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

486. 1. Sukarno was friendly and relaxed throughout my forty-five minute call at his office Aug. 31. Most of our conversation was small talk and story telling, but was not without its serious moments and verbal fencing. I doubt that anything was accomplished beyond establishing some rapport with the man who controls the destiny of this country. At no point did he raise old favorites like Malaysia, Vietnam, Congo, etc. He was on his good behavior. No others present.

2. Sukarno inquired whether I really understood nationalism in Asia and sentiments of Asian people. I assured him I did, that nationalism is a force we respect in developing national consciousness and unity, that we fully support Indonesia’s territorial integrity and welcome its economic advancements and self-reliance, that I nevertheless recognize that I have much to study and learn about Indonesia just as any Indonesian would wish to study and learn more about the United States. For this reason I felt strongly about the need for close dialogue, student exchanges, free circulation of information about each other’s countries, etc.

3. Sukarno then spoke of basic principles behind Indonesia’s revolutions and reminded me of Sun Yat-sen’s dictum to effect that it is easy to speak and to act in regard to another nation but it is most difficult to understand it. Sukarno then inquired whether we really understood the forces of revolution and change in this part of the world. I said I thought we did although, here again, America and Indonesia still had much to learn about each other. We too are a country in revolution—not just technically and scientifically, but politically as well, as witness way Pres Johnson facing boldly up to problem of promoting complete racial equality and improvement of lot of negroes.

4. In expressing hope that ways could be found for improving Indo-US relations, I mentioned that a major obstacle was Indonesian actions against American properties and our concern over safety of our people (I alluded to missionaries in this regard). Sukarno replied that popular feeling against the United States, including demonstrations, was bound to continue as long as American newspapers and magazines printed defamatory articles about Indonesia and its leaders. This led to discussion along lines so familiar to my predecessor. I [Page 294]pointed out that Indo actions as well as statements against US engendered a lot of anger back home. At same time I recalled no instance where our President or anyone in high authority had shown anything but restraint and understanding in their statements about Indonesia. Sukarno seemed to brush this aside. He displayed genuine concern about critical articles regarding him and Indonesia appearing in American publications, specifically mentioning Time, Life, Newsweek (probably because they have wide circulation in Afro-Asian countries), and he asked me several times whether something could be done to halt these injurious representations of Indonesia to the world. He cited Time article about Queen of Cambodia as prime example of bad American journalism. I replied that this article was mild compared to what Prince Sihanouk had said over Khmer radio about President Kennedy shortly after his death. I quoted those infamous words. Sukarno was visibly shocked but he merely said with feeling: Kennedy was a great man.

5. Conversation was interlarded with many stories and lighter touches. In conclusion, I expressed hope we could keep in close touch and that I knew he preferred informality which I did too. As we walked to door, Sukarno and I agreed that we would only tell the press that this was a courtesy call in course of which we had a general discussion. This he relayed in both Indonesian and English to the considerable group of newsmen and photographers outside. (Morning Indonesian press quotes Sukarno along these lines.) Sukarno escorted me to car and cordially waved goodbye in full view of those present. I smiled too, but vaguely wondered when the next low blow would come.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 15–1 INDON. Confidential; Priority. Repeated to CINCPAC.