Papers Say Australia Resisted Call to Arms

Thirty-year-old documents released Monday suggested that Australia was less than enthusiastic about joining the US in providing arms and materiel for the Lon Nol government in Cambodia, the Australian newspapers The Age and The Syd­ney Morning Herald reported Monday.

The documents, released by the National Archives in Can­berra under a rule making such documents public after 30 years, show that Australia was well aware that the US incursion into Cambodia in 1970 far exceeded the operations announced by the US government.

Then-US president Richard Nixon announced on April 30, 1970 that the US would move ground forc­es into Cambodia for what he described as a two-month operation to chase down North Viet­namese and Viet Cong soldiers using Cambodia as a sanctuary.

But when the US Senate pas­sed legislation banning US operations in Cambodia after June 30, 1970, the Nixon administration went looking for help from its allies, the newspapers reported.

A May 26, 1970, Australian internal intelligence document made the assumption that US operations in Cambodia would continue after July 1, and concluded that the Lon Nol government would probably survive as a result.

The Australian Cabinet shortly thereafter approved an additional $500,000 in non-arms aid to Cam­bodia.

According to the documents, Australia’s foreign minister at the time, William McMa­hon, told the Cab­inet the US “has taken a firm decision to develop a military as­sistance supplies program of unspecified magnitude for Cam­bodia.”

The Australian aid included trucks, Land Rovers, wet weather gear and 66,000 pairs of khaki socks.

In a subsequent meeting in August, McMahon told the Cab­inet “the United States has decided to provide, through an executive agreement which does not require Senate approval, a military assistance program for 1970-71 to the value of $40 million…we understand that the bulk of this aid has been allocated for the provision of…arms.”

But McMahon argued against additional arms spending by Australia. He pointed out “by the time the Cambodian crisis erupted, we were already engaged in a pol­icy of military disengagement from Vietnam.”

Reports on the documents appeared in major Australian media Monday.

One section of the documents titled: “Cambodia: Request for Assistance,” remained blacked out by authorities 30 years later.

 

 

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