45. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1

2334. For the President. Ref. Deptel 1549.2 Thank you for message contained in reftel. I am most happy to learn that you are planning to [Page 100]send Mac Bundy to visit us as he will be able to strike some effective blows here for the U.S. cause. My only problem is the timing. I feel that he will be most useful in talking to the principal members of the new government after they are installed and hence should arrive after its composition has been announced. If he arrives before that time, he will not know whom to talk to. Even if the fact of his impending visit is announced before the formation of the government, the news might cause Khanh to hold up decisions in order to be the only actor on the stage when Bundy arrives. Alternatively, Khanh might seize on the news as evidence of further U.S. interference in internal matters of SVN. (His press conference3 featured this note.) Khanh always seeks to make domestic mileage posing as the defender of SVN sovereignty. I would recommend no announcement of Bundy’s trip until the new ministerial slate is in the clear. This may soon be the case—perhaps so soon that the suggested date of arrival, February 2, may be kept.

Whatever statement is made on his departure, I would like it to include point that Bundy is being sent to confer with me on recent events, the seriousness of which in the U.S. view prevents my being called to Washington.

How to relate this visit to our action on dependents is a matter to which I am giving immediate thought but have no present suggestion. I have just received Deptel 15484 on the subject of evacuation which raises certain questions, not presently clear, but which may be covered in a supplementary telegram which I understand is en route. If time permits, I would like to withhold decision on evacuation until we have talked with Bundy.

With regard to a visit by Lodge, I have considerable reservations. The sending of a special U.S. emissary to the leaders of the Buddhist Institute at this time will greatly enhance their prestige, already inflated by their victory over Huong and the USG. These political bonzes have been and still are attacking the U.S. Ambassador because the USG ventured to continue to support a government which they had decided to pull down and, to show further their displeasure, have conducted anti-American demonstrations and destroyed U.S. property. While all this has been taking place, Buddhist spokesmen have been making veiled statements which have earned them a country-wide reputation as probable neutralists. The picture of an American of Lodge’s stature coming around the world to confer with them in their triumph somehow goes against my grain and may raise suspicions in a highly suspicious country that the U.S. is trafficking with neutralists. Even these unpleasant consequences [Page 101]would be tolerable if frank discussions offered any hope of changing the course which Tri Quang and company are following. Would it be reasonable to propose that we await the outcome of Bundy’s visit before deciding about Lodge?

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIETS. Top Secret; Immediate; Nodis; LOR. Received in the Department of State at 8:11 a.m.
  2. Document 44.
  3. Khanh’s press conference earlier that day is summarized in telegram 2326 from Saigon, January 26. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 15 VIET S)
  4. Document 43.