29. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Minister Hasluckʼs Appointment with Secretary Rusk


  • Mr. P.M.C. Hasluck, Minister of External Affairs, Australia
  • Ambassador Keith Waller, Australian Ambassador
  • Secretary Rusk
  • Mr. William P. Bundy, Assistant Secretary/EA
Cambodia. Hasluck referred briefly to Australiaʼs difficulties with Cambodia, and the Secretary mentioned Mrs. Kennedyʼs forthcoming visit. There was no discussion in depth, but the Secretary did remark that it would be a major coup if Sihanouk were to change his position—much like a top-level defection from the Viet Cong side.
Future Planning for Malaysia and Singapore. Hasluck went into this subject at great length, making the following points.
They were hoping that there could be an early meeting of all five nations, including the British. However, Wilson appeared doubtful, and [Page 70] it might boil down to just the four—Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand.
His thinking was to divide the problem into the short term and the long term, defining the latter as roughly beyond the next 5–6 years. One could not say at this point whether Vietnam would end before British withdrawal, or the reverse, so that there were difficult variables.
In the short term, he did not see any serious threats to Malaysia and Singapore. Nonetheless, it seemed clear that the Australians and New Zealanders should maintain their presence. This was the hope and expectation of Malaysia and Singapore, it was important to their morale, it provided a base from which Australia and New Zealand could help develop the self-defense capacity of the two nations, and above all, there was the factor that if Australia and New Zealand pulled out, it would be very difficult to go back later.
For the long term, the security of Malaysia and Singapore must be seen as a part of the security of the whole of Southeast Asia, and could be greatly affected by the over-all situation. Subject to this comment, Hasluck raised the following questions:
Australiaʼs role was clearly important, but Australia was not in a position to assume the full burden the British had taken. What was the true Australian/New Zealand role?
Australia had just made the decision to extend $20 million in military aid. What else could be expected of the British? Hasluck said they hoped to find out. At any rate, the objective should be to develop effective self-defense by the two countries as soon as possible.
The present Australia/New Zealand presence was a battalion, a battery, and naval patrol vessels on the Australian side, but the New Zealanders were reducing their battalion to make their Vietnam contribution and might go as low as a company. These totals might be enough for now, but it was possible that M/S would question them.
If a significant build-up were ever required, where would the logistic support come from? Hasluck noted that they were now depend-ent on the British, and by implication he seemed to be raising the possibility of future logistic ties with us.
Continued deployment of Australian and New Zealand forces necessarily involved a US factor in that the ANZUS Treaty covered forces of the parties in the Treaty area, which included Malaysia and Singapore. ANZUS must be kept alive, but the fact that the Treaty did apply should not be hammered in public. They were searching for a formula that would indicate that continued deployments were undertaken “in consultation and with the full understanding of the US.” This might be enough to persuade Australians that ANZUS had not been overlooked, but would not be so blunt as to raise question in our Senate. The Secretary [Page 71] noted the problem without attempting to come to grips with the precise formula required.
The Australians and New Zealanders must have freedom to move, re-deploy, or even withdraw their forces.
Indonesia was showing itself sensitive.
The integrity of SEATO must be maintained.
The Secretaryʼs Response. The Secretary responded that the subject seemed to call for quiet talks between the Australians and ourselves, which we would welcome. He noted that there were several questions that might be added. For example, what was the “real time” requirement for decision-making? The British had insisted on making some decisions well before they seemed to be required.
  • Secondly, what was the actual British schedule for reduction and withdrawal? Moreover, was there merit in urging the British at some point to maintain a commitment in the area even though their forces were physically withdrawn?
  • Thirdly, what were the real threats against which one was acting? We must in any event do all we could to bring ASEAN along and make the Indonesian threat less likely. If China was regarded as the threat, then SEATO was the first line of defense.
  • Fourthly, the Secretary noted that we ourselves had no thought of changing the existing treaty structure in the area. The possibility might arise if the Asians sought a consolidation of our existing commitments, but he was very skeptical that the Congress would react favorably to anything new or different. As to ANZUS, he agreed with Hasluck that it applied to Australian and New Zealand forces, but hoped that this would not be mentioned in so many words.

Hasluck concluded by saying that they faced an immediate decision whether to indicate that they were in fact staying. He thought they should do so. The Secretary concurred, noting that the decision should be couched in terms of staying “with the British” and under existing arrangements.” Hasluck appeared to agree.

Secondly, Hasluck thought they must go ahead with the kind of meeting that the Tunku wanted—with all five nations if possible but without the British if necessary. The Secretary suggested the possibility of meeting the Indonesian concerns by actually inviting an Indonesian observer. Hasluck said he would like to think that one over, since it was very important to keep up the picture that the invitation came from the Tunku. He thought it might be possible to talk to the Indonesians and tell them they would be kept informed.

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The conversation then adjourned for lunch, and the topic was not further pursued in substance.2 However, Hasluck said he would shortly give us a memorandum on the problem,3 to serve as the basis for quiet talks by Ambassador Waller with us in Washington.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL AUSTL–US. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by William Bundy and cleared by John P. Walsh, Deputy Executive Secretary, on October 12. Hasluck was attending the UN General Assembly session in New York and visited Washington from there.
  2. Hasluck also met with Under Secretary Katzenbach on October 12, and they discussed Vietnam. (Memorandum of conversation, October 12; ibid., POL 7 AUSTL)
  3. See the attachment to Document 32.