58. Telegram From the Embassy in Thailand to the Department of State1
2111. SEATO. Since my accreditation as US Council Rep accomplished, I chaired May 22 restricted session. At opening of session, New Zealand Rep welcomed me on behalf other council Reps and Sec-Gen. Pakistan Rep then suggested that since Vice Pres Johnson’s time had not permitted him report Saigon visit, I might give council Reps outline of visit and talks with Diem.
Drawing on substance Pres Kennedy’s letter to Diem and joint communiqué, I reported that Vice Pres had consulted with Diem on two major problems: (1) military pacification and (2) social-economic development. US position is insurgency must be eliminated. Pres Kennedy suggested following as principal means accomplishing this: (1) Immediate increase GVN armed forces by 20,000, with US and GVN to keep under review possible further expansion. Increase to consist mainly ground forces supplied by US. (2) Development new style civil guard stationed in and around villages to replace old civil guard who not properly trained, armed or organized. Estimated figure in neighborhood fifty to sixty thousand. (3) Assistance to GVN in developing larger, more efficient coastal patrol force with motorized junks and other small craft. (4) Sending of military research and development specialists to South Vietnam. Would explore all possibilities of developing new types equipment and weapons required for mobile warfare in Viet-Nam terrain. Expected to include work in electronics for ground and air surveillance of frontiers. I stressed point that old methods of defense by no means being abandoned but that we mean to supplement them with new developments particularly suitable to situation this part of world. If worthwhile developments result from R & D efforts Vietnam, they might well be applied to other countries of SEA. US is convinced prevention infiltration a most difficult task but is determined do everything possible to limit infiltration. Idea is to be sure we are trying every means to play game better than Communists. I reported that Pres Diem most receptive to U.S. proposals and arrangements now under way for early implementation.
I said Vice Pres and Diem also considered need for technical assistance, not only by US but by other UN members and interested countries. Particularly assistance in rehabilitation of villages subject [Page 148] to attack or duress from Viet Cong. I emphasized that this would be a major undertaking and that Viet-Nam would need extensive help from outside. I urged other SEATO govts, particularly those with experience in this or related fields, to lend assistance. I noted that general discussion also held on long-term economic and social assistance and that plans under way for establishing joint cost-sharing arrangement. I noted that long-term development concept consistent with Kennedy administration emphasis on long-range rather than “crash” projects. I informed colleagues we had appointed a task force to work with GVN; that in US view welfare of Vietnamese populace and their attitude toward GVN is key factor. We recognize this is matter of extreme delicacy and this was one reason Vice Pres Johnson personally given responsibility for approaching Diem.
I then emphasized that US horizons by no means limited to Viet-Nam and that Pres has placed very high priority on all SEA. He wishes be sure our commitments to Asian friends well understood not only by Asian govts and peoples but also by other side. Our present goal is stabilization of Laos and, in addition, prevention festering sore of communism spreading into neighboring countries. We have no illusions task will be easy but job is under way and we intend see it through. In answer Philippine question on morale GVN forces compared with FAL, I noted morale high and they willing to fight despite weariness of long campaign against Viet Cong. I cited new ranger units as particularly effective, not only as fighters and village watchdogs but because of their humane treatment of villagers which earning them real popularity and bringing people closer to Govt. French and Australian Reps commented that GVN troops have no misgivings about nature and intention Viet Cong, having confessed atrocities perpetuated such as wholesale assassinations, burning of schools and terrorizing children and teachers.
Turning momentarily to North Vietnam, French Rep said French official from Hanoi now visiting Bangkok reports severe famine in North Vietnam. Rice ration totals 9 kilos per month and only 500 grams meat when available. New ration cards required every fortnight, people fainting on streets, and police control tightening. In this official’s view, famine is one major motivating factor behind Viet Cong guerrilla activities in South Vietnam. French Rep will have further consultations and expects receive extensive report which he hopes make available other council Reps next mtg.
All council Reps expressed deep interest in US plans for South Viet-Nam as I had outlined. Australian Rep particularly interested in new developmental plans but said he also pleased US not neglecting older method which possibly not fully exploited in past. Stopping terrorism and reinforcing rural populace is at heart of Viet-Nam problem he felt sure Australia would wish join US in program for [Page 149] South VietNam and believes Australian experiences New Guinea and Malaya might be helpful. Philippine Rep believes his govt could provide expert advice and assistance in view its experience with Huk problem. He also suggested operation brotherhood medical activities might be extended to Vietnam. New Zealand Rep similarly expressed interest and felt his govt might take part.
[Here follow three paragraphs on Laos.]
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 379/5-2261. Secret. Repeated to CINCPAC for PolAd, Saigon, Wellington, Karachi, Canberra, Manila, Vientiane, London. Paris. and Geneva.↩