423. Note From the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Bundy) to Secretary of State Rusk1
Washington, December 1, 1967.
Phil Habib and I have discussed this situation, including Walt Rostow’s memorandum.2 Our key conclusions are these:
- The handling of Buttercup does depend on Thieu working things out with Ky, and either directly or through Ky with Loan. Thieu will almost certainly see this as clearly as we do.
- While Buttercup is in trouble, we are by no means without hope on it. Our latest [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] information is that Ky has persuaded Loan to stay, and there might quite well be enough give in Loan’s present views to permit at least the release of Sau Ha. The press leak conceivably could reflect the kind of muttering and spreading of the story depicted in the two [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] reports I gave you, which so far as we can tell ante-dates the information—apparently reliable—that Loan is back aboard.
- In any event, quiet discussion between Bunker and Thieu will give us a much clearer reading, and this is obviously what Bunker intends to do without any further instructions from us.
- We believe Walt Rostow is way ahead of the game both in the suggestion that anything be done to get Loan clean out of the picture at this stage, and in the suggestion that Bunker try to press Thieu on the whole GVN attitude toward the future of NLF supporters. On the former, it seems entirely possible that Loan is back in the fold, and in any event his forced departure might deepen the very split that it is essential to heal. As to the GVN basic attitude toward the NLF, Bunker has already made crystal clear his belief that any pressure on this point is wholly premature. He did this in September in rejecting Walt’s draft letter from the President, and he has repeated this view during his recent consultations with both Phil and myself. Bunker has made leading comments in this direction in his talks with Thieu and Loc since his return, and it seems apparent to us that he knows what he is doing and is handling this aspect at just the proper pace.