76. Telegram From Secretary of State Rusk to the Department of State1

Secto 68/Canberra 36. Eyes only for the President and the Acting Secretary from the Secretary.

As I prepare to depart Australia for Manila, Taipei and Japan, I can report general satisfaction about the way our meetings this week have gone.2 The SEATO communiqué3 was a very strong declaration and designated for the first time the aggression in Viet Nam as an armed attack. This is significant under Article 4 para one of the SEATO Treaty. There was, of course, large public interest here in the strikes on Hanoi and Haiphong but general understanding and support. One group of fifteen demonstrators turned up on three or four different occasions and we became quite familiar with each other. I was entirely satisfied with the support from Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and the Philippines.

Australia, New Zealand and we were quite disappointed in the rapidly softening position of Great Britain on Southeast Asian questions. All three of us agreed that we should work hard on the British separately and privately to try to turn them around. But if I had to report frankly on my present understanding of British attitude, it would be that they have not the slightest intention of joining in any military effort anywhere north of Malaysia and that, with the end of confrontation, they would be glad to be invited out of Malaysia at the earliest possible moment. Michael Stewart, in reference to British interest in eventual bases in Australia, was most unsatisfactory in responding to persistent questions as to what missions such forces would carry out. About the only thing on which he spoke with confidence was that they would be available to assist in the defense of Australia and New Zealand if these Commonwealth partners [Page 193] were subjected to attack. We pointed out that that was a most remote contingency and that what is needed is assistance now where the great issues of war and peace are joined, namely in Viet Nam and Thailand. I now understand more fully than before what they meant when, during my visit with the Prime Minister recently, they said “letʼs not revive SEATO.”

I understand that President Marcos may press me very hard on the war claims issues on which we have repeatedly said that we cannot provide any satisfaction. I am disturbed by indication that he may link this question with whether or not he pays you a visit. This is the same kind of discourtesy which Macapagal pulled on President Kennedy. Unless I hear to the contrary, I would urge him very strongly not to get the question of claims mixed up with a courteous and friendly relationship between our two Presidents. [If he] repeats the business of playing this one for internal politics at the expense of our own President, the reaction in Congress and in our public opinion could be very costly to him. Iʼll do my best on this one.

I know you are relieved by the superb professional job done by our flyers on Hanoi and Haiphong. I must say that their excellent job has made our problem of any possible aftermath much less and once again earns my complete admiration.

Virginia and I sincerely hope that you and Lady Bird will be able to get some rest over the July fourth period.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. No time of transmission appears on the source text.
  2. The SEATO meetings of June 27–29 and the ANZUS meetings of June 30–July 1, both held in Canberra.
  3. Text in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1966, pp. 620–623.