63. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Thailand1

1808. Joint State/AID message. SEATO: Economic and Countersubversion Activities. Ref: Deptel 1623 to Bangkok, and Bangkokʼs 1607 and 1637.2

We have reviewed suggestion your 1607 to consider how SEATO might be used with greater effectiveness in the crucial period. Believe your suggestion based on two assumptions: (a) SEATO is one suitable avenue for channeling economic assistance proposed in the Presidentʼs Johns Hopkins address; (b) the continued strength SEATO dependent on revitalization its economic and social side.
We believe use of SEATO as channel for accelerated SEA economic assistance counter to concepts outlined Presidentʼs speech. He specifically stressed need for SEA countries to associate themselves in cooperative effort which he hoped would involve North Viet-Nam and USSR. We believe use of SEATO surest way not to get support of neutral nations SEA or North Viet-Nam and USSR. We convinced it crucial to success of Presidentʼs Asian economic initiative that question of expansion SEATO economic projects not be identified with Presidentʼs proposal.
We also question whether SEATOʼs vitality is dependent today or in foreseeable future on expanded program of economic and social activities. In view of threats now confronting Treaty Area, which likely increase as Communist China moves into nuclear field, it should be clear to Thailand and other Asian members that SEATO is required more than ever for security reasons which led to its establishment. We believe therefore that security sphere should continue as primary focus of SEATO and its activities, and this plus projects related to security should be sufficient to maintain interest of organization and keep it alive and kicking.
Therefore, as stated our 1623, we prepared consider proposals for multilateral SEATO nonmilitary projects, both in countersubversion filed directly and economic and social projects serving countersubversion or other security purposes. To be multilateral, such projects should be multinational either as to sources of financing or as to benefits.
Application of these criteria to projects proposed your 1637 leads us to following conclusions: [Page 161]
Certain port improvement and telecommunications projects in Thailand may be related to security situation and therefore might be considered under SEATO. However, these also on tentative list for broader regional program. To enable further consideration, would appreciate your view as to whether they represent a security requirement and specific information on which affirmative view based.
Do not see how SEATO Graduate School of Engineering could serve broader SEA area until SEATO removed from name of school. As we understand it, this is precisely one of reasons for Expert Study Groupʼs recommendations that action be initiated to remove school from SEATO aegis.
Market research, resource assessment and industrial consultant proposals do not seem have any security aspects, and should therefore be considered either under bilateral programs or in context Presidentʼs SEA development initiative.
Hill tribe research program is already identified as SEATO project in SecGen Report (pp 42–44 of SG/65/REP–C)3 apparently on basis of UK and Australian assistance. We are interested moving ahead in response to Thai request for SEATO assistance for project (SCR/63/D–116). We note that report of technical team which investigated radio broadcasting in NE Thailand last October recommended against moving 50 KW portable transmitter now at Khon Kaen to Chiengmai. Nonetheless, would appreciate Embassyʼs comments on feasibility of moving portable 50 KW transmitter to Chiengmai after Australian transmitter installed rather than wait for resolution of Project Teak negotiations which may or may not result in permanently installed 50 KW transmitter in Northern Thailand some time in future.
We also stated in 1623 that construction projects in NE Thailand (particularly village roadbuilding), rural medical operations and military research offer good potentialities as possible SEATO projects in view their security aspects and provided of course they are multinational in financing. Would welcome firm proposals to enable further consideration.
We would like however move slowly in inaugurating any new SEATO economic or social projects over next few weeks until we see how reaction to Presidentʼs economic assistance initiative develops. We would be concerned that new SEATO projects of this type might be misinterpreted during this period as indicating that SEATO is a channel for carrying out Presidentʼs initiative.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, DEF 4 SEATO. Confidential. Drafted by Thomas C. Niblock and Richard A. Watters, respectively the Director and the regional affairs officer of the Office of Southeast Asian Affairs of AID, and by Mendenhall; cleared by Poats and Trueheart; and approved by Bundy. Repeated to Canberra, Karachi, London for Ambassador Martin, Manila, Paris, Wellington, and CINCPAC for POLAD.
  2. Dated April 2, 21, and 25. (All ibid.)
  3. Not found.