346. Memorandum From the Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Hoopes) to Secretary of Defense McNamara 1
- Status Report on SOFA Negotiations with Thailand
All US used military bases in Thailand are the property and under the command of the Royal Thai Government (RTG). US use of these facilities, [Page 776] including those constructed solely with US funds, is not covered by written agreements. Ambassador Martin has stated that, “there are no specific oral agreements (covering US use of Thai bases) other than the repeated assurances that the facilities now being used will continue to be made available for the duration of the necessity of both countries to carry out their obligations under the SEATO Treaty.” US operations from these bases technically require RTG clearance.
These arrangements have been operationally satisfactory: The Thai have permitted the staging of required missions from Thai bases, and they have permitted the construction of necessary facilities in Thailand.
You will recall that on several occasions individual Congressmen have questioned the wisdom of spending US funds on facilities in Thailand without having a written agreement regarding our rights to use these bases. With this in mind, we suggested to State that letters be exchanged between the USG and the RTG which would say that the US-used facilities in Thailand “would be available to our forces so long as both parties consider it necessary for the discharge of their responsibilities and obligations under SEATO.”
It is Stateʼs judgment (Bundy and Martin) that requesting such a written exchange might well create more problems than it would solve. They note that Foreign Minister Thanat seeks every opportunity to question our commitment to Thailand and to press his government into demanding a bilateral defense agreement with us, that he almost succeeded in this effort at the time of the B–52 request, and that he almost certainly would use a request for such an exchange of letters as an opportunity for taking up his fight once again. Moreover, State points out that there are base rights provisions in the draft SOFA now being negotiated with the Thai.
It is our judgment that these SOFA negotiations will continue for many months. We would actually prefer to let the negotiations drift because (1) if either side pressed for a near-term conclusion, negotiations might become sufficiently heated to disrupt our existing relationship, (2) present informal arrangements on the status and treatment of our forces in Thailand are satisfactory and (3) a formal SOFA might, unless we are highly successful in the negotiations, involve provisions that would cause Korea, Taiwan, or the Philippines to seek review of our arrangements with them. Since negotiations will probably continue for many months (and, indeed, may never be concluded), it will be possible for the foreseeable future to answer questions regarding US rights to bases in Thailand by stating that these and other rights of US forces in Thailand are under negotiation with the RTG.
We have talked to LA (Mr. Shumate and Colonel Outlaw), and it is their judgment that the majority of the Congress are not disturbed by the absence of formal base rights in Thailand (or in Vietnam) and that, while [Page 777] criticism from individual Congressmen is always possible, there probably will not arise from Congress as a whole, or its various committees, concerted pressure to conclude either a SOFA or a separate base rights agreement with the Thai.
Accordingly, I believe that we should not press further on the exchange of letters idea, and that we should continue to permit the SOFA negotiations to follow the course set by the Thai.2
- Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 72 A 2468, Thailand 323.3. Secret.↩
- McNamara approved on June 13, but added the following handwritten postscript: “but I can not approve further facilities (land purchase or real property improvements) programs in Thailand w/o written agreement providing the US the right of occupancy for reasonable periods. RMcN.”↩