174. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rogers to President Nixon 1

SUBJECT

  • South Yemen Breaks Relations with the USG

The Government of the Peoples Republic of Southern Yemen (PRSYG) informed our Chargé in Aden today that PRSY was severing relations with the United States.2 The Foreign Minister cited alleged U.S. material help “to people working against the Arabs and PRSYG,” as well as the presence of Americans in the Israeli armed forces, as reasons for this sudden step.3 He added that there was a question of how long the PRSYG could guarantee the safety of American personnel in Aden and requested that all be withdrawn within forty-eight hours.

We are complying with the PRSYG request. Our Chargé, who was given twenty-four hours to leave, will be departing commercially on [Page 548] October 25. The remaining staff of 34 Americans, including dependents, is scheduled to go to Asmara by chartered Ethiopian aircraft on October 26. The U.K. has agreed to serve as protecting power and is so notifying the PRSYG.

Our relations with this extremist Arab regime have long been strained, but there seem three reasons for its sudden action: (1) the PRSYG continues to imagine that we are assisting Saudi Arabia in supporting efforts on the part of PRSY exiles to foment trouble within Southern Yemen; (2) Southern Yemenis reacted strongly to increasing tensions on the Arab/Israeli issues, notably allegations of American citizen service in Israeli armed forces; and (3) beset by domestic problems reflected in one coup already this year, Southern Yemeni radicals may well fear that public opinion in Aden could get out of hand unless some dramatic step were taken. In this connection, there was rioting in Aden immediately prior to the PRSY action.

Our interests in PRSY have been marginal. It is not represented in the United States, other than at the UN. This action will, however, make it more difficult for us to keep track of the growing Soviet presence4 in the strategic port of Aden and brings to eight the number of Arab countries who have broken relations with us since May, 1967. Relations are unlikely to be resumed until other Arab countries show the way or there is some change in the composition and orientation of the PRSYG itself.

WPR
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1245, Saunders Files, South Yemen. Confidential. A typed notation on the memorandum states: “Used in October 29, 1969 President Briefing for Oct. 30 Kissinger to President memo.” The October 30 memorandum from Kissinger to Nixon repeated material contained in Rogers’s memorandum. (Ibid., Box 12, President’s Daily Briefing Files, October 29–31, 1969)
  2. As reported in telegram 779 from Aden, October 24. (Ibid., NSC Files, Box 1245, Saunders Files, South Yemen.)
  3. According to telegram 655 from Aden, September 8, the government was then split on maintaining relations with the United States over the issue of U.S. sale of Phantoms to Israel. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL SYEMEN–US)
  4. As reported in telegrams 424 from Moscow, January 30, and 23100 to Aden, February 13, PRSY President Al-Shaabi visited Moscow January 28. (Ibid.) Airgram A–52 from Aden, March 18, reported continuing pro-Soviet public statements by government officials. (Ibid., POL 2 SYEMEN). According to airgram A–58 from Aden, April 1, the Soviets agreed to train South Yemeni aviation cadets. (Ibid., DEF 19–6 SYEMEN) Aden was also part of general U.S. concerns over Soviet presence in the Indian Ocean. See Documents 2 and 13.