248. Letter From Prime Minister Nu to President Kennedy1

My Dear Mr. President: I am aware that the situation in South Viet-Nam has been causing you much concern. Needless to say, I share this concern, not only because a threat to the peace is a bad thing wherever it occurs, but because this particular threat happens to be close to my country.

To begin with, let me say that I fully understand the reasons for the concern of the United States with regard to the situation in South Vietnam. Like you, we in Burma desire to see a unified, independent and democratic Vietnam, and until that can be achieved, we wish to see South Viet-Nam develop as a truly democratic and nationalist entity. Only then can there be any hope of the eventual emergence of a unified, independent and democratic Vietnam.

Recent press reports connected with General Taylor’s visit to South Viet-Nam have referred to the possible despatch of United States forces to South Vietnam. This is probably no more than speculation, but even so, it opens up such dangerous possibilities that I feel it my duty, both as a lover of peace and as a friend of the United States, to say that I would regard such a step as a very grave mistake. In my view, South Vietnamese problems cannot be solved by military means. It can only be solved through measures which will help to bring the Vietnamese masses solidly behind the Diem Government. Besides, introduction of foreign troops into South Viet-Nam would only worsen the situation, because it would certainly produce similar measures in North Vietnam, leading to a military confrontation between East and West whose consequences no one can foretell. These steps certainly would not conduce to the eventual emergence of a united, independent and democratic Vietnam.

Mr. President, in sharing these thoughts with you, I would like you to know that I have made known to the Government of North Viet-Nam my grave concern at the persistent reports of North Vietnamese subversive activities in South Vietnam, and have warned them that such activities, if not ended, can only endanger the peace [Page 596] by inviting new steps by the South Vietnamese Government and its close friends.

I trust that you will not regard this letter as an unwarranted intrusion on my part. As I have said earlier, my sole purpose is to help maintain the peace of the world and promote the future well-being of South-East Asia.

With my warm regards and good wishes,

Yours sincerely,

Maung Nu
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751K.00/11-1861. Attached to the source text is a copy of a brief memorandum of transmittal from Battle to Bundy, November 18, indicating that it was the signed original of the Prime Minister’s letter. settle already apparently sent Bundy a copy of telegram 380 from Rangoon, November 14, containing the text of the letter. (Ibid., 751K.00/11-1461) A note on the Department of state s copy of telegram 380 indicates that it was passed to the White House at 1121 a.m. on November 15.