186. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Marcos of the Philippines
  • Dr. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Lindsey Grant, NSC Staff Member

U.S.-Philippine Relations

President Marcos introduced the question of U.S.-Philippine relations with the observation that the Philippines must be seen “not as a puppet, but as a friend.” He said that it had caused him troubles when President Johnson had referred to him as his “right arm in Asia.”

President Marcos said that, if the U.S. has problems in Asia, it should “tell its friends first” as to how it planned to meet them, rather than imposing solutions on Asia. Asked for an example, President Marcos cited the recent matter of Prince Sihanouk’s overtures through the Philippine Ambassador for better relations with the U.S. Marcos had relayed the information through our Ambassador,2 but had received no further response from the U.S. He had solicited U.S. views as to how to persuade Japan to take a more responsible military role in Asia, but had run into a blank wall.

Dr. Kissinger assured President Marcos of President Nixon’s high regard, cited the need to be in continuing communication, and emphasized that if President Marcos ever has suggestions to pass to President Nixon, we shall look into them with care and answer them. He promised to look into the Sihanouk question and be back in touch.

Toward the close of the meeting, President Marcos reverted to the bilateral relation issue and reiterated that he wished to remain close to [Page 395] the U.S. but to “adopt a stance of independence.” He did not wish to be “in opposition, or disagreeable.” Dr. Kissinger agreed that we do not want satellites, and we want the Philippines to show themselves independent. We do, however, judge our friends in large degree by their actions. If the Philippines agrees with us on actions to be taken in the area, we do not much care about the superficial factors. President Marcos underlined that we agree on the need to oppose Communism, the common goal of security in the area, and the need to take effective measures to attain those ends. He said that the Philippines can help us with other Asians in pursuing those goals. He wanted U.S. military bases to remain in the Philippines both for their economic benefit and because there should be a U.S. presence in Asia.

In parting, President Marcos raised the Laurel–Langley agreement.3 He warned that the Philippines may strike very tough bargaining positions in the negotiations over the follow-on to Laurel–Langley. He asked for understanding, and said that some Philippine industries, such as sugar, will collapse if the preferential arrangements are not extended. The effect on the Philippine economy would be catastrophic. Dr. Kissinger remarked that President Nixon had instructed him to look into the matter, and he would do so.


President Marcos suggested that the Philippines could be more effective if it withdrew PHILCAG, which was proving very expensive, and concentrated on helping the GVN to develop an effective constabulary force. He observed that the Philippines has much relevant experience. The training programs could perhaps be conducted in the Philippines.

Dr. Kissinger mentioned that President Nixon has been interested in an improved constabulary operation for weeks. It should probably not be either incorporated in the military or run by AID. He wished to look into President Marcos’ suggestion.

President Marcos wondered whether General Valeriano, now resident in the States, might be a good person to take over the development of a constabulary.

Dr. Kissinger asked the President’s thoughts on possibilities for a settlement. President Marcos supported the idea that the South Vietnamese should work out their internal arrangements, and that the U.S. might be able to work out a satisfactory military withdrawal as the first [Page 396] topic for the talks. He believed that Hanoi, which had thought that time was on its side, was beginning to have doubts. During the subsequent discussion, President Marcos asked whether the U.S. would be willing to withdraw, to which Dr. Kissinger said that we would not withdraw precipitately or unilaterally. The other side must also withdraw from Laos and Cambodia; then we will withdraw.

President Marcos remarked on a recent conversation with Vice President Ky; he said that Ky had shown himself “eager” to meet with the NLF leaders. Asked whether this reflects mistrust of us, President Marcos guessed that Ky may fear a U.S.–NLF deal without knowledge, but that this fear is probably transitory.

President Marcos asked pointblank whether there are any moves under way to promote conversations beyond the public ones in Paris. Who is doing it, and what are the prospects? Dr. Kissinger professed a lack of knowledge as to the initiatives of various parties, but said that the Communists are realists; if they believe it better to settle now rather than two years hence, they will settle now. Asked again whether there are private negotiations presently underway with North Vietnam, he said that there have been private meetings from time to time, but that there is not a continuing series going on now. President Marcos then suggested that there should be such talks, and that public talks in Paris would be useless without them.

Dr. Kissinger asked whether President Marcos felt that we were consulting sufficiently with him. The President said that consultation has been adequate so far, but that the time may be approaching for more consultations with Asian leaders. They must be private.


In answer to a question, President Marcos said that the Philippines would look favorably upon a Japanese role in regional military security, “provided the U.S. were there.” He had been interested in remarks which Kishi had made concerning the increase in the Japanese military budget and amendments to the Constitution. Marcos said that he was interested, and wondered whether there were a “new trend” in Japanese thinking. Dr. Kissinger indicated that he doubted that the Japanese were yet ready for a major expansion in their military expenditures.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL PHIL–US. Secret; Exdis. Presumably drafted by Grant and approved by John P. Walsh (S/S). The meeting was held at the Shoreham Hotel. Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos was in Washington for the funeral of former President Eisenhower.
  2. Telegram 644 from Manila, January 20, reported Marcos’ conversation with U.S. Ambassador G. Mennen Williams, and noted that the “President stated that he had been invited to make a visit to Cambodia and that the Cambodians wanted him to help improve relations with U.S.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 15–1 PHIL)
  3. The Laurel–Langley agreement granted the Philippines preferential U.S. tariff treatment for sugar and other key exports. It was negotiated by Senator José Laurel as head of a Philippine economic mission sent to the United States in 1955 by President Magsaysay.