86. Telegram From the Delegation at the SEATO Council Meeting to the Department of State1

Secto 19. GVN FonMin Mau at his request called on Secretary April 10.2 At latter’s request Mau described situation his country, referring to evidences of success in military and economic fields and pointing to prospect in few months of assembly and local elections. Secretary expressed pleasure at progress, but warned of need to maintain momentum and to guard against our common efforts being sapped by inevitable frustrations.

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Mau then launched into review his government’s viewpoint on problems confronting it. After alluding to difficulties posed by Viet Minh infiltration through Cambodia and Laos, Mau warned against danger of bloc efforts to divide the free world. For instance, the idea of neutralization for SVN originates with the Communists but is supported by “certain organs of French Government”, which hope see both bloc and US depart leaving a French presence in SVN. Example of difficulties facing Souvanna, a “creature of French,” is particularly instructive. Mau stated, however, he wished to concentrate on more delicate question of three problems cropping up between US and GVN which derive from principle of freedom:

Press: US press often does not understand nature of situation in SVN, seeks sensational aspect, and has deleterious effect on US public opinion. Furthermore unrestricted freedom of press can jeopardize security of military operations.
Vietnamese oppositionists: 75 to 80 percent of those claiming be opposition political elements have proved be “creatures of French” and undesirable elements, such as Tran Van Huu, tend to gather in Paris where they do not observe non-political role appropriate for political refugees (such as Bidault). GVN can’t understand why USG permits such persons, who obtain French travel documents, to come to US. Such visits give unfortunate impression of US support.
General policy: GVN, which is locked in struggle with VC, cannot accept 100 percent democracy.

Secretary spoke briefly to these three points, assuring Mau first of US concern that balanced press picture emanate from SVN but stressing need for prerequisite of mutual confidence between press and GVN. He stated that US press reacts badly to feeling GVN attempting control our public opinion. If, however, American public believes it getting full picture, it will support our efforts in SVN. Secretary mentioned to Mau in confidence he had talks with number of press leaders in effort promote balanced reporting. Re oppositionists, Secretary stated denial entry into US would only turn undesirable public attention on them. Finally, Secretary stated that while hesitating prescribe form of political changes desirable for SVN he wished emphasize importance GVN be in position enlist energies and loyalties of the people.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POLS VIET. Confidential; Priority. Repeated to Saigon.
  2. Secretary Rusk was still in Paris for the SEATO Council meeting.