168. Memorandum From Acting Secretary of State Bowles to President Kennedy0


  • Visit of President Sukarno

President Sukarno of Indonesia will visit Washington on April 24 and 25 at your invitation. You have agreed to meet him at Andrews Air [Page 369]Force Base, receive him and his aides for discussions and host a luncheon in his honor.

Our chief hopes for this visit are that it will (1) help improve the cordial but still somewhat distant tone of our relations with Indonesia, (2) provide evidence of friendly U.S. interest and concern in the West New Guinea dispute which will encourage a peaceful settlement, (3) result in Sukarno’s greater understanding and appreciation of our position in the Cold War and (4) dispel his evident belief that we oppose him personally.

Although the formal initiative was ours, the desire for this visit on Sukarno’s part is great. His prime purposes will be to seek our understanding of Indonesia’s position in the territorial dispute with The Netherlands and to establish a personal relationship with you. While we have been neutral in the West New Guinea dispute, the Soviet Bloc has given him strong support. He will visit Moscow and possibly Communist China after leaving Washington and before returning to Indonesia. Sukarno also, it is thought, will wish to explain to you his domestic policy of “Guided Democracy” and review the international scene generally, possibly touching on specific points such as Laos, the Congo, Communist China and disarmament.

Our relations with Indonesia reflect the influence of the Cold War and Indonesia’s leftist-inclined neutralism, the West New Guinea dispute, the basic pro-Western orientation of many Indonesians, the potential threat of Communist China and Indonesia’s need for economic development assistance.

Our relations with President Sukarno are strongly affected by his unique personality. He is extremely vain, wishes to be considered a major world voice, will be grateful for minor gestures of little intrinsic importance and is likely to be piqued if they are omitted. He has an undeniable speaking talent, political intuition and a magnetic personality which were valuable to Indonesia in revolution, but his incapacity and dislike for routine have handicapped national development.

Sukarno has come to believe that we dislike him and would like to see him unseated. He associates the U.S. with foreign aid to the rebels in 1958. He was annoyed that President Eisenhower failed to include Indonesia in visits to other countries in the area and he was reportedly highly indignant when, in 1960, President Eisenhower kept him waiting in an ante-room for some 10 minutes rather than meeting him on the White House steps.

He is reported to be favorably impressed by the attitudes of your administration toward world problems, especially colonialism, and we believe that he is anxious to gain your friendship and understanding. In this connection, we suggest that you seek an appropriate opportunity to draw President Sukarno aside for a completely private talk of a few minutes duration with you.

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“Bung” (brother, comrade) Karno, as he is familiarly referred to by his countrymen and addressed by his close associates, speaks English well and is at ease in all situations.

Points you may particularly wish to make to Sukarno are noted in connection with the following papers:1

Photograph of President Sukarno—Tab A
Biographic sketches of President Sukarno, First Deputy First Minister Leimena, Foreign Minister Subandrio and Ambassador Zain—Tab B

West New Guinea Dispute—Tab C

We have no specific plan but believe a trusteeship of some form may be a feasible approach. We would like his views. We are willing to help find a peaceful settlement.


East/West Relations—Tab D

Laos—We continue to view the Soviet delay in definitively answering the British proposals of March 23 as the most serious obstacle to progress toward successful peaceful solution of the Lao crisis.

Congo—The U. S. believes that there has been sufficient United Nations’ discussion of the Congo problem for the time being and that the Congo would benefit from a period of tranquility in which it may seek solutions to its many pressing problems free from outside intervention.

Communist China—Communist China’s refusal to renounce the use of force in pressing its claim to Taiwan and its record of belligerency against the free nations of Asia justify the maintenance of U. S. collective and individual security arrangements in the Far East. The price that Peiping demands for any improvement in relations with the U.S., namely that we permit the 11 million anti-Communist people of Taiwan to fall under Communist control, is absolutely unacceptable. While we do not always agree with the policies of the Republic of China on Taiwan, we will honor our commitments to help defend Taiwan against external attack.

Disarmament—Free World security requires an adequate inspection system.

United Nations—The U.S. hopes that Indonesia will join the other non-committed nations in making clear its opposition to Soviet attacks upon the United Nations, the Secretary General and the specialized agencies.

Indonesia’s Guided Democracy—Tab E
U.S. Military Assistance to Indonesia—Tab F

Economic Support for Indonesia—Tab G

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We are prepared to cooperate in the 8 year economic development plan and, if agreeable, will send top level consultants to work with the Indonesian Government. We respect each country’s right to follow economic policies of its own choosing.


Pope Case—Tab H

We have no wish to interfere with legal procedures in this case. We hope, however, that it will not be allowed to disturb our good relations.


S.S. Hope—Tab I

We are grateful for the welcome this vessel, sponsored by the People-to-People Health Foundation, has received in Indonesia.

Ibu Sukarno Hospital—Tab J

We wish to cooperate in this project and will provide $200,000 worth of equipment. We understand President Sukarno is especially interested in this hospital.

Chester Bowles2
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 798.11/4–2061. Secret. Drafted by Lindquist and cleared by Bell and Steeves. The original of this memorandum is in the Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Indonesia, 4/24/61–4/25/61.
  2. All the tabs were attached but are not printed.
  3. Printed from a copy that indicates Bowles signed the original.