92. Telegram From the Embassy in Cambodia to the Department of State 0

256. Department pass White House for Ewell; DOD for Secretary McNamara and JCS for Lemnitzer. Bangkok pass General Taylor. Deptel 191.1 Following is account General Taylor’s one hour audience with Sihanouk at which I was present:

Audience was inhibited by presence for first ten minutes of two US correspondents and of several Cambodian press photographers during entire audience located within hearing range of Sihanouk’s audible exposition his views. General Taylor considered it desirable therefore to soft-pedal some points contained in Depreftel but in course general conversation covered most important aspects omitting only one point of real importance: That regarding US willingness to consult with RKG in event of actual aggression. (General Taylor did state US would view with grave concern actual aggression against Cambodia.) As US had not previously given assurances for consultation and as they seemed to conflict with assurances of consultation with UNSYG rep and RKG jointly envisaged in draft statement quoted in Deptel 177,2 we considered it advisable pass over this point.

After exchange of courtesies, General Taylor conveyed warm personal wishes from President Kennedy to Sihanouk and pleasure President derived from his talk with Sihanouk at UNGA last year,3 stressed President’s interest in Sihanouk’s views and explained he was on tour of exploration to familiarize himself with problems of area. He considered there was problem of common threat to peace and security of area and stressed US desire for good relations between its friends in SEA. Following these introductory remarks, two chief points emerging from conversation were:

Sihanouk’s revelation he was working on project which envisaged statement by each of Geneva powers along lines of draft he was preparing [Page 207] for submission to them. General Taylor and I both moved in on this one to stress that Washington had actively under study question of what step might next be taken and expected to have suggestion to discuss with Sihanouk very shortly. It was our hope to forestall action by him which would result in our again being faced with Sihanouk proposed formula which might or might not be acceptable to free world. Sihanouk explained he envisaged some adaptation of Laos Accord changed to take into account realities and possibilities of situation. We did not ask him whether his proposal included withdrawal of foreign military missions.
General Taylor brought up question proposed GVN military mission, saying he had received impression at Saigon GVN intended to respond affirmatively.4 Sihanouk made clear RKG offer receive such mission still held good and added GVN should send Army General, or perhaps Colonel, to discuss procedures governing operations such mission with Minister Defense Lon Nol. He continued such mission could operate as mixed mission with FARK officers assigned thereto, would show RKG did not assist Viet Cong; operation such mission could bring stability to frontier area.

In reply to query re status Thai appeal to UNSYG, which RKG had supported, Sihanouk said he would welcome UN presence to investigate border situation although Thai appeal had simply spoken of investigation and nothing more. I pointed out Thai appeal had also spoken of seeing means improve relations between two countries. This brought suggestion from Sihanouk RKG and RTG might exchange high ranking representatives, with similar exchange between RKG and GVN, for purpose of exploring means improving relations. If UNSYG rep could work to this end, Sihanouk would welcome such effort. Either course would be acceptable to him.

General Taylor made particular point of informing Sihanouk of his impressions on improvement in SVN situation since he had visited Saigon ten months ago.5 He described his visit to strategic hamlets and progress being made in this field with indications of greater popular support of GVN, agreed with Sihanouk support of population was essential in such situation and expressed general optimism re situation SVN.

General Taylor complimented Sihanouk on FARK civic action program and expressed particular interest in RKG’s plans for civic action program in critical northeast area, where there seemed to be vacuum. Sihanouk described area as one susceptible of infiltration by Pathet Lao and Viet Cong and need for additional troops this area. He explained [Page 208] area was too large to cover with present forces available to RKG. Hoping to get some reaction from Sihanouk, I pointed out US had agreed furnish matériel for additional battalions for northeast area but Sihanouk merely nodded assent and did not continue subject.

Throughout conversation Sihanouk stressed his fear that one of many small border incidents might unavoidably lead to larger conflict. He stressed that actions of Cambodia’s neighbors tended to push Cambodia toward Communist camp and they were thus playing into Communist hands by such action. General Taylor expressed understanding his concern and pointed out he did not believe that either Thailand or GVN had aggressive designs on Cambodian territory. Sihanouk at one point said that while he appreciated US expressions respect and recognition his neutrality and territorial integrity he had never had any doubts US observance these principles, his real concern being such respect and recognition on the part of Thais and GVN.

Conversation was exceedingly pleasant throughout and Sihanouk was obviously pleased General Taylor had come to Cambodia and had given Sihanouk opportunity express his views to top US military figure close to President.

In view Sihanouk’s statements re proposed GVN military mission, General Taylor and I urge that we take advantage of present disposition of Sihanouk and RKG to receive such mission and, if Saigon concurs, suggest GVN take initial step of sending high ranking representative negotiate this matter at Phnom Penh. Sihanouk’s reaction causes us reverse our suggestion in Embtel 2536 re delaying such mission. In this connection Acting Prime Minister Chau Sen Cocsal told me today that he had on his desk for action papers which would authorize release SVN fishing crew of Metaco vessel seized by RKG two years ago. This possibility, along with RKG’s present willingness to make gesture of release GVN transport plane in order initiate action of discussions on debt settlement, argue for early action under present relatively favorable circumstances.

General Taylor concurs with foregoing.

In light foregoing indication Sihanouk has new project of draft proposal well under way with which we may be confronted at any time, I recommend every effort be made to obtain UK and French concurrence on draft statement along lines Deptel 177 which we could present to Sihanouk and that UNSYG be encouraged to act on basis Thai and RKG appeal. This might give us some chance of nipping in bud whatever Sihanouk now has in mind.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 651H.51K/9–1362. Secret; Niact. Relayed to the White House and the Office of the Secretary of Defense for McNamara and General Lemnitzer. Repeated priority to Bangkok, Saigon, London, Paris, Vientiane, CINCPAC POLAD, and USUN.
  2. Telegram 191, September 11, contained guidelines and talking points for Taylor’s discussion with Sihanouk. (Ibid., 751H.00/9–1162) Taylor was visiting the Far East August 31-September 21, prior to assuming the position as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  3. Telegram 177 to Phnom Penh was a repeat of telegram 1366 to London and 1477 to Paris, September 7; see footnote 1, Document 91. The enclosures to Document 91 were quoted in telegram 177 to Phnom Penh.
  4. See Document 74.
  5. Taylor was in Saigon September 10–13; see vol. II, pp. 642643.
  6. Reference is presumably to the Taylor Mission, led by General Taylor, which arrived in Saigon on October 19, 1961; see vol. I, pp. 380 ff.
  7. Dated September 13. (Department of State, Central Files, 651H:51K/9–1362)