153. Telegram From the Embassy in Thailand to the Department of State (Eliot) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

3318. Kuala Lumpur For Assistant Secretary Green. Subject: Assistant Secretary Green’s Call on NEC Chairman Thanom.

Summary: In cordial but deeply serious meeting with NEC Chairman Thanom and other top Thai leaders, Assistant Secretary Green described background of President’s Peking trip, assuring the Thais that there was no change in U.S. commitments to them and emphasizing the positive benefits that will accrue to them if our diplomacy succeds. Green stressed that continued U.S. strength and close bonds with allies such as Thailand are essential to success of our diplomacy.

He also emphasized that this diplomacy, which enjoys broad support at home, will give the President enhanced ability to carry out the Nixon Doctrine and thus put U.S. policy on a firm and steady course on which allies can rely. The Thais were deeply appreciative of this [Page 331]consultation and of the reassurances that Green was able to give. Thanom expressed deep concern about the growing level of insurgency in Thailand and Chinese support thereof, and asked if latter would continue. Green discussed possibilities but said we must await results to see if our diplomacy affected this. Thais obviously will be watching this one closely. Thanom also stressed heavily the need for continuing U.S. economic and military assistance in face of the massive aid the other side is receiving from its backers, and his concern about Congressional attitudes on this question. He also reiterated his earlier appeal for consultations prior to any U.S. decisions on matters affecting Thai security. End summary.

Assistant Secretary Green met with NEC Chairman Thanom to discuss President’s Peking visit beginning at 2:00 p.m. March 8, Thanom was accompanied by Deputy Chairman Praphat, Assistant Chairman Pote Sarasin, Air Marshal Dawee, Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Charunphan, and Director of Southeast Asia Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Asa Sarasin (Pote’s son). Green was accompanied by Ambassador Unger, Mr. Holdridge, DCM and POL counselor.
Field Marshal Thanom, with Pote interpreting, expressed great pleasure at opportunity to received President’s special representative and his appreciation of opportunity to hear at first hand about the Peking talks and especially about the effects these talks would have on Thailand and Southeast Asia. Green responded by conveying to the Thai leadership from the President the latter’s warmest wishes and highest regards and esteem, as well as those of Secretary Rogers. He then outlined briefly the role that he and Mr. Holdridge had played in the talks and the mandate the President had given him in connection with his present mission.
Green went on to describe briefly the steps taken by President Nixon leading to his Peking trip, beginning with the article in Foreign Affairs of October 1967. He stressed that the President had succeeded in removing barriers between the U.S. and the PRC so as to permit the establishment of a dialouge with Peking without sacrificing our relations with the ROC or anyone else. He recalled that all our defense commitments including that to the ROC, were specifically and publicly reiterated in Shanghai at the time the Communiqué was released.
Green emphasized the responsive chord which the President’s diplomacy had struck among the American people, who strongly desired that some opening for peace be sought. Successful China diplomacy would greatly strengthen the President’s hand in all respects and reinvigorate U.S. foreign policy across the board. Better relations between Washington and Peking could in turn open a real opportunity to move the world in a better direction. However, he said this could [Page 332]come about only if the U.S. remains strong and retains its close bonds with its allies to whom the U.S. must continue to provide adequate support. He said the PRC was interested in a better relationship with us because of our power and influence in the world.
He explored the reason why the Chinese wanted to hold these talks, which they strongly desired. He noted however that it was very important to avoid public speculation about these reasons, which could interfere with the achievement of the goals of our China diplomacy with no offsetting advantage. He cited a) Chinese fear of the USSR, reflected inter alia by widespread construction of air raid shelters; b) deep-running Chinese worry about the possibility of resurgent Japanese militarism; and c) great internal change and past turmoil in China, in the wake of which the general move had been away from extremism. Green produced a chart dramatizing this point which the Thais found most interesting.
The result, we believe, had led the PRC to realize, even though it would not say so, that it is not in its interest to have the U.S. withdraw rapidly from Asia. They do not want a vacuum created into which the USSR might move. They may be coming to realize that Japanese militarism (which we feel the Japanese will reject) is less likely to reemerge if a U.S.-Japanese relationship continues. Noting that their rhetoric may not always reflect this change of attitude, Green stressed the importance of encouraging them in positive acts without stopping to examine too closely their motives or being too concerned about their rhetoric.
Green described the process of drafting the communiqué. The Chinese ha d put up positions on certain controversial issues which we answered point by point. There was no attempt to paper over the differences, some of which were very fundamental. In addition to this, however, there were areas where agreement could be expressed, including the necessity to avoid the outbreak of war; opposition to hegemony or spheres of influence; and adherence to the “five principles” which go back to the Bandung period. He noted that when these latter were first enunciated, it was in an undesirable propaganda context which led Secretary Dulles to refuse acceptance of them. In fact, however, the points were in themselves unexceptionable. We now have a joint PRC–U.S. commitment to them on the record and intend in the future to hold this commitment before the PRC. He noted that we also expressed the hope for better conditions for the Chinese people which in our view will help further to move the PRC away from extremism.
Green stressed that no secret deals had been made, that there were no negotiations except on the communiqué and no attempt to deal with third country problems.
To sum up, he said the U.S. side has no illusions, but feels that some opening for peace has been made which can successfully be exploited [Page 333]in close concert and consultation with our friends. He emphasized again that we must speak from strength, extending a friendly hand but remaining on guard. He said he would upon his departure from Thailand make a stronger statement of reassurance than he had made or would make in any other country he was visiting.
Marshal Thanom expressed sincere thanks for this background. He noted that at a meeting with the Japanese Chief of Staff, who is currently visiting Thailand, he had expressed the view, completely in agreement with that of Assistant Secretary Green, that Chinese fear of Russia and Japan had motivated them to take part in these talks.
Thanom posed the question of whether the U.S. or the PRC initiated the talks. Green said the initiative had really come from both sides. As he had noted, the President’s indications of desire for a dialogue went back to 1967, and the Chinese since then had increasingly found reasons which made it desirable from their point of view. In the end, after portraying Americans as devils for 20 years, the Chinese had come to the point where pictures of Chairman Mao smiling at President Nixon were carred on the front pages of all their newspapers.
Thanom noted that there was nothing in the communiqué on Thailand, and said he presumed therefore that there was no change in Thai-U.S. relations and that the SEATO commitment and the Rusk–Thanat communiqué remained in effect. Green confirmed this. He said none of our alliances or commitments were mentioned in the communiqué. He recalled that we took up in the communiqué only those controversial items the PRC mentioned. The PRC did not raise either the SEATO commitment or Thailand. However, Green said Marshal Thanom was entirely correct in assuming that all UMS commitments to Thailand remain in effect and unchanged.
Thanom asked specifically whether the Chinese had raised the question of U.S. use of Thai bases. Green replied that they had not.
Thanom recalled that in 1969, President Nixon during his visit to Thailand had described to him the Nixon Doctrine as it affected Thailand. He said he had found this extremely reassuring and assumed from what had been said that there was no change in this policy. Green confirmed that there was no change.
Thanon then asked whether Project Taksin also continued in effect. Ambassador Unger noted that while it is still in existence, Project Taksin is a military plan which takes a political decision to make it operative, not a commitment per se. Therefore it is in a different category from the other matters mentioned.
Green said he planned to stress in his departure statement that he recognize that our own interest required maintenace of our commitments to Thailand and our other allies and continuing contributions [Page 334]to the strength of our allies through economic and military assistance. He said he would also stress our readiness to consult closely with Thailand and our commitment not to negotiate behind its back.
Thanom noted that the PRC had reiterated its policy of supporting wars of liberation. To Thailand, he said, “liberation” means terrorism and disruption of public administration and public safety. He noted that the Communist terrorists in Thailand are using Chinese equipment including modern anti-tank weapons, rockets and small arms. He asked whether that could continue.
Green recalled that the President has said we can only judge by results. He noted again that the Chinese have now expressed themselves publicly along with us against interference in other sovereign countries. In the future, to involve themselves in such activities will expose them to charges of bad faith, and we must hold this commitment before them. He anticipated that the PRC will continue to use the jargon of wars of national liberation, but he believes their real concerns have turned in other direction. He foresaw no dramatic immediate change but if our general diplomacy succeeds their support of such activity may diminish. Even before the visit, we had concluded that their policy would move in the direction of greater caution, of attempting to “exploit external and internal contradictions” of other countries, i.e., a shift to “talk-talk” tactics. This trend is currently manifesting itself in the slogan “long live Chairman Mao’s revolutionary diplomatic line.” He said the Chinese know that Thailand is a close friend of the United States. China wants a better relationship with us. This may give us some additional leverage on their actions vis-à-vis Thailand.
Thanom asked about the current relationship between the PRC and the DRV. Green said that two or three years ago, the PRC simply wanted us bogged down in Vietnam until, on a wave of disillusionment in the U.S., we would be swept out of Asia entirely. Now they are coming to see a continuation of the Vietnam War as redounding to the benefit of the Soviet Union, not to their own benefit. He said that as the war continues, the USSR as the supplier of the more advanced weaponry needed by Hanoi becomes more and more identified with Hanoi’s goal of victory and will be the principal beneficiary if the goal is achieved. The Chinese seem more interested now in seeing the war end fairly soon.
Holdridge expressed agreement with this. He said the PRC had voiced support for attainment of Communist “goals” in Southeast Asia without defining the latter beyond expressing agreement with the PRC’s 7-points and the two-point elaboration. They at no time became more specific than this and they lent no additional weight to Hanoi’s positions. The impression left was that their assistance to Hanoi would continue in order to avoid leaving the field entirely to the Soviets but [Page 335]that they would not support any expansion of the conflict. Implicit in it all was that the U.S. role in Indochina would not stand in the way of a developing relationship with the PRC, and that the PRC was more interested in Northeast Asia, particularly the Soviet Union, Japan and Taiwan, than in Southeast Asia.
Thanom expressed the view that the North Vietnamese were afraid of being inundated by Chinese advisors, which was another reason which led them to turn to the Russians for more assistance. But he noted that while heavy equipment was coming from Russia, small arms, uniforms, etc. were coming from China.
Returning to the Thai insurgency problem, Thanom said Chinese equipment had showed up in every region of Thailand where insurgency existed. Since the talks in Peking were agreed to, the RTG has carried out extensive operations in the North and Northeast destroying Communist base camps. In connection with these they had intercepted communications from the enemy requesting more equipment, weapons, medicine and food from China by land and by heliocopter. He said the Chinese are deeply involved and so far have shown no signs of stopping or reducing their involvement. Green recognized this to date and repeated that we can only await results but our diplomacy may offer a road to an easing of the problem.
Green said that he wanted to make it explicit, as he had done yesterday in Phnom Penh and Vientiane, that we are not aligning with China against the USSR, or getting involved in the Sino-Soviet split. He recalled that the President would visit Moscow to seek a better dialogue with the Soviets. In this connection, he noted that before the President went to Peking, Gromyko was visiting Tokyo. At that point the Chinese eased their hostile anti-Japanese propaganda line. Adding that he did not believe the Japanese would move into the Soviet orbit, he said the net result might be an escalation toward peace. He said the U.S. goal was to further this kind of phenomenon, to establish a better relationship among the great powers from which all nations can benefit.
Thanom said it was at one time understandable that the Vietnamese should be “liberated” from the French, and the other former colonies from the metropolitan states, but the Thais are puzzled as to whom they are to be liberated from. Green said the Chinese leadership, after a life-time of struggle, take struggle as the normal condition of life. The rhetoric of “liberation” has become second nature to them. In a case such as Thailand, which has always been independent, the rhetoric and slogans may increasingly be exposed as empty and meaningless. Our aim must be to turn the Chinese leaders around in practice without worrying too much about their rhetoric.
Thanom reiterated that the terrorist movement in Thailand is an extremely serious danger to Thailand today. Thailand would help [Page 336]itself and would not need U.S. ground forces. But so long as the aggressors are being given outside support, Thailand would need support, including economic aid. Yet Congress now seemed inclined to cut aid to Thailand. This concerns them greatly. Green agreed to report this concern2 and to support their request for continued assistance.
Thanom asked whether it was true that the North Vietnamese had sent people to Peking to meet with the Americans while the President was there. Green said this was a pure canard.
Green noted that Sihanouk had gone to Hanoi during the President’s visit which further identified Sihanouk with the North Vietnamese and thus further hurt himself with his own people.
Green referred to the open letter which appeared in the Bangkok Nation on the day of his arrival (Bangkok U.S. info 071150Z Mar). This was quickly and emphatically disclaimed by the NEC. Green said that among the many errors in the letter was the assertion that the U.S. has accepted a “One China” policy. He said both Peking and Taipei claim that there is only one China of which Taiwan is a part and that we have simply noted and do not challenge these positions. The Chinese themselves must resolve this matter. We will not pressure Taipei one way or the other. He expressed the view that the PRC would show some patience and that it was now even more unlikely that it would resort to force in seeking to take over Taiwan.
Thanom noted that the commitment to ultimate withdrawal of forces from Taiwan was linked to a reduction of tension in the area; he found this very reassuring. Green noted also that with respect to the Indochina area the commitment to ultimate withdrawal was conditional, being tied in the case to self-determination for the countries of Indochina. With respect to the use of the term “region”, Green said that was intended to indicate that forces providing support to countries in Indochina from outside could also be reduced.
Thanom recalled the approach he had recently directed to be made concerning the RTG’s desire to be consulted before decisions are made affecting its security (Bangkok 2458). He said this could be done through our Ambassador here with the Foreign Office or directly with him, or through the RTG Ambassador in Washington. The important thing was that true consultations be held in all cases where Thailand’s security interests are involved. It was not enough to be informed of major [Page 337]U.S. moves an hour or so in advance. Green said he fully understood and would convey this point to Washington highest levels.
Marshal Dawee, recalling that Thailand has 3–4 million Chinese residents, asked about the future of the Republic of China. Green said that, while he of course could not predict the future, following his talks with the leaders in Taipei, particularly Chiang Ching-Kuo, they seemed to feel much more assured. He noted that their economy is doing well and that they have strong links of trade with many countries around the world which will continue. Noting again that our commitment to withdraw is highly conditional, he said we expect to draw down our forces in Taiwan from 8,500 to 2,000 in connection with Vietnamization, but he expected that the latter figure would be held to for the indefinite future pending resolution of the Taiwan issue.
Green recalled that, like the Thai leaders, the President has been effectively combating Communist aggression for many years and that he is very realistic. The President knows that strength and continued close ties with our allies are a prerequisite to our ability to deal successfully with Peking. But the President had also concluded that the time had come when traditional diplomacy had to give way to inspired action in order to make a breakthrough which would be in the interest of all. Green said that this thirty years of diplomatic service led him to the conviction that this was the kind of effort which would win worldwide support, convincing people that things can improve. He felt that this was particularly important with respect to our younger people.
Green said that the principal purpose of the Nixon Doctrine was to reverse a feeling widely shared by Americans that the U.S. is over-involved around the world, in order to avoid a reaction which would lead to under-involvment. In other words, the President sought to put U.S. foreign policy on a steady course which allies could bank on and on which they could base their own planning. In terms of reductions in U.S. forces, however, the President has concluded that the point had now been reached where there must be a pause (except for Vietnamization). He quoted from Secretary Rogers’s recent report concerning this matter.
Following a brief exchange about press handling (see Bangkok 3298 for RTG announcement),3 Marshal Thanom thanked Assistant Secretary Green warmly for the assurances he had brought from the President to the Government and people of Thailand. These assurances he said would make them more confident of their security and of their relationship with the United States.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 US/GREEN. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Received at 6:59 a.m. Repeated to Kuala Lumpur, Phnom Penh, Saigon, and Vientiane.
  2. Green met with President Nixon on March 23 to report on his meetings with Southeast Asian leaders about the President’s trip to China. In regard to Thailand, Green said that Thanom, Dawee, Pote Sarasin, the King, and others had “all expressed their support, although they all were concerned about PRC support for the insurgency in Thailand. They felt they were under pressure. The King (see Document 155) had been particularly strong on the need for continued U.S. aid to cope with the insurgency.” (Ibid.)
  3. Not printed.