18. Telegram From Michael V. Forrestal of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1

From Forrestal to McGeorge Bundy, John [Robert] Komer, Governor Harriman and Roger Hilsman.

President Sukarno and his Japanese wife gave breakfast for Bobby and Ethel [Kennedy] and their party this morning at Imperial Hotel. Sukarno and his associates extremely friendly even lighthearted. This was followed by business meeting results of which are reported State tel.2

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At this point it would seem that Bobby has accomplished one half his mission much more successfully than any of us thought possible. It is quite clear that this form of personal diplomacy is the key to doing business with Sukarno. We have known this in theory for some time, but it has to be seen to be really understood.

The other half of the job may be much more difficult and will require support from Washington. Although Bobby has briefed the British Ambassador in Tokyo fully both before and after meeting yesterday and has given general briefing to Malaysian and Australian envoys, it seems probable that three major pitfalls still remain.

Tunku may insist on agreement by Indos to recognize Malaysia before any meetings and British may support him in this.
This morning it was not entirely clear whether Sukarno would insist on announcing Tunku’s agreement to meet publicly at same time he announces stand-down of hostilities in Kalimantan.
Incidents may flare up on either side during Bobby’s swing.

Since Bobby is going to Djakarta after Kuala Lumpur, problems 1 and 2 can still be handled in the context of the current talks. But problem 3 cannot. Part of difficulty will be Indos lack of complete control over guerrillas inside Sarawak. Part will be natural British desire to mop up during cease fires. Our job will be to try to keep both from allowing unnecessary accidents to occur. In connection with all these problems we might keep in mind the British have at least two plus cards to play. The ships and spare parts in Hong Kong are one card. Another card is approval of Maphilindo. Sukarno said that British were unalterably opposed to and contemptuous of Maphilindo. It should not cost Brits very much to make statement in support of Maphilindo as an Asian concept at useful time. We should chivvy British into willingness to hold some gesture in reserve in case we need them to help break an Indo-Malaysian impasse. In the meantime they must refrain from making statements or taking actions which could set back progress made to date.

President should know that Bobby has done magnificent job not only with Indos but also in keeping British fully informed. One thing Department should consider before asking Bobby make too many stops en route London is need to get Brits on board quickly.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Robert W. Komer, Malaysia, Dec.–Mar., 1966. Secret; Flash. Not sent over Department of State communications channels.
  2. See Document 19.