9. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • South Asian Defense


  • The Secretary
  • The Honorable John Keith Waller, Australian Ambassador
  • Mr. R. W. Furlonger, Minister, Australian Embassy
  • Miss Frances McReynolds, FE/SPA
Ambassador Waller left with the Secretary a copy of a top-secret message dated October 22, which Prime Minister Menzies had sent to Prime Minister Wilson and which would be shared with New Zealand.2 Three principal points were made by the Prime Minister:
the threat in Southeast Asia requires a continued military presence in Asia, and only two Western powers—the United States and the United Kingdom—are capable of exercising world-wide responsibilities for peace;
an effective defense must be a cooperative one; the bases in Singapore and Malaysia are pertinent to the defense of the area; they must stay, even in adversity, and must be retained as long as possible, not only during the confrontation period but during the period of continuing instability in Southeast Asia;
a ministerial meeting of the four powers should be held. No date was suggested.
The Secretary remarked that the message was good doctrine and that we have made strong representations to the British along parallel lines. We feel strongly not only about Southeast Asia but about East Africa, the Indian Ocean areas and the Western Hemisphere. We have been told that Britain will not abandon its commitments for a number of years (ranging from two to three to several) and will keep in close touch with us. It is utterly fundamental that the United States cannot be left as the only free world country expected to act in all parts of the world. The question of who is doing what is a fundamental question with us. While we have the impression that the U.S. will be consulted before the British make decisions on the bases, we will continue to press our view at every opportunity that consultations are necessary.
The Secretary noted that he would be seeing British Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart at the NATO meetings and will make it clear that if it comes to a choice between NATO and extra-NATO commitments, it would be better for Britain to meet its extra-NATO commitments. A marginal input by the United Kingdom in NATO is less important that an input in Southeast Asia from the points of view of all of us—the UK, the US and Australia. In reply to a question from Ambassador Waller, the Secretary said that we have not made this known as a formal policy because it has to be made known within a NATO context. The Secretary added that he hoped such a choice would not have to be made and that there were other factors involved for Britain including decisions on a nuclear force and its defense budget. We do not have the impression, however, that Britain is about to make an adverse decision.
On the first point raised by Prime Minister Menzies, the Secretary agreed that there must be a continued presence in Southeast Asia. We would contemplate—assuming peace in Vietnam—that there would be a continued presence in the Philippines rather than in Vietnam and that Singapore with the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand would be the principal bases. Deployments in Southeast Asia ought to be at least as large as at present and might be larger; we canʼt permit substantial reductions for a long time.
The Secretary queried the Ambassador on the Prime Ministerʼs thinking, i.e. whether he assumed that the US would have to remain permanently in Vietnam. Ambassador Waller confirmed that the Prime Minister had in mind only a presence in the area. The Secretary continued that specific thinking on Malaysia and Singapore must wait because [Page 16] of recent events in Indonesia. If the Army and Muslims can dominate the situation, and if the PKI can be put into second or third position, Indonesia will probably find some way to move away from confrontation while they try to dispose of the PKI.
The Secretary thought that the third point, a ministerial meeting, would be largely a matter of timing and that there might be some advantage in top officials quietly making known their attitudes to each other without the publicity of meetings on a Ministerial or Chief-of-Government level. He said that this rather vague reply would have to do for the moment until further study could be made. The Secretary said he had no specific reaction other than to say that the United States Government was prepared to do what was necessary to achieve the desired result.
Ambassador Waller asked if he were correct in assuming that there was no difference on the subject of cooperating on defense arrangements. The Secretary replied that we would examine the whole situation and would need to go beyond the broad present agreements and examine arrangements which fall into the specific contingencies framework. We must keep developments fully in mind, exchange views, and then get down to the more specific contingencies arrangements.
In this connection, the Secretary asked the Ambassador to keep us informed of anything his government learns about Sihanoukʼs policy and especially the Cambodian Governmentʼs support to the Viet Cong which might become particularly troublesome if it proves to be of a significant nature.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 1 ASIA SE. Secret;Exdis. Drafted by McReynolds on October 25 and approved in S on October 29.
  2. Not found.