331. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Malaya and Malaysia


  • Tun Abdul Razak, Deputy Prime Minister of the Federation of Malaya1
  • Dato Ong Yoke Lim, Malayan Ambassador
  • The President
  • Mr. Hilsman, Assistant Secretary for Far Eastern Affairs
  • Mr. Baldwin, American Ambassador to Malaya
  • Mr. Tonesk, Deputy Chief of Protocol

After an exchange of gifts, and greetings, the President said that he would be glad to hear from Tun Razak about conditions in his part of the world, particularly progress toward the development of the new Federation of Malaysia. In response, Tun Razak said that progress was being made but complications had developed in the form of opposition to Malaysia from Indonesia and, to a lesser extent, from the Philippines. He considered Indonesian hostility more serious than the Philippine attitude. In response to the President’s question about Indonesian motives, Tun Razak said that the Indonesians were seriously concerned about the contrast between the record of prosperity and success which Malaya had achieved since independence and the series of mistakes and difficulties which had beset Indonesia. This was a blow to Indonesian pride and he feared the Indonesian Government would continue its efforts to complicate [Page 719] plans for the formation of the Federation of Malaysia and the existence of the new Federation after it was formed.

The President inquired about the Philippine aspect of the matter. Tun Razak said he felt the Philippine attitude had changed considerably in recent weeks, partly as a result of talks between Malayan officials and President Macapagal. He referred to the successful outcome of the private talks between President Macapagal and Malaya’s Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman. He said the Philippine claim to a small part of North Borneo had a very flimsy legal basis and he was convinced that the Malayans and the Filipinos could settle the differences between them. He said that President Macapagal had been assured that the Government of the new Federation of Malaysia would give sympathetic consideration to the Philippine claim if the Philippine Government continued to press it after Malaysia was formed.

The President said that he had received a call the day before from Vice President Pelaez of the Philippines who seemed to feel that because of the proximity of North Borneo to the Philippines there was inherent danger to Philippine security in the formation of the new Federation. Tun Razak said that he did not consider the fear to be valid and cited the successful efforts which Malaya had made to contain Communism. He added that the Malayan Government is not endeavoring to force the peoples of Sarawak, Brunei and North Borneo into the new Federation. They had chosen Malaysia themselves and had indicated their choice in various ways, including elections.

The President then asked about the situation in Singapore, especially the racial composition of the Singapore Communists and the percentage of Communists among the Singapore Chinese. He asked what the Singapore Communists were trying to do. Tun Razak replied that most of the Singapore Communists were Chinese and he estimated that about 30% of the Singapore Chinese have Communist orientation. In his opinion the Communists are endeavoring to seize control of the city-state of Singapore and make it a Communist bastion in Southeast Asia—a sort of Cuba. He added that creation of the new Federation of Malaysia was the only effective means of fighting that Communist effort. He added that the Malayan Government was convinced that coexistence with the Communists was impossible and that it was necessary to fight them constantly.

The President asked Tun Razak if he believed the British were determined to give full support to Malaysia. He said that in dealings between the United States and Britain, the United States officials had considered it necessary to impress upon the British the importance of their responsibilities “east of Suez”, particularly in Southeast Asia which is an area of such critical importance. Tun Razak said the British had given the Malayans positive assurances of their protection and support. He intended to [Page 720] go to London and discuss the nature and extent of that support in more detail. The British had made certain offers of help which he hoped would be increased.

The President asked Tun Razak for his views about the position which the United States should assume with respect to Malaysia. Tun Razak replied that his Government and people were very grateful for United States support, including the statement which the President had made. He emphasized that the Federation of Malaya alone would have been able to continue its development without much outside help. The Government of the new Federation of Malaysia, faced with additional defense needs and the necessity of accelerating economic development in northern Borneo to prove to the people there the advantages of democracy and the new Federation, would overburden the financial resources of the Federation of Malaysia. The short-fall in resources between now and 1970 was estimated at about 600 million U.S. dollars which would have to be obtained from outside sources.

The President avoided a direct comment upon this observation but referred to the need of the United States to persuade other countries that they should relieve the United States of some of its burden of foreign aid. Tun Razak indicated that he was aware of the situation.

In conclusion, the President said that he was pleased to have an opportunity to talk with Tun Razak and was glad that he had visited the United States. He had publicly expressed the opinion that Malaysia was the best alternative to create stability in that part of Southeast Asia. He had considered the matter carefully since that time and saw no reason for a change in the United States position of continuing to encourage and support the Malaysia plan.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Malaya and Singapore, 12/62–8/63. Confidential. Drafted by Baldwin and approved in the White House on May 5, according to the Department of State copy. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 32–4 MALAYA) The ending time of the meeting is taken from the President’s Appointment Book. (Kennedy Library)
  2. Tun Abdul Razak was visiting Washington April 22–25. In a March 12 memorandum to McGeorge Bundy, Executive Secretary Brubeck recommended that Abdul Razak be received by the President because of the tension over the creation of Malaysia and the potential for strengthening ties with “staunchly anti-Communist” Malaya: (Department of State, Central Files, POL 15–1 MALAYA) Brubeck provided briefing papers for the discussion. (Memoranda from Brubeck to Bundy, April 18 and 23; ibid., POL 7 MALAYA)

    Tun Abdul Razak met with Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs Harlan Cleveland on April 22 to discuss Malaysia and related developments. (Memorandum of conversation, April 22; ibid., POL 3 MALAYSIA) He met with Rusk for a similar conversation on April 23. (Memorandum of conversation; ibid.) On the same day, he and Secretary of Defense McNamara discussed the rural development program in Malaya, the “communist situation in Southeast Asia,” and Philippines-Malaya relations. (Memorandum of conversation, April 23; ibid., POL MALAYA) Also on April 23, Hilsman and Abdul Razak discussed Malaysia but with special emphasis on Malaya-Indonesia relations. (Memorandum of conversation, April 23; ibid., POL 3 MALAYSIA)