SUBJECT overnment of Vietnam Acting Foreign
Minister Cuu's Comments to Ambassador Lodge on the Buddhist Issue and Alleged American Involvement
REFERENCES: A. Saigon, dated3 B. Saigon, dated3
GVN strongly resents United States refusal to turnQuang to GVN jurisdiction. The GVN considers Tri Quang asinstigator and leaderevolutionary effort togovernment. As long as the question of Tri Quang's sanctuaryAmerican Embassy remains unrosolved we will continue torelations with the GVN. Under present circumstances,expect the GVN to strike back by accusing American officialsin causing and aggravating the Buddhist crisis.
from tho problem of Tri Quang's sanctuary inEmbassy, the GVN has other reasons forofficials of illegitimate activities in cooperation withLeadership. During the heat of the Buddhist crisis andthe declaration of martial law onbout ten orofficials were visiting Xa Loi pagoda weekly toleaders on thoir plans and reactions. TheseIC, other intelligence components of tho AmericanEmbassy security Office and the USOM Public Safety Division. Station had two or three representatives in direct touch at one /
time or another with the Buddhist leadership in Xa Loi. We surfaced this fact together with the names of our officers to Ngo Dinh Nhu, State | ecretary Thuan and to Interior Minister Luong. We pointed out that the purpose of our relationship was toorrect estimate of the situation, to avoid reliance on exaggerated foreign press reports, and to urge moderation on the Buddhist leadership. Both Thuan and Luong seemed to accept our statement and to concur in the Station'swith the Buddhist leadership. As time went on. Ambassador Nolting became disturbed at tbe considerable number of American officials visiting the Buddhist leadership at Xa Loi. Ho thought that the size and frequency of American representation at Xa Loi could be misconstrued by the Buddhist leadership and by the GVN as constituting
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encojraccmcnl of the Buddhist movement. Nolting finally cancelled all United States official visits to Xa Loi with the exception of Station liaison. The Station reduced tho frequency of its visita to abouteek and finally began to use only one officer for liaison with the Buddhists.
charge that Tri Quang ordered the self-cremationctober in cooperation with American representativesfoundation in actual fact. To the best of my knowledge,is under continual guard; he has access to no telephone;appears to be no way for him to establish communication When Cuu speaks of the United States conducting anthis kind through anotherave no basis for speculation
as to which Embassy he has in mind. The GVN is probably piecing together odda and ends of gossip, rumor, and malicious deceptionand it may believe that itase. On the other hand, the GVN may simply be striking back at the United States over the sanctuary question, knowing that its information is fabricated.sBume that Thich Thin Khlet's appeal to the Embassy that Tri Quang be turned over to Khlet's religious custody resulted from pressure on Khiet by the GVN to make an appeal of this nature.
respect to Cuu's charges against John Hclble, ConsulI feel that Cuu is greatly exaggerating. To the best of myHclble nor other American officials In Hue had any part inthe original Buddhist incident or in keeping the issue alive. many contacts in Hue among professors, students, otherprobablyumber of politically dissident elements. Assituation developed, certain of these contacts were detained
or arrested. The Buddhist crisis and ensuing GVN repressiontrong impact on Helble, who probably spoke out among Vietnamese friends and contacts with candid and firm expressions of disapproval over the way tbe GVN was handling the Buddhist problem. Regardless of the inaccuracies or exaggerations of the GVN case against Helble, it is probable that the GVN feels Helbleritical and antagonistic element in Hue, egard Helble as an able and dedicated officer.
hief, John Mecklin, has led one of theUSIS programsave seen anywhere. Apartprogress, however, Mecklin and his deputy,have perhaps become increasingly critical with respect to In this respect, they are not much differentargethe civilian officials representing components of the Unitedin Vietnam.eject completely Cuu's charges that Mecklin
bribed reporters or paid out money for photographs of burning bonzes. The Australian correspondent, Dennis Warner, stayed at Mecklin's home in Saigon during part of his visit to South Vietnam. However, there was no complicity between Mecklin and Warner in the appearanceopy of Warner's manuscript at the Xa Loi pagoda. The more plausible story as we have heard it is that this manuscript was being worked on by Warner while he was staying either at Mecklin's home or at the Caravelle hotel. This manuscript story was entitled something like "The Decline and Fall of the Diem Regime" andartially finished draftontemplated newspaper or magazine article. The manuscript was stolen from Warner's lodging and was, we believe, planted in the Xa Loi pagoda by the GVN, itself, in order to discredit Warner and, as it now turns out, Mecklin as well.
I do not doubt that the GVN will bitterly resent contact by theUNGA delegation and Tri Quang in the Embassy. On the otherm inclined to skepticism at the thought that the GVN will attemptelay or prevent the arrival of the UNGA delegation at this lateorelieve that there is much real possibilityVN-instagated' invasion of the Embassy to seize Tri
On the question of declaring United StateB officials personna non grata, my impression is that the GVN would be reluctant to take this step. Ngo Dinh Nhuelieve, Cuu as well have expressed the hope that the United States mission would "put its own house in order". Nevertheless, the continued presence of Tri Quang in the Embassy and the intensification of other strains in United1 States-GVN relations may overcome GVN reservations about declaring one or more of the American officials in Saigon personna non grata.