24. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1
- Talking Points for Your Use with Senator Fulbright at the Leadership Meeting, September 152
At the Leadership Meeting on September 15 it is possible that Senator Fulbright will want to speak to you about the US role in Thailand. Although he has said that his differences with Secretary Laird over release of the Project Taksin plan (a contingency plan covering joint US-Thai operations to defend Thailand against aggression under the more general provisions of the SEATO Treaty) have now been eliminated, he may still wish to have a copy of this document turned over to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He may also reiterate the line which he has taken publicly to the effect that Project Taksin is in effect an automatic commitment by the US to use its forces to fight in Thailand.
Your Recommended Position
- —The US commitment to Thailand exists wholly in the context of the SEATO Treaty, which in the event of aggression by an armed attack on any of its parties calls on them to act to meet the common danger in accordance with their constitutional procedures. In the case of subversion, all that the parties undertake to do is to consult. The Rusk–Thanat Declaration of 1962 adds that our obligations are individual as well as collective but we regard this as simply a valid restatement of the responsibilities set forth in the SEATO Treaty.
- —Project Taksin represents nothing more than a contingency plan undertaken within the framework of the SEATO Treaty. This type of contingency planning is a normal military function. The plan cannot be put into effect without the specific approval of both the Thai and US Governments, and emphatically does not automatically commit US troops to fight in Thailand.
- —The US SEATO commitment to Thailand is a firm one, however, and affects the entire political relationship between our two countries. You have said, and you wish to reiterate, that the US will live up to commitments of this nature.
- —You have also stated that our commitment does not extend to using US forces to help fight internal subversion. Our role is limited to providing military equipment and economic assistance where needed. The Thai understand this, and have publicly said that they do not want US troops to assist them in dealing with their insurgency.
- —Demonstrating the Thai attitude toward the presence of US troops in Thailand, the Thai Government has encouraged US to reduce the level of US forces in Thailand if not needed for Vietnam. It understands that these troops are present in connection with the Vietnam war, and can be withdrawn as their need diminishes.
- —You consider that the Thai deserve a great deal of credit for their staunchness as a US ally. Despite their tradition of not becoming identified with any great power, they joined with US as long ago as 1950 to help resist aggression in Korea, they have cooperated with us fully in regional and world affairs, and they have sent troops to fight in Vietnam in recognition of the issues involved there. But they are a very sensitive Asian people, and feel that somehow their contributions are overlooked or misunderstood. You personally believe that it is important to reassure them on this score.
- —(If asked) Concerning release of the Project Taksin plan, you understand that arrangements have been worked out whereby the document is available at the Department of Defense for scrutiny by members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.3 You hope that this arrangement is satisfactory. To do more would of course raise a Constitutional question over executive privilege and separation of powers, and you believe that this issue deserves further study.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 560, Country Files, Far East, Thailand, Vol. II. Secret.↩
- Holdridge indicated in a September 15 memorandum to Kissinger that he had drafted the talking points for the President “in the event that Senator Fulbright uses the Leadership Meeting” to bring up his “reservations about the US role in Thailand.”↩
- A notation next to this sentence in Nixon’s handwriting reads: “H.K. Does this make sense? I question revealing any contingency plan. 9–15–69”↩