Southeast Asia Treaty Organization

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Southeast Asia Treaty Organization
Flag of SEATO.svg
SEATO's flag
Map of SEATO member countries - en.svg
Map of SEATO members, shown in blue.
Formation8 September 1954
Extinction30 June 1977
Type Intergovernmental military alliance
Headquarters Bangkok, Thailand
Region served
Southeast Asia

States protected by SEATO

The Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) was an international organization for collective defense in Southeast Asia created by the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty, or Manila Pact, signed in September 1954 in Manila, Philippines. The formal institution of SEATO was established on 19 February 1955 at a meeting of treaty partners in Bangkok, Thailand. [1] The organization's headquarters were also in Bangkok. Eight members joined the organization.

International organization Organization established by treaty between governments

An international organization is an organization established by a treaty or other instrument governed by international law and possessing its own international legal personality, such as the United Nations, the World Health Organization and NATO. International organizations are composed of primarily Member states, but may also include other entities, such as other international organizations. Additionally, entities may hold observer status.

Collective security international security philosophy that everyone is safer together; that the security of one is the concern of all

Collective security can be understood as a security arrangement, political, regional, or global, in which each state in the system accepts that the security of one is the concern of all, and therefore commits to a collective response to threats to, and breaches to peace. Collective security is more ambitious than systems of alliance security or collective defense in that it seeks to encompass the totality of states within a region or indeed globally, and to address a wide range of possible threats. While collective security is an idea with a long history, its implementation in practice has proved problematic. Several prerequisites have to be met for it to have a chance of working. It is the theory or practice of states pledging to defend one another in order to deter aggression or to exterminate transgressor if international order has been breached.

Southeast Asia Subregion of Asia

Southeast Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China and Japan, east of India, west of Papua New Guinea, and north of Australia. Southeast Asia is bordered to the north by East Asia, to the west by South Asia and the Bay of Bengal, to the east by Oceania and the Pacific Ocean, and to the south by Australia and the Indian Ocean. The region is the only part of Asia that lies partly within the Southern Hemisphere, although the majority of it is in the Northern Hemisphere. In contemporary definition, Southeast Asia consists of two geographic regions:

  1. Mainland Southeast Asia, also known historically as Indochina, comprising parts of Northeast India, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar and West Malaysia.
  2. Maritime Southeast Asia, also known historically as Nusantara, the East Indies and Malay Archipelago, comprises the Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India, Indonesia, East Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, East Timor, Brunei, Christmas Island, and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.


Primarily created to block further communist gains in Southeast Asia, SEATO is generally considered a failure because internal conflict and dispute hindered general use of the SEATO military; however, SEATO-funded cultural and educational programs left longstanding effects in Southeast Asia. SEATO was dissolved on 30 June 1977 after many members lost interest and withdrew.

Communism socialist political movement and ideology

In political and social sciences, communism is the philosophical, social, political, and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of the communist society, which is a socioeconomic order structured upon the common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money, and the state.

Origins and structure

The leaders of some of the SEATO nations in front of the Congress Building in Manila, hosted by Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos on 24 October 1966 CongressBuilding SEATO.jpg
The leaders of some of the SEATO nations in front of the Congress Building in Manila, hosted by Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos on 24 October 1966

The Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty, or Manila Pact, was signed on 8 September 1954 in Manila, [2] as part of the American Truman Doctrine of creating anti-communist bilateral and collective defense treaties. [3] These treaties and agreements were intended to create alliances that would contain communist powers (Communist China, in SEATO's case). [4] This policy was considered to have been largely developed by American diplomat and Soviet expert George F. Kennan. President Dwight D. Eisenhower's Secretary of State John Foster Dulles (1953–1959) is considered to be the primary force behind the creation of SEATO, which expanded the concept of anti-communist collective defense to Southeast Asia. [2] Then-Vice President Richard Nixon advocated an Asian equivalent of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) upon returning from his Asia trip of late 1953, [5] and NATO was the model for the new organization, with the military forces of each member intended to be coordinated to provide for the collective defense of the member states. [6]

Manila Capital and Highly Urbanized City in National Capital Region, Philippines

Manila, officially the City of Manila, is the capital of the Philippines and highly urbanized city. It is the most densely populated city proper in the world as of 2018. It was the first chartered city by virtue of the Philippine Commission Act 183 on July 31, 1901 and gained autonomy with the passage of Republic Act No. 409 or the "Revised Charter of the City of Manila" on June 18, 1949. Manila, alongside Mexico City and Madrid are considered the world's original set of Global Cities due to Manila's commercial networks being the first to traverse the Pacific Ocean, thus connecting Asia with the Spanish Americas, marking the first time in world history when an uninterrupted chain of trade routes circled the planet. Manila has been damaged by and rebuilt from wars more times than the famed city of Troy and it is also the second most natural disaster-afflicted capital city in the world next to Tokyo, yet it is simultaneously among the most populous and wealthiest cities in Southeast Asia.

Truman Doctrine US policy to contain communism in Europe and elsewhere during the Cold War

The Truman Doctrine was an American foreign policy whose stated purpose was to counter Soviet geopolitical expansion during the Cold War. It was announced to Congress by President Harry S. Truman on March 29, 1947, and further developed on July 4, 1948, when he pledged to contain threats in Greece and Turkey. Direct American military force was usually not involved, but Congress appropriated financial aid to support the economies and militaries of Greece and Turkey. More generally, the Truman Doctrine implied American support for other nations allegedly threatened by Soviet communism. The Truman Doctrine became the foundation of American foreign policy, and led, in 1949, to the formation of NATO, a military alliance that is still in effect. Historians often use Truman's speech to date the start of the Cold War.

China Country in East Asia

China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia and the world's most populous country, with a population of around 1.404 billion in 2017. Covering approximately 9,600,000 square kilometers (3,700,000 sq mi), it is the third or fourth largest country by total area. Governed by the Communist Party of China, the state exercises jurisdiction over 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four direct-controlled municipalities, and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.

The organization, headquartered in Bangkok, was created in 1955 at the first meeting of the Council of Ministers set up by the treaty, contrary to Dulles's preference to call the organization "ManPac".[ citation needed ] Organizationally, SEATO was headed by the Secretary General, whose office was created in 1957 at a meeting in Canberra, [7] [8] with a council of representatives from member nations and an international staff. Also present were committees for economics, security, and information. [8] SEATO's first Secretary General was Pote Sarasin, a Thai diplomat and politician who had served as Thailand's ambassador to the U.S. between 1952 and 1957, [9] [10] and as Prime Minister of Thailand from September 1957 to 1 January 1958. [11]

Canberra capital city of Australia

Canberra is the capital city of Australia. Founded following the federation of the colonies of Australia as the seat of government for the new nation, it is Australia's largest inland city and the eighth-largest city overall. The city is located at the northern end of the Australian Capital Territory; 280 km (170 mi) south-west of Sydney and 660 km (410 mi) north-east of Melbourne.

Pote Sarasin Prime Minister of Thailand

Pote Sarasin was a Thai diplomat and politician from the influential Sarasin family. He served as foreign minister from 1949 to 1951 and then served as ambassador to the United States. In September 1957 when Sarit Thanarat seized power in a military coup, he appointed Pote to be the acting prime minister. He resigned in December 1957. Pote also served as the first Secretary General of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization from September 1957 until 1964.

Unlike the NATO alliance, SEATO had no joint commands with standing forces. [12] In addition, SEATO's response protocol in the event of communism presenting a "common danger" to the member nations was vague and ineffective, though membership in the SEATO alliance did provide a rationale for a large-scale U.S. military intervention in the region during the Vietnam War (1955–1975). [13]

Vietnam War 1955–1975 conflict in Vietnam

The Vietnam War, also known as the Second Indochina War, and in Vietnam as the Resistance War Against America or simply the American War, was a conflict in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. It was the second of the Indochina Wars and was officially fought between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. North Vietnam was supported by the Soviet Union, China, and other communist allies; South Vietnam was supported by the United States, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Thailand and other anti-communist allies. The war, considered a Cold War-era proxy war by some, lasted 19 years, with direct U.S. involvement ending in 1973, and included the Laotian Civil War and the Cambodian Civil War, which ended with all three countries becoming communist in 1975.


1966 SEATO conference in Manila SEATO Conference in Manila.gif
1966 SEATO conference in Manila

Despite its name, SEATO mostly included countries located outside of the region but with an interest either in the region or the organization itself. They were Australia (which administered Papua New Guinea), France (which had recently relinquished French Indochina), New Zealand, Pakistan (including East Pakistan, now Bangladesh), the Philippines, Thailand, the United Kingdom (which administered Hong Kong, North Borneo and Sarawak) and the United States. [12]

Australia Country in Oceania

Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world's sixth-largest country by total area. The neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, and East Timor to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. The population of 26 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia's capital is Canberra, and its largest city is Sydney. The country's other major metropolitan areas are Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, and Adelaide.

Territory of Papua and New Guinea administrative union between the Australian-administered territories of Papua and New Guinea est. 1949

The Territory of Papua and New Guinea was established by an administrative union between the Australian-administered territories of Papua and New Guinea in 1949. In 1972, the name of the Territory changed to "Papua New Guinea" and in 1975 it became the Independent State of Papua New Guinea.

France Republic in Europe with several non-European regions

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and (Germany) to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.02 million. France is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

The Philippines and Thailand were the only Southeast Asian countries that actually participated in the organization. They shared close ties with the United States, particularly the Philippines, and they faced incipient communist insurgencies against their own governments. [14] Thailand became a member upon the discovery of the newly founded "Thai Autonomous Region" (the Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture) in Yunnan (in South West China) – apparently feeling threatened by potential Chinese communist subversion on its land. [15] Other regional countries like Burma and Indonesia were far more mindful of domestic internal stability rather than any communist threat, [14] and thus rejected joining it. [16] Malaya (including Singapore) also chose not to participate formally, though it was kept updated with key developments due to its close relationship with the United Kingdom. [14]

The states newly formed from French Indochina (North Vietnam, South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos) were prevented from taking part in any international military alliance as a result of the Geneva Agreements signed 20 July of the same year concluding the end of the First Indochina War. [17] However, with the lingering threat coming from communist North Vietnam and the possibility of the domino theory with Indochina turning into a communist frontier, SEATO got these countries under its protection – an act that would be considered to be one of the main justifications for the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. [18] Cambodia, however rejected the protection in 1956. [19]

The majority of SEATO members were not located in Southeast Asia. To Australia and New Zealand, SEATO was seen as a more satisfying organization than ANZUS – a collective defense organization with the U.S. [20] The United Kingdom and France joined partly due to having long maintained colonies in the region, and partly due to concerns over developments in Indochina. Last but not least, the U.S. upon perceiving Southeast Asia to be a pivotal frontier for Cold War geopolitics saw the establishment of SEATO as essential to its Cold War containment policy. [14]

All in all, the membership reflected a mid-1950s combination of anti-communist Western nations and such nations in Southeast Asia. The United Kingdom, France and the United States, the latter of which joined after the U.S. Senate ratified the treaty by an 82–1 vote, [21] represented the strongest Western powers. [22] Canada also considered joining, but decided against it in order to concentrate on its NATO responsibilities. [18]


    Average of contributions to civil and military budgets between 1958 and 1973: [23]


    Secretaries-General of SEATO:

    Pote Sarasin Flag of Thailand (TIS 982 draft standard).svg Thailand 5 September 195722 September 1957
    William Worth (acting)Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia 22 September 195710 January 1958
    Pote SarasinFlag of Thailand (TIS 982 draft standard).svg Thailand 10 January 195813 December 1963
    William Worth (acting)Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia 13 December 196319 February 1964
    Konthi Suphamongkhon  [ de ]Flag of Thailand (TIS 982 draft standard).svg Thailand 19 February 19641 July 1965
    Jesus M. Vargas Flag of the Philippines (navy blue).svg  Philippines 1 July 19655 September 1972
    Sunthorn Hongladarom  [ de ]Flag of Thailand (TIS 982 draft standard).svg Thailand 5 September 197230 June 1977

    Military aspects

    Australian No. 79 Squadron Sabres at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand, deployed as part of Australia's commitment to SEATO Sabre Mk32s RAAF in Thailand early 1960s.jpg
    Australian No. 79 Squadron Sabres at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand, deployed as part of Australia's commitment to SEATO

    After its creation, SEATO quickly became insignificant militarily, as most of its member nations contributed very little to the alliance. [18] While SEATO military forces held joint military training, they were never employed because of internal disagreements. SEATO was unable to intervene in conflicts in Laos because France and the United Kingdom rejected use of military action. [19] As a result, the U.S. provided unilateral support for Laos after 1962. [19] Though sought by the U.S., involvement of SEATO in the Vietnam War was denied because of lack of British and French cooperation. [21] [19]

    Both the United States and Australia cited the alliance as justification for involvement in Vietnam. [18] U.S. membership in SEATO provided the United States with a rationale for a large-scale U.S. military intervention in Southeast Asia. [13] Other countries, such as the UK and key nations in Asia, accepted the rationale. [13] In 1962, as part of its commitment to SEATO, the Royal Australian Air Force deployed CAC Sabres of its No. 79 Squadron to Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand. The Sabres began to play a role in the Vietnam War in 1965, when their air defence responsibilities expanded to include protection of USAF aircraft using Ubon as a base for strikes against North Vietnam. [24] [25]

    Cultural effects

    A 1960 U.S. Postage Stamp for SEATO Seatostamp.jpg
    A 1960 U.S. Postage Stamp for SEATO

    In addition to joint military training, SEATO member states worked on improving mutual social and economic issues. [26] Such activities were overseen by SEATO's Committee of Information, Culture, Education, and Labor Activities, and proved to be some of SEATO's greatest successes. [26] In 1959, SEATO's first Secretary General, Pote Sarasin, created the SEATO Graduate School of Engineering (currently the Asian Institute of Technology) in Thailand to train engineers. [9] SEATO also sponsored the creation of the Teacher Development Center in Bangkok, as well as the Thai Military Technical Training School, which offered technical programs for supervisors and workmen. [27] SEATO's Skilled Labor Project (SLP) created artisan training facilities, especially in Thailand, where ninety-one training workshops were established. [27]

    SEATO also provided research funding and grants in agriculture and medical fields. [28] In 1959, SEATO set up the Cholera Research Laboratory in Bangkok, later establishing a second Cholera Research Laboratory in Dhaka, Bangladesh. [28] The Dhaka laboratory soon became the world's leading cholera research facility and was later renamed the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh. [29] SEATO was also interested in literature, and a SEATO Literature Award was created and given to writers from member states. [30]

    Criticism and dissolution

    Though Secretary of State Dulles considered SEATO an essential element in U.S. foreign policy in Asia, historians have considered the Manila Pact a failure, and the pact is rarely mentioned in history books. [2] In The Geneva Conference of 1954 on Indochina, Sir James Cable, a diplomat and naval strategist, [31] described SEATO as "a fig leaf for the nakedness of American policy", citing the Manila Pact as a "zoo of paper tigers". [2]

    Consequently, questions of dissolving the organization arose. Pakistan withdrew in 1972, after East Pakistan seceded and became Bangladesh on 16 December 1971. [8] France withdrew financial support in 1975, [12] and the SEATO council agreed to the phasing out of the organization. [32] After a final exercise on 20 February 1976, the organization was formally dissolved on 30 June 1977. [12] [33]

    See also


    1. Leifer 2005
    2. 1 2 3 4 Franklin 2006 , p. 1
    3. Jillson 2009 , p. 439
    4. Ooi 2004 , pp. 338–339
    5. Nixon Alone, by Ralph de Toledano, pp. 173–74
    6. Boyer et al. 2007 , p. 836
    7. Franklin 2006 , p. 184
    8. 1 2 3 Page 2003 , p. 548
    9. 1 2 Franklin 2006 , p. 186
    10. Weiner 2008 , p. 351
    11. "History of Thai Prime Ministers". Royal Thai Government. Archived from the original on 26 April 2011. Retrieved 22 April 2011.
    12. 1 2 3 4 Encyclopædia Britannica (India) 2000 , p. 60
    13. 1 2 3 Maga 2010
    14. 1 2 3 4 "Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), 1954". Office of the Historian. U.S. Department of State. Archived from the original on 7 October 2012. Retrieved 3 October 2012.
    15. US PSB, 1953 United States Psychological Studies Board (US PSB). (1953). US Psychological Strategy Based on Thailand, 14 September. Declassified Documents Reference System, 1994, 000556–000557, WH 120.
    16. Nehru Has Alternative To SEATO. (5 August 1954). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW: 1842–1954), p. 1. Retrieved 3 October 2012.
    17. "Milestones: 1953–1960 – Office of the Historian". Retrieved 14 March 2019.
    18. 1 2 3 4 Blaxland 2006 , p. 138
    19. 1 2 3 4 Grenville 2001 , p. 366
    20. W. Brands, Jr., Henry (May 1987). "From ANZUS to SEATO: United States Strategic Policy towards Australia and New Zealand, 1952–1954". The International History Review. No. 2. 9: 250–270. doi:10.1080/07075332.1987.9640442.
    21. 1 2 Hearden 1990 , p. 46
    22. Tarling 1992 , p. 604
    23. Pierre Journoud, De Gaulle et le Vietnam: 1945–1969, Éditions Tallandier, Paris, 2011, 542 p. ISBN   978-2847345698
    24. Stephens 1995 , p. 36
    25. Independent Review Panel (9 July 2004). Report to the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence (PDF). Retrieved 1 May 2011.
    26. 1 2 Franklin 2006 , p. 183
    27. 1 2 Franklin 2006 , p. 188
    28. 1 2 Franklin 2006 , p. 189
    29. Franklin 2006 , pp. 189–190
    30. Boonkhachorn, Trislipa. "Literary Trends and Literary Promotions in Thailand" . Retrieved 24 April 2011.
    31. "Sir James Cable". Telegraph Media Group. 13 October 2001. Retrieved 29 March 2011.
    32. "Thai given mandate to dissolve SEATO". The Montreal Gazette. 25 September 1975. Retrieved 8 July 2012.
    33. "Thailand" (PDF). Army Logistics University. United States Army. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 May 2014. Retrieved 6 July 2012. Despite the dissolution of the SEATO in 1977, the Manila Pact remains in force and, together with the Thanat-Rusk communiqué of 1962, constitutes the basis of U.S. security commitments to Thailand.

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    Further reading