62. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State 1

1800. Task Force VN 3.2 Reference Deptel 1414.3 Task Force Saigon considers new bilateral arrangement with GVN neither necessary nor desirable at present time.

Presumably purpose of new bilateral would be to reassure Diem of US support and restore his confidence in firmness US determination not permit Communist seizure of Vietnam. Believe this already accomplished to large extent by Vice President Johnson’s visit and concrete actions flowing therefrom. Moreover, believe way we handle ourselves in connection with Laos likely be more important touchstone GVN confidence in our determination than discussion of bilateral arrangement, on theory actions speak louder than words.
GVN itself has not expressed interest in such new arrangement and on basis Diem’s past attitude toward association with SEATO it is questionable that GVN would be particularly responsive to idea. In past whenever Diem has been asked whether he wishes join SEATO, his answer has been that Geneva Accord precludes GVN entry into military alliance. Diem’s motivation probably is that as SEATO protocol state Viet-Nam receives whatever benefits SEATO provides without liabilities which would arise from membership in SEATO, e.g., Geneva Accord problems, Communist propaganda, et cetera.
While Diem probably now dubious full membership of SEATO would take effective action, he has always realistically viewed US as real source SEATO strength and thus of guarantee to Viet-Nam under SEATO protocol. Diem would therefore probably feel that US would be about as likely take action under SEATO, either unilaterally or jointly with those SEATO powers which are willing, as under bilateral arrangement. Under indirect US planning guidance all VN contingency war plans are based on expressed assumption that US and/or SEATO forces will intervene immediately (24-72 hours) after overt attack on VN. This assumption so well established that he would probably therefore view bilateral arrangement as adding little to existing tacit guarantee.
Type of US-GVN bilateral being discussed would represent direct violation Article 19, Geneva Accords. While Embassy has recommended US-GVN denunciation Articles 16 and 17 (Embtel 17524), believe similar action re Article 19 cannot be justified on basis requirements GVN self defense,ICC failures, or DRV violation, and not of much real value in meeting present Communist threat. Moreover, inclined believe political repercussions flowing from such violation Article 19 might provoke ICC into withdrawing from Viet-Nam taking with it such deterrent as it offers against DRV direct aggression.

Despite above, we would not wish exclude possible resort to bilateral arrangement at some point in future when it may be more needed or useful than at present in bolstering GVN confidence in US.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751K.5-MSP/5-2661. Secret; Priority. Repeated to Bangkok and to CINCPAC for PolAd.
  2. The numbers in this and subsequent telegrams to and from Task Force Saigon refer to the points in Document 56.
  3. Telegram 1414, May 19, stated that negotiations for a new bilateral agreement with Viet-Nam should not begin until further notice and asked the Embassy in Saigon to transmit its views on the subject. (Department of State, Central Files, 751K.5-MSP/ 5-1961)
  4. Telegram 1752, May 16, stressed the need to consult with the British, Canadians, and possibly the French concerning any increase in military equipment or personnel in Viet-Nam beyond the limits that the Control Commission could agree to. (Ibid., 751G.00/5-1661; printed also in Declassified Documents, 1975, p. 319A)