218. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam1
647. Eyes only for Ambassador Lodge. Your 776.2 Diem’s invitation to you may mean that he has finally decided to come to you. Pursuant tactics you have been following, you probably will wish leave initiative to him to see what he wants to raise with you. If opportunity which you judge appropriate is presented we hope you [Page 438] can explain our policy within context para 12 our 534.3 Objective, of course, is to see if there is any evidence Diem is moving in direction we desire and broader discussion may be helpful in probing his thinking. And if Diem seems unwilling to open subject we think you should seek means of moving conversation to these matters on your own if possible within context of your basic posture.
As you know, we wish to miss no opportunity to test prospect of constructive changes by Diem. One way or the other, we hope it will be practicable to raise some of following more immediate issues:
- Military Matters:
- You might express satisfaction that previously proposed and recently reemphasized suggestion to remark corps boundaries, placing greater emphasis on Delta, has been adopted by President, as well as suggestion to place Special Forces elements operating in various Corps areas under operational control of Corps Commanders, which we understand has been subject JGS directive.
- You might also wish explain further along lines para 9 Deptel 534, and elaboration Deptel 570,4 reasons for our position that support must be withheld from those airborne ranger and Civil Guard companies not responsive to JGS control.
- With regard to military operations (as spelled out in JCS 2792, 051834Z)5 our view is that military operations should emphasize clear-and-hold instead of terrain sweeps of little permanent value; that there should be expansion of personnel in combat in all units to full authorized strength; and that training and arming of hamlet militia should take place at an accelerated rate, especially in the Delta.
- With regard to the strategic hamlet program, we believe a consolidation of this program in the Delta of special importance at this time, as well as action to ensure that future strategic hamlets not be built until they can be protected and until civic action programs can be introduced.
- It is highly desirable GVN treat UN mission in manner which will insure that subsequent report, UN discussions and decision are as favorable as possible toward Republic Vietnam. This approach to mission requires that it be permitted access to all persons it desires to see. Also means that GVN should in its own interest avoid raising any matters with mission either directly or indirectly which could serve as pretext for UN members to deal with political issues relating to Vietnam such as reunification by elections, neutralization, etc.
- GVN could serve its own interest while UN mission present in Vietnam by taking steps to release Buddhists and students remaining under arrest, reopening all schools still closed and initiating action in National Assembly for repeal Decree 10.
- Anti-US public statements by GVN officials (like Nhu) and slanderous articles in GVN-controlled Times of Viet-Nam are poisoning atmosphere between US and GVN and make cooperation in pursuit of our effort increasingly difficult to maintain. This is particularly true in the light of the fact that the U.S. Government has been extremely careful in these last months to avoid this kind of comment with respect to GVN.
There may be other specific issues as well which you might find it appropriate to raise.
We realize of course that Diem’s general mode of operation leaves little opportunity for his interlocutors to bring up matters not of interest to him, and that Diem may keep conversation strictly on plane of interest to him without bringing up any topics bearing on political relations between his government and US. But we repeat that we do not wish to lose any opportunity of pressing our position upon him, and this meeting looks like one of the best chances we have had.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, PER-LODGE, HENRY CABOT. Top Secret; Immediate. Drafted by Kattenburg and Mendenhall, cleared with Rice and McGeorge Bundy (in draft), and approved by Ball. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD exclusive for Felt.↩
- Not found.↩
- Document 181.↩
- See footnote 3, Document 198.↩
- See footnote 9, Document 181.↩