1964-1968, Volume VII, Vietnam, September 1968-January 1969|
Released by the Office of the Historian
October 16-25, 1968: Negotiating the Understanding
October 16-25, 1968: Negotiating the Understanding75. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/
Saigon, October 16, 1968, 0815Z.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. I [2 of 3]. Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Harvan/Double Plus. Received at 4:57 a.m. In an attached covering note transmitting a copy of this telegram to the President, October 16, 8:30 a.m., Rostow wrote: "Bunker's full account of how the leak occurred in Saigon. As you see, the story converges with Le Duc Tho's movements and the surfacing of the lull." The notation "ps" on the covering note indicates that the President saw it and the attached telegram.
40830. Subject: Security Breach. communiqué
1. I regret to inform you that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, following Thieu's meeting with the National Security Council, called in the Ambassadors of Korea and Thailand, and then the Chargés of Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines, at 12:00 and 12:30 respectively, to report to them as troop contributing countries that South Viet-Nam and the United States are considering a bombing cessation.
2. When Thieu told me of this I expressed shock that this action had been taken at this juncture. When Thieu realized that this action had been taken prematurely, he said that they were not being told very much, only that there might be some developments along these lines.
3. I sent Berger immediately to talk to the Foreign Minister, who came out of his meeting with the three Chargés. Thanh said that he had already revealed the information and Berger asked him to inform the Chargés and then the Ambassadors, that the information he had imparted was already known, and only known, to their Heads of State. It was very important that they do not cable this information to their Foreign Ministries or other persons in the governments, but hold it for the time being in view of the delicacy of the talks. The Foreign Minister said he would do this. He would also call the two Ambassadors.
I followed up by calls to the Thai and ROK Ambassadors, both of whom gave me their word that they would not send any message. We are seeing the three Chargés urgently to impress on them the need to refrain from sending messages. My main concern is the Filipino, Bartolome./2/ Suggest you consider informing Marcos.
/2/Philippine Ambassador to the Republic of Vietnam.
5. I cannot account for Thieu's instruction to the Foreign Minister to call in the TCC representatives. At my seven o'clock meeting this morning he said he would at some stage call in the TCC representatives, but I never dreamed that he would move in this fashion, since I made it clear that we did not have the results of the private meeting, and that the TCCwould be informed as soon as we did have the results and were taking action. I had impressed on him at each meeting that only the Heads of State of the TCC countries had been informed of what was going on (I did not mention our omission of Marcos), and that the whole matter was of the highest sensitivity.
6. Many rumors now circulating here about bomb cessation as a result of lull in the fighting, return from Paris to Hanoi of Le Duc Tho, editor queries to local correspondents during last two days, and now my seven o'clock and then noon meeting with Thieu.
All this together with the possibility of a leak, makes me wonder how long we will be able to keep situation quiet. Our contingency planning for any press questions would be to note that these are only speculative rumors and that we have no comment./3/
/3/In telegram 257010 to Saigon, October 17, the Department transmitted the following instructions from the President to Bunker: "The leaks out of Saigon--which continue--are a cause of the greatest concern to the President. They generate in the United States enormous confusion and pressure. They may very well interfere with the possibility of carrying forward a successful negotiation at a critical stage. You should, therefore, tell Thieu that we may not be able to give him as much notice should the negotiating process bring us to a moment of decision, unless better communications security prevails." (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, Miscellaneous Top Secret Cables) Karamessines sent two CIA memoranda to Rostow and Rusk, October 18 and 19, which reported Thieu's concern over having to deal with the NLF on an equal basis and Ky's recommendations that Thieu extract as many concessions as possible at this time. (Central Intelligence Agency, Job 79-207A, DDO Files, Folder 1)
76. Information Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/
Washington, October 16, 1968, 9:30 a.m.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. I [2 of 3]. Secret; Harvan/Double Plus. The notation "ps" on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it. Harriman and Vance's written report on their meeting with Thuy and Lau was transmitted in telegrams 22486/Delto 830 and 22490/Delto 832 from Paris, both October 16. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-October 1968)
Herewith the Vance-Read telephone report of this morning's meeting.
The message was delivered. Thuy said he fully understood the message. He considered that our insistence on the participation of the GVN the next day after a bombing cessation a "new condition." Thuy had never promised to deliver the NLF the next day.
Thuy believes that the Politburo in Hanoi will reject this new condition. Nevertheless, he will pass along, in fullest detail, Harriman and Vance's protestation and argument; namely, that the "serious talks" which are promised for the next day must, in our view, include the GVN and the NLF.
Thuy said there was an "outside chance" that, in the light of the fully detailed arguments of Harriman and Vance, the Politburo might accept our linking of "serious talks" with the GVN-NLF presence.
Harriman and Vance pushed hard for the earliest possible reply. Thuy could make no promise.
Lau made a very pointed warning about our not revealing the exist-ence of the private meetings.
Harriman and Vance commented that they had searched the record very fully and that, strictly speaking, Thuy has a point. We never stated flatly that the GVN must be present the day after the bombing cessation. What we did was to say that "serious talks" must begin the next day and there could be no "serious talks" without the GVN.
Therefore, in strict diplomatic terms, they do not regard Thuy's observation as necessarily being in bad faith.
77. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Senator Mike Mansfield/1/
Washington, October 16, 1968, 9:34 a.m.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Mansfield, October 16, 1968, 9:34 a.m., Tape F68.07, PNO 1. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared specifically for this volume in the Office of the Historian.
Mansfield: Yes sir.
President: This thing I talked to you about yesterday./2/ They do not--they welched on it.
/2/The President met with Mansfield for approximately half an hour beginning at noon the previous day. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary)
President: So, I thought I ought to tell you because you had more information than anybody else. And I don't want no other human to know it, so I wouldn't say anything about it, but the facts were these. When we went over the GVN with them, they said, "Yeah, that's fine." And when we went over the other two things, the cities and the DMZ, why, we stopped and paused, and went real slow so they would get the full impact and there'd be no misunderstanding, and they listened to that and nodded, and raised no objection. We went all the way through it, and they said, "This is all fine, but," he said, "you say here that you'll meet the next day with us with the Government of Vietnam. We have to have the NLF, and we don't know how long it will take to get them." Now we said, "Well, that's all right. We'll be glad if you'll go get them." They said, "No, we think you better stop bombing and then we'll go look for them." Now we said, "No, you said in your talks that if we would stop bombing that you'd be willing to start discussions the next day. This is your language, and so we're ready to take this language." Well they said, "We don't know whether Hanoi'd approve this. We have to go back to Hanoi."/3/
/3/See Document 76.
So, that's a lot of wrangle on that, and our interpretation is that we had a couple of unfortunate speeches, and that they're trying to see if we're going to get any weaker here. [McGeorge] Bundy went out and made a fool speech about withdrawing troops and getting them down to a hundred thousand--our pulling out and it costing too much./4/ Just today, and then while they was--just before they went into the meeting, Hubert came out and said that he was going to stop it period, no comma, no semi-colon, just plain outright stop it./5/ So of course, that was big flashes to both of them. We don't know--they said anyway that they've got to go back to Hanoi and talk to them. Our people interpret that as an indication that something's come up--that they've got some new intelligence--because the three things that we have had that we kind of understood. It really doesn't represent much change on our part. It doesn't represent much change on their part, except for the GVN. Now, they're not arguing about that. They're not saying they don't want to. So, we will just have to take the position that every--that we do have these discussions back and forth. But Vance didn't come over here for any new instructions. We didn't give him anything at all. I just told him, "For God sakes, to try to get some kind of peace in my time, that I had given up everything to try to do it, and I wanted it honorable but I wanted it." And I told Averell the same thing. And I told Thieu that, and Thieu did play ball with us. And Huong played ball with us. And the son-of-a-bitch out there, the Senate--Foreign Minister, whatever his name is,/6/ he leaked the story when I told him. He said he's expecting them to sign right away, and of course he looks like an ass today.
/4/See Document 63.
/5/See Document 40.
/6/Tran Chanh Thanh.
But I just thought that in the light of all the background that you ought to know that the ball's in their court. That we are ready and willing and anxious and eager to sit down with them tomorrow, with the NLF. And they said, "Well, we have to go and look up the [Central] Committee, it's somewhere in South Vietnam." We said, "Well, you've got a lot of representatives here. You've got spokesmen. You've got press. And why don't you bring one of them in, and we'll do the same thing. We'll bring in some South Vietnamese. It's just purely symbolic for both of them." And Vance tried to get them to do that but they said no.
So our interpretation is that we had two unfortunate speeches and we'll have to ride them out a few days and see what happens. I can't believe that they'd pay much attention to speeches. But something changed their mind. The Rusk folks--the diplomats--think that they got some, some key here. Nixon has said something. I thought he'd had some effect, but he kept quiet. He did send Smathers down and wanted to know if we'd stop the bombing, and I didn't tell him anything. I just said, "Our position is the same as it's always been. We're anxious to stop it. We want to stop it. And if they'll meet with the GVN, and not bomb the room we're in--not blow us up, why we'll sure do it." But that's been our position all along. I've said it publicly--at San Antonio--a hundred times, and that's all it is. When and if it gets beyond that, before we stop the bombing, I'm going to talk to every candidate. You can tell Nixon that, you can tell Humphrey and everybody else, and I am before I stop it. That doesn't mean, though, before I sign up. But I'm telling you more than I'm telling any human except Rusk and Clifford, and I just want you to help me and advise me, and--how would you interpret their pulling out?
Mansfield: Just about the way you did. But I wouldn't give up hope. I would keep pushing them.
President: We are. I told Rusk this morning to tell them that they said, well, that one day--they couldn't get them there. We said: "Well, we'll take one week."
President: "Or if you want, why we'll take one month. You just go on and get them. Lock them and put them in a goddamn trailer and get an oxcart to bring them if you want to. But the moment you deliver them, whenever you're ready, we're ready."
President: And tell--they said, well, that they're liable to interpret this one day--we said we'd meet the next day--as a condition, a new condition of the United States. That's what the North Vietnamese said: "The United States is imposing a new condition when it says they'll meet the next day." And our people said: "No, that's your language. In our talk, you said that if we stop the bombing, serious talks can begin the next day. So that's what we're doing." Well, they said, "That's interesting. But we'll have to go to Hanoi. We don't have the authority." Now this fellow's gone back to Hanoi; after Bundy made his speech, he just lit out for Hanoi right quick. And I don't know whether George Ball--George is a good man, but he's not the brightest fellow all the time, and I think he advised Humphrey to make another statement. And another thing that's real bad is that they were working on Humphrey's speech over in Paris. That's just inexcusable, don't you think?
Mansfield: I do indeed.
President: Well, I just thought you ought to know it because it may blow on us someday, and I couldn't help it--didn't know it until after it was over with. Cy Vance came back and I asked him what the hell they were doing listening to this speech. And he said, "Well, he had his superior, and Averell had been Democratic governor, and he felt very strong." And I said, "Well, now, your first instruction was to have no politics in this." He said, "Well, they talked to him." I said, "Who'd you talk to?" He said he couldn't remember. I just look at him and laughed. I said, "Cy, you Wall Street lawyer, you're telling me a man come from the United States and talked to you about this and you can't remember?" and laughed and said, "Yeah, George Ball's partner."/7/
Mansfield: George Ball's partner?
President: Yeah. Um-hm. So it was messy. And then Averell had been meeting with George Ball the week before. And Averell's a little bit old. I really wish I had Clifford in those negotiations because, God, he's smart and able and tough on negotiators.
Mansfield: He can't do it in his position.
President: No. No, he couldn't. He'd be the war-monger, you know. I wouldn't even let him go by there when he went to Germany this time. I could have Goldberg, but Goldberg just talks all the time. And he wants to be the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He says you've got to be for him, and Dirksen's got to be for him, and everybody up there's going to be for him if I've just got guts enough to name him.
Mansfield: Well you handled that right. You handled that right.
President: Well, I haven't handled it yet. It's still--
Mansfield: Well, that's what I mean, the way you did.
[The President laughs.]
[Omitted here is discussion of the nomination of Special Assistant Harold Barefoot Sanders to a circuit court judicial appointment in Texas.]
President: Well, you please don't discuss this with anybody. When the newspaper men ask you about it, I think what I'd say is that you believe the man wants to stop the bombing more than anybody else--that Johnson has got more in it himself than anybody who's in it everyday. But he has taken his position and he has offered his proposal, and as near as you can tell, there is not one thing that has been signed on over there. Now that's a true, accurate statement, and all these rumors to the contrary notwithstanding. And then before anything comes, I will call you first.
Mansfield: Thanks. Bye.
78. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in France/1/
Washington, October 16, 1968, 1126Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Outgoing)-October 1968. Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Harvan/Double Plus. Drafted by Read and Bundy, cleared by Clifford and Read, and approved by Rusk.
256008/Todel 1284. For Harriman and Vance. Deliver at Opening of Business.
1. At the teabreak tomorrow you should tell Thuy or hand him a note, if you think that preferable for security or other reasons, indicating: (1) We have no intention of stopping the bombing until the DRV is willing to give us a date on which we can begin serious talks with GVN representatives present; (2) The DRV has repeatedly indicated that serious talks could begin the day after cessation and when the DRV advises us of the date on which such talks can start we are prepared to stop the bombing the day before those talks in accordance with our presentation of October 15;/2/ (3) We see no reason for further delay and urge proceeding soonest even though it may mean starting with temporary GVN and NLF representatives who could be made available promptly and then be replaced by other representatives on their arrival. FYI: From our point of view the presence of "warm bodies" at the table the day following cessation is important as a symbol and it does not matter if they are soon thereafter replaced by permanent representatives. End FYI.
/2/See Document 71.
2. As we have emphasized in our separate cable to Saigon,/3/ any delay will of course create a really serious hazard of leak. We know that you will be doing everything possible to handle this at your end, as we shall here.
79. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam/1/
Washington, October 16, 1968, 1121Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Outgoing)-October 1968. Secret; Flash; Nodis; Harvan/Double Plus. Drafted and approved by Bundy, and cleared by Read. Repeated to Bangkok, Canberra, Manila, Seoul, and Wellington.
256007. Deliver by hand to Ambassador or Chargé.
1. Saigon should promptly inform Thieu that in private session in Paris on Tuesday/2/ night based on telecons only so far:
a. Our basic understandings on military restraints concerning DMZ and major cities were again restated without challenge.
b. We used form of words that clearly excluded reconnaissance, twice without challenge.
c. However, while expressing agreement in principle to GVN (and NLF) inclusion, Hanoi representatives said that they could not promise to get authorized NLF representatives to Paris on a date certain, but would do so "as promptly as possible."
2. Accordingly, we have decided that we cannot adhere to any schedule for announcement or action until we get a firm date from DRV as to when NLF representatives will appear. We are telling Hanoi at Wednesday tea break that we cannot set any date for cessation of bombing until we know a firm date at which formal serious talks would get under way with the GVN present. (On Tuesday night, Hanoi represent-atives rejected having the GVN present without the NLF.) We are going on to say that, once we know the firm date for serious talks, we would be prepared to have the bombing stopped 24 hours in advance.
3. You may tell Thieu that we are somewhat at a loss to explain this inability to set a definite date. However, we suppose it is conceivable that Hanoi and NLF have genuine difficulties and perhaps are troubled about transit through Communist China.
4. Saigon should thus report fully what has taken place in Paris. However, to avoid getting in the position of reporting every phase of the play, other addressees should simply pass the word quietly not indicating when or how received that Hanoi was unable to set a precise date for serious talks with the GVN present, so that we are waiting for them to do so. You may indicate that rest of information received did indicate likely arrangement along the lines already presented.
5. Above all, Saigon and all addressees should stress in the strongest possible terms the importance of maintaining security. This is absolutely vital from every standpoint.
6. Wellington should quietly inform Marshall or White, indicating that we were unable to reach Holyoake or Laking, but will do so tomorrow morning through Corner. Canberra should inform Hewitt or Gorton, and again we will tell Waller in the morning. Bangkok should know that we have not yet informed Thanat in any way, aid now propose to wait until the arrangement becomes firm, including the date./3/
/3/Reference is to Prime Minister of New Zealand Keith Holyoake, Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand John Marshall, New Zealand Ambassador to the United States F.A. Corner, Australian Prime Minister John Gorton, Australian Ambassador to the United States Sir John Waller, and Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs Thanat Khoman.
7. We assume Saigon will be letting us know in any event whether proposed joint announcement is satisfactory. We will try if possible to coordinate this with all TCC before the time comes for its use.
80. Telephone Conversation Among President Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Richard Nixon, and George Wallace/1/
October 16, 1968, 11:41 a.m.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Among Johnson, Nixon, Humphrey, and Wallace, October 16, 1968, 11:41 a.m., Tape F6810.04, PNO 2-3. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared specifically for this volume in the Office of the Historian. An unknown White House telephone operator was on the line to arrange the call. Humphrey was the Democratic Presidential candidate, Nixon the Republican candidate, and Wallace the Independent candidate. From Washington the President reached Humphrey at St. Louis, Missouri; Nixon at Kansas City, Missouri; and Wallace at Los Angeles, California. The conversation lasted 18 minutes. The entry for this meeting in the Daily Diary reads: "Vietnam Situation--White House Release on Reported Peace Negotiations." (Ibid., President's Daily Diary)
Operator: Mr. President, I have not told them that this is a conference call. Do you want me to do so?
President: Do what?
Operator: I have not told them that they're all going to be on with you.
President: I'll tell them.
Operator: I'll put them right on.
Operator: Just a moment. Go ahead please.
President: This is the President. This is a conference call that I have set up. I asked the operator to get the three Presidential candidates so that I might review for you a matter of the highest national importance and one which I know concerns you this morning. I will make notes of this--a transcription of it--and you are at liberty to do likewise, if you are prepared to do it. If not, you can take notes. If not, I will review it with you in more detail at a later date.
Nixon: Sure. Fine.
President: Who was that speaking?
Nixon: Yeah, I'm on.
President: Hubert, are you on?
Humphrey: Yes, sir.
President: George, are you on? George? Hello, George? Hello, George? Tell the operator that Wallace is not on. I think I will go with you. They told me they had all three connected. This is in absolute confidence because any statement or any speeches or any comments at this time referring to the substance of these matters will be injurious to your country. I don't think there's any question about that.
First, I want to say this, that our position, the government position, today is exactly what it was the last time all three of you were briefed. That position, namely, is this. We are anxious to stop the bombing and would be willing to stop the bombing if they would sit down with us with the Government of Vietnam present and have productive discussions. We have told them that we did not think we could have discussions if, while we were talking, they were shelling the cities or if they were abusing the DMZ. From time to time, beginning back late last Spring, they have nibbled back and forth at these various items. Each time they do, there is a great flurry of excitement. We have been hopeful one day that they would understand this. We don't want to call it reciprocity--we don't want to call it conditions--because they object to using those words, and that just knocks us out of an agreement. But we know that you join us in wanting peace the earliest day we can and to save lives as quickly as we can and as many as we can. So, one day we're hopeful, and the next day we're very disillusioned.
Now, as of today, they have not signed on and agreed to the proposition which I have outlined to you, nor have they indicated that this would be a satisfactory situation to them in its entirety. Our negotiators are back and forth talking to them, and they have just finished their meeting in Paris this morning. But, yesterday in Saigon, because there are exchanges constantly going on, there came out a report that there was an agreement that would be announced at a specific hour./2/ This morning in Paris the same thing happened, and Harriman had to knock that down./3/ We posted a notice here at the White House that said the same thing.
/2/See Document 75.
/3/See Document 76.
Now, very frankly, we would hope that we could have a minimum of discussion in the newspapers about these conferences because we are not going to get peace with public speeches and we're not going to get peace through the newspapers. We can get it only when they understand that our position is a firm one, and we're going to stay by it. And what y'all's position would be when you get to be President, I hope you could announce it then. Because we have really this kind of a situation. If I have a house to sell, and I put a rock bottom price of $40,000 on it, and the prospective purchaser says, "Well, that's a little high, but let me see." And he goes--starts to leave to talk to his wife about it, and Lady Bird [Johnson] whispers, "I would let you have it for $35,000." And then he gets downstairs, and Lynda Bird [Johnson] says, "We don't like the old house anyway, you can get it for $30,000." Well, he's not likely to sign up.
President: The Bundy speech/4/ didn't do us any good, and there are other speeches that are not helping at all because these people--when they read one of these speeches and hear them, well, then they take off for Hanoi, or they do something else.
/4/See Document 63.
The government's position is going to be this. I--we are willing to stop the bombing when it will not cost us men's lives, when the Government of South Vietnam can be a party to the negotiations, and when they will not abuse the DMZ and not shell the cities. Now, we do not have to get a firm contract on all these three things. But I do have to have good reason to believe that it won't be on-again-off-again Flanagan; that I won't have to stop bombing one day and start it the next. Now, obviously, they can deceive me, and we know that in dealing with the Communists that they frequently do that. We have had a good many experiences in that right in these negotiations.
But what I called you for was to say in substance this: our position has not changed. I do not plan to see a change. I have not issued any such orders. I will talk to each of you before I do, and all of you on an equal basis. I know you don't want to play politics with your country. I'm trying to tell you what my judgment is about how not to play politics with it, and I know all of you want peace at the earliest possible moment, and I would just express the hope that you be awfully sure what you are talking about before you get into the intricacies of these negotiations. Over. Now, I'll be glad to have any comment any of you want to make or answer any questions.
Humphrey: No comment, Mr. President. Thank you very much.
Nixon: Well, as you know, my--this is consistent with what my position has been all along. I made it very clear that I will make no statement that will undercut the negotiations. So we'll just stay right on there and hope that this thing works out.
President: George, are you on?
Wallace: Yes, sir, Mr. President, and of course, that's my position all along, too--is the position you stated, yes, sir, and I agree with you that we shouldn't play any politics in this matter so that it might foul up the negotiations in any manner.
President: Thank you very much. Now, what our policy is going to be I think all of you should know. It's not going to be an impetuous or hasty policy. I've outlined it to you. I do not want you to speak about it. I do not want you to lay down these points, because if you do, that causes them to say that they're conditions and it's reciprocity, and they may be able to take them if they don't think they're going to get something better by just waiting a few weeks or a few days. Now--so I think it is very important that this be confidential. Do you know whether your talking to me is knowledge to any of your people?
Nixon: In my case, the phone was picked up by somebody here--I'm at the Union Station in Kansas City--the phone was picked up by somebody else. It may be known, but I will seal them down. I'll just tell them we got a routine report.
President: Okay. If anybody asks, we will not mention it here, if they ask us, that we stated the facts as we see them. Namely, that there has been no agreement between us, that we will constantly negotiate, and when there is, well, the candidates will be among the first informed. Now, I'm not going to agree to anything unless my advisers--the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and all the Joint Chiefs themselves--consider the matter and give me their best judgment. And I get that from time to time. And it is all of their best judgment now at this moment that the position I have stated to you is the soundest position for this country. Namely, the Government of Vietnam must be included, and we could not expect an American President to have good discussions very long if they were shelling the cities or if they were abusing the DMZ.
Humphrey: Mr. President?
Humphrey: It's obvious that I am here at a school and I'm all alone. There's nobody with me, and they do not know that I've got a call from you. But I have been held up at a meeting, and the press is very alert. I'm just simply--is it all right to just simply say that we've had our regular report?
Nixon: That's good.
President: Well, what I'm fearful of--I'm afraid if they think that we're doing this, it will put a seriousness on it that wouldn't be justified.
Humphrey: What can we say?
President: I think, if you want to, I will just say that I called the three of you and I read to you the notice that Christian has posted here this morning--
Humphrey: Very good.
President: Which I will read to you now. It, in effect, says that these reports are premature, that there has been no agreement, and that we're not signed on with them at all.
President: Let me read it to you. "The position of the United States with respect to Vietnam remains as set forth by the President and Secretary of State. The position"--you can write this down--"The position of the United States with respect to Vietnam remains as set forth by the President and the Secretary of State. There has been no basic change in the situation; no breakthrough."
Humphrey: All right.
President: "As you have been advised, when there is anything to report, you will, of course, be informed promptly."
President: Now, I want to make this point to all of you candidates. First, I think you want to know what the situation is so you won't jeopardize it. Second, I don't want any one of the three of you to think that I am going to give a preference to any person. When we know what is happening that is significant to you, I will call each one of you just as quickly as I can before I would issue any orders. I think I have that obligation to you for your responsibility. So, don't think you are going to get tricked or deceived.
Now, we will be negotiating. We might sign up in--5 minutes ago. Our judgment is we won't. But this is our position. They have not accepted it, and I'm going on until January 20 along this line. I don't say there won't be some modification or moderation. But, in principle, this formula must be our government position as long as I'm here. Over.
Nixon: We got it.
President: Is that clear to all of you?
Nixon: We'll maintain your position. And Mr. Vice President, I'll see you tonight.
Humphrey: Yes, sir. Thank you.
Nixon: At the Al Smith Dinner./5/
/5/For the President's remarks at the annual Al Smith Dinner that evening in New York, at which both Nixon and Humphrey were present, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon Johnson, 1968-69, Book II, pp. 1041-1043. Nixon noted that the President reassured him that he was still intent on achieving reciprocal action from the North Vietnamese before he would assent to a termination of the bombing effort during the dinner. (Ibid.) In his memoirs, Nixon recalled the conversation: "There was no breakthrough in Paris. The rumors were wrong. He urged us not to say anything. He said that there had in fact been some movement by Hanoi, but that anything might jeopardize it. I asked for some assurance that he was still insisting on reciprocity from the Communists for any concessions on our part, and Johnson replied that he was maintaining that three points had to be met: (1) Prompt and serious talks must follow any bombing halt; (2) Hanoi must not violate the Demilitarized Zone; and (3) the Vietcong or the North Vietnamese would not carry out large-scale rocket attacks against South Vietnam's major cities. If these conditions were fulfilled, of course, I would support whatever arrangements Johnson could work out." See Richard Nixon, RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1978), p. 325.
Humphrey: What time are you coming?
Nixon: I'll be there; I'm flying in from Kansas City. I'll be there about 7:30 p.m.
Humphrey: Are you coming in at the beginning of the dinner?
Nixon: Oh, yes. I'll get there. You won't make it that early?
Humphrey: Are you wearing a white tie?
Nixon: Oh, yes.
Humphrey: I gather. Okay.
Nixon: I've got to go home and put the thing on.
Nixon: All right. Thank you.
President: Goodbye, George.
Wallace: Mr. President?
President: Yes, George?
Wallace: Now, you asked if anyone knew about this call. Now, the Secret Service did know about the call.
President: That's all right. We won't say anything about it, unless they quiz you. If they quiz you, the reporters, you say the President read you the memorandum which stated that the government position would remain as set forth by him in his public speeches, and there had been no change--the rumors to the contrary--there had been no breakthrough, and that he wanted to inform me of this fact because of the gossip so I wouldn't be up in the dark, and that he would keep me informed if there is any action taken.
Humphrey: Very good.
Wallace: Well, Mr. President, do you think continued talk about the matter of Vietnam is endangering the peace talks in any manner?
President: Well, I think it's what you say--what people say--that does. I think that if they think that either Wallace or Humphrey or Nixon--if they can hold out 3 more weeks and get a little better deal--buy the horse a little cheaper from you than they can from me, they're going to wait. You know that much.
Wallace: Yes, sir. But as long as we're strong. I've taken a strong position, and I don't want to do anything or say anything.
President: I know. What I'd do, I'd just give my views on it, but I'd bear in mind constantly that the enemy is looking at everything that's said in this country. We had a speech made day before yesterday, and a few hours later, they came in and said, "Well, we've got to go back to Hanoi." And they did. Now, I think if I were in their place and I were negotiating, and I read that Ho Chi Minh was in a sick bed, and in 3 weeks he would be out, and a better deal's awaiting me, and the new--and the new President would really do better than he's doing, I just don't think I would dash in. Don't you feel that way?
Wallace: I agree with you.
President: Anybody that ever bought a cat knows that. And let's just all try to stay together. I suggested to Secretary Rusk that he get all three of you to sign a statement that would say our government has taken a position; we cannot change that position until January 20th; therefore, we will stand behind that position until we take office, and then let Harriman read that to them so they would know it. But before we got around and got the thing written, why it kind of blew up, and we decided it wasn't wise to do it.
But whatever you can do in the way of peace offers or things of that kind, I would be awfully careful. As a matter of fact, I never will agree to one sentence until I have gone over it with my Joint Chiefs of Staff and Rusk and Katzenbach and Clark Clifford and Dick Helms. And if I am afraid to make a statement like that with all of these people advising us constantly, you can imagine how a fellow is out at a box supper or a school or at a country picnic--he's shooting from the hip. And I just hope that you'll understand that if you make a statement and it blows these conferences, I think it will hurt you more than you will gain from talking about the details of a peace offer right now. Wait until you get to January 20th, and then you can really get into it deep.
Wallace: Mr. President, I'm not even going to say a thing to the newsmen if they ask me. I'm just going to say that I'm just campaigning. How's that?
President: That's okay. Thank you, gentlemen.
Nixon: Very good.
Wallace: Thank you, Mr. President. Bye-bye.
81. Telephone Conversation Between Senator Everett Dirksen and President Johnson/1/
October 16, 1968, 3:27 p.m.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Dirksen, October 16, 1968, 3:27 p.m., Tape F6810.04, PNO 5. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared specifically for this volume in the Office of the Historian. From Washington Johnson placed the call to Dirksen, who was in Champaign, Illinois, in order to inquire about a statement the Senator had made during a speech in Chicago. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary) This conversation followed a telephone call Johnson had made to Dirksen earlier that day regarding his briefing of the Presidential candidates. Dirksen made the following pledge: "You stand your ground and I stand with you." (Ibid., Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Dirksen, October 16, 1968, 1:40 p.m., Tape F6810.04, PNO 4)
President: Everett, there's two things I wanted to raise with you. First, we're being asked about some statement which you made in a speech that any peace thing would be politics before the election, or something like that. I--
Dirksen: Let me tell you what that was.
President: I'm gonna dodge out of it. But I got out of this race to get out of politics and get into peace and I'm going to get peace any day I can if it's right up to the night of the election 'cause I got a lot of boys out there and I want to stop killing them when I can.
Dirksen: 25 reporters were in Chicago there at the lawyers' breakfast. The goddamned UPI said, "So, you think it's a gimmick?" I said, "I didn't say anything of the kind, and I'm not going to say anything until I find out what the story is."
President: All right, well, that's--
Dirksen: "So you think that's a gimmick?" I said, "You put words into my mouth, mister, and don't do it." He wrote that down. We just caught it down-state here.
President: Well, all of them are calling us and wanting to know what's our response and I just told them that--
Dirksen: You're going to tie it up and down for me.
President: We're not going to have any--we're not going to get into a fight with you. Now the second thing is we must not mention--we must not mention the DMZ and the shelling of the cities because if they think--if they think that this is reciprocity, their yellow Oriental face--they've got to save it. Now what we're doing there, when and if we ever do get a peace, we're going to say to them, that we will stop the bombing, but we want you to know that if you shell the cities, it starts it immediately. We want you to know if you abuse the DMZ, it starts it automatically. Now they can refuse to do something better than they can agree to it. Do you follow me? So don't spell out those things unless you have to. Now the main position is I think we've got to take is that the President has taken the position that he would not stop the bombing as long as it endangered American men. Therefore, you do not see how any man could want to stop killing the enemy only to start killing our own men. And that's where we're going to stand. And when and if they ever come under, why the first ones to know it will be you and Mansfield and the candidates, and I'll tell them all. But they have not--they have not agreed to anything like this, but we don't want to point out what they've got to agree to because if we do they never will agree to anything. Okay?
Dirksen: All right. Bye.
82. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in France/1/
Washington, October 16, 1968, 1514Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-October 1968. Secret; Flash; Nodis; Harvan/Double Plus. Drafted and approved by Rusk, and cleared by Bundy and Read.
256063/Todel 1287. For Ambassador Harriman from the Secretary.
We have been proceeding here on the basis that a cessation of the bombing would be followed immediately by talks in which the GVN would participate. This is not only a fundamental point of policy but it is the only immediate and visible sign that Hanoi has moved at any point. This is a fundamental requirement because otherwise we would be in the position of a unilateral cessation of bombing with nothing in exchange. You have insisted that we not make public points of the DMZ and attacks on the cities because that would offend Hanoi's attitude toward "conditions." We have accepted, even though with some misgiving, your view that silence on the part of Hanoi on these two points was an adequate basis on which to proceed, with the clear understanding that we would resume the bombing immediately if we were disappointed.
We must have a day certain for the beginning of the talks in which the GVN is present before we can deliver our part of the arrangement, namely, the cessation of the bombing. A bombing cessation followed by a week or a month's delay in getting off to serious talks would create an utterly impossible situation both internationally and domestically. Bunker and Thieu simply could not manage the situation in Saigon under such circumstances.
The North Vietnamese Delegation has, according to your reports, said the talks could "begin the next day." We do not believe that we can abandon this idea on the grounds that this phrase was used at an earlier stage, before Hanoi indicated they would agree to the presence of the GVN and that the talks on the next day would be about the question of representation.
The visibility of the presence of the GVN, again, is the only thing we could point to in connection with the major move by the United States in stopping the bombing. Since the presence of the GVN is utterly fundamental we cannot take our step with ambiguity or delays on this most fundamental point of all. We simply cannot take any risk of being in the position of having to resume the bombing after a few days because we are wrangling about the question of representation.
You need not adhere rigidly to "the next day" if you can get a date certain within two or three days but we must be able to point to that date at the time of stopping the bombing if we need to.
I went over with Dobrynin last night your talk yesterday and found he completely understood the importance of this point to the President and said he would immediately report it to his government./2/ There may be some Russian help behind the scenes on this one.
/2/The record of this discussion is in a memorandum of conversation between Rusk and Dobrynin, October 15. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol I [2 of 3])
It seems to me that the simple fact is that we have accepted Hanoi's proposition, we are prepared to stop the bombing today and we want to know when they will deliver what they have promised to deliver. The object of the Paris talks is not to get the United States to stop the bombing but to move toward peace. The date is now up to Hanoi; we are ready. If Hanoi cannot deliver an NLF Delegation, then we go back to the drawing boards. When Hanoi can deliver an NLF Delegation, we can move.
You and Cy have handled these talks with great skill and we are all anxious, as you are, to move the matter forward. I hope you can overcome this remaining obstacle promptly. Perhaps you should let the Hanoi Delegation know that you are ready for another private meeting just as soon as they have heard from their government.
83. Notes of Meeting/1/
Washington, October 17, 1968, 8:30 a.m.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, George M. Elsey Papers, Van De Mark Transcripts (1 of 2). No classification marking. This was a regular daily meeting of the Secretary of Defense's top civilian advisers. The attendees are not indicated but usually included Clifford, Nitze, Warnke, Goulding, Elsey, and Pursley. Also see Clark M. Clifford with Richard Holbrooke, Counsel to the President: A Memoir (New York: Random House, 1991), p. 491.
CMC mutters he had to be back at W.Hse. again last nite (but on another matter unspecified).
0845 CMC: "There have been so many leaks, I think I now have the right to get out from under LBJ order to keep quiet. Now that it's all leaked all over the world I want you men to have the background.
I've been hearing radio reports--some of them grossly inaccurate--& you men have to know I was called early Mon/2/ am & told to be at WHse. Rusk, Rostow & Helms were there--we were given docs to read./3/
/2/Monday, October 14.
/3/See Document 67.
Over Sat & Sun, in a private talk between Harriman & Vance, the other side for 1st time had indicated GVN could sit at the table in Paris. This was a sensational breakthru.
At a previous NSC meeting (when Geo Ball was there)/4/ the discussion had been as to what we could take as a minimum consideration (for stopping bombing).
/4/See Document 35.
--Presence of GVN
--Geo Ball had said he'd waive all three!
--I (CMC) had said I'd settle for #1--GVN at table.
This to be a condition precedent
If they could agree to that one understanding, we could start talks--but we'd break off if they violated grossly the other 2.
This is about how the talks in recent weeks have developed.
Word has come back that this was going to be acceptable to Hanoi.
All day Monday phone to Rusk/Vance in Paris etc etc--
--discussions of Releases, backgrounders, conferences--
All thought out in detail.
All we needed was final word from Harriman & Vance that it was firm & when these talks could start--how soon after a (theoretical) Mon. p.m. announcement by LBJ of bombing end--we thought it could start in 48 hrs! We shot word out to Saigon--we even worked out who the GVN's man would be.
It all hinged on our testing Hanoi's good faith--if they shelled the cities etc etc--we'd know they didn't mean it, & we'd break off & resume bombing. This was the logic I (CMC) got LBJ to go along with.
But Mon. nite, still no firm "O.K." from NVNam's man in Paris.
We talked on Tues/5/--we worked out Press statements. We checked at lunch Tues about LBJ's 16 pt checklist. Had Bunker talked to Thieu etc etc etc--& system from LBJ to talk to all 3 candidates etc.
/5/See Document 72.
But Tues aft/even a new element was into the act. For the FIRST time in all the Paris talks, Xuan Thuy raised the point that Hanoi wld have to get NLF permission & consent & there would have to be NLF representation!
He said in effect--"Stop the bombing, & we'll try to get NLF representation to Paris" no assurance as to when, how etc etc etc.
We said--use your NLF Paris reps!
Xuan Thuy--"No, they're just newspaper men!"
Vance urged--"Go ahead & stop the bombing!"
CMC/Rusk/Rostow threshed around for hours. CMC says "I took the position we couldn't stop the bombing until we knew when the talks were going to start . . . we couldn't stop with no assurance as to whether we would have to wait for day after day after day or ever--for other side. So, now, we'll agree to:
--no signed agreement
we don't care whether NLF man is there or not--it's OK with us--but we won't stop the bombing without knowing for a certainty there'll be a fast start."
From my seat, this reluctance by Hanoi casts a real suspicion . . .
We were prepared to stop the bombing last Monday nite & they knew it--but then they threw the hooker at us that they would have to dicker with NLF & this could take weeks!!!
The deal was to have been:
A)--we stop the bombing in return for:
When we were ready to do A, they suddenly put B into a vague never-never future.
CMC argument to LBJ:
For LBJ to stop, now, he'll be unable to show what he got in return! Because he would have gotten nothing. & he'd be subject to violent political criticism for doing it, all on grounds of LBJ trickery, for dom. pol. reasons.
CMC even angrier at some TV commentators who now say "Thieu vetoed the whole idea"--this will cause endless trouble.
CMC reveals that at one pt, LBJ had all JCS at WHse. (incl. Westmoreland in from the Hospital!) to be sure he had support & wouldn't be shot down from the rear!/6/
/6/See Document 69.
CMC says Harriman & Vance keep the Russians informed & Moscow is up on all this.
What we've done is disintegrate/end the NLF & so they have hardly anything left by way of strength.
CMC refers back to Monday--LBJ most of Monday still wanted all-three conditions & it took a lot of arguing to get him around to accepting anything.
LBJ is absolutely wild at Mac Bundy. He thinks Bundy's speech/7/ screwed it all up! We know from intercepts how Hanoi was elated by Bundy!
/7/See Document 63.
In the meantime, we're to hit VC as hard as we can with everything--the B[attleship] N. Jersey is South--we hit Laos too.
CMC spoke for 1 hr. & 10 mins. last night with Muskie by phone on "Round the World Tour d'horizon" (this was by arrangement worked out by GME[lsey] with Muskie's Admin. Ass't.).
(Dean Rusk calls at 10:00 to scream at us to keep quiet on V Nam!)
84. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State/1/
Paris, October 17, 1968, 1640Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-October 1968. Secret; Flash; Nodis; Harvan/Double Plus. Received at 1:06 p.m. In a covering note transmitting a copy of this telegram to the President, October 17, 2:15 p.m., Rostow wrote: "Herewith Harriman's and Vance's report on their meeting to get a date set for the quadripartite talks. It is not until para. 11 that they get our basic propositions stated straight." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. I [2 of 3]) In a memorandum to the President, October 17, 9:15 a.m., Rostow discussed a telephone report from Vance on this meeting, describing it in the following manner: "Pursuant to authority granted them, Cy met this morning with Thuy. He made the point that the concept of meeting 'the next day' was Thuy's--not ours. What was essential from our point of view was that a date certain be set. If, for example, a date for the meeting was set on Monday, we were prepared to stop the bombing two or three days before. Vance found the subsequent conversation interesting. Thuy virtually admitted there was a split in Hanoi. There were some, he said, who argued that this was 'reciprocity.' Thuy indicated that he was arguing in the other sense. Lau joined the conversation and indicated to Vance how the hardliners make their arguments. It is now Harriman's and Vance's view that the earliest we can get a response is Saturday, and we will probably not get a response until Monday. Their case is based on day's rest for Tho, upon his return to Hanoi, plus some debating in the politburo in Hanoi." (Ibid.)
22579/Delto 840. 1. In accordance with authorization contained in State 256063,/2/ we met with Xuan Thuy and Ha Van Lau for 1-1/4 hours, including tea, morning Oct. 17. National Assembly Deputy Nguyen Minh Vy, two notetakers and an interpreter were also present on their side; Negroponte on ours.
2. We said that since we had last met we had further confirmed that there had been a real misunderstanding as the timing of the next meeting after the cessation of bombing. Our government had assumed that the DRV side's suggestion to meet one day after the cessation of bombing would apply to any meeting, including a meeting at which representatives of the GVN and the NLF would be present. We said that our government had been reassured by the DRV side's expression of willingness to meet the day after a bombing cessation. And we had further assumed that the DRV had already communicated with the NLF and received its agreement to meet at an early date, in fact the day after the cessation of bombing.
3. We said it therefore came as a real surprise to us when Thuy had not been able to say when we would meet. Having explained the misunderstanding, we said that the question of meeting the day after the cessation of bombing was not as rigid as we had originally indicated it would be. But our government must have a fixed date for a meeting after the cessation and, if the DRV side gives us a fixed day for the meeting, we could assure them that the bombing would stop two or three days before that date. We said we were going into this detail so that there won't be a misunderstanding in Hanoi. It would be a tragedy if further misunderstandings should occur in respect to this matter.
4. We said we hoped that Thuy would communicate what we had said to his government in extenso.
5. Thuy said that at the time of our October 15 meeting/3/ the DRV had not known whether the US would stop the bombing if the DRV agreed to GVN participation and they had not arranged with the NLF a definite schedule for a meeting. We said that this fact contributed to the misunderstanding.
/3/See Document 74.
6. Thuy said that previously we had told the DRV side that the bombing would stop 24 hours before a fixed date for a meeting between the four parties. Now we say that it would be two or three days. Therefore, Thuy said, there is not much difference between the two proposals. We disputed this. We said what our government wants to know is that there will be a meeting and that it will be held promptly--two or three days after the bombing is stopped. There does not seem to us to be any reason for delay.
7. Thuy said that on October 16 he had communicated to Hanoi in extenso the memorandum we had handed to him at the tea break./4/ Thuy said that after receiving our memorandum he was afraid that Hanoi's views might change. What would be the nature of this change? As Thuy had said yesterday at the tea break, whenever the NLF steps up its attack against US positions in South Vietnam, the US clamors that the NLF is launching attacks while talks are going on in Paris; and when there is a "relative lull" the US says the NLF is weak and cannot attack. At these conversations, Thuy continued, the United States says that the DRV side has no good will, but when the DRV shows good will, then the United States raises another demand. This, Thuy said, was what he thought might be Hanoi's attitude. That is, the US will raise more and more conditions. However this morning we had given further explanation and Thuy said he would report it.
/4/See Document 76.
8. We asked if we had made ourselves plain. We had always assumed that there would be a prompt meeting, whereas the impression was created that we might have to wait a week for a meeting. This would create an intolerable situation. A prompt meeting is important as a symbol of progress and good faith on all sides.
9. Lau said he had a few questions. At the tea break yesterday, after receiving our memorandum, Xuan Thuy had expressed some views and, Lau said, he felt that those views have great importance because they deal with the substance of the question. The United States request that the DRV fix a date for a meeting before the cessation of bombing is a conditional one which runs counter to the United States affirmation that it accepts the unconditional cessation of bombing. Xuan Thuy had said on October 16 that he would report our views to Hanoi, including our memorandum.
10. Secondly, Lau continued, this morning we had had some additional word about the date of a meeting. We had also confirmed the existence of misunderstanding. Lau said that the DRV side will report this to Hanoi but personally he would like to say that the question of substance is the question of reciprocity. This matter had not been changed much by what we had said today. It is only a difference of a few days, and there is always reciprocity involved in the cessation of bombing. Lau asked to have our views on what Thuy had said yesterday, because, if there is a misunderstanding, it has still not been cleared up.
11. We replied we wanted to make clear that the misunderstanding is in Hanoi's mind and not in Washington's. We had both always accepted the fact that prompt and serious talks would follow the cessation of bombing. Our government had thought the definition of "prompt" to be one day because the DRV side had said that serious talks could take place one day after the cessation of bombing. Then we had had long discussions about the meaning of serious talks, and we had made clear that such talks must include representatives of the GVN. We had come to an agreement on the definition of "serious," but now there was a misunderstanding on the meaning of "prompt." We said it is very important for all to see evidence of good will and progress in these talks. We said we wished to repeat that we do not consider the question of holding a meeting promptly as a condition or reciprocity, but rather an indication of good faith on the part of the parties in moving to serious talks.
12. Thuy said that he would report our additional views to Hanoi immediately. He then said he had some additional questions for clarification. First, if the United States stops the bombing, how will the question of arranging for four-sided talks be dealt with? There are a number of questions in this regard which the US and DRV sides must discuss first. For example, the US had said that after the four-party negotiations had begun, there would still be matters of a purely bilateral interest between United States and the DRV. There is also the question of the rank of representation. At the moment Mr. Harriman and Mr. Vance are the personal appointed representatives of the President. Xuan Thuy is the representative of his government and holds the rank of a Minister. Will the US representation remain the same, or will its representation be at the Ministerial level? As for the NLF and the Saigon government, Thuy said, we don't know what their level of representation will be either. Will they be the same as that of the US and DRV, or will they simply be called representatives?
13. We replied that we were the personal representatives of the President and we would remain as such when serious talks began. There would be no change. We said we were already holding talks with Thuy holding the rank of Minister, and we were acting as personal representatives of the President. We said we didn't think this was an important matter. We added, of course, that if we did not conclude a settlement before January 20, we could not speak for the new President.
14. Thuy said then the DRV can take it that Harriman and Vance will represent the U.S. at the four-party conference. We replied affirmatively. We said we accepted that there will be matters of purely bilateral interest, and we have indicated in the past that we would be willing to continue private discussions with the DRV side on such questions. The plenary sessions, however, would include the four parties. The DRV side should recall that during the Laos conference Harriman had met privately with Pushkin almost every other day and Sullivan used to meet with Lau. Those kinds of meetings should be held as frequently as needed.
15. We then adjourned for a cup of tea during which they showed considerable interest in miracle rice and other Western technical developments.
85. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam/1/
Washington, October 17, 1968, 2007Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Outgoing)-October 1968. Secret; Priority; Nodis; Harvan/Double Plus. Drafted by Bundy, cleared by Read, and approved by Rusk. Repeated to Paris as Todel 1301.
256998. Ref: Saigon 40515 (being repeated Paris); and Saigon 40516 (on which Paris was addressee)./2/
/2/In these telegrams, both dated October 17, the Embassy in Saigon described the procedural discussions in which it was engaged with the GVN. (Ibid.)
1. Referring to points raised in Saigon 40515, highest levels author-ized--and Paris delegation today conveyed--slight modification of our position to effect that, while we still insisted on fixed date for meeting with GVN present before order to cease bombing, cessation could go into effect 2 or 3 days prior to fixed date for meeting. As indicated in draft Presidential remarks, we expect shortly after time of joint announcement of cessation, to make clear that the meeting would in fact take place on the fixed date and with GVN representatives present.
2. North Vietnamese reaction to modification today in Paris, and tea break conversation yesterday being forwarded to Saigon septels.
3. We leave it entirely to Bunker's discretion whether this modification should be clarified expressly to Thieu at this stage. We believe that the really serious point is to establish publicly from the outset that there will be a prompt and definitely fixed meeting at which the GVN will be present.
4. Related question is of course what we would say in joint announcement. Saigon and Paris comments have been requested and forwarded.
5. Concerning Thanh's worries on procedural arrangements, we would appreciate Paris comments to us and Saigon. Our own tentative thinking is that participants should sit on opposite sides of the present table, with GVN and US equidistant from the center on our side and without name plates or flags (to avoid NLF having them). We would suppose it much better if GVN had a single authorized spokesman at each session. But these are preliminary comments to the major points. We tend to share Saigon's apparent feeling that Thanh is worrying the problem a bit harder than it deserves. But we should try to clarify things in his mind a little, and would therefore welcome Paris comments.
6. The modalities of the meeting should, in the Secretary's judgment be informal in character rather than highly rigid from a point of view of protocol. The meeting should be looked upon as an extension of the present talks rather than as the convening of a formal conference. The more formality the more difficulty the United States would have because we have been there and would be sitting with people whose very existence we do not recognize. It might be worth pointing out to Thieu that the greater the formality the greater the status of the NLF. The United States and the GVN derive their own status from their general international position and not from the way in which we have been sitting with the DRV in Paris. The Secretary believes that Thanh should be relaxed but that Harriman should be careful about these arrangements; the result might [must] be something we could all live with.
86. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Secretary of State Rusk/1/
Washington, October 17, 1968, 4:47 p.m.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Rusk, October 17, 1968, 4:47 p.m., Tape F6810.05, PNO 2. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared specifically for this volume in the Office of the Historian.
President: Dean, well what's your evaluation today?
Rusk: Well. I think there's about one chance in three that we'll hear from them by the end of the week. That's about the way it sounds to me.
President: Why do you make it so low?
Rusk: Well, the way these fellows turn around. If they have got to go to the NLF and the NLF has got to go to their Central Committee, that sort of thing, I just think it may take a little time. I think that Averell and Cy are inclined to think that the answer will be yes, but I am not quite as optimistic as that.
President: You got all of your people to quit talking?
Rusk: I've really buttoned up the fellows here. Vietnam is just a forbidden subject over here. I did try to get NBC [television] today to come off of this business about we're being hung up by a great debate between us and Saigon. I just told them very much on a background basis that the allies are in agreement. The problem is Hanoi. Get them started in that direction instead of our quarreling with Saigon. That's not very good.
President: I don't know why Bunker didn't call them in for a little backgrounder and say this is just a deliberate untruth and there's not anything here that's holding up anything--that we have kicked the ball and the ball is in their court, and they can have peace any time they want it. Now we can't make up their minds. We have already taken action. It is up to them, and quit saying anything here about Saigon. And I just think we oughtn't send Thieu anymore stuff. To hell with him. I don't care. I am just tired of the son-of-a-bitch making that kind of stuff. It is just awful that his Foreign Minister and all that stuff just cause us all this damn trouble./2/ I feel about the same way about these little jerks that have got one battalion over there. I don't think it's necessary for us to stop our bombers because some goddamn fellow is back in the back woods and this son-of-a-bitch Gorton--I don't like that either./3/
/2/See Document 75.
/3/Gorton stated that he soon expected Johnson to make a statement regarding the complete cessation of the bombing. See The New York Times, October 17, 1968.
President: You are going to have a great problem with me, Mr. Rusk, in getting my consent to go out there and do a goddamn thing except a simultaneous announcement. I'm getting ready to say something at 4 o'clock--we'll tell them at 3:30--but I am not going to come in here and let them screw up this thing and give us the pain and anguish and misery that they do for nothing. It serves no purpose.
Rusk: Well, that statement of Gorton's is the worst single thing that has happened, I think.
President: He is an erratic, no good fellow--I knew that the first time I saw him. And I think that Thieu is absolutely disgraceful, but he's got more control over his people than I guess that you and I have. And I just hope--I don't know who is reading these reports back from Averell. Does that have pretty general distribution over there?
Rusk: Oh, no. This particular Harvan Double Plus Series is Ben Read, Bill Bundy, and myself, and Habib, who has gone back to join the delegation in Paris--he's a member of the delegation.
President: That's all right, but you make sure they tell me--they come in everyday and tell me that State says so and so. You be sure Bill Bundy is not talking to anybody.
Rusk: Oh, I am sure he's not.
President: All right. What about--do you think that they'll report back before this weekend?
Rusk: I think there's a chance they could come back at almost any time because I would be very much surprised if the Russians were not working on this very hard the way Dobrynin welcomed my telephone call yesterday morning/4/ about the 2 to 3 days thing. I just illustrate--I said if they will meet on Monday we could stop the bombing on Friday or Saturday, and he was very glad to have that, and my guess is that the Russians are working on this very hard.
/4/No record of this conversation was found.
[Omitted here is discussion of the Middle East.]
87. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/
Saigon, October 18, 1968, 1250Z.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. I [2 of 3]. Secret; Immediate; Nodis/Harvan Double Plus. Received at 9:35 a.m. In an attached covering note transmitting a copy of the telegram to the President, October 18, 12:00 p.m., Rostow wrote: "Herewith a GVN problem if we appear to accept the NLF as a 'separate entity'--and not part of 'their side.'" The notation "ps" on the covering memorandum indicates that the President saw the telegram.
40627. 1. Foreign Minister Thanh called in Political Counselor October 18 to inform him that President Thieu has sent instructions to Ambassadors Diem in Washington and Lam in Paris to "reaffirm" that if the NLF participates in Paris negotiations "as a separate entity" the GVN will not participate. The President, Thanh said, considers that participation of the GVN in negotiations would bring "no advantage" under such circumstances.
2. We asked what the GVN means by "a separate entity." The other side will obviously try to pretend that the NLF is something separate, which is what they have always said, and one cannot control what the other side says in the course of negotiations.
3. Thanh replied that the GVN is not moving away from its accept-ance of the "your side, our side" formula. They understand that the NLF can come as a part of the "other side" but the GVN could not come to the negotiations unless the status of the NLF was settled beforehand.
4. Pol Counselor said this is the kind of issue that cannot be settled either by agreement or beforehand and is best left unsettled, with each side holding to its own position.
5. Thanh thereupon said the GVN understands that the other side will "pretend" that the NLF is a separate entity but they want assurances that the US will not treat them as such. He pointed to the penultimate paragraph of the Honolulu Communiqué which had said that negotiations should "involve directly North Viet Nam and South Viet Nam."
6. Pol Counselor said that as I had pointed out to President Thieu last night (Saigon 40532)/2/ and as Berger had earlier emphasized to Thanh himself, these matters cannot be settled before the talks begin. We have always felt that it is important for the GVN to be present immediately after the bombing cessation and to make its position known./3/
/2/Dated October 17. (Ibid., HARVAN/DOUBLE PLUS, Vol. III)
/3/In telegram 22624/Delto 845 from Paris, October 18, the delegation noted: "We have made a make-or-break issue of almost immediate talks, and we cannot be in the position of being unable to comply on our side if we get definite date for meeting from DRV," and urged immediate resolution of the issue. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-October 1968)
7. The Foreign Minister was cautioned that it was of utmost importance that instructions to Bui Diem and Phan Dang Lam not leak out to the press, for it would make the GVN appear to be interposing new conditions to a bombing halt and appear to be involved in a major difference with US.
8. The Department will obviously be hearing from Bui Diem in the near future.
88. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State/1/
Paris, October 18, 1968, 1430Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, Harvan-(Incoming)-October 1968. Secret: Nodis/Harvan/Double Plus. Received at 10:53 a.m. In a covering memorandum transmitting a copy of this telegram to the President, October 18, 11:45 a.m., Rostow described the Vance-Oberemko discussion as a "clarifying conversation." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. I [2 of 3]) Vance reported on the meeting by telephone that morning. In a memorandum to the President at 8:45 a.m., October 18, Rostow wrote: "Cy Vance just called with the following: Oberemko asked to see him to catch up on the situation. Cy took him very carefully through the whole position. Cy feels it was time well spent. Oberemko promised to use his 'best influence' to get his government to lead Hanoi over the hump. Oberemko himself had nothing new to throw into the discussion." (Ibid.)
22619/Delto 844. From Harriman and Vance.
1. This morning Minister Oberemko called on us at his request. The meeting lasted about an hour and nothing of real substance came out of the meeting. Oberemko was unaccompanied.
2. Oberemko said that he had come to find out what the status of our discussions with the North Vietnamese is. We told him that we believed his government had been informed through Washington, but that we would be happy to bring him up-to-date. We thanked him for the constructive part he had been playing in our discussions here.
3. We outlined briefly the current situation, concluding that the ball was now in Hanoi's court. Oberemko said that he had been in touch with the North Vietnamese and that they felt that we had imposed a new condition at the last moment, i.e., that talks must begin within 24 hours. We said that no new condition had been imposed, that the issue was one of definition of "prompt" and that, assuming good faith on the part of the North Vietnamese, there had been a misunderstanding as to the definition of "prompt."
4. We said further that in any event we had now told the North Vietnamese that when they give us a date certain for the beginning of serious talks, the bombing will be stopped two or three days before that day. As he obviously wanted to be helpful, we explained at length why this is not a new condition but simply a definition of "prompt" talks.
5. Oberemko said that he felt that both the United States and the North Vietnamese were overemphasizing the importance of this final matter and that there should be a way to find the compromise. We said that we saw no way to compromise the matter, that we had already agreed to change 24 hours to two or three days, and that the best thing for both Oberemko and the Soviet Union to do was to use their influence to get the North Vietnamese to give us as soon as possible the date on which serious talks would begin. Oberemko said he would communicate our conversation to his government.
89. Memorandum of Conversation Between the Vietnamese Ambassador (Bui Diem) and the President's Special Assistant (Rostow)/1/
Washington, October 18, 1968.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. I [2 of 3]. Secret; Harvan Double Plus. The memorandum was sent to Bunker and the Paris delegation in telegram 258305/Todel 1327 to Saigon and Paris, October 18. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Outgoing)-October 1968) Bui Diem repeated the same messages in a conversation he had with Bundy that same day. (Telegram 257720 to Saigon and Paris, October 18; ibid.)
Bui Diem came in today at 4:30, at his request. He said he had two messages from President Thieu.
The first states that disastrous consequences would flow to the morale of the ARVN and South Vietnamese population if the NLF participates in the conference--especially if this participation is in the form of the NLF being a distinct entity from the DRV. Bui Diem went on to explain that such eventuality could have very dangerous repercussions on political stability given the view in the Assembly and in Vietnamese public opinion.
If "the worst" should come and the NLF is included in the North Vietnamese delegation, it will be essential to prevent the enemy from taking advantage of that position and posturing as a distinct entity.
The second message informed Bui Diem that President Thieu is opposing categorically the presence of the NLF at the Paris conference, especially with qualification as a "distinct entity." It is his feeling that it would be very difficult for the GVN to participate in the conference under those circumstances.
I began by saying that I understood the problem posed by Saigon, but it distressed me greatly for a simple reason: the Government in Saigon appeared to be approaching the possibilities of such a conference in a spirit of anxiety rather than a spirit of confidence. I said that, of course, the other side would try to blow up the NLF. We would stick firmly to your side-our side in the spirit of what President Johnson and President Thieu had agreed at Honolulu./2/ This was not a time to express anxiety and concern. It was time to roll up our sleeves and get to work to see how we handle the conference to our advantage.
/2/See Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. VI, Document 303.
It was a time to organize and be prepared to mount against the VC in the South a psychological warfare campaign that would break their morale in the face of the GVN appearance in Paris and the closing of the DMZ.
It was a time to begin to draft a message from President Thieu to the ARVN to tell them what they had already accomplished at the conference table by their performance on the field of battle, and to tell them to stay with it until an honorable peace was won. I said we had been in the foxholes of Vietnam together; that it would be a great stroke of good fortune if we were to be able to work together in the foxholes in Paris, and we should work in diplomacy in the same spirit that we are fighting.
I reminded him that if Hanoi accepts our position, it will be a position that we took from the first day in Paris, and which President Johnson had assured President Thieu he would take. There was every reason in the world for total trust of President Johnson by President Thieu.
I summarized at the end by saying that the problem they posed--of how the NLF was handled by the other side--was a real problem. We should all think about the modalities we would negotiate with the other side before the conference. We should be prepared to handle their inevitable efforts to blow up the NLF. We should be preparing to make the most psychologically and politically out of a break-over in Paris against the VC, and to strengthen the confidence of the people and armed forces of Vietnam. If Hanoi says yes, the whole world will know that Washington and Saigon have won a great victory. The people of Vietnam and their political leaders should act on this assumption in confidence.
When I finished, Bui Diem said, I know and agree with everything you have said. The problem is that President Thieu has not listened to the advice I gave him when I was in Saigon before Honolulu. I begged him then to prepare our political leaders and our people for peace talks. He has made little preparation. And so now they are worried and in some confusion in Saigon with heavy pressures, especially from the Assembly, on Thieu.
He said he would report what I had told him fully as the words of a great and good friend of South Vietnam.
90. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam/1/
Washington, October 18, 1968, 2210Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Outgoing)-October 1968. Secret; Priority; Nodis/Harvan Double Plus. Drafted by Bundy, cleared by Rostow and Read, and approved by Rusk. Repeated to Paris as Todel 1324 for Harriman and Vance.
Our Side/Your Side Formula.
1. Saigon 40627/2/ reporting Thanh's remarks on this subject has been followed, predictably, by approaches from Bui Diem here (septel)/3/ and Lam in Paris (Paris 22652)./4/ Needless to say, we share the grave concern expressed by Paris in its 22632 and 22624,/5/ and agree that we cannot open up the fundamentals of the formula at this stage or, above all, be in position of not having the GVN ready to come to the table if we get a definite date for meeting from the DRV.
/3/See footnote 1, Document 89.
/4/In telegram 22652/Delto 850 from Paris, October 18, the delegation reported that Lam had stated that "he did not believe that his Foreign Minister understood the our side-your side formulation" and that Lam apparently was "exercised" about both not being kept informed by and not having received instructions from his government. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-Outgoing)-October 1968)
/5/Both dated October 18. (Ibid.)
2. Equally obviously, we cannot hope to straighten this out by further conversations with GVN representatives in Paris and here. We are unable to figure out whether putting Bui Diem and Lam into orbit has been Thanh's personal private idea (compare his calling in the TCC representatives) or reflects serious concerns held by Thieu himself. In any case, we believe the only way this matter can be straightened out is through direct and frank talk between Ambassador Bunker and Thieu, if necessary with Thanh present.
3. Key points to be made at this talk, with supporting argument as you see fit, should be:
a. The arrangement proposed in Paris and apparently accepted in principle by the North Vietnamese does not in any way provide that the NLF is being recognized as "a separate entity." We believe that, just as the organization of our side is up to us, so we have to leave it to the other side to determine its own composition.
b. To attempt to define the status of the GVN or the NLF--and especially any attempt to get Hanoi to agree to a higher status for the GVN than for the NLF--is plainly doomed to failure.
c. This is why we have all along made clear that we did not expect to define the status but simply to agree on the fact of participation. (Indeed, from a legal standpoint we are not "recognizing" even the DRV by sitting down and talking with it.) As Ky summed up consensus of his colleagues at 6th consultative meeting, "as practical men we must accept" our side/your side formula. The fact of participation, with no recognition implied in either direction, has been made abundantly clear to the Hanoi representatives in the Paris talks.
d. On this record, there can be no question of the GVN failing to appear at substantive talks when and if a date is set. For them to take this position would be most harmful to US/GVN relations and to the standing of the GVN in the US and elsewhere. It would only dramatize the NLF and play right into Hanoi's hands. There can be no doubt whatsoever that GVN participation under "your side/our side" formula is bitter pill for DRV to swallow linked as it is to bombing cessation.
4. This is of course the central point to get across, together with getting the issue back into Thieu's personal hands. At the same time, we would suppose that Thieu's (or Thanh's) concern rests on political reactions that may have been received since they started talking about the possible arrangement both among themselves and with Assembly leaders. To allay these concerns as much as we can without losing the essence of the presently possible arrangement, we believe Bunker could go forward at this session to express our willingness to discuss the actual physical arrangements at any time. In our judgment, this had best be done in Paris where the physical layout is familiar. But Bunker could tell Thieu that we were prepared to pursue this question of detail in either Paris or Saigon, provided of course that it was clearly understood the discussion would have to be tentative and could not affect the fundamental attendance of the GVN.
5. Another possibility is that we might be prepared to consult now about subjects on which we would expect the GVN to take a leading role. We of course continue to reject the idea that there would be any single designated spokesman, but we do envisage that we would consult extremely closely with the GVN on what each of us would say on any given topic, and that as a practical matter there might well be a division of labor with one or the other taking the lead on specified topics.
6. We recognize, at the same time, that for us to get into either physical arrangements or the question of topics may have just the opposite effect to the one we are seeking. Moreover, we could get painted into a corner, particularly on the topics. We leave it to Bunker after checking with Paris whether to open up either one, or both, of these "safety valves." If there were to be a discussion on who would lead on particular topics, we have many thoughts available here and shared in staff paper being cabled separately to Saigon, but we would need to be very careful indeed, and it might be much better to wait until they have a first-class delegation in Paris, and can go over the whole thing there.
91. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/
Saigon, October 19, 1968, 1045Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Received at 8:50 a.m. Repeated to Paris for the Vietnam Mission. This telegram is printed in full in Pike, ed., The Bunker Papers, Vol. 2, pp. 600-611.
40697. For the President from Bunker. Herewith my seventy-first weekly message.
1. In early July, I summarized in my fifty-ninth message the events and trends, the achievements, and shortcomings of the first half of 1968. I think a similar summation of the third quarter may now be useful. Accordingly, this message is a review of the situation as it developed in July, August, and September. As in my summary of the first six months of 1968, this message will begin with an overview, followed by more detailed accounts of the salient political, military, economic and pacification developments. In my next message, I propose to cover the priority areas where we think it most essential to drive ahead and where we intend to concentrate our maximum efforts between now and Tet, i.e., in the next four months.
2. The major events of the past three months were: A) the Honolulu conference; B) the enemy's abortive August/September "third offense"; C) the assumption of the military initiative by friendly forces; D) the rapid build-up of the Vietnamese armed forces and their continued improvement; E) the gradual but steady drive toward pacification; F) the step-up in the attack on VC infrastructure, and plans for future intensification; G) the preparation of a pacification counteroffensive to be carried out November 1-January 31; H) the completion of the recovery program; I) the move toward political organization with the official launching of the Lien Minh and its new action program; J) the decision to allow General Duong Van Minh to return to Viet-Nam; and K) the gradual return of the economy toward pre-Tet levels. The enemy's strategy of "general offensive" continued both costly and unrewarding to him, but as the quarter ended there was as yet no definitive sign of a change in his strategy.
3. I think several important trends emerged from the events of the past three months. I characterized the major trend of the first half of 1968 as the movement toward a stronger, more self-confident, more unified Vietnamese people and government. This trend has continued. The expectation of a renewed enemy drive against the nation's cities served to maintain pressures for unity, cooperation with the government and maximum mobilization of all military and civilian resources. The subsequent failure of the enemy's military effort, plus the improved performance of both the government and the armed forces, further increased Vietnamese confidence in their ability to run their own government, to shoulder a greater part of the war's burden, and to determine their own future. This increased self-confidence was also reflected clearly in a marked decline in fears that the United States might impose a settlement which could lead to a Communist takeover. I should add, however, that these fears could re-emerge if intent underlying apprehensions are stimulated by new events or rumors.
4. Contributing heavily to the growth in Vietnamese unity and self-confidence was the effectiveness of the working alliance between President Thieu and Prime Minister Huong. This has been one of the major pluses for the period. Thieu and Huong have complemented and supported one another in the effort to prepare the people for peace negotiations and a future political contest with the Communists. Despite some obvious difficulties, Thieu backed Huong on his anti-corruption campaign and significant progress was made. He allowed Huong to run the government from day to day with little interference and supported his decisions, while Huong looked to Thieu for policy guidance and threw his considerable personal influence and prestige behind the Thieu regime. The result has been more effective government, significantly increased popular support, and continued, though not yet adequate, movement toward national unity.
5. The Vietnamese confidence in the US also improved. In late June and early July, the Assembly and the press were full of forebodings about American intentions. The lower house called on the US to put a time limit on the Paris talks and one Deputy called the absence of a Vietnamese representative at the talks "a national disgrace." By the end of September, these fears and suspicions had subsided to a considerable extent. The Honolulu conference and our firm stand at Paris were two factors contributing to this change. It also reflected Vietnamese relief at the outcome of our national party conventions. It sprang significantly from awareness of the fact that the military situation was greatly improved.
6. Also contributing to the trend toward more national unity was Thieu's efforts to nurture a broad nationalist political organization. The official launching of the Lien Minh took place on July 4 and some 840 cadre have been since trained for a high impact self-help social welfare program in Saigon.
7. The second basic trend which I observed in the first half continued; there was further movement toward constitutional democracy, government based on institutions rather than personal relationships, and civilian control of the military. Thieu is in fact now close to exercising the full powers vested in him by the Constitution, and the extra-constitutional power of Vice President Ky and the other Generals has continued to decline.
8. Perhaps the most obvious example of this trend was the removal, without repercussion, of General Khang as III Corps commander. Khang was not only the principal Ky supporter still holding a position of great power, but he is an avowed opponent of constitutional democracy. He thoroughly distrusts civilian politicians and the National Assembly, and he has never concealed the fact. His removal symbolizes the further decline of the power of the military group that took over the government in 1965.
9. Less dramatic than Khang's removal, but at least equally as important in moving toward constitutional government and full democracy, was the continued functioning of an independent legislature. While it was by no means all smooth sailing, the Assembly and executive continue an effective working relationship. Besides serving as a vital sounding board of public opinion, thus providing both a safety valve and a meaningful check on the executive, the Assembly hammered out several basic laws. These included the measure establishing the Supreme Court, the law governing the Inspectorate, war risk insurance, and an electoral law for the by-election in Saigon. Well along toward enactment were the laws governing the press, the political parties, and setting up the three councils provided for in the Constitution.
10. During this period the GVN continued to carry out its general mobilization program. By September 30, regular forces alone had a strength of 825,000; including the paramilitary forces, the total was well over a million. Efforts to upgrade and increase the strength of RF and PF continued, and self-defense forces were enlarged to over 650,000 men and women. While many weaknesses and shortcomings remain in the effort to effect total mobilization, when one considers what has been achieved from a manpower pool representing two-thirds of a population of 17 million, the magnitude of the accomplishment is impressive.
11. On the military side, the trend has been one of steady improvement in the position of allied forces and deteriorating capability on the part of the enemy. The enemy continued to suffer very heavy casualties; the total enemy KIA this year is already greater than for 1966 and 1967 combined. Although the August attacks made few headlines because they were smashed before they really got off the ground, enemy losses were almost as great as those suffered in the more spectacular May/June offensive. One result of these heavy losses is the growing proportion of regular North Vietnamese troops, a situation which is causing the enemy increasing difficulties in terms of local support and troop morale.
12. While the May/June enemy drive was markedly less effective than his Tet attacks, the decline in enemy offensive potential was revealed with far greater force by his almost complete failure to get the long threatened "third wave" underway. Except for a brief foray into the outskirts of Tae Ninh, the enemy penetrated no urban areas. He was forced to abandon his intention to attack Ban Me Thuot, and the main target--Saigon--was never seriously threatened. By defeating the enemy away from population centers, the heavy damage and loss of civilian lives that accompanied the Tet and May offensives were averted. This enemy failure, unfortunately, had the paradoxical effect that others elsewhere in the world did not take cognizance of the fact that he had tried, and failed, to launch a third offensive.
13. It is also notable that the withdrawal of friendly forces from the countryside to defend cities and towns did not reoccur, so the proportion of the population under reasonable government control continued to increase slowly but steadily despite the August attacks and is now virtually back to the pre-Tet level. At the end of the quarter, the government was developing plans aimed at increasing further its control of the countryside--the pacification counteroffensive. This took on new importance in light of the heavy emphasis by the enemy on the formation of "liberation committees." While these committees could serve a variety of purposes, it seems likely that they are intended primarily for a cease-fire situation. Given some kind of internationally supervised cease-fire, liberation committees could lead some credibility of control over wide areas of the countryside. It should be noted, however, that much of this is "old wine in new bottles"; that many of these committees are simply existing bodies under a new name and that more than half of them are in VC controlled hamlets and villages. In any case, it is vitally important that this tactic be countered and the government's plans for this, I believe, are sound. We will support them fully.
14. There is, of course, a debit side of the ledger. While I think it is fair to say that the overall situation has improved significantly in the past three months, important weaknesses and shortfalls still plague the GVN and its allies.
15. On the political side, it must be said that the progress toward unity which I have cited above still leaves us far short of the goal. The government needs much more popular support than it has won so far. For it to rally the anti-Communist majority for a successful political effort against the Communists, the Lien Minh must find a way to draw in other political groups, such as the militant Catholics, Hoa Hao, and Buddhists. Though the decline in Ky's power makes his relationship to Thieu less crucial, the continuing distrust between them remains an important political liability.
16. In some areas, the Thieu-Huong government has made important progress toward effective constitutional democracy; it must also be said that they have often proved less than skillful in handling problems affecting youth and the press and a few dissidents such as Truong Dinh Dzu. Corruption has been cut back and the attack continues, but it still remains a deep rooted cancer.
17. On the military side, we must note that despite his failures and defeats, the enemy still has some capability of building up for further costly offensives, in the hope of wearing down our determination to see the war through. His ability to withdraw to sanctuaries in Laos, Cambodia, and North Viet Nam gives him a great advantage if this is his purpose. Nobody could tell us as of the end of September to what extent Hanoi believes its own propaganda about our losses and how they assess the likelihood of important American concessions in Paris. While we objectively judge their military situation to be very bad, they may subjectively still judge it to be good enough to hold out for American concessions.
18. Finally, the basic question is are we making progress, are we gaining or losing ground? In Viet-Nam, an assessment is doubly difficult because the very nature of the way makes defining victory or defeat so much more complicated than in most conflicts. I have outlined the progress for the last three months, the trends as I see them, and the remaining problems. After adding all of the factors, the pluses and minuses together, and making allowances for the imponderables, I can only say that I feel optimistic about this situation; that the steady, though not spectacular progress I have previously noted has continued and accelerated. The tide of history now seems to me to be moving with us and not against us; and I believe that if we persevere, this bitter war will serve to prevent future, broader conflicts.
19. When I wrote the summary for the first six months of 1968, the Huong government was still so new in office that it was difficult to say much about its performance. Now, with only a little over four months to judge by, it is still early to come to firm conclusions, but I think it may be useful to draw up a tentative balance sheet.
20. Perhaps the first item on the plus side of the ledger is the increase in popular support which Huong brought to the government. He has a substantial personal following in the South. More important, his image as an incorruptible, tough, paternal figure has not suffered after four months in power. If anything, his speeches, his travels, and his public acts have brightened the image.
21. Huong has his detractors and his political opponents, and the Vietnamese public remains perhaps the most skeptical in the world. At the very outset Huong faced stiff opposition from the Revolutionary Dai Viets, some Northern Catholic elements, and some of the cliques around Vice President Ky. Ky himself predicted that the Huong government would not last long.
22. Huong's opponents adopted the tactic to trying to label Huong soft vis-ˆ-vis the NLF and pro-Communist elements. Huong cut the ground from under them, not without some political cost, by firing Doctor Phan Quang Dan and by taking a very tough line with students and the press. The trial of Truong Dinh Dzu and the Alliance leaders was in part this kind of response to the pressures Huong felt from his political enemies.
23. However regrettable some of these moves from our point of view, they at least proved effective in terms of Vietnamese domestic politics. Barring unforeseen events, such as a turn in the Paris talks considered unfavorable to the GVN, there seems no immediate danger that Huong's opponents can generate any significant degree of popular pressure for a change in government. On the contrary, recognizing that their tactics have been unprofitable, the leaders of the Revolutionary Dai Viets have recently decided to moderate their opposition stance.
24. Probably the second most important plus for the Huong government is the anti-corruption drive. This effort pre-dates the Huong government, and it is due at least as much to President Thieu's support as to Huong's determination to clean up the government. With the sometimes free swinging support of the Assembly and the local press, Huong has given the fight against corruption new impetus and new prominence.
25. Among Huong's first moves against corruption was the revitalization of the executive Inspectorate system by placing it under Minister of State Mai Tho Truyen. Truyen's office is charged with investigating charges of corruption and documenting them. Truyen had told us that his staff cannot keep up with the volume of complaints they receive. A more recent administrative anti-corruption measure was the creation in August of anti-corruption committees in every province and municipality. They are specifically charged with inventing and implementing measures that will make corruption more difficult and less profitable. Also in August, the Huong government directed all civil servants to declare their property holdings, including the property of their wives, children, and parents.
26. Huong has continued Thieu's earlier efforts to remove corrupt officials, particularly province chiefs, and replace them with more honest and more able men. Since Tet, 23 of 44 province chiefs have been changed and the government has made known its intention to replace four more; while many of these were not relieved for corruption, the majority of those whom we had reason to consider notoriously corrupt were among the men removed. In the past such offenders were often not prosecuted or otherwise punished even though they were fired for corruption. In September the Huong government not only announced the removal of three province chiefs "in order to push forward vigorously the anti-corruption campaign" but also stated that two of them would be prosecuted for corruption.
27. The replacement of General Loan as Director General of Police by Colonel Tran Van Hai has also been important in reducing corruption. Petty graft and shake-downs by police have long been among the most visible and annoying forms of corruption from the point of view of the average citizen. Hai has removed, punished, and disciplined literally hundreds of police and police officials in an effort to end these practices. We have several reports that indicate he has in fact made significant inroads on this politically important kind of corruption.
28. The Huong government should also get credit for several meas-ures designed to realize Huong's belief that the government must make sure that the Constitution is applied and that all citizens are equal under law; in effect, to reestablish the government's authority. Among the more important of these moves was the effort to liberalize the processing of civil prisoners. Dismayed by the number of persons being held without charge in jails throughout the country, Huong ordered the formation of special committees to screen all such prisoners within a minimum time period. Prisoners were either to be charged and tried or released promptly. Huong himself visited a number of prisons to follow up his orders. The result is that several thousand illegal detainees have been released, and the police system generally brought more into line with the guarantees written into the Constitution.
29. The most notable beneficiary of Huong's move to free or try illegal detainees was Thich Tri Quang and several of his followers. These An Quang leaders had been put under "protective custody" after the Tet attacks. With Thieu's blessing, Huong acted to release them. This move not only dramatized the government's confidence and determination to support legal forms, but in Vietnamese eyes it also placed Tri Quang under a public obligation which makes it more difficult for him to attack the Huong government directly.
30. In line with this policy, Huong has also pressed Thieu to permit General Duong Van Minh to return to Viet Nam. At the end of the quarter Thieu took the decision, in part I believe also at my encouragement, and Big Minh returned to Viet Nam October 5. While Minh has so far avoided all efforts to identify him with the government or any opposition group, his return is widely regarded as a wise and liberal measure. I also hope that in the future Big Minh's considerable popularity can be brought to bear in support of the GVN and against the Communists.
31. The Huong government should also be given credit for pressing the civil defense program forward vigorously. After Vice President Ky dropped this project, Huong and his Ministers picked it up. With our encouragement, Huong designated August self-defense month, and as I noted in the general section, well over 650,000 men and women are now enrolled in self-defense units.
32. There are other areas in which the Huong government has registered achievements. These include his travels and speeches aimed at preparing the population for the coming political contest with the Communists. (He has specifically tied the self-defense organization to this need in a number of his speeches. Along with Thieu, Huong has worked hard to win a public acceptance of a negotiated settlement and the imperative need for political unity against the Communists in the peace that is coming.) While not temperamentally inclined to an easy relationship with the Assembly, Huong has succeeded in working well with Assembly leaders. Huong is also generally credited with increasing the efficiency of the Cabinet and the Ministries. He has focused bureaucratic attention on the priority problems and applied pressure for results.
33. On the negative side, despite real progress, the Huong government still has a long way to go in winning positive popular support, eradicating corruption, reforming the civil service and breathing more vigorous life into the democratic forms which the Constitution outlines. The major shortfalls as well as the major accomplishments are in those areas; it is not that Huong has not done well, but that there is so much to do and that time is so short.
34. The Huong government's dealing with the press and students has been mixed. Although one of the first acts of the Huong government was to lift censorship, it then proceeded to mete out suspensions and fines to some papers for false reporting and failing to take guidance on some issues. Criticism has not been stifled by any means, but the government has made clear that the press is not to print any story which may undercut the GVN position on peace, negotiations, or the prosecution of the war. Similarly, the Huong government has dealt sternly with some left-leaning student leaders which may have alienated some of the politically minded students who constitute the usual minority of the student body.
35. There were also the trials by a military court of the Alliance leaders and Truong Dinh Dzu. While these trials probably strengthened the government internally--certainly they caused virtually no expressions of opposition--especially Dzu's conviction had a most unfortunate effect on the GVN image abroad. I think it is also fair to say in this connection that in general the Huong government has been preoccupied by its internal problems to the point where very little has been done to promote its interests in the international sphere.
36. To sum up, I think the Thieu-Huong alliance has resulted in a government that is more popular, more effective, and more stable than any since the early years of the Diem regime. Nevertheless, the GVN faces monumental tasks; it must redouble its efforts if it is to succeed in forging the national unity and the strong institutions which are likely to be essential for success in the future political war with the Communists.
36. When the third quarter began, it appeared that the enemy was prepared to launch a series of attacks against Saigon, Banmethuot, the eastern DMZ area, the Hue-Quang Tri area, and the area southwest of Danang. Allied forces aggressively disrupted this effort, engaging the enemy wherever possible, penetrating his base areas, and breaking up his logistics system.
37. Air strikes and artillery contributed significantly to the effort. B-52 strikes proved particularly effective. One Hoi Chanh who rallied on 22 September near Kontum City stated that air strikes had left only 40 survivors out the 450 assigned personnel in the 4th Battalion of the 24th Regiment. Recent evidence indicates that the B-52 strikes have caused serious damage to the enemy in all four corps tactical zones, and that the psychological impact on his morale has hurt his fighting ability.
38. The enemy was kept off balance, and when he finally launched what he termed his "third offensive" on August 18, he was unable to achieve any of his major objectives. He was defeated in sharp engagements at Tay Ninh, near Danang, and at the Duc Lap CIDG camp. He was forced to abandon his plans for an attack on Banmethuot, and although Saigon was rocketed on the night of August 22, the capital was never threatened by a ground attack.
39. Enemy activity peaked near the end of August and declined steadily in September. Our forces continued to pursue the enemy in September, inflicting further casualties and capturing very large quantities of weapons and supplies. By the end of the quarter, the threat had been met and defeated by allied counter-offensive actions. Enemy activity, for the most part, was reduced to attacks by fire against population centers and military installations, an increasing number of terrorist acts, interdiction of friendly LOC's and attempts to avoid battle with organized friendly forces.
40. The threat has not been eliminated. The enemy's access to sanctuaries across South Viet-Nam's borders is a tremendous advantage should he decide to rest and regroup for a new offensive thrust. But the capability of the enemy to achieve his objectives has been reduced. By moving aggressively in the pacification field to take advantage of this opportunity, we can strike a severe blow at his longer-term capabilities.
41. Enemy losses this quarter were again very heavy. Enemy KIA during what he calls the third phase offensive were over 23,000--nearly as great as that inflicted during the May-June attacks. Enemy forces lost vast quantities of arms and supplies as they were driven back and were hence unable to protect their logistics system. During the period January-September, we have taken from caches almost 8,500 weapons (over 900 crew-served), and over 700 tons of ammunition.
42. RVNAF also continued to expand and improve its combat performance during this quarter. On June 30 RVNAF had approximately 765,000 men under arms. This was an increase of 120,000 over the level of January 1. At the end of this quarter, the RVNAF strength had increased to about 825,000, a jump of nearly 60,000 men in a period of only three months. Total armed forces in this country, as I said above, are now well over the million mark. This would be the equivalent, on our much larger population base, of an American force of 18 million men.
43. The RVNAF is also fighting better. MACV reports that ARVN forces have gained self-confidence through their victories in recent months, and show encouraging signs of aggressiveness in the conduct of their operations. The increase in firepower of GVN units resulting from issuance of the M-16 rifle and M-60 machine gun has caused a substantial change in the soldier's attitude toward closing with the enemy. Now, armed with a weapon better than the enemy's he has frequently sought contact with enemy main force units and shown less reluctance to accept casualties in order to decisively engage and defeat the enemy. Large unit leaders have displayed a new aggressiveness, and junior officer and NCO leadership have shown improvement, although certain units are still plagued by serious problems of leadership and training.
44. While it is difficult to quantify such matters, I call your attention to the conclusions reached by systems analysis of the Department of Defense in a study published in the September issue of Southeast Asia Analysis Report. It showed that since March of this year, ARVN battalions have been 56 percent as effective as US battalions in killing the enemy versus 48 percent during 1967. It concluded that this better performance by ARVN is equivalent to getting the output of an additional 16 US battalions against the enemy. The improved performance plus the increased RVNAF size have added the equivalent of almost 200,000 Americans between 31 December 1967-31 August 1968. This is the more impressive when one remembers the great difference in artillery and air support which the US forces receive. A separate study in the same systems analysis publication showed that per man, the US soldier in a maneuver battalion gets more that ten times the rounds of artillery supporting a Vietnamese in a tactical unit. I don't have a comparable figure for air support, but we know the Vietnamese get much less.
45. July-August 1968 saw a stepped up trend in pacification recovery from the post-Tet low. According to the hamlet evaluation system, the rate of improvement was the sharpest of any three month period since the HES started in January 1967. September HES figures just available indicate a one percent countrywide increase in relatively secure population, bringing the total recovery to seven percentage points in six months.
46. Almost 67 percent of SVN's 17.5 million population is now regarded as relatively secure, thus practically erasing the Tet setback. If we look at rural population only, the same trend is evident. Relatively secure rural population has now reached 51.3 percent of the countrywide total. Contested rural population declined to 22.8 percent, and VC controlled rural population to 25.9 percent, by the end of September.
47. While the improvement in pacification prospects is attributable partly to enemy losses and emerging weaknesses, much must also be ascribed to favorable developments in several pacification areas--particularly improvement in RF/PF and in the attack on the VC infrastructure.
48. MACV's long-standing efforts to improve the neglected RF/PF are finally beginning to pay off. Their weaponry has been significantly upgraded, and more is in prospect as we begin the issue of M-16s. By the end of the third quarter 1968, RF/PF strength had reached 386,000, the highest ever. This rapid expansion caused a temporary shortage in officer and NCO cadre, but in August-September this gap began to be filled. Operational results for August (September data is not yet available) show that RF unit operations increased by 8,000 over July (16 percent) and contacts with the enemy increased by 300 (22 percent). PF unit operations increased by 7,600 (9 percent) and contacts by 330 (26 percent). The RF/PF killed 77 percent more enemy in August that in July, while their own KIA increased by 47 percent. We see no reason why this trend in RF/PF improvement should not accelerate.
49. The second notable development in July-September 1968 has been the coming of age of the attack on the VC infrastructure. Thieu gave the Phung Hoang program his personal blessing in July and Minister of Interior Khiem has been energetically pushing it. By the end of September the number of key district intelligence and operations centers had risen to over 200. We estimate that in 1968 to date between 9,500 and 10,000 VCI have been neutralized--either killed, captured, or rallied. It has taken a long time to get this program well organized and effectively operating on the GVN side, but the program has finally reached the point where it should make an increasingly vital contribution to pacification.
50. The GVN also continues to put in stronger leadership at the key district and province level. What was once the exception has now become the rule. Most province or district chiefs whom we recommend for relief are removed--if not always quickly, at least when "conditions" are right--a second province and district chiefs training course will graduate on 19 October. Minister Khiem has asked for our up-to-date list of poor province and district chiefs for his use in placing the new graduates. Police Chief Hai, the Chieu Hoi Minister and Refugee Minster Lu-Y have also acted rapidly over the past few months to remove corrupt and/or ineffective chiefs of police and technical serv-ices in the provinces. We count this upgrading as one the of biggest pluses in pacification.
51. Chieu Hoi returnee rates remained steady during the quarter; during July-September some 4,669 ralliers came in. In view of the increased enemy activity during August, including seven attacks on Chieu Hoi centers in the last week of August alone, the rates are considered favorable.
52. Another area of significant improvement is civilian self-defense, which indicates growing popular identification with the national government. According to GVN figures for end-September, the total number of participants in self-defense activities of all types was 658,934. Of these, 239,264 had received training, and 58,318 had been issued weapons. Popular enthusiasm was fostered by designating August as self-defense month. High-level GVN personalities participated in self-defense ceremonies and it was used to gain popular participation. The traditional reluctance of the government to put weapons in the hands of the people is gradually changing. Some local defense groups have performed well against enemy attack and they are an increasingly valuable source of intelligence.
53. As the quarter ends, the most promising development is the across-the-board pacification offensive now laid on for November-January. It calls for upgrading the security status of 1,000 contested hamlets, a major Phung Hoang campaign to eliminate 3,000 VCI a month, a special effort to rally 5,000 Chieu Hoi returnees, a campaign to increase popular self-defense groups to over one million people, and a major psywar campaign. The purpose is to galvanize the GVN pacification effort, and if we achieve even half of these ambitious goals it will be a powerful shot in the arm. Thieu is energetically pushing the offensive, and has accepted the proposals of our pacification advisors. Their initiative is commendable. Despite the many continuing problems in this most difficult of all Vietnam programs, pacification is back in stride and the outlook more favorable than in months if not years./2/
/2/On October 21 Rostow transmitted to the President a report dated October 16 on the pacification counter-offensive. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 1C(4), Revolutionary Development Program) The President indicated his approval for a major land reform program in South Vietnam on an October 18 memorandum from Rostow. (U.S. Army Center for Military History, DepCORDS/MACV Files, Land Reform-LBJ)
54. The economic situation in the third quarter began to shift slowly away from the pattern of the first half. The rise of spending, the size of the public deficit, and the monthly increase in money supply all fell off as the impact of mobilization passed its peak. Heavy import licensing ($42.9 million compared to $31.4 million during the previous quarter) showed renewed confidence. The increase in prices (about 30 percent so far this year) has not yet reflected the increase in money supply (up to 50 percent). With confidence slowly but steadily returning, there will almost certainly be further price increases in the last quarter of the year.
55. The rural economy moves toward pre-Tet levels of activity as transportation routes were generally open and a plentiful supply of goods available. At the same time, prices of many items bought by farmers rose while farm income remained below the level of the previous year, largely because of the situation in the rice trade. That situation was characterized by depression paddy prices paid to the farmer, low retail prices in Saigon, large quantities of paddy stored in delta rice mills and unsold on farms, and excessive stocks of imported rice in Saigon. On October 11, the Prime Minster told me that the government had decided to cut the present subsidy on imported rice in half, i.e., that the price of imported rice should be permitted to rise. Since the price of imported rice tends to set the market price, this will assist farmers. The impact on urban living costs should not be significant. The Prime Minister said the Cabinet would make a full report to President Thieu on economic matters in a few days. Announcement of action on the rice subsidy and other economic matters should follow soon thereafter.
56. During the quarter, USAID continued our efforts to promote economic recovery and growth. More than 21,000 hectares of IR-8 and IR-5 rice during the first crop planting from April through August. Sample average yields are five tons compared to two tons for local varieties.
57. A new program involving the training and use of village officials was initiated to accelerate the distribution of government-owned rice land. It appears that the government's goal of distributing 70,000 hectares by December 1968 will not be reached until April 1969; however, the December deadline was generally regarded as overly ambitious. With respect to land tenure in areas where VC "land reform" has been carried out, I have continued to urge President Thieu to develop and announce a national policy which would give present occupants title to such land if possible, and exempt them from back rents and taxation. He spoke favorably of such a policy during a recent trip I made with him to Ba Tri (where the government has received control of a formerly VC held area), and he has told me he will follow up on it. It would have to be coordinated with land tenure policy in GVN-controlled areas, and the problem of compensation for former landlords must be worked out, but these things can be done.
58. Despite a five month work stoppage caused by the Tet and May attacks, the hamlet school program for 1968 is almost on schedule. Eighty-five to ninety percent of the allocated classrooms (2,495) and 100 percent of the teacher training (3,238) will have been completed by year's end.
59. USAID also participated in the reconstruction of some 100 industrial plants damaged by the Tet and mini-Tet attacks. The GVN has provided one billion piasters and USAID $10 million for this purpose. These funds will permit long-term, low interest loans under the administration of the GVN's industrial development center which is technically assisted by the USAID industry division. The GVN grant is already over 70 percent obligated while the US Government grant is approximately 40 percent obligated.
92. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassies in France and Vietnam/1/
Washington, October 19, 1968, 1933Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Outgoing)-October 1968. Secret; Priority; Nodis/Harvan Double Plus. Drafted and approved by Rusk and cleared by Read. In a covering note transmitting a copy of the telegram to the President, October 21, 8:30 a.m., Rostow wrote: "You may wish to see exactly how Sec. Rusk reported his conversation with Dobrynin. He suggested that you have this text available." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. I [1 of 3]) The notation "ps" on the covering note indicates that the President saw the telegram.
258563/Todel 1336. From the Secretary.
Ambassador Dobrynin called on me today at his request to transmit informally and orally certain views of his Government on Viet-Nam. He said that his Government had attached "due importance and seriousness" to the information which they have had in the last few days from the USG. He stated that the Government of the USSR is "actively assisting" in the present discussions. He said that it was important not to allow "additional obstacles" to intervene at the pres-ent stage. He made reference to a "concrete day" for the convening of a meeting and seemed to accept our view that the specification of a concrete day was related to the day on which we could stop the bombing.
He then turned to the October fifteen discussion in Paris in which he said Ambassador Harriman had seemed to make a special point of the idea of a two-sided discussion rather than a four-sided discussion./2/ He said this assumed importance because of the way in which Ambassador Harriman had emphasized the point. He asked for my views.
/2/See Document 73 and footnote 2 thereto.
I told him that it would be most unfortunate if theoretical questions should be allowed to stand as an obstacle to serious talks for the purpose of making peace. We had said that they can have on their side of the table anyone they wish. We have said that we would expect to have on our side of the table the GVN. It is entirely possible that each of those at the table would have a different view as to their status and the underlying theory. We ourselves have been talking with the DRV since April even though we do not recognize their existence. The DRV looks upon the GVN as "puppets" of the United States. The NLF pretends to be the spokesman of the South Vietnamese. I said that these theoretical questions could serve as a prolonged obstacle to the serious business of talking about peace. Such matters could consume as much time as the Palais Rose talks about an agenda. If the talks are carried out as we have suggested, anyone present could make any statements he wished to make, ask any questions he wished to ask and submit any proposals he might wish to submit. We should not let theoretical problems stand in the way of this process. Each would have his own view on such matters.
I asked Dobrynin whether this point had been raised in Moscow or whether it had been raised by Hanoi. He said he did not know. My own assumption is that Hanoi has raised it and that Hanoi may be having some of the same problems with the NLF as we are having with Saigon.
I see no solution to these theological issues other than to let each participant have his own theory.
The President fully concurs in the line which I took with Dobrynin and is deeply concerned about our apparent inability to conduct delicate business among ourselves and with our allies without the types of leaks, speculation and public statements which get in the way of either fighting the war or making peace.
For Paris: The Dobrynin visit may be the channel through which Hanoi raises this issue at this point. If the Hanoi delegation raises it in Paris, the above should give you your guidance for trying to deal with it.
For Saigon: Obviously, we have as much of a problem with Saigon on theology as we have with Hanoi. It is very important that Saigon not jump the tracks at this late date and move away from the our side-your side formula. Perhaps they gave their earlier consent partly because they did not really expect the eventuality to occur. Nevertheless, the United States cannot let such questions determine our ability to grapple with the serious issues of substance although we know that questions of substance will be difficult to resolve.
We are deeply concerned about the rapid build-up of resistance in Saigon to the course of action we are following in Paris, which we thought we were taking with the agreement of the GVN. The unfortunate delay resulting from Hanoi's refusal to set a date for "serious talks" plus President Thieu's most unfortunate recklessness in consulting political leaders far beyond what has been done in the United States, have permitted the South Vietnamese to stimulate themselves over these theoretical issues without having in front of them the advantages of practical steps of de-escalation. Bunker should do everything possible to slow down or reverse the momentum of this build-up of South Vietnamese attitudes including an effort to postpone the legislative debate now scheduled for Monday. Given the present attitude of Hanoi, there is no point in our having a quarrel among ourselves for nothing. Our experience in recent days in consulting allies has been a most unhappy one and will obviously have to be taken into account in future consultations. Hopefully Bunker can get Thieu to cut back on public statements, press conferences, parliamentary debates, at least until we know whether there is anything from Hanoi which even poses a problem. Bundy will be sending Bunker further suggestions along these lines./3/
93. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam/1/
Washington, October 19, 1968, 1935Z.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, HARVAN/DOUBLE PLUS, Vol. II. Secret; Priority; Nodis/Harvan Double Plus. Drafted by Bundy, cleared in substance by Rusk, and approved by Bundy and Read. Repeated to Paris as Todel 1337.
258564. Ref: Saigon 40702 and 40703./2/
/2/In telegram 40702 from Saigon, October 19, the Embassy reported on a conversation between Berger and Ky regarding the Paris talks. In telegram 40703 from Saigon, October 19, Bunker noted concerns about Thieu's public discussion of differences with the United States. (Both ibid.)
This supplements septel from Secretary/3/ and was written before receipt of reftels.
/3/Document 92. A comment at this point in Rostow's handwriting reads: "and was written before recpt. reftels."
1. We assume Bunker expects to see Thieu soonest to explain 2-3-day time interval possibility, and to nail down GVN attendance under "your side/our side" formula as previously agreed. On the latter point, we agree with Paris 22673/4/ that exact procedures and how topics will be discussed will be best handled through consultation in Paris. Nonetheless, Bunker should have discretion on making clear our willingness to go into these matters in timely and appropriate fashion.
/4/In telegram 22673/Delto 851 from Paris, October 19, Harriman and Vance suggested: "We believe it is not desirable to pursue questions of details on procedures in Saigon. Procedures are a subject for negotiation and not to be laid down as conditions for NVN acceptance beforehand, as we fear GVN desires." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, HARVAN/DOUBLE PLUS, Vol. II)
2. On joint announcement, Bunker is authorized in accordance with para 4 of Saigon 40677/5/ to proceed on the basis of the text contained in Deptel 258161 dropping clause in para. 2 relating to Honolulu statement for coverage in backgrounder if this doesn't cause major problems./6/ While we recognize the arguments made by Paris, we agree with Saigon 40677 that remaining differences should hardly present serious difficulty to Hanoi. (We must of course all recognize possibility that at some point Hanoi will insist on knowing exactly what we propose to say, but this is implicit in the whole situation and should not affect our clearing the present text with Thieu.)
/5/Dated October 19. (Ibid.)
/6/In telegram 258161/Todel 1325 to Saigon and Paris, October 18, the Department transmitted the following text of a proposed joint U.S.-GVN statement: "President Nguyen Van Thieu of the Republic of Viet-Nam and President Lyndon B. Johnson of the United States of America announce that all air, naval, and artillery bombardment on or within the territory of (North Viet-Nam) (the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam) will cease as of (time and place). President Thieu and President Johnson have reached this common decision because they have good reason to believe that North Viet-Nam intends seriously to join them in de-escalating the war and in entering into serious talks on the substance of a peaceful settlement. They therefore have concluded that this step would contribute to progress toward an honorable and secure peace (consistent with the principles expressed in the joint statement of the two Presidents at Honolulu in July 1968). The two Presidents have issued the order to cease bombardment after consultation with the Governments of Australia, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, the Republic of the Philippines, and Thailand." (Ibid.)
3. All of the above are serious and difficult issues requiring earliest possible clarification with Thieu. In addition, we share Paris's deep concern over the scheduling of a National Assembly debate for Monday in Saigon. Such a debate obviously presents grave dangers, first in respect to what GVN official reps may say as to present situation, and second as to resolutions or expressions from the Assembly that may tie GVN hands or be taken by Hanoi to vitiate positions we have taken in Paris. Our first choice would of course be postponement of debate on the grounds that the situation cannot be properly presented at this stage, and Bunker should make maximum effort to achieve this unless, in his judgment, such action by Thieu would be seriously damaging to over-all position in Saigon.
4. Failing this, Bunker should seek to go over with Thieu, with great precision, exactly what GVN reps will be saying. It appears that GVN representations to TCC, and possibly Thieu's representations to his own Cabinet and to others, have depicted the situation in respect to military restraints as one of "hard" agreement by Hanoi--which of course it is not. This could have grave dangers of Hanoi re-opening the status of the record on these matters. Equally, (and from the GVN's own standpoint) the more they say that there cannot be a cessation without military "guarantees", the more it will look as if GVN has made a major concession if a cessation is announced without any mention of such "guarantees." In short, it is a tremendous problem from any standpoint, and we believe must be played by ear to try to get most restrained GVN posture possible.
5. We agree fully with line Ambassador Bunker proposes to take with Thieu as set forth in reftel which was received after this cable and Secretary's septel were drafted.
94. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassies in Vietnam and France/1/
Washington, October 20, 1968, 1750Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Outgoing)-October 1968. Secret; Immediate; Nodis/Harvan Double Plus. Drafted by Bundy and approved by Read.
258607/Todel 1346. Paris for Harriman and Vance.
1. Saigon 40710/2/ seems to us a masterful argument, and we await the results of your follow-up meeting on Monday./3/ Neither we nor Paris have heard from Bui Diem or Lam today, which may suggest that Thanh has been cooled off on use of other channels./4/
/2/Telegram 40710 from Saigon, October 20, transmitted Bunker's report of his meeting with Thieu. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, HARVAN/DOUBLE PLUS, Vol. II)
/4/In telegram 258566 to Wellington, October 19, repeated to Canberra and Saigon, the Department expressed concern over Thanh's comments to Australian and New Zealand representatives in which he expressed strong GVN objections to the inclusion of the NLF in the expanded meetings. The telegram noted that Bunker would "be making the strongest possible representations against such recourse to third nations on a matter already worked out fully between GVN and USG." (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Outgoing)-October 1968)
2. If Thieu should remain unwilling to commit himself to GVN attendance in the event of an affirmative reply from Hanoi, we would have to consider other forms of appeal, and would want Saigon recommendations on next steps.
3. We are not quite clear on one point from Saigon reports, and that is whether Thieu has been told of the 2-3 day possibility having been presented to Hanoi. Time interval does seem to be his main problem, and it occurs to us that the interval could be presented as a useful time for him to get his delegation in place and for us to go over the procedural problems with his first team on the ground. (Indeed, we are inclined to view it in this light ourselves.) In any case, Thieu's public remarks about not knowing all that we do seem to require extra care (as well as possible mild rebuke).
4. On the procedural points raised in Saigon 40761,/5/ we would like Paris comments soonest. Our own thoughts on a few points are:
/5/In telegram 40761 from Saigon, October 20, the Embassy transmitted recommendations for dealing with procedural difficulties. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. I)
a. Seating arrangements should certainly keep only two sides to the table. Indeed, one thought would be two separate rectangular tables facing each other, or a single table consisting of two parts put together on a lengthwise axis.
b. On positions at the table, the most convenient would surely be each of us equidistant from the center on our side, with staff on either side of each principal. But perhaps it would be better to start with the principals side by side in the center, minimizing any physical appearance of the GVN "opposite" to the NLF.
c. Name: can we not stick to "Paris Talks" through thick and thin?
5. The question of responses to questions on the status of the NLF is indeed a serious one. We would welcome Paris comments for further work here tomorrow.
6. One point we do pick up from Thieu's press conference/6/--that if anyone "on the NVN delegation" purported to speak "as a representative of the NLF", he would be invited to leave. This is, of course, quite unrealistic and would need to be shot down at some point. We leave it to Bunker whether to raise it at this stage in Saigon. Obviously, the NLF man will claim to represent the NLF and will probably say a lot about what a fine, upstanding group they are; the point is that we need not reply or indeed address ourselves to him.
/6/In a televised speech on October 19, Thieu stated that the DRV had made no concessions that would lead to a bombing halt and noted his opposition to the presence of the NLF at the peace table. See The New York Times, October 19, 1968. In telegram 40649 from Saigon, October 19, Bunker noted: "While we were annoyed by our first reports of his press conference, and would have preferred there be no conference at all, our irritation was largely due to the interpretative paragraphs of the wire services rather than to Thieu's own remarks. They were designed mainly for local consumption, and were not due to any fundamental differences of principle between us. Obviously what is irritating is that whole of the subject should be aired at a time when we are trying to keep it very quiet." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. I [1 of 3]) In notes taken during an October 21 meeting with Carver, Nitze recorded: "Why did Thieu over-react? Running up warning flag showing how quickly he cld. move. Signal to Bunker that he as far forward as tolerable. Thieu lost face. Unfortunate in timing. Caused Ky to dig in his heels. Might generate threat which didn't previously exist." (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Nitze Papers, Defense Department, Deputy Secretary of Defense, Notes 1968, 6 of 6) A CIA memorandum to Rostow and Rusk forwarded by the CIA's Deputy Director of Plans, Thomas Karamessines, October 21, cited an intelligence source who suggested that despite the "unfortunate propaganda" of Thieu's statement, "both Ky and Thieu are willing to settle for an NLF presence at Paris so long as the GVN does not appear to be placed on an equal footing with the Front." (Central Intelligence Agency, Job 79-207A, Deputy Director of Operations, Folder 1)
95. Situation Report by the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Read)/1/
Washington, October 21, 1968.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. I [1 of 3]. Secret; Nodis; Harvan Double Plus. In an attached covering note transmitting a copy of the report to the President, October 21, 10:25 a.m., Rostow wrote: "Herewith Read's notes of his secure telephone conversation with Vance." The notation "ps" on the covering note indicates that the President saw the memorandum. The full report of this secret meeting between the delegations was transmitted in telegram 22742/Delto 857 from Paris, October 21. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET) A summary was transmitted in telegram 22724/Delto 854 from Paris, October 21. (Ibid., A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-October 1968)
Cy Vance called at 9:30 on the secure phone to make the following points:
1. Harriman and Vance met for four hours with Thuy and Lau this morning, Vance summarized by saying "there was no agreement" but they had moved towards our position on several points and indicated flexibility on others.
2. Thuy opened by proposing a joint communiquéé which would have three paragraphs: -1-A statement about stopping all bombing without conditions on a date left blank; -2-Reference to a ''four power conference" to be called after cessation; -3-A statement that the conference would convene "as soon as possible" after cessation.
3. On the first paragraph after discussion the DRV agreed to the adoption of our phrase concerning "acts involving use of force", and Harriman and Vance interpreted this to mean that they have given up on the reconnaissance issue.
4. On the second paragraph Harriman and Vance made clear that any reference to a "four power conference" was completely unacceptable to us. Thuy then proposed referring to the four participants by name, and Harriman and Vance said it would be essential from our point of view to get in the "our side your side" language.
5. On the third paragraph Harriman and Vance said the "as soon as possible" language was totally unacceptable. Thuy at first spoke of it taking a period of weeks for the NLF to appear in Paris but gave ground rapidly on this issue and left them finally with the impression that the NLF could be there one week following cessation. Harriman and Vance indicated one week was too long.
6. Thuy claimed the reason a joint communiqué was necessary was that there be no further misunderstandings and indicated concern at the statements coming out of Saigon.
7. Harriman and Vance spoke of four options: -1-Letting the actions of cessation and subsequent agreed early meeting speak for themselves, which we indicated was our preference; -2-separate US & DRV statements about cessation & subsequent meeting; -3-A joint minute; and -4-The joint communiqué. Summarizing, they repeated our strong preference for the first but did not rule out the other three options. Thuy said that they would report back to Hanoi and asked us to report back to Washington.
8. Harriman and Vance believed Thuy expects us to come back to him at the next stage with our further comments on how to proceed.
96. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/
Saigon, October 21, 1968, 1133Z.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. I. Secret; Immediate; Nodis/Harvan Double Plus. Received at 8:38 a.m. Repeated to Paris for Harriman and Vance.
40788. 1. FonMin Thanh afternoon Oct 21 presented me with memorandum, of which text below, which he said he had been instructed by President to hand to me and which he subsequently discussed in some detail. An account of the ensuing discussion and comments follow in septel./2/ Thanh also mentioned that he is having trouble with rapid code transmission to Paris, and I offered to have text of his memorandum transmitted to Amb Lam by our delegation. I would appreciate if this could be done immediately. (We have renumbered paragraphs for easy reference. This should be explained to Amb Lam, so that he does not refer to paragraphs by the same numbers in his communications with Saigon.)
/2/Telegram 40794 from Saigon, October 21. (Ibid.)
2. Begin Text. The position of our government rests on the following basic principles:
a. The Government of the RVN is a legal, elected, constitutional government, recognized by more than 90 countries and has diplomatic relations with more than 30 countries. The Government of the RVN participates in numerous international conferences and is full member of most of the specialized agencies of the United Nations. The parliament of the RVN is member of the International Parliamentary Union.
B. The NLF is only but an organization created, directed and supported by Hanoi. It is a tool of Hanoi in its policy of aggression against South Vietnam.
3. Consequently, our government will not participate in any conference in which the NLF is represented as a distinct entity from North Vietnam.
4. In any case, it is to be avoided that even the appearances give credit to the pretension of the NLF to represent anyone in South Vietnam
5. It is necessary to reach a prior agreement with Hanoi on these details of procedure:
6. Point One. The delegation of the RVN will sit behind a table board, bearing the name "Government of the RVN."
A. The "two-sides" formula does not mean that our delegation has not its own existence and that it is part of the US delegation.
B. The truth is that on our side, there are 6 allied governments which entertain diplomatic relations with the RVN and are assisting the RVN repel the North Vietnamese aggression.
C. Of course, we will not object that Hanoi has a board of its own. But, we will not accept a board bearing the name of the NLF on the other side of the conference table.
7. Point Two. Seating arrangement at the conference table: On our side, the seats of the RVN and US delegation are distinct and cannot be subject to any confusion or give the interpretation that the RVN delegation is part of the US delegation.
8. Point Three. Procedure of speech:
A. At the moment, each side speaks first when opening the sessions alternatively.
B. When it will be the turn for our side to open that session, we propose that the RVN delegation speak first on all military and other matters which will be brought at the conference table.
C. We think that the US delegation should discuss military matters such as: cease fire, regrouping of forces, withdrawal of forces, military bases, control and supervision, international guarantees, international police forces etc. . . .
D. The problems concerning the 2 zones should be the object of direct negotiations between Hanoi and Saigon--problems of internal politics of South Vietnam cannot be raised in an international conference.
9. Point Four. The RVN delegation proposes that at the first session of the conference in which it will assist, it will clearly state that its participation in the conference cannot be interpreted as a diplomatic recognition of the Hanoi authorities. We think it useful that the US delegation make a similar statement.
10. Point Five. Every time that a member of the North Vietnamese delegation claims to represent the NLF or any other related organization and speak in their name, the delegation of the RVN will reiterate that they are part and parcel of the North Vietnamese delegation, speak on behalf of North Vietnam, and that we do not consider them as a separate entity from the North Vietnamese delegation. We propose that the US delegation adopt a similar attitude.
11. Point Six. At the conference table, the rule of courtesy should be duly observed by both sides and on a reciprocal basis. The name of each delegation should be properly and correctly used during the conference. Of course, our attitude will depend on that of the other side. End Text./3/
/3/In telegram 22797/Delto 861 from Paris, October 22, Harriman noted emerging discrepancies between the GVN and its diplomats in Paris: "Lam appears to be receiving rigid instructions from Thanh which do not sufficiently take into account the points made by the Embassy to the GVN." (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-October 1968) In a covering note transmitting this telegram to the President, October 22, 5:30 p.m., Rostow commented: "I presume Ellsworth will work on this in Saigon, but it is clear that we haven't got the theology straightened out with Saigon and translated into agreed procedures yet." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. I [1 of 3]) A CIA memorandum to Rostow and Rusk forwarded by Karamessines, October 25, cited a source that noted that in response to a complaint about being kept uninformed, Thanh instructed Lam that until the commencement of expanded talks, "substantive discussions between the Americans and the South Vietnamese would take place solely in Saigon and Lam thus bore no responsibilities in this area." (Central Intelligence Agency, Job 79-207A, Folder 1)
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