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263. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1

286. As a part of his swing through four provinces July 31–August 1, Khanh asked me to accompany him on the latter day. In the morning we visited Binh Tuy, a relatively small province of about 60,000 situated on the coast—east of Saigon. There is essentially no pacification problem there but the province illustrates the needs of an economically backward area after elimination of VC.

Khanh received a thorough briefing on the local situation from an intelligent-looking province chief, then visited a nearby fishing village which turned out in force to greet us. Khanh addressed the villagers with apparently good effect, then made a token presentation of gifts to a few chosen elders, taken from a large pile of gift packages laid out in the square, consisting in the main of frying gear, pots and pans.

Khanh and his party then helicoptered from Binh Tuy to Cap St. Jacques where they gave a barbecue for the foreign press at the end of the day. I joined him an hour in advance of the reception to talk [Page 595]business. First, I reported to him matter contained in Embtel 240.2 He took the news calmly and said that if allegation against Hoach were true he would be “eliminated.”

In course of subsequent conversation Khanh asked me (for at least the third time since my arrival) whether US was solidly behind him. I assured him such was the case and intimated some surprise at need for repeating assurance. His reply indicted that he is considering some move against Minh and wanted to determine how USG would react. I took this opportunity to follow guidance contained in Deptel 245,3 saying that we Americans had been happy to see Minh brought into government and had hoped that his presence would contribute to creating the national unity so badly needed. It was not Minh the individual who attracted us but Minh the popular symbol with possible utility in the unstable political situation. If, as Khanh insisted, Minh was not a help but a hindrance to unity, we had no further interest in him. However, I asked Khanh whether in fact he had ever asked Minh to do specific things which the latter had declined to do.

Khanh said indeed he had. He cited failure to respond to invitation to Cabinet meetings. Also, as Head of State Minh has certain duties which go back to time of Bao Dai and include signing of State papers. In this Minh had been tardy particularly in the recent submission of papers to UN bearing on designation of official GVN spokesman. Khanh is plainly fed up and may be expected to take some action against Minh shortly.

I asked Khanh whether he had given further thought to the joint planning exercise discussed in Embtel 219.4 He said he had but then indicated that he had more in mind the declaration of a “state of urgency” (condition d’urgence) than military planning related to NVN. When I mentioned latter he replied that we could talk about it later in Saigon but showed no interest in pursuing subject. In course of entire day, he did not mention “march North” issue or any related matter.

Press reception and barbecue were well attended by foreign correspondents. Purpose was purely social-Khanh made no statement to press.

Taylor
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15–1 VIET S. Secret, Priority Exdis. Repeated to CINCPAC, the White House, ICS, and the Secretary of Defense.
  2. Telegram 240, July 28, reported that Minister of State Le Van Hoach had on his own authority been in touch with the Viet Cong concerning a cease-fire. Taylor speculated on the reasons for such an approach and included the possibility that Khanh might be behind it. (Ibid., POL 27 VIET S)
  3. Document 244.
  4. Dated July 26, telegram 219 from Saigon requested the best available portfolio of political/military planning papers for a joint contingency planning exercise with the Vietnamese. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 1 US–VIET S)