139. Telegram From the Embassy in Thailand to the Department of State 1
Conto 24/14775. Subject: Connally Visit; East Asia—Secretary Connally’s Calls on Minister of Finance Serm and Prime Minister Thanom.
Summary: Secretary Connally affirmed that the United States will honor its commitments to countries of SE Asia and that U.S. military presence as well as economic assistance will continue while a need exists. Secretary Connally also assured the Thai that the President’s visit to the PRC would not jeopardize the interests of Thailand or other third countries. The major concern of Prime Minister Thanom was China and the threat posed to Thai security. He urged the U.S. to maintain a strong position in SE Asia while trying to improve relations with the PRC.
- Secretary Connally called first on Minister of Finance Serm Vinicchayakul. After initial pleasantries, Connally asked for Serm’s comments on the U.S. economic program. Serm said he understood the factors which prompted the U.S. to take this action. The fact that the dollar was not devalued, Serm felt, was important to countries such as Thailand with substantial dollar reserves. Secretary Connally assured Serm that the U.S. program took interests of developing nations into account. The administration believed that objectives of the program would be mutually beneficial to U.S. and developing countries. The U.S. looks to Southeast Asia as vital participants in world trade, suppliers of essential raw materials, and important trading partners. U.S. interest in this area will continue, Secretary Connally said.
- At the conclusion of the meeting, Serm escorted Secretary Connally and the Ambassador to a meeting with Prime Minister Thanom Kittikachorn. Other persons present for the meeting were Deputy Prime Minister Pote Sarasin, Foreign Minister Thanat Khoman, Lt. General Sawaeng Senanarong, Minister of the Office of the Prime Minister and Deputy Minister Econ Affairs Prasit Kanjonawatana.
- Secretary Connally opened with a forceful declaration of U.S. commitment to Thailand and other countries of SE Asia. President Nixon, he said, had asked him to affirm that the U.S. will maintain its military and economic presence in SE Asia as long as the need exists. [Page 303]In accordance with the Nixon Doctrine, Thailand can be assured of continued U.S. assistance to help meet its economic and military needs. Despite the recent defeat of the Foreign Assistance Bill by the U.S. Senate, the administration is vigorously seeking interim means of continuing assistance until the question can be favorably resolved.
- In response, Thanom (speaking in Thai with Thanat interpreting his remarks) thanked the Secretary for the assurances which he brought from the President. Thanom said that U.S. military forces and assistance must play a vital role not only in Vietnamization but also “Southeast Asianization” to assure the future security of the region. He pointed out that Thailand had cooperated closely with the United States in realization of mutual objectives and that Thailand was fostering SE Asian unity by participating in regional programs.
- Turning to the question of China, Thanom said that Thailand, like the US, believed that the time was ripe for the People’s Republic of China to become a member of the United Nations, and had supported the U.S. position at the UN. Secretary Connally expressed his appreciation for Thai support. The U.S. realized that the question of admitting the PRC to the UN was of vital importance to countries “only a stone’s throw from mainland China.”
- Secretary Connally said that the purpose of President Nixon’s visit to the PRC was to seek an improved relationship with the PRC. He emphasized that the U.S. had modest expectations for the results of the meeting. The President, he said, feels a responsibility to try to bring the PRC into the community of nations in a peaceful fashion. However, the U.S. would not cultivate new friends at the expense of old. The issues discussed at the meeting in China would be bilateral problems between the U.S. and the PRC; third countries need not fear that their interests would be jeopardized.
- Thanom said that the China question was, of course, of great concern to Thailand. He urged the U.S. to maintain its “military/economic/political umbrella” over SE Asia at the same time that it tried to improve relations with the PRC. Diminished U.S. interest in SE Asia could result in a power vacuum which Peking might try to fill. He mentioned the Chinese road building program in Laos and Burma and ex-pressed apprehension about the ultimate purpose of these roads. Secretary Connally, in response, restated that the U.S. would continue to maintain its strong posture in SE Asia while the need existed.
- Comment: The major concern of the Thai was the question of Communist China. Secretary Connally effectively outlined the objectives of the President’s visit to the PRC, hopefully allaying Thai fears that the visit might be injurious to their interests. Secretary Connally also took the initiative in explaining that the administration is working [Page 304]hard to avoid any disruption in military and economic assistance which might occur as a result of the defeat of the Foreign Assistance Bill by the Senate. The Thai did not question his assessment of the problem or his assurance that it would be resolved.
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 US Connally. Secret; Priority;Exdis. Received at 4:17 a.m. on November 4.↩