234. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Robertson to the Secretary of State1


  • Public Statement of U.S. Policy Toward Cambodia


In recent weeks irresponsible articles have appeared in the Cambodian and Indian press charging the U.S. with attempting to coerce Cambodia into joining SEATO by 1) threatening to curtail or terminate American aid; and 2) pushing Viet-Nam and Thailand into economic warfare against Cambodia.

The precise origin of the scurrilous campaign is obscure, but there is good evidence that the Indian Chargé in Phnom Penh has been exceedingly active in spreading anti-American and anti-SEATO [Page 514] rumors, which found a receptive audience in … Crown Prince Sihanouk … and in neutralist India.

Whatever the origin, the campaign has resulted in 1) several strong attacks on the U.S. in the Indian press, reprinted in Cambodia and Laos at the instigation of the Indian diplomatic representatives in these countries; 2) a public statement by Nehru on April 22 of support for Sihanouk’s firm resistance against pressures from Thailand and Viet-Nam and against aligning Cambodia with any power group; 3) a reported message from Crown Prince Sihanouk to the Indian Chargé in Phnom Penh stating that Sihanouk is deeply grateful for the Indian understanding of his position; and 4) a … speech on April 6 by Sihanouk3 which apparently parroted the Viet Minh line of American support for “dictator Diem” allegedly to enable him to “oppress the Vietnamese and prevent unification”.

To help remedy this situation we have made our position of noninterference clear to the King and Queen of Cambodia and have authorized an informal exposition to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs. I strongly concur in Ambassador McClintock’s recommendation, however, that it is time we issued a high-level public statement (Phnom Penh 1319, April 6, Tab A4); this should be done immediately in order to forestall Sihanouk’s probable exploitation of the anti-American attacks at the national congress of his party scheduled for mid-April.

Such a public statement cannot be expected to have a permanently helpful effect on Sihanouk’s basic prejudices, but it would 1) clear the record and expose the falsity of the wildly distorted allegations on our activity in Cambodia; and 2) give Sihanouk a face-saving method of resuming normal and comparatively calm relations with the U.S. by permitting him to state his acceptance of our bona fides.

I believe a suitable vehicle for the declaration would be a letter from you to Nong Kimny, Ambassador to Washington and newly appointed Foreign Minister of Cambodia, which we would publish after delivery.


That you sign the attached telegram5 (Tab B) containing a message from you to Nong Kimny to be delivered by Ambassador McClintock.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.51H/4–1056. Secret. Drafted by Byrne on April 10 and cleared by SEA, FE, SOA, G, and P. A note on the source text indicates that the Secretary saw this memorandum on April 17.
  2. A summary of Nehru’s statement in a press conference on April 2 is in telegram 2170 from New Delhi, April 3, not printed. (Ibid., 751H.00/4–356)
  3. A summary of Sihanouk’s speech of April 6 is in telegram 1339 from Phnom Penh, April 10, not printed. (Ibid., 951H.40/4–1056)
  4. Not printed and not attached. (Ibid., 611.51H/4–1056)
  5. Infra.