301. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Suharto of Indonesia
  • The President
  • Dr. Kissinger

The President: I consider this an historical opportunity because we are the two largest democratic countries of the world, with the exception of India. You and Henry both know that I would like to travel to Indonesia again before the end of my present term. I always emphasize to my American colleagues the economic and strategic importance of Indonesia in Southeast Asia. Most people know about Thailand, Cambodia or Vietnam but not many people know very much about Indonesia. This is because there are not many opportunities to travel there.

President Suharto: I am very happy with your evaluation concerning the important role of Indonesia in Southeast Asia. The fact that you would like to return again is a sign of our close friendship. The Indonesian people will always welcome you with an open heart.

President Suharto: Concerning military matters, I have appointed Lt. Gen. Sumitro to take charge of these affairs and I have in mind to appoint a reserve officer also. In the future I will also appoint an additional limited number of officers to work in this field.

The President: What is the rank of your military attaché here in Washington?

President Suharto: There are three—Air Force, Army and Navy. The Air Force Attaché is a Colonel, the Navy Attaché is a Colonel and [Page 649]the Army Attaché is a Brigadier General. The Army Attaché was trained in Russia but he is also a member of the revolutionary generation of 1945.

The President: I would like to have one military attaché in Djakarta to have my complete confidence. The rank is not important but it shouldn’t be out of line with the rank of the Indonesian attaché in Washington. To Kissinger—I wanted more than that. I would like to upgrade this position in Djakarta.

The President: Quite frankly we must recognize that there is resistance both in Indonesia and in the United States to a large military assistance program for Indonesia. We do not want to compromise your non-aligned position. There is also a fear in the United States that increased military assistance will be a financial burden. But you and I as politicians must recognize these political realities. We would like to work out an arrangement to fulfill the needs of Indonesia without any embarrassment to your political situation. These needs should be met so that Indonesia may play a larger role in Southeast Asia. For example, when the Cambodian problem began, they turned to Indonesia for assistance but your capabilities were limited. Your equipment was all old. We may be helpful there. Looking at the broader picture in Southeast Asia and Asia, the larger countries such as Japan and Indonesia should play an effective role. The role of Japan can only be in the economic field. In Southeast Asia itself, Indonesia is the largest country and can perhaps lead the way in collective security arrangements but always within the framework of the necessity to maintain your nonaligned position. Indonesia as a neutral country must be strong enough to defend itself against minor assaults. But it is not enough only to insure ones own neutrality. If a nation believes that its neutrality is only for its own self interest and has no role when a smaller nation goes down, that nation itself will become the next target.

President Suharto: Thank you very much. My view is not much different from yours. Indonesia must be strong economically, socially, and militarily in order to develop the will and capacity to resist ideological, political and military attacks. We will continue to carry out our active and independent foreign policy, but we place great importance on working together with the other Asian neighbors. I recognize also that there is fear within the area that Indonesia will become too strong. But this fear is completely unjustified. Our philosophy, Pantjasila, does not permit us to expand in relation to other countries and peoples or to attack other countries. This is absolutely contrary to Pantjasila. I have made it clear to you and to the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that our first priority is economic development, but this also must be related to security measures. We must not neglect military development but this must not be so rapid that it hampers economic [Page 650]development. Concerning the possibility of a strategic capability for Indonesia in the long-range future, I feel that training can be carried out in the U.S. and this training can be put to use later if needed.

The President: I hope that we can work out the appropriate cooperation in an agreeable way. We welcome your military mission.

I would like to emphasize our appreciation for the initiative of Indonesia in sponsoring the recent conference concerning Cambodia. The initiative of Asian nations is very important. Who knows where the next problem will occur? It may be in Burma or it may be in Laos again. But when something happens it is heart-warming to see a country such as Indonesia speaking up and gathering together other Asian nations to discuss the problem. When a country is under attack it seems as if it always ends up with the question of what the U.S. is going to do. The U.S. becomes the issue but the issue should be the small country which is under attack. We do not intend to withdraw from Asia. Our intention is to help you to do what you decide is best. There is no American imperialism. We seek no colonies. We do not want any bases.

President Suharto: We understand completely the role of the United States and we are convinced that the United States is waging a just struggle for independence and freedom in Southeast Asia. Concerning our role in Southeast Asia, we must keep in mind our limited capabilities for activity outside of the borders of our own country. A larger role for Indonesia in Southeast Asia depends upon the rate of acceleration of our economic development program. If we were to undertake actions which were beyond our capabilities, this would certainly endanger our domestic situation. There are four conclusions which I would like to present to you. First, we are pleased that the United States understands our efforts in the field of economic development and we appreciate the aid of the United States in these efforts. Secondly, we appreciate the manner in which the United States respects our non-aligned position. Thirdly, we hope that the United States fully supports the recent 11-nation Asian conference on Cambodia which was held at Djakarta. Fourthly, we fully support the Nixon Doctrine or the Guam Doctrine and hope that it will continue to be carried out.

The President: Very good. Very good.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1024, Pres/HAK MemCon s. Top Secret; Sensitive. The time of the meeting is from the President’s Daily Diary. (Ibid., White House Central Files) The meeting was held at the White House.