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Volume 656: debated on Monday 26 March 1962

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asked the Lord Privy Seal what consultations he had, within the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation arrangements, with the United States Secretary of State before the joint statement of Mr. Dean Rusk and Mr. Thamat Khoman was issued affirming that the United States of America would come, if necessary, to the assistance of Siam even if there were no South-East Asia Treaty Organisation unanimity.


asked the Lord Privy Seal what consultations took place between Her Majesty's Government and the United States authorities in the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation before the declaration by the United States Secretary of State that the United States of America would take immediate military action to assist the Thai Government to resist Communist aggression or subversion without consulting the cosignatories to that treaty.

There is constant consultation between South-East Asia Treaty Organisation members, but these discussions are confidential. The hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus) has not represented the United States Secretary of State correctly.

Is not this treaty with Thailand one way whereby the United States can circumvent the unanimity provision of the South-East Asia Treaty? Will the hon. Gentleman assure us that, despite any bilateral pacts into which the United States may enter, we will stand by the unanimity provision in the S.E.A.T.O. Treaty?

Article 4 (1) of the Manila Treaty lays an obligation on each signatory, in certain circumstances, to take action in accordance with its constitutional processes. This is an individual as well as a collective responsibility. But if these circumstances should arise S.E.A.T.O. members would presumably act in concert.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the official text issued by the State Department of the assurance given by the United States Secretary of State to the Thailand Foreign Minister contains the following passage:

"The Secretary of State … expressed the firm intention of the United States to aid Thailand, its ally and historic friend, in resisting Communist aggression and subversion. … The Secretary of State reaffirmed that this obligation of the United States does not depend upon the prior agreement of all other parties to the treaty, since this treaty obligation is individual as well as collective."
Does not that mean exactly what my Question states, that the United States reserves to itself military action which might involve us in war without consulting us and without our agreement?

No, Sir. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the words in his Question, he will see that they are quite different from the words which he has just read out. As we see it, there is no conflict between the joint United States-Thailand communiqué and the provisions of the Manila Treaty. Her Majesty's Government welcome the statement and the bilateral discussions which led to it. They will help to strengthen the fabric of collective defence in South-East Asia.

Will my hon. Friend make it clear that this country's support of Thailand's opposition to Communism is no less strong than that of the United States?

While it is understandable, in view of events in Thailand and Laos, that the Thais should be worried about their security, and while I understand that this bilateral agreement has been welcomed by other countries in the area, including Australia, is it not a rather strange procedure that a bilateral agreement of this kind should be made on the main purpose of this Treaty without proper discussion and consultation with the members of the organisation?

If the hon. Gentleman reads what Mr. Rusk said, he will see that he did not say that there would be no consultation with other S.E.A.T.O. members. Nor did he say that the United States would take immediate military action to resist Communist subversion in Thailand, as was suggested by the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus). He said that, in the event of Communist armed attack on Thailand, the United States' obligation to take action under the Manila Treaty does not depend on the prior agreement of other parties to the Treaty.