252. Memorandum Prepared by the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Read)1
VISIT OF PRIME MINISTER WILSON
December 15-19, 1965
The following is a list of the meetings in which Prime Minister Wilson participated during his visit to Washington:
December 16—5:15-7:00 p.m. President and Prime Minister alone for approximately an hour and thereafter with officials.
December 17—Under Secretary Ball, Secretary McNamara and McGeorge Bundy met with the Prime Minister at the British Embassy.
December 17—1:00-3:30 p.m. Lunch at White House with conversation continuing thereafter. President and Prime Minister spoke privately before lunch.
The notes are based on the comments of Ambassador Bruce and Assistant Secretary Leddy who attended some but not all of the meetings listed. Ambassador Bruce was present at the White House on December 16 and also attended the lunch on December 17. He was not present at the meeting at the British Embassy the morning of December 16 which was largely concerned with the British defense review. Assistant Secretary Leddy attended only the lunch on December 17 and the discussion which followed.
This subject was discussed on both days with the Prime Minister expressing his appreciation for US backing, particularly on the oil sanctions and the airlift for Zambia.2 (In his press briefing on December 17, the Prime Minister said in response to a question that United States planes would be used in the airlift.) The Prime Minister took an optimistic view of the prospects of bringing down the Smith regime in a short time through economic action. While the Prime Minister did not give a specific time estimate, Oliver Wright subsequently told Ambassador Bruce that the British Government hoped to achieve this result in a matter of weeks.[Page 511]
British Defense Review
At the White House meetings attended by officials the Prime Minister did not go into details on the defense review but said he understood the importance we attach to a continuation of British defense commitments and gave assurances that the British world-wide role would be maintained. He said that there would be readjustments in the British defense posture East of Suez but that they would maintain their presence. In the long run, Singapore might become very tricky and the UK had no real assurance that it could be used in case of need. As a consequence the British Government had been considering the possibility of an alternative base in Northern Australia. The Australians, he said, had shown interest in this possibility. He expressed interest in the possibility of defense talks with Australia and New Zealand and, by implication, with the US on the defense problems of the area. The Prime Minister indicated that he was thinking, in connection with a base in Australia, of the post 1970 period. With respect to Aden, the Prime Minister said that this could not be regarded as a long-term base. In the Persian Gulf there continues to be a need to afford some protection to Iran and Kuwait. The Prime Minister thought Bahrein would have some use in this connection but that generally it should be possible to lighten the British presence in the Gulf.
Ambassador Bruce noted that the Prime Minister was careful in phrasing his remarks on the defense review to indicate a desire to have our comments while avoiding any commitment that British decisions would conform to our views. In the meeting at the British Embassy on the morning of December 17, it was agreed that Foreign Secretary Stewart and Defense Minister Healey would visit Washington in January for more detailed talks with Secretary Rusk and Secretary McNamara.
This subject was apparently discussed privately by the President and the Prime Minister. In the subsequent discussion with officials on December 16, the Prime Minister said that the UK preferred a consultative arrangement to a “hardware” solution but that if necessary it was prepared to support its 1964 proposal for an ANF. The Prime Minister indicated that he and the President would have further contact on the nuclear problem in the Alliance as the situation developed and after the President had discussed the matter with Chancellor Erhard.
In replying to press queries the Prime Minister took a strong line in support of US efforts to pursue peace in Vietnam and said that his Government was quite satisfied with the willingness repeatedly expressed by the United States to go to the conference table. He cited the [Page 512] efforts made by his Government to bring about negotiations and said these efforts would continue with the full support of the President. These press responses were along the lines earlier indicated by the Prime Minister in talks with the President and US officials. The discussions reflected continued understanding and support for the US position in Southeast Asia and appreciation on our part that notwithstanding domestic political pressures the Wilson Government has been constant in maintaining this attitude. The Prime Minister did, however, indicate that any bombing of Hanoi or Haiphong would create the most serious problems for him and his Government in determining what line they would be obliged to adopt.
As a result of the discussions with US officials the British agreed to give further consideration to increasing their contribution to the Asian Development Bank from $10 million to $30 million.
The foregoing appear to be the principal subjects covered in the discussions although other matters such as the India-Pakistan dispute were also touched on briefly.
- Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 7 UK. Secret. Bruce’s record of Prime Minister Wilson’s visit is in Department of State, Bruce Diaries: Lot 64 D 327. Bator’s notes on part of President Johnson’s December 16 meeting with Wilson are in the Johnson Library, Bator Papers, Europe. A portion of the Johnson-Wilson private meetings dealing with nuclear sharing is in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. XIII, Document 117.↩
- For text of the statement issued by the Department of State on December 17, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1965, pp. 693-694.↩