Office of the Historian Press Release
The Department of State released August 8, 2001 Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964–1968, Volume XXVI, Indonesia; Malaysia-Singapore; Philippines. This volume, part of the ongoing official record of American foreign policy, presents the record of the policy of the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson toward these three nations during a period of transition in Southeast Asia.
The largest compilation, on U.S. relations with Indonesia, presents documents on one of the most turbulent eras of Indonesia’s history since it gained its independence from the Netherlands. During 1964 and much of 1965, Indonesian President Sukarno continued his policy of confrontation against the Federation of Malaysia. The United States sought to mediate this territorial dispute, which had flared into low-level guerrilla warfare, while at the same time the Johnson administration grappled with the question of continuing U.S. economic aid to Indonesia. The Partai Komus Indonesia (PKI), the Indonesian Communist Party, became increasingly powerful under Sukarno, and its anti-American demonstrations and attacks on U.S. facilities severely strained U.S.-Indonesia relations.
After some initial confusion, the Johnson administration concluded in early October 1965 that an attack led by junior military officers against key anti-Communist members of the Indonesian military leadership was aided and encouraged by the PKI and constituted an attempt to overthrow the government and establish a PKI-dominated regime. This short-lived coup, known as “Gestapu” — the Indonesian contraction of the term, “30th of September Movement” — set off a counter reaction by the military, which over a period of months resulted in the deaths of large numbers of PKI members, eliminated PKI influence in Indonesia, and resulted in the replacement of Sukarno by General Suharto. Indonesia’s policy of international non-alignment, coupled with close association with the Sino-Soviet bloc, changed to one of non-alignment with close contacts with the West. The documents printed in the volume reveal the role that the United States played in encouraging the anti-Communist elements in Indonesia during the difficult transition from Sukarno to Suharto. The final portion of the compilation highlights the improvement in U.S. relations with the Suharto government and U.S. and international efforts to stabilize the Indonesian economy after the dislocation of the Sukarno years.
Singapore’s August 1965 withdrawal from the Malaysian Federation caused a temporary problem for U.S. policy. The Johnson administration believed that it had to maintain good relations with Malaysia and establish a new relationship with the city-state of Singapore and its dynamic leader, Lee Kwan Yew. The volume’s documents show that President Johnson worked hard at being even-handed with Malaysia, but he developed a close personal relationship with Lee Kwan Yew, a staunch supporter of Johnson’s policy in Vietnam.
The compilation on the Philippines covers the beginning of the era of Ferdinand Marcos, with his victory over Diosado Macapagal in the Philippine presidential elections in November 1965. For almost the first time, the United States had no clear preference in the contest, considering both men to be capable and pro-American. After his impressive victory, Marcos was hailed as a potential political force in Asia by some Johnson advisers, but it became increasingly clear that economic problems, ineffective reforms, corruption, and the growing strength of the nation’s Communists were taking their toll on his administration. By the end of 1968, U.S. intelligence analysts and the U.S. Embassy were quite pessimistic about Marcos and the future of U.S. relations with his government.
For further information, contact David S. Patterson, General Editor of the Foreign Relations series, at (202) 663-1127; fax: (202) 663-1289; e-mail: historystate.gov.