75. Memorandum From the Director of Intelligence and Research (Hilsman) to Secretary of State Rusk 0


Rupture with Thais Provides Pretext. Rupture of relations with Thailand has provided Prince Sihanouk with a plausible pretext for closer accommodation to the Communist bloc.1 The spectacular staging of the rupture, preceded as it was by warning notes, indicates that it is probably more than the usual cyclical deterioration of Sihanouk’s relations with his pro-West neighbor. Sihanouk may well have brought about this crisis deliberately.

Real Reason is Communist Gains in SEA . Threats of “aggression” by Thailand provide Sihanouk a convenient excuse, but they would not be his real reason for establishing closer relations with the Communist bloc. He is convinced that Laos is coming under Communist control and that [Page 167] South Vietnam will eventually follow. It follows for him that Cambodia must readjust its position to growing Communist strength in Southeast Asia.

Sihanouk has shown concern over the Communist advance in Laos and given the West some cooperation while it appeared possible to halt this threat. Now that a settlement in Laos on terms advantageous to the Communists appears likely, he cannot be expected to continue this cooperation. Heretofore, Sihanouk’s neutralism always included friendship and cooperation with the bloc. He is likely now to adopt an even more friendly tone, and to go so far as to accept token Communist military aid or formalize Cambodia’s relations with North Vietnam.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751H.00/10–2661. Confidential. Sent to McGeorge Bundy at the White House with copies for Taylor, Schlesinger, Rostow, and others whom Bundy might think appropriate.
  2. On October 23, Cambodia severed relations with Thailand. Extensive documentation on U.S. consultations with both Cambodian and Thai officials concerning the tension and break in relations is ibid., 651H.92.