139. Letter From Secretary of State Rusk to Director of Central Intelligence McCone1

Dear John:

Regarding our conversation about Prince Sihanouk,2 I would make the following suggestions. The Princeʼs friend might find an occasion to see him again in order to comment on some of the things Sihanouk had told him in their last conversation. Obviously the friend would not have had a chance to visit Washington but he could say that he knows something of the atmosphere in Washington and would like to pass on to the Prince his own impressions.

The United States is both puzzled and distressed by the deterioration in relations with Cambodia. There has never been any doubt in the Kennedy or Johnson Administrations about the desirability of Cambodian independence, neutrality, security and prosperity. The United States has no national ambitions of any sort with respect to Cambodia except normally good relations.
The people in Washington are convinced that there is no serious obstacle in the way of significantly improved relations between Cambodia and its immediate neighbors, South Viet-Nam and Thailand. Indeed, the United States has used its influence in both the other capitals to assist in creating a receptive attitude toward such improved relations with Cambodia and is prepared to do more in that regard if an opportunity arises.
The people in Washington are under the impression that Prince Sihanouk is convinced that Peiping will inevitably dominate or overrun Southeast Asia. They are puzzled by this because they are determined to support in every way the security and independence of the free countries of that region. Therefore it is hard for them to understand attitudes or policies which might be based upon any notion that communism is the wave of the future in Southeast Asia.
The only interest of the United States in Southeast Asia is that the independent countries of that area be left alone by their neighbors and be permitted to work out their own policies in their own way as envisaged in the United Nations Charter. The United States wants no bases or military presence in the area. If there were full compliance with the Geneva Accords of 1954 and 1962 and no interference by illegal actions, American forces would go home.
The people in Washington are very much concerned about the abuse of Cambodian neutrality and territory by the Viet Cong. They recognize that Prince Sihanouk does not have the military forces necessary to enforce its neutrality against these unlawful bands but they hope that the United Nations Commission might be able to make suggestions which would protect the frontiers of Cambodia and avoid the incidents which occur back and forth across that border because of Viet Cong activity.
The people in Washington also feel that much of the misunderstanding between Washington and Phnom Penh could have been avoided, or could now be removed, if it were possible to have friendly, frank, but private conversations with Prince Sihanouk. They have felt that too much of the dialogue between the two governments has been carried out through public speeches and press releases on both sides and that what is needed is a thoughtful discussion of the situation. If Prince Sihanouk had any suggestions on this, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] would be glad to try to get them to the right people.


Dean Rusk 3
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DCI Executive Registry Files (McCone), Job 80–B01676. Secret.
  2. Not further identified.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.