William Shawcross is the author of the recently published book "Sideshow," a critical account of former secretary of state Henry Kissinger's handling of the Cambodian war. In the interview, Sihanouk recounted a visit paid to him in Peking last April by Kissinger, in which Sihanouk says Kissinger sought an endorsement of the Kissinger memoirs version of the Cambodian war. Kissinger includes part of the Peking conversation with Sihanouk in "White House Years," but the former Cambodian leader told Shawcross there was more:
"Before lunch he wanted to have a special conversation with me," Sihanouk said. "He began by saying he wanted to get things absolutely straight. That is to say he had never been anti-Sihanouk, he had always been a Sihanouk supporter, he had always had a lot of esteem for Sihanouk . . . and that the Lon Nol coup had taken him very much by surprise . . . and he personally had no wish to see Sihanouk overthrown."
If "the Americans were innocent of involvement" in the coup, Sihanouk asked, "why immediately after the coup d'etat was the United States government the first government in the world to extend its de jure recognition to the government of Lon Nol?"
"Kissinger: 'Yes, but we wanted you to return to power very quickly in Cambodia.'"
"I answered, 'Why did you refrain from telling me about it? . . . You wanted Lon Nol to resist to the end against my returning to power in Cambodia.'"
"Kissinger: 'No. No. No. You must believe that we were favorable to you returning to power and we did not like Lon Nol. We liked you."
"I said, 'Mr. Excellency, let bygones be bygones.'"
"He said: 'No, no, no. I want you to say that you believe me.'"
"I said, 'I apologize. I cannot say that I believe you.'"
Kissinger could not be reached for comment.