202. Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Berger) to Secretary of State Rusk1


  • Recent Developments in Indonesia

October 1 and Indonesia

1. Although there has been little tangible improvement in the state of our bilateral relations with Indonesia during recent months, recent developments there may eventually lead to significant long-range changes in Indonesia’s internal and external policies. There have been several major results of the abortive October 1 coup attempt including: 1) the decimation of the PKI as an organized political force; 2) a severe strain in Sino-Indonesian relations; and 3) the emergence of new forces that are articulating demands that run counter to President Sukarno’s fundamental philosophy and the way he has been governing.

Background to Recent Developments

2. During the five months that followed the September 30 attempt, President Sukarno and Foreign Minister Dr. Subandrio jockeyed with the military for political advantage. On February 21, Sukarno announced his decision to reshuffle his cabinet in order to cut the ground from under the military leaders who were offering the greatest threat to his power. Eliminated in the shuffle were several prominent non-communists, including Defense Minister Nasution, while all of Sukarno’s known leftist advisers were retained. This triggered a mass reaction. During the February 22–March 12 period, thousands of students demonstrated almost continuously in the streets of Djakarta demanding the banning of the PKI; ouster of Subandrio; and reduction of prices. During the past week they occupied and ransacked the Indonesian Foreign Ministry, forced the Education Ministry to close its doors, and violently attacked the offices of the New China News Agency, Chicom Consulate General and the Chicom Trade Mission in Djakarta, injuring several Chinese in the process.

3. In weak counterpoint to these large demonstrations were two raids staged on February 23 and March 8 against the U.S. Embassy by small but well-organized groups of leftists. No one was injured, nor was the Embassy building penetrated by the attackers.

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The March 12 Affair

4. In a supreme effort to blunt the impact of the student demonstrations Sukarno scheduled a series of three meetings over the weekend of March 12 that were intended to divide and eventually conquer his opposition. The military, however, reportedly concerned by reports that Sukarno planned to replace Suharto with a leftist general responded by handing Sukarno an ultimatum. In response to the ultimatum, Sukarno transferred responsibility for maintaining security to the Army. Since that time Suharto has been issuing decrees “on behalf of” Sukarno. A cabinet reorganization is in progress and early indications are that Subandrio and other leftists will be out.

The Future2

5. While the final resolution of the ongoing power struggle is not yet certain, it would appear that the military has for the moment regained the initiative. Their eventual success or failure depends largely on their ability to: 1) retain their present momentum; and 2) maintain internal unity within their own ranks. We will, of course, be watching the development of the situation to see how we can adjust our relations with a hopefully more moderate Indonesian government. We will also be examining the advisability of some form of economic aid, at an appropriate time.

6. The final question mark is Indonesia’s newest political power group—the students. Although they will side for the moment with the military, they may in the long run prove to be Indonesia’s most significant “new emerging force.”

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 15 INDON. Secret. Drafted by Meyers and Conlon. Rusk initialed the memorandum.
  2. INR Director Hughes sent Rusk Intelligence Note no. 154, “The Situation in Indonesia,” March 14, which stated that the army, although prepared to restore security and revamp the government, was unlikely to assume the leading role in the government. Hughes also suggested that” Sukarno’s submission to army pressures is probably only a strategic retreat and he can be expected to attempt a comeback after a short time.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Indonesia, Vol. VI, 11/65–6/66)