297. Memorandum of Conversation1
- Diplomatic Initiatives on Cambodia
PRESIDENT SUHARTO’S WASHINGTON VISIT—CONCURRENT WHITE HOUSE TALKS
Mr. Richardson explained that the U.S. crossed the Cambodian border to insure our ability to carry forward with Vietnamization and not to insure the survival of the Cambodian Government. This latter objective can best be served by the diplomatic initiatives. In this connection, [Page 638]the United States is interested in proposals for an international conference to discuss Cambodia and related matters, Mr. Richardson continued. French suggestions in this regard were promising. At one point Malik of the Soviet Union seemed to be saying much the same thing, but unfortunately nothing materialized from his remarks. The U.S. has also watched with quiet interest Indonesia’s initiatives in calling the May 16–17 Foreign Ministers Conference in Cambodia.
Malik explained that, although Indonesia should logically concentrate first on economic development and its internal problems, it sees a connection between Cambodian events and Indonesia’s own security. India opposed the idea of the Djakarta Conference, preferring to wait and discuss Indochina in the forum of the Non-aligned Conference. Indonesia did not accept this view, first because of the need to act quickly (the Non-aligned Conference will be held in September) and secondly because, if past performance is any indication, that Conference would give the communists an additional opportunity to spread their propaganda unless thorough preparations were made in advance.
Indonesia consequently decided to invite 21 nations to a meeting in Djakarta, Malik continued. Invitations were sent to Communist China, North Vietnam, North Korea and Mongolia to see if these nations really wanted to solve the problem through negotiations. Indonesia concluded that it was better to continue with the Conference even though the communists refused to attend.
Noting the importance of Moscow’s reaction to the Djakarta Conference, Malik said Indonesia advised the Soviet Union twice regarding the Conference. Although Pravda and Izvestia opposed the Conference, officially there has been no reaction from Moscow except a question as to why Peking was invited. Indonesia perceives some hesitation in the Soviet Union’s policy towards Cambodia. The Soviets have not closed their Embassy in Phnom Penh and, just before he left Phnom Penh for the Djakarta Conference, Cambodian Foreign Minister Yem Sambaur received assurances from the Soviet Ambassador that the U.S.S.R. was not in a hurry to break off relations with Cambodia.
Malik noted that the Djakarta Conference had encountered difficulties because of the different approaches recommended by various participants. South Vietnam and Thailand wanted to condemn North Vietnam and the Viet Cong. Cambodia, for its part, wished to use the Conference as a forum to mount a major push for military assistance. Indonesia managed to convince the Cambodians the day before the Conference opened that they should not do so or they would jeopardize Indonesian efforts. Mr. Malik said he had explained to Yem Sambaur that the aim of the Conference was not to assist Cambodia in waging war and that it would be disadvantageous to give the impression that the Conference was beating war drums for the Cambodians.[Page 639]
Malik noted that the participants did not wish the Djakarta Conference to be a one-shot affair. They consequently empowered Indonesia as Chairman to take all necessary steps to carry out the agreed decisions and appointed Indonesia, Japan and Malaysia as their representatives to carry their views to the Geneva Conference Co-Chairmen, the three members of the ICC and the UN. Those nations which declined to attend the Conference will also be informed of the results of the meeting, Malik noted.
Malik believed that the flexible decisions of the Djakarta Conference may reinforce U Thant’s view that there should be an international conference on Indochina. The major key to such a Conference is Moscow, Malik said, adding that in his opinion the Russians have not yet made up their minds on this question. France, Germany and the United Kingdom seem agreeable to convening a Geneva-type conference, Malik added, but this cannot be hurried. Malik said that the U.S. could play an important role in bringing about such a conference, but this role cannot be too open. If the U.S. enters too directly into the picture, Malik said, there is danger that the other side will use this fact in its propaganda to defeat the possibility of a conference. Appropriate ways should be found to press the Soviet Union to agree to a Geneva-conference on Indochina, Malik added.
Referring to North Vietnamese claims that they are willing to fight for another 100 years, Malik said there are actually indications that North Vietnam is tired of the war. If the Soviet Union can be drawn into a conference, Malik continued, this could have a constructive influence on Hanoi. It is also necessary to exert pressure on North Vietnamese troops in Laos and in the Thai–Laotian–Cambodian border area similar to the pressure exerted in the fishhook area of Cambodia, Malik said, while acknowledging the possibility that this could cause North Vietnam in turn to step up its pressure on Cambodia. In addition to Indonesia’s diplomatic efforts, Malik envisaged two means of aiding Cambodia:
Malik expressed doubt that Communist China will intervene in Indochina, suggesting that its strategy is rather to arouse opposition to U.S. policy and put the Soviet Union in an increasingly difficult spot. A Geneva-type conference would force Peking into the open and prevent it from continuing this strategy, Malik explained.
Mr. Richardson agreed that diplomatic initiatives clearly offer the best prospects for preserving Cambodia’s neutrality and stabilizing the situation. In this and other respects the role of the Soviet Union is crucial. The extent to which it can influence or is influenced by Hanoi is an open question.[Page 640]
The United States fully supports the efforts of the Three Nation Committee appointed by the Djakarta Conference, Mr. Richardson continued, but will be careful to avoid giving them the “kiss of death.” The United States will keep in close touch with the Indonesians regarding means of helping without compromising the efforts of the Three Nation group, Mr. Richardson added.