West New Guinea: Pacific Trouble Spot

July 5, 1962

Report Outline
Threat to Peace in Southwest Pacific
Substance of Dutch-Indonesian Dispute
Condition of the West Papuan People

Threat to Peace in Southwest Pacific

Prospects for peaceful settlement of the long-standing controversy between Indonesia and the Netherlands over West New Guinea have been improved perceptibly by the recent acceptance in principie of proposals advanced by Ellsworth Bunker, a former United States diplomat who has been endeavoring to mediate the dispute. Conversations between the parties may be reopened soon at the undiselosed location near Washington where brief preliminary talks were held a few months ago. But hard bargaining no doubt lies ahead. The hope will be that it is not interrupted by expansion into full-scale military action of the probing by Indonesian paratroopers that has been going on for months in the Dutch East Indian territory.

West New Guinea is the last remnant of the vast colonial realm once held by the Netherlands in the Far East. Before it was annexed by Holland in 1828 as an eastern defense outpost, West New Guinea had been controlled for the most part by pirates from the nearby Molucca Islands. Civil administration by the Dutch did not actually start until 1898, when permanent administrative centers were established at Fak-Fak and Manokwari. Indonesian President Sukarno has been pressing a claim to the territory ever since Indonesia won its war for independence from the Netherlands in 1949.

Pressure for peaceful settlement has been intensified by fear that hostilities between Indonesian and Dutch forces might lead to more farreaching armed conflict. The Soviet Union has given Sukarno massive military assistance to reinforce his claim to West Irian or Irian Barat, as West New Guinea is called by the Indonesians. The United States is an ally of the Netherlands in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and Australia is directly affected; seizure of West New Guinea by Indonesia might raise a standing threat to its own territories in the eastern half of the island of New Guinea.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
U.S. Policy in the Pacific
Apr. 20, 1990  Should the U.S. Reduce Its Pacific Forces?
Apr. 07, 1989  Pacific Rim Challenges
Apr. 25, 1986  The Strategic Pacific
Jul. 05, 1985  Dawn of the Pacific Era
Jun. 06, 1975  Changing Status of Micronesia
Aug. 17, 1966  Australia: Pacific Ally
Nov. 04, 1964  Indonesia vs. Malaysia
Jul. 24, 1963  Malaysian Federation: Union of Convenience
Jul. 05, 1962  West New Guinea: Pacific Trouble Spot
Jan. 28, 1953  Pacific Defense
Sep. 09, 1949  Pacific Dependencies
May 03, 1945  Trusteeship in the Pacific
Conflicts in Asia
Imperialism, Colonization, and Independence Movements
Regional Political Affairs: East Asia and the Pacific
War and Conflict