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


  • Statement by Prince Sihanouk on U.S. Border Declaration
[Page 211]

Prince Sihanouk, at an April 30 press conference, has taken exception to the U.S. border declaration2 as useless, valueless and deceptive, on the basis of interpretations of this declaration in the New York Times and Washington Post.3 Secretary Rogers has sent you the attached memorandum (Tab A)4 based on early versions of the Sihanouk statement. Later versions and a report from the Australian Ambassador in Phnom Penh (Tab B) would indicate that Sihanouk rejected our border declaration at the press conference.5

Sihanouk’s basic complaint is that we have not accepted Cambodia’s borders as defined by it in our border declaration. However, in explaining the U.S. border declaration to Sihanouk, the Australian Ambassador made clear that this was not our intention. Sihanouk has accepted border declarations by other countries on this basis.

The French Ambassador in Phnom Penh has also informed the Australian Ambassador that Sihanouk rejected the idea of resuming relations with the U.S. at the press conference. The French Ambassador, considered a shrewd judge of Sihanouk, has concluded that Sihanouk is using the border declaration as a pretext for not resuming diplomatic relations. He thinks that Sihanouk may have been influenced to change his mind on relations with the U.S. after seeing the extent of North Vietnamese control in the Northeast, in Ratanakiri6 (see map at Tab C).7 Sihanouk may have concluded that he was powerless to prevent North Vietnamese infiltration and the only course open to him was to seek [Page 212] an understanding with the Vietnamese Communists. Sihanouk had just returned on April 30 from a week’s visit to the Northeast.8

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 505, Country Files, Far East, Cambodia, Vol. I, 8–69. Top Secret; Sensitive. Sent for information. A stamped note on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.
  2. See footnote 3, Document 48.
  3. In a May 6 letter to Mansfield, Rogers informed him that Sihanouk was referring to an April 15 New York Times editorial that stated: “the message does not specify what frontiers are being recognized, and, therefore, does not depart from the long-standing United States policy of remaining noncommittal on Cambodia’s border quarrels with South Vietnam and Thailand.” Rogers also told Mansfield that Sihanouk had incorrectly cited The Washington Post for an offending editorial and that the correct source was an April 13 article in The Evening Star that reported on State Department Spokesperson Carl E. Bartch’s press briefing given on April 12. The article reported: “U.S. officials insisted that this message does not in any way mean the United States is taking a position on the recurring boundary disputes, which Cambodia has with both Laos and South Vietnam. The message, they say, is essentially the same as Sihanouk has received from 40 other governments—but previously rejected from the United States.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 32 CAMB)
  4. Tab A was an April 30 memorandum from Rogers to Nixon, attached but not printed.
  5. Attached but not printed.
  6. Nixon underlined this word and wrote: “Can we hit this area?”
  7. Attached but not printed.
  8. Nixon highlighted the last two sentences and wrote: “H.K. very significant” and “(pass to Mansfield?)”. Kissinger called Mansfield to tell him he was sending the exchange of letters with Sihanouk and assured the Senator that “the President has gone out of his way to establish close relations.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File) In a May 5 memorandum to Nixon, Rogers recommended no comments, explanation, or further action until Sihanouk’s plans and motives became clear. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 505, Country Files, Far East, Cambodia, Vol. I, 8–69) After further representations and considerations, Sihanouk accepted a revised U.S. statement that the United States would “respect Cambodia’s independence and sovereignty with the present territorial boundaries.” Diplomatic relations were restored on July 2. For additional information see ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 17 CAMB–US.