149. Telegram From the Central Intelligence Agency Station in Saigon to the Agency 1

1222. 1. Following is account of half hour [less than 1 line not declassified] meeting with Gen. Khiem morning 26 Sept at latter’s request. Khiem explained he holding these meetings at direction of Gen. Duong Van Minh who wants to keep this channel open on continuing basis. Khiem in turn reports contents of conversations to Minh and to Minh only. [less than 1 1ine not declassified] Khiem pleased there no leaks so far.

2. Khiem cited recent Viet Cong show of strength in battlefield, where ARVN losses for first time almost as heavy as Viet Cong’s. He added that through recent operations mounted by Col. Phnoc of ARVN J-2 (Comment: From other sources known to have been in progress for past few weeks) evidence is mounting steadily that VC very strong, have thoroughly completed plan and have assets in place for takeover attempt in Saigon should any major disturbance occur.

3. Khiem aware that coup planning by “civilians” continues. “Civilians” of course not aware of evidence of Viet Cong strength in possession of Generals nor can they be told.

4. Thus while Generals (i.e., Minh, Khiem, and Khanh) have not abandoned contingency (unspecified) planning for later action should it be necessary, they now firmly determined not attempt overthrow [Page 292] Diem pending latter’s decision on governmental changes requested by Generals (see Saig-40 IN 21 114).2 Khiem now somewhat optimistic that Diem will go along. Khiem indirectly set date of 4 Oct as Generals’ deadline for Diem’s acceptance of Generals’ recommendations.

5. Optimism stems from fact that Generals feel Diem now accepting grave danger posed by VC which direct result of Diem’s wrong policies in past and mistakes made in governmental structure up to present.

6. Once in possession of key ministries (at one point desirability of Big Minh for Defense and Gen. Don for Interior discussed) and with clear lines in the chain of command from Defense to sector chiefs in military field and from Interior to province chiefs who would have no say so on military operations, Generals confident nation will be in position effectively to fight threats from within and from DRV (Khiem mentioned that Generals harping with Diem on very real threat from without and Generals opine this probably decisive factor in Diem’s present tendency to go along with Generals recommendations).

7. Diem has already taken one step desired by Generals by signing some three or four days ago an order specifically placing Col. Tung and his Special Forces High Command directly under Joint Chiefs of [General] Staff. How effectively this order will be implemented should become evident in very near future ([less than 1 line not declassified] commented that JCS could well start with inquiry as Tung’s disposal of funds available to him).

8. Diem has also taken another action which pleases the Generals by shipping Dr. Tuyen out of the country.3 Khiem considers Tuyen one of Nhu’s men most responsible for ineffectiveness of civilian organs in fight against Viet Cong.

9. In somewhat daydreaming comment on how new government would function, Khiem said that with all Dept posts in hands of military, Counsellor Nhu’s influence on conduct of affairs of nation will be minimal.

10. Field comment: We do not share Khiem’s belief that Diem will accept and introduce recommendations made by the General Officers to the extent hoped for by Khiem.

  1. Source: Department of State, Har-Van Files, South Vietnam Policy Files, September 16-30. 1963. Secret. There is no time of transmission on the source text.
  2. Document 119.
  3. As the Republic of Vietnam’s diplomatic representative to the United Arab Republic.