The link gives access to the documents #180 - #185 in full)
183. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Rostow) to Secretary of State Rusk/1/
Washington, June 21, 1966.
/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 32-1 CAMB-VIET S. Secret; Exdis. Read sent a memorandum to Rusk, Ball,
and U. Alexis Johnson, June 22, informing them that he had asked the Policy Planning Staff to coordinate a response to Thompson's
memorandum by June 28. Read's memorandum is attached, but not printed.
Possible Approaches to the Cambodia Problem
This file is more or less self-explanatory.
In meeting with the NSC staff--urging us all to be imaginative--the President asked for proposals to get closer to Sihanouk.
Jim Thomson did the attached paper. I sent it forward with the recommendation that I be instructed to request you to examine
the proposals and make your recommendations.
The President's enthusiasm is self-evident, including his reaction to pages 5-6.
Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson
Washington, June 20, 1966, 10:30 a.m.
At your suggestion Jim Thomson has prepared the attached collection of imaginative initiatives with
respect to Cambodia.
My recommendation is that you instruct me to request Secretary Rusk to examine them and make his recommendations to you--understanding,
however, that you wish movement on this problem.
/2/Johnson approved and wrote the following note: "This is excellent. I'm proud--L."
Memorandum From James C. Thomson, Jr., of the National Security Council Staff to President Johnson
Washington, June 14, 1966, 6:30 p.m.
Possible Approaches to the Cambodia Problem
In response to your request at our Cabinet Room meeting, I have
been probing this town intensively for fresh ideas as to how we might improve our relations with Cambodia over the months
A. The Problem
As you know, the widely held view within the bureaucracy is that very little can be accomplished until we have achieved
success in Vietnam--or at least until Sihanouk is convinced that we will succeed. This view is based on some convincing facts
1. The United States is closely associated with Cambodia's two historic enemies, Thailand and Vietnam. Both nations have
encroached on Cambodia throughout the past (making it, in miniature, the Poland of Southeast Asia); and as recently as 1941-1945,
Thailand seized and occupied all of northwest Cambodia. As long as we are so deeply committed to the Thai and Vietnamese,
Sihanouk doubts that we will protect Cambodia's independence.
2. In seeking protection from his immediate neighbors, the Prince thus looks to Communist China. He does this despite his
opposition to Communism and his awareness of a long-term threat from China itself. Only the emergence of an alternative protector
power will pull him away from alignment with Peking.
3. The Vietnam war exposes Cambodia's eastern frontier areas to periodic incursions by Viet Cong, North Vietnamese, GVN,
and U.S. forces. Since Cambodia completely lacks the capability to keep Communist units out of the sparsely populated northeast,
it closes its eyes to Viet Cong incursions--and holds the U.S. and GVN responsible for the destruction of Cambodian lives
and property that results from our own border operations.
B. Possible Lines of Action
Despite these facts of life, however, there are steps we could take that might ease the Prince's sense of insecurity and
gradually improve our relations with Cambodia. None of them guarantees success; all involve at least the minimal risk of rebuff.
But they seem to me worth trying nonetheless.
In the proposals that follow, I have suggested actions we might take to reassure Sihanouk of our support for Cambodia's
independence, territorial integrity, and neutrality; to maintain channels of friendly unofficial and perhaps official communication;
to increase the effectiveness of international supervision of Cambodia's frontiers; to end needless and profitless provocations;
and, hopefully, to lay the groundwork for reestablished diplomatic relations. Some involve mere style and atmospherics--but
such factors should not be discounted in our relations with a proud and sensitive ruler.
1. Expansion of the ICC
Sihanouk has asked that the ICC be expanded in order to police more effectively Cambodia's Vietnam frontier; he also asks
that we foot the bill. Rusk has informed the Cambodian Foreign Minister of our willingness to push this project. The problem
seems to be that the Russians (and their agents, the Poles) are dragging their feet. It is possible that 30 to 40 ICC personnel,
with helicopters and terms of reference that permit mobility, could keep close tabs on this border region, detect Viet Cong
violations, and deter increased Communist use of Cambodia as a sanctuary or infiltration corridor. We should be entirely willing
to pay the cost for such an obvious assist to our side; we should put the heat on the Russians (and the Indians) to get this
expansion moving; but we can't do it without the Prince's strong support, and at the moment he seems to fear the heat from
the other side.
2. Avoidance of Provocations from Vietnam
We should issue firm instructions to keep MACV (and the Pentagon) from further public accusations of unproven Cambodian
collusion with the Communists. There is an understandable MACV tendency--with hearty Vietnamese support--to distort and magnify
Communist use of Cambodia. We should accept the fact that some border violations will be inevitable in such a war; that although
some Cambodian border officials do encourage such violations, the Cambodian Government so far does not; and that there is
a clear net value to us in preventing the expansion of the Vietnam War's battleground to include 66,000 sq. mi. of Cambodia.
3. Avoidance of Provocations from Thailand
Despite periodic efforts in Washington and the field, there is still clear evidence of Thai (and Vietnamese) support for
the anti-Sihanouk Khmer Serei forces (no more than 1000) on Cambodia's northwest frontier. The GVN trains Cambodians and ships
them to Thailand where they are then put into action on the Cambodia border in order to broadcast anti-Sihanouk appeals and
to foment frontier incidents. Sihanouk is still convinced of U.S. collusion with the dissidents. These activities, which stand
no chance of success and run counter to our national interests, can only be turned off by a Presidential directive [less than
1 line of source text not declassified] repeated lower level protests have simply not been taken seriously by the GVN or the
RTG. (NOTE - SIHANOUK IS STILL CONVINCED OF US COLLUSION WITH THE DISSIDENTS _ KHMER SEREI _ )
4. Quiet Bilateral Contacts
Of the various posts where U.S. and Cambodian diplomats function in the same community, perhaps New Delhi and New York
are the best suited to periodic quiet conversations between our lower level officials and those of the Cambodian Government.
The Cambodian Ambassador to India, formerly Ambassador to the U.S., is a trusted Sihanouk man who participated in the prematurely
terminated discussions which we conducted with the Cambodians in New Delhi in December 1964. Our Cambodian expert in Embassy
New Delhi has maintained contact with this man. This channel should now be used to communicate substantive messages and to
raise useful questions from time to time; an alternative channel should also be developed in New York between our mission
and Cambodia's able new Number-Two representative there.
5. U.S. Congressional Visit
As you know, the Vice President has accepted, on behalf of the Congress, a Cambodian suggestion that three members of Congress
visit Cambodia sometime in the months ahead; this visit is now tentatively set for the autumn, with Senators Aiken, Inouye,
and Pell hoping to travel to Phnom Penh. We should use the occasion of this visit to convey the good will of the U.S. Government
to Sihanouk and his colleagues; we should attach to this mission some able Cambodia specialists from the Department; and we
should consider using this occasion for the presentation of a letter from you to Sihanouk (see below).
6. Eugene Black Visit
We should explore the possibility of including Cambodia on the itinerary of Eugene Black when he takes his postponed trip
to the Far East in October. Cambodia is highly pertinent to Black's trip since the Mekong Development Program is currently
hung up on the problem of funds for the next priority project, the Prek Thant Dam complex in Cambodia. Here again, Black might
be the bearer of a Presidential letter (see below).
7. Presidential Letter
Although one must assume that Sihanouk will probably publish any correspondence he receives, however private, consideration
should be given to a letter from you to the Prince, perhaps to be carried by the Senators or Black. The purposes of such a
letter would be reassurance, flattery, and the establishment of a personal channel of communication with a man who places
high value on personal relations. Such a letter would involve obvious risks, but I have attempted an illustrative draft (see
/3/Attached, but not printed.
8. Other Visitors
We should keep in mind the several human assets we hold in Americans for whom the Prince has special friendship or respect.
Among them are Dean Acheson, who won Cambodia's World Court case against Thailand; also Senator Mansfield, Governor Harriman,
and Chester Bowles; of lower visibility but great skill is Major General Edward C.D. Sherrer, one of our most successful MAAG
Chiefs (in Cambodia, 1961-63), who is now serving on the Joint Staff of the Pentagon. In the absence of diplomatic relations,
we should try to keep up a program of unofficial visitors to Phnom Penh.
9. Third Country Mediation
Our diplomatic interests in Cambodia are currently well served by the Australians, whose able Ambassador is close to the
Prince. As an antidote to over-reliance on Saigon and Bangkok for information on Cambodia, we should frankly ask the Australians,
as well as other potential intermediaries--notably the Japanese, British, Filipinos, and Indonesians--to be alert to times
and ways in which our relations with Cambodia might be improved.
10. Diplomatic Relations
Since 1965, Sihanouk has set three general conditions for resumption of diplomatic relations with the U.S.: a halt to border
incidents; compensation--through bulldozers or tractors--for past Cambodian casualties; and formal U.S. recognition of Cambodia's
neutrality, territorial integrity and present borders. Although these conditions may be negotiable, we should probably not
push too hard for resumed relations until we have tested the ICC track and unofficial contacts. Through the latter contacts,
however--and through New York and New Delhi--we should seek to refine Sihanouk's conditions to a more acceptable formulation
(i.e., a pledge of respect for Cambodia's frontiers and neutrality, and perhaps some symbolic compensation for Cambodian casualties.)
Note: I do not believe that any of these moves will easily or quickly resolve our problems with Cambodia but they are all
worth considering, and--with a close eye to timing--they may be worth trying in the months ahead. Some of them, of course,
will irritate the GVN and, especially, Thailand; but this is not a high price, and it is well worth paying. Improved relations
with Cambodia would clearly serve our national interest not only by limiting the Indo-China battlefield but by proving our
willingness and ability to pursue a live-and-let-live relationship with a neutral and unaligned Southeast Asian state.
1. That you indicate to the Department of State the high priority which you attach to an expansion of the ICC in Cambodia./4/
/4/Johnson approved and wrote: "Good & Strong!"
2. That you direct the Department and CIA to press the Thai and Vietnam Governments to cease all support for the Khmer
/5/Johnson approved and wrote: "Same." and drew an arrow to the phrase "Good & Strong!"
3. That you ask State to consider and prepare a Presidential message to Sihanouk, to be carried either by the Senate mission
or by Eugene Black./6/
/6/Johnson approved and wrote: "by both."
4. That you ask State to prepare a continuing program of unofficial visits by Americans to Phnom Penh and private contacts
between U.S. and Cambodian diplomats./7/
/7/Johnson approved and wrote: "I heartily agree--Let's also include other countries where we need contacts (Latin America,
Africa, Eastern Europe.)"7
JC Thomson Jr.
We now have the President of the United States approving the State Department and
CIA to press the Thai and VN Govts to cease all support for the Khmer Serei rebels - Not knowing that CIA is actively working
with them - Remember in John's writing - CIA in Thailand is working with Khmer Serei - John knows the name of the man doing
the work at this time - The next #184 shows that the directives are being carried out -
184. Note From the President's Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/
Washington, June 25, 1966, 4:15 p.m.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LV, Memos A, 6/66. Secret.
This lively account confirms your instinct about Sihanouk.
I checked with George Ball to make sure they staff out and act on some of the Cambodia recommendations we sent over.
Mr. President, you can smell it all over: Hanoi's operation, backed by the Chicoms, is no longer being regarded as the
wave of the future out there. U.S. power is beginning to be felt.
We're not in; but we're moving./2/
/2/Johnson wrote the following note on the source text: "Good--see me. L." Another note in an unidentified hand reads:
"Mr. Rostow saw Pres. 6/27/67."
The next E Mail will demonstrate that this was followed up on - ie The Presidential Directive was acted upon -