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

20. Saigonʼs 14.2 Contains verbatim text. As per last sentence reftel Department is considering proposing for highest level signature following message to Diem to overcome fears US will move toward neutralization policy for Viet-Nam and gain GVN cooperation at Geneva. Request comments following text priority.

“Ambassador Nolting has told me of your concern over our Laos policy. It is a concern which I have long shared; the Laos situation is difficult, and the negotiations we are now seeking to complete at Geneva have not been easy. Perhaps it would be useful if I indicated to you in brief the basis of our thinking about Laos and our Southeast Asia policy as a whole.

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We have sought to counter the Communist drive in Southeast Asia by programs and tactics which recognize both the regional nature of the Communist threat and the peculiar circumstances of each country in the region. We vary our strategies but at the same time we maintain our overall policy objective, which is to do everything in our power to help the nations of Southeast Asia preserve their independence.

In Laos, the United States believes that a neutral government, committed to neither the West nor the East, is most likely to succeed in providing the Lao people with peace and freedom. We are supported in this belief by most Free World Governments.

In negotiating with the Communists to achieve a free and neutral Laos, we have not been unmindful of the relationship between Laos and the security of its neighbors. We have sought to build adequate safeguards into the Laos settlement. We are aware of the danger that the Communists will not honor their pledges. But the only alternative to a neutral Laos appears to be making an international battleground of Laos. This would not help the Lao people and it would not contribute to the security of Laos’ neighbors.

In the case of your own country, the strategy best calculated to preserve Vietnamese independence and enable your brave people to build a better future is clearly very different from the strategy required for Laos. I can assure you without reservation that this administration is not seeking a neutral solution for Viet-Nam. There is no change in the policy towards Viet-Nam which this administration has pursued since it took office. We have helped and shall continue to help the Vietnamese defend themselves. We believe our cooperation has been effective and will continue to improve. We believe the Vietnamese will defeat Communist aggression and subversion

In pursuing our efforts to insure peace and freedom for the people of Southeast Asia the United States must, of course depend heavily on its friends. Most of all, we must have the cooperation of the Governments and the peoples of Southeast Asia itself. Your Government has been most closely associated with mine in this effort, and together we have achieved a great deal to defeat the Communist threat to Southeast Asia. It is my earnest hope that you will instruct your representatives at Geneva to continue this fruitful cooperation there by helping us to establish a truly neutral Laos.

The Geneva conference cannot fully succeed without your help. I am convinced that failure at Geneva would have grave consequences for all the people of Southeast Asia.”

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/7-562. Secret; Priority. Drafted by Heavner on July 5; cleared with Cottrell, Cleveland, Wood, and S/S. Also sent to Geneva and repeated to London, Paris, Vientiane, and CINCPAC.
  2. Telegram 14 from Saigon, July 5, reported that Nolting had discussed with Diem the dangers that would ensue if South Vietnam failed to sign the agreements being negotiated in Geneva on Laos. In the last sentence Nolting recommended sending a high-level message to Diem explaining the U.S. position on Laos and reiterating support for Diem. (Ibid.)