434. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Kennedy0


  • Your Meeting with Thanat Khoman, the Thai Foreign Minister

We do not expect your meeting with Mr. Khoman will last longer than one-half hour. When you see him he will already have had two [Page 922] sessions with the Secretary1 well as meetings with McNamara, Harriman, etc.2

Khoman is a diplomat after the French school. He speaks English and French fluently. He was the permanent Thai delegate to the U.N. 1952–57; Ambassador to Washington 1957–59, when he became Foreign Minister. He is one of the few of his generation specifically picked and trained for his profession. He is recognized by all as an able, intelligent representative of his government, but also has been described as blunt, stubborn and emotional [1 line of source text not declassified]. His political power in Thailand lies solely in his relationship with Sarit.

Khoman will be primarily interested in discussing his country’s dissatisfaction with SEATO and Thai relations with its Southeast Asian neighbors. I think it would be helpful by way of background if you read the Department’s brief scope paper.3

As for SEATO, Khoman regards it as a moribund organization and probably will point to its failure to act in Laos. He distrusts the presence of the UK and France in the organization and deplores the great delays in reaching even minute decisions in the Council. He would like to have a 3/4 majority vote carry in the Council instead of unanimity; thereby neutralizing the anticipated negative votes of the UK and France. He would like to have a new bilateral treaty with the U.S. He will argue that Thailand can no longer feel secure under present conditions.

You may wish to reply to Khoman by saying that there are, indeed, many frustrations in SEATO, but that these stem mainly from the nonmilitary aspects of the organization; that in your view this should not be allowed to obscure the military importance this country attaches to the alliance.

[Page 923]

As for voting procedures, you might say that it is your considered view that Thailand’s security would not be increased by a change in the present unanimity rule; that there would be no question as to unanimity in the event of an overt armed communist attack against Thailand. With respect to other types of aggression, we are now giving South Vietnam full support, and that if the need arises, we would not do less for Thailand.

With regard to a bilateral Thai-U.S. Defense Treaty, Thailand already has in the SEATO language virtually every guarantee that could be included in a bilateral treaty. Moreover, we already have informed Thailand that we would not be bound by any SEATO member in acting to meet aggression against Thailand.

There is one new idea that you may wish to explore with Khoman: We know there is a threat of communist subversion in northeast Thailand and that SEATO has agreed in principle to establish a new Counter-Subversion Office. The U.S. is prepared to support this move, but we would like to explore with Thailand whether the best way to do it is through SEATO, bilaterally or otherwise. What are Khoman’s views?

As for Thailand’s neighbors—Laos and South Vietnam—I doubt that Khoman will raise any problems not fully familiar to you. Thailand and Cambodia broke relations in October 1961 because of invidious press comments by both Sarit and Sihanouk, and there is little hope that their relations will soon be resumed. You might ask Khoman how he views the recent change of government in Burma.

McGeorge Bundy4
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Thailand, Vol. III, 3/1/62–3/8/62. Secret.
  2. Regarding Thanat’s first session with Rusk, see Document 433. The second session took place at the Department of State on March 5, from 3 to 4:18 p.m. Rusk and Thanat agreed on release of their joint statement, discussed strategies on the upcoming SEATO Council meeting, and exchanged views on Laos. On the last topic, Rusk stated that the United States was not giving up its interests in Laos. Thanat outlined where Thailand disagreed with U.S. policy, but stated that Thailand would support U.S. policy. (Department of State, Central Files, 792.13/3–562)
  3. Thanat and McNamara met on March 5 and discussed the situation in Vietnam, U.S. military assistance to Thailand, the threat to northeast Thailand, and the importance of good intelligence. (Ibid., FE/SEA/Thailand Files: Lot 66 D 298, 19.3a, Thanat’s visit (March 1–5)) Regarding Harriman’s discussion with Thanat on March 2, see footnote 1, Document 433. Harriman also met with Thanat on March 3 and stated that the President was not going to allow Phoumi, who alone was blocking formation of a government, to dictate U.S. policy and force the United States into intervention in Laos. (Telegram 1331 to Bangkok, March 6; Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/3–662) Thanat met with the Administrator of AID, Fowler Hamilton, on March 5, and they discussed Thai irrigation projects. (Ibid., FE/SEA/Thai Files: Lot 66 D 298, 19.3a, Thanat Visit (March 1–5)
  4. Not further identified.
  5. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.