167. Telegram From the Embassy in Thailand to the Embassy in Indonesia1

13013. Subject: Vice President’s Trip to Thailand: May 4 Meeting With Prime Minister Kriangsak.

Following is uncleared memcon for approval by Vice President’s party:

1. Vice President and his party had two-hour substantive meeting with Prime Minister Kriangsak and senior officers of RTG. Among others present on Thai side were Deputy Prime Minister Sunthon Hongladarom, Foreign Minister Uppadit Pachariyangkun, Defense Minister General Lek Naeomali, Industry Minister Kasem Chatikawanit, and Air Marshal Sit Sawettasila, National Security Council Secretary General. Discussion covered USG policy in East Asia, RTG view of regional development, Kriangsak’s trip to Peking, security matters including military assistance and FMS credit, refugees, narcotics and range of specific economic matters.

2. After initial welcoming comments, the Vice President conveyed to Prime Minister his appreciation for the kind and warm reception. He also gave Prime Minister personal letter from President2 and conveyed President’s personal invitation to the Prime Minister for a visit to Washington in early 1979. Vice President indicated how much we valued such a high-level meeting and importance of President getting to know Prime Minister Kriangsak personally. Kriangsak quickly responded indicating his delight in accepting invitation.

3. Overview: In discussing regional matters, Kriangsak gave long, rambling exposition, stressing importance of Thailand to the security, not only for Southeast Asia and East Asia as a whole, but also the U.S. Kriangsak noted importance of Manila Pact3 and USG mutual defense treaties with ROK, ROC and ANZUS.

4. Kriangsak said that if U.S. does not weigh its treaty obligations seriously with each of these countries, inevitably speculation will spread as to whether USG is reliable. Kriangsak said that the USG has helped the free nations in area with military and economic assistance in the past and today these countries are facing the same enemy. He [Page 582] expressed the view that it would be advisable for the USG to “re-arm” these free nations, discreetly, if not openly. He specifically requested that USG not sell modern equipment nor provide advanced technology to Vietnam and PRC. He said Communist countries have been sent enough equipment “directly.” In addition, these Communist countries are getting equipment from Japan, Germany and other countries. Thailand would not like to see the PRC and Vietnam stronger. Rather, the U.S. should focus on the defense of the ROK and Japan and the political and economic stability of Southeast Asia.

5. Kriangsak asked that the USG use its influence on Japan to be more forthcoming in providing economic and technical assistance to Thailand and ASEAN. He said that Thailand has received “lots of promises,” as well as many survey teams from Japan, however, the Japanese are “very short on delivery.”

6. In response the Vice President noted that when he was asked by the press why he came to Thailand, he stated his purpose was to reaffirm our commitment to the security of the region and to this country. We are a Pacific nation and we intend to fulfill our role in the area. It was in Thailand that we entered into our first agreement in Asia and we intend to meet our obligations. The Vice President noted that in Manila we have made significant progress in negotiations and we expect to preserve the bases and air fields ensuring that both friend and foe understand that our presence in the area is certain and firm. With regard to technology transfer, the Vice President noted that we do have legislation controlling such sales and there are no military sales to the PRC.

7. Continuing, the Vice President noted that, with regard to military assistance, he wanted to assure the RTG that we will respond affirmatively to its request for the F–5E airplanes. We are prepared to sell them if the RTG wishes to procure these aircraft. We hope that this decision on our part will be of assistance to the RTG. The Vice President indicated that we have affirmed our treaty commitments, including ANZUS and the Manila Pact. Further, we have requested Congress for $30 million for FMS credits in ’79 and we will do our best to increase this level in the out years.

8. With regard to Japan, the Vice President pointed out a series of actions we have taken to secure greater Japanese involvement in the area. The Japanese have increased their defense spending, they have made a larger contribution to ADB, and they have made their first substantial contribution to the UNHCR. Citing Prime Minister Kriangsak’s own military service in Korea, the Vice President said that the House International Relations Committee just approved our $800 million equipment transfer request. In addition, our air strength in Korea has been increased, and we are slowing the ground forces withdrawal rate.

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9. Military Assistance: Prime Minister Kriangsak expressed appreciation for the military assistance which the U.S. has provided in the past. However, he stressed the importance of higher levels of FMS credit and pointed out that the current FMS level was “not enough.” Kriangsak said that the RTG is now forced to spend significant amounts of its own money for equipment procured abroad. To relieve this burden, it needs much more FMS credits. Further, he said the USG procurement under FMS was “too slow” and the amounts we are now providing are not enough to procure all of their needed equipment from the U.S. Consequently, the RTG has had to find other channels in Europe for equipment procurement where the prices and terms are better. Kriangsak said all of the RTG’s present equipment is U.S. and the RTG would like to standardize its weapons system.

10. He then turned to Defense Minister Lek for his comments. Lek touched on concern over the impression of withdrawal of “Free World involvement” in Southeast Asia and the consequences to Thailand of being caught in the rivalry between the USSR and PRC. Lek brought up the Nixon Doctrine and its possible impact on the Manila Pact. Holbrooke noted that since so much has happened since, it would not be useful to engage in an extended discussion of the Nixon Doctrine. Lek then noted that RTG would like, if possible, to have reinstitution of MAP grant “reconsidered.” However, recognizing negative congressional attitudes, Lek said RTG hopes that “as first step” U.S. would increase FMS credit. Lek noted that much of Thai military equipment was obsolete, with increasing difficulties in getting spare parts. He hoped that USG would permit the Thai to identify and procure the type of equipment which it needs now to modernize the Thai forces. In closing, Lek also requested USG consideration of prolonging terms of payment for FMS credit sales, as well as giving outright to the RTG the Integrated Communications System (ICS) which was turned over to Supreme Command at time of U.S. military withdrawal. Ambassador Whitehouse suggested that the question of keeping the ICS system functioning properly to meet RTG needs might be discussed separately in ongoing discussions with the Embassy.

11. Vice President Mondale explained that our global arms transfer policy will not prevent us from being a reliable arms supplier. With regard to procurement under FMS credit, we will be glad to examine specific Thai requests. However, the Vice President pointed out that with regard to MAP grant assistance, he must be “discouraging.” If he did otherwise, it would be a disservice. The Congress has been very clear on this issue and wants to bring grant assistance programs to an end. He asked Mr. Abramowitz to comment on the question of FMS terms. Abramowitz said that we would look again at the question of terms but he could not be encouraging on that score. As the RTG [Page 584] knows, our terms are usually based on world-wide policy criteria and it is not likely we would be able to do much about them.

12. In summing up, the Vice President indicated we did not attempt to set the RTG priorities and that we, for our part, will consider specific requests made by the RTG. Kriangsak indicated that he would only reinforce Defense Minister Lek’s request for softer terms, better prices and shorter delivery time. The Vice President indicated he would be happy to explore these questions. Kriangsak went on to note that RTG is endeavoring to achieve self reliance but this takes time. Thailand has no defense industry and needs to procure from other countries the equipment needed to modernize its armed forces. This includes sophisticated weapons since its neighbors already have MIG–21s and other modern equipment.

13. Economic Assistance: Prime Minister Kriangsak expressed appreciation for U.S. economic assistance efforts noting the serious difficulties facing the RTG, including inflation and unemployment. The RTG is taking measures to improve the economic situation. Since the U.S. has a favorable trade balance the RTG would “welcome” the U.S. accepting more exports from Thailand.

14. The Vice President noted that we have increased our economic assistance [garble–level?] to Thailand. When the new administration came into office it reviewed overall aid policy. We saw it was going in the wrong direction, phasing out. We decided to give greater assistance to Thailand recognizing that the previous year levels were inadequate. We decided to reverse this trend and although the dollar levels are not high they do demonstrate a turning around of our aid program for Thailand. Additionally, our new legislation on OPIC also strengthens our ability to assist economically. Beyond that we are fighting off strong protectionist trends in our own country. On GSP, we have decided not to attempt to change the legislation now for fear that any new legislation would be a step backward. We also have had useful discussions with the ASEAN group on MTN.

15. US-ASEAN Dialogue: The Vice President noted our deep interest in a high-level US-ASEAN dialogue in Washington this August.4 To accord with its importance, we believe it should be at the Ministerial level. We believe that such a high-level meeting would be able to make significant progress and would be a major recognition of our support for ASEAN and our wish to help in its development. FonMin Uppadit responded, briefly describing current status of ASEAN consideration of this. FonMin indicated that at ASEAN June 14–16 meeting ASEAN Ministers would make final decision on question of Ministerial partici [Page 585] pation. Vice President underscored our view that developing a dialogue with ASEAN at the highest levels is the most profitable course holding the greatest prospect for success. Prime Minister Kriangsak asked whether it would be convenient to hold the Ministerial in June after the ASEAN meeting in Bangkok. FonMin Uppadit interjected pointing to difficulties of getting all Foreign Ministers at one place together at the same time. He asked whether it would be possible to schedule the Ministerial meeting at UNGA when all the Foreign Ministers would be in New York. The Vice President indicated we could possibly consider this but there will be many Foreign Ministers in New York during the UNGA and it would be very difficult to get either the focus or attention which we believe the dialogue warrants. Prime Minister Kriangsak indicated that the August date would be all right from his point of view. He said the RTG would secure other ASEAN views and inform us after the June ASEAN consultations in Bangkok.

16. Returning to subject of Japan, Prime Minister Kriangsak noted USG trade deficit, suggested that USG press the Japanese harder to reduce it and then try to buy more from Thailand. The Vice President indicated that if Thailand had any recommendations on what to try on the Japanese we would be delighted to hear them. We have pressed the Japanese steadily to reduce the trade deficit. We have also stressed the importance to the Japanese and other major countries of sharing the burden so that less developed countries would not pay the penalty. These have been very difficult discussions but progress has been made.

17. The Prime Minister also noted the RTG’s concern regarding the disposal of tin from our stockpile. Mr. Heginbotham explained that there are several bills on this before Congress. However we could assure the RTG that there will be coordination with other countries and that it is not our intention to disrupt the tin market.

18. Refugees: Turning to the refugee situation the Prime Minister summarized the situation. He noted that there are over 100,000 refugees now in Thailand with the number of boat cases increasing daily. The Thais saw no easing of the flow of refugees in the future since Vietnamese have moved to more restrictive measures in the Delta and with the Chinese in Saigon. Thailand does not have space to accept all these refugees. Vice President Mondale requested Air Marshal Sit to give a brief summary of the refugee situation. According to Sit, over the longer term the RTG does believe that the boat people will continue to arrive in increased numbers. Because of Vietnamese repressive measures, a large number of Cholon Chinese are fleeing. There is increased repression in Laos and Cambodia leading to a continued flow of refugees out of those countries. The RTG estimates that the refugee population in Thailand will increase monthly at about the rate of 2,000 persons. The RTG has been waiting for the U.S. to proceed with a long-range [Page 586] program to assist it and relieve the burden now falling on Thailand. The RTG also hopes the U.S. will ask other countries to take more refugees.

19. In responding, the Vice President indicated he is pleased to say that the Attorney General has informed Congress of our intention to proceed with our 25,000 person parole program for Indochinese. About 20,000 of these will come from Thailand.5

20. The Prime Minister expressed his warmest appreciation. He asked also that the USG approach other countries to increase their acceptance of refugees. The Vice President noted that the Japanese, for the first time, were going to take some refugees and he called attention to the French, Canadian and other country programs.

21. More generally, the Vice President explained that we see the refugee situation as one of the most heartbreaking problems facing the world. In our opinion, Thailand has been forthcoming and humane in its handling of this problem and we will press other countries to do more. We will do everything we can to increase the flow. The Vice President said that INS intends to assign two INS officers to Bangkok and we are working to increase UNHCR funding. We would also be ready to provide funds for an overall long-term approach for those refugees who have to stay in Thailand. Further, we would be willing to take the leadership among the developed countries to assist this long-term settlement in Thailand and contribute substantially ourselves. Vice President noted that we would be prepared to provide $2 million to help the Thai in initial planning if that would be of assistance. He noted that he knows of no other problem which so tests all humanity.

22. The Vice President brought up the question of reports of forced repatriation. He noted our opposition and how poorly received such actions were. Kriangsak responded that he could assure the Vice President that he has given two orders, one covering land cases and the other boat cases, instructing that they are not to be pushed back. The orders are to receive everyone whether both boat cases or land people.

23. Prime Minister Kriangsak then went on to make the following points. First, he said that he was glad to know that the Vice President agreed that the refugees were not a Thai problem or U.S. problem alone. Secondly, for humanitarian reasons and “true to the Thai cultural tradition” Thailand would permit the entry of refugees. Thirdly, if any of the refugees are to return to their own lands it will be voluntary, Thailand will not push them back.

24. Kriangsak pointed out that Thailand does not regard boat cases as refugees. However, provided that Embassies (sic) give assurances that those who arrive will be sent abroad over some period of time, [Page 587] Thailand had agreed to accept the boat cases. Kriangsak again expressed his appreciation for our help and his hope that U.S. assistance could be forthcoming. He also asked whether the U.S. and other ASEAN countries could ask the Indochinese Communist states to guarantee the safe return to their countries of refugees who wish to do so.

25. Prime Minister Kriangsak suggested that the USG ask all other developed countries to take more refugees as the U.S. has done. If there is not a greater added flow it will take many years for the refugee problem to disappear. The Vice President indicated that we were in complete agreement on this matter and that he would follow the Prime Minister’s advice. He will urge a quick study of the problem and a consortium of developed nations to assist all refugees.

26. Mr. Holbrooke asked if many refugees were ethnic Chinese. Air Marshal Sit noted that in the Songkhla boat camp about 70 percent were Chinese. Holbrooke indicated that at the highest levels we have expressed to the Government of Taiwan the need to take more ethnic Chinese refugees. While not publicizing the matter, we have brought pressure on the Taiwanese to be more forthcoming. He noted that in relation to its responsibility, Taiwan has done poorly.

27. Narcotics Situation: Prime Minister turned to the narcotics problem. He said this problem can not be dealt with by one country alone. After decades of efforts to combat trafficking and narcotics, the situation is worse, the number of addicts is increasing and it is important that there be greater cooperation in the enforcement efforts as well as other measures to suppress narcotics trafficking.

28. Kriangsak said that on the enforcement side, the RTG needs support for its plan to set aside 4–5 platoons to be dedicated only to narcotics work. The platoons would be moveable from one narcotics area to another and kept ready for action at all times. They would have to be flexible and air-transportable so that they could be dropped anywhere. This would be a big deterrent. However, Thailand needs some more helicopters. Thailand also needs U.S. support on crop substitution. Kriangsak said he would like to have taken the Vice President to the north to show him what Thailand has done in this area. Coffee and fruit and other crops are now growing.

29. The Vice President said that the Prime Minister’s comments were very encouraging and we share his deep concern about drugs. For our part, we have been very encouraged by Thai efforts in the narcotics area. The President has been deeply appreciative as well and in many different environments has noted his appreciation for Thailand’s efforts.

30. The Vice President said he was particularly heartened to hear that the crop substitution program was going well. He said that we are prepared to receive any specific Thai requests on crop substitution [Page 588] but of course we will have to review the specific requirements. However we want to be helpful and we will continue to support Thai efforts in this area.

31. On the helicopter question, Ambassador Whitehouse pointed out that we do believe that the seven existing helicopters are sufficient for the present pattern of activity. He suggested that both sides should continue to discuss our varying views on the need for additional helicopters. The Prime Minister said that if the RTG does not have sufficient equipment, the traffickers would know this and the deterrent value would be lost.

32. In summing up, the Vice President said that we would study and give attention to RTG requests in the crop substitution and enforcement areas as well as other measures of strengthening broader cooperation.

33. Indochina: Kriangsak briefly noted recent Thai actions towards the Indochinese states, including normalization with Vietnam and the likely Ieng Sary visit in the near future. He said that while the RTG is not convinced that Vietnam’s long-term intentions are really in support of peace and security in the area, the RTG would try to do whatever it could to maintain and strengthen peaceful relations. Prime Minister Kriangsak asked for our comments on the Thai policy towards Indochina. The Vice President expressed our admiration for the skill and creativity with which the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Uppadit have managed their relations with the Indochinese states. He said that we recognize that the problems are very difficult but we wished the RTG the best of success.

34. In addressing the status of our own relations with the Indochinese states, Holbrooke described the Mansfield Mission6 which led to the President’s decision to initiate discussions with Vietnam. However, the Vietnamese responded with demands for aid. That is unacceptable to both the administration and the Congress. Consequently, there has been no progress towards normalization. However, in our contacts with the Vietnamese we have repeatedly expressed our hope that they will play a peaceful role in the area and have categorically denied that the U.S. is using Thailand as a base against the Indochinese states. We have told the Vietnamese that whatever happens along the border does not concern us and have rejected any charges of our involvement. On Cambodia, the President has given a strong statement of our views of the situation in that unhappy country7 and we will continue to speak out.

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35. China: Prime Minister Kriangsak then moved to his visit to China.8 He cited the extremely warm and friendly reception he received. He said the visit strengthened Thai-Chinese relations and the PRC expressed its support for Thailand’s domestic and foreign policies. On the insurgency, the Chinese indicated they could not “announce” any lessening of their support for the Thai Communist Party. However, the Chinese indicated they understood that the RTG would take whatever actions it deemed necessary within its borders to control the insurgency.

36. Kriangsak said that the Thai asked for Chinese help in easing the Cambodian border situation. The Chinese indicated they would try to help but have “not quite been successful.” Teng Hsiao Peng accepted on behalf of himself and Hua Kuo-feng invitations to visit Thailand and the Chinese invited the Royal family to visit. The Chinese indicated to Kriangsak that they support both ASEAN and the Zone of Peace and Prosperity. Kriangsak asked if he could announce this to the world and the Chinese said yes. The Chinese also indicated that they did want to normalize relations with Singapore and Indochina but were willing to wait until the atmosphere was right.

37. In discussing the USSR, the Chinese said the Soviet objective was to destroy China and establish hegemony throughout the world. The Chinese were also worried about Soviet encroachment in Southeast Asia as well as Vietnam and its plans with regard to Indochinese Federation.

38. On China-US relations, the Chinese indicated that they hoped for early normalization but indicated they can wait.9 When Kriangsak brought up Korea, the Chinese indicated that eventual reunification was something Koreans themselves should decide with no outside involvement. While U.S. forces continue to remain in Korea, the Chinese believe it would be difficult to unify. Kriangsak said he brought up the possibility of South Korea establishing relations with PRC. The Chinese answered that would be “very difficult.”

39. On Japan, Kriangsak asked why the Japanese did not sign a normalization treaty. The Chinese said the Japanese were afraid of the Soviets. Overall, Kriangsak said the results of his China visit were very good. He asked our assessment of normalization prospects and Soviet attitudes.

40. The Vice President indicated our appreciation for the briefing and praised the Prime Minister’s success in China.

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41. The Vice President noted that Mr. Brzezinski would be going to Peking. The purpose of the visit is not normalization in the near term but undoubtedly that subject would come up. Mr. Holbrooke asked whether there was any subject of particular interest that Thai might want Mr. Brzezinski to raise. (Kriangsak did not directly respond to this.) The Vice President indicated that we do favor normalization and were glad the Thai had done so. Establishing normal relations is very important in opening communications and in dealing with problem areas. Our appraisal of the USSR reaction is that it is very anxious, given the amount of propaganda and the attention it devotes to the border problems and the Brezhnev visit to the area. All of this points to continuing animosity between the two powers but that should not affect our own efforts for normalization.

42. Manila Treaty-Rusk/Thanat Communique: The Prime Minister asked for the U.S. position on the Manila Treaty and the Rusk/Thanat communique.10 The Vice President asked Mr. Holbrooke to address this question. Mr. Holbrooke said that the administration reaffirms its commitment under the Manila Pact and understands its bilateral obligations to Thailand under the treaty.

43. Economic Issues: Deputy Prime Minister Sunthon requested that the USG continue to use its influence with Iran and Saudi Arabia to prevent increases in oil prices. The Vice President pointed out that we have and will continue to do so. We have been pressing for price restraint. We recognize the fourfold increase in oil prices had had a major adverse economic impact. A major part of our problem is that we have had no comprehensive energy policy. We have been importing too much oil. With recent congressional developments we hope there will be an energy package soon. The administration believes we must have this to be credible in our dealings with others. We also are looking seriously into alternative sources of energy. In that regard he called attention to the natural gas development in Thailand which he thought would have a major economic impact. He was particularly encouraged by the significant involvement of American firms in this development which will be of such economic importance to Thailand.

44. Industry Minister Kasem spoke briefly on the question of energy. He noted first that the gas negotiations seem to be finally nearing their end. He hoped negotiations could be wound up within this month. He also indicated that Thailand was interested in solar/wing studies as an alternative source of energy but did not want to duplicate any of the work already done in the U.S. He hoped some [Page 591] technology transfer pilot projects could be instituted. The Vice President said we would be happy to send a team to work with the Thai on this. The second major area of importance was water projects for energy generation. Originally the Thai had hoped that the Mekong River project would be useful. However, this involves four countries and is obviously too slow.11 New thinking is required in this area. Mr. Heginbotham indicated he would be happy to discuss this further while the party is in town.

45. The Vice President referred to the LANDSAT program. Kriangsak said that he had been very helpful. The Vice President said we would be happy to continue to offer the LANDSAT services.

46. Request Embassy be informed of any changes in memcon and when memcon approved.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780193–0911. Confidential; Priority; Exdis. Sent for information to the Department of State.
  2. See Document 166.
  3. The Manila Pact, formally the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty, signed September 8, 1954, established SEATO. (6 UST 81; TIAS 3170)
  4. August 3–4. See Document 131.
  5. See footnote 4, Document 126.
  6. Presumably reference is to the Woodcock Commission, of which Mansfield was a member. See Document 8.
  7. For Carter’s April 21 statement on human rights in Cambodia, see Public Papers: Carter, 1978, Book I, pp. 767–768.
  8. March 29–April 4.
  9. The United States normalized relations with the People’s Republic of China on January 1, 1979.
  10. The Rusk-Thanat joint statement, signed March 6, 1962, pledged U.S. support for Thailand’s defense. See Department of State Bulletin, March 26, 1962, pp. 498–499.
  11. See footnote 2, Document 58.