73. Telegram From the Embassy in Cambodia to the Department of State1

30. It is difficult to sort out the many things that have happened last few days but one fact seems to emerge prominently, namely, that Cambodia is at a crossroads. I am convinced Sihanouk has wanted and still wants a solution of his problems with Vietnam through the instrumentality of Western powers. Considerable evidence is accumulating that he is playing with the idea of support of some kind from Red China but I am still sure he believes that Cambodia’s true friends are in the West and that a closer approach to Communist bloc would be basically distasteful to him.

However, Sihanouk feels put upon and abandoned. He believes that Cambodia’s Western friends have been indifferent in his time of trouble. In speech at Kompong Cham July 5 he said “For our tranquility we ought to choose a great ally who is not too far from us and who is ready to aid us. I do not mean that we want an ally as in the time of [Page 234] the protectorate. I do not think we ought to go as far as that. Our peaceful means have not yet been exhausted. On the other hand we should not hesitate to find flesh-and-bones ally to prepare ourselves against every eventuality”.

Later in speech he complains bitterly request for help addressed to US of no avail. “While RKG has asked US to go to verify facts on the spot, US contents itself to say, of what use? The incident is closed as has been established. The free world insults us and we are to blame but it refuses to verify our charges. How can they say we are guilty if they refuse to check? The US considered my meeting with Diem a good idea but sensing that this meeting might bear fruit and that new violations might not recur they pushed the (Vietnamese) newspapers and the members of the government to oppose the meeting. These acts wound us but do not discourage us. The basic means of our neutrality are not exhausted. If they were we would be obliged to seize whatever means there might be at our command in order to live”.

The solution of this problem would clearly seem to be settlement between Cambodia and Vietnam. This is desired by all the Western powers represented here, US, UK, France and Australia, and certainly by Cambodia. Sihanouk seemed to have removed the greatest difficulty, namely the question of who should make the first approach, by volunteering to go to Saigon. However, after having been told he would be received, whole project fell through as result bitter and vicious attack on Sihanouk in semi-official Vietnam Presse July 3.2GVN Foreign Minister issued official communiqué July 6 whose first paragraph was mollifying in tone but which in its effect did not improve situation (Saigon’s 31 to Department).3

I have twice recommended US intervene in strong and unequivocal fashion with GVN to require them to settle their difficulties with Cambodia.4 Department has replied that US cannot tell GVN what to do.5 However, in absence firm action by US, GVN has acted and, in effect, established policy for West vis-à-vis Cambodia which is exactly contrary to policy desired by all Western powers represented here. Even if negotiations can be rescheduled, they will not succeed unless Diem can be persuaded GVN’s self-interest makes success desirable. I [Page 235] do not believe we have any choice except to present matter to Diem as vital to his own interest and to that of West and to insist on negotiations with Cambodia in good faith.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 651G.51H/7–758. Secret; Niact. Repeated to Saigon, London, Paris, CINCPAC for POLAD, Bangkok, and Vientiane.
  2. According to telegram 39 from Saigon, the article was entitled, “A Ninny’s Policy.” (Ibid., 751H.11/7–758) This article was followed on July 4 by a Times of Viet-Nam piece entitled, “What Is Sihanouk Up To,” possibly written by Ngo Dinh Nhu, that while not “inflammatory” was “disobligingly blunt.” (Telegram 29 from Saigon, July 5; ibid., 751H.11/7–558)
  3. This telegram, July 6, contained a summary of the official Vietnamese communiqué of July 6. (Ibid., 751H.11/7–658)
  4. In telegrams 1312 and 1338 from Phnom Penh, June 20 and 25. (Ibid., 751H.00/6–2058 and 651G.51H/6–2558)
  5. See supra.