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

385. Refs: Deptel 387, Vientiane 136 to Saigon, Embtel 377, Phnom Penh 194 to Saigon, Deptel 395, Deptel 390 Embtel 379.2

Had long talk today with Mau on relations with Laos and GVN-Cambodian problems. Made most persuasive pitch I could on need for GVN to take a fresh look at its relations and positions vis-à-vis its neighbors, and to take bold and imaginative diplomatic initiatives for the sake of stability in SEA and to prevent its own diplomatic isolation. [Page 678] Keyed this approach to improved situation in SVN, pointing out that under present conditions GVN initiatives would be reflection of strength and confidence rather than of weakness.

Specifically, I strongly urged reconsideration GVN position on relations with Laos, reviewing Presidentʼs talk with them,3 and stressing advantage to GVN in position as outlined in Deptel 387.

On Cambodian problems, discussed also at length, I urged immediate dispatch of conciliatory note on Koh Rokar incident,4 to forestall possible damaging ICC report, suggested that note should state intention to send GVN military mission to Phnom Penh, the head of which could negotiate its terms of reference, and which could be immediately used to help investigate Koh Rokar incident. On debt question, I urged that GVN break impasse by offering to join on condition that Cambodian will agree specifically to debt settlement conference. (Mau, in his mild-mannered way, hit the ceiling on this. He said, “If we gave Sihanouk his money first, we would be chasing him for the rest of our lives trying to get ours. I said I did not think so—that a magnanimous gesture might be exactly what this situation requires.”)

Mau was noncommittal. He said, regarding Laos, that he wanted us to know that GVN position had been very carefully weighed by President and Cabinet and it would be hard, if not impossible, to reverse. His only concrete commitment was to try to pry loose a note on Koh Rokar of type we discussed by “early next week”. I warned him that this might be too late; that GVN might miss opportunity after so long a delay.

I proposed to Mau that I see President Diem again on these questions before departure Honolulu,5 and suggested that I first send through Mau, an aide-mémoire giving our precise suggestions and recommendations on matters we had discussed. (Mau agreed and I am sending Diem an aide-mémoire, which will be pouched to Dept.6)

Mau mentioned that according his information DRV Ambassador expected to arrive Vientiane October 7 and would be immediately accredited. He seemed resigned to fact this would mean rupture diplomatic relations unless Laotian King intervenes. I told him that we had [Page 679] certain recent information to effect that center and right-wing elements in RLG drawing closer together to counteract left wing, and re-emphasized this no time to abandon the fray.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 651H.51K/10-462. Secret; Priority. Repeated to Vientiane, Phnom Penh, CINCPAC, Bangkok, London, and Paris.
  2. None printed. These telegrams, dated October 1-4, dealt with various aspects of the deteriorating relations between South Vietnam and Laos or Cambodia. (Ibid., 651H.51K/10-162 through 10-362, and 651J.51K/10-162 through 10-462)
  3. See Document 292.
  4. On September 10, South Vietnamese troops and planes had attacked the village of Koh Rokar on the Mekong River in Cambodia.
  5. Nolting discussed the question with Diem on October 6 along these same lines. A report on the conversation was transmitted in telegram 395 from Saigon, October 6, not printed. (Department of State, Central Files, 651H.51K/10-662) Regarding the meeting at Honolulu on October 8, see Document 298.
  6. Not found.