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


  • Your meeting with Ambassador Emory C. Swank, Ambassador to Cambodia, on Friday, September 4

Purpose of the Meeting

Ambassador Swank has been confirmed by the Senate and is on his way to assume his post in Phnom Penh. Your meeting with Mr. Swank will be an opportunity to give him a clear impression of your policy toward Cambodia. A firm statement by you will arm him for his difficult task and help him to overcome the attitude of reticence which has characterized our Embassy in Phnom Penh under Chargé Rives up to now.2


Although Ambassador Swank has never visited Cambodia, he served as DCM in adjoining Laos from 1964–67 and is familiar with regional problems. Since his designation some six weeks ago he has had the opportunity to read in comprehensively on current Cambodian problems and US policy positions, consult with the appropriate US officials in Washington, and to discuss Cambodian sentiments and problems with the resident Cambodian Ambassador and those few Cambodian officials who have visited Washington. Biographic information is at Tab A.3

Talking Points

You may wish to make the following points:

  • —You do not want to see a communist government in Cambodia and want to do everything we can to prevent this.
  • Lon Nol should be given no reason to question the firmness of your intent to support Cambodia in its effort to protect its neutrality.
  • —You are going to continue to seek maximum possible help for Cambodia from its Asian neighbors.
  • —The flow of US military aid and economic assistance will continue; our air interdiction program will be broadly interpreted. You have up till now placed great reliance on Mr. Fred Ladd to manage the military assistance program. Although he is in Phnom Penh under State aegis and serves as a member of the Embassy staff, he is there because of his extensive military background. You will continue to look to him to manage the military assistance program.
  • —You are confident that he will find Ladd to be an effective individual who has thus far demonstrated a precise grasp of your objectives in Cambodia. You expect Ambassador Swank to give Ladd unusual leeway in the conduct of purely military affairs since Ladd was placed in Phnom Penh in lieu of establishing a formal high profiled military assistance group.4
  • —You want to stress the importance of the psychological benefits to Lon Nol and Cambodia which our aid can have.
  • —Every effort should be made to get more balanced and objective reporting of the situation in Cambodia by the press. This is vital to our securing the understanding and support needed in the US as basis for Congressional support of increased MAP and economic assistance to Cambodia. You have been especially disturbed by the biased reporting of the Associated Press team in Cambodia and hope that he will single out both Mr. Wheeler and especially Mr. Williams in an effort to achieve more balanced reporting from both of them.
  • —You consider Ambassador Swank as your personal representative and the head of the country team. You will back him to the hilt and look forward to hearing from him directly on his impressions and any recommendations he may have on ways to strengthen our Mission and to make our effort more effective.
  • —Ask Ambassador Swank to convey your personal warm best wishes to Lon Nol and your admiration for Cambodia’s efforts to defend its neutrality.5

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, President’s Office Files, Box 82, Memoranda for the President, Beginning August 30, 1970. Secret.
  2. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon, Kissinger, and Swank met at San Clemente from 10:16 to 10:50 a.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files) No further record of the meeting was found.
  3. Attached but not printed.
  4. In a September 3 memorandum to Kissinger, Haig recommended informing Swank that Rives’ “grasp of the President’s objectives in Cambodia has been less than satisfactory,” and that his team had not shown enough “impetus for establishing requirements for U.S. action.” Haig stated that Swank should be warned not to “play his role too heavily in military assistance,” lest the military “insist on a formal MAAG arrangement,” and that Ladd would “answer to Swank as Ambassador for normal country-team efforts, but will also play a special role in answering to the military chain of command.” He added that there had been cases in which instructions from the Department of State appeared “to clash with the President’s overall objectives,” and that if this occurred Swank should “backchannel directly for clarification.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 511, Country Files, Far East, Cambodia, Vol. X)
  5. Handwritten notes at the bottom of the page read: “Photo opp” and “Dr K will sit in.”