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307. Memorandum From the President's Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1

SUBJECT

  • Conversation with Lon Nol

Attached is a report from General Haig of his two-hour conversation with General Lon Nol.2 During the discussion the Cambodian leader stressed that:

  • —The Cambodian people are behind him and ready to make sacrifices, but he must demonstrate an effective resistance to the enemy. It is imperative to expand the Cambodian government's presence throughout the countryside.
  • —Cambodia must have the wherewithal to resist, and it can't wait too long.
  • —Cambodia critically needs:
    • • light arms to equip 50,000 troops;
    • • additional air support;
    • • assistance in equipping and training Khmers in South Vietnam and Thailand (the Thais have promised to form one brigade and two regiments);
    • • help in keeping the Mekong River open.
  • —His government is definitely in the anti-communist struggle and will gladly enter the US bloc of nations if necessary.

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In his brief assessment of this conversation General Haig concludes that:

  • —The Cambodian leadership has burned its bridges completely and is resolved to hold firm.
  • —The leadership is badly shaken, if not desperate, and we must move promptly with more concrete manifestations of US support.
  • Lon Nol is emotional and not very realistic (towards the end of the conversation he broke down). It would prove fatal to his government if he were to continue to expect a massive infusion of US assistance.
  • —Our most urgent task is to get the Cambodians to launch a realistic action program with essentially short-range goals designed to retain the support of the Cambodian people.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 509, Country Files, Far East, Cambodia, Vol. VI, 23 May 1970–4 June 1970. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. A stamped notation on the memorandum reads: “The President has seen.” Nixon sent Haig to Cambodia and South Vietnam from May 19–26 to discuss with Lon Nol, Sirik Matak, Thieu, and other Cambodian and South Vietnamese officials the issue of U.S. and South Vietnamese military aid to Cambodia. (Ibid., NSC Files, Box 1010, Haig Special File, Vietnam/Cambodia, Haig's Trip, May 19–26, 1970) On May 19 Rogers telephoned Kissinger to ask about Haig's trip and whether “we are making representations to Lon Nol” and if the President was sending Lon Nol a letter. Kissinger replied that only one letter would be sent that introduced Haig, who was going to provide “some estimate of the situation, military effectiveness and what the problems are. A fact-finding mission.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 363, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File) For a critical account of the mission, see Shaw-cross, Sideshow, pp. 161–165.
  2. Attached was a “near verbatim text” of the conversation between Haig and Lon Nol which took place on May 23 at 10 a.m. in Lon Nol's office in Phnom Penh.