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

1104. For Nolting from Hilsman. Gratified you able persuade Diem issue statement to effect present level our personnel SVN necessary to meet VC threat. Communique on CI funding agreement2 excellent device permit Diem disavow Nhu remarks indirectly and without loss of face.

As you know, this reaffirmation need for our assistance may not get extensive press play because it seems buried in communique on funding, and in any case slate would not really be wiped clean here. I hope you able find additional opportunities continue impress on Diem and Nhu fact that we having rough going defending our Viet-Nam program at best and this incident likely leave lasting bad impression in spite of communique. You may say we hope future statements will be more helpful to joint effort defeat VC.

[Page 309]

Nhu rejoinder to Unna,3 which we have not yet seen, also may create further difficulties. Unna has reputation on Hill and elsewhere in government as accurate reporter no matter what his policy view. An insulting accusation against him could provoke even stronger resentments.

Doubt that there is anything you can do to change immediate situation, but repeat both my own fear that Nhu likely to repeat performance if not brought up sharply and above hope that you able find opportunity continue to impress consequences on both Diem and Nhu.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, DEF 6 US. Secret; Operational Immediate; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Hilsman, cleared by Heavner and in draft in FE/P by Abram E. Manell. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD.
  2. See Document 127.
  3. In telegram 1043 from Saigon, May 20, Ambassador Nolting reported that Nhu claimed that he had been badly misquoted and generally misrepresented by Unna. Nolting added that he was convinced that the joint communique issued on May 17 was as far as Diem would go in the direction of a public repudiation of his brother Nhu’s remarks. Nolting concluded that much of the unfortunate impact of the incident was due to The Washington Post’s handling of the interview. (Department of State, Central Files, PPV 7 S VIET-US)