70. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom 1

1648. Following is text of message from FonSec Butler delivered to Secretary this morning:

“As you know, we have been urgently considering with the Malaysian Government how best they should react to the landing of Indonesian [Page 152]parachutists in Johore. It was our conviction, which I am glad to say is now shared by the Tunku, that the first step must be to raise the matter urgently in the Security Council.2 When this was discussed in the Malaysian Cabinet, however, a strong and understandable demand emerged that as a condition of Malaysia referring her difficulties to the Security Council we should give an assurance of our agreement in principle to take some kind of action against Indonesia on Indonesian soil.3

Since our major concern was to persuade Malaysia to go to the Security Council without delay, we had no option but to agree to some assurance, if not exactly on the lines requested, and the High Commissioner has accordingly informed the Tunku that the British Government agree in principle that any further act of aggression by Indonesia upon the territory of Malaya or Singapore (i.e. excluding confrontation operations in Borneo), should be met by a counter attack against some appropriate objective on Indonesian territory. He added that we consider it absolutely essential that, before any such counter attack is made, the Malaysian Government should take the matter to the Security Council and seek their moral support against Indonesian aggression, and went on to say that, having once raised the matter in the Security Council it would probably not be necessary to do so again in the event of a fresh act of aggression, when counter action could follow.

You will observe that although this message sets out in unequivocable terms our willingness and determination to defend Malaya and Singapore in the only practicable way open to us against further attacks of this kind, we have insisted on a reference to the Security Council first. We are not thinking about tactics for this debate and, as you know, our officials are in close touch.”

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 32–1 INDON–MALAYSIA. Secret; Immediate. Drafted by Ingraham, cleared in substance by Frank M. Tucker, Jr., of the Office of British Commonwealth Affairs, and approved by William Bundy.
  2. Komer wrote McGeorge Bundy a note on September 4 indicating that “in light of new Indo-Malaysian flap,” there was “real merit in getting Jones back to Djakarta soonest, but perhaps with some strong words from here.” Komer suggested that “the British sound just as hysterical as Sukarno,” and he stated, “we can’t stop UK and Malaysia going to SC if 30-man paradrop proves to be fact. Indeed SC would be a good safety valve to get Brits off talk of Tonkin Gulf-style retaliation.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Indonesia, Vol. II, Memos, 9/64–2/65)
  3. Also on September 4, Australian Ambassador Waller informed William Bundy and Cleveland of Malaysia’s request for support of “armed defensive measures on Indonesian soil” in the event the action in the Security Council failed. Waller stated he was consulting the United States in view of the ANZUS treaty. Bundy stressed the need for close consultation, especially in light of the ANZUS relationship, but warned Waller that Australia should not assume that the United States would become involved if the escalation took place. (Circular telegram 441, September 4; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 32–1 INDON–MALAYSIA)