74. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1

60. Following are my considered comments on Phnom Penh’s telegram 302 as requested by Deptel 36.3

From here Cambodia does not appear to be at crossroads but rather somewhat past that point along road to left. Sihanouk has already recognized USSR and accepted Soviet aid and for most practical purposes has also recognized Communist China by accepting trade mission and considerable ChiCom aid. Moreover, evidence from Phnom Penh, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] appears to indicate Sihanouk may be moving closer to Communist China, although of course this could well be bluff. Under these circumstances, I translate Sihanouk’s talk about “pure” neutrality and “active” neutrality as nothing more than “pure” opportunism or smokescreen (see Phnom Penh’s telegram 27 numbered paragraph 5).4

To me Sihanouk’s talk about friends and allies in his July 5 speech is nothing but a part of smokescreen or crude blackmail attempt and his remarks accusing us of sabotaging his meeting with Diem are insulting and call for very sharp protest.

Although I have repeatedly urged Diem and other GVN officials to exercise restraint and moderation in dealing with Cambodia and they have not been helpful, particularly in July 3 and 4 press articles, I have personal conviction that Sihanouk for whatever motives he may have has deliberately elected to exacerbate Cambodian-Vietnamese relations and that time has clearly come for us to call his bluff.

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I believe we should tell Sihanouk:

We are interested in seeing the restoration of good relations between Cambodia and Vietnam;
We believe this can be achieved by restraint and good will on both sides;
We believe invasion flap was largely artificial and incident should be considered closed;
We must reject accusation that US sought to torpedo Sihanouk-Diem meeting which we still consider desirable. Whether it be Sihanouk-Diem or under present circumstances it might be best to press for technical talks which if successful could lead to SihanoukDiem meeting to “bury the hatchet”;
If Cambodia wants to turn increasingly to Communist China that is her privilege but RKG must not expect us to enter bidding contest with Communists but rather must expect that US would be obliged to re-examine its aid policy. We should also talk to Diem firmly along lines 1, 2 and 4 above.5

If, as may be case, Sihanouk is drifting more and more towards Communist China any efforts to appease him will only encourage him in his game of playing both ends against the middle. On the other hand if we bring him up abruptly I think we have a good chance of making him face situation with greater realism.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 651G.51H/7–958. Secret; Priority. Also sent to Phnom Penh and repeated to London, CINCPAC, Paris, Bangkok, and Vientiane.
  2. Supra.
  3. Dated July 7. (Department of State, Central Files, 651G.51H/7–558)
  4. In paragraph 5 of telegram 27, July 7, Strom commented on Sihanouk’s vision of neutrality which Strom thought derived from Cambodia’s weak position in Southeast Asia. (Ibid., 651G.51H/7–758)
  5. In telegram 58 to Saigon, also sent to Phnom Penh as telegram 35, July 10, the Department asked Durbrow to speak to Diem along points (1), (2), and (4), with a view to discovering if Diem desired a negotiated settlement to differences with Cambodia. Strom was instructed to make points (1) through (4) to Sihanouk and others and to raise point (5) without the appearance of a threat. When making point (5), Strom could point out that alignment with China would result in much more than just a reduction of U.S. aid to Cambodia. (Ibid., 651G.51H/7–958)