Learn about the beta

51. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • SEATO and the Situation in Southeast Asia


  • The President
  • H.E. Konthi Suphamongkhon, Secretary General of SEATO
  • Mr. William P. Bundy, Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs
  • Mr. Laurence G. Pickering, Officer-in-Charge, Thai Affairs, Department of State

After congratulating Konthi on his appointment as Secretary General, the President asked for Konthiʼs evaluation of what SEATO was prepared to do in Laos and Viet-Nam in case of need. Konthi replied that much depended on the situation, noting first that SEATO could act in either of those countries only on the basis of a request for action from them, and secondly that there would no doubt be lack of agreement among the members of SEATO about the need for action. In the latter case, he made clear, individual members of the Organization could still act because of the interpretation of SEATO obligations contained in the Rusk-Thanat communiqué of March, 1962,2 which had been accepted by most of the members. The President then asked for a rundown of the likely response of the individual member countries to a call for action. Konthi said that in his judgment all would respond in accordance with their capabilities except France and Pakistan.

The President laid great stress on the importance of all nations and international organizations joining in the effort to keep the peace in Southeast Asia. If that effort fails, he concluded, the SEATO nations will have to be prepared to move in and do the job.3

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, SEATO. Confidential. The meeting was held at the White House. The time of the meeting is from the Presidentʼs Daily Diary. (Ibid.) On May 23, Rusk sent the President a briefing memorandum for Konthiʼs courtesy call. (Ibid.)
  2. For text of the Rusk-Thanat communiqué, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1962, pp. 1091–1093.
  3. Konthi also met with Secretary Rusk, Harriman, and William Bundy on May 25. They discussed plans for continuing funding for the SEATO Graduate School of Engineering, SEATO support for a feeder road system in northern Thailand, and the non-SEATO issue of continuation of U.S. consumable assistance to Thailand. (Memorandum of conversation, May 25; Department of State, Central Files, DEF 4 SEATO) According to Ruskʼs Appointment Book, Rusk and the other Americans met Konthi for lunch at the Department of State beginning at 1:07 p.m. (Johnson Library)