239. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1

35. Embtel 29.2 Presidentʼs letter delivered to Pres. Diem at 5 pm this afternoon, followed by two hour discussion. Diem was courteous but absolutely adamant against signing accords which he claimed would result in the communization of Laos by legal means. He took position, in essence, that it would be immoral to do so, and none of my arguments seemed to have any effect.

However, one hour after I had left Diem and was in process drafting report of above, Thuan telephoned to say that Diem was changing his positron. Thuan then came to my house and said Diem on reconsideration requested me to report his reply to President Kennedyʼs message as follows:

He sends his sincere thanks to President for his letter.
He has instructed Foreign Minister Mau to seek clarification of texts to be signed at Geneva, including the “implementing protocols” especially those relating to functions of ICC (presumably the “Protocol to the Declaration on the Neutrality of Laos”3). Mau instructed to seek this clarification through Governor Harriman.
On question recognition DRV, Diem requests that US take position of less favorable to SVN than that taken by France and UK. [sic] In this connection, Souvanna Phouma reportedly told French that action taken by Souvanna is unconstitutional (since not taken in ministerial session) and would be reconsidered. Also GVN Ambassador Vientiane reports Lao Foreign Office has authorized press announcement that recognition of 5 Communists postponed until Souvannaʼs return. (GVN clearly has impression that we have thus far been less sympathetic on this problem than French and UK.)

I asked Thuan whether this meant that Mau was “back in business” at Geneva. He would be, Thuan said, once clarifications referred to para 2 above had been received. Without saying so in terms, he gave me clear impression that Mau would be instructed to sign agreements. With regard to “clarification”, I think GVN will no longer insist on proposing amendments to agreements. They do want reassurance that ICC will have responsibility and authority to supervise and control [Page 515] exodus of Viet Minh military personnel. It is important, I believe, that Mau be given all possible help by USDel Geneva in reassuring his government on this point and other provisions for enforcement of agreement. Re recognition, GVN is not asking that we obtain RLG commitment not to recognize DRV. They do, however, want us to indicate sympathy with their problem and to indicate interest in finding some more palatable solution than full recognition DRV. Again, I think it will be most helpful if Mau can report that we are working along these lines with French and British.

In sum, I cannot guarantee that GVN is now back on tracks and prepared to sign up. However, I believe that there is better than even chance that rather bewildering developments today represent an effort to save face. I urge that USDel Geneva deal with Mau on this hypothesis.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751K.00/7-1062. Secret; Niact; Limit Distribution. According to another copy, this telegram was drafted by Nolting. (Washington National Records Center, RG 84, Saigon Embassy Files: FRC 67 A 677, 350 Laos Conference) Repeated to Paris, London, Geneva, Vientiane, Bangkok, and CINCPAC.
  2. Telegram 29 from Saigon, July 10, reported that the text of the Presidentʼs letter (supra) had been received and that Nolting had an appointment to see Diem that afternoon. (Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/7-1062)
  3. For text of the Declaration and Protocol on the Neutrality of Laos, signed at Geneva, July 23, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1962, pp. 1075-1083.