280. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam1

684. Ambassador Chuong called on Secretary 22nd and again 25th2 in order clear up certain points raised by Chuong, who spoke under instructions.

Following principal points emerged from Chuong’s somewhat opaque presentation:

US should not rely on neutrals, particularly GOI and RLG. Greatest threat to free world is in SEA, not Berlin. Last year Communists waged war without danger to themselves to take over Laos. This year it is VietNam. American military assistance is best direct counter to Communists. It should not be spread too thin; should be used not only as foreign aid, but as arm in a war.

Secretary replied we not satisfied with attitude neutrals, but noted we have explained situation to Indians and others. They increasingly concerned. GOI may be helpful through ICC and by its diplomatic efforts, but we should not expect too much. Our total per [Page 670]capita aid to India for 12-year period has been $2.00. Our total per capita aid to Viet-Nam for six years has been $100.

Secretary agreed on dangers in SEA and emphasized necessity joint effort. He asked repeatedly, “How do we win the battle?” Ambassador did not reply directly, but several times in his presentation made point US should be tougher with friends and foes alike.

Secretary asked to what extent Thoi Bao editorial represented public expression of GVN’s real attitude; said it appeared to be most unhelpful prelude to Diem-Nolting talks. Emphasized US had no desire “run” GVN. Our only aim to help GVN with its own war.

Chuong said GVN concerned lest impression be gained there was to be “condominium” in VietNam, but, speaking personally, did not believe editorial represented GVN opinion.

Secretary said editorial (picked up in Washington Post today) could create serious public opinion problem in US. Emphasized that in Greece and Korea when the question was that of winning battle, problem of sovereignty did not arise.

Ambassador asked if US had suggested specific steps which might have caused editorial and mentioned Diem sensitive on question bringing exiled political elements into GVN. Secretary replied that we had simply asked for GVN views on how it could get broader support; perhaps there were elements in VietNam, now on sidelines, who might throw themselves behind GVN in its struggle.

FYI. Ambassador Nolting may cite Secretary’s remarks as needed in conversations with GVN. End FYI.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751K.00/11-2561. Secret; Niact. Drafted by Wood; cleared with Cottrell, McConaughy, U. Alexis Johnson, and the Office of the Secretary; initialed by Pezzullo of the Executive Secretariat for the Secretary. Repeated to CINCPAC for PolAd.
  2. Memoranda of these two conversations are ibid., Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 65 D 330, November 1961.