320. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Visits: The President to Indonesia; General Nasution of Indonesia to Washington


  • The President
  • Howard P. Jones, American Ambassador to Indonesia
  • Roger Hilsman, Assistant Secretary, Far Eastern Affairs
  • Michael Forrestal, Senior Staff Member, NSC

Ambassador Jones reported that President Sukarno set great store by the prospect of a visit by the President to Indonesia and that this [Page 695] represented our best leverage in the current situation. The Ambassador suggested that we tell Sukarno a visit would be impossible without an easing of tensions in Southeast Asia and that Ambassador Jones propose a package deal to re-establish a political climate in which a visit would be possible. (Mr. Hilsman could follow up on this approach in Indonesia and Malaysia during a December trip.) The package might encompass the following:

Request assurances from Sukarno of (a) willingness to settle the Malaysian dispute peacefully and engage in tripartite discussions for that purpose, and (b) agreement to withdraw his military forces from the Kalimantan border (except such as could be regarded as reasonable for defensive purposes) and to cease active support of guerrilla actions in Malaysian territory.

In return for this, the U.S. Government would (a) use its influence to bring about a tripartite meeting to settle the Malaysian dispute and restore normal relations between the nations concerned, (b) assuming a settlement is reached, resuscitate the multilateral program for aid to the stabilization of the Indonesian economy, (c) in connection with b provide up to 150,000 tons of rice to Indonesia, (d) plan for a visit of the President as soon as practicable.

The President inquired what Sukarno would accept by way of a settlement. Ambassador Jones replied that no one knew what formula the three Asian leaders could agree upon, that the limits of the politically possible within each nation and the outlines of a viable solution could only be determined by discussion among representatives of the nations concerned. The thing was to get them talking to each other again. However, he suggested there were various possibilities that might meet the situation, particularly when all concerned had everything to gain and nothing to lose. One possibility was to follow the West Irian precedent. Tunku Abdul Rahman might suggest that he hold a plebiscite in Borneo after five or six years to determine whether the people wanted to remain in Malaysia. The Indonesians could hardly turn this down. It would have the virtue of saving Sukarno’s face without giving him a victory.

The President indicated agreement with the general line of reasoning and approach. He said he would be willing to go to Indonesia if a political settlement were obtained. In response to a question by Assistant Secretary Hilsman, he said he was thinking about April or May. The President thought he could be gone a total of 16 days.

There was some discussion of alternatives if the Indonesian situation did not improve. Ambassador Jones pointed out that Sukarno would take it as a personal snub if Indonesia were passed up and reminded the President of the difficulties which followed President Eisenhower’s failure to visit Indonesia. The President said he might limit [Page 696] his Asian visit to Japan, possibly including Korea, under these circumstances.

General Nasution’s Visit to Washington

Ambassador Jones urged the President to receive General Nasution when he comes to Washington the week of November 24, pointing out that he was a likely successor to President Sukarno and one of the most powerful men in Indonesia. The President agreed to do so on Tuesday, November 26.

Summary of Action:

Presidential authorization to Ambassador Jones to approach Sukarno pursuant to the discussion with the President in paragraphs 3 and 4 to be sent by cable to Djakarta, coincident with the Ambassador’s return. The authorizing cable to be prepared by the Bureau of Far Eastern Affairs shortly before the Ambassador’s departure and sent with White House concurrence.1

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Indonesia, Vol. V, 10/63–11/63. Secret. Drafted by Jones. The times of the meeting are taken from Document 321 and the President’s Appointment Book. (Kennedy Library) The source text is labeled “Part I of Two Parts”; Part II is printed as Document 321:
  2. Such a cable has not been found. In telegram 590 to Djakarta, November 22, Jones asked Galbraith to pass on a personal message to Sukarno. Jones’ message stated that the Ambassador had explored the question of independent CIA activity with Rusk, McCone, and President Kennedy. Jones could give categoric assurances both officially and personally that there was no truth to the allegations that the CIA was out to topple Sukarno. In this telegram, Jones stated that he would discuss with Sukarno the conversation with the just assassinated Kennedy when Jones returned to Indonesia. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 15–1 INDON)