31. Memorandum From Michael V. Forrestal of the National Security Council Staff to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Hilsman)1


  • Indonesia—Malaysia

I am getting concerned that the agreement to negotiate the difference in this dispute is beginning to come unstuck. It seems to me there are two problems:

Sukarno is unwilling to give up the bargaining power represented by the continued presence of Indonesian controlled guerrillas in Malaysian territory without simultaneous political concessions from the Malaysians.
The Tunku is essentially unwilling to continue the talks until after Sukarno has agreed on a withdrawal. His position is further complicated by the pending election in April, which makes it difficult for him to devise any significant political concessions.

As a result, it is doubtful whether the next Ministerial meeting, scheduled for February 25, will achieve any results; if indeed, it takes place at all. In the meantime, we are still living under the time threat of the Broomfield Amendment.

The situation suggests to me that we must take some initiative between now and the 25th, designed to keep the next meeting from breaking apart, and perhaps getting us through the period of the Malaysian elections. Several thoughts have occurred to me:

We might tell Sukarno that time is running out for us for domestic reasons, and that unless there is some progress in the next talks, the administration will find itself in an impossible situation with respect to the Broomfield Amendment. Something has to be found to save the next Foreign Ministers’ meeting. One possibility is an agreement by Sukarno to withdraw members of regular Indonesian forces who may be in North Borneo. During the Attorney General’s trip we were under the impression that there were no regular forces in North Kalimantan, only native guerrillas. Now it turns out that the British have captured twelve Indonesian marines, although they have kept this quiet. It would be to Sukarno’s interest in the eyes of world opinion if he agreed to withdraw his regular people.
Macapagal’s visit to Djakarta gives us an opportunity to use him as a way of speaking bluntly to Sukarno. A draft message from the President to Macapagal to take advantage of this visit is attached.2
Simultaneously we should tell the Tunku that his demand for withdrawal of guerrilla units is a step back from the understanding he had with the Attorney General.3 The underlying principle of the Attorney General’s transaction was that the parties agreed to stop the fighting and to talk. The questions of the actual withdrawal of guerrillas, recognition of Malaysia, and Maphilindo were to be discussed initially at the Ministerial Conferences, and then at the Summit. We might suggest to the Tunku that he confine his demand to a withdrawal of regular Indonesian personnel. We should ask the Attorney General to get some of these thoughts across either to the Malaysian Ambassador here or by letter to the Tunku.4 He or Governor Harriman might talk to the British and Australians.

Michael V. Forrestal 5
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Robert W. Komer, Malaysia, Dec. 1964–Mar. 1966. Secret. Copies were sent to Robert Kennedy, Harriman, and Komer.
  2. The attached draft letter was sent to Macapagal in telegram 1219 to Manila, February 20. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 32–1, INDON–MALAYSIA)
  3. Instructions to this end were included in telegram 691 to Kuala Lumpur, February 20. (Ibid.)
  4. Telegram 712 to Kuala Lumpur, February 25, contains the text of a letter (drafted by Forrestal and cleared by Harriman, Hilsman, and Cuthell) from Robert Kennedy to the Tunku. In it Kennedy urged the Tunku to call upon Thailand to put observers into the area, to continue negotiations, and not to take the issue to the United Nations. (Ibid.) Hilsman and Forrestal made similar points to Malaysian Ambassador Ong on February 24. (Telegram 709 to Kuala Lumpur, February 25; ibid.)
  5. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.