As 1960 drew to a close, Ngo Dinh Diem remained the president of South Vietnam. He had successfully thwarted a coup attempt against his government. The United States, at least publicly, supported the Diem presidency. It was seen as the best course to remain in Diem’s corner because, after a close election in the United States, a new president and new party were going to take over in 1961.
John F. Kennedy famously proclaimed in his inaugural address that the United States would, “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe.” To many observers, this meant that the previous policies in Vietnam would be maintained. Like Eisenhower and Truman before him, Kennedy planned on taking a hard line against communist aggression around the world. This was particularly true in Southeast Asia. The military commitment to South Vietnam increased under Kennedy, though that commitment did not extend to combat troops in 1961.
Though the Kennedy Administration wasn’t terribly fond of Diem, it also needed to keep South Vietnam in the fold of allies fighting communist world domination. For the first eighteen months of Kennedy’s presidency, it appeared that he was losing the Cold War to the Soviet Union. When President Kennedy met with the Soviet Premier, people remarked that Kennedy appeared weak, compliant and overmatched by the more senior Khrushchev.