111. Telegram From the Embassy in Indonesia to the Department of State 1

1658. Pass USIA for Rowan, Bunce.2 Ref: Deptels 727,3 731;4 Embtel 1643.5 Serious talk with Sukarno alone this morning (Subandrio had departed for Medan) resulted in repeated promises and protestations that he would “do his best” to improve operating conditions for Embassy here as well as bilateral US-Indonesia relations. His statements were accompanied by vigorous complaints re treatment he was receiving [Page 238]at hands US press and accusations of CIA participation in conspiracy against himself. In response my complaint that his previous orders to permit our access to USIS Libraries had not been carried out, he summoned his aide and gave specific instructions to local authorities to this effect. Following meeting I issued press statement reported TOUSI 195.6

Meeting was unique in that there was no banter, hardly opportunity for usual exchange of courtesies. Promptly at 0730 President excused himself from group of courtiers and we got down to business at once. I reviewed situation as it existed two weeks ago at time of my departure for Manila, reminded President of promises he had made at that time, deplored deterioration in Emb operating conditions and overall US-Indo relationships since then and made points in Deptel 727 as modified by subsequent exchanges with Dept. I put up forcibly the proposition as to whether GOI was going to let mob action destroy possibility of satisfactory bilateral relations. I said I knew Sukarno could control situation if he made the effort although some of my people were now beginning to challenge this. I told Sukarno that we took very serious view of situation, that my government, including President Johnson, views inexcusable attacks on USG property with gravest concern and fears they will completely destroy useful relations between us unless steps are taken not only to halt them but to restore normal operating conditions. In making points 1, 2 and 5 in Deptel 727, in order impress him with fact we had about reached point of no return, I drew reftel from my pocket and read him actual text of portions of it. I then went on to suggest that we had reached stage where some basic decisions were required. We could no longer continue on present basis. We recognized that we were guests in Indonesia. Despite fact that USIS Libraries were established with a view to improving relations and creating better understanding between our two countries, we appeared to have reached point at which these installations had become local point of contact [conflict?]. If they were in fact not helping relations but rather reverse, perhaps we should consider closing them down. It obviously made no sense to continue effort which, aimed at creating understanding, was being exploited by hostile elements uncontrolled by GOI to exacerbate relations between us.

I suggested that we both consider this possible course of action from point of view of what was best for US-Indo bilateral relations and if it seemed closing USIS installations was the answer, then decision should be reached on basis mutual understanding and implementation carried out in cooperative manner calculated to do least harm to our relations.

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President responded by nodding his head thoughtfully, indicating he wished to think matter over carefully. He said he would talk to me again about it in near future. I told him that conditions were currently intolerable and that I felt basic decision had to be reached in very near future as to whether libraries were to be closed and our books sent home or whether libraries were to be reopened. I reminded him that we had earlier discussed possibility of reopening Jogjakarta Library as gesture toward improved relations. I asked him to set a date for further discussion of this matter.

I then went on to summarize other harassments to which we had recently been subject, including specific mention of difficulties in utilization ALUSNA aircraft, harassment at airport in connection with receipt and delivery of APO mail, threatening circular letters addressed to American and Indonesian employees of Embassy and other unpleasantnesses. Under current circumstances, US Embassy was being harassed and discriminated against in violation of all international customs and usage to point where we could not conduct our normal business. I also mentioned Subandrio’s trip to Medan and said that I had been informed that this trip represented first step in takeover rubber estates.

Sukarno vehemently denied this, said shoe was on other foot, that Subandrio was proceeding to Medan accompanied by Sudibjo of National Front, in effort to guard and protect American properties. As to other harassments, Sukarno said that he would do everything he could. As first step, he summoned his aide as reported above, and gave him specific instructions to notify local authorities in Jogjakarta, Surabaya and Djakarta that we should have access to USIS Libraries. At same time Sukarno said American Government was making it very difficult for him in his relationships with his own people because of our policies in Asia. I responded that America and Indonesia would be neighbors in the Pacific for centuries to come and that regardless of differences of views on such current issues as Vietnam, Malaysia, the Congo, etc. it seemed self-evident that it was in interest of both countries to maintain friendly bilateral relations and that these relations should not be impaired by mob action condoned by governmental authorities.

Sukarno admitted that he regarded action against USIS as retaliatory for US press attacks against him and Indonesia. He mentioned several examples to which he objected including recent Newsweek cover story. He said we always hid behind our freedom of the press but that unfriendly attacks on head of state by American journalists had same effect in Indonesia as demonstrations against USIS installations had in US. I pointed out obvious difference between two—Sukarno had the power to control press and mobs in Indonesia whereas our government [Page 240]did not have the power to control our press which was reacting to unjustified attacks on American property. “Can’t your people understand that I am hurt, personally hurt, by these press attacks?” Sukarno asked. I reminded him that some of the greatest idols in American history including Presidents Lincoln, Roosevelt and Kennedy had been maligned by American press. He was no exception.

I drew conversation back to practical situation which called for immediate remedy. I suggested that Sukarno make public statement clarifying GOI responsibility under international law for protection of foreign persons and property and reminding his people that disagreements between nations did not warrant such hostile actions as we were currently experiencing. I concluded by repeating that this situation could not be allowed to drift any longer and that I felt we should shortly reach discussion as to future of American presence in Indonesia. I urged him to consider seriously how USIS problem should be handled and requested further appointment to follow up our discussions today later this week. Sukarno agreed and set up appointment for [garble—meeting?] Feb 26.

Without committing himself specifically, he again promised to do everything he could to improve situation but asked me to appeal to USG to move carefully in Asia and to do anything we could do to improve unfair and distorted press treatment of Indonesia and himself.

Sukarno comments on CIA subject in separate telegram.7

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL INDON–US. Confidential; Priority. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD and passed to the White House, Defense Department, and CIA.
  2. William K. Bunce, Deputy Director, Far East, USIA.
  3. Document 108.
  4. See footnote 3, Document 109.
  5. Document 109.
  6. Not found.
  7. In telegram 1662 from Indonesia, February 24, Jones reported that in his discussion with Sukarno, “I categorically denied that CIA was involved in any operations against him. I told him [1 line of source text not declassified]” that “his suspicions that CIA was working to topple him were absolutely unfounded.” According to Jones, Sukarno was unconvinced, referring to the “invisible government.” Sukarno stated that Jones was not a party to nor aware of these clandestine operations. When Jones asked Sukarno to show him documentary evidence, Sukarno retorted it was no use because anything Sukarno showed him Jones would claim was “no good.” Jones concluded, “We left it at that.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL INDON–US)