55. Memorandum of Conversation, Washington, May 7, 1975.1 2

Memorandum of Conversation

DATE: May 7, 1975
SUBJECT: Southeast Asia, NPW Visits


  • US: The Secretary
  • Mr. Habib, Assistant Secretary, EA
  • Armistead Selden, US Ambassador to New Zealand
  • Mr. Richard Smyser, NSC Senior Staff Member
  • Mr. John Knowles, EA/ANP (notetaker)
  • NEW ZEALAND: W.E. Rowling, Prime Minister
  • Lloyd White, New Zealand Ambassador
  • H. H. Francis, Assistant Secretary of Foreign Affairs


The Secretary: Welcome.

PM Rowling: I am pleased to be here.

The Secretary: Have you been here before?

PM Rowling: Three previous times. Always as a Member of Parliament, not as a Minister.

The Secretary: I knew that you had planned to come for the ANZUS Council Meeting.

PM Rowling: Yes. As it turned out, my Deputy Prime Minister had to represent New Zealand at the Asian Development Bank Meeting in Manila and my next senior minister was also away from New Zealand. So I had to change my plans and stay at home.

The Secretary: Is the Deputy Prime Minister the one who gave a speech yesterday?

PM Rowling: Yes. I saw some notes on it. I never cease to be surprised.

[Page 2]

The Secretary: Well, I never cease to be surprised either.

Rowling: He got ahead of my Government.

Selden: He jumped the gun, didn’t he?

Rowling: The question of NPW visits to New Zealand has not been the subject of a cabinet decision at all. We have not received departmental reports yet.

Secretary: More and more ships are nuclear-powered.

Rowling: I think Faulkner spoke about the NPW question at the ANZUS Council Meeting. Despite the comments made yesterday, no decision has been made. I want to hold off a decision until after our elections.

Secretary: When are the elections?

Rowling: November. That is to say, no later than November.

Secretary: Have you met Mr. Habib before? He is losing some countries and part of his area.

Rowling: The situation gives some cause for concern.

Secretary: The most bloody minded bastards I’ve met are the North Vietnamese. When people speak of reconciliation, they often mean it. This includes the Soviets and the Chinese. But the North Vietnamese have a great capacity to lie and trick. They also have a heroic ideal—we have to admit that. But they concentrate all their energies on tricking others.

Rowling: How do you think the North Vietnamese will behave?

Secretary: I think they will be bloody-minded. I expect at a minimum that they will step up their support of revolutionary war in Northeast Thailand and Malaysia and put pressure on other countries in the area.

Rowling: How do you think the Thais will react?

Secretary: I believe they will switch subtly to a different orientation.

Rowling: I assume we can expect a step-up of arms to the Thai insurgents.

Secretary: At a minimum the North Vietnamese will step-up sending cadres and arms into Northeast Thailand. They will try to create a situation similar to the situation in Northeast Laos ten years ago. The North Vietnamese will put the pressure on the Thai Government.

[Page 3]

Rowling: What about Indonesia?

Secretary: I don’t know about Indonesia. Let me ask Dick Smyser whether he agrees with my characterization of the North Vietnamese. Smyser is a North Vietnamese expert.

Smyser: I do, absolutely.

Secretary: Smyser was on all the secret negotiations with North Viet-Nam. The North Vietnamese are really arrogant and convinced of their cause. They have some reason to believe it since they beat the French and the United States—and they acted against the advice of their allies: the USSR and the PRC.

Rowling: How do you think Viet-Nam will affect the perceptions of the Soviets and the PRC?

Secretary: Hanoi will play one off against the other. We will probably see the emergence of the Soviet’s Asian security concept. The Chinese will be scared. The Chinese think we’re still a significant force in the Pacific and see us as a balance against the Soviets.

Rowling: The PRC would be more deeply disturbed if it thought the United States was looking inward.

Secretary: Yes. I think the Chinese have been very restrained in recent weeks — conciliatory. Their perceptions will depend on what we do.

Rowling: Will you be able to do something to bolster the morale of the Thai Government?

Secretary: I was just telling Habib that I thought we ought to wait until things have settled down before taking any actions. We were talking about this in connection with our new ambassador who is just going off to Thailand.

Habib: How do you see moves to boost the morale of the countries in SEA?

Rowling: We need a fairly clear expression that Viet-Nam is behind us and that the United States is not retreating to a Fortress America, not packing up and going home. At the ANZUS Council Meeting I had Faulkner stress the importance of our all helping to strengthen the economies of the Southeast Asian countries.

Secretary: Yes, I recall the discussion at ANZUS. It is true that security is not enough, but there is no substitute for security.

[Page 4]

Rowling: The economic side is very important. Lee Kuan Yew—who is a tough guy—by building economic strength weakened the dissident elements in Singapore. Malaysia has also become stronger. I was impressed at the Commonwealth Meeting in Jamaica that the countries had a sort of unity we didn’t expect them to have.

Secretary: (Smiling) I note that it is not in keeping with the Monroe Doctrine that the Commonwealth Meeting was held in Jamaica.

Habib: Thailand is not weak economically—its economy is probably the best in Southeast Asia—, but the Thai are weak militarily.

Rowling: I talked to both Razak and Lee. They were pretty concerned.

Habib: Razak is very much concerned.

Secretary: It has been a real pleasure to meet with you. This is the only way I can find out the thinking of others. It enables me to know what questions to ask at my staff meetings. When am I seeing Razak?

Habib: He has already passed through Washington. He just stopped at the airport.

The Secretary escorted the Prime Minister and his party to the call on the President.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, P–820125–0393. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Knowles and approved by Covey. According to his daily diary, Ford met with Rowling from 11:06 a.m. until 12:08 p.m. on May 7. (Ford Library, Staff Secretary’s Office, President’s Daily Diary) During this meeting, Ford stated that the United States would continue to play a major role in the Pacific despite the fall of South Vietnam, but that it might reexamine its defense commitments if South Pacific nations enact a restrictive nuclear free zone. The memorandum of conversation from this Rowling-Ford meeting is in Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversation, Box 11.
  2. Kissinger and Rowling discussed U.S.-New Zealand relations.