use of force but was not willing to state this publicly. He noted that the Indian Prime Minister had been extremely cautious in his discussions of this subject with the press and had not been willing to say what he had talked to Luns about in London recently, following the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ meeting. The Secretary noted that following this same meeting the Malayan Prime Minister had been queried by the press and had indicated that both the Dutch and Indonesians had been stubborn on the West New Guinea issue. He noted that the Tunku had also said that the Dutch policy was unlike that of the Portuguese and had referred to the Dutch program for West New Guinea.

Ambassador van Roijen said that the Dutch were open to suggestion on what should be done, provided of course that self-determination was guaranteed and not merely a facade to turn over the area either directly or indirectly to Indonesia. The Secretary inquired with regard to a possible trusteeship. Luns said that he had proposed this to the Secretary General in 1958 but Hammarskjold had said it would not get a 2/3 vote, and also that he did not wish the UN to be burdened with another conflict.

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Luns thought the trusteeship idea offered possibilities if Holland were backed by her allies. Indonesia had mistreated the Dutch because they had stood alone. He said sending arms to Indonesia was like sending arms to Castro and noted that the Dutch had been cooperative in refusing to send arms to the Cuban dictator. He thought that, if the U.S. sent arms, this would lead to even greater shipments of Communist arms. He said that countries should respect their principles and that it would be unfortunate if the United States position regarding New Guinea were crystallized and communicated to others, since in this event the United States would be offering views on a part of the territory of the Queen of Holland. He added that approval of 2/3 of the Dutch Parliament would be required to change the Constitution of the Netherlands which would be needed to alter the status quo of West New Guinea. He said he could not be in the position of being accused in Parliament of giving the territory away to Indonesia.

The Secretary said he was sorry this problem existed. He said with regard to the Indonesian claim he agreed with the Dutch that, if this were a legal matter it should be referred to the International Court of Justice. Since Indonesia was not willing to do this, apparently it did not believe it had a clear legal claim; therefore, this was a political claim. Self-determination is basic to U.S. policy generally and we realize this is the Dutch position on West New Guinea. The problem was, therefore, how to find an answer on the basis of self-determination. We thought that a trusteeship offered possibilities.

Luns said that, if there were no Indonesian threats and no infiltrations into West New Guinea, perhaps a trusteeship would work. He said that the Papuan Council would pronounce itself in a year or so and perhaps set up a ten-year program for self-determination. The administration of West New Guinea would be 95 percent Papuan by 1970. The Papuans were well on the way now that elections had been held for the Council. He thought the Papuans might exercise self-determination in any one of a number of ways: union with East New Guinea, independence, participation in a Melanesian Federation, or possibly some more permanent form of supervision from the UN or the South Pacific Commission. However, Indonesian claims to the territory falsified the entire situation. He thought that UN presence and some international supervision would be useful. Therefore, some form of trusteeship might be possible.

Luns went on to say that at the present time there were 18,000 Dutch in West New Guinea, including 9,000 in the administration, and that there was a $34 million development program. If the Dutch were removed from the bulk of their administrative positions, he thought this would be a clear notice for them to quit entirely and to make no contributions to the island if they had no responsibility. He referred to a conversation [Page 355]with the Malayan Prime Minister in which he had discussed the possibility of a Burma-Ceylon-Malaya trusteeship, but he thought the Malayans had dropped this because they realized they could not undertake the expenses now being borne by the Dutch. Luns thought it would be very difficult to persuade the Dutch Government to continue to contribute if outsiders were running the administration, and said this formula had never worked.

The Secretary said he thought it might be possible to obtain a 2/3 General Assembly vote for a trusteeship. Ambassador van Roijen said that of course Indonesia could organize opposition thereto. The Secretary believed that, relatively, Indonesia could be isolated. He thought that the important thing was for self-determination to have a completely free chance and then perhaps some timetable could be established by the UN. He thought that this might receive a 2/3 vote. He said the idea of a direct UN trusteeship had also been considered. Luns said he had discussed this with Hammarskjold. The Secretary said he believed it would now be difficult to recommend a direct UN trusteeship, since the Congo precedent had not been a happy one. The Secretary thought West New Guinea could be financed by a consortium of friendly powers and did not believe that the UN itself could assume the financial responsibilities. There were too many countries who would not support financing.

The Secretary referred again to the possibility of a trusteeship with a trusted country as the trustee. This should be one that even the Indonesians would recognize as impartial and the trust responsibility should be to guarantee eventual self-determination.

Luns thought this would be very difficult to achieve since the Indonesians would continue to stir up trouble for whoever the trustee was. The Secretary inquired if perhaps the Dutch could accept a trusteeship consisting of Malaya and New Zealand. Luns asked if the Dutch administrators would be retained or if it would be thought that they should quit and be replaced by others. The Secretary said that one of the problems was to obtain the support of Afro-Asians whose support in the United Nations would be necessary. It was essential that the end result should be uninfluenced self-determination. Luns stressed that the Dutch had no desire for a continuation of any links with New Guinea.

The Secretary pointed out that as Luns said there were a number of choices involved in self-determination and that the problem was to leave all of these open. Luns thought that there could be a UN-controlled plebiscite but that the crux of the problem was the Indonesian threat of force. The Secretary agreed that this was one of the difficulties.

Luns then reiterated that the Indonesians would adopt the threatening attitude only if the Dutch were alone. Luns said he had called in the Soviet Ambassador in The Hague and told him he was concerned with Soviet attitudes towards Indonesia. He thought it was important to reinforce [Page 356]somewhat Dutch forces in West New Guinea, although they were of course no match for the Indonesians.

Luns said that over the past years the United States had noted a political deterrent in the Indonesian situation. If this deterrent were not repeated to the Soviets by the President, there would be an increased danger of use of force by the Indonesians in view of the fact that the new administration has not pronounced itself on this point. The Secretary said that the basis of our policy, likewise, was self-determination for the Papuans and pointed out that it was more difficult to get support for a position of maintaining the Dutch. The Foreign Minister said that the US warning had worked in the past and, if we are not willing to repeat it now, he takes a most gloomy view of the possible consequences.

Luns then referred to the reason why Indonesia has not taken any military action in the past against West New Guinea. He said this was due to the political deterrent of the United Kingdom, Australia and particularly the United States. He agreed that a direct UN interest in the area would replace this political deterrent by what would perhaps be even a better arrangement.

With regard to the issuance of a warning against the use of force to Indonesia, the Secretary said that the issue had changed since this warning had originally been issued and that there had been a major Indonesian build-up, including a large-scale Soviet military assistance program. He said it was one thing to warn the Indonesians when they were weak, but now that they can mount an offensive, a warning must rest on a readiness to act. Ambassador van Roijen said that in the past the Dutch had looked on our attitude toward an attack on West New Guinea as like our attitude towards similar action against the Chinese offshore islands, i.e., unless the potential aggressor was warned, he would walk in. The Secretary noted that the Dutch had strengthened their positions in West New Guinea and wondered if the Indonesians would undertake an invasion in view of the logistic problems involved for them. The Secretary then asked what kind of a warning the Dutch thought we should undertake, should it be a responsible one? Luns replied in the affirmative. The Secretary said in that event we would have to be ready to take action. Luns thought that the minimum Dutch requirement would be for us to tell the Indonesians now that they should not use force and then undertake planning as to what we would do in the actual event of an invasion. The Secretary said he thought it was better to think about the realities of the situation in advance. Luns continued, declaring that only US intervention in the form of a warning had prevented Indonesian aggression in March of 1959. He repeated that if the new administration did not repeat this guarantee, this would be the last straw as far as the Dutch were concerned. He said that it was incomprehensible that Indonesia should receive credits and arms from the West after their anti-Dutch [Page 357]acts and that, at least they should be warned against using force in the West New Guinea case.

Luns said that the situation in Indonesia now was chaotic and anti-Western. He said that the Dutch had repeatedly warned other countries about Sukarno but the US had refused to listen. The Dutch had departed from Indonesia leaving it in the best condition of virtually any colonial area but still the US had sympathized with Indonesian viewpoints. The financial situation when the Dutch had left Indonesia, for example, had been that there had existed 70% gold coverage. Ambassador van Roijen said that the problem in Indonesia was that they had a demagogic leader, whereas a somewhat similar country such as India had a statesman like Nehru. The Secretary inquired if the Dutch did not think there were other valid Indonesian leaders. Luns said that people such as Hatta had been eliminated.

Continuing his observations on the Indonesian scene, Luns said that we had repeatedly been told that Nasution was about to act against the Indonesian Communist Party but that the Dutch do not believe this. He said they had also left Indonesia in an advanced state, militarily, financially and educationally. The Secretary said that he was familiar with the events of 1945–1949 and did not believe it would be profitable to cover this situation in detail now, given the limited time available.

The Secretary then asked if the Dutch would accept a trusteeship over West New Guinea if the Dutch were the trust authority. Luns said that, if this were workable, the answer would be yes. However, if there were other countries named as trustees, and not the Dutch, the Dutch would be forced to strip the administration and would encounter severe parliamentary opposition in Holland. The Secretary said that the important thing was that self-determination should have a clear field. Luns repeated that other Afro-Asian countries were not attacking the Dutch and that the real problem was the Indonesian threat. He said he was going to suggest to Hammarskjold that the UN send a visiting mission to West New Guinea.

Continuing this line, the Secretary asked if a Malayan plus New Zealand visiting mission might be useful. The Dutch Foreign Minister replied in the affirmative. The Secretary wondered if a UN trusteeship and continuation of the present Dutch administration might get support. Luns said that the Dutch could accept supervisory authority of a group of countries including Malaya and Ceylon, for example. Ambassador van Roijen said that one of the problems was that if there were Asian administrators it would be difficult to keep the Indonesians out. The Secretary thought that if it were a real UN trusteeship it would be possible to prevent Indonesian attacks.

The Secretary, summarizing, said that West New Guinea was a burden to the Dutch and the Dutch wished to terminate the present arrangement [Page 358]by self-determination but they did not themselves wish to remain. Luns said that there was a practical problem insofar as there were no guarantees against the use of force. He added that we must also consult the Australians [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. Furthermore, the area was of major strategic concern to Australia. He thought that the United States must decide if it wishes the area transferred to Indonesia or if it wishes genuine self-determination.

The Secretary said that bona fide self-determination was a principle of ours and we did not think self-determination should be merely a device but the people really permitted a free selection. Perhaps West New Guinea and East New Guinea could work together. He said that we have not sounded out members of the UN regarding a trusteeship including Dutch participation. Luns said that the Tunku hoped that the Indonesians would go along with the UN trusteeship but he did not think that they would. He thought that the trusteeship should last five to ten years in order to prevent another Congo situation. If the Dutch were faced with lack of support from their allies which led to premature independence this would be against everyone’s interest. If half of the island should go to Indonesia ultimately, there would be an inter-island problem as well. The Indonesians then would immediately seek Timor, Borneo and other territories.

The Secretary said that since the Round Table Conference West New Guinea had in effect been in contention between the Dutch and the Indonesians. Luns said that this was the same as to say that Florida would be in contention between the United States and Cuba if Castro were to claim it. He reiterated that if the Indonesians had a legal claim to the territory they should go to the International Court of Justice. The Secretary said that the situation for looking toward self-determination would be more persuasive if neither of the powers involved were an administrator under a trusteeship. Luns said this implied that the position of the Dutch in Indonesia was on the same basis. Luns wondered if under the circumstances the United States thought that all Dutch should leave West New Guinea. The Secretary asked if all Dutch would in effect leave if Holland were not one of the administering powers. Luns said that perhaps some Dutch would stay if the other trust countries were friendly ones. The Secretary asked which countries might be acceptable. Luns countered by simply saying the whole picture would be clear if the United States would publicly support self-determination for West New Guinea. The Secretary said that we would have to know what we were supporting.

Luns at this point said that he would talk to Hammarskjold about this whole problem. The Secretary thought that the idea of the consortium to finance the area should be considered since, otherwise, there would be no 2/3 vote in favor of a trusteeship in the UN because of the financial burden. Luns said he thought the US attitude on this entire [Page 359]issue was paramount. The Secretary believed the UN could get support to keep Indonesia out of the area.

Luns said that this was the first time that he had heard that the Dutch should leave West New Guinea in the interests of peace. He said this point had never been raised before. He then went on to criticize the international conduct of Indonesia again and said he was astonished that Indonesia had been able to get away with its international actions during the past years. He concluded on this point by complaining about the Sukarno visit to the United States.

The Secretary said we should take a responsible attitude toward Sukarno, and must envisage specific steps if we are to issue a blanket warning to the Indonesians. Such a warning might lead to the need for the use of force by the US. When the United States issues a warning we must mean something and we must not just bluff. Furthermore, it was difficult for us to exercise any helpful influence with the Indonesians if the Dutch were complaining about our receiving Sukarno here. Luns thought that there were various ways of wording a warning and referred to the type of problem which arose when we had not been entirely clear, as in the case of Korea. He said Nehru had privately told him that Indonesia would not and should not use force in West New Guinea. However, if we did not issue a warning to the Indonesians, this would be a change of US attitude. The Secretary thought the Dutch would be disagreeably surprised if we were to give a warning and then, following an Indonesian invasion, were merely to go into the Security Council. He thought this argued in favor of more thoughtful planning. Luns asserted that we must not give the Soviets or Sukarno the impression that the US would look aside if there were an invasion. He said there must be continuity of policy. He repeated that the Dutch could accept the US warning without anything specific being said about action by the US 7th Fleet in the event of an attack. Ambassador van Roijen said that the situation would be very dangerous without the US warning. The Secretary said that a great power cannot issue a warning without planning carefully how it will act if this warning is disregarded. Ambassador van Roijen said that perhaps the US statement could be called by another name. Luns continued on this point, saying that experience teaches us that we will in fact know in advance if the Indonesians are making preparations for an attack and the situation can be covered at that time. The Dutch themselves could cope with small-scale invasion efforts and thought they would know sufficiently in advance to warn their allies in the event of large-scale planning. Therefore, the Dutch could accept the US warning not based on any specific plan.

The Secretary said that we were looking for a framework for a solution to the problem and thought that the UN trusteeship perhaps offered the best possibility. If this were arranged, then we could get support for a [Page 360]US warning to Indonesia. Ambassador van Roijen said he thought the United States was using pressure on the Dutch by not giving the warning in order to get the Dutch to accept a trusteeship, i.e., without a trusteeship we would not issue a warning. The Secretary said this was not the case. Luns said that he doubted it would be possible to get a bona fide trusteeship or even a visiting trusteeship because of Hammarskjold’s reluctance.

Luns then said that the US position on these issues seemed absurd to him unless we supported the Dutch on self-determination. He said that we were opposing the Portuguese in Africa where they did not grant self-determination and were opposing the Dutch for following precisely an opposite policy in West New Guinea. He said we must try to live up to our principles. He said there was also an Australian problem involved and that the Dutch had obtained Australian agreement to self-determination also.

The Secretary wondered if a trusteeship consisting of the Dutch, Australians, New Zealanders and Malayans would be acceptable. Luns replied in the affirmative and said that this would particularly be the case if it were supported by the United States, and he thought that other countries such as Thailand and Ceylon could also be added. The Secretary said it would be difficult to get a 2/3 vote in the UN if the Dutch were to be the administering authority. Luns did not think it was necessary to call the Dutch by this name. The Secretary said he thought a group such as he had outlined, with the addition of Ceylon, perhaps might be accepted in the UN. The Secretary said that we believe self-determination is more important to the area than Dutch presence. We assume that a trusteeship would be a strong one and a bona fide one. The Secretary then concluded, saying that the Dutch should consider this entire conversation as exploratory, and arrangements were made to continue the following day.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 656.9813/4–1061. Secret. Drafted by McBride and approved in S on April 24. The time of the meeting is from Rusk’s Appointment Book, which indicates his next appointment was for 5:40 p.m. (Johnson Library)