415. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State 1
1550. CINCPAC for POLAD. Yesterday, November 17, I sent Prime Minister Huong a letter proposing methods for integrating U.S. Mission efforts with his new government (text of letter being dispatched by airgram).2 I called today to find out his reaction to the letter and to discuss other related matters.[Page 911]
His first words were to express regret over the bombing incident at the Tan Son Nhut restaurant at noon today which caused 18 U.S. casualties. He then added words of thanks for the quick response of the USS Princeton in bringing relief supplies from Hong Kong.
With regard to the letter and its proposals, he indicated that he was discussing the matter with Deputy Prime Minister Vien and some of the Cabinet this evening. He said at first reading he found nothing in it to cause disagreement.
He then launched into a discussion of his governmental troubles, particularly those arising from the continuing criticism of minority groups. He classified these groups as generally inconsequential in size and number but later admitted to growing concern over the Buddhist opposition. He feels sure that Tam Chau and many of the leaders of the Buddhist association have neutralist or even Communist backing. He further feels there is some understanding between General Khanh and the Buddhists, mentioning reports that Khanh has said that the Huong government will fall if it alienates the Buddhists.
We then discussed Khanh’s attitude. I told him that Khanh had repeatedly indicated to me his sincere desire for the success of the Huong government and his intention to support it. Huong added that Khanh’s expressed attitude toward him had also been thus but nonetheless he was afraid that Khanh was indulging in maneuvers with the Buddhists. I suggested that he try to pull Khanh more into the inner councils of his government and see whether such treatment might not get him into the family. Huong concedes that the army has responded readily to his requests for reinforcements to deal with the student disorders over last weekend.
We discussed the High National Council with which Huong is completely out of patience primarily because of the investigation committee it has set up to examine the composition of his Cabinet. He recognizes this action as a device for keeping alive the criticism of some of his Cabinet members.
Huong recognizes the critical importance of the manner [matter?] setting up the national assembly and feels that it should be the prime concern of the High National Council. The latter, as we know, is divided between those who insist on elections and those who would be satisfied with some method of nominating assembly members. Huong is dead against elections as a general method, feeling that they are impossible in some areas and dangerous in others. The primary danger which he sees is the infiltration of neutralists and Communists in the course of the elective process.
I told Huong confidentially of my departure date for Washington and restated my need for an immediate discussion with him and some of his ministers with regard to their programs. Washington, I indicated. would have many questions with regard to his hopes and aspirations [Page 912] and I would need his assistance in preparing the answers. He agreed to a meeting probably on Friday3 with his principal ministers and I added the suggestion that an additional meeting with him, Vien and Khanh might also be necessary for a discussion of particularly sensitive topics.
At the close of our meeting, I invited him and his Cabinet to a reception on December 7 at my residence to meet with senior American officials of the Mission. He seemed happy to accept.