428. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Indonesia 0

1229. For the Attorney General from the Secretary.1 Your stop Bangkok will take place during period real strain in US/Thai relations, stemming mainly from Thai doubts about our policy for peaceful settlement in Laos and Thai unhappiness about “ineffectiveness” of SEATO alliance. Ambassador Young has done his best to convince Thais we have been following right course in Laos and seems to have got the Thais in an acquiescent but clearly not enthusiastic frame of mind.

Thai dissatisfaction with SEATO’s inaction in Laos and Thai fear of similar inaction if Thailand threatened have crystallized Thai hostility toward it. Additional factors lying behind Thai attitude probably include SEATO’s inadequacy as a vehicle for economic aid and feeling that Thai identification with former colonial powers UK and especially France tends to hamper Thai efforts assert leadership among Asian nations or develop closer Asian ties.

Thais have proposed that SEATO should operate under two-thirds majority rule having in mind, we suspect, that this would eliminate British and French restraint over US actions or might even bring about France and UK quitting the alliance. We do not favor this proposal especially in light present Congressional attitudes toward our commitments in Southeast Asia and because of its effect on our relationships with the French and British. We are fully determined keep Treaty intact as an instrument of US national security and as the indispensable legal basis for our security guarantees to the Treaty area.

However SEATO has built up a rather heavy organizational structure including headquarters building in Bangkok with staffs and committees. Thais somehow seem unable distinguish between Manila Treaty, a military alliance with its guarantees against external aggression on the one hand, and SEATO bureaucratic organization, with its preoccupation with nonmilitary matters and its daily frustrations and irritating minor international disagreements; on the other.

[Page 909]

FYI only: We have therefore concluded that best way to meet Thai problem is not by a change in voting procedures but rather by building up US relationship with Thailand within SEATO legal framework, at the same time maintaining SEATO as military alliance with necessary military planning and recognizing that the limitations of SEATO’s nonmilitary aspects require serious review. My letter to Thai Foreign Minister (separate message) is a first step in this course of action.2 End FYI.

We would be grateful if you could stress with Thais our genuine concern for Thai security, our conviction that Treaty indispensable means our guarantee this security, and thus our determination preserve Treaty at all costs. Please express to Thanat our hope that he will come to Washington so that we can discuss these matters more fully with him. The President, as you know, is deeply interested in this problem and would also be looking forward to seeing Thanat again.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 033.1100–KE/2–1662. Secret; Niact; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Cleveland; cleared by Harriman, Koren, Czyzak, Peters, McGeorge Bundy (who cleared it with the President), and Rusk; and approved by U. Alexis Johnson. Repeated priority to Bangkok and to CINCPAC POLAD.
  2. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, accompanied by his wife, was on a world tour February 4–18, which included visits to Japan, Indonesia, Bangkok, Tehran, Rome, Berlin, Bonn, and the Netherlands with stops in Singapore, Hong Kong, Taipei, Karachi, and Beirut. Kennedy’s stay in Thailand was limited to one day, February 19.
  3. See Document 429.