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

39172. Subject: Cambodian Negotiations. Refs: A. Phnom Penh 3063;2 B. Phnom Penh 3041.3

This is to recapitulate for you the series of efforts made over the last months to bring about a negotiated settlement in Cambodia. Since Sept we have pursued various channels with the overriding objective of arranging a compromise solution. In Sept we broached the idea of an international conference on the question with the PRC and the USSR with no response. The Secretary also discussed with the PRC [Page 639]representative to the UNGA the general elements of a peaceful settlement on the basis of a sharing of power. What we were seeking was to gain Soviet and Chinese support for moves that would bring about an end to the hostilities in Cambodia and provide an ongoing political framework. We received no substantive positive response to these overtures.
During the Secretary’s trip to China in late November he spoke to PRC officials with great specificity about the possibility of a peaceful settlement of the war in Cambodia. Once again he indicated our readiness to see a compromise settlement in which all elements could play a role, including Sihanouk, and said that we were not wedded to any personalities. The Chinese showed no more interest in pursuing the subject than they had previously and nothing was accomplished.4
In December the Secretary also attempted to facilitate a channel through UNGA President Bouteflika to representatives of the Khmer Rouge. The Secretary spoke to Bouteflika about the desirability of a peaceful settlement and the factors involved. Nothing came of that.5
As you are aware, in December and early January we made a major effort through the intermediary of the French. Manach reported that as a result of conversations with Sihanouk and the Chinese, he believed Sihanouk was prepared to see a peaceful settlement with a government being formed under his authority and composed of a coalition of various elements. The President discussed the matter with Giscard in Martinique and the Secretary met with high-level French representatives in Washington to lay out the elements of a settlement to be explored with Sihanouk, in accordance with the views he had expressed to Manach. Sihanouk agreed to receive a high level French intermediary armed with our views, but the Chinese were not willing to issue the necessary visa. Sihanouk then told Manach the visit would have to be “postponed” but it was clear that the postponement was indefinite. Sihanouk explicitly attributed this change of mind to opposition from the Khmer Rouge.6
Our latest effort, of which you are aware, was an attempt to establish direct contact with Sihanouk ourselves. We sought to do so through the Chinese, whose assistance is essential to the effort. They have so far given us no response. Thus, there are no new developments in our efforts either to establish contact with Sihanouk or to pursue the earlier French initiative.
With regard to our latest effort to make direct contact, it is conceivable that the Chinese were waiting for Sihanouk to return from Hanoi and it is still possible that we will receive a reply. But for the moment this is sheer speculation and provides no basis for policy decisions or actions.
You should understand that in these efforts we have made clear to the Chinese and to Sihanouk that we are fully in accord with the objective of seeing formed in Cambodia a government under his authority composed of all tendencies except Lon Nol. We have said that any settlement must offer assurance of durability, and that if an agreement could be reached on the objective of a settlement we were confident that a way to achieve it could be found. The absence of a positive response, for which we presume Khmer Rouge opposition is a key factor, indicates they they clearly prefer pursuing a military course.
In sum, in all of these cases our efforts were rebuffed. Under these circumstances lectures on the subject of pursuing a negotiated settlement are inappropriate. You may be sure that we will inform you of new reactions if they occur. But you must understand that we cannot create such developments overnight in the face of obvious Communist confidence in their military position on the spot, particularly with the closure, hopefully temporary, of the Mekong. What is needed from you to contribute to our negotiating objectives is a steady hand in Phnom Penh to shore up the GKR as a government and as a fighting force. Your role is of key importance both in terms of how the US appears to the Khmer and in terms of giving the congressional group (when it comes) an impression of steadiness and confidence.
This is all for your information only. If in your judgment you must tell Lon Nol something, you should tell him simply that so far we have been unable to make contact with Sihanouk in Peking, and do not know whether this is because of his trip to Hanoi or not.
  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Country Files for East Asia and the Pacific, Box 4, Cambodia, State Department Telegrams, From SECSTATE, Nodis (1). Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Cherokee. Drafted by Habib, EA; approved by the Secretary and Woods, S/S.
  2. In telegram 3063 from Phnom Penh, February 19, Dean asked that the Department keep him updated on developments surrounding U.S. overtures to Sihanouk. The Ambassador concluded: “Unless he [Lon Nol] and I are kept informed on which way the USG is moving on Cambodia, I think it will be difficult for us to keep the situation here glued together even long enough for any kind of a political settlement to be negotiated with the other side.” (Ibid., State Department Telegrams, To SECSTATE, Nodis)
  3. Document 173.
  4. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XVIII, China, 1973–1976, Documents 93 and 97.
  5. See ibid., volume E–14, Part 1, Documents on the United Nations, 1973–1976, Document 18.
  6. For a fuller discussion, see Kissinger, Years of Renewal, pp. 511–512.