71. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State0

1880. Geneva for FECON. Reference: Department’s 1466,1 Phnom Penh’s 1458,2 our 1879.3 We recognize that Ambassador Trimble has difficult problem in convincing Sihanouk of desirability of taking action on border control problem with Vietnam. In effort demonstrate to Sihanouk that Cambodia is used by VC as safehaven, supply and training base and to some extent as infiltration route all reports summarized our 1879 except Nos 5 and 16 may be conveyed to him or other high level RKG officials, without revealing exact source.

We likewise have difficult problem in getting Diem to give border controls top priority in his relations with Cambodia and to bend all other efforts in those relations toward achieving something workable in this domain. His antipathy and distrust of Sihanouk are so great that it is hard to convince him that game is worth candle. Magnifying this is current conviction of Diem and Nhu that Sihanouk now countenances, if he does not actually encourage, activities of anti-Diem dissidents Cambodia and is assisting efforts of certain of these dissidents to establish contact with DRV officials in Geneva.

Despite these obstacles we believe question of border controls of sufficient importance to warrant more effort convince Diem he should really do something more about problem than he has in past. I do not believe, however, that we ought to go to extent of getting Ambassador Harriman involved in Vietnamese-Cambodia problems as mediator. In our view, such a move would probably be counter-productive, as it would dramatize differences between two countries, probably cause both to publicly restate their positions (which are basically different ideologically and philosophically) and make practical cooperation on border control less likely. Our thought is that to alleviate problem of border-control, best approach would be to establish possible sufficient political agreement between two countries to enable practical working [Page 157] relationships to be established between neighboring province chiefs on border and between province chiefs and military officers, who think effective and useful border-control measures may be established.

We concur with Phnom Penh that renewal of Tho–Tioulong discussions offers best prospect for some accomplishment along above lines. We recognize this cannot be done until Tioulong returns from Geneva, but believe it would be better to have Tho follow up on conversations than to suggest that Mau talk to Tioulong.

Meanwhile measures which could lead to Tho–Tioulong conversations could be taken. First step in our view would be to try settle question of GVNs C–47 plane detained by RKG. GVN does not believe RKG has shadow of justification under international law in keeping this aircraft. Unless we can get this problem settled it will undoubtedly be raised as first obstacle by Diem in any conversation with him on relations with Cambodia. Though not very satisfactory method of settlement, we suggest Phnom Penh pursue line already taken with RKG (Phnom Penh 1239).4

We could then tackle Diem once again on question of financial settlement under Paris accords. Our aim would be to induce GVN to make reasonable offer to RKG on financial issue and reasonable assessment of what might be achievable in way of border controls. Believe program outlined our 1330, January 31,5 on these two points represents reasonable approach.

We concur Department’s suggestion about encouraging France to approach Sihanouk on matter of border controls, and Embassy has proposed this, in series of cables starting with our 466, August 25, 60.6

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 651H.51K/6–1561. Secret. Also sent to CINCPACPOLAD and repeated to Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Geneva, Paris, Vientiane, and London.
  2. See footnote 1, Document 70.
  3. Document 70.
  4. In telegram 1879 from Saigon, June 15, the Embassy summarized 16 reports that it believed verified Viet Cong use of Cambodian territory. The Embassy stated that since the issue was one cause of deteriorating South Vietnamese-Cambodian relations, it should be considered in any attempt to better those relations. (Department of State, Central Files, 651H.51K/6–1561)
  5. In telegram 1239 from Phnom Penh, March 23, the Embassy suggested that South Vietnam transfer title of the impounded aircraft to the United States, which would make a similar plane available to South Vietnam. The United States would fly the impounded plane out of Cambodia. Another C-47 aircraft in first-class condition was scheduled for delivery to Cambodia under the Military Assistance Program. Foreign Minister Nhiek Tioulong’s initial reaction was favorable. (Ibid., 751J.5411/3–2361)
  6. In telegram 1330, Ambassador Durbrow reported that he planned to urge Diem to arrange a meeting of representatives of the two governments. He outlined a plan of action to bring the two sides together on border control and on the financial dispute over Vietnamese debt owed Cambodia under the Paris Accords. (Ibid., 651H.51K/1–3161)
  7. For text, see Foreign Relations, 1958–1960, vol. I, pp. 541544.