35. Memorandum From Michael V. Forrestal of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1


  • Indonesia/Malaysia Recapitulation

Herewith a run-down on the last twenty-four hours:

The four Ministers met in Bangkok the day before yesterday for two hours. At the end of the meeting the Malaysians announced that since the Indonesians refused to agree to an effective withdrawal of Indonesian-supported guerrillas in North Borneo, the conferences were terminated.

After desperate efforts by Thanat and Lopez (reported in Bangkok’s 1471)2 Razak was persuaded to get off the airplane at the Bangkok airport and return to the city, where he is presumably waiting for the next development. No further conferences have been scheduled, although the parties remain in Bangkok.

Yesterday Mr. Renouf, Beale’s DCM, came to see me, after having seen the Department, to tell us that Sir Garfield Barwick had told the Tunku he agreed that there could be no meeting of the three Chiefs of State until the Indonesian guerrillas had been withdrawn, and that there was at present no cease-fire. We do not know what advice, if any, the British had given the Tunku before the meeting; but we are trying to find out.

According to Thanat, Subandrio said he was prepared to go along with the principle that guerrillas should be withdrawn, such withdrawal to start as soon as political discussions start, and to be paced according to the progress of the discussions. His position is apparently unacceptable to the Malaysians.

Yesterday the Malaysians issued a communique3 which charged Indonesia with breaking the cease-fire arranged by the Attorney General. The communique ended by saying, “Since the cease-fire has been repeatedly violated by the Indonesians, it would be futile to regard the cease-fire as operative.” As of the moment, the Malaysians have not [Page 70]yet requested the Thais to send any observers to North Borneo to observe and report on the alleged violations.

I have learned this morning that Ambassador Beale has requested an appointment with Governor Harriman for tomorrow (Harriman is in Denver today). We have been told very informally (and this knowledge must be protected) that Beale intends to present an Australian paper on what should be done in the case of an escalation of the dispute between Indonesia and Malaysia.

Comment: It does not seem to me to be in the interest of the United States to see a breakdown of the cease-fire negotiated by the Attorney General, nor to permit our British and Australian friends to believe that we will participate in planning for an escalation of this conflict. I don’t understand how we can fail to use every lever at our command to prevent the outbreak of another ugly war behind our backs while we are fighting in South Vietnam. I do not see how we can avoid being drawn into such a conflict in view of our relations with the parties, relations which are based both on politics and, in the case of Australia, on a treaty.

We should also not forget that the Philippine attitude toward our bases there would be equivocal, to say the least if such a conflict started.

In the longer range, I don’t see how there is any hope of maintaining a Western presence in Asia if we cannot somehow avoid having one of the three most powerful non-Chinese countries become actively hostile to the West. The surest way to have this happen would be for us to stand idly by and let events take their course. That is what we are now doing.

We should tell the Malaysians, British and Australians that in our view the cease-fire must be maintained, the Thais must be asked to go to North Borneo and the conference should break up in an atmosphere in which another conference is still possible. We should say publicly that we hope the cease-fire will remain in effect.4

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Malaysia, Vol. I, Memos, 11/63–3/64, Secret.
  2. Dated March 5. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 3 MAPHILINDO)
  3. The text was transmitted in telegram 1464 from Kuala Lumpur, March 5. (Ibid., POL 32–1 INDON–MALAYSIA)
  4. In the margin next to the last paragraph Bundy wrote:” Cuthell.”