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

693. Embtels 678, 687, 708.2 As seen from here, there are two immediate and essential requirements in situation:

Frontal effort on your part to correct Diem’s apparent misinterpretation of intentions of our proposals with respect GVN organization; and
Early opportunity for a sustained private conversation and full discussion between you and Diem on concrete measures to accomplish objectives of improving GVN image and making GVN more effective instrument for prosecution of war.

With respect first point, it occurs to us that Diem may have taken point one (i) “administrators and advisors” together with para 5 of Deptel 6193 as indicating intention on part USG take over much greater degree of control than in fact our intent. While we satisfied you will be able clarify this when you have opportunity for full discussion with Diem, following amplification our thinking may be of some assistance to you. First, point one (i) specifically provides such action only in agreement between two governments and was included to meet Diem’s request to Taylor and Rostow for assistance in meeting shortage trained administrators. We certainly have no intention of packing his administration with Americans against his will or “taking over his government”.

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With respect to last sentence para 5 Deptel 619 on “decision-making processes” what we have in mind is that, in operations directly related to the security situation, partnership will be so close that one party will not take decisions or actions affecting the other without full and frank prior consultation. This was spirit in which proposition in para 5 put forward. We think it probably fruitless to argue or engage in recrimination over generalities and that important point is to discuss specifics, drawing from Diem if possible his own suggestions and, to extent necessary, building on that base.

With respect second point, pares 2 a, b, and c and para 5 of Deptel 619 are considered here only as broad guides on which we rely on you and Country Team to translate in your negotiations into such specific measures as you consider effective and practical. Seen from here, crucial elements appear to be:

Follow through on intelligence reform and collaboration
Prompt conduct day to day security business through Cabinet or Internal Security Council;
Clarification of military command channels
Prompt follow-through on Thuan’s suggestion of security survey in three corps area;
Constitution effective frontier ranger force.

In addition we believe it essential for Diem to make moves which would, especially for international and American public opinion, symbolize the fact that bulk of VietNamese people-not merely “Diem people”-desire to maintain their independence. How this can best be done is not possible to specify in detail from here but it difficult to overemphasize its importance from Diem’s point of view as well as our own. However, might it not be possible for Diem to put a friendly labor leader into some government position, release some political prisoners on selective basis, or to form or give increased substance to public consultative bodies?

We would hope you would be able arrange with Diem for full day or even two at some secluded spot for really full discussion. Diem’s dilatoriness in entering into such discussion is giving impression here of lack of sense of urgency on his part.

If your discussion with Diem is clearly not satisfactory it is desired that you promptly return to Washington for full consultation with respect our future course. You authorized in your discretion so inform Diem.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751K.00/11 2261. Secret; Niact; Eyes Only. Drafted by U. Alexis Johnson and Rostow, cleared with S/S and initialed by Johnson for the Secretary. Repeated to CINCPAC for PolAd and Bangkok.
  2. Documents 266, 270, and 278, respectively.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 257.