28. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Australia1

22024. 1. Please deliver following Presidential letter to Prime Minister Holt as soon as possible.

“Dear Harold:

I express my appreciation for the courtesies extended to my emissaries, Mr. Clifford and General Taylor. They have been most complimentary in their comments on the reception given them by you and your colleagues. I am highly gratified at the frank and forthright discussions that took place, and am confident that they have contributed to an even closer relationship and understanding between our two countries.

I now have your long and thoughtful letter, delivered to me on August 3,2 giving your reflections on the visit and the issues discussed.

I fully appreciate the points you have made, and the various factors that you and your Cabinet will have to take into account in arriving at a decision. I particularly welcome your statement that you will be announcing on August 15 an 18 per cent increase in defense expenditure for this financial year. This continues the constructive trend toward greater responsibility of the last four years.

Australiaʼs performance in foreign aid and in the allocation of resources to development continues to call for our admiration. Your recent decision to give 150,000 tons of wheat to India is a particularly helpful and timely act of responsible generosity.

With the full realization of the complexities of your problem, I do return to the hope that you and your Cabinet can make an early decision to send a two-battalion combat team. My emissaries have reported on the discussions which you had as to specific increases in your forces. My hope is that you will make the maximum effort in this regard, and that you will be able to make an announcement as speedily as possible.

May I particularly point out some of the timing factors at this end? As you know, I have now put before the Congress proposals for a major tax increase and at the same time have announced our decision to raise our own forces in Viet-Nam by 45,000 men. In the next 3–4 weeks, the tax proposal will be in its most critical phase in the Congress, and I will certainly be pressed hard as to the plans that other nations may have to add to their forces in Viet-Nam, alongside the 65,000-man increase [Page 68] announced by the South Vietnamese themselves and our own decision. I simply cannot exaggerate the favorable effect it would have here if we were able to tell the Congress within the next month that your Government had reached a firm decision along the lines I have suggested above.

As to the impact of the British decision concerning Singapore and Malaysia, you and I have shared our thoughts fully on this subject, and I realize that you will be at the center of discussions on new arrangements that may be required over the next few years to pick up the slack that British reductions, and eventual withdrawal at a later time, may leave. I realize that you face general questions of allocation and concentration arising from this situation, but I would hope that these problems need not affect a decision of the scale I have suggested above. I need hardly point out that the Malaysia/Singapore defense problem, as it may exist by 1970 or thereafter, will be vitally affected by whether we have succeeded in achieving a favorable outcome in Viet-Nam.

Your letter shows once again that you are thinking the problem through to the fullest, and I am sure you will reach a constructive and responsible decision as you have always done in the past. I do only urge that you tackle the problem as rapidly as possible in our common interest and in order to keep the pressure on in Viet-Nam at this critical time.

As to the other matters you mention, I understand that Mr. McMahonʼs representatives have had fruitful meetings with our Treasury people, and we will do all we can to reach an early answer on this difficult problem. My special thanks to you for your word of sympathy on our difficult racial violence problem, as well as your kind words on the Forrestal losses. This has been a time of sadness and concern in many respects, but I need hardly assure you that our resolve to go forward in Viet-Nam and Southeast Asia will not be affected.

Finally, Messrs. Clifford and Taylor of course discussed with you the question of a summit meeting some time this fall, a matter which you and I have gone over frequently. The consensus they found in all capitals was in the direction of a meeting, arranged at Asian initiative and in an Asian setting, at some time after the South Vietnamese elections have been held and the new government has been created.

I want to ask you frankly what your own timing factors are with respect to possible dates from late October onward. Within the past week, the Assembly elections in South Viet-Nam have been moved from October 11 to October 22, and the new government will probably have inauguration ceremonies on November 1. This seems to make it most doubtful that we could have a useful summit before November at the earliest. Marcos has elections on November 14, and at the same time we have a long-planned and important visit by Prime Minister Sato of Japan.

I therefore lean to the latter half of November. From your standpoint, I particularly wonder whether you will be affected by your senatorial [Page 69] elections, which I understand come in early December. Are there dates that would be more or less convenient, or even impossible, for you from the standpoint of these domestic factors?

With my warm regards, and again my thanks for your full and frank letter.


Lyndon B. Johnson

2. Signed original being pouched.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL AUSTL–US. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. The text of this message was received from the White House.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 27.