164. Telegram From the Embassy in Thailand to the Embassy in Japan 1

6634. VP Only. For The Vice President From Unger. Subject: Thai-U.S. Relations and Your Visit to Bangkok. This message provides background on current Thai-U.S. relations and, where needed, talking points for use in your discussions with the Thai leadership.

1.

Vietnam

Background

A.
Thai leaders fully support the measures taken by the President to meet the crisis created by the North Vietnamese invasion. They have shown this through public and private statements as well as their readiness to open their bases to our USAF buildup.
B.
The Thai remain extremely concerned about the current military situation in South Vietnam. They see the future independence of Laos and Cambodia hanging in the balance along with that of South Vietnam. Thus they know their own security will be deeply affected by the outcome of the present campaign.
C.
Thai leaders have readily accommodated our urgent needs for redeployment of U.S. forces to Thailand despite their full realization of the risks involved as public attention progressively shifts from RVN to Thailand as the major base for U.S. combat activities in Southeast Asia. [Page 354]They recognize the increased danger of retaliatory attack against Thai bases. The redeployment also has created an increased sense of the U.S. commitment to South Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, including continued air support for the defending forces in Indochina. Further, it has heightened Thai expectations of military and economic assistance.
D.
Thai realization of their increased exposure will also heighten the bitterness of their reaction if we make concessions at the negotiating table which they regard as inconsistent with their own basic security requirements. They have repeatedly asked to be consulted by us before fundamental changes are made on our negotiating position. These requests have been transmitted to the President. Since the President’s speech of May 8, they have sought clarification particularly on our stance concerning a ceasefire, i.e. whether we are now prepared to accept continued North Vietnamese presence in Laos, Cambodia and South Vietnam.
E.
Talking Point: It would be particularly useful if you could discuss with RTG our negotiating posture in light of the President’s offer of May 8 especially clarification of the ceasefire offer. The Thai will also deeply appreciate whatever assessment you feel able to give them of the current military situation in SVN and of our program of severing NVN’s supply line.
2.

U.S. Military Deployments to Thailand

Background

A.
In 1970–71 we reduced U.S. military forces in Thailand from a peak of 48,000 to a U.S./RTG agreed level of 32,200. Eighty percent of these were USAF units engaged in the air war in Indochina. Major combat units operating from five Thai bases (Utapao, Korat, Udorn, Ubon and Nakhon Phanom) included one SAC wing (B–52’s and tankers), eleven tactical fighter squadrons, mainly F–4s, and gunships, as well as support aircraft of many types.
B.
Recent large USAF deployments associated with developments in Vietnam increased our in-country strength to approximately 40,000 and required the reopening of a sixth base (Takhli) which we previously turned back to the Thai Air Force. In the course of these deployments we added nine B–52’s (making a total of 50) and nine F–4 squadrons as well as many tankers. Additional aircraft may be moved from Danang to Thailand. This would require a buildup at a new operating location and could add as many as 4,000 additional U.S. personnel to Thailand.
C.
Talking Point: Express the administration’s appreciation for all the Thai have done and are continuing to do in furthering our mutual interests in Indochina. Recognize the RTG’s immediate approval of the large U.S. air buildup in Thailand required as a response to increased enemy initiatives throughout Southeast Asia.
3.

U.S. Politics and the U.S. Commitment

Talking Point: They will want your appraisal of the current political situation in the United States, both in terms of the Congress and the forthcoming election, and its implications for our continuing ability to carry out a foreign policy of collective security in Southeast Asia.

4.

U.S. Military Assistance to Thailand

Background

A.
U.S. service-funded military assistance to Thailand, including special supplements, have averaged $72 million a year since FY–68. The FY–72 level (provisional) is $83.5 million. This includes a $15 million grant to enable the Thai to improve its counterinsurgency capability in the military services, and be prepared for contingencies. In FY–73 military assistance to Thailand will shift from MASF to MAP, funded by security assistance legislation, and thus particularly vulnerable to scrutiny in the Senate and by the SFRC.
B.
U.S. military assistance was used in earlier years to equip a general purpose, conventional military force. Force modernization continues to be a program goal. More attention is now being given to developing forces adapted to the carrying out of counterinsurgency operations, including providing relevant equipment such as M–16 rifles and helicopters, and converter sets for gunships.
C.
Thai leaders have fully endorsed the Nixon Doctrine and have accepted the principle that U.S. forces should not become involved in Thailand’s security problem. They have been encouraged to expect that the U.S. will continue MAP at or near present levels. In January 1971, Secretary of Defense Laird stated in Bangkok that under the Nixon Doctrine the level of U.S. military assistance to Thailand would remain the same or even increase.
D.
Talking Point: Thai leaders are likely to seek assurances of continued military assistance and may point especially to requirements for helicopters. In responding, you should assure Thais that we will be as responsive as possible to their requirements, but take care not to raise their expectations for specific dollar-levels of MAP. As to specific items, such as helicopters, we will consider these in context of Thai needs and capabilities to operate and support; we do in fact expect to deliver to the RTA this calendar year 32 Hueys (UH–IM) and two to the RTAF.
5.

Economic Assistance Program

Background

A.
U.S. economic aid to Thailand declined steadily from a peak of $54 million in 1967 to $23 million in FY–1971. This fiscal year obligations will total approximately $17 million in aid funds plus $14 million from PL–480. Our program emphasizes support of RTG counterinsurgency activities, but includes assistance aimed at some of [Page 356]Thailand’s longer term economic problems, particularly in the agricultural area. The $14 million of PL–480 assistance is the first part of a $30 million loan which is aimed at preventing the increased RTG security expenditurs from threatening development programs.
B.
Talking Point: Thai leaders may ask for assurance on future aid levels. Suggest you respond that the President places great importance on continuing to provide needed assistance to countries which are endeavoring to meet their own development and security needs. We have requested from Congress, and expect to receive, funding that will permit programs in Thailand to continue at the present level.
6.

Insurgency

Background

A.
Communist-directed insurgency in Thailand has continued growing in past year despite increased RTG efforts to deal with it. Number of main force insurgents rose about 20 percent last year to estimated 7,000. There has also been considerable improvement in quantity and quality of their weapons supplied primarily by Chinese through Laos. Most disturbing has been expansion of Communist political infrastructure in villages. Total number of incidents, including those initiated by RTG forces, increased to 3,500 in 1971, up about 50 percent from 1970. In 1971 1,481 Thai officials were killed or seriously wounded fighting the insurgency. This is double the figure for the previous year.
B.
RTG has responded by putting more troops into counterinsurgency operations in field along with police and civilian paramilitary forces. It has also increased its defense budget this fiscal year and next by a total of about $20 million as part of a U.S.-Thai cooperative program to improve RTG capability to counter its insurgent threat. Main problem areas, which were highlighted in recent major CI operations, involve coordination among different organizations engaged in CI activity and effective implementation in field of well-conceived CI plans. Small unit training and leadership leave much to be desired. Our assistance to the police is a major element in our economic aid program.
C.
Talking Points: Inquire about progress of the insurgency and RTG countermeasures. Encourage Thais to meet insurgency threat now before it becomes more difficult to handle. To any inquiry on assistance levels for Thai police, suggest you respond that you understand police presently have under consideration our proposal for a comprehensive program which reflects our best estimate of what is needed. This provides opportunity for RTG to register desire for helicopters if these are considered to be a priority need. Considering the dangers of a ground attack on U.S. Air Force elements stationed on Thai bases and engaged in the Vietnam War, you may wish to express appreciation for RTG cooperative efforts thus far, and suggest that even greater defensive patrolling and intelligence collection now by Thai civilian, police and military [Page 357]components would be helpful. (Thai forces are responsible for protection “outside the wire” of USAF assets.)
7.
Narcotics
A.
We have made a major effort to improve the suppression effort against the illicit narcotics traffic through Thailand over the past year. The Thai leadership has been forthcoming in statements and actions concerning the problem. We negotiated a memorandum of understanding on the subject in September 1971 and we have under way a number of programs aimed at increasing enforcement capability of the RTG. Our main problem in implementing the programs lies in the fact that the Thai view narcotics as essentially a U.S. problem and that top-level RTG undertakings have not always been translated info firm orders down the line.
B.
Major results thus far include creating a special mobile task force in Northern Thailand, and RTG cooperation in breaking a number of major links in the narcotics traffic. The RTG also acquired (and destroyed) 26 tons of opium from Chinese Irregular Forces (former KMI) in return for offering land on which the Chinese can settle permanently. The RTG also extracted a promise by the Chinese Irregulars to end their involvement in illicit narcotics traffic, an agreement which the RTG will monitor. Although the fact is highly sensitive and not publicized the RTG arrangement with the CIF was partially financed from aid funds.
C.
Criticism of the Thai narcotics suppression effort such as that voiced by Congressman Lester Wolff, and that presented in the NBC television special “The Thai Connection,” is widely publicized here and creates a good deal of resentment. We have explained publicly that we do not agree with those charges and appreciate RTG cooperation.
D.
Talking Point: Express appreciation for Thai cooperation and for their increased efforts to suppress narcotics traffic. At the same time, you should stress to them that only improved performance will really answer the inevitable critics, just as in our handling of the problem in the U.S.
8.

Laos

Background

A. For years, Thai military units have played a key role in the defense of Laos, especially Gen. Vang Pao’s stronghold at Long Tieng southwest of the Plaine des Jarres. A total of 22 Thai volunteer battalions (funded by the U.S.) are currently committed in Laos. Their support was crucial during the heavy dry season offensive launched by the Communists just before Christmas. Only the combination of Thai volunteer units and U.S. Air Force support (including the B–52’s) permitted the friendly forces to survive and hold key positions such as Long Tieng under heavy enemy attacks earlier this year. The intensity of the DRV focus on the offensive in South Vietnam has eased the situation in Laos.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL THAI–US. Secret; Immediate; Exdis; Nodis. Repeated to the Department of State.