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180. Memorandum From the President's Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to the Under Secretary of State (Richardson)1

SUBJECT

  • Aid to Cambodia

Prince Sihanouk's article on the US in the December Sangkum has every appearance of being a very thinly-disguised request for US [Page 566]assistance,2 made more palatable by his gratuitous defense of a US presence in Southeast Asia and of the Nixon Doctrine, and by his references to “Asiatic Communism”.

I should appreciate it if the Department of State would prepare for the President's consideration an evaluation of the pros and cons of a U.S. initiative to explore whether Cambodia is seriously interested in seeking a resumption of the aid relationship, and what if any Cambodia's specific requirements are.

There are of course serious factors militating against a US initiative in that direction, including budgetary stringency and the very difficulties which would be generated by a Congressional debate on Cambodia, plus the question whether an increased US role might increase Communist pressures. On the plus side, there would be the impact in Asia of this change in Sihanouk's attitude and of our willingness to help him; aid might also be justified if it would avert a threat to Cambodia's present stability.

I assume that any program would be a very modest one.

I would appreciate it if your evaluation would incorporate an examination of the types of economic or military aid which would be appropriate and the channels through which it might be offered.

This evaluation should be prepared by February 23.3

Henry A. Kissinger
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 19 US–CAMB. Top Secret; Sensitive. A copy was sent to Packard.
  2. See Document 181.
  3. On February 23 Richardson sent the President a memorandum as requested. The summary reads: “On balance, an offer of U.S. economic or military aid to Cambodia would be premature at the present time and could possibly create additional difficulties in U.S.-Cambodian relations. Sihanouk and his government may be gradually shifting their position to make resumption of American aid possible in a post-Viet-Nam context, but we do not believe that the Cambodians expect such an offer now. When such aid becomes appropriate, it should be channeled through multilateral or regional agencies. The Special Funds of the Asian Development Bank could be a particularly suitable means.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Country Files, Far East, Cambodia, Vol. II, September 1969 to 9 April 1970) This memorandum was not sent to the President and the following note appears on the top of the first page: “OBE'd per Grant [Lindsey Grant of the NSC staff] 4/22.”