121. Telegram From the Embassy in Thailand to the Consulate in Hong Kong 1

7419. Deliver at the opening of business. Hong Kong for S/S only. Subject: Report of Under Secretary Irwin’s Talk With Foreign Minister. Ref: Bangkok 7415.2

Immediately after call on PriMin May 27, Under Secretary Irwin met with Foreign Minister Thanat Khoman. Also present were Assistant Secretary Green, Deputy Assistant Secretary Sullivan, Ambassador Unger, FSO Colebaugh, and Thanat’s Secretary Birabhongse Kasemsri.
Thanat said the Thai look on US troop reductions in the region as implementation of the Nixon Doctrine. President Nixon said the prime American objective was to keep from using American manpower. The Thai agreed and are using their own men and resources, but they need outside help—economic, technical and logistical help. But now it appears that there will be no American manpower and no economic support either. The Under Secretary explained that the problem arises from anti-war elements who want to move in every way to stop the war immediately. However, the administration believes in building up our allies in Europe, Vietnam and Southeast Asia.
Thanat commented that the problem is deeper than just the anti-war groups, it is also a struggle between the Executive and Legislative branches of the US Government. Under Secretary Irwin agreed, but pointed out that the struggle arose over Vietnam and desire of Congress to curb the war powers of the President, and Ambassador Sullivan commented on the make-up and tactics of the anti-war movement.
Replying to a question on the NVN position during the recent talks on repatriation of Vietnamese refugees, Thanat said that NVN [Page 255]continued to accuse others of intervention while refusing to talk about their own. There is not much hope that they will argue reasonably. Assistant Secretary Green said there are two kinds of negotiations, the kind we are conducting in Paris, the kind the Thais are conducting here. In the second kind, one side takes tacit steps and then awaits response of the other side. Taking Cambodia for example, Green noted that Thailand uses minimal force in providing tactical air support to Cambodia, but holds its deterrent force on Thai territory. This appears to have kept the war from Thailand’s borders. Thanat remarked that the Thai are looking for ways to open reasoned discussions to reduce hostilities. In this regard, Chinese appear more flexible than North Vietnamese.
The Under Secretary then explained the background behind recent moves in US–China relations. The US does not expect China to change her goals, but hopes that by coming out of isolation and resuming contact with rest of the world, China will begin to conduct herself according to internationally accepted modes of conduct. Thanat commented that President Nixon would have a better chance to improve relations with China if Congressmen and Senators were not hampering his efforts. Under Secretary Irwin pointed out that President Nixon’s position on China has majority support.
The Foreign Minister asked if the US has taken a firm decision on China policy. The Under Secretary replied that no decision has been made, but one is expected soon. Assistant Secretary Green noted the belief encountered in Cambodia that ping-pong diplomacy might have some damaging effect in Southeast Asia, particularly on their own situation. Thanat said he and the Prime Minister understood what the United States purposes were even if some politicians were critical. Green said that there is not likely to be any change soon, that gradually over the long term contact with the outside should lessen China’s sense of alienation from the world. He cited the recent prompt return of the hijacked Philippine aircraft and of a yacht which had strayed into Chinese waters, as examples of the new approach taken by China.
Thanat said the Thai will try to persuade the Chinese to stop providing arms to Communist insurgents in Thailand, and to stop infiltrating men. He noted that Communist propaganda has diminished, but has not ceased. If the Chinese really changed their policy, for example, by a change of position in the Paris negotiations, Thailand will get the message that Communist China plans to play its part in the area. Thailand hopes eventually to involve China in a Bandung-type conference, which Thanat thought would mean that Communist China had shifted back to a foreign policy similar to the pre-Bandung period.
Assistant Secretary Green raised the issue of Chinese representation at the United Nations. Thanat remarked that this is a very difficult problem for Thailand, especially because the Republic of China is inflexible on the subject. In response to comments from the Under Secretary and Assistant Secretary that the GRC is aware it must change tactics, Thanat remained firm in his view that the GRC is inflexible and thinks in very simplistic terms. Thanat noted that Thailand has not changed its policy on China—”not yet, anyway.” It was agreed that we will keep the RTG in touch with our thinking on the question through Ambassador Unger.3
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL
  2. Telegram 7415 from Bangkok, May 28, reported on Irwin’s May 27 meeting with Prime Minister Thanom. Irwin, who visited Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand May 19–27, told Thanom that “he came with no specific purpose or message, but rather to become better informed.” The Prime Minister expressed concern about the situation in Laos and had General Surakij describe the North Vietnamese and Chinese threats there. Irwin described positive developments with the South Vietnamese but “then mentioned the lack of progress at the Paris peace talks.” (Ibid., ORG 7 U) Irwin’s more closely held conversations with Thanom are in Documents 122–123.
  3. After meeting with Thanat, Irwin met with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for National Development Pote Sarasin for 15 minutes. Irwin discussed the concern expressed at the U.S. East Asian chiefs of mission conference about the lack of Japanese aid in Southeast Asia. He stated that it was felt that what the Japanese called aid “appears to be largely commercial credits.” Pote observed that the Japanese should be able to do more and that the Thai looked on the Japanese as “ghosts.” (Telegram 7420 from Bangkok, May 28; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL Irwin’s meetings, the Under Secretary “expressed U.S. concern that Japan live up to her commitment to contribute one percent of GNP to genuine aid and be prepared to take measures to reduce the great imbalance of trade between the Southeast Asian area and Japan.” “Pote generally adhered to line that Thailand’s bargaining position with Japan is very weak due to lack of trade items.” (Ibid., ORG 7 U)