17. Telegram From the Embassy in Japan to the Department of State 1

2109. President Sukarno agreed to stop military confrontation on Kalimanitan border as preparatory step to holding tripartite meeting of representatives Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines. This followed hour and a half exchange of views in which Attorney General Kennedy pointed out serious dangers involved in escalation military confrontation and US concern that peaceful settlement be reached in this dispute.

Attorney General informed Sukarno he would discuss arrangements for tripartite meeting with Tunku when he visited Kuala Lumpur next week. He told Sukarno it was unreasonable to expect Malaysians to come to a meeting to settle this dispute so long as military confrontation continued. He agreed to notify Sukarno through Amb Jones on Wednesday, January 22, following his discussions with Tunku of Tunku’s views.

For his part Sukarno said he would return to Djakarta on Monday2 and at meeting of motion Tuesday would initiate preparations to call off military confrontation. If reply from Tunku favorable, Sukarno would issue public statement on Thursday. General Jani, who was present, said so far as regular Indonesian military was concerned this could be done in matter of hours. But he explained communication with guerrilla units inside Kalamantan was more difficult and might take as long as a week. Attorney General emphasized importance of starting immediately in order to avoid possible incidents and to help him convince Tunku Indos were sincere. Sukarno pointed out that British would of course also have to agree to cessation of hostilities. Attorney General concurred but emphasized that Indos were responsible for [garble—situation].

In his discussion of mutual withdrawal of troops from border, President Sukarno proposed inspection by representatives neutral nation. Attorney General pointed out that actual cessation of hostilities was more important than a supervised withdrawal. Furthermore, word of both leaders was good enough and this was matter which did not require unnecessary complication by formal procedures. Understanding was reached that ministerial level talks would precede summit meeting.

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Statement by Sukarno would be to effect that under Manila Agreement three nations were expected to meet in consultation and in order to facilitate such meeting Indonesia would suspend military activities in Kalimantan.

Meeting was held in cordial atmosphere.3 Discussions will continue tomorrow at 1100.4

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 32–1 INDON–MALAYSIA. Secret; Flash. Repeated immediate to Canberra, London, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Singapore, Djakarta, Hong Kong, and Bangkok. Passed to the White House.
  2. January 20.
  3. In a telegram received over non-Department of State communication channels, Forrestal, who accompanied Robert Kennedy, reported to Bundy that the meeting with Sukarno “went off surprisingly well” and was accurately reported in this telegram. Forrestal suggested that although there were no guarantees, Sukarno seemed anxious to satisfy the United States and perhaps extricate himself from danger of escalation into a serious war. Forrestal feared Robert Kennedy would have a more difficult time in dealing with officials in Kuala Lumpur and London. (Telegram from Tokyo, January 17; Johnson Library, National Security File, International Meetings and Travel, Attorney General’s Trip [1/64])
  4. In telegram 1845 to Tokyo, January 17, the Department noted that the report of the first Robert Kennedy-Sukarno meeting was “most encouraging,” but suggested that it was important to get” Sukarno as firmly tied down as possible on how he will call off military activity.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 32–1 INDON–MALAYSIA)