148. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Indonesia1

400. Ref Embtel 868.2

Subject to comments on emphasis and discretion below, we are in basic agreement with policy guidelines set forth para 4 reftel.
Reports of October 6 Cabinet meeting just received via FBIS make it clear Sukarno is attempting to reestablish status quo ante by raising bogey of imperialist exploitation Indonesian differences and submerging Army’s vengeful hostility towards PKI in a closing of ranks to preserve national unity.3
As you have brought out, major question is whether Army can maintain momentum its offensive against PKI in face Sukarno’s practiced political manipulations.
Sukarno, Subandrio and PKI sympathizers in Cabinet will be alert to any evidence substantiating their charges that NEKOLIM will attempt to exploit situation. We believe it essential that we not give Sukarno and company opportunity claim that they about to be attacked by NEKOLIM and that we not give Subandrio and the PKI citable public evidence that USG supports Army against them.
Army clearly needs no material assistance from us at this point. Over past years inter-service relationships developed through training program, civic action program and MILTAG, as well as regular assurances to Nasution, should have established clearly in minds Army leaders that U.S. stands behind them if they should need help. Reur paras 4 b and c believe we should therefore exercise extreme caution in contacts with the Army lest our well-meaning efforts to offer assistance or steel their resolve may in fact play into hands of Sukarno and Subandrio. In particular, given Nasution’s apparent present emotional state and precariousness his position do not believe it wise for you to attempt direct contact with him unless he seeks it, but know you have reliable indirect access to him through politically conscious senior officers who routinely in contact with Mission.
We plan and are already carrying out VOA and information program based on citation Indonesian sources and official statements without at this stage injecting U.S. editorializing. At least in present situation we believe ample such material pointing finger at PKI and playing up brutality of September 30 rebels is available from Radio Djakarta and Indo press, but we will look at situation again if in coming days or weeks these sources dry up. Similar coverage will be given by VOA to Indo situation in key broadcasts other than to Indonesia.
Reur para 4 d, agree that precipitate evacuation undesirable, but it is essential that you start moving out dependents and non-essential [Page 310] staff as commercial space becomes available on any carrier to any point. Septel this subject follows.
Will look forward to further Embassy recommendations as to how we should proceed.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 INDON. Secret; Immediate. Drafted by Underhill and Cuthell; cleared by James B. Freeman, Special Assistant in P, Richard L. Sneider, Public Affairs Adviser in FE, and in substance by Daniel E. Moore, Deputy Director, Office of Assistant Director (Far East), USIA; and approved by Ball and William Bundy. Repeated to Canberra, Karachi, Kuala Lumpur, London, Manila, New Delhi, Paris for TOPOL, Tokyo, Wellington, Singapore, and CINCPAC for POLAD.
  2. Document 147.
  3. At 9:19 a.m. on October 5, Rusk and Ball talked on the telephone. Rusk asked about Indonesia. Ball answered that “the army is not moving and this is a matter of concern because Sukarno got away with his press conference and cabinet meeting. It looks as though they are losing a lot of critical time there because PKI disavowed September 30 movement and are moving toward position of respectability.” (Johnson Library, Ball Papers, Telephone Conversations, Indonesia, [4/12/64–11/10/64])