164. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • West New Guinea


  • United States
    • The Secretary
    • Foy D. Kohler, Assistant Secretary for European Affairs
  • Netherlands
    • Joseph Luns, Foreign Minister
    • Dr. J. H. van Roijen, Ambassador

The Secretary met with the Foreign Minister for half an hour before dinner at the Dutch Embassy, from 7:40 to 8:10 p.m. Mr. Luns talked at some length about the state of Dutch preparedness to meet a possible Indonesian attack on West New Guinea, along the lines of his remarks to the President. He stressed that he felt there was no immediate danger partly because he was sure that nothing would be undertaken in the absence of Sukarno and partly because there was no evidence of preparatory steps. He pointed out that last fall the Dutch had detected and frustrated even a very small incursion by less than 100 men. He said he felt confident that Dutch intelligence would know at least a few weeks in advance of any major movement which would require as a minimum 1500 Indonesian troops.

The Secretary commented that this somewhat eased his own view of the situation since some of our own intelligence people had feared that a crisis might be more imminent or more of a surprise. He wanted to be quite clear that the questions he had raised with Mr. Luns did not mean that US policy as to the use of force had in any way changed. Obviously the Administration would not give Indonesian President Sukarno any impression that it had. However he stressed that the new Administration took these matters very seriously in terms of the total global struggle with which it was faced, in Berlin, the Congo, Laos, the Taiwan Straits, and elsewhere. He wanted to be quite sure that warnings were issued with full awareness of the possible implications for action. The United States did not intend to bluff or to be caught bluffing. He would say frankly that if matters really came to an issue over West New Guinea, not only the position of the United States but that of the whole free world [Page 362]would be much better if we could not be charged with engaging in hostilities simply to protect a Dutch colonial position. It would clearly be much better, if matters came to a head, that we should be acting on behalf of the UN and the principle of self-determination.

The Foreign Minister reaffirmed Dutch readiness to explore every possibility of an internationalized solution and there ensued considerable discussion as to the nature of a trusteeship proposal which might be offered and accepted by the United Nations. Mr. Luns suggested during the course of this discussion three possibilities: (1) the Dutch alone to be the trustees; (2) the Dutch to remain as effective administrators with some other country or countries as the nominal trustees along the lines of the Italian administration of Somaliland; and finally, (3) possibility of an East-West combination in which the Dutch would be one of five participants, perhaps with Malaya, Ceylon, Australia and New Zealand. It was agreed that the trusteeship possibilities could be explored further with the Dutch Ambassador here and with the representatives of the UK and Australia. During the course of this talk Mr. Luns clarified that his figure of 18,000 Dutchmen in Indonesia did not include the Dutch armed force strength of about 5000. However he did cut back the over-all total to “probably 21,000 or 22,000.” He said that approximately 9000 of these were actively engaged in local administrative duties of one kind or another.

Mr. Luns said that he would talk about the whole question with UN Secretary General Hammarskjold in New York within the next day or two and undertook to let us know the results through Ambassador van Roijen. In reply to Mr. Luns’ question the Secretary indicated that this was still a “Washington question” which was not yet ready for discussion among our representatives at the UN. In connection with his forthcoming talk with Hammarskjold, Mr. Luns said he still wanted to pursue the question of getting a visiting UN mission to go to Indonesia. He felt that if this could be done quickly it would safeguard the situation for the time being and give us more time to consider a more permanent solution.

Referring to Mr. Luns’ claim that many Afro-Asian governments were sympathetic toward Dutch policies in West New Guinea, the Secretary suggested that the Foreign Minister might usefully sound out some of those representatives at the UN, notably Ambassador Slim of Tunisia. If some of the Afro-Asian members were willing to support a trusteeship formula in the UN, this would obviously be very helpful. Mr. Luns agreed to do this.

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Both the Foreign Minister and Ambassador van Roijen expressed their appreciation for this talk and their understanding for the concern which the Secretary had felt about West New Guinea.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 656.9813/4–1161. Secret. Drafted by Kohler and approved in S on April 17. Luns also met with Ball, Nitze, and William Bundy on April 11. They discussed the Soviet Union’s role in Indonesia and then Luns returned the conversation to West New Guinea, reiterating many of the points he made in previous conversations. (Memorandum of conversation, April 11; ibid.)