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

393. Ref. A. Embtel 189. Ref. B. Embtel 171.2 Spent an hour with Khanh this morning devoted largely to a discussion of pending [Page 671] changes in government organization and personnel. I introduced the subject by mentioning Thao’s visit yesterday to Alex Johnson (Embtel 189) and expressing an interest in his plans if they were ready for discussion.

He indicated some annoyance that Thao has raised these matters before he had had an opportunity to do so but then plunged into a discussion of his intentions using notes which he had prepared for the occasion.

A provisional constitution is being drafted, a copy of which will be furnished us on Friday. It will provide for a government generally as reported in Embtel 171, consisting of independent legislative, executive and judicial branches with the MRC remaining as the capstone over the entire structure. The legislative assembly will be composed of 60 appointed military officers (all or most retired), 60 members elected by provincial councils, and 30 appointed from politicians, notables and confessional representatives. Out of the 150 members of the assembly, Khanh reckons there will be about 60 anti-government members to form a loyal opposition. The legislative branch will not have sole lawmaking authority since the executive will have the concurrent power to issue decrees in time of war or emergency.

The executive will be headed by a president (Khanh) and a vice-president (Khiem) in charge of military affairs. No mention was made of the appointment of Vu Van Mau (see Embtel 189) to a similar position for political affairs, but this may still be in the cards. The present ministries will be aligned as departments under the presidency. Khanh is planning some changes among present ministerial incumbents to obtain greater unity and competence but was not inclined to discuss personalities. Nonetheless, I took opportunity to put in plug for Quat along line of Deptel 388. He replied that he would probably keep Quat although he was too much of a partisan Dai Viet for Khanh’s liking.

Khanh’s only remark on the judiciary was that it would be independent as in US.

Khanh hopes to announce these governmental changes by the end of the week. He still has the problem of Minh and the four Dalat Generals.3 He intends to offer Minh an ambassadorship; if he declines, then Khanh wants us to take him off his hands by a military or civil school assignment. In any case, he expects Minh to leave the country amicably-otherwise he will release information to public highly damaging to Minh. I urged importance of handling this matter quietly and without a public scandal and he promised to do his best.

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Khanh had hoped to salvage Don from the other Dalat Generals but this solution is proving unacceptable to certain unspecified military colleagues of Khanh’s. Hence places for all four must be found abroad either in Embassies, US schools.

Asked about changes in the military high command, Khanh indicted intention to replace General Xuan commanding I Corps for unsatisfactory performance of duty (possibly outcome of Hue incident reported in Embtel 378)4 and General Tri commanding II Corps. Tri is needed to provide Khiem with an operational planner to work with Westmoreland’s staff.

I gave Khanh two general comments, the first being concern over renewed instability which will result from these sweeping changes. Khanh recognized point but insists that the country could never progress under present government. I am afraid that he may think personality problems will [fade?] away if he changes the organizational framework.

The second point made was to emphasize the need to explain adequately these changes in advance as a realignment made necessary by the state of emergency. Khanh made note of this point which we will reopen with him on Friday when the Mission Council meets with the National Security Council at Cap St. Jacques. Following that meeting Khanh wants to discuss with us the text of the provisional constitution which we will presumably have seen by that time.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15 VIET S. Secret; Priority; Limdis. Repeated to CINCPAC. Although the source text is a Department of State telegram form, the internal structure and references in the telegram (see footnote 2 below) show that it is the text as repeated to CINCPAC.
  2. Telegram 189 to CINCPAC is the same as telegram 388 from Saigon; see footnote 2, Document 311. Telegram 171 to CINCPAC (355 from Saigon, August 8) reported Khanh’s plans for a provisional government and constitution. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 15 VIET S)
  3. Generals Dinh, Don, Le Van Kim, and Xuan.
  4. Apparently an incorrect reference since telegram 378, August 11, refers to two incidents in the central provinces. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S)