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

25112. Reference: State 189491.2

I do not believe it would be useful at this time for General Westmoreland to return to this subject with General Thieu. He spent two hours with him Sunday3 and they went over the ground thoroughly. General Westmoreland concurs with this judgment.
I will be seeing Thieu and Ky, separately, Tuesday to introduce Ambassador Locke and will see what, if anything, they may have to say on the subject.4 As reported separately, General Cao Van Vien informed the ARVN staff the morning of May 8 about the decision that ARVN would not appoint a military man as its candidate for President and gave an interview to Vietnam press shortly thereafter. General Westmoreland saw General Vien afternoon May 8 and Vien stated that the proposal to divorce the armed forces from the political campaign had originated with him and he intended to follow through on it. We have no additional information at this time regarding the timing of Prime Minister Ky’s announcement of his candidacy.
It is difficult to speculate on the possible relationship of these events to Loan’s visit to Washington. It is conceivable that he was bringing some word from Ky to Bui Diem about Ky’s intentions but since events did not transpire as originally hoped and they could not be clearly foreseen, it does not seem likely this was a primary reason for his trip. We know that Loan’s manner and tactics have irritated several of the top Generals in the past and it is therefore at least conceivable that Ky wished to have him away during the rather delicate meetings among the Generals and the subsequent talk with [Page 397] Thieu. In any event, it continues to seem likely that Loan’s activities with Bui Diem will be related to seeking support in one form or another for Ky’s candidacy, or at least the impression of support (Saigon 24733).5
We would imagine that Ky hopes to team up with some respected southern civilian figure who will bring in votes and Huong would obviously be the strongest combination with him. As the Department knows, there have been reports of soundings between Huong and Ky. We suspect that the question of any such combination, whether Huong-Ky or Ky-Huong, will not be settled for some time. (See our A–638 pouched Department May 8, which assessed Presidential candidates prior to these most recent developments.)6
We agree that a strong mixed civilian-military ticket would have great value and will be following events with this thought very much in mind.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 14 VIET S. Secret; Priority; Nodis. Received at 1:54 a.m.
  2. Document 164.
  3. May 7.
  4. Bunker and Locke met with both men on May 9. In telegram 25083 from Saigon, May 9, the Ambassador reported that Thieu concurred in the ARVN’s declaration that it would not support a military candidate. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 14 VIET S) In telegram 25233 from Saigon, May 10, Bunker reported that in spite of his support of the declaration, Ky told him that he would run for the Presidency since he believed that he could best lead South Vietnam’s social revolution. Ky also said that he had informed Thieu that morning of his plan to run. Thieu told Ky that he might retire or return to active duty in the army; Thieu agreed in any event that the military should remain united in the coming contest. (Ibid.)
  5. Dated May 4. (Ibid.)
  6. Dated May 5. (Ibid.)