334. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • British request for public U.S. statement supporting Malaysia
[Page 726]


  • Mr. Denis Greenhill, Chargé d’Affaires, British Embassy
  • Gov. W. Averell Harriman, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
  • Mr. James D. Bell, Director, SPA
  • Mr. William H. Sullivan, Special Assistant, M
  • Mr. Thomas M. Judd, EUR/BNA

Mr. Greenhill called at his request to ask that, assuming Secretary General U Thant’s report on Malaysia is favorable,1 the U.S. issue a public statement supporting that report.2 The British had in mind an American declaration to the effect that the Secretary General’s favorable verdict had removed all possible justification for objection to the creation of Malaysia on September 16, which the U.S. Government welcomed and invited others concerned to welcome. Mr. Greenhill stated that such a statement offered the best opportunity to avoid an open break between the British and the Indonesians. If the U.S. remained silent, Indonesian and Philippine intransigence would be encouraged. A prompt U.S. statement would serve as a deterrent. Once Malaysia came into being with the acquiescence, however grudging, of Indonesia and the Philippines, the worst obstacle to promoting the gradual development of some degree of mutual tolerance and understanding would have been removed. Mr. Greenhill stressed the importance of the timing of the statement. It should if possible come before Indonesia and the Philippines could react negatively to the Secretary General’s report.

Mr. Bell pointed out that the Secretary General’s report was to be made public on September 14. The interested parties would be given the substance of it on either September 11 or 12. He considered it possible that the Indonesians and Filipinos might make some adverse comment on the report after their advance briefing and before the report was made public. He suggested that we tell the two countries, as soon as they learned of the contents of the report, that we intended to make a public statement in its support.3 This might have a deterrent effect, particularly on the Filipinos.

[Page 727]

Governor Harriman agreed that the U.S. would issue a public statement citing U Thant’s report and, assuming that the report was sufficiently clear-cut in favor of the creation of Malaysia, welcoming the creation of Malaysia. He thought that such a public statement would in the end save us trouble. Governor Harriman also concurred in Mr. Bell’s suggestion that the Philippine and Indonesian Governments be informed of our intention to make such a statement.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL MALAYSIA. Confidential. Drafted by Judd and approved in M on September 12. The meeting was held in Harriman’s office.
  2. The report, made public on September 14, was favorable. For extracts, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1963, pp. 821–823.
  3. The U.S. statement was issued at noon on September 14. For text, see ibid., p. 823. U.S. recognition of Malaysia was automatic because the joining of Sabah (North Borneo), Sarawak, and Singapore with the Malayan Federation was an enlargement rather than a new national entity. Charles F. Baldwin, who had served as Ambassador to Malaya, was accredited to Malaysia, maintaining the Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
  4. On September 13, the Philippine and Indonesian Governments were so informed by letters from President Kennedy to Presidents Macapagal and Sukarno. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 3 MALAYSIA and POL 15–1 US/KENNEDY, respectively) The draft letters from the Department of State were described by Komer as “utterly anodyne.” Komer strengthened the letter to Sukarno, to use his own words, “to the point of saying that if they went down the wrong Malaysia road we simply would not give them aid (how much blunter can you get?).” Komer stated that, regarding the letter to Macapagal, “I beefed this up too in order to make clear we were signed on to Malaysia and [there would be] trouble ahead if Phils weren’t.” (Memorandum from Komer to Bundy, September 17; Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Indonesia, Vol. V, 9/63)