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

11066. Department literally eyes only for Ambassador Bunker. Ref: Saigon 10987.2

1.
In conversation with Calhoun November 11, Kieu made a direct request for U.S. financial assistance to support development of a pro-government political party. As noted in reftel, Kieu seemed to be thinking also of government financial support for a “loyal opposition” party. Although his presentation was rather imprecise and confused he gave the impression that the financial aid they would like from us would be used for the development of political parties in general, thus presumably including any assistance they might give to an opposition grouping. He stressed that the problems of initial organization and facilities were particularly difficult and posed requirements for financial resources which were not available to either a pro-government or a loyal opposition grouping.
2.
In terms of loyal opposition, he seemed to be thinking of relatively tame supporters of Tran Van Huong and the Lien Truong and perhaps some Dai Viets, and not the more vocally critical elements, such as the militant Buddhists, represented to some degree in the lower house. As indicated, Calhoun cautioned against trying to create what may be largely artificial groupings which seem to fit their conception of what should be encouraged, rather than permitting natural political forces and trends to shape the structure to some degree. Kieu seemed to have in mind setting up two favored groups which could in effect take turns being the party in power.
3.
Calhoun was of course non-committal about possibilities of furnishing any financial assistance, pointing out the difficulties posed and saying simply that he would look into the matter.
4.
Comment: It is our assumption that Kieu was speaking on behalf of President Thieu since the latter had designated him as liaison for such matters with us. This approach tends to support the conclusion you reached during your meeting with Calhoun and Lapham last week, namely, that it would be useful to obtain authorization [Page 1027]for certain funds to be used selectively in accordance with your own judgments on the spot. We recommend that you pursue this idea in Washington and we can then discuss the answer to be made to Kieu after you return. We will certainly need to know more about their thinking and the form we think it should take before reaching a conclusion on Kieu’s request.
Locke
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, AID (US) VIET S. Secret; Nodis. Received at 2:23 a.m.
  2. Telegram 10987 from Saigon, November 13, reported separately on the aspect of the discussion between Calhoun and Nguyen Van Kieu, Thieu’s brother, on November 11, specifically concerning appointments in the office of the Vietnamese President. (Ibid., POL 15 VIET S)