196. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam1

210584. 1. We have noted in your latest reporting that the Thieu-Ky confrontation does not seem to be moving toward satisfactory resolution and that opposing positions appear to be increasingly firm. Bui Diem’s comment that Thieu may declare his candidacy formally on June 15 would appear to establish some sort of deadline. Diem’s departure (he reached here late last night) and Kieu’s leaving the scene might create a gap in communication between Thieu and Ky. Obviously if Thieu formally declares his candidacy on the 15th, positions will become more rigid and the chance for a negotiated amicable settlement between them decreases.

2. Your previous reporting indicated that you believed it desirable to allow the forces in motion to work themselves out, reserving your own direct intervention to that time you considered it essential. Has our forebearance led Thieu to believe we have no objection to dual candidacies or to his own candidacy in place of Ky?

3. We still believe, as we take it you do, that avoidance of dual military candidacies is most desirable. We note, however, that Ky and [Page 489]Diem have been seeking to downplay the consequences of such a development and have been supported in this judgment by other Ky supporters like General Khang. What is your personal assessment of the consequences of dual candidacies in view of the opinions and positions that have appeared to emerge as the maneuvering has been taking place? How would the military leadership, as reflected in the Armed Forces Congress, line up in the event that Thieu persists in his desire to run? How would such a situation affect military unity, civilian candidate prospects, and conduct of elections? Can Thieu be diverted and through what specific offers that Ky could be expected or persuaded to make?

4. We believe that you are in the best position to judge whether it is necessary for you to intervene directly, when to do so and through what medium. Would appreciate receiving from you on an urgent basis your current assessment and plan of action.

Katzenbach
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 14 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted and approved by Habib and cleared by Bundy, Miller, and Carver.