75. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Cambodia1

36. Ambassador from Parsons. Your 56.2 I have read with growing concern series messages reporting critical situation in Cambodia. Essence of your analysis appears to be that unless U.S. succeeds in somehow bringing Diem to resolve problems with Sihanouk latter will conclude and may already have concluded that Cambodia no longer enjoys friendship of U.S. In these circumstances it must seek protection from Viet-Nam by turning to Communist China. To meet this crisis you urge that we bring to end disastrously different policies (dichotomy) of U.S. and Viet-Nam towards Cambodia. In view urgency this problem and danger Sihanouk may move at any moment you [should?] request Niact instructions and suggest it would be evidence of American interest and satisfy Sihanouk if Assistant Secretary Robertson could visit Southeast Asia and resolve “U.S. and Viet-Nam policy” on spot.

Mr. Robertson on leave and it impracticable to study problem with him in time to help you at this juncture. Apart from merit suggestion, I personally consider it out of question to hope for visit from him now.

With reference first para reftel I am astounded at report Sihanouk tended believe U.S. would not want talks between himself and Diem; that U.S. had induced Diem create obstacles to talks and that we attempting bully him with threat of reducing aid. This is precise opposite of what you have told him. You may if you wish reiterate under instructions that we desire see negotiations started, we hope for reduction of tensions and have never sought place obstacles in way Cambodia–Viet-Nam friendship. Such would be clearly contrary U.S. interests. It difficult know how to remove “dichotomy” in U.S. and Viet-Nam policy towards Cambodia. We cannot require Diem to do what [Page 238] we wish. Sihanouk should understand that in contrast to Soviet and Chinese Communists we have friends and allies but not puppets. If our failure somehow to impose on Viet-Nam what he wants should lead him to turn for military treaty to regime which has just applauded murder of Hungarian freedom fighters and which has condemned more stridently than any other Communist regime Yugoslavia’s efforts to maintain independent national existence I do not see what we can do to stop them. Reduction of U.S. aid in such circumstances would probably be one of lesser consequences. He would bear heavy responsibility for increasing tensions in Southeast Asia and jeopardizing not only safety his own country but also of neighbors powerless to restrain his first steps at least in this direction.

Recent months have indeed been full of Sihanouk’s condemnation of Communists. Going back further Communists who flatter him at moment have at other times insulted him as he might do well to remember. For these reasons, while not disputing reality of crisis we find it difficult believe he would actually conclude military assistance treaty which might not only place ChiComs in dominating position vis-à-vis Cambodia but also damage Sihanouk’s reputation all over free world.

You best judge of how to talk to Sihanouk at this time. We desire see him negotiate with Vietnamese and if Durbrow can get statements from Diem that he would like to negotiate this might be helpful. Department reports indicate measure of fault and at times lack of restraint both sides. This not unusual between neighbors (i.e., India and Pakistan) with deep-seated antagonisms but U.S. must seek remain friend of both parties not partisan of just one. U.S. in my view will support any orderly approach to settlement but there is nothing of dramatic nature which we can ask you to tell Sihanouk. Any suggestions you may have will be immediately considered. We have given thought to proposing to the Secretary on his return that he send friendly message to Sihanouk on resumption of Premiership and if you think this has value would welcome suggested draft.

We also note your statement immediate need is to re-establish Cambodia’s confidence in good faith of U.S. Would appreciate your further suggestions this regard. Would also help if you could identify specific instances in which we are accused of bad faith.

Your 553 just received and I agree failure Canadians participate in ICC report might be interpreted in Sihanouk’s present mood as reluctance [Page 239] Western nations share in findings damaging to Viet-Nam. Despite fact we agree with Canada’s view ICC not properly concerned with Cambodian-Vietnamese border dispute we will discuss problem with Canadians at once.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 651G.51H/7–1058. Secret; Niact; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Parsons.
  2. In telegram 56, July 10, Strom reported reliable information that Sihanouk did not believe the United States wanted conversations between himself and Diem and in fact was trying to place obstacles in the way of those negotiations. Strom reported that a reliable Cambodian source indicated that Cambodia was definitely planning to upgrade its relations with China. In addition, Strom disagreed with the contention of the Embassy in Saigon that Cambodia’s complaints against the Diem regime were either a smokescreen or blackmail. Strom considered that Cambodia had legitimate grievances against South Vietnam and clearly Diem did not want a settlement. (Ibid.; included in the microfiche supplement)
  3. In telegram 55, July 10, the Embassy in Phnom Penh reported that its sources indicated that the ICC investigating team, which had made a fact-finding trip to the disputed Vietnamese-Cambodian border, was convinced that there had been a Vietnamese incursion into Cambodian territory. The Embassy therefore suggested that the United States should desist from attempting to persuade the Canadian Government from withdrawing from the ICC fact-finding mission. The danger, the Embassy believed, was that Cambodians would be given the impression that the United States was opposing Canadian participation on the grounds of the ICC team’s findings and not on the grounds of the ICC’s competence to handle the matter. (Department of State, Central Files, 751G.00/7–1058)