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LBJ Sends RFK on Asian Trip

Jan. 13, 1964 - The White House announced today that Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy has been assigned to a trouble-shooting mission to confer with Indonesian President Sukarno in Tokyo. The announcement brought the Attorney General back into the public limelight for the first time since the Dallas assassination of his brother, the late President Kennedy. His departure for Japan was expected some time tomorrow following a morning conference with President Johnson. Acting Press Secretary Andrew Hatcher said Kennedy and Sukarno, who will be vacationing in Japan at the time, would discuss subjects of mutual interest, including the potentially explosive question of the Malaysian Federation. Sukarno has threatened to “crush” the new Southeast Asian federation, and border incidents recently have increased. Kennedy reportedly will meet with Sukarno Thursday.

This is a familiar role for the Attorney General, who often undertook such sensitive diplomatic tasks for his brother. He met with Sukarno in Jakarta in February 1962, during a bitter territorial dispute between the Dutch and the Indonesians over West Irian, formerly the Netherlands’ New Guinea. His efforts at that time were widely regarded in Washington as helpful in the solution which followed shortly thereafter.

The Johnson Administration’s decision on the Kennedy mission touched off other speculation. It indicated that the President, like his predecessor, intends to use the Attorney General outside the Justice Department. This would focus public attention on the Attorney General, perhaps pointing to a wider political role in a Presidential election year. Mr. Kennedy has been mentioned prominently as a possible running mate for Mr. Johnson. His talks with Sukarno and other such missions might give the White House a more accurate reading on the Attorney General’s political popularity in this country. The Administration reportedly tried a similar political exercise with Peace Corps director Sargent Shriver recently.


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