Learn about the beta

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

SUBJECT

  • Report of Conversation with Sirik Matak

Attached is a report from General Haig of his conversation with First Deputy Prime Minister Sirik Matak.2 During the course of their conversation Matak indicated that:

  • —there is an urgent need for an armed force sufficiently strong to oust the enemy from Cambodian territory;
  • Sihanouk is finished in Cambodia and the people are just now realizing the role that Sihanouk played in collaborating with the enemy;
  • —Cambodia wishes to seek neutrality but would want to consult again with the United States on the question of neutrality if the situation reaches a state of emergency;
  • —Cambodia has agreed to forget past difficulties with the South Vietnamese, but the potential for trouble exists. One aspect that complicates the problem is VC/NVA infiltration into groups of Vietnamese inhabitants;
  • US air attacks in northeast Cambodia would be warmly welcomed;
  • Sihanouk has managed to project a false image of Cambodia to Senators like Mansfield and Fulbright. Cambodia was not a peaceful oasis; its soldiers were being killed by the VC every day long ago, but it was not publicized. The leadership merely closed its eyes while the fabric of the country was being destroyed;
  • —According to captured documents, the North Vietnamese planned to keep Sihanouk as long as he was useful to them and then to liquidate him.

General Haig observes that Matak appears to be the moving force in the Cambodian government although willing to give full deference to Lon Nol for the present. Although Matak accepts the value of continuing with an ostensibly neutral stance for Cambodia, he feels (as does General Haig) that this posture may not survive and that flexibility should be retained on this issue in the longer term.

  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.”
  2. Attached was a “near verbatim text” of the conversation between Haig and Sirik Matak which took place on May 23 at 6 p.m. in Matak's residence in Phnom Penh.