43. Telegram From the Embassy in the Philippines to the Department of State 1

1609. Reference: Deptel 1605 to Manila.2 Ambassadors held two meetings, one Wednesday3 evening attended by Asst. Secy. Bundy and for a time by Secretary, and second on Thursday morning. Greatly appreciated having ref Deptel which gave central focus to discussions.

Following is summary of talks as they related to six questions set forth reftel. This not cleared by all participants and they may wish forward comments. Statements attributed to Secretary uncleared by him.


Ambs concluded they really don’t know at present whether Lopez formula still holds any real promise in getting negotiations resumed. Amb. Jones reported that Sukarno has said he would begin withdrawal his troops with beginning political talks and would continue withdrawal in conformity progress of such talks. Amb. Bell said Malaysians have had no official notification of GOI position. Amb. Jones plans ask Sukarno at meeting scheduled for April 21 whether his March 17 position still stands and if so urge Sukarno to inform Tunku through Thais. Said would be helpful if he could tell Sukarno that Tunku still prepared accept Sukarno interpretation of Lopez formula. Amb. Bell said Tunku had been prepared accept it on March 18 and probably still prepared do so. Outcome Jones meeting with Sukarno on 21st should give some indication whether Lopez formula can be useful.

Prospect for Ministerial meeting seems dim. Best bet probably to try for summit. President Macapagal thinks there some chance for summit meeting after April 25 elections in Malaysia. He regards this as last chance. Appears have some reasons, not fully revealed to us, for believing he can bring it about. Ambs agreed that we should sit it out until after April 25.


Ambs not at all sure it continues be highly desirable get Thai observers deployed soonest because: (1) Malaysians and Indonesians have failed agree on any clear terms of reference for the observers; (2) as a result Thais are fed up with the idea of their prospective observer [Page 89]role and apprehensive their friendly relationship with parties concerned could become prejudiced or misunderstood; (3) if Brits are contemplating step-up of their actions to include possible hot pursuit, Thais could be placed in embarrassing position should Indos call upon observers to investigate a British action. One reason for pushing observer idea is to build up evidence against Indos for possible use in case issue brought to UN. Observer citations against Brits would work against us. Moreover, we reluctant have issue brought into UN because desire avoid getting into UN Charter Article 19 matter.

Ambs concluded that while we might be able pressure Thais into taking up observer role, it not worth the political cost in terms our relations with Thais, unless some clearcut advantage to be gained, which doubtful. Ambs thought careful consideration should be given to questions of what would be responsibilities of observers, and what would result from observer system if Brits step up level their activities.

Only possible alternative to Thai observers appeared be Japanese, who have been anxious to play constructive role; but Ambs believe Japanese involvement inadvisable.

Ambs reviewed current status of process establishing consular relations between Malaysians and Phils. Agreed Phils wanted to have Consul General level in order carry on diplomatic communications through consular relations, whereas Malaysians desire limit consuls to purely consular functions in order keep pressure on Phils establish normal diplomatic relations. Ambs have no specific recommendation how to speed up process establishing consular relations. Believe we should stand aside and problem will be resolved bilaterally.

Re Military Situation. Agreed there certainly is a build-up on Indonesian side of border which is alarming. Some of the Indo regulars are in on Malaysian side. Indos can keep this up indefinitely, and have capability step up considerably. Amb. Jones said he thought Sukarno genuinely wants some kind of settlement and that he does not want to exacerbate already deteriorating relations with U.S. Indonesian intention probably is to put maximum pressure on Malaysians to obtain a face-saving formula for settlement, after which military actions could be terminated and Indos would thereafter pursue their policies in the political domain. Nasution has said Indo objectives re Malaysia are long-term proposition. Regards Malaysia as unnatural structure which will ultimately collapse; but once a settlement of some kind reached, the military phase presumably would be finished at least for time being.

Malaysians and Australians consider very important that Sukarno not gain benefits from aggressive action. They do not believe Indos will step up the level of their action much, even though they unable achieve benefits they contemplate. British view is that Indos should be given “bloody nose.” Amb. Jones said Indo military leaders had told [Page 90]him they would do everything possible to avoid escalation. However, Amb. Jones thought Indos would react pretty violently to attacks into Indo territory.

British fear situation approaching point where Communist Chinese cadres will begin coming into Malaysia and taking over guerrilla operations. Perhaps British would like to see military situation escalate to point where would have war and ANZUS commitments could be invoked and burden thus passed to U.S.

Ambs outlined two related conceptions of way British say they see military problem. At border there are a number of main access trails. Guerrillas crossing from Indonesia must use these. Once across into Sarawak, the trails fairly quickly begin to bifurcate and branch out. Therefore essential stop guerrillas as they come across and before they get into belt where trails branch out and enable guerrillas to melt into countryside. Other version is that on Indonesian side there are number of military groups. They have good lateral communications. These groups can carry out feints at various points, while infiltrating group is pushed across elsewhere. What is required, Brits reason, is to break up these bilateral communications, or attack concentrations on Indo side. Amb. Jones said if Brits did that, it would probably mean real war.

Amb. Jones said Sukarno convinced British are involved in Sulawesi insurrection. No hard evidence of this, but there has been some recent increase in intensity of uprisings there and some rather sophisticated weapons being used.
Re political settlement, collective view was that Sukarno may well be seeking some kind of face-saving settlement. “Pill sweetener” would probably have to be some kind of ascertainment formula. Subandrio has said Indos want a plebiscite. Know they won’t win, but this would give them something. Question arose as to why, if Sukarno really wants a political settlement he continues support volunteers and CCO and putting in regulars. Answer may be that this is pressure to get a settlement. Sukarno fears that if he pulls these out, Malaysians would say there is nothing more to talk about.

On Malaysian side, question is what could they give.

British have been against Tunku’s trying for political settlement, because they don’t think there is anything he could give. British think he might nonetheless give away his shirt if he went to a summit. It is possible that after elections, if Tunku had won by healthy margin, he might feel in strong enough position domestically to give something, perhaps ascertainment. However, a wide margin of victory in elections might have just opposite effect on Tunku, and increased UK and Australian military support might also be a factor.

Ambs concluded that important thing was to get resumption of negotiations, presumably at a summit meeting in Tokyo after Malaysian [Page 91]elections. Question of just what formula might possibly emerge was one which the three Asian nations would have to figure out. Secretary, who was present during discussion of this point, agreed. Observed that Asians might ultimately agree on a “pill sweetener” which to U.S. would look more like a pickle. Secretary said he thought we ought to stay out of this until end of month and see how it goes.

In taking a wider look at current U.S. strategy, Ambs indicated no patience with Indonesian position. However, if Indos really are looking for a face-saving device to end military actions and would plan confine themselves to working out their objectives politically over long term, then we should continue our efforts to channel course of events so that Indos will have no other choice but to adhere to some kind of peaceful formula.

Best chance, perhaps last chance, lies in Macapagal’s effort to get a summit at Tokyo after April 25; and this is something we may have to leave pretty much to Macapagal to bring off. We should stay on sidelines and not try to call plays from quarterback slot.

To achieve settlement, it necessary for Malaysians to agree to some kind of formula. Malaysians take position that it must be demonstrated to Sukarno that he can’t gain advantage from show of force. Question is, who is going to demonstrate it? U.S. not interested in getting into this. Have hands full in South Vietnam, etc. Secretary observed during first meeting that he had told Barwick we not going to put in boys from Nebraska and Kansas just because Tunku won’t go to a meeting. Extremely important that British do not initiate any cross-border actions at this time which would ruin chances for summit. They should continue exercise restraint little while longer until clearly apparent there is no hope of summit and settlement.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 32–1 INDON–MALAYSIA. Secret; Priority; Limdis. Repeated to Djakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Saigon also for Bundy, CINCPAC for POLAD, Canberra, London, and Tokyo.
  2. Same as telegram 1120 to Djakarta, Document 42.
  3. April 15.