133. Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Barber) to the Assistant Secretary of Defense (McNaughton)1



  • Indonesian Claims on Nuclear Capability

On 24 July Sukarno stated that Indonesia would build its own atomic bomb in the near future. He added it would not be used for aggressive purposes. Last November General Hartono, Director of the Army Arsenal said Indonesia planned to explode a bomb in 1969. The same officer declared on 2 February 1965, that 200 scientists were working to produce bomb and promised a “surprise” at the Armed Forces Day celebration in October 1965. A third statement by Hartono made 27 July stated that there is a good possibility that Indonesia will test an atomic bomb following the Afro-Asian conference in Algiers this coming November.

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Indonesia does not have the capability to produce an atomic bomb without outside assistance. Therefore, Sukarno’s behavior may be explained by the following:

Just propaganda.
Forthcoming test of a Chinese bomb on Indonesian soil with Chinese cooperation.
Forthcoming test of a Chinese bomb with “Indonesian ‘participation’” and attendant publicity.
Sukarno may denounce the test ban and withdraw from it.

If 1. above is the case and Sukarno is making a strictly propaganda pitch (our Embassy in Djakarta suspects this), then no comment on the part of the United States is required.

Regarding 2., a test in Indonesia, our Embassy remains doubtful that a detonation will take place. Yet the Embassy allows that if the detonation is to be made almost purely for political purposes and if auxiliary scientific expertise needed to collect technical research data is held to a minimum or dispensed with entirely, it is conceivable that a ChiCom-Indonesian collaboration could successfully meet the deadline. Reporting for the ChiCom side, our Consul General in Hong Kong believes the ChiComs would recoil in horror from conducting a test in Indonesia, mainly on security grounds. AmConGen Hong Kong notes that the ChiCom hypersensitivity on maintaining security with respect to conventional military developments is notorious and without question would be even greater with respect to nuclear weapons. AmConGen Hong Kong doubts that the ChiComs would expect that their role could be kept secret. If it became known this would defeat Sukarno’s presumed purpose, i.e. that it was solely an Indonesian nuclear breakthrough.

We can not doubt that Sukarno would like to detonate a bomb in Indonesia. He would believe that it would enhance his prestige among the Afro-Asians and it would, quite frankly, shock the British and their Malaysian allies, along with Australia. It would add tremendous drive to Indonesia’s plan to set up the Conference of Newly Emerging Forces (CONEFO) as a rival and eventual successor to the UN. The problem is not whether Indonesia would detonate a bomb if they could but whether the ChiComs will help them. We don’t think they will. Nevertheless we have requested DIA to intensify their efforts in watching for indications of a preparation of an Indonesian testing site and association of Indonesians with the ChiCom test program.

If it is indicated that the ChiComs and Indonesians are preparing for a detonation then we should

Coordinate early with the British on intelligence.
Prepare a pre-emptive statement which would take much of the wind out of the Indonesian sails.

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Regarding 3., a test of a ChiCom bomb in China, with “Indonesian participation,”—we give this a better chance of being carried out than we do a detonation in Indonesia but we are doubtful it will be done. Besides the problem of security, there is the question of whether or not Peiping really wants another Asian state to claim the status of being a nuclear power. AmConGen Hong Kong believes that Peiping is trying to reduce Asian, and especially Japanese, criticism of its nuclear program and wonders if ChiCom nationalistic and chauvinistic pride might not cause them to take a dim view of an additional Asian country attempts to climb on the nuclear bandwagon. We don’t think Peiping wants Indonesia alongside—at least for the present. However, we have asked DIA carefully watch for any Indonesian participation in the ChiCom test program.

If there is an indication of this, we should prepare a pre-emptive statement which would denounce the Indo-ChiCom collaborative effort.

The final case is that Sukarno may denounce the test ban treaty and withdraw from it. There is a good chance that this might happen. State believes that recent Indonesian pronouncements regarding atomic bombs point toward the possibility that Sukarno might regard a denunciation of the test ban treaty as valid and dramatic material for use in his 17 August Independence Day speech. State particularly notes Foreign Minister Subandrio’s recent statement to the effect that the only real way of removing the threat of nuclear war is for all nations to have their own stocks of nuclear weapons. We recommend:

Watch Sukarno’s 17 August speech. In addition to possibility of a test ban denunciation, it may indicate more about a future detonation.
Prepare a contingent statement in case Indonesia withdraws from the TBT.2

Arthur W. Barber3
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: 70 A 3717, 400.73 Indonesia. Secret. Prepared by Commander Gorman of the Arms and Trade Control Division.
  2. In an August 19 memorandum to Barber, (I–25438) Acting Director of the Far East Division of ISA William C. Hamilton, wrote “there is enough of a possibility that Indonesians may acquire an atomic device and explode it for psychological reasons to warrant an investigation by the intelligence community and to prepare a public position.” Hamilton suggested consulting the Department of State. (Ibid.) On September 22 Barber wrote Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Joseph J. Sisco a letter stating that “there was a very real possibility that an atomic bomb will be set off in Indonesia in October, with Chinese assistance.” Barber hoped that the United Nations could pass a strongly worded resolution condemning any such test. (Ibid.)
  3. Printed from a copy that indicates Barber signed the original.