116. Telegram from the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1

2583. Ref. A. Deptel 1718.2 B. Embtel 2572.3 We have received Ref. A with deep enthusiasm and will rally all our resources to carry out our part of the President’s program. Meanwhile we have a few preliminary [Page 266] observations which we would like to contribute and would welcome Department comment and guidance.

Our first problem here is how to obtain authentic GVN concurrence in the condition of virtual no-government which exists in Saigon today. You can see from Ref. B that Quat probably has a considerable way to go to form a government and, in the end, may be no more successful than Vien. Hence, short of a miracle, my approach tomorrow must be to “Jack” Oanh in his capacity as a lame-duck Acting Premier who will probably not be in the new cabinet as it seems to be taking shape. My present thought is to suggest to him to have Khanh, Thieu and Vien present when we meet. (If Quat has made real progress overnight he, too, might be included.) Thus, the GVN concurrence would be a consensus of the Acting Prime Minister, Vice Prime Minister, Commander-in-Chief, and Second Vice Prime Minister of the caretaker government (and perhaps the new Prime Minister-designate). In any new government, Khanh will be at least Commander-in-Chief; Thieu is expected to remain Vice Prime Minister; and Vien will, we hope, have some place in the cabinet.

Because of the importance of the matter I shall raise, the GVN representatives may wish to consult the National Security Council or the Armed Forces Council. I would not agree to such consultation on ground of danger of leaks.

The presentation of this program is sure to evoke many GVN questions. One will be the degree of joint U.S./GVN agreement in the various steps in the program. For example, will GVN concurrence be sought for Presidential announcement? (As I read Ref. A, I am not to discuss proposed text of Presidential announcement at this time.) Will all strikes be joint and is there a reciprocal veto right for each party? Will the decision to move north of the 18th parallel be taken jointly? Another question, always difficult to answer among ourselves, will be the ways of determining that Hanoi has brought its aggression to an end. I hope I can make clear that we will insist not only that Hanoi cease actions in DRV in support of VC but that Hanoi collaborate in obtaining cessations of VC insurgency in SVN.

It will be interesting to observe the effect of our proposal on the internal political situation here. I will use the occasion to emphasize that a dramatic change is occurring in U.S. policy, one highly favorable to GVN interests but demanding a parallel dramatic change of attitude on the [part of GVN?]. Now is the time to install the best possible government as we are clearly approaching a climax in the next few months. The U.S. Mission and the GVN will have serious problems to work out together, many of them complicated matters in the field of foreign affairs where the GVN must strengthen its [omission in the source text] we need the first team and we need it fast.

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There is just a chance that the vision of possible victory may decide Khanh to take over the government at this juncture. Alternatively, it may create some measure of national unity which will facilitate the task of Quat or of any other Prime Minister who succeeds in forming a new government.

Our comments on the text of the proposed Presidential announcement and the tactics related to it will follow by separate cable.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Top Secret; Flash; Nodis. Repeated to Bangkok exclusive for Ambassador Johnson. Received in the Department of State at 10:59 a.m.
  2. Document 115.
  3. Telegram 2572, February 13, described Taylor’s meeting that evening with Quat regarding the difficulties in forming a new government in South Vietnam. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S)
  4. Apparently before Taylor had time to send the cable promised here, the Department of State provided further instructions to him; see Document 117.