301. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Cambodia 1

077899. Joint State Defense Message. REF: (a) State 70781;2 (b) Phnom Penh 909 (Notal);3 (c) Saigon 7236 (Notal).4

[Page 996]
This message provides supplementary guidance to that contained ref (a), with specific reference to actions in Cambodia of GVN forces.
Operations of ARVN forces must be consistent with the objectives of Vietnamization. In Cambodia, therefore, they should be limited to North Vietnamese occupied territory where enemy military activities threaten Vietnamization. ARVN forces must strengthen their capacity to fight the NVA/VC in South Vietnam. We should accordingly urge GVN to keep eyes on NVA/VC forces in South Vietnam and to focus effort on exploitation of opportunities to seriously damage those forces which destruction of supplies in sanctuaries now affords.
We want to encourage South Vietnamese to maintain a flexible posture concerning future operations in Cambodia, which would have principal objectives of (a) deterring enemy from reestablishing his previous posture in sanctuary areas threatening allied forces in South Vietnam and (b) deterring enemy from moving aggressively against Phnom Penh and the port areas of southern Cambodia by creating uncertainty about GVN reaction.
We want to make clear that restrictions which apply to U.S. forces after June 30 do not apply to SVN forces. We would favor short duration ARVN operations in sanctuary areas where required to protect ARVN/US forces and promote progress of Vietnamization. Fact that ARVN forces free to conduct such operations will serve as deterrent to enemy efforts to reoccupy and rebuild bases and sanctuaries and, should he attempt to do so, should permit their quick neutralization. We would be prepared to provide logistic and artillery support from the SVN side of the border and air support where necessary for such ARVN operations. We would prefer air support be provided by GVN but would not preclude U.S. air support if essential. We would not provide any other support or use U.S. advisors or other personnel within Cambodia.
On the other hand, we wish to discourage wide-ranging ARVN operations designed primarily to support Lon Nol government itself. We would not want to see ARVN forces involved in actions which would either (a) serve as pretext for an enemy attack on Phnom Penh to establish both military and political control over all Cambodia or (b) risk serious ARVN defeat. We want it made absolutely clear to GVN that we do not intend to fulfill ARVN’s primary role of strengthening internal security in SVN.
At the same time, however, ARVN posture should be one which serves as deterrent to enemy assault on Phnom Penh or military effort designed to topple Lon Nol or to assert control over Cambodia. Accordingly, we prefer that no restrictions on ARVN operations be publicly stated. Actions should speak for themselves. Enemy should [Page 997] perceive clear threat that, if he does move against Phnom Penh or increase level of his military pressure on Cambodia, ARVN forces will not be restricted in efforts to stop him.
We should encourage the GVN and ARVN to think in terms of assisting the Government of Cambodia in restoring its authority as far as possible in certain former sanctuary areas. Close liaison between GVN and GOC officials developed in the course of such efforts will improve Saigon–Phnom Penh relations and facilitate possible use of ARVN forces in these areas should that prove necessary.
Traditional Cambodian sensitivities regarding Vietnamese forces on Cambodian soil must be borne in mind. Although the South Vietnamese Government has exercised commendable restraint in its treatment of Cambodians in South Vietnam and in repatriating Vietnamese from Cambodia, there have been examples of excessively high South Vietnamese posture in Cambodia, which, if continued, could give rise to serious frictions. There is accordingly a need for South Vietnamese to maintain restraint and caution.
With foregoing guidelines in mind it is essential we be fully consulted by GVN concerning any future operations in Cambodia. GVN also should coordinate closely with GOC.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27 CAMB/KHMER. Top Secret; Nodis; Khmer; Priority. Also sent to Saigon, CINCPAC, and MACV and repeated to Bangkok. Drafted by Johnson; cleared by Kissinger, Doolin (OSD/ISA), and Eliot; and approved by Rogers. An attached note from Kennedy to Johnson indicates that this telegram was approved by the President.
  2. Document 285.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 293.
  4. In telegram 7236 from Saigon, May 11, Berger reported on a conversation that Thieu and General Vien had in Tay Ninh that morning. Thieu feared that Lon Nol’s government was in danger of falling. He promised to take no action without consulting the United States, but wanted to know what could be done. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27 CAMB/KHMER)