77. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Military Contingency Talk in London on Indonesia


  • Mr. Michael Stewart, Minister-Counselor, British Embassy
  • Mr. Oliver Forster, First Secretary, British Embassy
  • Mr. William P. Bundy, Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs
  • Mr. Marshall Green, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs
  • Mr. David C. Cuthell, Director of the Office of Southwest Pacific Affairs
  • Mr. Thomas F. Conlon, FE/SPA

Discussions in London. Mr. Bundy reviewed the recent discussions he had held in London with United Kingdom, Australian, and New Zealand representatives on military contingency planning in the event of further Indonesian landings of paratroops or seaborne infiltrators in mainland Malaya and Singapore.

Mr. Bundy noted that there had been general agreement among the participants in the London discussions to hold meetings as often as necessary in Washington in the interests of preserving the inconspicuous character of contacts on this subject. We understand that Prime Minister Douglas Home is continuing his exchange of views with Australian Prime Minister Menzies and New Zealand Prime Minister Holyoake on the whole subject of possible action against Indonesia and that these exchanges have not been completed. Mr. Stewart noted that the instructions sent out by the British Government to Lord Head in Singapore were based on a distinction between the initial phase of response to further Indonesian landings, when British and Malaysian forces would take action against Indonesian intruders, and a secondary phase, when Australian and New Zealand units would be required. Mr. Bundy added that he understood plans for British retaliation against Indonesia were also divided into two phases: first, attacks would be directed against selected, nearby bases for infiltrators and, secondly, in the event of Indonesian air strikes against Butterworth or Singapore, for example, against Indonesian air bases from which the attacking aircraft fly. The British military, he continued, told him they have made a careful evaluation of Indonesian offensive action with the resources presently available in Malaysia. Mr. Bundy concluded that he had told the Foreign Office that he thought the British plans were not unreasonable.

[Page 166]

Internal Situation in Indonesia. Mr. Bundy went on to review the situation in Indonesia as we see it. We think we see at least temporary indications that Sukarno is trying to restrain the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). Admittedly, we have thought we saw such signs before, but this proved illusory. However, there are some recent indications that the Indonesians realize how close they came to a showdown. Mr. Cuthell said we believe there have been two recent developments of particular importance which encourage the Indonesian Government to adopt a more peaceful stance. The Indonesians were disagreeably surprised by the results of the recent vote in the Security Council, where two African countries (Morocco and Ivory Coast) voted against them. Since the vote Morocco and Ceylon and perhaps other Afro-Asians have told the Indonesians that they cannot agree with the Indonesian contention that Indonesia has a right to attack its neighbors, and Prime Minister Shastri of India has stated much the same thing publicly. We also suspect that the Soviets have had some hard words to say to the Indonesians since the Soviet veto of the Norwegian resolution in the Security Council cut right across current Soviet efforts to condemn the use of military force to settle disputes between nations. Internally, the PKI has been forcing the pace on the Indonesian Government, and this was bringing out a reaction in various forms. In addition, what amounts to martial law has been proclaimed throughout the country, giving the Army authority to hold down strikes and demonstrations. However, we won’t know until Sukarno returns from his current trip what his reading of the situation will be or what the Soviet price will be for further support of Indonesia.

Mr. Stewart left a copy of an analysis of the situation prepared by the British Embassy in Djakarta September 23.2 The Embassy concluded that Sukarno is undecided about the path to take and is groping his way, acutely worried that he may have to make an irrevocable decision one way or another in the near future.

Mr. Bundy doubted that Sukarno would get anything substantial from his visit to Moscow. The Soviets do not appear ready to move into Southeast Asia in strength, and Sukarno has nothing much to offer them in return. In any case, the argument for positioning Commonwealth forces to deal firmly with further Indonesian incursions into mainland Malaya and Singapore remains untouched, and the existence of these forces in place has had a salutary effect on the Indonesians.

Reascertainment in Malaysian Borneo. Mr. Bundy said that Mr. Peck of the Foreign Office had told him in London that the British have carefully examined the idea reportedly floated by Sukarno that a plebiscite [Page 167] on the formation of Malaysia might be held in Borneo in the next five years. The British have concluded that this would amount to holding a Sword of Damocles over the Tunku. The situation was not like that in West Irian, where the Indonesians are committed to a referendum before 1969, but where they can manage political activity on the referendum issue. In a more open society like Malaysia the Tunku could not exert the same kind of control.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 27 INDON. Drafted by Conlon. Secret.
  2. Not found attached.