80. Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Sullivan) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

SUBJECT

  • U.S. Air Force Reduction in Thailand

In accordance with your request there is attached the memorandum which I received from our Thai people concerning the problem of United States reduction of Air Force units in Thailand. This memorandum addresses itself only to those reductions which our Embassy in Thailand knows are included in the Fiscal Year 1971 program. Our Embassy in Bangkok is not yet aware of the fact that one of the alternatives in the tactical air package for Southeast Asia might result in the elimination of additional squadrons and in the evacuation of the base at Korat.

Naturally, if there were any decision taken to accept the alternative which involves the Korat evacuation, our problem with the Thai would be even greater than is suggested in the attached memorandum. On the other hand, if we are going to make such a decision we should not break the news to the Thai piecemeal but should give them the bad news all at once.

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Our very strong recommendation is that the decision on the tactical air package should leave the Korat installation intact. Therefore, if and when the decision is made to instruct Embassy Bangkok to implement the Fiscal Year 1971 package2 we trust that will be a definitive decision concerning the total redeployments to be made from Thailand and that it will involve only the redeployment of the air squadrons and the evacuation of Takhli.

Attachment

Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Green) to Secretary of State Rogers 3

SUBJECT

  • U.S. Air Force Reduction in Thailand

During your forthcoming visit to San Clemente, the Viet-Nam Special Study Group will take up with the White House the reduction of the USAF sortie rate from Thai bases. Whatever decision is taken with respect to the sortie rate will be the foundation for subsequent actions to reduce U.S. military forces in Thailand. As you know from your conversations with Ambassador Unger in Manila and Tokyo, he is greatly concerned not only over the size and pattern of the cuts themselves but also over the political importance that there be thorough, unhurried and genuine consultations and that in these consultations we genuinely take into account Thai problems. In this connection there are two important points:

A.
That there be adequate lead time for consultation and planning process to take place. In practice this would mean that there should be at least 60 days following the initiation of consultations with the Thai and prior to the actual commencement of reductions. Thus if a decision were communicated to Bangkok to commence consultations on August 1, [Page 160]actual reductions in operations and/or redeployment actions should not commence until October 1. This is important not only for political reasons but to permit sound planning of what will prove to be a very complicated process for the Thai.
B.
That the close out of Takhli Air Base be phased so as to gear into the Thai budgetary cycle, i.e. October 1, 1971, rather than on the proposed date of June 30, 1971. I understand our budgetary rationale behind the June 30 date, but there are substantial considerations arguing in favor of an October 1 close-out. Some 1900 locally hired workers will be thrown out of work in what is otherwise a tiny village community. There will be substantial local economic dislocation. In addition, if the Thai Air Force is to continue to keep Takhli open on a standby basis it will have to make budgetary arrangements to do so. All of these considerations will require budgetary and appropriation action by the RTG. To close out on June 30, 1971 will leave a three-month gap which will plague both the RTG and us in the future. If the consultation process is to be meaningful, we must be prepared to take account of this genuine problem. Even though the flying air squadrons may have already redeployed the USAF skeleton ground element should remain in Takhli until October 1.

I note from Under Secretary Packard’s letter of June 30 to Under Secretary Johnson 4 that Defense expects the RTAF to keep Takhli open. Mr. Packard goes on to indicate that “reentry should be relatively easy since the base will be in full operation”. Since we are counting on the Thai to maintain the base in a operational status, it is in our own interest to facilitate Thai administrative and budgetary take over by phasing out our final withdrawal until October 1.

While the meeting in San Clemente is primarily concerned with the sortie rate and may not take specific questions of timing, yet the decisions to be made on the sortie rate will to a large extent determine our flexibility with respect to phasing and timing. I hope full consideration will be given to these points in considering the reduction of the sortie rate.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 562, Country Files, Far East, Thailand, Vol. IV. Top Secret. A notation in Kissinger’s handwriting reads: “Al—I agree, I want the whole’71 package spelled out and communicated to DOD along the lines of VSSG decisions.”
  2. The decision was made at the WSAG meeting of August 4, which was held in the White House Situation Room from 5:10 to 6:45 p.m. The WSAG agreed that DOD should pull its F–105s out of Takhli, but that the base should be kept open at least until October 1971. Excerpts relating to Thailand are in Document 81.
  3. Green crossed out the Secretary as the addressee on this memorandum and wrote in Ambassador Sullivan’s name with a note that reads: “Bill—I’m not sending this to the Secretary since he won’t be at VSSG or even later at S. Clemente. However, you may find points here valid and relevant in your VSSG meeting. MG”
  4. Document 73.