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

1825. Following based on uncleared memorandum of Waller call on Secretary today. Subject to review and FYI only.

Waller delivered to Secretary message stating in effect that PM Menzies had said it would be calamity if British took action against Indonesia involving Australia on which US had not been consulted in advance, and therefore suggesting that US propose “combined military contingency consultations” to British, “believing as we do that proposal would not be rejected.”

Waller stated that Australians had been talking very directly with British in London to ascertain what action they might have in mind in reference Malaysia, and that it seemed urgently necessary there be ways to find out and share British thinking, both with US and Australia, as well as New Zealand. At later point he made clear that American suggestion to British would be to “share our thinking” and did not envisage actual joint military planning.2

Secretary responded he saw no real danger, in light Indonesian actions and attitudes expressed in SC debate, that there would be any sharp public difference in attitude between US and other nations involved. However, he did think there could be grave difficulty if UK started something on assumption US would step in. We could not accept residual responsibility in situation where others had taken action on basis of limited liability. He had therefore been glad to see that British were taking reinforcing steps in Far East, and, although he would not say so publicly, we in fact approved withdrawal of some UK troops from NATO for this purpose.

Waller responded that ANZUS Treaty in fact did commit US to measure of residual liability where Australian and New Zealand forces were involved.

Secretary answered this was not what he meant by residual responsibility—our respective obligations under ANZUS Treaty were the same [Page 156]and we had need to consider under treaty just what Australians had done to carry out their obligations. As an example of what he meant by “residual” responsibility, Secretary cited Dutch attempt have us commit our forces in West New Guinea dispute even though Dutch themselves were not prepared send additional forces. He also alluded to Congo case, where Spaak’s effort enlist participation of six Common Market nations had met with “colossal indifference.” He said US simply could not accept such situations where others did not take strong measures to carry out their share of responsibility. He said this was his main point and that it must be clearly understood by Australians and others.

Secretary then noted that conflict with Indonesia could become major shooting war, and that we for our part, once serious shooting started in such case, would consider it necessary to make substantial deployments and possibly even mobilization. Waller thought it unlikely Indonesian situation would reach point of major conflict, but did believe it possible that more “acts of folly” on Indonesian side could lead to degree escalation that would involve Australians and thus bring into question US involvement.

Secretary then referred to message just received from London that Peck of British FonOff was proposing early conference between US, UK, Australia, and New Zealand, and that Peck had specifically suggested Bundy’s visit to London next week might be appropriate occasion for this. Bundy noted his schedule would bring him to London Friday, 18th, but might conceivably be advanced to Thurs, 17th, and this might be good timing. He threw out suggestion any such talks should be held only on basis no publicity whatever and in lowest possible key.3 We were in fact in position where British had primary action responsibility and we in US were being more nearly informed than consulted, although Australians were perhaps nearer to being consulted than informed and—as Waller noted—had clear obligation consult us before any action involving their forces. Bundy noted danger that any publicized consultation might both have undesirable effect on Sukarno and, perhaps even more serious, appear to bind participants to whatever British might then decide to do, whether or not others had in fact agreed to it.

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Secretary noted that apart from any such specific consultation, there was continuing problem of obtaining adequate information on British thinking about additional military moves. He said we had in mind assigning appropriate Embassy officer in London to this function and that this might be worked out at same time, or perhaps even prior to any actual meeting.

It was left that US side would consider further just how to take up Australian suggestion, but that we recognized need for machinery that would give us clear understanding of British thinking but that would not involve actual participation in anything like joint military planning.

Request addressee comments.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 32–1 INDON–MALAYSIA. Secret; Exdis. Drafted and cleared by William Bundy. Also sent to Canberra and Wellington and repeated to CINCPAC.
  2. In telegram 1837 to London, September 12, the Department reported to the Embassy that the British Embassy had informed the Department that the British Far East command had produced a tentative list of seven potential targets for retaliation based on four criteria. Those criteria were that the target must be related to the Indonesia attack, must be militarily useful, would produce minimum casualties, and be least likely to produce escalation. (Ibid.)
  3. In telegram 1909 to London, September 15, the Department indicated that “any identifiable four-power meeting” by Bundy during his London visit would inevitably lead to distorted leaks and would associate the United States with subsequent British action. Instead Bundy should meet with British Foreign Office officials and then have a “quiet drink” with Australian and New Zealand representatives. (Ibid.) Reports of Bundy’s meetings in London are in telegrams 1308 and 1309 from London, both September 18, and memoranda of conversation are in airgram A–721 from London, September 24. (Ibid.) See also Document 77.