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

March 1, 1973

SUBJECT: Australian Prime Minister Asks Indonesian President to Press Thailand for Removal of U.S. Bases There

According to the Australian record of Prime Minister Whitlam’s discussions with President Suharto in Jakarta last month (passed to us by a “high Australian source” in Jakarta), Whitlam asked Suharto to discuss with Thailand the need for an early removal of the U.S. military presence, adding that he planned to take the matter up directly with Thailand in the SEATO framework. Whitlam reasoned that the U.S. military presence in Thailand would only provoke North Vietnam, which would destabilize the situation in Indochina again. Whitlam alluded to his axiom that, after the Korean War and the Geneva Accords on Indochina, the great powers had lost the chance to secure peace in Asia, and that Australia and others must now ensure that this does not happen again.

Suharto politely demurred, saying that some other Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand might very possibly feel a need for U.S. bases until they were able to build sufficient national unity to withstand external pressures.

Hanoi as a Potential Threat

Suharto in the previous day’s discussion had also asserted that North Vietnam — as well as the PRC — still posed a subversive threat to Southeast Asia, and suggested that Australia, New Zealand, and Japan help economically as well as militarily these countries’ efforts to strengthen themselves against this threat. Suharto thus ranged himself against Whitlam on an additional score, since Whitlam has taken the position in a recent major public statement of his foreign policy that North Vietnam must not be thought of as replacing the PRC as a threat to Southeast Asian stability, or that Thailand will now necessarily [Page 2] replace South Vietnam as Hanoi’s primary target. (Whitlam in that same statement then went on to support Malaysia’s neutralization scheme for Southeast Asia, and to say that Australia would be mobilizing the support of others for this scheme.) Whitlam has also withdrawn its military assistance to South Vietnam and Cambodia.

Whitlam Differs with Suharto on Re-structuring Asian Regional Cooperation

During his first day’s discussion with Suharto, Whitlam broached his plan for a wider regional grouping — which he professes can develop consultative and cooperative practices that will insure the peace and stability of Asia. Suharto rejected such an expansion in the near future, saying that the most that can be hoped for would be ASEAN’s plan to bring Burma and the four Indochinese states into its fold. Suharto suggested that Australia and others might become observers at meetings of such an expanded ASEAN.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Malik subsequently indicated to the press something of this difference between Whitlam and Suharto on an expanded regional grouping. This was played in the Australian press as Suharto’s rebuffing a rather naive Whitlam proposal, much to the consternation of Whitlam and his party. Whitlam in his second day’s talks with Suharto took the line that he had “proposed” nothing, but was merely “exploring” the possibility of expanded regional cooperation.

  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 discussions with Suharto.