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

2614/VIPTO 93. Subject: Humphrey-Suharto Meeting.

Vice President Humphrey and Acting President Suharto met for two hours on the morning of November 4 for substantive talks.2 Also among those present were Ambassador Green, Professor Widjojo, General Alamsjah, Roche, Van Dyk, Rielly, and Underhill. Indonesia’s [Page 533]economic situation, its plans for 1968, and Vietnam were the principal topics.
Suharto expressed appreciation for the help and interest shown by the U.S. in Indonesia’s economic problems and said he was happy to discuss them with a statesman of such long and distinguished experience. He then outlined the range of problems left by the neglect and mismanagement of the previous regime: inflation, impassible roads, silt-filled rivers and harbors, deteriorated airfields. Progress has been made during past year in checking inflation. Road repairs, spurred by military action teams and supported by village populations, were proceeding at a rate three times that originally expected. Indonesia planned next year to operate on a balanced budget, improve revenue collection, and expand exports. A sharp decline in the price of rubber, however, is reducing export earnings.
Maintaining the momentum of progress achieved in 1967, Suharto continued, is essential. The people expect it. If progress is not achieved in 1968, there could be the most serious consequences. Therefore, the government is planning an increased budget of U.S. $ 1 billion (142 billion rupiah) for 1968 of which 77 percent will be for the routine expenses of the government and 23 percent for rehabilitation. A total of U.S. $325 million in foreign aid will be needed for next year, of which Indonesia hopes nearly half, or $150 million will come from the United States ($125 in budget support and $25 in project aid). Indonesia was hoping to obtain through PL 480 200 thousand tons of rice, 150 thousand bales of yarn. The remainder would be furnished in be [garble] and development project loans. Suharto expressed the hope that the United States would be able to make a firm commitment at the forthcoming meeting in Amsterdam.
The Acting President then noted the effectiveness and importance of the Indonesian military civic mission (civic action) program and urged our continuing support.
Suharto turned to international problems and said that, while Indonesia was too occupied with internal problems to play a major role, he wanted his country to contribute to the best of its ability in the search for peace and stability in Southeast Asia. He said Indonesia would continue to work for regional cooperation and that national pride and national prosperity would be the bulwark against outside aggression. U.S. could contribute to security by maintaining outside the area the strategic force that could smash the enemy bases, if aggression should occur.
On Vietnam he said that he had been unsuccessful in his efforts to influence North Vietnam, but would continue trying. He suggested that South Vietnam would be able to resist best when it was a “truly national” nation, and that our strategy should be designed, in his view, [Page 534]to encouraging the development of this nationalism, then, he said, we could safely reduce our pressure.
The Vice President then responded to this extended presentation. He said that the United States intended to participate in the multinational effort to help Indonesia and noted that we had provided one-third for calendar 1967. Suharto interjected that the other countries might not be able to increase their contribution, and that one-third from the U.S. would not be enough. The Vice President continued that the others could do more than they are now doing, especially Japan. He reminded Suharto that Congress had not yet passed the aid legislation so it was impossible to be precise about what we could do, but that a strong effort would be made, both at home and to enlist support of other nations.
On the subject of food, Vice President asked Suharto to discuss the details of Indonesia’s requirements with Ambassador Green. He suggested that a careful survey be made of distribution facilities so that spoilage of food waiting on the piers would not occur. The Vice President said that we were facing a rice shortage, despite expanding acreage, and suggested that the GOI carefully consider wheat, wheat flour, and bulgur. We would be also willing to expand our food for work program if worthwhile projects could be developed. On cotton, we should have enough short staple to meet Indonesia’s needs although the large surplus of previous years has been greatly reduced.
The Vice President at this point noted the importance of dealing with Ambassador Green on all matters related to assistance. Back door out-of-channel requests only confuse the situation. He said that during Ambassador Green’s recent visit to Washington he had been invited by the President to meet with the cabinet to discuss Indonesia. This was most unusual and an indication of President Johnson’s keen interest in Indonesia and his special confidence in Ambassador Green.
On the matter of private investment, the Vice President suggested that Indonesia study what its neighbors were doing to attract private capital so that it could successfully meet competition.
The Vice President then turned to Vietnam and described the great changes he had found since his last visit 20 months ago. Great progress had been made in the military field, but of equal importance were efforts on the civil side, including revolutionary development. He expressed confidence that the new elected government would do well. He reaffirmed our determination to stay until the aggression stops and said Indonesia might be able to help by passing this message to Hanoi. He stressed that we would accept an immediate cease fire if productive negotiations could begin promptly and if the other side did not use the talks to gain a military advantage.
The Vice President said we would welcome any efforts that the GOI could make towards peace. He was not asking that Indonesia [Page 535]involve itself directly in Vietnam. Indonesia’s efforts to stabilize and rebuild its economy was a major contribution to the strength of Southeast Asia. At the same time we appreciated understanding and moral support. We heard critical voices from Southeast Asia—President Suharto was not one of them, and with our resources severely limited we were naturally more inclined to help the friends who stood with us more than those who criticized.
Suharto said that Indonesia would continue to work for an Asian solution to the problem of Vietnam, and concluded the talks with the observation that U.S. assistance to Indonesian recovery was an investment in Southeast Asian security that would bring far reaching beneficial results.
The Vice President closed with an expression of admiration for Suharto’s vision, resolution, and leadership and said he was confident that Suharto and the government he led would succeed.
Comment: Suharto was relaxed, assured, and in impressive command of detailed information on whole stabilization program. He responded well to the points made by the Vice President, and the rapport was good despite the use of an interpreter.3
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 7 US/HUMPHREY. Confidential; Priority; Limdis. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD. Humphrey traveled to East Asia, arriving in South Vietnam on October 30 to represent the United States at the inauguration of President Thieu and Vice President Ky. He then traveled to Malaysia and Indonesia where he stayed November 4–6.
  2. Humphrey also met with Suharto after dinner on November 6. They discussed ways for Indonesia to make known to other countries its need for assistance, the possibility of Humphrey reporting by letter on his visit to Indonesia’s parliament, and Green and Humphrey urged Suharto to make himself more accessible to Indonesians. Finally, Humphrey warned Suharto not to believe all U.S. businessmen who claimed to have a special relationship with U.S. officials. Suharto suggested that if Indonesian businessmen or officials claimed to be representing him, the Department of State should check with him first. (Telegram VIPTO 99 from CINCPAC to the Department of State; Johnson Library, National Security File, International Travel and Meetings File, VP’s Asian Trip, 10–11/67, Briefing Book, Backup Material, Vol. I)
  3. In telegram 2651 from Djakarta, November 11, Green sent an appraisal of the Humphrey trip which he characterized as an “outstanding success.” Green noted that Humphrey received a warm and exuberant welcome, especially in Bali and Central Java (old PKI strongholds), he established a personal rapport with Suharto despite Suharto’s “retiring Javanese nature” and the need for an interpreter, and he “made a strong pitch for free economy approach,” thus strengthening the hand of Suharto’s free market economist advisers. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 7 US/HUMPHREY) Telegram 2651 was retyped in the White House and the President saw it. (Note from Rostow to Johnson, November 7; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Indonesia, Vol. VIII, 6/67–6/68)