207. Letter From the Director of the Office of Philippine and Southeast Asian Affairs (Young) to the Ambassador in Vietnam (Reinhardt)1
Dear Freddie: The issue of elections in 1956 and consultations with the Viet Minh are the current top-drawer aspects of Viet-Nam. A brief NSC paper was prepared for the Council’s consideration on June 9, which we discussed Wednesday afternoon with the Secretary.2 For various reasons, it was decided to recommend indefinite postponement of the Council’s consideration of the paper, which the Council accepted. I am attaching a copy of the briefing memoranda I did for the Secretary on this subject, as well as some informal notes on our meeting with him.3
Some of us are quite impressed with the position of Diem as reported in your telegrams. It seems to us it makes a lot of sense for him to get his position worked out with the French and ensure Big [Page 445] Three support of his government. There is also a good deal of merit in his claims that he must not associate himself in any way with the Geneva Accord and that he must have some democratic mandate before entering into such a serious matter as consultations with the Viet Minh. Vietnamese officials betray a good deal of apprehension and suspicion which I think is well founded. Will they not be exposed to tremendous pressures to compromise with the Viet Minh? Is there not a possibility that they might have to accept some agreement which would in effect result in a Viet Minh victory? These are real concerns. The thinking here is more and more that the United States, itself not a signatory, should not try to compel Diem to follow through precisely according to the Geneva Accords. It may be that his way could be a lot more effective.
This will run into numerous difficulties and risks. The French, British and Indians are going to press us hard to force him into line. There may be even another crisis over Diem, this time with the French laying down an ultimatum that Diem must go or else. Also the Viet Minh will probably strike up a belligerent and threatening barrage of words. This may in turn be coupled with subversive and terrorist activities in the South. Ultimately, of course, there is the threat of a Viet Minh invasion.
On the other hand Diem may be in a strong position nationally and internationally. He is trying to save people from Communism. He does not want to be forced into complying with a document he rejected and has never recognized. He does not want to assume the position of a dictator engaging in profoundly important talks with the enemy before there is some democratic expression in the South giving him a valid and legal mandate. He is not going to be forced into this by the French. On the other hand the Viet Minh in the eyes of the Vietnamese are forcing the Geneva Accords on the country and are working closely with the French to do this. In the United States, and I suspect many other countries, there will be great sympathy and support for Diem and the Nationalists.
These are just tentative views but we are trying to work up something for high level decisions.
With very good wishes,
Kenneth T. Young, Jr.