299. Memorandum of Conversation1

PARTICIPANTS

  • His Excellency H. Alamsjah, Indonesian State Secretary
  • Henry A. Kissinger
  • John H. Holdridge, NSC Senior Staff Member

SUBJECT

  • U.S. Military Assistance to Indonesia

Mr. Alamsjah said that his President had ordered him to see Dr. Kissinger as a continuation of the previous day’s discussion. President Suharto had felt that it would be better to give more explanation concerning Indonesia’s request for military assistance. This position had also been explained to Admiral Moorer, who at that moment was still busy with Admiral Sudomo.

Since 1965, Indonesia has been concentrating on peaceful development of its economic and political stability. However, following the Cambodian affair, when things were moving very fast, President Suharto had decided—while still adhering to Indonesia’s basic principles of non-alignment—that it must take a greater interest in Southeast Asia developments. The Djakarta conference was an outgrowth of this decision. (Mr. Alamsjah went on to describe the nature of the conference, and the agreements which have been reached for ongoing diplomatic initiatives to end the war in Indo-China.) At the conference, all of the countries except Singapore had been very worried at the situation in Cambodia and surrounding countries, and also about the spread of Communism. Their representatives had brought this out in conversations with Foreign Minister Malik. They had also expressed their full confidence in Indonesia. Hence Indonesia, which since 1965 had never stressed military affairs, now felt that it had a special role with respect not only to Cambodia but to the surrounding countries. Lon Nol had twice approached Indonesia on the possibility of obtaining Indonesian weapons. This request had been made known to the U.S. at President Suharto’s suggestion through Ambassador Galbraith, but no reply had been received.

Dr. Kissinger wondered whether there might be a problem here in that the Indonesian Foreign Minister didn’t want to give arms. Nevertheless, [Page 643] Suharto wanted to send arms, our President would be sympathetic.

Mr. Alamsjah expressed the opinion that his Foreign Minister would not say anything other than what his President suggested, since he knew he could be replaced if he acted otherwise. In any event, as President Suharto had suggested through Ambassador Galbraith, the Indonesians were prepared to send sufficient weapons to Cambodia to equip 10 battalions. Dr. Kissinger mentioned that we had never received a formal proposal to this effect, to which Mr. Alamsjah replied that it was correct to say that there had been no formal proposal, but that the proposition had been passed along and only three people had known about it in Indonesia: President Suharto, Alamsjah himself, and Galbraith.2 Mr. Alamsjah noted that the Indonesia proposal had been made three weeks to a month ago, and involved sending small arms, including mortars, but no artillery. The Indonesians had also brought up a related problem—if they sent arms they would need replacement stocks, and would expect these from the U.S.

Dr. Kissinger asked if the quantity of replacement stocks had been made known to Admiral Moorer. Mr. Alamsjah explained that he had touched on this matter with Admiral Moorer the preceding evening, and that Suharto had afterwards decided that he, Alamsjah, had to see Dr. Kissinger.

Turning to Cambodia’s military requirements, Mr. Alamsjah said that there were two urgent matters for Indonesia to consider. First, there was the matter of weapons, and there was also training. On training, if possible the Indonesians would like to send Cambodians to Indonesia for guerrilla training. Many foreign students had received such training, since Indonesia’s experience in dealing with guerrilla warfare was the greatest among all Southeast Asia armed forces. In addition, [Page 644]if the Cambodian situation became urgent, Indonesia could send officers to Cambodia who would be carried as personnel of the Indonesian Embassy but who would train the Cambodian forces.

Dr. Kissinger remarked that he had been told the preceding evening that Foreign Minister Malik had been most unhappy about what our President had said to President Suharto. Mr. Alamsjah doubted that Mr. Malik had been unhappy, and referred again to the fact that the Foreign Minister was subject to the orders of the President.

To recapitulate the Indonesian proposal for aid to Cambodia, Dr. Kissinger asked if it was correct that they were willing to send military equipment to Cambodia immediately, that the amount would be sufficient for ten battalions, and that they would want us to replace these stocks. Mr. Alamsjah agreed. On replacement, Dr. Kissinger asked over what period? Mr. Alamsjah replied as soon as possible, since removing these arms from their supplies would leave an empty hole. Dr. Kissinger then asked how this should be handled as a practical matter. Mr. Alamsjah referred again to the military mission which his President wanted to send. In addition to the point of aid to Cambodia, however, there was a second point concerning the general state of the Indonesian armed forces. For ten years the Navy and Air Force equipment had all come from the USSR, and now spare parts were unavailable. As he had mentioned to Admiral Moorer, a Navy without gunboats was useless, and pilots without aircraft were useless. He indicated that he was thinking not only in terms of Indonesia, but in terms of the other countries of the region except Singapore. Indonesia was being counted on by these others, but they did not know the real power of the Indonesian military sector. The U.S. had a military advisory and assistance system, but Indonesia was not a member. Admiral Moorer had suggested to Admiral Sudomo that it would be impossible for the U.S. to re-equip the Indonesian Navy and Air Force, even though these forces possessed tactical skills.

Dr. Kissinger explained that our problem was with Congress. Nevertheless, we would like to help, and would do our best. The President was sympathetic. We had more than tripled our MAP for Indonesia, although we recognized that this was still not enough. We would like to look into the problem of surplus equipment from Vietnam at lower costs, but the problem of Congress remained. How could we get an idea of the Indonesian needs? Mr. Alamsjah again referred to their military mission.

Dr. Kissinger declared that the President had reiterated the same morning that he was anxious to cooperate fully with President Suharto on the matters which he had discussed with President Suharto the previous day on aid to Cambodia. He had found President Suharto’s attitude very encouraging.

[Page 645]

Dr. Kissinger noted briefly that the Indonesians also had a problem in connection with the Bandung munitions factory. We would take this matter up and let them know. The amount was not great, being only somewhat more than $3 million, and we would be sympathetic in reviewing the Indonesia aid request. Dr. Kissinger stated that their military mission should bring a complete proposal with it.

Turning to the equipment for the 10 battalions, Dr. Kissinger said that we would look at this matter with the intention of being helpful and knowing that this was in the spirit of what the President wanted.

Mr. Alamsjah asked about the possibility of taking care of some of the Indonesian needs prior to the elections, particularly those of the Air Force. In sending weapons to Cambodia they planned to use air transportation from Indonesian to Cambodian airports. Dr. Kissinger replied that we would do the best that we could, and asked how soon the military mission would come. Mr. Alamsjah said it would arrive not more than three weeks from now. Mr. Alamsjah observed that the mission would be led by the top Indonesian Army man, General Umar. Kissinger had met in Djakarta last year, was now concentrating on internal Indonesian affairs and General Umar was responsible for broader matters.

Mr. Alamsjah reverted to the question of Foreign Minister Malik’s attitude on aid to Cambodia, and recalled at yesterday’s advisers’ meeting he had made a very strong pitch for military assistance. Dr. Kissinger mentioned, however, that he had expressed some doubts about this matter. Mr. Alamsjah thought that these doubts referred to sending arms only if there was no replacement.

The meeting closed with Mr. Alamsjah expressing confidence that the press problem could be handled, and with Dr. Kissinger emphasizing once more the President’s pleasure over his conversation with President Suharto. The President understood President Suharto’s view, and saw eye-to-eye with President Suharto on maintaining Indonesia’s formal policy of non-alignment.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1024, Pres/HAK MemCon s. Top Secret; Sensitive.
  2. This exchange between Alamsjah and Kissinger went a long way towards answering Nixon’s question “What did you find out on this thing?” that he posed to Kissinger in their telephone conversation of May 26. Following the question, Nixon ordered that Kissinger “check this out with the Ambassador. We want the Indonesians’ help. I want it done. That is a policy decision. It is vitally important to have other countries help them in some way. Now here is a country that is willing to help. We tried to get the Thais. But now this country wants to help. What in the hell happened here.” Kissinger responded: “It is part of the problem we talked about before. We have to make these departments more responsive.” Nixon continued, “If Indonesia wants to send this ammunition, they should do it. The Soviets of course are taking on Lon Nol. As long as he appears to be a puppet of the US it is one thing but when I ordered this three weeks ago that is the way it is to be. We have got to get the military to shape up and get it done. I want the Indonesians to send some stuff. We will replace their stuff. Of course we will get a military request from Indonesia anyway. So let’s see what we can accomplish.” Kissinger then promised that “I will have it done by tomorrow evening.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 363, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File)