71. Letter From the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Johnson) to the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Packard)1
I refer to your letter of June 132 with regard to the force reductions in Thailand. I agree wholeheartedly that time is of essence, if we are to consult meaningfully with the Thais. We are proceeding as you suggest to prepare negotiating instructions for Ambassador Unger on an urgent basis. However, I believe we must adhere to the following ground rules if we are to keep from jeopardizing important programs in Southeast Asia.
- As I pointed out to you in my letter of May 21, we must provide adequate time for genuine consultations with the Royal Thai Government. It is therefore urgently requested that any overt actions to withdraw our forces from Thailand, which have not already been agreed to by the Thais, be held in abeyance until our consultations can be satisfactorily completed. Furthermore, I think we must assure that any discussions of this matter with the Thais be coordinated by Ambassador Unger in Bangkok. In preparing these instructions we would [Page 145]want to address jointly with your staff those questions we can expect the Thais to raise, and assure that Ambassador Unger will be in the best possible position to answer them persuasively. In addition, it would appear that the evaluation directed by the President of our current air activities in Southeast Asia, as outlined in Mr. Kissinger’s memorandum of June 15, could also affect the extent of our troop withdrawals for Thailand. I am well aware of the budgetary problems in DOD and I can assure you that we will proceed with these consultations with dispatch as soon as we have the necessary data to make a persuasive case to the Thais.
- I have no doubt that US troop withdrawals from Thailand at this point will create political problems. Although we are working out plans with your staff based on the recommended DOD reduction package, it is necessary that the door be left open to reconsider the timing and extent of the program in light of the Thai reactions and reactions from other Asian allies as well as the Presidential directed evaluation mentioned previously. Changes would be recommended only if essential US programs and objectives in the area stand in jeopardy.
I note that the decisions made by Secretary Laird with respect to Thailand are but part of a broader package of decisions affecting our world-wide force posture for FY 1971. I think it would be useful, particularly in connection with the forthcoming DPRC budget review, if I could have a copy of the document approved by Secretary Laird; and if you could arrange in the future for similar documents reflecting major program decisions and which bear on our relations with our allies and other friendly states, to be made available to us. I will, of course, see to it that they will be used on a close-hold restricted basis.
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, PM/ISP Files: Lot 72 D 504, Subject Files, Box 1. Top Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Hanket (PM/ISP). A notation on the memorandum reads: “P.S. You will recall Henry expressed interest in this. When we have our ducks in a row I suggest that we brief him. UAJ”↩
- Document 69.↩