347. Memorandum From Michael V. Forrestal of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)0


  • Thoughts on the Situation in the Far East

I have become increasingly concerned at what appears to be a developing stalemate in our diplomatic activities in the Far East. I have the sense that events are overtaking our own actions, and that consequently we will find ourselves on the defensive in the coming months unless we exercise some more vigorous and preventive diplomacy.

Over the past few weeks we have been obsessed by the problem in South Vietnam, but elsewhere in the area situations are developing which can become quite nasty if allowed to take their course.

[Here follows information on Cambodia.]


We have allowed the Indonesian confrontation with Malaysia to rock along without any initiative on our own part. Despite hopeful talks between Lopez, Thanat and Subandrio in Bangkok, the Indonesians continue to build up their forces in Kalimantan; and the Tunku shows no signs of being allowed any flexibility by his British advisors. Recently there have been ominous indications that the military forces of the two countries are coming into closer contact—Indonesian airplanes over Kuching and patrols within sight of each other over the ill-defined border.

This is a situation where coordinated initiatives are required in four capitals: Manila, K.L., Djakarta and London. I’m not sure that the United States has to get out in front publicly in coordinating an approach; but I feel that unless we stimulate the situation, it may slide off into real unpleasantness. I attach a cable from Djakarta (1094) which suggests a Harriman visit.1 I think the White House has got to do some stronger pushing on this.

[Here follows information on Laos, Korea, and Japan.]

Our Allies

On the Malaysian confrontation we have lost London and Canberra. In Indo-China, the French are still playing dog in the manger. Personnel [Page 760] have changed in Paris and London, and the elections may have an effect in Canberra. Here again we need to make a bigger push to get our allies on board.


If all this sounds like a plea for more action by Forrestal outside of Washington, it is. Since Harriman has left FE, Roger has let himself get bogged down in the red tape of his Bureau. We don’t have available in State the personnel at the intermediate levels who can pick up the ball on any of these problems. Basically State has only Harriman and Roger.

What we need to do is to develop a scenario of specific actions and visits during the coming weeks to get some of these stalemates unfrozen. We can’t send Harriman everywhere; but we can start setting up situations where a high level visit will eventually be useful. To do this we need to get the groundwork done by our embassies and by some lower level visits from Washington.

I think you should let Roger and myself alternate on some of this and prepare to do one or two of the higher level jobs yourself. It looks less and less as if the President will be able to make a Far East trip this winter. This is all the more reason to increase the tempo of our diplomatic activities. A trip may be possible this spring if we do manage to get some of these problems on the way to resolution.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, Staff Memos, MV Forrestal, 11/62–11/63. Secret.
  2. Dated November 16. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 7 INDON)