405. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State 1
1416. CINCPAC for POLAD. I saw Huong at 1700 today at his request. First DepPriMin Vien also present. Huong had nothing pressing to discuss and our conversation was in the nature of a progress [Page 891] report on his part. Huong said that his govt was now fully inslalled, he personally had assumed duties of MinDefense this morning. While he had not had benefit of a thorough briefing on military situation from General Khanh and the military, they had covered high spots this morning. Huong hopes to have detailed military briefing when Khanh returns in a few days from his two-day trip to Camau.
With some prompting from me, Huong referred to reports of Buddhist dissatisfaction with his govt and to rumors that students might demonstrate tomorrow. Huong dismissed Buddhist complaints as being their traditional maneuver to attempt to obtain Buddhist ministers who could serve as their “eyes and ears” inside the govt. He anticipated continued pressure from certain Buddhist factions but did not appear deeply concerned. With regard to the students, he indicated that he had already issued orders that the police and the military are to maintain law and order. He showed a quiet determination not to knuckle under to pressure from these quarters.
Huong said that Council of Ministers had met today to discuss short-term objectives and programs—those which could be completed by end of year. Vien said that each Ministry had been charged with preparing a statement of short-term and long-term objectives for discussion by the Council of Ministers next Wednesday, Nov 11. I mentioned that we were going through a similar exercise on US side.
Vien said govt would be in a position to discuss these objectives and programs with us the following Friday. Huong commented that goals should be realistic and people fully aware of what the govt intends to do and what will be accomplished. Huong commented that his govt was composed of men who were honest and dedicated to the good of country and would form a good team. While he did not underestimate size of the task, he believed that with US assistance substantial progress could be made.
Huong discounted importance of resignation of Chu,2 Vice President of the High National Council, noting that Chu had personally requested him to accept resignation from position on two occasions and had warmly supported his investiture by the High National Council. He characterized Chu’s action and those of Quat and Tran Van Do as last minute efforts for their own partisan political reasons to embarrass him in the formation of a govt. In this connection I noted heavy burden placed upon High National Council in months ahead and fact that the effective membership of this body had been reduced to about a dozen people. I inquired whether it would be feasible to increase membership of the Council in order spread the burden and render it more representative. Vien replied that enabling decrees establishing [Page 892] the Council made no provision for increasing its size. nor even for replacing individuals who resign or were incapacitated. However, it was clear that Huong and Vien saw merit in suggestion and will give it further consideration. They also picked up quickly suggestion that a new Chef de Cabinet be found to replace Pham Dang Lam in the of fice of Chief of State Suu.
Comment: It was evident that Huong and Vien share mutual confidence and trust (almost alien commodities here) and should work well in tandem. Huong is down-to-earth, to the point, and determined (at least at this stage) to steer his own course and not give in to the various pressure groups.