88. Telegram From the Embassy in Indonesia to the Department of State 1

962. Reference: Department’s telegram 487.2 Additional talks with key GOI leaders since events reported Embtel 9193 have added weight to need for moving Malaysian dispute to conference table. To date Adam Malik, Chaerul Saleh, General Nasution, General Sukendro and others have made strong pleas for US help in rescuing moderates within Indonesia from what could easily become untenable position.

While I agree with many points in reftel I believe Department may underestimate strength of sentiment here in favor of face-saving way out on Malaysia issue. Important segments Indo military have been embarrassed by obvious failure of efforts against mainland Malaya. Burgeoning non-Communist movement fears dispute will be used to suppress them. As result there seems to be unity of interest among significant elements here which could give us leverage to help defuse dispute.

Regarding specific questions in para 2 reftel, we believe internal issues, especially local concern over growing PKI influence, were key elements in providing motivation for moderate forces. Failure of “confrontation” was also a factor but this was probably secondary. In early stages of non-Communist movement, settlement of Malaysian issue with behind scenes help USG might have lulled newly awakened moderates into false sense of believing everything would soon be all right. However, movement has gained such momentum that I do not believe this is any longer the case. Danger now is one of suppression, since PKI and FAR leftists must be concerned by non-Communist drive and stirring up any issue or tactics to restore status quo, Malik and others believe they are too strong to be stopped except in wave of ultra-nationalistic frenzy which would almost certainly accompany intensification of Malaysian dispute. This is precise issue which helped them gain momentum and could now be turned against them.

We share Dept’s view that Subandrio would be most reluctant to deprive himself of weapon which might be used against moderates. However, we believe we could contribute in creating situation where Subandrio would have little choice but to go along with such move. [Page 186]His “unprecedented cordiality” with British Amb Gilchrist Nov. 20 (Embtel 943),4 may indicate Subandrio sees handwriting on wall and is prepared, whatever his motivation, to be more helpful.

Our comments on numbered paras reftel follow:

We have gained impression here that while Brits going slow on talks with Indos they have definitely not closed door. Results of Gilchrist’s latest talk with Subandrio may well encourage additional British moves. Australians, while somewhat pessimistic regarding prospects, give impression here they willing explore any possibility for peaceful settlement.

First objective Indo-UK talks should be merely to restore communications and establish some sort mutual confidence. Only if discussions are started can Brits effectively stress importance of ending Indo military attacks and persuade GOI that Tunku not averse to direct discussions. We believe that such talks, while useful prerequisite, probably would not succeed in settling issue in which so much “face” involved. Talks could however provide opportunity for seriously exploring viewpoints of parties concerned and hopefully moving toward AACC or other impartial device which would actually recommend solution. Sukarno commitment in advance to adhere to AACC decision was opposed by Subandrio but seems indicate Sukarno willing accept impartial judgment which gives him opportunity end unsuccessful military confrontation without appearing to bow to Tunku or Western powers.

Only specific issue impeding direct GOI-GOM discussions PR movement to AACC seems to be Indo guerrillas. Appears to us that Tunku’s insistence on withdrawal these guerrillas as prerequisite for talks is not very realistic. It doubtful if GOI still has control over those on Malaysian territory, and prime objective at present should be to prevent further incursions and reduce chances of escalation. If this issue could be bypassed we could move on to solution which would be in interests of all concerned.


Appreciate Amb Bell’s view that discussion of captured infiltrators could provide means place GOI and GOM into direct communication (KL’s 622),5 but I am inclined believe it preferable if subject can be sidetracked for present. On basis past experience by tripartite Foreign Ministerial negotiations in Bangkok earlier this year, and estimate present Indo mood, I believe actual result of bringing two sides together on issue of prisoner status would be that talks never get beyond technical [Page 187]stage, thus actually hamstringing chance for political discussion of broader issues. It will be realized that approach of GOM and GOI to negotiations has consistently been completely different and will likely continue to be. Indos have refused to come to agreement on such aspects as guerrilla withdrawals, supervision of cease-fire, etc., and instead have stated repeatedly that these things can be readily solved if basic political settlement achieved. On Malaysian side, such issues have been consistently viewed as stepping stones to more basic agreement and, in manner almost “more British than the British,” GOM has concentrated on legal, technical and moral arguments to secure strict compliance to some such preliminary agreement before proceeding further.

I do not believe that Sukarno will be willing to immerse negotiations again in what GOI considers as side issues, and from our viewpoint such debates could easily offer Subandrio wholesome room for maneuver and influence on President regarding alleged GOM obstructionism. I believe Indo willingness to settle current confrontation can only be tested by procedure which will largely avoid subordinate issues and go to heart of intentions both sides with regard to basic rapprochement. Latter could then create climate of feeling in which two important steps can be taken: (1) Halt of Indo military attacks, and (2) formation of some such mechanism as AACC which can give Sukarno political excuse to call off policy which has become ingrained in political fabric of Indo. This all presumes, of course, that prisoner issue will not suddenly come to head and that GOM able and willing to let issue vegetate quietly in legal channels for some time. This has been our impression here on basis Embassy KL and CAS reports.

If US initiative used in carefully controlled fashion here and in KL, I do not believe this would be viewed as indication that “US prepared reward intransigence.” Sukarno feels USG has abandoned neutral stand and is actively supporting GOM. US initiative now would in his eyes help restore balance and increase our credibility. If Dept agrees to proposal that we take advantage this opportunity I would plan make absolutely clear to Sukarno that we will not do for them in Malaysia confrontation what we did in West Irian dispute. Situations are totally different and US policies in no way similar. Instead of smoothing way for GOI achievement of main objective as in settlement of dispute with Dutch over West Irian, our initiative this time will essentially be for purpose of allowing Sukarno graceful way to step back without achieving stated objective of “crushing Malaysia.”

I would also propose outline to Sukarno dangers of Malaysian confrontation as we see it and our concern over state US-Indo relations which stems in large part from confrontation. I would hope be authorized to tell him new administration wants to help GOI explore possible [Page 188]ways of ending present dilemma, making point, as I have so often in past, that we recognize Malaysia, disagree with GOI current activities against Malaysia, but that we wish to be helpful in achieving peaceful solution to thorny question between two neighbors. We are not concerned with substance of solution but in bringing parties concerned together so that mutually satisfactory solution can be found. We hope GOI will seriously pursue discussions with British and make every effort move on to AACC or other device. Would be most useful also to be able tell him we have good evidence Tunku shares this view.

I believe we might begin by strongly encouraging British to follow up promptly on encouraging beginning made by Gilchrist-Subandrio conversation November 20. If results are encouraging we should be prepared to quickly follow up with approaches in Djakarta and KL to really get issue moving toward solution. I get impression Department of opinion that time working on our side. While this may have been case at one time, I believe time now running out for us and for Indo moderates who need our help.6

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 32–1 INDON–MALAYSIA. Secret; Priority. Repeated to Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Canberra, London, Manila, Tokyo, and CINCPAC for POLAD.
  2. Document 84.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 84.
  4. Dated November 21. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL INDON–UK)
  5. Dated November 23. (Ibid., POL INDON–MALAYSIA)
  6. In telegram 502 to Djakarta, November 25, the Department suggested there was no prospect that the United Kingdom and Malaysia would resume talks with Indonesia while Indonesia continued to introduce new troops into the conflict. The Department stated that it was not a problem of Indonesian forces on Malaysia soil, but “these unrelenting low-level forays of small bodies of troops and saboteur forces which are the obstacle.” The only approach the Department could see succeeding was for Sukarno to stop military activity for a month or so to allow Tunku and the British to make secret contacts for an Asian-African Conciliation Commission or some other mechanism. (Ibid., POL INDON–MALAYSIA) Jones responded in telegram 984, November 26, that he was not proposing to bypass a cessation of Indonesian military activity, but looking for a tacit cessation of hostilities. The issue he proposed to bypass was the Indonesian guerrillas on Malaysian territory. (Ibid.)