114. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Thailand 1

1554. Phnom Penh 900.2 Sihanoukʼs latest explosion seems to Dept to afford excellent opportunity for RTG and USG to make simple statement of willingness to meet and discuss all problems at a quadripartite conference (GVN statements Saigonʼs 1725 and 1726 to Dept already on record).3 Such a simple statement at this juncture would serve to focus public attention on the contrast between Thai, Vietnamese and US forthcoming attitude and Sihanoukʼs negative attitude. While we are not optimistic it might also have the effect of causing Sihanouk to back down somewhat in the interest of his own public image. Dept spokesman has already reiterated that we are favorably disposed toward quadripartite conference (Deptel 1546 to Bangkok, 1407 to Saigon).4 Further statement [Page 270]made today will be forwarded septel.5 We hope RTG can make parallel comments quickly.

We also feel that we must limit possible area of disagreement with Sihanouk to important substantive issues. Therefore, it is doubly important that you approach Thanat soonest in order to present the views outlined in Deptʼs Depcirtel 16396 in strongest possible manner.

We fully understand RTG position on substantive issues such as ICC with Polish member, authority of Co-Chairmen, and territorial questions. As Bundy told Thanat, we do not propose to accede to any agreement which would prejudice Thai national interest. However, we do attach importance to negotiating with RKG on these and other important substantive issues. Our immediate goal is to get the conference going and if agreeing to Phnom Penh will have this effect, we think RTG/GVN and USG should agree to it. In our judgment time is running out on the Cambodian problem and we think speed is of the essence. We should compromise on site to strengthen position for negotiation on substance.

In making your approach you should not refer to possibility of shifting venue of conference to other site which would simply give Cambodia excuse for refusing to participate, and Thai position we feel will not be understood internationally.

You should explain to Thai that this suggestion is calculated to strengthen our (and their) public position and does not reflect any inclination to go to a conference at all costs or to accept Sihanoukʼs terms on frontiers or any other question.

Rusk
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27–13 CAMB. Confidential; Immediate. Drafted by Hannah, cleared in draft with Hilsman and Harriman, and approved by Trueheart. Repeated to Saigon, Bangkok, Vientiane, London, and Paris.
  2. In telegram 900, March 10, the Embassy reported that Sihanouk disagreed with U.S. draft proposals for a 4-power conference and saw them as a rejection of his proposals, Sihanouk was therefore now opposed to the quadripartite conference. (Ibid.)
  3. In telegrams 1725 and 1726 from Saigon, both March 10, the Embassy reported that the Republic of Vietnam had not rejected Sihanoukʼs calls for a quadripartite conference and Geneva conference on Cambodia. It was still studying the requests “with a view to a prompt reply.” (Ibid. and POL 32–1 CAMB–VIET S)
  4. Dated March 10. (Ibid., POL 27–13 CAMB)
  5. Telegram 623 to Phnom Penh, March 10, in which the spokesman stressed that the U.S. proposals were not intended as a reaction or rejection of Cambodiaʼs draft, merely suggestions for consideration at a four-power conference. (Ibid.)
  6. In circular telegram 1639, March 8, the Department suggested that the United States, Thailand, and South Vietnam should arrange for a quadripartite meeting within a week at a site agreeable to all parties. The Department noted that with a 3 to 1 majority and no Communist participation, there should be no fear in meeting in Phnom Penh. (Ibid.)