171. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • U.S.

    • President Carter
    • Vice President Walter Mondale
    • Secretary of State Cyrus Vance
    • Secretary of Defense Harold Brown
    • Zbigniew Brzezinski, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
    • Morton Abramowitz, U.S. Ambassador to Thailand
    • Richard Holbrooke, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia
    • Nicholas Platt, Staff Member, NSC (Notetaker)
  • Thailand

    • Prime Minister Kriangsak Chomanan
    • Deputy Prime Minister Sunthorn Hongladarom
    • Upadit Pachariyangkun, Foreign Minister
    • Somphon Bunyakhup, Minister in Charge of Foreign Investment
    • General Lek Naeomali, Minister of Interior
    • Kasem Chatikawanit, Minister of Industry
    • General Prem Tinsulanon, Deputy Minister of Interior and Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army
    • Lt. General Yos Thep-Hatsadin Na Ayutthaya, Deputy Minister of Defense
    • Ambassador Klos Vissessurakarn
    • Air Marshal Sitti Savetsila, Secretary General of the National Security Council
    • General Surakit Mayalarp, Minister of Communications


  • The President’s Meeting with Thai Prime Minister Kriangsak

President: I’m pleased and honored to welcome you. We have learned a great deal from Thailand, our valuable ally. We will do everything we can to assure that your visit is successful. You come at an important time. I need your advice and counsel on the situation in Southeast Asia. The value that we attach to Thai security is long-standing. We stand behind the commitments made in the Manila Pact. As we have told the world, the integrity of your borders, peace, security, and the independence of Thailand are important to the people of the United States. I would like to have your comments and then proceed to discuss matters of mutual interest.

Kriangsak: Thank you for your friendly welcome. I’m looking forward to my visit, and particularly to our discussions, which have become urgent due to events in Kampuchea. At the outset I would like to express my heartfelt thanks for your press conference statement of January 17.2 It was heartening for the Thai people to hear the U.S. President state that the United States is interested in the integrity of the borders of Thailand, and the protection of its independence. I would hope that you would repeat this often, because the statement raises the morale of ASEAN and also the countries of Northeast Asia.

President: I have reiterated the statement three times already this morning,3 and will continue to do so if you find it helpful. (Laughter)

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Kriangsak: Your statement is a real deterrent to Vietnam, and prevents miscalculation.

President: We are deeply concerned about the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia, and were gratified to read the united statement of the ASEAN countries.4 The best way to punish Vietnam is increasingly to isolate Hanoi in the international community in the United Nations. For the first time in the history of the United Nations the Vietnamese and the Soviets were publicly condemned.5 We have encouraged the industrial nations to halt aid to Vietnam as long as Vietnamese troops are in Cambodia. The United States does not want to see a spread of the conflict. So far, we understand that the Vietnamese have kept their promise not to violate your borders, but we are not convinced of Vietnamese trustworthiness and should form a united diplomatic front against them. Your praiseworthy leadership, Prime Minister Kriangsak, has been an important factor in maintaining the stability.

Kriangsak: The Thai Government still feels greatly concerned about the risks of a miscalculation and the involvement of outside powers in the area. Thai policy is based on the following principles: strict neutrality, solution of problems by peaceful means, and peaceful co-existence. We want no escalation in the conflict. The stand taken by ASEAN in the January 12 statement in Bangkok strongly deplores armed intervention and the violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Cambodia. It affirms the right of self-determination and calls for an immediate withdrawal of foreign forces.

While he was in the United States, Chinese Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping told the newspapers that he would like to see Thailand pass supplies through its territory to resisting forces in Cambodia.6 It is not for Deng nor for Prince Sihanouk to speak for me. I will decide how best to safeguard our national interests. Our main stand is that we remain neutral. If others do the same, fine. If they do not, I will decide what to do.

President: I have confidence in your actions to protect the Thai people. We have discouraged actions by China to threaten Vietnam. Though we have no control over Peking, we have made it clear to the Chinese and the Vietnamese that any escalation of conflict is not in the best interest of the region. We have protested strongly to the Soviet [Page 602] Union that their actions supporting the Vietnamese move into Cambodia threaten detente.7

During the past year we have strengthened our relations with the nations of Asia. We have concluded a base agreement with the Philippines, improved our relations with Korea (we are interested in signs that the Korean Government is willing to resume their dialogue), supported the economic and political cohesion of ASEAN in every possible way; strengthened our security relations with Japan; and normalized diplomatic relations with China. Further, we plan over time to strengthen our military presence in the Western Pacific. Our Navy and Air Force will maintain its presence. We are very concerned with the strategic balance in your part of the world, and value your counsel on ways to maintain it.

On refugees, we want to share more efforts and encourage each other to do more. We have received 170,000, and want to increase our share this year to 54,000. Is that figure correct, Cy?

Vance: It is 58,000, and we may try to do more.

Kriangsak: How many of these are from Thailand?

Holbrooke: The number will depend on categories of persons that apply.

President: This is a matter that you could discuss with Secretary Vance and former Senator Dick Clark whom I have just appointed as our new refugee coordinator. I understand that he will be calling on you.

I am also grateful for your efforts to control narcotics flows. I know that you have reorganized the government structure. Is there any way that we can be a more helpful and effective partner in controlling the flow of opium and heroin. I know that your border with Burma is difficult to control.

Kriangsak: Recently before I came, our government impounded 8,000 kilograms of refined heroin, with a street value of some $4 billion U.S. dollars. We have done our best and will continue to do so. In the last week alone, for example, we have captured 900 kilos.

President: Is the cooperation between our agents and governments satisfactory?

Kriangsak: It is very good. I would like to have additional agents and officers in the field. Four of our helicopters supplied by the United States have no spare parts. Can I ask you to help us with this problem? Altogether we have received 18 helicopters from the United States for use in narcotics control. They have been very important to our program. [Page 603] We have done a great deal with them. Crop substitution is extremely difficult to implement successfully. We need to centralize authority for all programs under one group and do more development work. We lack money, management, and good markets. If there are no markets, the growers return to opium production. We need more dollars and support for crop subsidies.

Ambassador Abramowitz: We have an active program with the Thai Government. Next year we will expend $3 million on drug enforcement and crop substitution. We need to do more. I think we have been as successful in Thailand as we have with any other country. But there is a long way to go as I am sure the Prime Minister will agree.

President: We will try to get spare parts for those helicopters.

Kriangsak: ASEAN would benefit if the frequency of ship visits to the various countries, particularly Thailand, were increased.

Secretary Brown: A carrier task force visited Thailand a few months ago. We will continue our ship visit program. It is important, however, that ship visits not be too closely connected with specific events, lest the wrong signals be given.

President: We should assess the frequency of our ship visits to the ASEAN countries.

Abramowitz: There are normally two carrier visits scheduled per year, in addition to a wide variety of other ships.

President: I am sure the sailors enjoy their visits to Bangkok.

Kriangsak: Yes, it is good for tourism.

It is our hope that you will be able to visit the ASEAN region soon. You would be most welcome.

President: That would please me very much. We will try to work out a time.

Kriangsak: Right now, don’t forget, Thailand is the crossroads of the world. Whoever controls the Kra Isthmus controls the Straits of Malacca. Help us, Mr. President, to keep Thailand strong. We don’t want this for selfish reasons, but for the long-range benefit of the region.

Your friends will gain if your strategic objectives remain consistent. Actions to enhance Thailand’s strength, especially at this moment, would be particularly significant.

We rely on ourselves, but lack production facilities and must buy equipment from other countries. Time is short, so we must look to others. Economic development alone is not enough. We have 1.2 million unemployed living at a per capita income level of $95. We need to strengthen our economy to protect our security. This is the year of the farmer. Incidentally, we have seen a lot of tractors here in Washington.8

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President: Perhaps we can send you some. (Laughter)

Kriangsak: The response of the Japanese was very good. They gave us a $240 million loan at 3.5 percent with payment forgiven for ten years and fully due after 30. We also received a grant of $60 million, half of which will go for rural development.

President: I admire the actions you have taken in the development field and your emphasis on a better quality of life.

As far as our own contribution is concerned, the Vice President reminded me of his promise to you last April,9 and I have restored the $6 million cut in your foreign military credits, bringing the level back to the $30 million originally planned. In addition, I plan to seek Congressional authorization to transfer cost-free to Thailand $11.2 million worth of U.S. ammunition stored in the country.

Kriangsak: I thank you in advance. We do need more FMS credits.

Brown: The transfer of the ammunition will free up some funds for other purposes.

President: Let me assure you about our relations with Taiwan. We plan to maintain a full range of commercial relations, including prudent sales of defensive weapons. Peking understands the last point. Although they do not approve, they accept it. The normalization of relations with Peking has resulted in a net gain for us. Normalization was not accomplished at the expense of Taiwan.

I am very pleased to hear about the progress you have made in moving toward Parliamentary democracy. Could you describe the prospects?

Kriangsak: Election is planned for April 22. So far we have had no problems in holding to the schedule in preparation for the constitutional convention.

Kriangsak: Before I came, Chiang Ching-kuo requested that I ask you to grant the same diplomatic privileges to officials from Taiwan as they enjoyed before.

President: Our relations with Taiwan will be on the same basis as those between Taiwan and Japan. Under our agreement with Peking there will be no more official relations with Taiwan.10 You should know, however, that Taiwan’s relations with Japan have prospered under unofficial auspices. Trade levels, for example, have tripled.

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We have introduced legislation to maintain the kind of relations with Taiwan that we have with other governments. The legislation will authorize us to permit government guarantees of business loans. I believe that the interests of the Taiwanese people will be protected.11

Vance: We have been in constant touch with the business community, and are confident that business relations will continue to expand in the future.

President: The Taiwan stock market and the currency exchange rates have remained stable, showing confidence in Taiwan.

I hope that you will have a successful visit with members of the U.S. business community. I know that this is an important purpose of your trip to the United States.

Kriangsak: We want to buy military equipment from the Koreans (and Taiwan), and need your support and approval for licensing and co-production arrangements. There are a number of advantages to this kind of an arrangement. The producers are closer geographically, delivery times are shorter, and barter terms are possible, enabling us to several considerable foreign exchange. [sic] As you know, we spend a quarter of our budget on crude oil purchases.

Brown: This may be feasible with Korea.

Abramowitz: There may be some legislative restrictions in the case of Korea. Ammunition and small arms shipments could be helpful to Thailand.

President: What kind of equipment do you want from Korea?

Kriangsak: 155 shells, mortars, M–16 rifles.

President: Give Secretary Brown a list and we will get an answer to you through our Ambassador.

Kriangsak: This year Taiwan is producing 100 F–5E’s. We would like to purchase some of those.

President: Taiwan may be more difficult.

Vice President: We have a co-production arrangement with Indonesia for M–16 rifles.

President: Mr. Prime Minister, do you have other items you would like to discuss before you go to lunch at the Senate?

Kriangsak: I have discussed with Mr. McNamara of the World Bank a request for aid from the IDA and the IFAD. I would like to elicit your support for our requests.

President: We will discuss this matter with Mr. McNamara and encourage him to be responsive.

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General Lek: In light of your remarks on the importance of the balance of power, we need to strengthen the Thai Air Force. We request that you expand FMS credits to $50 million or more long-term payments and speed up deliveries in the FMS pipeline. We are short of spare parts. In addition, we request that you include us in the wartime standard support system for foreign military forces.

President: Secretary Brown can address this question when you meet this afternoon.

Kriangsak: If you have obsolete or surplus equipment—M–20 half tracks, M–48 or M–41 tanks—we would be grateful.

General Prem: M–60 tanks also. (Laughter)

Kriangsak: M–60 tanks are not surplus.

President: We are eager to help you. Discuss this with Secretary Brown. The meeting that you are having will be important both for you and for the Administration. This evening we can continue discussions on topics of your choice.12 Let me close by saying once again how delighted I am to welcome you here as friends.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, East Asia, Platt Chron File, Box 66, 2/1–13/79. Secret. The meeting took place in the Cabinet Room at the White House. Kriangsak made an official visit to Washington February 4–8.
  2. For the transcript of the press conference, see Public Papers: Carter, 1979, Book I, pp. 50–58.
  3. For the President’s comments at the welcoming ceremony for Kriangsak, see Public Papers: Carter, 1979, Book I, pp. 221–222.
  4. See footnote 2, Document 40.
  5. The Security Council met January 11–15 to consider the situation in Cambodia. A draft resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire and withdrawal of foreign forces from Cambodia was not adopted due to the negative vote by the Soviet Union. (Yearbook of the United Nations, 1979, pp. 273–275)
  6. Deng visited the United States January 28–February 5. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XIII, China, Documents 201210.
  7. See footnote 3, Document 41 and footnote 5, Document 42.
  8. Reference is to the “tractorcade” in Washington the same week as Kriangsak’s visit. See Christopher Dickey and Blaine Harden, “Pent-Up, Angry Farmers Taunt Police,” Washington Post, February 7, 1979, p. A5.
  9. See Documents 167 and 168.
  10. For documentation on the newly-established diplomatic relationship with China and the changing relationship with Taiwan, see Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XIII, China.
  11. Reference is to the Taiwan Relations Act, April 10. (22 U.S.C. 3301, et seq.)
  12. The Carters hosted a State dinner for Kriangsak and his wife that evening.