30. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • Symington Subcommittee Hearings

PARTICIPANTS

  • Foreign:
  • Sunthorn Hongladarom, Thai Ambassador to the U.S.
  • United States:
  • U. Alexis Johnson, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
  • John B. Dexter, Country Director, Thailand/Burma

Under Secretary Johnson opened the conversation by referring to our current concern about the Symington Subcommittee hearings.2 He informed the Ambassador confidentially that Ambassador Unger was returning to Washington shortly to testify before the Subcommittee on Thailand. He assured Sunthorn that we would do all we could to protect Thailand’s interests in connection with public release of testimony but outlined the problems involved and warned that we could give no guarantee that the Subcommittee would not eventually publish information that we and the RTG would prefer to keep confidential. The Ambassador expressed appreciation and urged that every effort be made.

The Under Secretary noted that Senator Fulbright and the Symington Subcommittee were motivated largely by fear that in Laos and [Page 68]Thailand we might have undertaken commitments that could lead to direct involvement as in Viet-Nam. The Ambassador commented that Thailand was much better off than Viet-Nam in terms both of leadership and national will and thus the situation was not likely to become as serious as it had in Viet-Nam. The Under Secretary agreed and assured him that this point would be made in the hearings and put in the public record. He agreed with the Ambassador that it was in United States interest for us to help the Thai maintain their security but that there should be no need for United States troops. He told the Ambassador he believed the USG had nothing to apologize for in either Thailand or Laos, and that both we and the Thai should be proud of the story we had to tell about our relationship.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 17 THAI–US. Confidential. Drafted by Dexter, approved by Green, and approved in J on December 1. The memorandum is part 1 of 3; part 3 is ibid.; part 2 is Document 31.
  2. In an October 10 letter to Rogers, Senator Stuart Symington (D–Missouri) announced that the third phase of hearings of the Subcommittee on United States Security Agreements and Commitments Abroad of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations would take place the week of November 10 and would focus on Thailand. He requested that Unger, among others, be available for testimony in executive session. Symington noted that some of the subjects with respect to Thailand would include treaties, joint planning and exercises, U.S.-built military facilities and military forces in Thailand, military assistance, external and internal security threats to Thailand, U.S. electronic intelligence gathering in Thailand, the Thai roles in the Laotian and Vietnamese wars, and Thai companies controlled or run by Thai Government or military officials. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 1–1 THAI–US) Subsequently, in a lengthy telephone conversation with Kissinger on November 17, Fulbright insisted that “Unger should testify by himself,” rather than with Helms, who “throws a cloak of secrecy” over the testimony. Kissinger demurred, stating that his instructions were that they testify together. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 361, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File)