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

1763. 1. Vietnamese Embassy informed us this morning Ambassador Khiem making statement before U.S. television cameras supporting the military coup. AP ticker subsequently carried Khiem’s announcement his full support for “military revolt against General Nguyen Khanh.” [Page 339] Item said if coup succeeded Khiem would return to Saigon at invitation coup leaders to give whatever help he could in returning country to stability. Further said Khiem assailed Khanh as “dictator who created disorder in order to stay in power”. Added he had received message from Col. Pham Ngoc Thao asking that he get back to Saigon as soon as possible.

2. However coup turns out we hope Quat government can be preserved. This is not to argue any long term U.S. commitment to Quat as individual. However, it would be regrettable to have his government fall so soon after establishment leaving us again with indefinite interim period of disorganization and travail of working out installation successor regime. It obviously to both the US and GVN advantage maintain in place government with which we can immediately carry on common effort. Developments reported your 26742 encouraging in this regard and we know you keeping this important consideration in mind.

3. We shall approach Ambassador Khiem today along lines your 26673 urging he not try return Saigon until situation more clarified.

Rusk
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 23–9 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Limited Distribution. Drafted by Corcoran and approved by Unger.
  2. In telegram 2647, February 19, Taylor reported that Ky had told Quat that the Armed Forces Council would support the Quat government. (Ibid., POL 23–7 VIET S)
  3. In telegram 2667, February 19, Taylor stated that Khiem’s return to Saigon would only “add tinder” to a “very explosive situation.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. XXVIII)