17. Memorandum From the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Johnson) to Secretary of State Rusk 0
- Attached Memorandum on SEATO Voting Procedures
The attached memorandum from FE is a good analysis of the present situation, technical and legal problems with respect to SEATO voting procedures. Insofar as Thailand is concerned, cutting through all the verbiage, I am confident that the following are the actual facts:
- Thailand feels that, not only does the presence of the French and the U.K. in SEATO act as a brake upon the United States, but, very importantly [Page 38] from Thailand’s standpoint, Thailand’s association with the very unpopular former colonial power in the area, France, and, to a somewhat lesser extent, the U.K., inhibits the development of closer relations with its Asian neighbors. Through SEATO, Thailand is identified with the former colonial powers of France and the U.K. and is not considered by its neighbors to be really an “Asian country”. Association with the United States does not, in Thailand’s view, carry with it any of the same onus and thus, in fact, what Thailand is really seeking is disassociation from France and the U.K. From Thailand’s point of view, this would most happily be accomplished by the withdrawal of France and the U.K. from SEATO. If this cannot be accomplished, the next best would be a “neutralization” of France and the U.K. through a voting procedure which would enable Thailand to say that France and the U.K. have really been divorced from SEATO.
- Although Thailand is seeking a rectification of the situation as it perceives it within the framework of SEATO by a change in the voting procedure, in fact it would be happiest if a bilateral relationship with the United States, or a trilateral relationship with the United States and Australia, could be substituted for SEATO. In spite of the statements which he made in his formal talks while here, I know that Foreign Minister Thanat was deeply disappointed that we did not suggest a bilateral treaty with Thailand. This is what he was really seeking and what the Thais would eagerly welcome.
- We have authorized Ken Young to give broad and categorical assurances to Thailand and have offered to confirm in writing that we would carry out our obligations under Article IV(1) (overt aggression) of SEATO without regard as to what the other members of SEATO may do.1 (This would be, in effect, an unconditional extension of the assurances that you gave privately to the Prime Minister at the time of the last SEATO meeting.) We have not yet heard whether Ken Young has done so. In any event, I am confident that the Thais will insist that, to have any value, these assurances must be formal and public. I am not clear on what problems this may present us here, but, in any event, it will probably require prior consultation with the Hill.
- While such assurances may be of some help in reassuring the Thais that we will not permit our actions to be blocked by the French and the British, they do not meet one of the basic Thai concerns as set forth in paragraph 1 above; that is, our identification with the “colonial powers” of France and the U.K. There is also a certain amount of “theology” [Page 39] involved in this which no amount of logical argument is really able to overcome in the Thai mind. To the Thais, “SEATO” is not just the sum of the nations who are members, but an entity of its own. This entity is personified to them by the headquarters building on Rajadamnern Avenue there in Bangkok, with a Secretary General, civilian and military staffs. If the United States does something “pursuant to its SEATO obligations”, this emanates, in the Thai mind, from Washington rather than from Rajadamnern Avenue, and, rather than proving the value of “SEATO”, proves that “SEATO” is impotent and that they really have to depend on the United States.
The implications of the foregoing from the standpoint of our relations with Thailand are that:
- In spite of the strains it would impose on our relations, we attempt to “write France and the U.K. out of” SEATO by pushing the Thai proposal for a change in the voting procedures;
- Without pushing a change in the voting procedures, we publicly announce and place emphasis on our unilateral assurances to Thailand “pursuant to our SEATO obligations” while gradually deemphasizing the SEATO organization and its peripheral economic and other non-military activities, or;
- Without formally dissolving SEATO, enter into a bilateral defense treaty with Thailand while keeping SEATO “on the books” for what value it may have in validating our activities elsewhere in the treaty area.
I suggest that we should have a thorough discussion of this with you at an early opportunity.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 790.5/2–1062. Secret. Initialed by Johnson. A note on the source text indicates that Rusk saw the memorandum.↩
- The assurances were authorized in telegram 1134 to Bangkok, February 4, Document 427. Article IV (1) of the Manila Pact stipulated that an attack on one party to the treaty constituted an attack on all parties and obligated them to act to meet the common danger.↩
- Secret. Drafted by Peters, Salans, and Jones and concurred in by Rice, Chayes, Czyzak, Cleveland, and John P. White of the Bureau of Congressional Relations; James D. Bell, Director of the Office of Southwest Pacific Affairs; James N. Cortada, Director of the Office of Near Eastern and South Asian Regional Affairs; and William C. Burdett, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs.↩
- Not attached, but Tab A is Document 420.↩
- Not attached, but Tab B was telegram 1124 from Bangkok, February 3. (Department of State, Central Files, 379/2–362)↩
- Not found.↩
- Not attached, but Tab D was telegram 1098 from Bangkok, January 31. (Department of State, Central Files, 379/1–3162)↩
- Not attached, but Tab E was a letter from the British Embassy, February 6. (Ibid., FE Files: Lot 65 D 25, SEATO)↩
- Not attached, but Tab F was the Terms of Reference for the SEATO Council. (Washington National Records Center, RG 59, FRC 71 A 6682 (Department of State, EA/RA/SEATO Files: Lot 67 D 143), SEATO Organization and Administration, 1954–1963)↩
- There is no indication of approval or disapproval of any of these recommendations.↩