99. Memorandum From James C. Thomson, Jr., of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1


  • The Sukarno Problem

Cooper and I had a lengthy session with Dave Cuthell of State Friday2 on possible actions we might take in response to Djakarta’s 1358.3

State’s preliminary view is that the situation is not quite as bad as Jones suggests; that it would be very risky to expend all our capital in a Presidential meeting with Sukarno outside the country (which would be used by Sukarno to push his self-image as the paramount leader of the Afro-Asian world); and that in any event such a meeting would treat only a symptom of the disease and not the disease itself.

Nonetheless, we are persuaded that a two-stage initiative might make good sense at this juncture: a brief trip by the Vice President to Manila, Kuala Lumpur and Djakarta sometime before mid-February (with Djakarta the focal point); and, if this first step brings any results, a meeting between the President and Sukarno in Hawaii sometime in April or May.

We believe that the situation does call for an early exercise in personal diplomacy, short of the Presidential level. If approved, a Humphrey visit should take place well before the Algiers conference, now scheduled for sometime in March—a conference at which Indonesia will certainly behave very badly. Judging by past experience, the Indos shape up rather well in anticipation of visits from our top brass. This [Page 212]might give us a respite during the period immediately before Humphrey’s arrival; and if Humphrey gets anywhere with Sukarno, the visit might conceivably have some effect on the Indo performance in Algiers.

If the Humphrey visit goes smoothly, the Hawaii meeting might possibly be focused on some such gimmick as Howard Jones’ installation as Chancellor of the East-West Center. The Center has been a long-time interest of President Johnson; and it would be feasible to hold a special convocation for Jones’ installation to which Jones’ pal Sukarno could logically be invited.

As a possible alternative to the Humphrey trip, we might also consider a first step of lower visibility and have Mike Forrestal test the climate in Djakarta.

As an alternative to the Hawaii meeting, we might consider a Presidential invitation to both Sukarno and the Tunku to come to Washington for talks—along the lines of his invitation to Papandreou and Inonu last year.

All this is very tentative and subject to a good deal more discussion at State. Cuthell is talking with your brother this weekend, and we hope to have a formal recommendation out of the Department by the middle of next week.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Indonesia, Vol. III, Memos, 9/64–2/65, [2 of 2]. Secret.
  2. January 15.
  3. In telegram 1358 from Djakarta, January 15, Jones recommended that in view of the deterioration in U.S.-Indonesia relations President Johnson invite Sukarno to meet with him in Washington. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 2 INDON) In a January 17 memorandum to the President entitled “Weekend Developments of Interest,” McGeorge Bundy stated that “the cable [1358 from Djakarta] is interesting, but not wholly persuasive. Our preliminary judgment is that it would be better if Herbert should go to Manila, Kuala Lumpur, and Djakarta sometime in the next month (he would be much better than the Attorney General because it is closeness to you that counts now).” Since the receipt of Djakarta telegram, Bundy noted that Subandrio and Sukarno were more forthcoming, especially on the issue of USIS libraries. Bundy thought Humphrey’s visit could prove a useful “time-gaining exercise.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. 8, Jan.–Feb. 1965)