264. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Johnson 1


  • Your Meeting with Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman

A. The Prime Minister

Cambridge-educated, fluent in English, the Tunku (Prince) is a warmhearted, genial man of 61 who is known as the father of his multiracial nation.

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A skilled politician, he was a principal leader in the 1948–60 fight against Communist terrorism, led the country to independence in 1957 and has since dominated Malayan and Malaysian politics.

He visited here in the fall of 1960, is strongly anti-Communist and friendly to the West.

B. His State of Mind

The Tunku is deeply troubled by almost two years of Indonesian hostility to Malaysia. He comes from strenuous efforts to win further support from the Commonwealth Conference in London.

C. His Objectives

To explain Malaysia’s position as the aggrieved party in the Indonesia-Malaysia dispute.
To place Indonesia’s “crush Malaysia” campaign in the context of the Communist strategy of driving the West out of Southeast Asia.
To evoke (a) a more forthright American public statement supporting Malaysia against Indonesia, and (b) some tangible demonstration of this support.

D. Our Objectives

To emphasize our determination to resist Communist efforts to drive us out of Southeast Asia.
To reaffirm our support of Malaysia.
To explain the rationale of our Indonesian policy.
To prevent the Tunku’s visit from exacerbating the Malaysia-Indonesia problem and poisoning our relations with Sukarno.

E. Major Topics of Your Talks Are Expected To Be:


U.S.-Malaysian Relations

The Tunku will express satisfaction with our relations and gratitude for your statements of support for Malaysia and the Peace Corps program.


Indonesian Confrontation

The Tunku will discuss the economic and military burden of resistance to Indonesia and, without directly asking for it, imply that Malaysia merits aid as a beleaguered standard bearer for the West in Southeast Asia.

He will cite the recent Mikoyan visit to Indonesia as evidence that confrontation serves the Communist effort to drive the West from Southeast Asia. He will maintain that U.S. aid to Indonesia, even at its present low level, serves to prop up Sukarno and harass Malaysia.

You might say:

We are proving in Viet-Nam our determination to resist Communist aggression. (Note Malaysia’s assistance to Viet-Nam in training and material.)

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Both you and President Kennedy have expressed publicly U.S. support of Malaysia, which we are prepared to reaffirm. As further evidence of our position we would propose to invite the Malaysian Chief of Staff, General Osman, to visit the United States to inspect our military schools to help develop a training program for Malaysian officers.

We have no illusions about Sukarno. But Indonesia, now and in the future, is of the utmost importance to all of us, not least to Malaysia itself. Our aid to Indonesia has been sharply reduced and we are satisfied that it is not helping Indonesia militarily. It is, however, permitting us to maintain some contact with key elements in Indonesia which are interested in and capable of resisting Communist takeover. We think this is of vital importance to the entire Free World.

We appreciate the Tunku’s patient efforts to reach a negotiated settlement with Indonesia. Note continuing efforts of the Philippines and Thailand to assist. The door should be kept open for an Asian settlement, and the Tunku should seek to improve his relations with the Philippines.2

Averell 3
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 7 MALAYSIA. Secret. There is no drafting information on the memorandum. A typed note reads: “Sent to White House via Briefing Book 7/20/64.”
  2. President Johnson met with Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman of Malaysia on July 22 from 12:04 to 12:29 p.m. Only the President and the Prime Minister were present so no memorandum of conversation was made beyond a one-line memorandum of acknowledgment of the private nature of their meeting. (Ibid. and Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary) For a second-hand account of the meeting, see Document 265.
  3. Averell Harriman signed for Rusk above Rusk’s typed signature.