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

21308. 1. Prime Minister Ky spoke to me very frankly March 25 about the choice of a military candidate for President. Nothing he said could be taken to mean that the decision between Thieu and himself has already been made. However, his remarks suggested that he may be thinking seriously about stepping aside in favor of Thieu.

2. He began by saying that the armed forces will not choose a candidate. “The situation is very simple,” he said, “if Thieu decides to run, I will support him. He is senior and it is up to him to have the first chance at it. If he decides not to run, then I will run.”

3. I asked him what Thieu was thinking, and he said Thieu was “undecided.” I asked how much time there was in which to make up his mind, and he said, “Not more than two weeks.”

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4. I congratulated Ky on his attitude, which I thought was both correct and intelligent. It would be a disaster if there was to be a conflict between him and Thieu, and it was a fine thing for him to take such a broad minded attitude. He was young; He could wait. In any case, there are many other things which he could do besides being President.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXVIII. Secret; Exdis. Received at 8:33 a.m. Rostow wrote on the cable: “Herewith the latest on Ky’s election plans in relation to Thieu” and sent it to the President, who was at Camp David March 25–27. (Ibid., President’s Daily Diary)