279. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam 1
697. Announcement by new Vietnamese regime of intention improve relations with neighboring countries offers encouraging prospects. Following preliminary views are offered for comment addressees:
Possibility of improved SVN-RKG relations particularly attractive as it might lead to RKG cooperating in preventing Viet Cong infiltration and smuggling. It might also create more relaxed atmosphere conducive to resolution various specific differences such as those involving frontiers. Moreover, improved Cambodian relations with a new, more responsive Vietnamese regime, coupled with Cambodian awareness of US benign, special relationship with new regime, might gradually bolster Sihanouk’s confidence in future of Free World in Southeast Asia and reduce his [less than 1 line not declassified] fear of his neighbors.
Initiative for re-establishment relations probably must come form RKG which took initiative in severance, but new Vietnamese regime could do much, particularly in first few days and weeks of its tenure to encourage Sihanouk this direction. It would be particularly desirable at this time to take special precautions to prevent any new border incidents or overflights. Department does not, however, believe it would be wise for U.S. at this time to take initiative to urge RKG to resume relations since this would probably be misinterpreted as evidence new regime will be a puppet of U.S. Embassy Phnom Penh should however take advantage of ordinary contact with Cambodians to provide [Page 539] as much helpful background on developments in Saigon as possible and to express hope that under new circumstances relations will improve
For Saigon: Request you consider what would be proper timing to send EmbOff to Phnom Penh with backup materials to assist Ambassador in demonstrating quality and bona fides new regime.
There appears to be no reason to doubt that Thai Govt will be inclined at least initially to be friendly toward new Viet regime, particularly in view recent Thai concern trend of events in Diem regime. Thai Govt will no doubt welcome it as one which promises to maintain war effort against Viet Cong while strengthening political situation at home. It is to be hoped that RTG will move quickly toward recognition new Viet regime and that it will develop closer relations than it had with former government. Expression of greater Thai interest in Vietnamese war effort would not only be encouraging to GVN but might be instructive to Thai military regarding problems which they may face at some time in future. Embassy Bangkok should accordingly in its discretion point out to Thai importance of forthcoming attitude on their part and provide information needed by Thai as preliminary to recognition.
There seems to be no reason to believe that Thai would oppose a closer relationship between GVN and RKG provided of course that Viet regime maintains its basic pro-Free World alignment. At same time it might be pointed out to Thai that new fluid situation created by change in Viet-Nam provides many opportunities for strengthening Free World in SEA. For example, it would be especially timely now for resumption Thai-Cambodian relations since if Sihanouk were almost simultaneously presented with real possibility of closer, more friendly relationships with his two principal neighbors, Cambodia’s whole orientation might be slowly but fundamentally influenced. Therefore, while recognizing that Thailand has shown great patience with Sihanouk’s outbursts, it might be useful that Thailand would be willing to ignore these outbursts at this time and re-double efforts to bring to a successful conclusion its negotiations with Cambodia.
Relations between the Diem regime and RLG were shadowy at best because of Diem’s bitter reaction to RLG acceptance of Ambassador from DRV. There are diplomatic missions in both Vientiane and Saigon headed up by second-line officers, usually referred to as Charges. Presumably these representatives will not be withdrawn pending basic decisions in both countries. However, RLG may delay [Page 540] considerably before making any final decision regarding its future relations with new Saigon regime. Phoumi will probably find little difficulty in accommodating himself to Viet regime based on power of Generals whom he knows and with whom he might be able to cooperate in anti-Viet Cong operations. Souvanna will presumably be more cautious, preferring to study future course and stability of new Viet regime. It is in our interest that present state of relations not be severed and that cooperation between RLG and GVN be encouraged, leading perhaps eventually to exchange ambassadors.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL CAMB-S VIET. Secreti Priority. Drafted by Hannah, cleared by Hilsman, and approved by Rusk. Also sent to Phnom Penh, Bangkok, and Vientiane.↩