THE HIGH SEAS: Flying Dutchman

  • Share
  • Read Later

All that is left of the once rich East Indies empire of the Dutch is the far-from-wealthy colony of West New Guinea. Indonesia, which inherited all the rest of the empire, covets New Guinea too. Enraged by Indonesia's noisy propaganda threats, The Netherlands last June sent off to Asian waters the aircraft carrier

Karel Doorman, along with two destroyers and an oil tanker. The intention: that ancient and largely harmless naval exercise known as showing the flag.

But in these post-colonial days, showing the flag can be hazardous. Hardly had the Doorman left Rotterdam when the Russians accused the Dutch of increasing the danger of war in Southeast Asia, the Australians (who occupy the other half of New Guinea) asked for an explanation, and Indonesia sent a formal note of protest. To avoid the probability that Sukarno would ask his neutralist friend Nasser to refuse to let the Doorman through the Suez Canal, the carrier was sent the long way around the Cape of Good Hope.

When the Doorman arrived at Fremantle, Australia, the local seamen's union struck to show sympathy with Indonesia, refused to man tugs or docking lines. The Doorman cranked up her aircraft and maneuvered to her berth by using the propeller blasts to nudge alongside the dock. At Hollandia, New Guinea, the Doorman unloaded twelve obsolescent Hawker Hunter turbojets to bolster the small Dutch defense forces. Crying "Horrid imperialists," Indonesia's President Sukarno broke off diplomatic relations with The Netherlands.

The Doorman's next scheduled stop was a courtesy call at Yokohama to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the establishment of Japanese-Dutch diplomatic relations. Indonesian officials wept publicly at the idea. Foreign Minister Subandrio declared he was disappointed in the Japanese, who, he had thought, sympathized with Indonesia's efforts to create "a new world free from suppression and misery." Indonesia forthwith threatened to break relations with Japan, and declared that a $20 million contract to buy Japanese textiles was "in danger." Japanese Socialists pronounced the visit "utterly intolerable," and the Zengakuren student federation threatened demonstrations. Last week Japan caved in, withdrew its invitation.

As Sukarno prepared to join Khrushchev at the United Nations next week to raise the question of West New Guinea and the Karel Doorman, Dutch Foreign Minister Joseph Luns observed sadly: "International relations are drifting toward a kind of anarchy where blackmail replaces the rules of diplomacy."