18. Telegram From the Embassy in Thailand to the Department of State0

1179. Personal for Secretary and pass Asst Secretary Harriman. SEATO. I am sending this brief comment to you in your capacity SEATO Council Member. In view Sarit’s sharp criticism of SEATO in conversation today reported my 1177,1 I wish to call your attention my analysis and proposal in Embtels 11672 and 1168.3 I would much appreciate your advice and counsel at this critical turning point for SEATO.

Believe we are reaching fork in road. We can choose one of two tracks: a) go through with strong démarche such as proposed messages from you and CINCPAC to keep Thais in SEATO and SEATO in being with some procedural changes, or b) without such campaign concede SEATO for Thailand cannot be revived, must be replaced or will threaten real split with Thais and perhaps other Asians is insists on status quo [sic].

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I recommend we go ahead with letter from you proposed my 1168 which should help clarify Thai position. Nevertheless we must recognize that despite effort sustain SEATO with a major effort, we may not succeed and will have seek alternative. Paragraph 8 draft letter leaves way open explore such possible alternatives and not back ourselves into corner by insisting SEATO all or nothing. While I believe we should try keep SEATO generally intact, in view unpredictable situation in Laos and Vietnam and threats to Thailand we must have Thais realize we are not closing door to other options for them if after serious consideration they reject SEATO as now constituted. I also fully realize that views are important but not our exclusive concern nor unique in SEA complex.

In my personal opinion I recommend Dept continue formulate feasible alternatives to SEATO if we must follow that track. As SEATO crisis is real crisis I would strongly like to return on consultations as soon as practicable to discuss SEATO with you before April Council meeting.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 379/2–1262. Secret; Limit Distribution.
  2. See footnote 4, Document 427.
  3. In telegram 1167 from Bangkok, February 10, Young reported that Thai dissatisfaction with SEATO “runs deep and pervades political and military leadership.” Sarit had told Young: “SEATO with no veto or no SEATO.” Young recommended that “we now put on the brakes to stem ill-considered undermining of SEATO” by sending messages from Rusk in his capacity as SEATO Council member and Felt in his role as U.S. military adviser to Thailand, before Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s upcoming mid-February visit to Thailand. The ultimate aim was to force the Thais to consider carefully if SEATO was worth the effort. If not, it would at least persuade the Thais not to throw SEATO out until they had something with which to replace the organization. (Department of State, Central Files, 379/2–1062)
  4. Telegram 1168 provided a draft of the message from Rusk to Thanat. (Ibid.) The letter as approved by the Department of State was transmitted to Bangkok in telegram 1230, February 16, Document 429.