24. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in India 1

1491. Attorney General Kennedy’s plane scheduled stop New Delhi for refueling en route London about 1820 hours GMT today. Important that following message be delivered him before departure New Delhi.

For Attorney General

Following is text message from Foreign Secretary Butler to Secretary Rusk, dated January 21 (unnecessary words omitted):

“I have been following with great attention reports from British Reps in area of Mr. Kennedy’s efforts secure suspension of Indonesian military confrontation against Malaysia. We most grateful to Mr. Kennedy for keeping us so fully informed. I am glad too that he seems be making such good progress towards getting Indonesians stop their attacks. Whatever ultimate outcome negotiations, suspension tragically unnecessary fighting along Borneo border must be a clear gain.

Nevertheless, there is one aspect Mr. Kennedy’s otherwise helpful intervention which does cause me some concern and which I shall want discuss with him when he reaches London. This is emphasis he has been laying on need for “Asian solution” to problem Indonesian [Page 50]confrontation against Malaysia. I believe that what he means is that next step should be meeting three Asian Governments involved: Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines. We would agree with this and, if such a meeting were to open way for closer association these three countries on entirely voluntary basis and without any element Indonesian coercion of Malaysia, we would welcome this. We have never been opposed to Macapagal’s concept of Maphilindo as such, but only to its employment as pretext for isolating Malaysia from Western support.

This brings me to nub of present message. Even if these three Asian Governments met without any representatives Western Powers present, their discussions are bound to include certain topics of direct concern to Britain and West as whole. I am thinking particularly of main target Indonesian hostility: the Anglo/Malaysian Defence Agreement and base facilities in Malaysia enjoyed by HMG under this Agreement. If, as I fear they will, Indonesians make abrogation these arrangements a condition for final termination confrontation and restoration friendly relations with Malaysia, we think Malaysia will be bound refuse and would be in Western interests that she should do so. Otherwise, how can we ask Malaysia (with her population of ten million) to entrust her future independence to good will of 100 million Indonesians? Secondly, HMG would thereby be asked renounce all future prospects of making any effective contribution to defence Southeast Asia.

These, I suggest, are not problems which West can afford consider in isolation. They are not purely British problems and cannot be solved without most far-reaching repercussions on future of Southeast Asia as a whole or on unity and effectiveness Western Alliance. To take worse possible case, termination Indonesian confrontation on terms likely lead to neutralisation of Malaysia under Indonesian influence would have profound effects in mainland Southeast Asia. Neighbouring Thailand might reconsider her adhesion to Western Alliance. There would be repercussions in Laos and Cambodia. Above all I think your problems in South Vietnam would be greatly increased.

All this leads me to propose that, when our Prime Minister meets your President in Washington next month, we should try to look at Western policy in Southeast Asia as a whole rather than at individual problems of Britain over Malaysia or of US over South Vietnam. When I say Western policy, I am naturally also thinking of Australia and New Zealand, whose interest is even more direct than that of either Britain or US. As I see it, post-war extension of Communist influence in Southeast Asia has been largely due to our failure achieve such a united approach to problems of area as a whole. Again and again particular Western countries have fought isolated and ultimately futile rear guard actions in a single sector. Now, even if it is at eleventh hour, I think [Page 51]we should attempt fresh approach. If you agree, I hope you will also agree on importance of avoiding any irrevocable commitment on nature of a final solution to problem Indonesian confrontation until we have met and discussed this problem in its wider context.”

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL INDON–MALAYSIA. Secret; Flash; Verbatim Text. Drafted by Ingraham and cleared by Cuthell. Repeated to London. The original message, delivered by Ormsby Gore to Rusk, January 22, is in the Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Malaysia, Vol. I, Memo, 11/63–3/64.