184. Note From the Presidentʼs Special Assistant (Rostow) to President
Washington, June 25, 1966, 4:15 p.m.
This lively account confirms your instinct about Sihanouk.
I checked with George Ball to make
sure they staff out and act on some of the Cambodia recommendations we
Mr. President, you can smell it all over: Hanoiʼs operation, backed by
the Chicoms, is no longer being regarded as the wave of the future out
there. U.S. power is beginning to be felt.
Weʼre not in; but weʼre moving.2
Telegram 5762 From the Embassy in Vietnam to the
Department of State3
- DʼOrlandi, Italian Ambassador, called to tell me of his trip
to Cambodia, to which he is accredited, and where he went to
make his official farewell call.
- Evidently DʼOrlandi carried out my request that he not give
impression that everything was falling apart in Viet-Nam. When
he told Sihanouk that Ky
was in a solid position here, Sihanouk said that Ky was the only Vietnamese
who “has not smeared me in his speeches.” He evidently felt less
antagonistic to Ky than he has to any other Vietnamese.
- He said he wanted to resume normal diplomatic intercourse with
Viet-Nam and DʼOrlandi felt there was a better atmosphere on
this subject than he, DʼOrlandi, had ever noticed.
- Apparently, when Lord Walston was in Cambodia recently, he
revived the idea of Cambodian-Vietnamese teams to inspect the
border. This had been a Diem proposal, which Sihanouk had turned down in
1962. Sihanouk said he
was still against it because he did not want to get entangled in
internal affairs with Viet-Nam. According to Sihanouk, “All Vietnamese are
ʼB—S.ʼ” Sihanouk wants to stay neutral.
He is happy to have a powerful, and much larger International
Control Commission in Cambodia, provided he does not have to pay
anything, since “I havenʼt a penny.” Instead of charging him
with helping the Viet Cong, there should be a larger
International Control Commission, which, Sihanouk said, would be
specifically authorized by him to establish fixed posts in
cities, harbors, and along the frontier and take their jeeps
wherever they wanted. He said they could go wherever they wanted
to and in any number, and there would be no limit on the extent
which they would be allowed to inspect.
- When DʼOrlandi asked whether the Italian Military Attache
would go, Sihanouk said
he would be delighted and would instruct his Chief of Staff
accordingly, adding that the Military Attaches have all visited
the so-called Sihanouk
trail and have found nothing.
- What, he asked, can he do with 30,000 men when 900,000
Americans and Vietnamese are unable to cope with the
- DʼOrlandi said that he was sure that Sihanouk means what he says and
that he detected absolutely “no nonsense” about being tied up
with the Chinese Communists.
- Turning to Thailand, Sihanouk said that he realized that the Thais
might not accept, but he wanted to ask the Thais to join him so
that “both of us” would sign a communique stating that both
would respect the present border. Sihanouk said he didnʼt care about the Khmer
Serei. All he wanted was to ask the Thais to sign the statement
with him and both sides to respect the borderline. DʼOrlandi
commented that quite a lot could be achieved under this.
Sihanouk admitted that
this was no time for negotiations with North Viet-Nam.
DʼOrlandi, reflecting our conversation before he left, asked
Sihanouk whether he
had told Peking and Hanoi that if they had accepted President
Johnsonʼs offer of April 7, 1965, negotiations would have
started with only 30,000 American advisers in Viet-Nam? Now
there were 265,000 fighting men, and if you wait eight or nine
months more there will be almost a half-million fighting men.
“Do your friends,” DʼOrlandi asked, “realize the implications of
Sihanouk said this was a
good point, but he didnʼt know what could be done about it. What
could Italy do?
- DʼOrlandi said Italy was aware of its limitations, and
Sihanouk told him not
to be so modest.
- DʼOrlandi then said that “Our great ally is in favor of
negotiations, and yours isnʼt. It is up to you to do
- DʼOrlandi then said it was his impression that Sihanouk does not rely on China
to save him if he is attacked. In fact, he relies on no one. He
is very bitter and pessimistic about his own prospects and that
of his country, saying, “They can murder us anytime. The United
States is the biggest logistic and military power in the world.
I just have a few old jeeps, and no gasoline to put into them.”
DʼOrlandi then described his conversation with the Australian
Embassy in Cambodia. They were absolutely flat in their
assertions that there had never been a trace of Viet Cong in
Cambodia. They believe Sihanouk is acting in good faith and really
neutral. The Australians said that the Chinese Communist
Ambassador was really embarrassed Saturday morning when
Sihanouk made his
offer to the Thais.
Sihanouk says that “In
the whole of Southeast Asia, there are no more anti-Communist
measures than I have taken in Cambodia.” DʼOrlandi backed this
up, and said the police measures regarding the Communists are
- DʼOrlandi called on the Secretary-General of the Foreign
Office, who is “terrified” of the U.S. might in Viet-Nam, and
said “It will be [Page 403] worse
for Hanoi next year, and yet they wonʼt discuss.” The
Secretary-General of the Foreign Office expects to meet Sainteny
on the 27th.
Sihanouk stressed the
need for understanding with the West; he is proud of being on
good terms with Australia and Japan; he has invited three U.S.
Senators to come to Cambodia (he did not give DʼOrlandi their
- DʼOrlandi theory is that the Viet Cong order rice through
Chinese traders in Phnom Penh, then it is transported by truck
close to the border where there is no one. Then the Viet Cong
cross the border and fetch it. There is no direct contact. The
Chinese donʼt deliver. They just leave it. If the ICC were in Cambodia, with fixed
posts, they would know. DʼOrlandi believes there are no men
coming through Cambodia, but supplies—“Truck loads of