107. Letter From Michael V. Forrestal of the National Security Council Staff to the Ambassador to Indonesia (Jones)1

Dear Howard,

I hope that by the time this reaches Djakarta, both you and Mary Lou will have returned.

First I want to tell you how deeply I appreciated your hospitality and your help during my visit. Second, I want to tell you how much I missed you during the last few days—especially at Boger. You will have seen the cable reporting my talk with the Bung.2 Frank [Galbraith] will have filled you in on the peculiar circumstances. I have never had such a talk with the President before. We were both exhausted and we were alone virtually in the dark in that vast hall of the Palace. We conversed for about an hour.

The Bung was gloomy but restrained and very frank. Although I left depressed, I have since come to think that I caught a glimpse of the depth of this man’s understandable frustrations. In particular, I am convinced that he would like to find a way out of his impasse with K.[uala] L.[umpur]. His difficulty is how to do it.

I don’t know what we can do at this juncture to help him. I rather think it is something he will have to work out for himself.

I do have hope, however. My few talks in K.L. have convinced me that we are moving into a period where the circumstances on both sides will favor some form of negotiation. The Tunku is more confident, and therefore more reasonable by far, than he was last year. To some extent he finds confrontation politically useful; but he is also aware that it increases his political dependence upon the British which is beginning to irk him—particularly in his relations with Singapore.

In Indonesia I felt that almost every leader—except Aidit—really wanted a detente.3 I can’t estimate the mood of the population; but I [Page 227]would suspect that the mass of them do not particularly care one way or the other. In brief, I think Nasution was wrong when he said that the political climate in both K.L. and Djakarta did not favor talks. I would hope that the current feelers would lead to a Tokyo meeting which would in turn lead to the appointment of a commission. This commission could talk and supervise direct talks for a very long time—during which both sides might reduce their activities along the border.

Incidentally, there was a possibly important item which I failed to report from K.L. Ghazali made quite a point about getting Subandrio to say publicly that there were no longer any guerrillas to be withdrawn from North Kalimantan. I admitted that the Indos had said this privately (Sukarno told me this himself); but he insisted that a public statement would go a long way to setting the stage for talks.

His reasoning apparently is that such a statement would remove the gun from the head of the Malaysians since it would in fact be a relinquishment of the Indonesian claim that there was a successful rebel movement in the two territories. Ghazali is so mercurial that I do not know whether to take him seriously; but if it were possible to get Subandrio or Jani to say that the question of withdrawal of guerrillas was no longer an issue, you might get a good response from K.L.

On the question of U.S.-Indo relations I am not optimistic—at least in the short term. One of the prices we have to pay for our actions in Viet-Nam is a certain amount of flak in Djakarta. These actions, I am convinced, have had a very salutary effect on confrontation in both K.L. and Indonesia. But there is inevitably some adverse side-effect.

Since, by the nature of things, we shall probably have to continue our pressures in Vietnam, I think we will have to face a period of tension while Sukarno tries to adjust to the situation. In a way it’s a shame we didn’t start sooner—i.e., before Sukarno got caught in his drift toward Hanoi and Peking.

Therefore, I am inclined to believe that we should reduce our presence temporarily. I realize that the P.K.I. will always find targets; but I don’t think we should give them unnecessary levers on our own public opinion. Thus, I would get the AID mission down to a minimum and pull out our libraries.

On the other hand, I do think that we should let the Army have the Java portion of the telecommunications equipment we promised them. Not only would this tend to keep our lines clear to them; it would probably also help them in the event there were trouble with the P.K.I. on Java.

Generally speaking, I would try to make our reduction as quiet and normal-appearing as possible—I would also try to maintain as much flexibility in coming back in again when conditions improve—hopefully after a solution or abatement of the confrontation problem.

[Page 228]

Well, many thanks again for all your kindness. My affectionate regards to Mary Lou—and to Frank and Martha.

Best of luck to you.



P.S. I am sending copies of this to Mac and Bill Bundy just to let them know I am not sound asleep out here.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Indonesia, Vol. III, Memos, 9/64–2/65, [2 of 2]. Secret; Official-Informal. Copies were sent to William and McGeorge Bundy.
  2. Not found.
  3. In an official-informal letter, February 25, Jones told Forrestal that he agreed that most Indonesian leaders wanted a resolution of the Malaysian problem, but internal pressures from the PKI would make it difficult for Sukarno to follow through on his desire for detente. He also agreed that the U.S. Government should have made an effort to restart the negotiations before the pressures from the internal situation and the appeal of Hanoi and Beijing became so strong. Jones noted that the Embassy tried hard to initiate early action. As for telecommunications equipment for the Indonesian Army, Jones wanted to keep the U.S. commitment, but he feared that time was running out. (Washington National Records Center, RG 84, Djakarta Embassy Files: FRC 69 A 6507, Defense 19–B)