241. Draft Telegram From Secretary of State Rusk to the Ambassador to Vietnam (Bunker)1

For Ambassador Bunker from the Secretary of State.

I concur in the program of action you outlined in your message to me of July 11.2 However, I wish to ensure that our program of advice to Ky is in support of the Thieu-Ky ticket, with Ky as the organizational focal point, and is not a device that Ky can use as leverage to maneuver Thieu aside. Thus, you should inform Ky through the established channel that he needs to work out his relationship with Thieu to their mutual satisfaction and campaign energetically within the framework of those understandings. Continuation of our action program should be firmly based on the precondition that Ky and Thieu do in fact achieve a clear understanding between them on their relationship in the campaign and after the elections. I realize that such a relationship will be subject to change in light of developments.
In this connection, we have better contact with Ky than Thieu, and what we know of the Thieu-Ky relationship comes largely from [Page 615] Ky or from Ky supporters. We need adequate access to Thieu so we can cross check Ky’s version of his understandings with Thieu. Moreover, we need a better relationship with Thieu to avoid his misunderstanding our position and to allay those suspicions of us that seem to bother him.
Regarding your last paragraph, it is my understanding that the program consists of guidance and advice in return for information and influence and that any recommendation regarding material support will be submitted to Washington for approval. Material support is to be considered within the effort outlined in your para 3E and will not involve direct financing of the Thieu-Ky presidential campaign itself.
Independently of the effort with Ky, modest financial support for individual candidates for the legislature is acceptable in principle and I await your recommendations.
I would welcome your views regarding the relationship we should develop with any of the major civilian candidates. We think such relationships could be more or less open and could usefully serve to show Thieu and Ky that we are interested in real competition. They would also meet possible leakage concerning our role vis-à-vis Ky and cover the contingency of a civilian victory.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Intelligence File, Vietnamese (South) Elections 1967. Secret; Sensitive. An attached covering note from Read to Rusk, July 13, indicates that Habib drafted the cable; Bundy, Katzenbach, and the CIA cleared it; and Rostow’s clearance would be sought before its transmission. An attached covering memorandum from Rostow to Rusk, July 14, reads: “The President is against any financial support to candidates in the Vietnamese elections—presidential or parliamentary.” According to notations on the covering note, the telegram was received in Saigon on June 16 via CAS channels, but a copy of it as sent has not been found.
  2. Document 235.