100. Action Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Berger) to Secretary of State Rusk1
- Invitation to General Ne Win to Visit the United States
1. Ambassador Byroade continues to believe that an invitation to General Ne Win to pay an official visit to the United States would be useful in terms of our interests in Burma. In recent months, he has received indications on several occasions from Foreign Minister U Thi Han and other Burmese officials that such an invitation would be favorably received,2 and Ne Win in February told James Linen, Time President, that he would like to visit the U.S. Bill Bundy and I feel that the timing for an invitation is propitious, particularly in that it would follow the invitation to President Marcos of the Philippines and other recent visits by firm friends and would indicate continued interest in neutral opinion.
[2.] Other factors which make a Ne Win visit useful at this time are outlined in the attached Memorandum for the President.3[Page 239]
That you sign the attached Memorandum for the President.
3. Since his takeover of the Government in March 1962, Ne Win has sought to maintain Burmaʼs neutral, non-aligned status. In visits to the Soviet Union and Communist China during the past year he carefully avoided allowing himself to be associated with any derogatory statements regarding the U.S. position in Vietnam. An invitation to pay a state visit to the United States would serve to counterbalance those visits and to emphasize U.S. understanding and respect for Burmese independence and non-alignment as well as the importance we attach to Burma. Such a visit would provide an opportunity for Ne Win to meet the President and other top leaders and help to counteract the impressions of his previous visit and dispel lingering suspicions in his mind that the U.S. is hostile toward his regime and wishes to see it replaced. While unlikely to bring about any major change in Ne Winʼs policies or relaxation of his program for socialization of the Burmese economy, it could result in a friendlier atmosphere for our Embassy to work in and make it possible over a period of time for us to exercise somewhat more influence upon developments in Burma. The principal purpose to be achieved by the visit would, nevertheless, remain to demonstrate our support of Burmese neutrality and to reaffirm that U.S. interest in the area is not limited to our close friends and allies.
That you seek to get Presidential approval for a state visit by Ne Win, if possible during the current year; a memorandum to the President suggesting a visit by Ne Win is attached for your signature.4
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 7 BURMA. Secret. Drafted by Ewing and cleared by Trueheart. Sent through Ball and U. Alexis Johnson who both initialed it.↩
- As reported in telegram 197 from Rangoon, October 25, 1965. (Ibid.) In telegram 149 from Rangoon, September 25, Byroade weighed the pros and cons of a Ne Win visit, and reported that he came “down definitely on the side of extending an invitation.” (Ibid.)↩
- In a March 18 memorandum to the President the Department of State suggested that a visit by Ne Win would “demonstrate our support of Burmese neutrality and reaffirm that our interest in Southeast Asia is not limited to our close friends and allies.” It would dispel Ne Winʼs bad experiences of his 1960 trip and the suspicion that the United States was hostile to him. it would also counterbalance his visits in 1965 to the Soviet Union and China. (Ibid.)↩
- Komer sent the President a March 18 memorandum endorsing the invitation and noting that “with our increasing focus on Asia, having a neutralist statesman like this could be a plus. You should know that Ne Win has carefully avoided any statements pro or con on Vietnam.” The President approved the invitation. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Burma, Ne Win Visit, 9/8–10/66)↩