343. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Mr. McGeorge Bundy, Sir Howard Beale (Australian Ambassador) and Michael V. Forrestal


  • ANZUS Treaty and Malaysia

At 5:15 pm today Ambassador Beale came to Mr. Bundy’s office for a discussion of U.S. obligations under the ANZUS Treaty with respect to Australian armed forces stationed in Malaysia.

Mr. Bundy handed to Sir Howard a paper (copy attached) outlining the United States interpretation of its obligations under the ANZUS Treaty. Mr. Bundy explained that the President desired that the information contained in the paper be conveyed to Prime Minister Menzies, so that there would be no misunderstanding between allies who were so close and intimate as the United States and Australia. Mr. Bundy emphasized that the paper was not an official communication and did not require formal acceptance by the Australian Government, although he would certainly wish to hear any comments the Ambassador or the Minister of External Affairs might have.

Sir Howard said that he understood completely; and that the paper would surely reach the Prime Minister, since it would be carried back to [Page 748] Canberra by Sir Garfield Barwick. The Ambassador said that, speaking personally, the paper accurately reflected his understanding of the situation; and that he would show it to Sir Garfield this evening and drop by in the morning before the meeting with the President to Mr. Bundy’s office if the Minister, for External Affairs had any comments. Mr. Bundy observed that in the midst of a political campaign in Australia, there might well be occasions where allusions were made to U.S. obligations under the ANZUS Treaty in connection with Malaysia. It would be helpful to us if we were informed of the nature and scope of any such statements before they were made.

Ambassador Beale replied that he was certain that responsible members of the Australian Government were fully aware of the problems and would act with great discretion. He could not, however, speak for all of the campaigners. He agreed that consultation in advance would be wise.

The meeting was extremely cordial and appeared to give the Ambassador a chance to correct any impression that the Australian Government had pushed its interpretation of the ANZUS obligations too far.



Paper Presented to the Australian Ambassador (Beale)

The ANZUS Treaty provides that in the event of an armed attack in the Pacific area on any of the parties, including their armed forces, public vessels or aircraft, each party would “act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes.” In view of the present situation with respect to Malaysia, it is deemed desirable to set forth the nature of the obligations of the parties to the Treaty as defined in recent discussions between representatives of the United States and the Commonwealth of Australia.

Conversations held between the Prime Minister of Australia and the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs on June 7, 1963, between the [Page 749] Prime Minister and the President of the United States on July 8, 1963, and between the Minister of External Affairs and the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs on October 14, 1963 dealt with the possibility of armed attack against Australian forces stationed in Malaysia. In the context of those conversations it was confirmed that the United States would act under Articles IV and V of the Treaty in the event of an armed attack by Indonesian armed forces on the armed forces, public vessels or aircraft of Australia in Malaysia. In those conversations it was also understood that the Treaty relates only to overt attack and not to subversion, guerrilla warfare or indirect aggression. It was agreed that it was not feasible to define in advance when subversion, guerrilla warfare or indirect aggression becomes armed or overt attack, but that this matter would be decided jointly by the parties to the Treaty.

The United States understands that Australia has its own honorable obligations but would consult with it before Australia makes further military commitments in the Treaty area. The Minister of External Affairs of the Commonwealth of Australia assured the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs on October 14 that Australia would consult with the United States before stationing armed forces in Sarawak or Sabah.

Since the Treaty does not define the kind of action the parties must take in the event of an armed attack, the response of the United States would be determined in consultation with the other parties to the Treaty. It was agreed that there was a whole, range of measures which might be appropriate including political and diplomatic activities and in an extreme situation, the use of armed force. In view of the extensive commitments of the United States throughout the world, however, further consultations would be necessary before any United States armed forces were committed. In case it was decided that such forces were necessary in support of Australian forces engaged in the defense of Malaysia, the United States would be prepared to commit air and sea forces and to provide logistic support. It was understood that any of the foregoing actions would be subject to the constitutional processes of the United States.

It was recognized that the interests, commitments and responsibilities of the ANZUS partners in the Pacific area require that all parties concerned in the Malaysia controversy avoid political actions or statements which might lead to precipitate military action involving one or more of the ANZUS partners. The United States therefore wishes to stress the need to use all available diplomatic and political means to prevent any provocation, real or imagined, which would lead to an acceleration of hostilities. To this end the United States urges that there be the closest consultation among all parties concerned with respect to political and military actions taken and statements made so that the United States will be continuously in a position to give prompt consideration to the action it should take in support of its partners under the Treaty.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Malaysia, 10/63. Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by Forrestal.
  2. Secret. Forrestal and. Harriman discussed this paper in telephone conversations at 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. on October 16. (Memoranda of telephone conversations; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Kennedy-Johnson Administrations, Telephone Conversations)