347. Memorandum From Acting Secretary of State Katzenbach to President Johnson1


  • Your Meeting with the King of Thailand

We hope through this meeting to strengthen Thai conviction of our determination to see a just and stable peace established in Southeast Asia; to demonstrate our gratitude for Thai support of Free World interests in Southeast Asia; and to show our respect for and appreciation of the important role of the Monarchy in Thailand.

All of these objectives can be most effectively furthered through your direct communication with the King, who has many times reiterated (including during the present visit to the United States), his great personal respect and admiration for you as a man who understands well the problems of Asia and the sensitivities of Asians. The King has but a [Page 778] limited role in the government. However, his prestige, as a Monarch of a long and proud dynasty in a country where the Monarch is deeply revered and as a person highly admired for his exemplary personal life, makes him a significant political force. He frequently exerts a useful behind-the-scenes influence on events in Thailand. Finally, he can communicate perhaps more effectively than any other person with the people of Thailand.

Your sensitivity during your recent visit to Thailand in conveying your desire for a Thai troop contribution in Vietnam without making a direct request was greatly appreciated by the King and strengthened his ability to influence the decision of the Thai Government to contribute troops. Your personal emphasis of the following points, using the same low-key technique so effectively employed during your visit, would contribute greatly to the achievement of your objectives:

The United States will persist in Vietnam until we are sure that South Vietnam is safe from aggression.
Our defense commitment to Thailand through SEATO is clear—and America keeps its commitments.
We deeply appreciate the contribution being made by Thai fighting men in Vietnam (where a volunteer regiment is soon to join the small Naval and Air units already there) and Laos (where clandestine support of the Lao forces through provision of pilots and artillerymen has contributed immeasurably to stabilizing the military situation). This is in keeping with the tradition of the Thai forces who fought in Korea, and is another illustration of Thai acceptance of responsibilities as well as the benefits of collective security.
The provision of access to Thai bases to our armed forces is in itself an invaluable contribution to our joint war effort.
We want to express our heartfelt thanks for the hospitality accorded the some 40,000 American servicemen now in Thailand. We know that our soldiers have customs that are different from those of the Thai. We know that our ways must sometimes seem strange to the Thai. But the Thai people have received our men with understanding and tolerance and grace, and the American people are grateful.
We are greatly impressed and encouraged by the magnificent over-all performance of the Thai economy, by the governmentʼs vigorous efforts to extend the benefits of economic and social development to the less developed areas of the country, and by Thailandʼs leadership in developing Asian regional cooperation.
We are encouraged by Thai actions to oppose Communist attempts to create insurgency in the Northeast. We will continue our unstinting support of these actions.
We are deeply conscious of and appreciative of the Kingʼs leadership in every field of life in Thailand.

You will also wish to reiterate your thanks for the reception which Their Majesties and the Thai people accorded you and Mrs. Johnson in Bangkok in October, 1966.

I enclose additional points which the King may raise together with suggested replies.2

Nicholas deB. Katzenbach
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 7 THAI. Secret. There is no indication of a drafting officer on this memorandum. Pickering drafted a covering memorandum to Rusk recommending that he sign the memorandum to the President. King Bhumibol Adulyadej made a State visit to Washington, June 27–29.
  2. Attached, but not printed.