226. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Cambodia

Attached is an interesting commentary on the situation in Cambodia which was written on March 23 by Brigadier F.P. Serong, a retired Australian army officer who has specialized in studying insurgency and spent a great deal of time in Southeast Asia.2 Brigadier Serong makes the following points:

  • Sihanouk colluded with right wing elements to run a pseudo-coup during his trip abroad, and planned to return to “re-establish” the situation. However, he was betrayed.
  • Sihanouk will try to establish a government-in-exile.
  • —Cambodian border province chiefs are deeply involved with Hanoi, the NLF and Peking.
  • —With NVA/VC military support, Sihanouk probably could get the allegiance of the four northern province chiefs and topple the Phnom Penh government in a few months. Ultimately, he would hand Cambodia over to Hanoi.
  • —Ninety percent of the income of the southeast Cambodian province chiefs comes from supplying the enemy through Sihanoukville. As it becomes clear that the new government cannot control the traffic, the province chiefs, who are presently quiescent, will get back in the supply business.3
  • —The Cambodian government needs strengthening. We must take positive action and can do so by proxy through the GVN, who will probably act if the U.S. approves.

The GVN should:

  • —Announce support for Phnom Penh and invite Thailand to do so.
  • —Help Phnom Penh secure Sihanoukville; some 3,000 Khmer Serai in the Delta could be offered.
  • —Make combat liaison arrangements in Northeast Cambodia with the Royal Khmer Army. This could produce a most uncomfortable situation for the NVA.
  • —Phnom Penh must assert control in the Capital and in Sihanoukville and also maintain pressure in the Northeast. This could produce cooperation from the border province chiefs and logistical strangulation of enemy efforts in the South.
  • —The present Deputy Prime Minister Sirik Matak is capable of replacing Sihanouk as a national father figure.4

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 506, Country Files, Far East, Cambodia, Vol. II, September 1969–9 April 1970. Confidential. Sent for information.
  2. Attached but not printed.
  3. Nixon highlighted this paragraph and wrote: “K, we’d better see what Helms can do to pay them off.” On April 15 Kissinger sent Helms a memorandum asking if it was true that 90 percent of the income of the southeastern province chiefs of Cambodia came from allowing supplies to pass to the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese through Sihanoukville. Kissinger asked if this traffic would resume once it became clear that the Lon Nol Government could not control it. Kissinger then asked for CIA’s views on these assumptions and “whether or not it would be possible through discreet use of funds to prevail upon these province chiefs to refrain from their trafficking in supplies to the enemy.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 506, Country Files, Far East, Cambodia, Vol. II, September 1969–9 April 1970)
  4. At the end of the memorandum Nixon wrote: “K, These may be way out ideas. But they do show some imagination. I want Helms & State & Defense & your staff to give me some options other than just ‘letting the dust settle.’”