387. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State 1

1259. I called on Pham Khac Suu at my request at 9:30 this evening accompanied by Johnson and Manfull. Tran Van Van also present at my request.

I told them very bluntly and with some deliberate anger that we could not countenance the Council’s action of last evening in which important decisions taken without advising US in advance.2 This despite our previous understanding that US did not want to be surprised by actions taken by Council. Suu immediately replied he would resign [Page 846] tomorrow if we wished. I dismissed this but told Suu directly that he could not count on support of the US unless he and the Council presented to us well in advance, and we were satisfied with, their nominations for Prime Minister, Minister of Defense, other key Ministers, and CINC Armed Forces.

In response to my questions Suu said he “was consulting” Council re Prime Minister candidates. He said his current preference was for Ho Van Nhut.

Both he and Van professed ignorance concerning what now being discussed among Generals at Vung Tau (which probably accurate). In response to further question he said he would be satisfied with Khanh as Commander in Chief.

With respect to Minh, Suu merely turned to Van in response to my question as to what they had in mind as a position for him. Van replied that they were thinking of creating a new position of “Supreme Counsellor” to the Chief of State for Minh. While admitting this not previewed in charter Van opined that Chief of State possessed power to create this position.

I underlined essentiality of US aid and support to SVN and necessity our being currently informed if we are to work effectively together. While we could overlook failure to consult in past, we could not accept it for the future.

I specifically requested that Suu and Van convey the full sense and flavor of my remarks to the full Council so that the Council was aware of the seriousness of the situation as we viewed it.

Suu throughout stressed importance he attached to US aid and support.

In parting Johnson reiterated to Van importance conveying full sense of démarche to Council.

It clear even in this brief exchange that Suu not on top of situation and being coached by [garble—Tran Van Van?]. He turned repeatedly to Van for prompting or direct replies to questions.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15–1 VIET S. Secret; Priority; Limdis. Repeated to CINCPAC.
  2. At that time, the High National Council had chosen Suu rather than Minh as Chief of State.