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225. Memorandum for the Record1

SUBJECT

  • Minutes of the Meeting of the 40 Committee, 10 April 1970

PRESENT

  • Mr. Kissinger, Mr. Elliot Richardson, Mr. Packard, and Mr. Helms
  • Messrs. Thomas Karamessines, William Nelson, and Marshall Green and General Haig were also present.

Cambodian Request for Military Assistance

a.
The Chairman [Kissinger] stated that he had convened a special urgent meeting of the 40 Committee at the request of higher authority to consider the message received the previous day from Chargé Rives (Phnom Penh 485).2
b.
Immediate cognizance was taken of the fact that the request conveyed in the message for arms for Cambodia was not only vague and apparently exaggerated but also unofficial. It was not clear that it had the official backing of the Cambodian Government, even though the intermediary was Prime Minister Lon Nol's brother.
c.
A considerable discussion ensued during which the following decisions were taken: [Page 801]
(1)
Since Chargé Rives is expected to see Prime Minister Lon Nol imminently, the State Department will dispatch a message immediately instructing him to ascertain from the Prime Minister if the arms request is indeed official, and if so, ask the Prime Minister to designate someone in whom he has confidence with whom the U.S. can work on the problem.
(2)
Following designation of the Prime Minister's intermediary, we should ascertain precisely what the Cambodians think their arms requirements are. It was recognized that there probably would be both real and psychological elements in their requirements.
(3)
Mr. Packard undertook to determine what stocks of arms and ammunition of communist origin exist in the U.S. and in South Vietnam which would be available to fill the Cambodian needs. He stated he would have a paper prepared on this by 13 April.3
(4)
Mr. Green's proposal that a telegram he had prepared be sent to Paris was approved with a modification suggested by the Chairman.4 The thrust of this message was to encourage the French to provide military assistance to the Cambodian Government.
(5)
Various methods of delivering the arms and ammunition to the Cambodians without the U.S. hand showing were discussed. It was the consensus that if sufficient captured communist arms are available in South Vietnam, the quickest, cheapest, easiest and most secure delivery could be accomplished from there, assuming the GVN would cooperate. It was agreed that further consideration of making arms deliveries with the assistance of the Indonesians or the Thais would be held in abeyance for the time being. The CIA undertook to explore the possibilities of the Cambodians making open purchases from Belgian arms dealers with covert U.S. funds provided for this purpose.
d.
The Chairman stated that following receipt of Mr. Packard's paper and a report from Chargé Rives on his meeting with Prime Minister Lon Nol, he would convene a meeting next week to discuss this subject further.
Frank M. Chapin
  1. Source: National Security Council, Nixon Intelligence Files, 303/40 Committee Minutes, 1970. Secret; Eyes Only. Copies were sent to Mitchell, Packard, Johnson, and Helms. Chapin sent this memorandum to Kissinger under cover of an April 13 memorandum for his approval and Kissinger initialed it. Holdridge prepared a briefing paper for Kissinger for this meeting in which he attempted to “sketch out the issues” and provide recommendations about such major questions as how much interest the United States had in the Lon Nol regime, and whether the Lon Nol government was solid enough to warrant support, as well as a number of other related issues. (Memorandum from Holdridge to Kissinger, April 10; National Security Council, Subject Files, Cambodia, 1970)
  2. In telegram 485 from Phnom Penh, April 9, Rives reported that an Embassy official met on April 9 with Commander of the Phnom Penh Gendarmerie, Lon Non (Lon Nol's younger brother), “in what was obviously to be first semi-official probe here for US arms aid.” Rives instructed the Embassy official to listen and explain that the United States needed assurances, at least from Sirik Matak, that these were authorized requests. According to Lon Non, the “immediate need is for 100,000 to 150,000 weapons to supply expanding army. Ultimate need will be from 200 to 250,000 weapons and arms.” Lon Non made it clear he was speaking for his brother. Although Rives considered the quantities of the request exaggerated, he concluded: “I believe we must do something to help the Cambodians help themselves since their present efforts are to our benefit; no troops and only limited aid given indirectly.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 19 US–CAMB) Kissinger refers to this telegram in White House Years, p. 470.
  3. Nutter made an oral report on this issue to the Washington Special Actions Group at its meeting on April 14 (Document 230). The WSAG rather than the 40 Committee became the forum for further decision of covert aid to Cambodia.
  4. Sent as telegram 053784 to Paris, April 11. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–073, WSAG Meeting, 4/14/70, Cambodia and Laos)