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

217671. 1. We are increasingly concerned, as we know you are, about growing division of Ky and Thieu and consequences of this division to electoral processes, military unity, and American public opinion.

2. The President desires that you seek early meeting with Ky and Thieu, accompanied by Locke and Westmoreland. You should convey forceful and unequivocal message to both men reminding them that each personally assured President Johnson at Guam that they would so arrange things that they would support one man. You should tell them that acting on this assurance, and respecting the personal integrity of each, President Johnson has repeatedly assured Congressional leaders and the American public that there would be no division between Thieu and Ky, they would support only one candidate and that the present government would not permit the election to cause divisions among its leaders. Therefore, the present situation leaves the President in an impossible position which simply cannot be explained to the American Congress or the American people. The continuance of this situation would deliver a severe blow not only to the election process but to public and Congressional support in the United States for the Government of South Viet-Nam.

3. It is already clear that the continued failure of Thieu and Ky to achieve the understanding which they promised President Johnson so unequivocally now presents a grave threat to unity of the military and has already contributed to an atmosphere of doubt with respect to the [Page 562]honesty and integrity of elections and presents us with mounting dangerous political problems here.

4. President Johnson has the highest respect and esteem for both Thieu and Ky. The United States has not interfered in the election processes and has not supported one or another candidate and does not intend to do so. We have relied heavily on their positive assurances that whatever problems might arise they could and would be worked out by Thieu and Ky on the basis of common understanding and common dedication to the cause of free and independent South Viet-Nam. How they work out any personal differences for the good of their country is their responsibility, but President expects that it will be done and that they will honor their joint and individual assurances to him.

5. You may, in your discretion, deliver this message to Ky and Thieu jointly, or individually. But you should make it crystal clear that President Johnson feels that if commitments made to him, on which he has heavily relied, are not fulfilled our mutual efforts will suffer grave and devastating set back here which we cannot recover from soon.2

Rusk
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Intelligence File, Vietnamese (South) Elections 1967. Top Secret; Priority; Nodis; Literally Eyes Only for Ambassador. Drafted by Katzenbach on June 27, cleared by Walt Rostow, and approved by Katzenbach. Repeated as telegram CAP 67599 from Rostow to the President at the LBJ Ranch, where it was received at 6:29 p.m. on June 29. (Ibid.) The President stayed at the ranch June 29–July 9. (Ibid., President’s Daily Diary) On June 27 Thieu filed his formal candidacy application, listing Trinh Quoc Khanh, a leading Hoa Hao politician, as his running mate; later that day Ky announced that when he formally declared his candidacy, Nguyen Van Loc would be his running mate.
  2. According to telegram LBJWH 7135, June 29, the President thought this message was approved on June 27, but it had not been delivered. He asked Rostow to “please urge Bunker to get it delivered.” (Ibid., National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, White House Cables—Back Channels—Incoming, Outgoing)