26. Memorandum From John Holdridge of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger), Washington, February 1, 1973.1 2

February 1, 1973


In a comprehensive foreign policy statement delivered January 27 before an Australian academic audience, Prime Minister Whitlam persisted in his public debate with us over Vietnam and charted his plans to realign Asian regional arrangements. His principle points were that:

  • — In criticizing our Vietnam policy he was adhering to his Party’s long-standing three principles on the question: opposition to Australia’s involvement in Vietnam, opposition to U.S. bombing of the North, and a determination to use Australia’s influence to end the war. The recent election has given him an “abundantly clear” mandate to pursue this line.
  • — The end of the “American intervention” in Indochina will remove the “really serious difference” between the Australian and U.S. Governments, and will free U.S. energies for “constructive” pursuits in the region. The U.S. has learned its lesson in Vietnam: “The U.S. herself now accepts that its cold war commitment to global containment of Communism represented a gross over-extension of her real power.”
  • — There is no linkage between Australia’s position on Vietnam and the continuation of an ANZUS Treaty relationship. [This is probably in response to Secretary Roger’s telling him last May — and reminding Ambassador Plimsoll last month — that Australia’s pulling out of SEATO could call ANZUS into question.]
  • — Australia must not be subservient to the U.S., and his Government will encourage Australians “to shed old stultifying fears and animosities which have encumbered the national spirit for generations and dominated, often for domestic partisan purposes, the foreign policy of [Australia].”
  • — North Vietnam will not pose a post-settlement threat to Southeast Asia. Australia therefore will support Malaysia’s neutralization proposal, and will “encourage other countries involved in the region to endorse the proposition.”
  • — Australia’s Southeast Asian policy will place primary emphasis on Indonesia, and will discard the earlier policy of forward defense [which put primary emphasis on the Five Power Defense Arrangement for Malyasia-Singapore (FPDA.)].
  • — Australia will press for a restructuring of Asian regional bodies. Whitlam singled out ASPAC — which he hinted should expel the ROC — and ASEAN — which he said should be enlarged.

Comment: Whitlam apparently is determined to bull ahead with his rather doctrinaire notions on reshaping Asian security arrangements. He seems more driven by his own half-formed ideas than by pressures from his Party’s dogmatic left-wing. As New Zealand Prime Minister Kirk summed up his impression of Whitlam after their meeting last month, Kirk felt Whitlam was concerned with ideological appearances to the neglect of serious pragmatic consequences, and was prone to take black and white approaches. Kirk characterized Whitlam as being dominated by “Calvinistic” impulsiveness.

Of some consolation at this point, Whitlam has drawn back on SEATO and FPDA. On the former, he has said he will not pull out, wants to see how we lower its profile, and will consult with the other members before acting. On the latter, he will honor Australia’s commitment, and has indicated he will limit his withdrawal of Australian ground forces from Singapore to its infantry battalion, thus leaving the larger and more important logistics force, which supports New Zealand and U.K. forces there as well.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 504, Country Files, Far East, Australia, January 1972–December 31, 1973. Secret. Sent for information. Kissinger initialed the memorandum on March 20.
  2. Holdridge informed Kissinger of Whitlam’s recent foreign policy statements.