92. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • Southeast Asia and Peace Prospects

PARTICIPANTS

  • Foreign Minister Thanat Khoman
  • Thai Ambassador to U.S. Sunthorn
  • Thai Ambassador to U.N. Anand
  • Mr. Birabhongse, Special Assistant to the Foreign Minister
  • William P. Rogers, Secretary of State
  • U. Alexis Johnson, J, Undersecretary of State
  • John B. Dexter, Country Director, EA/TB

The Secretary took advantage of a previously scheduled call by Foreign Minister Thanat to brief him on the Southeast Asia peace proposals that the President intended to put forward in a television speech that evening.2 After he had heard the outline of the President’s proposals, Thanat expressed the cautious judgment that it would be a useful initiative.

Thanat’s first question concerned the concept of an enlarged conference that the Secretary had mentioned. He was relieved to know that we did not have a “Geneva-type” conference in mind. He then went on to comment that there were a number of Asian nations who would probably be willing to assist in cease-fire supervision measures. [Page 191]He mentioned Indonesia, Japan, Pakistan, Burma and Malaysia. He commented that the Japanese would want to participate only through civilians and that he supposed that, if the Pakistanis participated, the Indians would also wish to do so. Thanat then noted the importance of the Soviet role in any peace negotiations. He said that if the two super powers can agree, then peace can be obtained. He went on to say that in New York he had been talking with other Asian leaders such as Romulo and Malik about a plan to appeal to the big powers, especially the Soviets, to work for peace in Southeast Asia.

In response to a question from the Secretary, Thanat characterized relations with the GVN as quite good. He said in connection with the Thai forces in South Vietnam, the GVN wants the Thai to leave a token force there.

Further concerning Thai troops in Vietnam, he said the Thai want them back in Thailand as a back-up force along the Cambodia/Laos border. He said that they did not think it desirable now to send forces into Cambodia but that it was necessary to have troops ready nearby to take action in Cambodia if necessary. To send troops in now on a permanent basis would give rise to problems of financing,3 friction with the Cambodians and charges that the Thai were “mercenaries”.

After a brief discussion of Thai domestic affairs (Thanat commented wryly on the Parliamentary Opposition’s desire to “overthrow the Government”), Thanat inquired about conditions in the Middle East. The Secretary responded with comments indicating that he thought prospects for peace there were somewhat improved. Thanat observed that the most helpful sign was the apparent fact that the US and the Soviet Union were both willing to work for peace. This he saw as a lesson for Southeast Asia. He said that he was convinced that, if the Soviets would give the word, the North Vietnamese would accept peace.

Thanat then mentioned the Djakarta Conference and the follow-up actions of the Committee of Three. He said they had reached a dead-end and there was now need for a new initiative. He said, “We can’t sit down and twiddle our thumbs.”

[Page 192]

The Secretary suggested that the Djakarta Three could make use of the President’s proposals and give their support to them. Thanat said that they would have to determine this after they had studied the speech. He said he would be seeing Malik and Romulo the next few days in New York and would discuss it with them. He added that he had asked Malik and some of the other Asian leaders to work on the Russians. Malik had agreed to talk with Gromyko during the UNGA session.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 THAI. Secret. Drafted by Dexter and approved in S on October 21. The meeting was held in the Secretary’s office.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 91.
  3. In a memorandum to Rogers, October 5, Green noted that the Fulbright amendments to the 1971 Military Procurement Appropriations Act excluded “the use of any such funds to support Vietnamese or other free world forces in actions designed to provide military support and assistance to the Governments of Cambodia or Laos.” This amendment was approved by the Senate-House conference committee and was awaiting the President’s signature to become law. Green added that although the legal advisers were “reviewing the language,” “it appears that it will preclude U.S. support from the DOD budget of Thai forces in Cambodia or Laos except for operations which persuasively could be said to be for the defense of Vietnam.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 15–1 THAI)