296. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • U.S. Role in Southeast Asia


  • Foreign:
  • Adam Malik, Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Soedjatmoko, Ambassador to the United States
  • H. Alamsjah, State Secretary
  • Professor Widjojo Nitisastro, Chairman, National Planning Board
  • Vice Admiral Sudomo, Chief of Staff, Indonesian Navy
  • Soedharmono, Secretary of the Cabinet
  • Dr. Ch. Anwar Sani, Director General for Political Affairs
  • Suryono Darusman, Chief of Protocol
  • United States:
  • Elliot L. Richardson, Acting Secretary of State
  • Marshall Green, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
  • Francis J. Galbraith, Ambassador to Indonesia
  • Robert W. Barnett, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
  • John Holdridge, White House Staff
  • Edward E. Masters, Country Director for Indonesian Affairs


After welcoming Foreign Minister Malik and his colleagues to Washington and conveying Secretary Rogers’ regret that a long standing commitment to attend a NATO conference had prevented his being present, Mr. Richardson asked Mr. Green to provide a brief survey of the situation in East Asia.

Mr. Green outlined the principles which underlie the Nixon Doctrine and noted that, while the Cambodian situation has injected a new element into Southeast Asia, our policy there is completely consistent with these principles. The President’s action in sending troops into Cambodia, Mr. Green pointed out, is designed to protect and advance the policy of Vietnamization and increase prospects for Cambodia’s stability and friendly cooperation with its neighbors. Referring to a Harris poll the previous day which showed that a majority of the American people support the President on this issue, Mr. Green stated that the success of our action in Cambodia would increase this popular support.

Mr. Richardson noted that the Nixon Doctrine does not mean that we are in the process of disengaging or running out on our commitments but represents an adjustment of U.S. policy to actual conditions. It reflects increased Asian capability for and interest in regional cooperation, the declining influence of ideology and the fact neither super power is in a position to push others around. For these and other reasons, Mr. Richardson explained, the President has decided that we should adjust, but not abandon, our role in Asia.

Mr. Richardson emphasized that the U.S. does not seek a military victory in Southeast Asia and noted that we have placed definite restraints on our actions regarding North Vietnam. The U.S. believes that it will have discharged its obligation to the people of South Vietnam if they are given freedom to choose their own course.

The United States recognizes the importance of Indonesia as a nonaligned country, Mr. Richardson said, and can envisage as a possible solution of the conflict a situation in which all of Indochina might be non-aligned, if this is what these nations want. The U.S. commitment to the people of South Vietnam is to help them attain a position in which they can reach their own solutions rather than be forced to accept those dictated by others.

Malik said he wished to make clear that Indonesia has no misapprehensions regarding the Nixon Doctrine but, in fact, believes that it is time for some rethinking along these lines by the U.S. Indonesia hopes, however, that under this new doctrine the U.S., as a super power, [Page 637] will not equate all problems of Southeast Asia. The Indonesian Government understands the domestic problems which the U.S. faces but nonetheless believes it important that the U.S. stress and even increase its commitments as far as certain problems are concerned.

Malik perceived two distinct facets of communists’ strategic approach, the more moderate public line of the Soviet Union and the militant position of Communist China. This divergence in the communist camp has an impact on world opinion and on domestic opinion. Indonesia would like to expose the communists’ views so that they are not able to play both sides of the street.

Until now, Malik continued, the impression has been created through communist propaganda that the communists are all right and the U.S. is all wrong. Demonstrators aiming at ending U.S. support for Vietnam’s struggle forget that the communists have been attempting to subvert South Vietnam for a long time. The Djakarta Conference was designed, among other things, to open the eyes of the world to the true state of affairs, Malik explained.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 INDON. Secret. Drafted by Masters and Paul Gardner (EA/MS) and approved by John D. Stempel (D) Documents 297 and 298. The meeting was held in the Cabinet Room at the White House.