329. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Kennedy0


  • U.S. Position on Malaysia

The British have been developing the Malaysia concept for the last three years. Last year Malaya and Singapore gave approval to the formation of Malaysia, and North Borneo and Sarawak have indicated approval in principle. The adherence of Brunei is still under negotiation.

The United States has not participated in the negotiations, nor have we been formally consulted. We have, however, followed these developments closely, and since we have not objected, the British have assumed our tacit approval. Several weeks ago, a Department spokesman publicly stated the United States considered that the Federation of Malaysia was the best available solution for the future welfare of the people in the area.1 This was confirmed by the President’s press conference, February 14.2

Earlier this week, we met with the representatives of the British, Australian and New Zealand Governments. The following represents our position as stated in these conferences:

The United Kingdom and Malaya are to have full responsibility for the formation of Malaysia.
The United States will assume no responsibility. We will, however, continue to inform the Philippine Government and the Indonesian Government as we have done so far that we consider Malaysia is the best [Page 711] solution, not only for the benefit of the area generally, but for the Philippines and for Indonesia.
If either the Philippines or Indonesia takes the subject to the United Nations, we have agreed to consult with the United Kingdom and attempt to minimize the difficulties which they may encounter.
We have warned the United Kingdom that they have a serious problem in assuring the United Nations and the world generally that the populations involved have been fully consulted. The United Kingdom feels they are on good grounds in Borneo, fairly good grounds in Sarawak, but on very weak grounds in Brunei.
If, as and when Malaysia comes into existence as a member of the United Nations, we have informed the British that we do not intend to give any military or economic assistance to this new State. This is a British responsibility. In addition, it is a British responsibility to protect the country against any internal subversion if outside assistance is needed. We will, of course, give to the new State of Malaysia as a member of the United Nations the protection against external aggression which we would give to any friendly United Nations member. We may find that it is desirable for us to make a public statement, giving this assurance, in order to forestall aggressive actions by other countries.
The British have already undertaken to expand their existing defense agreement with Malaya to include the Federation of Malaysia, when organized. This agreement includes the maintenance of their defense establishment in Singapore. The Australian and New Zealand Governments, who are now involved in the defense of Malaya, have not yet decided whether they will assume a broader responsibility for Malaysia.

Comment: The Indonesian and Philippine Governments have indicated strong opposition to the formation of the Federation of Malaysia. It is not clear whether either Government will be able to interpose difficulties serious enough to frustrate the formation of the Federation. The British intend to attempt to drive through their plan on schedule, the final date of which is now fixed for August 31, 1963.

Dean Rusk3
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 3 MALAYSIA. Secret. Drafted by Harriman on February 15. In a covering memorandum to Rusk, drafted by Rice and concurred in by Deputy Assistant Secretary Richard Davies of EUR, Rice wrote that this memorandum to the President represented the U.S. position as stated in the quadripartite talks held earlier that week with representatives of the British, Australian, and New Zealand Governments. Accounts of the quadripartite talks are in telegrams 342 and 348 to Singapore, February 13 and 16. (Ibid., POL 2 INDON and POL 3 MALAYSIA)
  2. Apparently a statement made at the Department of State press briefing. On February 13 in a press conference, Rusk stated in answer to a question about the effect of the West Irian settlement on Indonesian interests in North Borneo, “I think if those who are to take part in the Malaysia Federation do so on the basis of consent, as is now the case, and on the basis of arrangements which are in their own jurisdiction and control, that if anyone on the outside attempts by force or threat of force to interfere with those, this would create a very serious problem.” (Department of State Bulletin, March 11, 1962, p. 366)
  3. On February 14, Kennedy stated, “we have supported the Malaysia Confederation, and it’s under pressure from several areas. But I’m hopeful it will sustain itself, because it’s the best hope of security for that very vital part of the world.” (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1963, p. 180)
  4. Printed from a copy that indicates Rusk signed the original.