75. Memorandum of Conversation1



Canberra, June 27–29, 1966


Canberra, June 30–July 1, 1966


  • United States
    • The Secretary
    • Mr. Bundy
    • Ambassador Martin
  • Thailand
    • Thanat Khoman, Foreign Minister
    • Dr. Sompong Sucharitkul, Private Secretary to Foregin Minister


  • Asian Regional Arrangements

The Secretary said he would like to hear the Foreign Ministerʼs thoughts on how the inter-relationships of the various Asian regional institutions, both old and new, might evolve. Thanat said we have of course the security arrangements, including SEATO, ANZUS, and the bilateral defense arrangements between the United States and Korea, Japan, the GRC, and the Philippines. In all of these for the immediate future the power of the United States would remain the shield behind which the free nations of Asia could develop. However, he thought that within the next decade it was possible that these free nations might develop a military capacity which, if properly concerted, could relieve the United States of some of the burden it was carrying at the present.

Outside the security field Thanat thought it would be helpful to guide the groupings into three basic patterns. The creation at Seoul of the Asian and Pacific Council was, in a way, primarily a psychological accomplishment. It proved that, despite the diversity of cultures and previous patterns of alignment, there was now an increasing awareness of the mutuality of their common interest. Some could argue, Thanat, said, that India and Ceylon should be invited. However, inclusion of divided states (SVN and ROK) would not permit this now. Thanat hoped that ASPAC could be maintained as a loosely organized grouping with the primary design of providing an increasingly intimate forum for the candid exchange of views. This would permit, taking into account the [Page 191] absence of Western Powers, the easier concerting of the views of the Asian nations concerned. This process would perhaps in the future give a greater weight to the expression of Asian opinion. Additionally, as it evolved, these exchanges would act also as a moderating influence that might lessen the possibilities for such aberrant conduct as we now see ending in Indonesia. Thanat said Adam Malik debated about either personally attending Seoul or sending an Indonesian observer. He finally decided that either would be premature but definitely planned to attend the next ASPAC session in Bangkok. Thanat said he also thought that by that time Burma and Cambodia might be in a position to attend.

At the other end of the spectrum Thanat said he hoped for the time being to keep ASA confined to Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines. He said working parties were now heavily engaged in preparing for the forthcoming Ministerial Meeting and he hoped that a start could be made in removing as many obstacles as possible to the fullest economic, social, and cultural cooperation between the three countries. Here again, Thanat said, Adam Malik had expressed a desire for Indonesian participation but Thanat thought this could more usefully come a little later after the Indonesians had gone a bit farther in their “tidying up” process.

Mr. Bundy asked about Singapore. Thanat said that during his stopover there last week Lee had indicated interest in having Sabah and Sarawak join with Singapore. He reminded the Secretary of Leeʼs allegorical reference to big fishes who eat little fishes and little fishes who eat shrimp.

The Secretary said that Lee was apparently toying with the idea of consuming a couple of shrimp. Thanat expressed the thought that Lee was still too ambitious. He recalled the incredibly bad judgment of Leeʼs extension of his Party activities out of Singapore into the rest of Malaysia. Leeʼs appetites apparently demanded a bit of “lebensraum”. Thanat thought Leeʼs primary task was to straighten out his relations with Malaysia. Summing up on ASA, Thanat thought that in time Cambodia and Burma would find it attractive as would also South Vietnam.

In between these groupings—through ADB, ECAFE, etc.—the broader groupings should carry on and expand on-going programs. Some nations—Japan, Philippines, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, as well as Thailand—would participate in all groupings in one way or another. The primary emphasis, Thanat concluded, should be on patience, letting successes of modest programs provide their own attraction so that expansion either in size or in functions would come spontaneously. In all of these activities Thanat said that he hoped they could have the discreet blessing of the United States.

The Secretary said that the Foreign Minister was apparently suggesting that the United States not bestow the kiss of death by too close an embrace. Thanat smilingly assented, saying the United States would be [Page 192] kept fully informed. He was certain that our own good judgment would indicate where and when we might usefully provide assistance.

  1. Source: Department of State, S/S-Conference Files: Lot 66 D 305, CF 49. Secret. No drafting information appears on the source text. Approved in S on July 19. The memorandum is part I of VII. The meeting was held at the Ambassadorʼs residence.