295. Memorandum From W.R. Smyser of the National Security Council Staff to Secretary of State Kissinger, Washington, January 30, 1975.1 2


January 30, 1975

FROM: W.R. Smyser [WRS initialed]
SUBJECT: Proposed NSSM on U.S. Military Access to Singapore

There have been several recent developments with respect to Singapore that could have a considerable impact on our interests there as well as elsewhere. We need to analyze that impact and decide what we can do about it.

Implications of the following developments need to be reviewed:

  • — The U.K. on December 3 announced plans to withdraw virtually all of its 2,200 man military contingent from Singapore. The announcement did not specify a date, but the U.K. will probably complete the withdrawal within the year. The U.K. will also divest itself of its extensive military base structure in Singapore, including the strategic Sembawang Naval Base, which the U.S. Navy uses for port calls, bunkering, and repairs.
  • — The Soviets, apparently moving quickly in the wake of the U.K. announcement, have asked the Singapore Government for permission to use the Sembawang Naval Shipyard to repair Soviet commercial vessels. Singapore is considering the Soviet request, presumably in light of reduced U.S. Navy use of Singapore’s naval facilities as well as the anticipated sharp drop in British naval use of these facilities. Until now, Singapore has given Soviet ships — both military and commercial — only very limited access to the sensitive Sembawang Naval Base area on the north side of the island, and has largely confined them to the use of commercial facilities on the south side.
  • CIA has reported that the Soviets are exploring the possibility of constructing a naval bunkering facility for their commercial vessels in either Singapore or Malaysia.
  • — In accord with the Presidential decision last spring, we intend to end subsidized use of Lockheed’s military aircraft repair facilities in Singapore at the end of this fiscal year.

State and Defense have initially and informally concluded that the likely increase in Soviet presence in Singapore following on the U.K. withdrawal will be slight. Our Navy is considering some limited increase in its use of Singapore’s bunkering facilities.

The State Department has also instructed our Embassy in Singapore to remonstrate with the Singapore Government about the possible increase in the Soviet presence.

I believe our bureaucracy’s informal approach to this question is inadequate, and that a more comprehensive review of the dimensions of the problem and our options for coping with it is called for. Increased Soviet naval access to Singapore could have an important bearing on their naval presence in the Indian Ocean. We may be able to find means to increase our own use of the facilities. I contemplate a quick, short NSSM study of the question.

The purpose of this NSSM would not be to analyze or to project future naval strategy in the Indian Ocean or in Southeast Asia. Instead, we would wish it merely to study what we need to do to maintain our access to Singapore and — as necessary — to cut off Russian access. The study would not interfere with NSSM 199 on the Indian Ocean.

At Tab I is a draft memorandum from you to the President attaching a draft NSSM request.


That you sign the NSSM at Tab A.

Col Granger
Mr. Oakley

  1. Source: Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–34, NSSM 218, U.S. Policy Toward U.S. and Soviet Military Access to Singapore. Secret. Sent for action. Concurred in by Granger and Oakley. In the top right-hand corner of the first page, Kissinger wrote, “Give new date + then issue.” On the second page, an unknown hand crossed out “draft memorandum to the President at Tab I” and wrote, “NSSM at Tab A.” Attached but not printed is Tab A, NSSM 218. [Malaysia/Singapore, 1973–1976, NSSM 218, 3/3/75]
  2. Smyser proposed a NSSM on U.S. military access to Singapore.