286. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Thomas Karamessines, Central Intelligence Agency
  • David Packard, Deputy Secretary of Defense
  • Warren Nutter, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs
  • Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, Acting Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • Ambassador U. Alexis Johnson, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
  • Marshall Green, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
  • Colonel Richard T. Kennedy, NSC Staff


  • Meeting of WSAG Principals on Cambodia

Johnson: I want to call your attention to these cables: Phnom Penh 8372—the Market Time extension to 103. Also Saigon 71323 on captured Cambodians. Then, Phnom Penh 842 and DAO 1274—the request for T–28 munitions. And Phnom Penh 8555Abrams says he cannot execute the message.

[At 3:25 Dr. Kissinger arrives.]6

Kissinger: The problem is the ARVN operations. We need to establish the ground rules.

Moorer: Phase I of the Cuu Long operation goes like this. It begins Saturday night and ends on 31 May. It goes into Base Area 704, [Page 954] the Uni Al base area, and relieves the vicinity of Takeo and Kampot. The Takeo/Kampot portion is tied together with the Market Time operation.

Kissinger: How can we block it out for only a month? We have two types of operations—the one with ARVN with U.S. advisors must be approved by the President. And the other is ARVN operations without U.S. advisors.

Johnson: Can we defend this as a sanctuary operation?

Moorer: Yes, as an effort to destroy the LOC from Laos to the sea.

Johnson: The Secretary has some doubts.

Packard: There are strong reasons for doing it.

Green: Will they find caches?

Moorer: They will in the base areas and possibly elsewhere.

Kissinger: We will want the views of the Secretaries.

Moorer: Abrams told Thieu no on the move to Kampong Cham.

We have an operation against 701, to begin on Wednesday.

Kissinger: 701 is not an issue.

[All agree that 701 is going ahead.]

Moorer: There is a strike against the Sekong River at the Cambodia/Laos border.

Packard: We have approved this. Abrams will give 12 hours notice before the strike.

Kissinger: Do all of you agree?

[All do agree.]

Moorer: All U.S. forces from 702 are withdrawing on the 16th.

[All agree that we don’t announce this until they are actually out.]

Moorer: We have an Abrams message on Lowenstein and Moose. They are pressing on the Khmer Krom.

Johnson: A telegram says that General Minh of the JCS of South Vietnam says the South Vietnamese delivery of AK–47s was all nonsense. It didn’t happen. Johnson has had Ted Eliott call Carl Marcy [of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee] to straighten it out and also sent a cable to Sam Berger.

We have to have freedom of action to let others help without losing our aid. We have to have freedom of action for the Vietnamese to move farther than our limits. And we need freedom to continue to give them small arms.

Kissinger: When does this come up in the House?

Johnson: I don’t know. The committee is in executive session today.

Packard: I don’t know whether we can work out language we can live with.

[Page 955]

[All agree we should try.]

Moorer: Abrams is ready to deliver the uniform items.

[All agree to execute.]

Kissinger: What is the legal situation on the T–28s?

Packard: We must have a Presidential Determination and notify the Congress.

Kissinger: Can we wait to decide or notify them later after the Congress?

Packard: We could decide later. But what about Cambodia’s financial situation? We have to give support. I doubt we can.

Kissinger: What about the Green plan—the claim on the rubber plantations?

Green: It won’t work. The Congress would sniff it out.

Kissinger: Can they use Thai and replace them?

Nutter: We can’t exchange without a determination.

Packard: This is about the best approach.

Nutter: We can’t permit the Thais to give them.

Kissinger: Even for trade?

Nutter: Yes.

Green: What about a repair team?

Nutter: It will take six months at least.

Moorer: That is why it is better to exchange.

Nutter: But the Thai won’t be happy.

Green: Can Lon Nol buy it?

Nutter: Only if we have a determination.

Packard: My concern is that Congress might tie down the Presidential Determination authority. The Senate is talking about removing the President’s Determination authority.

Nutter: It’s a $25–30 million annual operating cost.

Green: There is $25 million in Paris tied up in an argument between the Vietnamese and the Cambodians. This is not applicable. But I doubt we could use these funds.

Packard: The most effective would be GVN air support. We could back them up in South Vietnam.

Karamessines: Has the President precluded U.S. tac air after June 30?

Kissinger: No.

Packard: Is it better to let the GVN do tac air than try to get into aircraft supply?

Green: We should ask Rives. The Cambodians are suspicious.

[Page 956]

Packard: The Cambodians want planes.

Green: Can they buy them commercially?

Karamessines: Time is against this.

Green: Can the South Vietnamese air force come in and repair and help them?

Packard: The South Vietnamese have fair maintenance capability.

Kissinger: Ask Harlow what problems a determination would cause.

Moorer: We have to do it quickly if it’s to be any use.

Kissinger: Let’s see what South Vietnamese air support could do. Also what they do for maintenance.

Karamessines: What about the Thai Khmer? Support would cost $1 million per month for 3,000 of them.

Packard: We would have a problem with funds. We will have to ask MACTHAI whether there are funds available.

Kissinger: What about South Vietnamese extension of the operations without U.S. advisors? I think we should disagree.

Green: I agree we should discourage it.

Kissinger: The President’s views are this. We should keep in that posture as a deterrent to, not as a pretext for, North Vietnamese operations against Phnom Penh. They should have general instructions that we don’t rule it out but we should keep it as a deterrent. I think we should discourage them from taking off on operations on their own. They should not run off all over Cambodia. The idea is to keep it as a threat, but hold back.

[All agree.]

[Green will draft a message.]7

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–114, WSAG Minutes, Originals, 1969–1970. Secret; Sensitive. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room.
  2. Not found.
  3. In telegram 7132 from Saigon, May 9, the Embassy suggested that the Department would want to explore with the Department of Defense the question of legal and political issues related to the capture of Cambodians during U.S.–GVN operations against the sanctuaries. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–074, WSAG Meeting, Cambodia, 5/14/70)
  4. Telegram 842 from Phnom Penh, May 10, recommended that the Department of State give attention and recommended supplying some of the requirements listed in USDAO 127 from Phnom Penh. (Ibid., NSC Files, Box 589, Cambodian Operations (1970), Cambodia Nodis/Khmer (Vol. II), through 25 May 1970) USDAO 127 has not been found.
  5. In telegram 855 from Phnom Penh, May 11, Rives reported that Cambodian General Pok Sam An had requested that US/ARVN forces near Kompong Cham attack besieging VC/NVN forces to aid in the defense of the town. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27 CAMB/KHMER)
  6. All brackets in the source text.
  7. In a separate summary of conclusions, May 11, the following decisions were noted: “1. The operation against 701 would begin Wednesday. 2. There would be a strike against the Sekong River at the Cambodia/Laos border. Abrams would give 12 hours notice before the strike. 3. No announcement would be made regarding U.S. troop withdrawal from 702 on the 16th until the U.S. forces were actually out. 4. We should try to work out language acceptable to us and to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in order that (a) others could help without losing their aid; (b) the Vietnamese could move farther than out limits; (c) we could continue to give them [Cambodia] small arms. 5. Abrams should deliver the uniform items. The President’s views were relayed to the group. We should discourage the South Vietnamese from extending operations without U.S. advisers. We should keep them in that posture as a deterrent to, not as a pretext for, North Vietnamese operations against Phnom Penh. The South Vietnamese should not run all over Cambodia. The idea was to keep it as a threat, but hold back. A message would be drafted to that effect.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–074, WSAG Meeting, Cambodia, 5/11/70)