167. Telegram From the Department of State to Secretary of State Rusk at Paris1
Washington, December 14, 1965, 8:24 p.m.
Tosec 26. For Secretary from Bundy.
- In accordance with your instructions I talked to Ritchie today at length about possible ICC role in Cambodia.2
- Just prior to our talk we received text Sihanouk December 13 speech asking ICC to investigate shipments through Sihanoukville including suggested detailed investigation RKG military installations and accounts, by implication to verify that all military equipment designed for legitimate RKG use. We agreed this speech in any event precipitates need for ICC consultation whether to assume such role.
- I told Ritchie we had two main areas of concern. First was continuing border area problem in which we continued receive evidence at least some VC use of Cambodia and believed that PAVN/VC forces must have retreated into Cambodia during Plei Me action. We reviewed history UN recommendations for 3000 men to do effective job of policing [Page 370] frontier to deter and inhibit VC use of Cambodia. I said that while we had generally agreed in past with Canadian position that border investigations dubious under particular ICC Charter for Cambodia and in practice tended to result in RKG requests and cooked cases, we nonetheless felt subject needed reexamination to see if ICC could move more effectively.
- I said our second area of concern was possibility that, as PAVN strength increased and Laos route made more difficult by our air actions (which I frankly admitted off the record), Hanoi might put pressure on Sihanouk for more extensive use of Sihanoukville. (This possibility highlighted in current intelligence community study.) I therefore said there might be real and immediate usefulness in following up on Sihanoukʼs own request for supervision, although we would have to weigh carefully whether such supervision might only result in whitewash and concealment of illicit traffic.
- Ritchie responded on preliminary basis that they believed Sihanoukville military installations project fitted much more readily into current ICC terms of reference, and that their ICC man had already become engaged in inspecting manifests of ships calling at Sihanoukville since October. (We agreed this in itself proved very little.) We agreed that, whatever possibilities might be for developing necessarily extensive project on border areas, Canadians should get judgment from their ICC representative of manpower it would take to do Sihanoukville installations job adequately and thus at least to inhibit future extensive use this supply route.
- We further agreed that any action to augment current extremely limited ICC capabilities (only four men total) might require consultation among ICC members and with Co-Chairmen. I said that we had not come to any firm conclusions on this, but would be prepared to talk quietly to British and would not rule out possibility our making some financial contribution.
- Our discussion of course represents only first step toward engaging ICC effectively in Cambodia problem. Sihanoukville installation is probably much the lesser problem for now from our standpoint, but it seemed to me, especially in light of Sihanoukʼs speech, a real entering wedge. I frankly continue to feel that, even as to Sihanoukville project but especially as to border areas problem, half a loaf may be worse than none. Inadequately staffed inspections could produce phony results or be used, as they have been in the past, to indict GVN and ourselves without getting at the VC as the root of the matter. Nonetheless, the Sihanoukville project does seem worth following, and I am reporting the conversation to you currently in case you should have further conversations with Paul Martin or conceivably with Michael Stewart.