27. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Thailand0

1520. Bangkok for Ambassador from Harriman. SEATO. Bangkok 1517 (rptd by Dept to other addressees).1 I believe we could accept change in voting procedures along lines Australian proposal2 if necessary, but have reservations about real need for such change except to satisfy demand of Thailand. General acceptance of principle of individual as well as collective obligations in SEATO treaty largely eliminates need for change with respect vital question war or peace. Assignment of greater administrative responsibility to SecGen and gradual de-emphasis on non-military activities will greatly diminish number of other decisions coming before Council Representatives. Nonmandatory target dates would help assure that issues are resolved within reasonable period of time.

At same time, acceptance of change in voting procedures would pose problems in terms (1) need to justify change to Congressional committees, (2) possible effect on procedures in CENTO and NATO, (3) opposition of British (reiterated by British Embassy March 30)3 and (4) financing in case of abstentions. I would therefore like you to re-examine your recommendation, consulting Thais if necessary, and let us have your further comments on the real need and purpose of this change [Page 59] in terms of SEATO’s future as we see it. For what type proposals is change such as this considered necessary? Would the change hamper gravitation away from SEATO’s non-military activities? Since my return Secretary has re-stated to me his interest in minimizing any adverse effect SEATO has on Thailand’s development closer ties with its neighbors and growth of SEA regional unity.

You may have to postpone discussion this item at April 11 meeting.4 Australian Embassy informs Department GOA prefers no change in voting procedures but willing accept abstentions arrangements (1) if politically necessary and (2) if Thailand will definitely withdraw its three-fourths proposal. (Embtel 15095 indicates Thanat not prepared withdraw Thai proposal.) New Zealand Ambassador has expressed concern that change would lead to new “wrangling,” and belief that preferable make no change at this time. Department has informed both that it is seeking further information on need for change.

For Paris, Karachi, Manila: Request appraisal attitude Governments to which you are accredited on Australian-type voting procedure for SEATO.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 379/3–3062. Secret. Drafted by Peters and cleared in draft by Czyzak, Salans, Howard Elting, Regional Planning Adviser of EUR, James N. Cortada, Director of the Office of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, U. Alexis Johnson, Koren, Rice, and Arthur B. Emmons, Deputy Director of the Office of Southwest Pacific Affairs. Also sent to Manila, Paris, and Karachi and repeated to London, Canberra, Wellington, and CINCPACPOLAD.
  2. In telegram 1517, March 30, Young informed Harriman that while the Thais were willing to forego pressing their own SEATO voting proposal, they still wanted a substantial change in procedures. Pakistan and especially the Philippines also seemed to be leaning in that direction. Young did not want to risk pitting Western versus Asian members on the issue, and asked to be authorized to negotiate a compromise along the lines of the Australian proposal (see footnote 2 below). (Department of State, Central Files, 379/3–3062)
  3. The Australians proposed that important issues would be carried if 6 of the 8 SEATO members voted affirmatively and either both or one of the other two members did not vote negatively. Under the terms of the Australian proposal, no country would be obligated to participate in an operation unless it voted affirmatively for it. By a three-fourths majority of members, target dates would be set for votes to be taken.
  4. In telegram 1533 to Bangkok, April 6, the Department stated that the British believed that Thailand merely wanted the courtesy of considered replies to the Thai proposal and would be willing to withdraw it and the Australian proposal if other steps were taken to improve SEATO procedures. (Department of State, Central Files, 379/4–562) In telegram 3690 from London, April 6, the Embassy reported that the British were opposed to any change in the SEATO voting procedure and there was no chance that their position would soften. (Ibid.)
  5. Citing its desire to prevent a split on voting procedures, the Department instructed Young to try to postpone discussion on the matter at the April 11 SEATO Council Representatives meeting. (Telegram 1522 to Bangkok, April 5; ibid.)
  6. Dated March 29. (Ibid., 379/3–2962)