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

1050. CINCPAC for POLAD. Deptel 1117.2 During meeting with Diem May 18, he devoted about two hours to Buddhist questions. I sought to impress on him need for further GVN action and specifically suggested public declaration by him and/or appointment commission along lines Embtel 1038.3 Diem was non-committal re commission and took position that declaration should be deferred until people had had time to reflect on various statements which have been made, particularly at press conference held by Buddhist leaders following meeting with him.

From Diem’s extensive remarks to me, it was quite clear that he is convinced that (a) Hue incident was provoked by Buddhist leaders, (b) deaths were caused by grenade or grenades thrown by VC or other dissidents and not by GVN, and (c) certain Buddhist leaders are seeking to use Hue affair as means of enhancing their own positions within Buddhist movement. Finally, Diem appears to feel that whole affair is far less serious matter than we do. I said I hoped he had not underestimated seriousness of situation; that our information re facts and attitude of people was considerably different from his.

With regard to Buu Hoi’s suggestion,4 there might be merit in creation of Cabinet-level post for religious affairs. I do not feel, however, that this is propitious moment to propose it, and I frankly think that at any time, proposal would have far better chance of acceptance if made by Vietnamese rather than American. We will work toward this at suitable opportunity.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET. Secret; Priority. Repeated to CINCPAC.
  2. See footnote 3, Document 129.
  3. Document 129.
  4. In telegram 1117 to Saigon, the Department of State also noted that, during his current visit to Washington, Ambassador Buu Hoi had expressed the idea that the Diem government should appoint a cabinet level official responsible for religious affairs. Buu Hoi suggested that Ambassador Nolting might take up the idea with Diem.