322. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Valenti) to President Johnson 1

SUBJECT

  • Suggestions Emerging from trip to Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan and Korea2

Suggestions

1.

We need Asians to take the lead in Asian affairs. Best asset to US is strong Asian leader, who is our friend, who understands us, and is [Page 705]prepared to weld Asians together toward objectives that coincide with our aims.

Suggest we bet on Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines as having good potential for this kind of tough, charismatic leadership.

2.
Let Asians take up the burden we have been carrying—on the battlefield—and in the farm fields.
a.

Equip two or more Korean divisions, and send them to Vietnam. They could easily take the place of 30–40,000 Americans.

The price we pay for this is cheap—for the equipping Koreans is at the ratio of 5–1 to 10–1 for the same equipment of the same number of Americans. Moreover, the Koreans are competent jungle fighters—and are ready to fight.

b.
Through program grants to the Chinese on Formosa, let them carry to Africa and parts of Asia, the program we have been burdened with: —technical assistance in agriculture primarily. The cost of doing this through Chinese instead of Americans is, again, a ratio of 3 to 1 to 5 to 1. Moreover, the Chinese are competent agronomists—in the area of giving self-help to less developed countries, they can do the job at less cost and equal efficiency.

Explanations

1. Asians take the lead in Asian affairs.

  • —It makes sense to put our money on Asian leaders who have already built their base as a democratic leader, and not have to prop up either a dictator, or a chief of government who is on shaky domestic ground. Marcos is no puppet. In fact, he needs to be a little independent of us in order to make rational and credible his leadership.
  • —Some of the people in the Manila Embassy are skeptical—as well they should be. Macapagal came into office with the same glittering hopes only to dash them with the usual ineptness later.
  • Marcos could be different. He’s exceptionally bright (he set an all-time record for the bar exams); one of the most inspiring orators in Asia; and toughly realistic. I suspect he wants to be a great president, and is willing to do unpalatable things in order to achieve that greatness (i.e. stop smuggling and corruptness, as well as put his fiscal house in order).
  • —If we can work with him, and give him what help we can within reason, Marcos could become a rallying point in Asia.
  • —In any case, the problems of Asia must be solved by Asians, and Marcos has the gifts of brain and courage to do those things that need to be done, but which need an Asian cover to be done.

Note: Marcos invited me and Lloyd Hand through his brother-in-law, Ben Romualdez (who possibly will be the closest man to him, and the one to whom he will listen with more credibility than any other) to play golf with him on his first day in office. We teed off at 6:30 am!

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He obviously wanted to let me know his regard for President Johnson; and to emphasize his aims of putting the Philippines in apple-pie order. He is a professional politician, with all the sure-footed instincts of a pro.

He mentioned he was going to re-organize the Army, establish the Constabulary (police force) as an independent arm (it is now part of the Defense Department); and try to bring fiscal order out of the wildly porous financial structure now existent. Without being sychophantic he made it clear he wanted to cooperate with U.S.

I recommend that we invite him to come to the States for an official visit sometime this year. Obviously he can’t come right now, but sometime after June, he could be ready.

He never brought this up—but I find it persuasive that the President ought to size him up personally; take his measure so we can determine how and what we need to do to get leadership among non-communistic Asian nations.

[Here follows discussion of Korea, Taiwan, and Japan.]

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, International Travel and Meetings File, Vice President’s Trip, Far East, 12/27/65. No classification marking. There is no indication on the memorandum that the President saw it, but Valenti wrote “Bundy” on the first page.
  2. Valenti accompanied Vice President Humphrey on his Far East trip.