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

167136. For Amb Lodge from the Secretary. Ref: Saigon’s 21308.2

1.
We were very much interested in your conversation with Ky reported reftel and felt that the line you took with him (para 4) represented correct “equi-distant” posture for us to be taking at present time when Ky and Thieu have not yet worked out question of candidacy. Consider it important that we not appear to be getting between them or making choice in one direction or other, or, for that matter, as between military and civilian candidates.
2.
With this in mind we were wondering whether we should not leave same impression with Thieu so that he, no less than Ky, will know our thinking on this point. He provided an opening for this in the comments at his and Ky’s press conference before their departure from Guam when he explained that his position was just like Ky’s and that if Ky should run he would support him. To continue the analogy, “there are many other things he could do besides being President” and specifically we know of the improvements he would like to bring about in the ARVN and the leadership he could provide for it. It would also be desirable for Thieu to realize you had made similar point to Ky.
3.
With regard to the Presidential candidacy the other thought still very much on our minds is the desirability of it being understood that the ticket which includes a leading military figure would also provide for prominent civilian participation in the Prime Ministerial post. Similarly, we can see the value of prominent military participation on Suu’s or Huong’s tickets.
4.
We would be interested in having your current thinking on these matters.
Rusk
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 14 VIET S. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Unger, cleared by Walsh, and approved by Rusk.
  2. Document 118.