26. Telegram From the Embassy in Thailand to the Department of State1

12592. Ref: A. State 156149, B. State 156407, C. State 156733, D. Bangkok 11910, E. State 156752.2

This morning I secured appointment with Prime Minister before he opened cabinet meeting and carried out instructions contained ref A. The Prime Minister had with him General Sawaeng and Deputy Foreign Minister Chitti acting in place of Thanat.
I first conveyed to Prime Minister text of announcement3 as contained ref A, as amended by ref B. Unfortunately, ref C arrived after I had departed from Embassy; to say nothing of ref E. I explained that short advance notice unavoidable because of inadvertent revelation from Saigon which Thais had all already read in morning newspapers here. I also related this announcement to our earlier discussions about troop replacement in Vietnam (latest of which reported ref D).
Prime Minister’s first question was to ask for more information on reference to “offer of withdrawal of US and allied forces over 12 month period.” I pointed out that this and other points made in same context all refer to efforts already made which are here being reiterated and I recalled that some time ago we had specifically offered to make such a withdrawal if accompanied by responsive action by other side.
Prime Minister then pointed out that total projected US withdrawal by December 15 will amount to more than ten percent of US forces in Vietnam. In view of this he considered it may be necessary to reduce Thai contingent in Vietnam and said that he would be discussing this with President Thieu when latter makes anticipated visit to Thailand in latter part of October. Marshal Thanom added that people here will feel that if US can make such a reduction, Thailand should also be able to do so. I acknowledged this and fact that Prime Minister had discussed this with President Nixon during July visit, but I also received his confirmation that he was speaking only of a reduction and not a total withdrawal of Thai forces from South Vietnam. I emphasized the importance the USG attaches to the continued presence of other allied forces in South Vietnam.
Marshal Thanom then inquired whether we will in fact go through with the reduction of 40,500 additional men if there is no improvement in the military situation. I said I believed we would since the reduction was based, as far as I could tell, primarily on the enlarged capacity of the ARVN to carry the load, thus permitting South Vietnamese to replace American manpower. I added that our carrying through of the projected reduction might have to be reconsidered, on the other hand, if the military situation should seriously worsen.
The Prime Minister asked whether the projected reduction was based on any indication of a greater willingness on the part of Hanoi to negotiate. I replied that I was not aware of any improvement in that quarter and reiterated my interpretation of Washington’s action as being based above all on the improved capacity of South Vietnam to carry additional military responsibility. I added, however, that it may also have been thought that the projected announcement could possibly provide a helpful influence on the course of policy discussions which may now be taking place in Hanoi following the death of Ho Chi Minh. Marshal Thanom asked for any information I could give him about who may be assuming leadership in Hanoi but I told him I had no useful information on this subject beyond identifying the four well-known figures generally assumed to be the leaders principally in charge there today.
The Prime Minister made no further inquiries about the announcement but did go on to make some observation which he said he had also discussed with President Nixon during the July visit. Thanom said that here in Thailand and around the world people have noticed a basic change in American actions. In World Wars I and II there was determination to fight for the achievement of military victory. This has now changed as illustrated by our actions in Korea and Vietnam where the US appears to have lost this determination and is prepared to settle for something less. I said that the important thing to keep in mind was the objective which, both in Korea and South Vietnam, [Page 58] has been to help a free nation to preserve its independence; this was achieved in Korea where there is now a thriving and prosperous Republic of Korea and, I was persuaded this would also be achieved in Vietnam. The Prime Minister did not dispute this except to say that in the Korean case we had expelled the Communists from South Korea by military action which has not been done in South Vietnam. I replied that while this was true today the situation at the present time was vastly improved over that of 1965 when the collapse of South Vietnam seemed a real danger and when American forces were introduced. Now the Communists know they cannot win a military victory. I said again I was persuaded that ultimately a settlement would be reached which would preserve for the people of South Vietnam their independence and right to decide their own fate. On Thanom’s general point I added only that there was a new element on the international scene since the days of World Wars I and II, namely the reality of nuclear war and its dangers for all of humanity; the US must take this into full account in its actions.
Comment: I would naturally have much preferred to have given the Prime Minister more advance notice of the announcement. Thai negative feelings on this score were, of course, heightened by Ky’s leak in Saigon. I also would have been in a better position to discuss the announcement and Washington’s thinking and intentions intelligently if I had either been provided with some background at this time or been kept currently informed as the talks in Paris and the deliberations in Washington proceeded.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Immediate.
  2. Telegrams 156149, 156407, and 156733 to Bangkok, all September 16. (Ibid., POL 27–3 VIET S) Telegram 11910 from Bangkok, September 2. (Ibid., POL 7 THAI) Telegram 156752 to Bangkok, September 16. (Ibid., POL 27–3 VIET S)
  3. The final text of the President’s announcement on troop withdrawals from Vietnam was transmitted in telegram 156895 to Paris, September 16. (Ibid., POL 27 VIET S)