182. Memorandum for the President’s File1

PARTICIPANTS

  • The President
  • Khun Pote Sarasin, Vice Chairman of the National Executive Council of Thailand
  • Anand Panyarachun, Thai Ambassador to the United States
  • John H. Holdridge, NSC Senior Staff Member

SUBJECT

  • The President’s Remarks to Pote Sarasin on U.S.-Thai Relations and Related
    Subjects

Khun Pote expressed thanks to the President for the latter’s willingness to take the time from his busy schedule to see him. The President said that he always had time to talk to friends from Thailand, and went on to express the firm U.S. commitment to Thailand. Khun Pote expressed his appreciation for the President’s remarks on behalf of the National Executive Council (NEC).

Khun Pote stated that he had been asked by Marshal Thanom, Chairman of the NEC, to raise with the President if an opportunity to meet him presented itself the question of the U.S. position with respect to the negotiations with Hanoi. Specifically, were we thinking only in terms of a ceasefire for Vietnam, or would we extend the cessation of hostilities to include Laos and Cambodia? This was important to the Thai because they had common borders with these countries. The President made it clear that our position had been from the outset that we wanted the ceasefire to include all of the countries of Indochina.

Khun Pote raised another question on behalf of Marshal Thanom: would it be possible for the U.S. to consult with Thailand on its position with respect to the North Vietnamese if a settlement seemed to be in the making? Thailand certainly did not wish to influence the U.S. position, but due to the role which they had assumed in the war— which they had taken willingly—the Thai hoped that they could be kept informed.

The President said that we had this very much in mind, and that we would certainly consult with the Thai2 if a settlement appeared to [Page 388]be in the making. However, although the North Vietnamese had indicated in the Paris talks that they had an incentive to bring the war to an end (this was due to the effectiveness of our bombing and mining, and to the heavy North Vietnamese losses in the South) it did not now appear that a settlement could be reached prior to the U.S. elections. The President was confident, though, that a settlement would be reached in the not too distant future. He was optimistic about the military and political situation in South Vietnam.

Khun Pote mentioned that a group of Asian nations, including Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia had been attempting to work out a formula for ending the war and would continue these efforts.

Khun Pote informed the President that he, Pote, had met PRC Vice Foreign Minister Ch’iao Kuan-hua in New York the preceding day. Ch’iao had not made an issue out of the U.S. use of air bases in Thailand in connection with the war in Indochina. Although he had referred to them, he had taken the line that the U.S. presence would inevitably be removed from Thailand following the completion of the war. According to Khun Pote, he had made it very plain to Ch’iao that this was a matter which would be worked out between the Thai and the Americans, and concerned them alone. The President said that this position was exactly right. It was up to the U.S. and Thailand to determine what kind of U.S. presence, if any, would remain there after the fighting ended. Thailand would make its decision on the basis of its own interests, as it had in the case of the air bases used by the U.S. The President referred in this connection to Senator McGovern’s position on U.S. forces in Thailand, in which only U.S. interests were considered.

Khun Pote said that the Thai were interested in following up the current more friendly attitude of the PRC toward Thailand, and he had sent his own assistant along with the Thai ping pong team to China to talk to senior PRC officials. However, while the assistant had been well received, Thailand would be very cautious in its dealings with the PRC.

Khun Pote noted that the Chinese antipathy toward the Soviet Union had figured in his conversation with Ch’iao Kuan-hua to a considerable extent. The President described the tenor of his own talks with the Chinese on the subject of the Soviets, and attributed the Chinese willingness to deal with the U.S. in large part to fear of the USSR— it was a matter of survival. As a consequence, the Chinese had not [Page 389]made a great issue out of Taiwan in their conversations with us, nor of the U.S. presence in Thailand. The President then proceeded to describe the strategic factors which in his opinion influenced the Chinese in their attitudes toward the USSR, India, and the United States. The Chinese did not want us to pull out of Asia at his time, and we were not going to do so.

Khun Pote stated that he was very glad to hear the President say the U.S. was not going to pull out, because there were many people who felt that the U.S. was going to withdraw. The President then stressed that the Nixon Doctrine was not a means for getting us out of Asia but rather a means for enabling us to stay on. He was confident that with continued U.S. support, which we were going to provide (but which Senator McGovern wants us to remove) the free nations of Asia would be able to hold their own against Communism. The President declared he was optimistic that the free nations would do better than the Communist nations of Asia.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, President’s Office Files, Box 3, Memoranda for the President, Beginning October 1, 1972. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Holdridge.
  2. In an October 10 memorandum to Kissinger, Holdridge noted “the President’s assurance to Pote that such consultations would be provided,” and stated that “I have requested the Thai Ambassador to treat this conversation as a very sensitive matter and to deal with the White House directly rather than going through State for any follow-up.” He also requested that Kissinger approve the memorandum of conversation for the President’s file “with no further distribution,” which Kissinger did. (Ibid.)