356 Memorandum to Canberra

Tokyo, 3 December 1975


Portuguese Timor

Our telegram O.TK7015 of 2 December 1975 reported comments by Hasegawa (Director, Second Southeast Asia Division, Foreign Ministry) on developments in Portuguese Timor and the request for Japan to recognise the Democratic Republic of East Timor proclaimed by Fretilin on 28 November. A copy of the message sent to the Japanese Foreign Minister is attached.

  1. Hasegawa in his personal remarks, which should be protected, made it more clear than he has done on previous occasions his view that the best solution to the problem of Portuguese Timor would be absorption by Indonesia. An independent yet economically unviable state, probably with radical tendencies, which Indonesia would regard as a threat, would have detrimental effects for the whole of Southeast Asia. Hasegawa said his information was that all the other ASEAN states were prepared to support an Indonesian absorption of Portuguese Timor. They did not want to be diverted from the task of developing bi-lateral relations and the further strengthening of ASEAN. Surely Australia would not want to see a 'red' East Timor as an irritant disturbing the stability of Southeast Asia. We contested this, saying that to our knowledge there was a lack of hard evidence of communist links with Fretilin. Moreover while it could be said that Timor would be economically unviable, much the same thing had been said about many other states now independent, but with a population less than Portuguese Timor. There were for example Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland in Southern Africa and other examples in the Pacific region. While there might be a compelling logic to the proposition that Portuguese Timor should be absorbed by Indonesia there was a moral element involved and one which any Australian Government would have to take into account while seeking to maintain our close and co-operative relationship with Indonesia. Many Australians would not look favourably on a unilateral Indonesian military absorption of Portuguese Timor. Hasegawa remained unconvinced but went on to speak of the practical and political difficulties facing Indonesia if it were to move to absorb Portuguese Timor. He was very worried about the way Indonesia was proceeding and it could, by acting too precipitately, alienate world opinion. He very much doubted whether Indonesia would for the moment be prepared to engage in political talks of all parties involved in Portuguese Timor. The situation seemed to be bogged down, with no nation being prepared to take steps to move the situation forward.
  2. A copy of this memorandum and its attachment has been passed to the Embassy in Jakarta.

R.L.COTTON - First Secretary

[NAA: A1838, 3038/7/1, vii]