195. Memorandum of a Conversation, White House1
- Visit of Foreign Minister Quat with The President
- The Presiden
- Michael V. Forrestal—National Security Council
- William H. Sullivan, Department of State
- Phan Huy Quat—Foreign Minister, Republic of Viet Nam
- Pham Khac Rau—Counselor, Embassy of Viet Nam
The Foreign Minister opened the conversation by stating that he had taken advantage of his presence in New York to come to Washington in order to express to the President and the Government of the United States the gratitude of his people for American assistance. He went on to state that the seriousness of the situation in Viet Nam is not because the Government of Viet Nam misuses American assistance. It is rather because of the nature of the communist attack and the nature of the institutions which the Government of Viet Nam has inherited.[Page 448]
The Minister said that he personally felt the current serious situation can be remedied. Until now, the main emphasis has been on military means. He did not contest the need for a stronger military effort but he felt that this alone would not suffice to solve the problem. There is needed a better administrative organization especially in the villages in order to have a communion between the people and the government.
The Minister said that US agencies have understood this problem and have attempted to improve the situation. However, the Vietnamese themselves have failed in coordinating their own efforts as well as combining their work with US assistance. The new government intends to proceed both to establish internal coordination on the Vietnamese side and better coordination between United States and Vietnamese officials.
As a personal suggestion, the Minister thought it might be worthwhile to have a joint US-Vietnamese team in directing the pacification effort in Viet Nam. He believed that Vietnamese officials should have “no complexes” about attempting this sort of intimate American association with their efforts.
The President thanked the Foreign Minister for his views and said that the United States would explore the Minister’s proposal in our own government. He suggested that the Minister and the Prime Minister discuss the matter with Ambassador Lodge and General Westmoreland. In order for such a proposal to function effectively, it would need the complete support and understanding of the US representatives on the scene.
The President then said that he had two points he wished to raise with the Foreign Minister. First, he wished to stress how important it was that the Government of Viet Nam approach every possible third government to provide assistance. In order to do this effectively, the Vietnamese Government needed to appoint competent ambassadors to those governments. The President said he would like to receive some indication of the countries which the Vietnamese Government approaches and learn the nature of their reactions to these approaches.
Secondly, the President stressed his feeling that it was important to have unity in dealing with the problem of communism. It was important to have unity of the non-communist countries, but equally important to have a unified government in Saigon. He thought this was not the time for petty politics and urged that all non-communist leaders in the country settle their differences and unite for their own salvation.
The Foreign Minister expressed appreciation to the President for this advice on both points and said he would report it faithfully to his government when he returned to Saigon.
Source: Department of State, President’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 66 D 149. Confidential. Drafted by Sullivan on June 5. The time of the meeting is taken from the President’s Daily Diary. Johnson Library)
Quat was in the United States to attend the sessions of the United Nations. On June 3, he met with Secretary Rusk who urged Quat to try to eliminate political quarrels in Saigon, defuse religious differences, and encourage Vietnamese politicians to drop their business-as-usual attitude.
Quat promised to take this message home and to try to improve South Vietnam’s diplomatic representation and its information policies and programs. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S) A subsequent discussion of Vietnamese information policies and program is in a memorandum of conversation between Quat and Rowan. June 5. (Washington National Records Center, RG 306, USIA Psychological Operations Files: FRC 68 A 4933, INFO–PSYCH Operations, 1964) Quat also met with Senator Humphrey on June 5; see footnote 4, Document 208.↩