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

3294. Ref: Embtel 3261 (Notal).2

My scheduled hour meeting with General Suharto May 26 ran 20 minutes overtime, with General Suharto taking lead on each of rubrics mentioned reftel. Though Suharto understands English fairly well if spoken clearly and slowly (which I did) he insists on use of interpreter which almost halved amount of ground we could cover.
US-Indo Relations. Suharto, who seemed buoyant and confident, spoke of success in crushing Communists and other gestapo elements but there is still a job to be done. Many Communist cadre still at large. His government determined stamp out communism, establish law and order, and give full expression to Pantjasila which Suharto mentioned several times as being the key philosophy and uniting factor amongst Indonesians. Main danger government faced was economic. One only had to travel through central and east Java, he continued, to see grinding poverty of that area (in some places people growing rice in earthen pots to scrounge a few extra liters of rice per year). Unless something could be done to alleviate suffering of people, door would be open for resurgence of communism. At this point Suharto outlined his scheme for relieving Java population pressures and increasing Indonesian export earnings by transporting people from Java to Borneo to cultivate rice and develop forest industries, a project which General Tasmin had already described to DefAtt, and which we have reported. Like Tasmin, Suharto made pitch for US support for this project even going so far as to add his hope that we could furnish some LST’s since building port facilities too time-consuming and costly.
I replied there were a number of things we would both have to consider in connection with this proposal. First there was the problem of resuming a US aid program in Indonesia: so far his government had not asked us for any aid and if it did, our administration would have to go to Congress to request funds for program for Indonesia. It would, of course, be in both our interests that such request be against background of improving relationships and improved handling of Indo economic problems. Secondly, we would both have to consider kinds [Page 432]of assistance most useful to Indonesia. I was most sympathetic to Java’s poverty problem. We had supported at one time, until Sukarno told us to go to hell, a successful food for work project. In my personal estimation, such project might have a high priority in meeting the problem he mentioned. As far as Kalimantan’s development concerned, he might also wish to keep in mind advantages of assistance from foreign private capital in opening forest and other industries. Support might well come in larger amounts and more quickly from foreign private rather than foreign government sources.
Suharto replied that opportunities for expanded agricultural production in central and east Java were very limited. I questioned this but acknowledged there was also need for development of Kalimantan and other outer islands. We agreed these were all things we should talk about more.
Containment of China through SEA Cooperation. Discussion of this topic revolved almost entirely around confrontation issue, with Suharto attempting to defend Indonesian policy along conventional GOI lines of argumentation but ended with a firm statement of Indonesia’s intention now to bring confrontation to close. He expressed hope that Bangkok talks would provide satisfactory solution based on Manila Agreement, but that this would require give and take on both sides. Sole reason Suharto advanced for GOI desiring end of confrontation was in order pave way for closer association with neighboring countries against menace of Communist China. However, he argued this point with real conviction.
I said we welcomed ending of confrontation for reasons he cited as well as others. As far as Peking concerned, it had ever since late summer 1963 greatly welcomed Indonesian confrontation policy which served to divide and weaken areas over which Peking sought to extend domination. I referred to intelligence reports about how Chen Yi, on visit to Indonesia in Aug. 1965, had pressed for continuation of confrontation and non-recognition of Singapore and Malaysia. Peking seemed genuinely concerned at that time that Indonesia might be tiring of confrontation policy, and in any event Peking wanted to isolate Singapore from Malaysia and Indonesia in order to weaken its economy and promote rise of the Barisan socialists. I said Suharto had earned much respect around the world for the way he is seeking good relations with all Indonesia’s neighbors in this area. This would serve Indonesia’s best political, economic, and strategic interests. I trusted nothing would be allowed to happen to interfere with accomplishment of settling matter so much in Indonesia’s interests and so contrary to objectives of Peking.
Ways and Means of Ending Vietnam War. Suharto spoke very briefly on this subject, emphasizing GOI’s desire to see end of war in [Page 433]Vietnam. He pointed out that Indonesian mission to Hanoi last year had returned with impression that Hanoi had divided feelings as between Peking-oriented communism and Vietnam nationalism. Suharto asked what I thought the chances were of a peaceful solution.
I described Peking as seeking to keep war going in order to undermine economic and political order so as to pave way to extending Chinese hegemony over that area. Peking also seeking to bring about humiliating defeat of US and force withdrawal of American power from Southeast Asia thus leaving area exposed to Peking dominance. I didn’t think USSR would be helpful in bringing about peace. Even though it might well desire to see hostilities ended, it feared being labeled by ChiComs as soft and revisionist which evidently Moscow feels would weaken its position with certain Communist parties. Key to peace lay with Hanoi, and it was our policy to make peace attractive to Hanoi while at the same time aggression prohibitively costly. We are using minimum of force to this end but we will not be deterred from using such force as is necessary to uphold our commitments and help protect South Vietnam and, indeed, many other countries from Communist aggression from North. I also gave brief account of current events in South Vietnam drawing on gridiron report and other materials.
Suharto reiterated his government’s hope that peace could come to Vietnam and to all of Southeast Asia. I said I hoped his government could make this point with Hanoi, since it is up to Hanoi to respond to the many overtures from our side supported by countries all around the world.
Suharto once again said that he hoped negotiations for ending confrontation would work out satisfactorily so as to pave way for closer unity with its neighbors including Thailand and Laos. I said I hoped we could keep in touch on these matters. I would be glad to furnish him with information or briefing materials and we would be most interested to have his views at any time.
Comments: Significantly, Suharto emphasized Pantjasila rather than Sukarno as Indonesia’s unifying force and he did not refer to Sukarno once either directly or indirectly. I was disappointed he devoted so much time and emphasis to his Kalimantan project. He must know my views on this since Malik had already taken it up with me. However, it is a project dear to Suharto’s heart, and, since Suharto is key figure in Indonesia, we will have to give considerable thought to anticipated future pressures for assistance in this project.
It was a useful overall exchange, most heartening for Suharto’s clear awareness of Peking’s threat to SEA. He referred throughout to China as “the enemy.” This does not mean Indonesian willingness to abandon non-alignment but it does imply broader Indonesian association [Page 434]with countries that can be of assistance to Indonesia strategically as well as economically.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL INDON–US. Secret. Repeated to Bangkok, Canberra, CINCPAC for POLAD, Kuala Lumpur, London, Manila, Saigon, Singapore, and DOD.
  2. In telegram 3261 from Djakarta, May 23, Green reported he had an appointment with Suharto and listed the topics for discussion. (Ibid.)