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 You are in: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs: Office of the Historian > Foreign Relations of the United States > Johnson Administration > Volume VII
Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, Volume VII, Vietnam, September 1968-January 1969
Released by the Office of the Historian
Documents 213-226

November 12-30, 1968: South Vietnamese Participation in the Paris Peace Talks

213. Editorial Note

On November 12, 1968, Secretary of Defense Clifford held a news conference at the Pentagon. In response to charges that the administration enacted the bombing halt without prior agreement with the Government of South Vietnam, Clifford related the step-by-step process of negotiating the October understanding. He specifically referred to Vietnamese assent to each move, and he characterized the understanding as being "as clear as two partners can have, over a substantial period of time." He then made the following statement:

"Now, here is the position the President was in on Thursday [October 31]--and I might say I feel it strongly, because I see what he had to go through. He worked through 5-1/2 months to reach an agreement that he thought could be a major step toward peace, and then in the last out of the ninth inning, why, suddenly they say, 'No, we can't go along.' I think the President felt he had to proceed with his plan. He was committed. He had made the commitment to Hanoi. Vance and Harriman had put their word on the line, and I think he felt he had to go ahead. In addition to that, after all we have done in the country, after the enormous contribution that's been made, with the knowledge that we had gotten to the point where we had the sort of agreement that we had been working toward, I believe the President was absolutely right in not giving Saigon a veto on the plan. I do not believe that you can work along with your partner up to the very last minute, with the understanding full and complete as to what the arrangement is, and then suddenly have Saigon change its mind and decide not to go ahead. I think the President owed it--under his constitutional duty, I think he owed it to the American people to proceed with the talks. Now, I say that I believe we should make every reasonable effort to demonstrate to Saigon why it should come in and join the talks. At the same time, if they chose not to, I believe the President has the constitutional responsibility of proceeding with the talks."

The news conference is excerpted in the Department of State Bulletin, December 2, 1968, pages 568-573.

In a November 13 memorandum to the President, Rostow critically assessed Clifford's press conference: "I would suspect that Thieu would feel that Secretary Clifford overstated the case that Thieu was kept 'fully informed' and 'fully posted'. It is true that Thieu was told what he needed to know when he needed to know it, but he was not informed of the details of the private conversations. Nor was he informed of each conversation." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. VI [2 of 2]) Rostow later wrote the following reflections in a November 23 memorandum for the record:

"This memorandum for the record is set down at the instruction of the President. Sec. Clifford's remarks on November 12, 1968, indicating that we might proceed with talks in Paris without the GVN, were made without prior discussion or clearance with the President. At that time the President was not prepared to act along the lines that the Secretary suggested; nor was he prepared to clear a public statement indicating that this would be a possibility. On the other hand, the President had encouraged Sec. Clifford and Sec. Rusk to have press conferences. He knew that Sec. Clifford would have a press conference on November 12, 1968. They did not discuss the content of his position before the event. This does not mean that the President might not, at some stage, have taken action to open talks without the GVN. But he did not feel at the time that the situation justified such action. The President spoke to me to the same effect as the above the day of Sec. Clifford's press conference, when word of its content came in over the press wires." (Ibid., Vol. VII)

In his memoirs, however, Clifford maintains that he acted at the behest of President Johnson; see Counsel to the President, pages 600-601.

In a memorandum of conversation, December 6, Ambassador Harriman discussed Clifford's remarks about the conference that Clifford made to him during a private conversation:

"He explained to me in some detail the way in which his press conference of November 12 came about. He said the President the day before had said, 'Clark, you haven't had a press conference recently. Why don't you have one?' He went home and thought it over, tried to think what the President had in mind for him to say. Clifford thought the press would ask him whether the stopping of the bombing was political, and he made up his mind that it was his job to tell the truth. He had been incensed by the increasing volume of leaks coming out of the Saigon Government to the effect that President Johnson had taken unilateral action without consultation, and had done it for political purposes. (He subsequently told me he would give me the gory details that there were supporters of Nixon who encouraged the Saigon Government to do all they could to prevent a bombing halt before Election Day. He said he didn't have evidence that it was directed by Nixon, but it was certainly done by his supporters. (This explains what I had thought--that the Saigon Government was motivated in withholding approval of a bombing halt to attempt to avoid the election of Humphrey.)) Clifford thought out the night before what to do, and he made up his mind that he would tell the facts. Of course with the detailed precision with which he did it, no one can dispute the accuracy of his statement. I was particularly impressed with his telling the press that, having been up all night, they had gone to rest with the expectation that the President would go on the air that night, October 29. This was our belief in Paris. He referred to Bunker's several telegrams of Thieu's unwillingness to go along and requesting delay, and Clifford underlined the fact in his press conference that Vance and I had taken a commitment to North Viet-Nam that the bombing would stop and the U.S. Government had to live up to that commitment." (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Kennedy-Johnson, Trips & Missions, 1968-69, Paris Peace Talks, Memoranda of Conversations)


214. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, November 12, 1968, 0410Z.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. VI. Secret; Immediate; Nodis/Harvan Double Plus. Repeated to Paris.

42463. Subject: An interpretation of Hanoi's future strategy.

1. It is important that Washington, Paris, and Saigon to try to arrive at a consensus of why Hanoi accepted our terms for the wider negotiations, since our strategy in the initial phases of the new talks will be affected by the assumptions we make on this score. This is the case whether the GVN joins us soon, as we hope, or whether we are forced in the end to begin the talks on our own. I therefore wish to initiate an exchange on this subject and advance the following thesis.

2. Hanoi was aware that the war had become very unpopular in the United States and that support has been eroding at a rapid rate. Hanoi perceived that neither the American people nor the Congress will support an indefinite continuation of the war without hope of a foreseeable end, and that 1969 would be the critical year for an American decision on the war. Hanoi was mindful that concern with domestic problems and disillusionment with foreign intervention are mounting rapidly in the United States. Hanoi saw certain parallels between the growing American frustration and disillusionment with the war and those which led the French Government to disengage in 1954.

3. Therefore the following questions require an answer:

A. Why then did Hanoi not persist in its policies in the expectation that the erosion of our commitment would continue to the point that we would throw in the towel?

B. Why did Hanoi accede to our terms and make its concessions precisely at the time it did?

4. I venture the following answers to these two related questions:

A. Hanoi assumed that if they could get the bombing stopped before our elections it would be difficult, while talks were still in progress, for the President to resume bombing before January 20, and it would be even more difficult for the next President to resume the bombing after a 2-1/2 month pause. If there is merit in this thought, then we can conclude from this that Hanoi will act with enough restraint during the next 2-1/2 months with respect to the DMZ and the cities to deny the President justification for resuming the bombing before January 20.

B. Hanoi also believed that the election of Mr. Nixon would on balance be less favorable to them than Vice President Humphrey's election. They must have had a certain fear that Mr. Nixon, in an effort to end the war quickly, would authorize resumption of bombing, including possibly Hanoi and Haiphong, the closing of Haiphong, and even attacks on Lao and Cambodian sanctuaries. These fears--probably fanned by the Soviets--were a possible second reason which prompted them to meet our terms before the election. If, in fact, their plan was to try to defeat Mr. Nixon, then the plan miscarried by their waiting too long to accede to our terms.

C. But there were more basic and compelling considerations at work. Hanoi had to face the fact that the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong forces had taken enormous casualties in the three offensives of 1968. These defeats dashed hopes of a quick victory in 1968 based on a "general offensive" and a "general uprising," that would produce the disintegration of the armed forces and the collapse of the Thieu government.

D. Another basic consideration which Hanoi had to confront was that the South Vietnamese Government, armed forces, and people emerged from the ordeal of 1968 clearly strengthened, more unified, and more self-confident than ever before. With each passing month Hanoi had to assess the telling impact of American military power, General Abrams' new tactics, including the devastating tactical use of the B-52's and air power to close traffic choke points into Laos, the growing strength of the South Vietnamese Government, increasing aggressiveness of the ARVN military and para-military units, and the formation of the popular civil defense forces. This was a formidable combination too strong for them to hope to overwhelm militarily. The heavy losses of VC cadre during 1968 added to Hanoi's difficulties.

E. In the face of all this the NVA and VC leaders were encountering more and more discouragement and even signs of defeatism in their own ranks. There was evident danger of further deterioration on their side if they insisted on clinging to military (and quasi-conventional) strategy.

5. All this led to the conclusions, probably taken in September, that their only practical options were either to resort to the policy of protracted warfare or to shift their emphasis to the conference table or a combination of both in order to bargain for terms while VC strength in the countryside remained formidable and their structure of control is still virtually intact.

6. This brings me to their strategy in the coming talks. While it will call for a certain amount of fighting in the South, their main thrust will be to get substantive talks going quickly so that they can, very early in the game:

A. Put in a demand for an immediate cease-fire while at the same time exerting substantial, but shrewdly selective, military pressure;

B. Make such concessions as they have to make on their own withdrawal of forces so as to produce the earliest possible withdrawal of United States troops;

C. Offer tempting proposals for a coalition government, probably not with Thieu, Ky and Huong, but with almost anyone else they think we might accept.

7. The wide appeal and seeming logic of an immediate cease-fire coupled with an offer to withdraw their forces (already partially "out of country" in border and sanctuary areas) could be the two first main points of pressure on us. They know that these two offers (demands) will play upon the American public's desire to end the casualties and get out. If Hanoi can extract our agreement for an early cease-fire under conditions somewhat favorable to the Viet Cong and tied to this agreement on a troop withdrawal, then this will obviously strengthen their hand in the bargaining over coalition.

8. I therefore foresee no long haggling by Hanoi in the negotiations over procedures, for their purpose will be to get to the substance of business as quickly as possible. The alacrity with which Lau dropped his demands for a joint secret minute, for the presence of the press and TV at the first meeting, and for transferring the meeting to the larger conference hall, all reinforce my hunch that they want to move with speed to the substantive talks. I predict that they will not haggle long on such questions as flags, name plates, the position of chairs around the table, etc.

9. The GVN's refusal to enter the talks has given Hanoi a propaganda advantage which they will try to exploit as long as possible. They will make the most of this chance to sow suspicion and create division between us and the GVN. Hanoi will quickly sense that nothing suits their purpose better than to have the GVN boycott the talks indefinitely, forcing us to talk alone with them and the NLF. We may be sure that they are very conscious of the pressures on us to go ahead which will be coming soon from Congress and American opinion.

10. To negotiate without the GVN would be extremely difficult for us. Apart from the obvious complications in the negotiations themselves, it could touch off such confusion and demoralization in South Viet Nam as to endanger the stability of the government and the morale of the ARVN forces. Because of this Thieu simply cannot stand aside from the talks for very long. Moreover, if he should be so foolish as to delay unduly, he would find that, despite his November 2 address,/2/ so widely applauded at the time, pressures would build up to force him into the talks.

/2/See footnote 4, Document 178.

11. All this suggests to me that Thieu will have to move soon, but it may require that we take the few extra days or possibly a week or more, to bring him around. We have too much at stake and to lose by going it alone, and so has he. As for Hanoi, it can do little in these next few days except chafe and complain, protest and propagandize. If we assume as we do that Hanoi wants and needs this conference badly to save what it can from the wreckage of its 1968 strategies, then Hanoi has no choice except to wait.

12. The thesis of this telegram also suggests the relative unlikelihood that Hanoi will renege on its agreement with us or decisively provoke us into a resumption of bombing by seriously violating the DMZ or attacking the larger cities. Finally, it also suggests that once we and the Government of South Viet Nam move in concert into negotiations we will be in a strong position.

13. To fight while negotiating creates obvious and considerable problems and these cannot be minimized. During this period the sensitivities and vulnerabilities of American public opinion will be operative, and properly so. The enemy will probably attempt to maintain a level of "fighting" which will have optimum political impact (terrorism, assassination, continuing American casualties well publicized, etc.). At the same time they will offer, as noted elsewhere, superficially reasonable and tempting proposals during the negotiations. The "mix" will be designed to increase all pressures on us to settle at the table for a package favorable to the Communists. Although our emphasis in this message has been on the Communist desire to get into substantive talks, we believe that extensive preparations now underway in the enemy camp (as described in interrogations and captured documents) suggest the strong probability of considerable armed conflict in the days ahead.

14. Our own assessment, however, suggests, to repeat, that we could be in a relatively strong position at the table. Exactly how strong will depend on our ability to maintain our (and ARVN) troop morale, on our success against the Viet Cong local forces, guerrilla units and infrastructure during the coming months, and on our ability to exploit the pressures on the enemy for a rapid settlement while resisting (or at least containing) those working against us. We simply must not permit the enemy to believe through his reading of our public statements and overt or even diplomatic actions that our side is desperate for a settlement (or any part thereof, including the all important cease fire).

15. If the morale of the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army has actually deteriorated to the extent we think, we should resist a cease fire until we have settled several crucial issues to our satisfaction: the future of the DMZ, the withdrawal of North Vietnamese forces, not only from South Viet Nam but from Laos and Cambodia as well; and perhaps most important, the precise interplay between the exercise of government and Viet Cong jurisdiction in the countryside during the period of cease fire and prior to a final political settlement. Unless we obtain some satisfaction on these issues, any agreement will be a temporary truce to be upset by a pragmatic and ruthless enemy not long after our forces have departed these shores.

16. My final thought, already referred to above, is that while speed in getting the talks started is essential, we should give Thieu and his colleagues a reasonable time to let the message from the President-elect sink in, to consider our last proposal for a statement, and to reflect on Ambassador Diem's reports of the strength of the US press, public and Congressional reaction and criticism from other countries. It seems to me that we can live a little while longer with American public frustrations over the GVN's hesitations, now that talks are in prospect and there is a foreseeable end to the war. If necessary, we still have a few more cards we can play to bring them into the talks, for example a TCC meeting or a special envoy, before we lower the boom and go it alone, with all the complications that this implies.



215. Editorial Note

During the fall of 1968, U.S. and South Vietnamese officials discussed the fate of a nuclear reactor located at Dalat. In a memorandum to Secretary of Defense Clifford, his Assistant for Atomic Energy, Carl Walske, warned of the possibility that this reactor could become a target for the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army. He specifically noted:

"It is certainly possible that the enemy could (a) destroy the reactor and its irradiated fuel with conventional explosives, thus spreading radioactive contamination around the blast area, or (b) in the extreme, steal the fuel with its enriched uranium. The true significance in this case would be minor, but the claim of a 'nuclear incident' might be quite important from a public relations point of view. In real terms, however, the contaminated area in the case of a destruction with conventional explosives would be limited and could be dealt with by standard remedial procedures. Again, the amount of enriched uranium lost if there was a theft would not be militarily significant, i.e. enough for an atomic bomb." (Johnson Library, Clark Clifford Papers, Memoranda--Miscellaneous)

Subsequently, it was agreed to shut down the reactor. In telegram 243817 to Saigon, the Department requested Embassy comment as to whether it would be more advisable to move the fuel elements to a safe storage site outside of Vietnam rather than retain them in-country, even though the rods were leased to the Vietnamese Government. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S) In telegram 38881 from Saigon, September 27, Ambassador Bunker insisted that the South Vietnamese had always been assured that the reactor rods would remain in Vietnam. Noting that General Abrams shared his views, Bunker advised:

"In suggesting deactivation of the Dalat reactor, it was most important that we avoid any implication that we entertained doubts concerning either the short or long-term security situation in South Vietnam as a whole. Aside from the reflection on our own ability to hold off the enemy, it was important to avoid to the maximum extent possible the lowering of GVN prestige among its own people and internationally as a result of any eventual public knowledge that deactivation of the reactor had been considered necessary. Since we have already led the GVN to believe we were not proposing removal of the rods from Vietnam, and since we have already engaged in considerable planning of our joint effort to effect removal from Dalat to a secure location in Saigon, I believe that for us now to suggest that it might be preferable to move them outside Vietnam would most certainly be interpreted as a vote of no confidence in the GVN and the future of SVN. It would raise among Vietnamese, both in the government and among the public when word of the removal gets out, serious doubts regarding our determination to continue to support SVN." (Ibid.)

In a November 12 memorandum to Deputy Secretary of Defense Nitze, Warnke reported on new recommendations from the Embassy. Rather than proceeding with in-country storage, the Embassy and MACV now contended that deactivation was no longer necessary on the grounds of security. They proposed to inform the GVN of this assessment but to offer to deactivate the reactor if the GVN deemed it necessary. (Washington National Records Center, Department of Defense, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 330 72 A 1498, OASD-ISA, Vietnam 381--May 1968) According to a notation on this memorandum, Nitze approved the termination of the deactivation program.


216. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, November 13, 1968, 0327Z.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. VI. Secret; Flash; Immediate; Nodis/Harvan Double Plus. Received at 11:18 p.m. on November 12. Repeated to Paris for Harriman and Vance.

42560. 1. Following is text of memorandum handed us by FonMin Thanh this morning (underlinings are those in the original)./2/ Account of the interview and comments on the memorandum, including suggestions for reply, follow in septels./3/

/2/See footnote 6 below.

/3/See Document 217.

2. "This memorandum is designed to provide explanations on the RVN proposal of Nov 8,/4/ which, in the view of the GVN, deserves serious attention from the USG.

/4/See footnote 3, Document 208.

3. The basic formula envisaged by the USG and the RVN is a 'two-side meeting.' What remains is how to define the two-side formula.

4. The US Embassy note of Nov 11, 1968/5/ indicated that, as far as the other side is concerned, the US made clear to Hanoi that it might bring on its side of the table any persons it wished, but that the US would regard and treat all the representatives on the other side of the table as members of 'single side, that of Hanoi, and for practical purposes as a single delegation.'

/5/See footnote 8, Document 208.

5. This principle is very close to the RVN concept of the two-side formula, in which each side should consist of only one delegation, and Hanoi is the head of the delegation of the other side. The GVN, however, believes that this principle should be unequivocal in its applications to avoid the tendentious interpretations of the Communists who pretend that the so-called NLF is a separate entity and constitutes a separate delegation.

6. The Communists have stated publicly that the meeting is to be a four party conference, and that the US has accepted that formula.

7. The GVN believes that a public rectification by the US Government of these statements is necessary and will be helpful.

8. On our side, the GVN deems that the positions and the public images of both the US and the RVN will be greatly enhanced if, parallel with the other side, our side is also to consist of one delegation and the RVN is to head the delegation.

9. In the two-side formula, it is difficult to conceive that each side is not headed by someone.

10. In the delegation on our side, if the criteria of power and experience in world affairs are to apply, the US indisputably is the most qualified to head the delegation. But the GVN has serious misgivings on the political implications of such an arrangement, which the Communists will not fail to exploit to our great disadvantage, vis-à-vis Vietnamese public opinion as well as international public opinion.

11. As is well known, the Communist aggressors pretend to be the standard bearers of Vietnamese national independence, and their propaganda theme is that the GVN is not an independent government.

12. Besides, on the ground of principles, the RVN is the principal party in this war. The allies who have nobly responded to the appeal of the RVN in the defense of freedom in Vietnam play a role which in principle is only a supporting role, even though it is an instrumental and determining role.

13. The strength or weakness of 'our political position' depends on how effectively we safeguard even the appearances of these principles. In the view of the GVN, the political and psychological considerations of this nature cannot be underestimated in the present ideological war.

14. In fact, the Communists are very keenly aware of these considerations, and are most careful in respecting them. We have an example and a precedent in the arrangements of the peace talks at Kaesong and at Panmunjom during the Korean war.

15. These talks were also based on the two-side formula. On the free world side, the problem was simplified by the existence of the UN Command. On the other side, the Communists pointedly had the North Korean representative as the head of their delegation, while the Red Chinese representative was outwardly assigned only a supporting role.

16. This arrangement did not create any illusions of the respective power positions of these two Communist countries, but it did help them to keep certain appearances in conformity with the respective roles they claimed to play in the conflict.

17. We deem that the arrangements for one delegation for each side is more in harmony with the two-side formula, than the arrangements for three or four delegations with various interpretations.

18. The agreement reached in Paris between the North Vietnamese and US negotiators can be regarded as tentative until the concurrence of the other parties concerned, and until then still subject to negotiations.

19. To that end, in the view of the GVN, representatives of the RVN should participate, along with representatives of the US in Paris, in the unofficial and secret contacts with the representatives of NVN for discussions on the arrangements and procedures of a two-side meeting.

Saigon, Nov 13, 1968"

Of note: Quotations used in lieu of underlining./6/

/6/Set here in single quotes.



217. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, November 13, 1968, 1100Z.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. VI. Secret; Immediate; Nodis/Harvan Double Plus. Received at 7:45 a.m. Repeated to Paris for Harriman and Vance.

42582. Ref: A. Saigon 42560; B. Saigon 42563./2/

/2/Telegram 42560 is Document 216. In telegram 42563 from Saigon, November 13, the Embassy reported on a discussion between Herz and Thanh regarding the GVN memorandum. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. VI)

1. In view of the uncertainty on the GVN side whether they had received a formal reply to their proposal of November 8, and since the President's message (State 269234)/3/ had to be communicated orally to Thieu who does not always pass our oral positions on in detail to his colleagues, I think it very desirable that we give a written reply to the GVN memorandum of November 13,/4/ setting forth our position in some detail. Following are some suggestions for such a reply, keyed to the paragraphs of reftel A.

/3/Document 206.

/4/See Document 216.

2. Re para 4, we might say that we are pleased that the GVN considers that we have come "very close" to their concept of the two-side formula and believe that in line with what President Thieu has said about finding a "middle ground," the GVN should now find it possible to move to negotiations in Paris. We continue to believe that the GVN proposals should be followed up in Paris and that it is now for the GVN to try to reach agreement with the DRV on the modalities of the talks. Accordingly, we urge the GVN to send a delegation to Paris as soon as possible.

3. As far as our conception of the our side/your side formula is concerned we feel that our side cannot dictate to the other side how they will constitute themselves for the talks. We can and will however say to them how we view and consider their side, and notably that we do not accept that the NLF is an independent entity. The other side may say whatever they please, but this will be propaganda and should be treated as such. It will be for our side to refute it at the negotiations and to set forth our position with dignity and emphasis to enlighten world opinion on the realities of the situation in Viet Nam.

4. Re paras 6 and 7, we might say that whatever the other side may claim for themselves, the US has never accepted that the forthcoming talks in Paris are to be called a four party or four-sided conference. What we have said, in line with our long-standing public position, is that the DRV may bring along to the talks any persons they desire. If any of those persons call themselves representatives of the NLF, we will point out at the talks that they are members of a single side, that of Hanoi, and for practical purposes part of Hanoi's delegation. (Note: We still feel, in line with para 2 Saigon 41764/5/ and para 2A Saigon 42288,/6/ that a US statement refuting the contention that there has been agreement on a "four-sided" conference would be desirable. The remarks by McCloskey at State Department briefing Nov 8, of which the core was on background, do not fully meet the requirements.)

/5/This paragraph of telegram 41764 from Saigon, November 2, contained the text of a proposed U.S. statement refuting the idea of a four-power conference. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. II)

/6/This paragraph of telegram 42288 from Saigon, November 8, reiterated the need for issuing such a disavowal, not only in Paris and Saigon but in Washington as well. (Ibid., Vol. VI)

5. Re para 8, we might say that even if the US were able to accept that the GVN should be the head of a single delegation, we do not see how this would prevent the other side from making propaganda claims to the effect that the NLF was a "delegation" and that they were therefore two delegations. We have said to the GVN from the beginning of our consultations that we fully expect such propaganda claims to be made and that we must be prepared to refute them at the talks. We are, in fact, prepared to refute them at the beginning of the talks and as often as necessary thereafter, so that Vietnamese and world opinion will be in no doubt whatever about our position.

6. Re para 9, even if we could accept the position that each side must be headed by someone, we do not see how we can oblige the other side to accept that view. As far as the position of the GVN on our side is concerned, we are prepared to consider them as "primus inter pares", i.e. as the principal spokesman on all matters which are of immediate and direct concern to South Vietnam. Our draft statement of November 11/7/ which represents a formulation very favorable to the GVN, should give it full satisfaction on this point. We are also prepared to defer to the GVN representatives in such matters as seating, entry into and departure from the meeting chamber, etc.

/7/See footnote 8, Document 208.

7. Re para 10, we have never been concerned that placing us under GVN leadership in the negotiations would detract from our prestige. Our inability to accede to the wishes of the GVN in this respect comes not from considerations of prestige, but from constitutional considerations. Moreover, as indicated above we do not believe that even if our side were constituted as a single delegation, this would force the other side to constitute the DRV as the head of their side; they might very well constitute the NLF as the head of their side. That is why, in line with our discussions during recent months, we take the position that the our side/your side formula, which leaves it to each side to constitute itself as it wishes, is the only way in which we can move to the serious and direct talks on whose desirability the GVN and US are in agreement.

8. Re paras 14 and 15, we trust the Department will come up with appropriate comment.

9. Re para 18, while the GVN's participation on the basis of the our side/your side formula is a matter for sovereign decisions by the GVN in accordance with its national interests, we find it necessary to recall that the US acted in complete good faith in reaching agreement on this matter with the DRV, believing it to be fully consistent with our mutual consultations over a period of several months.

10. Finally, re para 19, we might say that we urge the GVN to participate in the procedural talks in Paris as soon as possible, whether such talks be in secret or in public. The US, however, cannot guarantee that the other side will be constituted as the GVN wishes it to be constituted./8/

/8/The President indicated his approval of a statement addressing five issues raised by Thanh: "(A) Reconnaissance flights, (B) the shelling of the cities, (C) the claim of the NLF to have been 'invited,' (D) the DRV claim that we have agreed to a four-sided conference, (E) violations of the DMZ." (Memorandum from Rostow to the President, November 13, 11:30 a.m.; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. VI) For text of the statement, see Department of State Bulletin, December 2, 1968, pp. 563-564.



218. Memorandum of Conversation/1/

Washington, November 13, 1968, 5:30 p.m.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET. Secret; Nodis/Harvan Double Plus. Drafted by Adolph Dubs, Acting Country Director for the Soviet Union in the Bureau of European Affairs. The Department transmitted a synopsis of the conversation to Rusk, who was attending the NATO Ministerial meeting in Brussels November 12-16, in telegram 271357 to Brussels, November 14. (Ibid., A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Outgoing)-November 1968)


Viet-Nam--Attacks from Demilitarized Zone and Firing on Reconnaissance Planes


Ambassador Dobrynin, Embassy of the USSR

The Acting Secretary

Mr. Bohlen

Mr. Dubs

Attacks from Demilitarized Zone by North Vietnamese--Ambassador Dobrynin was called in at the Acting Secretary's initiative to discuss matters of serious concern to the United States regarding developments in Viet-Nam. Mr. Katzenbach said that the first item he wanted to mention was that a series--but not large--of attacks, primarily artillery, had taken place from the DMZ./2/ Mr. Katzenbach said he could not overemphasize the importance the US attaches to the demilitarization of the DMZ. When such attacks take place it becomes serious, both in terms of maintaining the present situation and moving forward in the Paris talks. There should be no misunderstanding on this score on the part of the North Vietnamese. Mr. Vance has made this perfectly clear in Paris.

/2/Numerous incidents of shelling from NVA positions in the DMZ into South Vietnam occurred during November 9-13. On November 13 the Department released a statement characterizing the attacks as evidence that the DRV was not living up to the terms of the October understanding. See The New York Times, November 14, 1968.

Mr. Katzenbach handed Ambassador Dobrynin a paper (Tab A)/3/ detailing incidents initiated from within the DMZ. Mr. Katzenbach said that the paper and attached map pinpoint locations from which attacks have originated. These attacks have often come from the southern half of the DMZ. Surely the Soviet Union and the North Vietnamese must recognize the seriousness with which the US views these attacks.

/3/Attached but not printed.

Ambassador Dobrynin asked whether this subject had been discussed with the North Vietnamese. Mr. Katzenbach noted that the incidents were discussed yesterday (November 12) afternoon or evening./4/ The North Vietnamese, however, were not given a map detailing the coordinates from which the attacks had been launched. The map was now being handed to Ambassador Dobrynin in order to underline precisely where they had originated.

/4/In telegram 23712 from Paris, November 12, the delegation summarized that day's meeting with their North Vietnamese counterparts. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-November 1968) In telegram 23790 from Paris, November 13, the delegation reported on a discussion between Harriman and Oberemko regarding the shelling incidents and reconnaissance flights over North Vietnam. (Ibid.)

North Vietnamese Attacks on US Reconnaissance Planes--The Acting Secretary pointed out that US reconnaissance flights below the 19th Parallel have been shot at by the North Vietnamese. This has happened despite the fact that it had been made quite clear that we intended to continue these flights until such time as progress in the talks could suggest another solution. The North Vietnamese knew of our intentions, since we had made it clear that we would only cease the bombing and all armed attacks. Fortunately, so far, nobody has been hit. We cannot, however, rely upon such continuing good fortune in the future. If the situation continues, it will create a problem for the President in maintaining the present situation and the hope for serious talks. If reconnaissance flights continue to be fired upon, it is inevitable that the fire will be returned. Eventually, we would be back where we started from. This point has also been made with the North Vietnamese. The Acting Secretary then handed Ambassador Dobrynin a statement and map showing from where unarmed aircraft were fired upon (Tab B)./5/

/5/Attached but not printed.

Ambassador Dobrynin said that it was his personal impression that firing on reconnaissance aircraft was not explicitly discussed from the North Vietnamese.

The Acting Secretary pointed out that the aircraft involved were not making armed attacks. If firing continues, the Acting Secretary added, moving forward with the talks will be seriously jeopardized. If the North Vietnamese do not recognize this, they had better be told.

Ambassador Dobrynin said that it was his personal impression that the US was now placing a new demand, ex post facto, on the North Vietnamese. It was his impression, too, that this point had not been raised before in Paris. He recognized, however, that this could be a matter of interpretation.

The Acting Secretary said that if somebody shoots at you there is a good possibility that the fire will be returned. He did not want to see this happen. Certain points had been made by the US in discussions with the North Vietnamese. While these points did not constitute agreements, they were surely understood by the North Vietnamese. We simply don't know what their difficulty is in being photographed. All that we know is that if attacks against reconnaissance flights continue this is likely to lead to retaliatory action. US unarmed reconnaissance flights are not attacking anyone in Viet-Nam, and if a plane is shot down it will be difficult to maintain the present cessation of bombing. The US is the only side which has done anything, i.e., we have stopped the bombing. The North Vietnamese for their part are now violating the DMZ and firing upon US reconnaissance planes. The seriousness with which the US would view the loss of an unarmed plane cannot be overemphasized. We assume that the Soviet Union wants serious talks to take place.

Ambassador Dobrynin said that it was not quite clear to the USSR what was going on at the present time. After all the difficult arrangements, the US side does not appear able to come to the conference table. He noticed on the ticker that certain arguments surrounding the situation were now being made public and he did not believe this could be helpful.

The Acting Secretary said that interpretative statements by Hanoi as to what was agreed upon are causing the problems. Statements coming from Hanoi have made it more difficult for everybody. US statements regarding the situation have been scrupulously accurate; Hanoi's have not been.

Mr. Katzenbach said he hoped Ambassador Dobrynin's views regarding the unwisdom of public statements would also be expressed to Hanoi. He reminded Ambassador Dobrynin that we have stopped the bombing and that we would like to get on with the talks. He urged the Ambassador to tell Hanoi that their statements have not been helpful./6/

/6/Rostow met with Dobrynin the next day and summarized the meeting in a memorandum to the President, November 14, 3:30 p.m.: "With respect to Vietnam, he was primarily interested in knowing how we were getting on in Saigon. I explained some of Saigon's difficulties, emphasizing the role of Hanoi, VC, and Paris propaganda. I hit him hard on the DMZ and firing upon our reconnaissance planes. I told him I was temporarily optimistic about getting the GVN to Paris, but could give him no time. He said he hoped it could be soon. We were losing momentum. He expressed the hope that when they got to Paris they would be able to organize private talks in various pairings. With respect to Saigon and the NLF, he said that they would not come hat in hand to Thieu begging for forgiveness but would negotiate hard on the basis of the population and territory they held, plus their program for the future of the country. I said the critical matter, in my view, for Saigon and the NLF was to get off together up a back street in Paris and talk about the substance of the matter rather than jockeying publicly for face and position. He agreed. His final remark of the lunch was as follows: 'Off the record, I wish to tell you that we have had as much trouble with Hanoi as you are having with Saigon. The only difference is that your troubles take place in public.'" (Johnson Library, National Security File, Walt Rostow Files, Chlodnick File)


219. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, November 14, 1968, 1200Z.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. VI. Secret; Immediate; Nodis/Harvan Double Plus. Received at 8:05 a.m. Repeated to Paris for Harriman and Vance.

42653. 1. Ambassador Bui Diem came to see me this afternoon Nov 14. He stayed for over an hour. My general impression from the account of his conversations here is that the logjam is breaking and we are beginning to see some movement in the right direction.

2. Bui Diem said he had come back because he thought it highly important for the President and Vice President to know what the atmosphere was in the US and, more specifically, because he wanted to convey personally to the President the message from the President-elect that he had received through Senator Dirksen./2/

/2/See Document 209.

3. He felt his decision to come had been shown to be correct because he had found there was no true appreciation here of the atmosphere in the US, of the impatience of our people to get on with the talks, and he had tried to convey to all those he had seen here the sense of urgency in coming to an agreement with the US because there was no other way out for the South Vietnamese.

4. He had had a very long talk with President Thieu yesterday, Diem said, followed by another long talk with the Vice President. He had explained to Thieu very fully and frankly the situation in Washington and remarked that although he had not personally seen President Johnson, he felt that our President took a very serious view of developments here. He had given Thieu a full account of his talks with Senator Dirksen and with Bundy./3/

/3/See Document 210.

5. He had also told Thieu, Diem continued, that he thought he had received bad advice in sending a personal message to the President-elect suggesting that he come here, because this had been subject to misinterpretation and it made a bad impression in Washington. He emphasized that the President-elect stands four-square with President Johnson with respect to Viet-Nam and that the GVN is in fact confronted with a solid US bi-partisan front. He said he had also suggested to Thieu that he send a personal message to President Johnson.

6. He had stressed, Diem went on, in his talks with the President and the Vice President, that no time must be lost in working out a formula that would allow the GVN to participate in the Paris talks. He commented to me however: you know how the President is. It will take a little time for him to adjust to this. On the other hand, he is very quick to grasp the situation and will make the decision eventually. The trouble is that Thieu thinks too much in terms of Vietnamese society and not enough in terms of Viet-Nam's position internationally. It will take a little time for him to view the situation in the proper perspective.

7. Diem said that the President had asked him to talk with members of the National Security Council this morning; he had been reluctant at first but when the Vice President also urged him he decided to do it. He felt this had been very useful. He also talked with some members of the Senate and found them receptive to the need to find a way out of the present impasse.

8. Thieu had been very upset by the Clifford statement,/4/ Diem said, but he had also told Thieu that the "reply" by Minister of Information Thien had been very unwise, to which the President agreed. Thien's statement had been made without any consultation. Diem urged that there be no further public recriminations, and I said I couldn't agree more.

/4/See Document 213.

9. Bui Diem said he would stay here until a solution was worked out. This might force a few more days to prepare people psychologically, and perhaps the Clifford statement meant that a little more time would be desired so that people will not think that the GVN is caving in under threats. He thought there had been misunderstandings on both sides but that these could be repaired and that he thought there was good will on the GVN side.

10. With respect to the statement that we had proposed on Nov 11, Diem said he thought it satisfactory in general but probably the GVN would have some suggestions which would not so much concern substance as phraseology, and he said (as Foreign Minister Thanh had informed us) that the study of our draft had not yet been completed. Diem was planning to see Thieu tomorrow morning and would urge him to see me as soon as possible. In any case, Diem said, the President would send for me soon. Also, the Vice President had said he would like to talk with me.

11. I asked Diem's opinion whether he thought I should wait for Thieu to make the next move and whether he thought it was up to me to respond to what he had told me about the Vice President. Diem thought I should wait until I hear from Thieu but he thought this would be soon, and that I might inquire from Ky's office when he wished to see me. Diem asked whether I would accept a dinner invitation from the Vice President, and I said of course I would do so.

12. We had earlier information from Dan Duc Khoi which was generally confirmed by what Bui Diem subsequently told me. Minister of Interior Khiem was also reported as saying that matters seemed to be clearing up and that he thought obstacles had been removed to an understanding between the USG and the GVN on the Paris talks.

13. Comment: I believe that this talk with Bui Diem and the earlier conversation with Foreign Minister Thanh (reported septel)/5/ show that it is the desire of GVN leaders to find a way out of the impasse and to send a delegation to Paris. In order for this effort to succeed, however, it is essential that we be able to work out the method for achieving this quietly with them and that we allow them a reasonable period of time to come around.

/5/See Document 216.

14. It is evident that Secretary Clifford's press conference and the angry reply by the Minister of Information make it difficult for the GVN to move immediately since it would appear to be done under US pressure. It is therefore essential that there be no more public statements which would make the situation more difficult, so that the excellent Department statement and Bui Diem's activities here can have their maximum effect.

15. I anticipate that through conversations with the Foreign Minister, President, and Vice President in the next two or three days, we can work out the exact form of the statements which will be used as a basis for resolution of the problem. I have assumed that the Department's statement was in fact the answer to the Foreign Minister's November 13 memorandum and Thieu's November 8 proposal,/6/ and it is now unlikely that a full written reply will be needed.

/6/For Thanh's memorandum, see Document 216. Regarding the November 8 proposal, see footnote 3, Document 208. In telegram 271923 to Saigon, November 14, the Department noted: "There is of course no question that any effort (honest or otherwise) to get the DRV to accept Thieu's November 8 proposal would be going beyond what had been discussed in the private talks with Hanoi and would change the understanding that each side would be free to organize itself as it saw fit. Nonetheless, the question whether this 'goes back' on anything reached in private talks seems to us entirely secondary to the practical judgment that Hanoi would never agree and that the effort would simply paint both the GVN and ourselves into a worse corner. We honestly do not think 'bad faith' has much to do with it, but practical results do." (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Outgoing)-November 1968)

16. If the Department has any further comments on Saigon 42582,/7/ however, I would appreciate having them promptly, but I would urge that I be given flexibility as to the use that might be made of them. At this moment it seems most likely that the combination of the Department's November 13 statement/8/ and the draft statements furnished to the GVN November 11, perhaps modified slightly to meet GVN points, should be the basis for an agreed solution.

/7/Document 217.

/8/See footnote 2, Document 218.

17. I have just now been informed that the President wishes to see me tomorrow morning./9/

/9/See Document 222.



220. National Intelligence Estimate/1/

NIE 50-68

Washington, November 14, 1968.

/1/Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Office of National Estimates, Job 79-R01012A, NIE Files. Secret; Sensitive; Limdis; Controlled Dissem. Prepared by the National Intelligence Board and signed by Helms. For an INR assessment of this NIE, see Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. XXVII, Document 96.


The Problem

In this estimate we consider two possible outcomes of the war: first, a political settlement which, for one reason or another, would permit the communists to take control of the government in South Vietnam, not immediately but within a year or two; the second, acceptance by Hanoi of a solution that falls well short of its objectives while preserving important elements of its political-military apparatus in the South.

The Estimate

I. Southeast Asian Strengths and Weaknesses

1. Whatever the outcome in Vietnam, there are several constant factors in Southeast Asia which will serve to condition developments there. Stability in the region is jeopardized by the internal weakness of states still seeking the right mixture of traditional practices and modern institutions after a long period of colonial rule. In most states, the central government has little capacity to mobilize national resources; and in several countries, border provinces are remote and neglected, and there is widespread alienation among ethnic and religious minorities. Other broad social problems and poorly functioning economies add further to the burdens of the frequently inefficient civilian and military leadership. While these conditions offer opportunities for communist subversion they are partially offset by a growing sense of nationalism, traditional fear of China and distrust of communism as an anti nationalist and pro-Chinese movement.

2. Obviously, there are significant differences in the inherent stability of the nations of the region and in the strength of internal factors resistant to communism. The military regimes of Burma and Indonesia, for example, have still not developed a firm popular consensus in support of their policies and programs, nor is it clear that the existing political institutions are viable. In both countries, however, the sense of nationalism is strong enough to hold the basic political framework together. In Malaysia and Singapore, on the other hand, the ethnic loyalties of the Malay and Chinese communities conflict with their national feelings, but representative government and the electoral process have taken hold, and there is positive support for the national leadership based on its commitment to economic betterment.

3. Thailand and Cambodia occupy a middle position. The Thai regime still searches for mechanisms to ensure and legitimate its predominance; while in Cambodia, Sihanouk's highly personalized rule has forestalled any real test of political institutions. But both regimes are reasonably acceptable to the majority of the people and neither appears to have domestic political opposition with sufficient strength or cohesion to threaten its position. In both countries, too, political stability is reinforced by widespread respect for the royal family. Though Laos is also a Buddhist monarchy, it lacks the homogeneity of population and the sense of history which provide a firm basis for Thai and Cambodian nationhood. In any event, Laos is a special case: Fundamentally, the Souvanna regime depends for its survival on the external forces which created and sustain it.

4. Economic weaknesses--inadequate utilization of resources, capital shortages, low export earnings--are also conspicuous among the problems of Southeast Asia, but the impact of such deficiencies on political stability should not be overstated. In general, the region's predominantly agricultural economy provides sufficient food to adequately feed the population despite continuing high birth rates. In this situation, sophisticated economic analyses often have little application to the life of the mass of the citizens, much less to their political attitudes. It is apparent, however, that the reasonably well-managed and rapidly growing economies of Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore have enhanced the political stability of their governments, while economic stagnation contributes to the uncertainty of prospects for the regimes in Burma, Indonesia, and Cambodia. In a category apart is the Philippines where a fairly good growth rate tends to mask ever-widening disparities between rich and poor.

5. The leaders of Southeast Asia are further distracted by the rivalries and frictions which frequently characterize their relations with one another. Prince Sihanouk views Cambodian history as essentially a struggle to forestall national extinction at the hands of more aggressive Thai and Vietnamese. As a result, Cambodia's energies--and those of Thailand and South Vietnam as well--are often diverted by border incidents, propaganda wars, and diplomatic recriminations. The burgeoning dispute between Malaysia and the Philippines over the ownership of Sabah threatens to disrupt efforts to achieve greater regional cooperation. Thailand's longstanding doubts about the loyalty of its ethnic Malay peoples causes Bangkok to deny full cooperation to Kuala Lumpur in joint efforts to deal with security problems along their common border. For their part, the Malaysians remain suspicious of Indonesian ambitions in Borneo despite Sukarno's departure from the scene. And Singapore is persistently fearful of absorption by its Malay and Indonesian neighbors.

6. Communist Subversion. More than any other part of the world, the countries of Southeast Asia have been hampered in their quest for stability by communist subversion. Each of them, except Singapore, has had to contend with a communist insurrection on some scale, and communist bands are still active in most countries. So far, however, the communists have gained complete control of only the northern half of Vietnam and adjacent positions of Laos. Moreover, although Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia have, at one time or another, required the assistance of foreign combat troops to meet the communist threat, the others--Burma, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines--needed only the input of matériel, technical aid and, in some cases, advisory personnel.

7. Communist parties in Southeast Asia have fared poorly, not because Marxism and Socialism are unpopular, but because the communists acted in such a manner as to alienate nationalist sentiment in the various countries. In 1948-1949, just as newly independent, nationalist and socialist oriented regimes were appearing in the region, Moscow and Peking proclaimed a general line of armed liberation for Southeast Asia. This gave the communist parties an anti-nationalist image which alienated most students, intellectuals, and workers. (A major exception, or course, was in Vietnam where the communists managed to gain a predominant position in the nationalist movement after World War II.) After the failure of these premature insurrections, communists in some countries tried to operate at the legal and parliamentary level under the slogan of peaceful coexistence. But popular support, except in Indonesia, could not be developed, and most of the parties had no alternative but to continue with the effort to develop peasant-based insurrection. In several cases, this has meant operating in remote areas populated by relatively primitive minority peoples.

8. Communist prospects in Southeast Asia reflect these inadequacies. Communist insurgency is much less of a threat today in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines than 20 years ago. The once formidable Malayan Communist Party force is down to less than 1,000 men and is holed up just north of the Thai-Malaysian border. Another 500 or so guerrillas from Sarawak roam the highland jungles south of the Sarawak frontier. Both groups are comprised mainly of ethnic Chinese residents of Malaysia, but neither maintains any substantial foothold on Malaysian soil. The Huk movement in the Philippines consists of an armed nucleus of about 150 men and appears to have degenerated from a communist guerrilla movement into more of a Filipino "mafia," engaged in murder and extortion for a livelihood. In central and eastern Java, a few hundred Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) activists have taken to the hills in hopes of developing the sort of guerrilla force the party so obviously lacked during the crucial weeks of October 1965. The PKI effort has been severely set back by recent government operations against its bases; many top communist leaders have been killed. Despite this setback and the party debacle of 1965-1966, the communist movement in Indonesia remains the most potentially significant subversive force in Southeast Asia aside from the Vietnamese communists.

9. While communist insurgency has declined in the insular and peninsular states of Southeast Asia, activity further north--in Burma, Thailand, and Cambodia--had been stepped up in recent years, partly because of the war in Vietnam and partly because of the stimulus of Peking and Hanoi. Fundamentally, the present significance of the communist parties in these countries lies in their role as instruments of external forces rather than in their own internal appeal or strength.

10. In Burma, the long-simmering insurgency of the 4,000 or so Peking-oriented White Flags (Communist Party of Burma/White Flag) was given a new orientation about two years ago when they adopted a full-blown Maoist line. This was followed shortly by a crisis in Sino-Burmese relations generated by Peking's Cultural Revolution. Although the Chinese have since moderated their overt hostility toward the Ne Win/2/ regime, they persist in an effort to weaken it; they supply guns and training in adjacent Yunnan Province to the relatively few members of dissident ethnic groups willing to cooperate with White Flag elements in attacks against government units in northeastern Burma. Whatever the communist strategy in Burma, Peking and the White Flags probably have little hope of implementing it without substantial cooperation from the Kachin, Shan, Karen, and other ethnic insurgent forces. In the past, the lack of common objectives and cohesion among these rebel groups has been their principal weakness vis-à-vis the Rangoon government, and there are few signs that this defect will soon be remedied. Moreover, most ethnic insurgent leaders appear to be anti-Chinese and to oppose communism as a threat to their ancient modes of living.

/2/General Ne Win, Chairman, Union Revolutionary Council, Burma.

11. The decision to commence active insurgency in Thailand in early 1965 was probably made by Peking in concert with Hanoi; the former has always dominated the Thai communist movement. While preparation for guerrilla war in Thailand began at least as early as 1962, plans were accelerated in 1965 probably to assist Hanoi by generating concern in US official circles over a possible communist "second front" in Southeast Asia and by stimulating fear in Thailand over further extending its military commitments to the US. So far the communist insurgents have made little headway, but their actions have alerted the regime to its vulnerabilities in remote sectors of the country and led it to institute various remedies in the fields of security, administration, and economic development. In the Northeast, across the Mekong from Laos, 1,500 or so insurgents are on the defensive, despite occasional forays. In the dense highland jungles of the North, several hundred tribesmen, with grievances against the government, have been armed and trained by communists and are harassing government forces and outposts near the Lao border. On the other hand, the communists are not likely to exert any significant influence away from remote tribal districts so long as their appeal is geared mainly to hill-tribe grievances. Efforts to penetrate the ethnic Thai in the North have not progressed far but do pose some threat for the future. Communist terrorism on a much smaller scale is a continuing problem in other regions of the country.

12. Over the past year or two, guerrilla activity has revived in Cambodia and become a serious internal problem for the Sihanouk/3/ regime. Its origins and nature are vague, but activity is centered in two areas. In the remote northeastern part of the country, where the Vietnamese communists operate in support of the war effort in Vietnam, some dissident tribesmen have apparently accepted arms from Hanoi to oppose the increasing government presence in the region. Of greater potential significance are the disruptive activities of the ethnic Cambodian insurgents, styled "Khmer Rouge" by Sihanouk, who operate sporadically in small armed bands throughout western Cambodia. There have been incidents elsewhere, however, and the Khmer Rouge appear to have links to subversive elements in Phnom Penh itself.

/3/Prince Norodom Sihanouk, Cambodian Chief of State.

13. In Laos, of course, the communists pose a major threat. They control about half the country and a third of its people, and the indigenous communists--the Pathet Lao--have an internationally recognized claim to a share in the national government. The backbone of the insurgency is, however, provided by regular North Vietnamese forces.

14. In sum, the nations of Southeast Asia exhibit serious social, political, and economic weaknesses. But they are generally buttressed by a sense of nationalism and a determination to preserve their independence. They have had considerable experience in dealing with communist subversion, and they have learned over the centuries to survive in the shadow of a powerful China. None of the countries in the region, with the possible exception of Laos, is so weak that communist movements are likely to increase their strength greatly over the next several years without major and direct foreign assistance.

15. The US Role. How the US views its role and commitment in the region, and how this is perceived by both communist and noncommunist elements, will continue to be crucial factors in the Southeast Asian political equation. There is no realistic prospect that over the next several years another power or a regional system will appear to relieve the US of the security function it has been undertaking in the area. In fact, the expected withdrawal of UK forces from Malaysia and Singapore will inevitably pose new problems for the US in this regard.

II. A Settlement Favorable to the Communists/4/

/4/Maj. Gen. Wesley C. Franklin, for the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Department of the Army, and Maj. Gen. Jammie M. Philpott, for the Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, USAF, dissent from the argument in this section. For their views, see their footnote to paragraph 38, page. 12. [Footnote in the source text.]

16. In discussing an outcome favorable to the communists, we rule out such unlikely assumptions as the military collapse of Allied forces in South Vietnam and precipitate and unilateral withdrawal of these forces, or a negotiation involving political concessions so sweeping as to be tantamount to granting Hanoi outright achievement of its aims in the South. The contingency here discussed is a political settlement of the war which, for one reason or another, would permit the communists to take control of the government in South Vietnam. Insofar as the rest of Southeast Asia is concerned, an important variable would be the time required for the communist takeover. If it took 5 or 10 years, the repercussions elsewhere would tend to be muted or even lost among other developments during the period. For purposes of this estimate, therefore, we assume a much shorter period, say no more than a year or two, during the course of which the Southeast Asians would come to the conclusion that the settlement accepted by the US made a communist success virtually inevitable.

17. Communist Reactions. A settlement in Vietnam favorable to the communists would give a psychological lift to leftist elements everywhere in Southeast Asia, but it would not necessarily lead them to rely more heavily on armed violence than at present. Some local parties are already doing all they can in the field of "peoples' war;" others would require considerable time and outside assistance before a large-scale campaign of violence could be initiated. And the decision to attempt this course would depend not only on the local party and its view of the opportunities but also on the policies of its patron--China, North Vietnam, or the USSR as the case might be. Only in Laos, and perhaps in Cambodia, is there a capability in being to increase the level of armed pressure and violence quickly and significantly.

18. Hanoi's first reaction to its success in South Vietnam might be an early move to unleash the armed forces it controls in Laos and to provide large-scale assistance to a Cambodian resistance movement. There is, after all, no doubt that Hanoi's objectives are to establish its control over Laos and attain predominant influence in Cambodia. But we believe the Vietnamese communists would be somewhat more cautious. They might fear that there was some risk of a new US military response and, more important at this stage, this level of military actions would probably seem unnecessary to the North Vietnamese; they would expect the regimes in both countries to be amenable to Hanoi's influence without further resort to war. Moreover, Hanoi would be preoccupied, for a time at least, with the formidable task of consolidating communist rule in South Vietnam.

19. Initially, therefore, Hanoi would probably apply pressures in Laos, hoping in this way to produce a new coalition government dominated by the Pathet Lao. (Hanoi might indeed have embarked on this course in advance of the Vietnamese settlement if it were convinced during the negotiations that the US was in the process of a major reduction in its commitments in Southeast Asia.) If pressure tactics failed in Laos, the North Vietnamese might undertake new military action to strengthen the communist bargaining position or to effect an outright military takeover of the country. In Cambodia, Hanoi would probably move more gradually, settling initially for a government reasonably responsive to its influence. If Sihanouk proved uncooperative, Hanoi would apply additional pressures, including assistance to procommunist elements in Cambodia.

20. Hanoi sees both Laos and Cambodia as falling primarily within its sphere of influence and, in the aftermath of a successful settlement, would resist efforts by Peking--or by Moscow--to have a controlling voice in either country. Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, Hanoi is not likely to seek a predominant role in the communist effort. Activities in Laos and Cambodia would have first call on its capabilities. In Thailand, the North Vietnamese are currently providing support to the guerrilla forces though they recognize that the Chinese have a major interest and may be in a better position, over the longer term, to influence the communist movement there. Hanoi will probably be reluctant to leave the field entirely to the Chinese, however, and will do what it can to maintain an influential role in the communist insurgency in Thailand. With regard to Burma, Indonesia, and Singapore, on the other hand, the North Vietnamese will probably be more intent on cultivating friendly relations in the postwar years.

21. As for Peking, it is difficult to estimate the extent and nature of its activities in Southeast Asia after Vietnam, especially because of the uncertainties engendered by China's domestic situation. Recurrent internal crises, for example, could limit China's ability to sustain a consistent policy line toward the region. On the other hand, if internal order is maintained, China's aspirations for great-power dominance in the region would lead to increased efforts to limit or displace US influence, particularly in those states close to China's borders. But this will be true no matter what the outcome in Vietnam. In any event, China would almost certainly claim some credit for any communist success in Vietnam and exploit it at the diplomatic and political level throughout Southeast Asia as part of the continuing effort to advance its national interests. A communist success in Vietnam would encourage Peking to support subversive movements, but the scale of its efforts would be influenced by the degree to which local conditions provided promising opportunities. Current Chinese strategy does not appear to call for overt aggression and we do not foresee a change in this strategy.

22. The impact of communist success in Vietnam on relations between Peking and Hanoi could have substantial implications for Southeast Asia, particularly over the longer term. It is possible, for example, that the two countries would draw closer together and undertake joint political, propaganda, and subversive efforts in the area. It seems more likely, however, that Hanoi would wish to take the opportunity to establish quite clearly its independence of the Chinese, relying on continued Soviet and available Free World sources for the material and technical assistance essential to its postwar reconstruction. Following such a course would require that Hanoi soft-pedal support of subversive activities outside Indochina at least. It would also increase the chances that the age-old Vietnamese distrust of China would combine with current conflicts of interests to produce serious strains in Hanoi-Peking relations.

23. The Soviet Union is not likely to become a major supporter of communist subversion in Southeast Asia after Vietnam. The Soviets will be disposed to defer to Hanoi's wishes on Laos and Cambodia and will probably attempt to increase their own influence in the outlawed Indonesian communist movement. In general, however, the end of the war and its self-imposed obligation to support Hanoi would lead the USSR to seek a more important political position in the area--particularly in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines--by developing further its diplomatic, economic, and cultural ties. The Soviets would oppose increased Chinese influence everywhere in the region.

24. Reactions of the Southeast Asian Countries. Most of Southeast Asia would welcome an end to the war in Vietnam, but a settlement favorable to the communists would produce a crisis in Laos and severe anxiety in Cambodia and Thailand. Throughout the area, the settlement would have an adverse psychological impact that would damage US prestige and credibility. In view of the extent of US commitments to South Vietnam and the depth of US involvement in the war, serious doubts would be felt about the validity of US power and commitments, and there would be renewed concern over communist intentions and the longer run prospects of surviving in the shadow of Chinese power.

25. The greatest danger in this situation would not be that subversive elements in Southeast Asia would immediately take heart and make rapid progress in undermining the stability of noncommunist governments. As indicated above, local communist organizations generally lack the capability and the appeal for any such rapid growth. Rather, the certain danger would be the development of an atmosphere of defeatism and resignation in noncommunist countries in the area, with individual governments losing their hope of withstanding the political and psychological pressures of Hanoi and Peking. There could be a general move to placate the communist powers by cutting military and political ties with the US. This process could begin before the communist takeover had been completed, particularly if Hanoi moved quickly and successfully to upset the balance in Laos.

26. We cannot say that it would not work out this way in the end, for much would depend on continuing US actions. While some Southeast Asian leaders would probably entertain increased doubts about the will of the US to play a security role in the area, we do not believe that they would be panicked into precipitate changes in policy or posture. They would probably suspend any definitive policy decision at least until there had been time and opportunity to study indications of future communist conduct and intent and, more critically, those of the US.

27. Concern over the communist threat in the aftermath of Hanoi's success would also be conditioned by the circumstances of the time. Some countries may be psychologically prepared for a settlement which appears to be favorable to the communists. Moreover, if the settlement came in the next year or so, the atmosphere in Southeast Asia would be quite different from that which existed in 1964-1965. At that time, there was the spectacle of unbroken Viet Cong successes against South Vietnamese forces, rapid Chinese advances in the field of modern weapons, and an increasingly powerful Sukarno/PKI coalition taking charge in Indonesia and bullying the newly-organized and fragile Malaysian federation. In the intervening years, however, Southeast Asians have seen China bogged down in confusion and disorder, Sukarno ousted and the PKI suffer bloody suppression, and the Vietnamese communists pay a fearful price during long years of war.

28. A communist success in South Vietnam would have its sharpest and most immediate impact in Laos. The realization that North Vietnam and the Pathet Lao could quickly overrun government-held territory if they chose to do so, would generate sentiment among civilian politicians in Vientiane for reaching an accommodation with Hanoi. Souvanna and other Lao politicians would be willing to see a return to the 1962 Geneva Accords, a coalition government with communist participation, and a more truly neutral foreign policy. They would be reluctant, however, to agree to concessions that appeared to threaten a complete communist takeover. The top Lao military figures would oppose any major concessions to the communists. Much would depend on how far and how quickly Hanoi pressed its advantage. Without increased US involvement, Laos could not long withstand the military and psychological pressures which Hanoi would in due course almost certainly apply.

29. Cambodia would also feel directly exposed as a result of a communist success in South Vietnam, especially if North Vietnamese Army units remained in Cambodia. Khmer Rouge and other insurgent elements might be emboldened to intensify their efforts, but they are not likely to develop quickly into a major threat to Sihanouk's regime without considerable support from Hanoi. Sihanouk would probably try to suppress the insurgents, meanwhile taking steps to accommodate Cambodia to the new situation in the Indochina area. Internally, for example, he would probably decide to bring procommunists into the government, though he would oppose a predominant role for them. Internationally, he would seek the good offices of Moscow and Peking to help secure Cambodian independence, and might even propose convening a new Geneva Conference to this end. Sihanouk would do these things in hope of avoiding the complete communist takeover that he has long feared. If all such measures fail, Sihanouk would probably bow out rather than subject his country to a Vietnam-type conflict or accept a figurehead status for himself in a communist-controlled regime. A new leadership that could carry on effective resistance to Hanoi would be unlikely to emerge.

30. In Thailand, the will of the present ruling group to maintain itself in power, to assert national independence, and to resist internal subversion would probably remain strong despite communist success in Vietnam. The present Thai leaders would have limited options because of their longstanding and unequivocal commitment to military alliance with the US, an alliance which they have regarded as indispensable in the face of a continuing armed threat from China. We do not believe that these leaders would view alignment with Hanoi or Peking as acceptable alternatives to continued reliance on the US.

31. In these circumstances, Thai counterinsurgency forces would persist in their efforts against the communist guerrillas, and communist prospects for recruiting large numbers of local Thai for their forces would remain poor. But Thai capabilities could be severely taxed if Hanoi were to emerge from the Vietnamese struggle prepared to adopt a more aggressive and direct role in support of the Thai insurgents; for example, by sending trained Vietnamese guerrilla cadres and more sophisticated hand weapons into northeastern Thailand, a prospect which is already a source of great concern in Bangkok. The Thai leaders would be particularly sensitive to signs that Hanoi was moving toward a complete takeover in Laos, in view of the strategic importance they attach to it as a buffer against direct communist pressure. Indeed, we could expect that the Thai would press the US to take measures to prevent communist control of the Mekong Valley.

32. Even if Hanoi does not adopt this more aggressive posture toward Thailand, neutralist and leftist elements on the Bangkok political scene would become more vocal. But their influence would probably not grow sufficiently to sway the government unless US support and US responses to Thai requests had made it appear that the US was withdrawing from its commitments to Thailand. The Thai would, in any case, consider whether their relationship with the US ought to be changed in some way. Any reevaluation would proceed carefully and would closely reflect Thai judgments of US statements and actions following a settlement in Vietnam. Under the changing circumstances, the Thai might decide that the evolution of US policy left them no choice but to adopt a posture of strict neutrality./5/

/5/Capt. Frank M. Murphy, for the Assistant Chief of Naval Operations (Intelligence), Department of the Navy, believes that the probable political impact upon Thailand of the assumed settlement would be more severe than stated. He would have the last sentence read: "Under the changing circumstances, the US-Thailand relationship probably would change, with the Thais beginning to move toward pragmatic adjustment to the new political realities after the Communists take over." [Footnote in the source text.]

33. Peking is the chief concern of Burma which is currently being harassed by the Chinese-supported White Flags. Ne Win will be sensitive to the possibility of any increase in such support in the wake of the Vietnamese War, but it is doubtful that communist success in Vietnam would lead him to alter significantly Burma's domestic or foreign policies. Malaysia and Singapore are apprehensive of any substantial increase of interest by Peking in their ethnic Chinese leftists and guerrilla remnants. These groups have usually been responsive to Peking's direction and, in the event of communist success in Vietnam, might receive additional covert support from legal leftist fronts which continually agitate in these countries for accommodation with the communist powers. Such activity could serve to heighten existing tensions between the Chinese and Malay communities in both countries.

34. Indonesia would feel less vulnerable than the others because of its remoteness from China and the small proportion of ethnic Chinese in the country. It is most unlikely that the present leadership in Djakarta would falter in its determination to cope with Indonesia's internal communist problems; indeed, the regime would attach considerable importance to the continuation of US economic aid to sustain this determination. The psychological impact on the Philippines would be somewhat greater than in Indonesia, if only because the Filipinos have been for so long wholly dependent on the US for their defense. While Filipino leftists and anti-US factions would derive new confidence and vigor from the US failure in Vietnam, the problem of communist subversion in the Philippines would probably not increase to any important extent. In any case, it would remain far less of a threat to Philippine stability than the chronic political corruption and economic malaise of the country.

35. The US Posture. Over the longer run, a great deal would depend on the role the US decided to play in the region, and on its success in convincing leaders there of its will and capacity to continue backing them. Initially, the Southeast Asian states would fear a tendency for the US to withdraw generally from involvement with the security of the entire region, particularly if a settlement was reached in such a precipitate manner as to suggest a sudden and basic change in US policy. This initial concern would probably be least in Burma which chooses not to rely on external support for its security and is unlikely to change in this regard. The self-reliant Indonesians would be somewhat less concerned than the Filipinos and a good deal less concerned than Malaysia and Singapore. The two latter have been accustomed to British protection and are disturbed by the prospect of its complete withdrawal.

36. These initial reappraisals of US capabilities and intentions would be subject to continuing review. We believe that governments with any sort of security arrangements with the US--i.e., Laos, Thailand, and the Philippines--would wish to retain them, at least until further evidence was available on the course of US policy in the region. All would urgently seek concrete reassurance of one sort or another and, if these were forthcoming, they would over time tend to dilute the impact of the loss of South Vietnam. For the Thai, one of the lessons of Vietnam could be that US support is not likely to be effective without greater efforts of their own. They would, therefore, move to bolster their forces, including acquisition of all possible material aid from the US.

37. For the other nations of Southeast Asia, US actions in support of Thailand would be an important measure of its intentions throughout the region; few would expect any major US military effort in behalf of the more exposed Lao. No matter how the US performed in Thailand, however, there would inevitably be an increased search for alternatives to heavy reliance on US military power. There would, for example, be increasing interest in a strong counterinsurgency role for regional associations, though all member nations would realize that defense against external aggression could not be the province of such groupings. And there might be some interest in having the Russians play a greater role in Southeast Asia as an additional counterweight to Peking. Even the Thai, concurrent with their efforts to obtain new US security guarantees, would doubtless explore such foreign policy alternatives. Neutralist sentiment in Burma would tend to become even firmer, and neutralist voices would become louder, though hardly decisive, in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia.

38. One factor of great importance would be the appraisal made by US leaders and public opinion of the meaning of the Vietnam experience for the future course of US policy. A traumatic popular reaction in the US, revealed perhaps by recriminations over Vietnam and bitter debate over future use of US power in Southeast Asia would greatly intensify the impact of the loss of South Vietnam. Conversely, if American opinion seemed in the main to take a steady and sober line, echoes in Southeast Asia would be similarly moderated. In effect, US domestic interpretations of a setback in Vietnam and the impressions others consequently formed as to the likely course of US policy in the region might ultimately prove as important as the event itself./6/

/6/Maj. Gen. Wesley C. Franklin, for the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Department of the Army, and Maj. Gen. Jammie M. Philpott, for the Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, USAF, dissent from Section II. They believe that this section seriously underestimates the impact of a communist success in South Vietnam, and gives inadequate consideration to the attendant circumstances. The postulated settlement favorable to the communists would seriously damage US prestige and credibility. And, in view of the expenditure of vast resources to prevent a communist takeover in South Vietnam, the noncommunist governments might be highly skeptical of any US commitment to their defense. Communist elements throughout Southeast Asia would be encouraged and would press harder to emulate the demonstrated success of "peoples' war." Both Laos and Cambodia would come under some form of communist denomination fairly soon; even the Thai probably would change their relationship with the US.

Whatever the reaction of the noncommunist governments of Mainland Southeast Asia over the short term, for the longer term, regardless of US assurances, they would probably seek some means of accommodation to communist pressures. Some leaders in the area almost certainly would view accommodation as an acceptable alternative to the prospect of prolonged military action in conjunction with the US--ending only in a solution favorable to the communists.

The Army and Air Force members also believe that elsewhere in Southeast Asia, leaders would be greatly influenced by the outcome and would, at the time of the settlement, view US support in the area as uncertain. In the US acceptance of an unfavorable settlement in Vietnam, they would see US withdrawal from a longstanding and deep commitment. On that basis, Southeast Asian leaders would make those policy decisions then considered necessary to national survival. [Footnote in the source text.]

III. A Settlement Unfavorable to the Communists

39. In discussing an outcome unfavorable to the communists, we are not including in our consideration any outright surrender on their part or the complete abandonment of their campaign to take over South Vietnam. We are assuming the acceptance by Hanoi of an outcome that falls well short of its objectives but which preserves some important elements of its political-military apparatus in the South. This situation might come about as a result of negotiations or it might become gradually apparent as the communists scaled down their attacks, disengaged their forces, and otherwise indicated a willingness to terminate the shooting war. In either case, an increasingly confident regime, allied with the US, would retain power in Saigon.

40. The principal initial reaction of the Southeast Asians to such an outcome in Vietnam would be a sense of relief and a belief that additional time had been won to bolster further their own political and economic stability. Few would conclude, however, that the future of the Saigon government had been assured, that the Vietnamese communists had been permanently stopped, or that Hanoi had abandoned its ambitions in Laos and Cambodia. Nor would an outcome unfavorable to the communists remove Southeast Asian doubts concerning the willingness of the American Government and people to engage on a substantial scale in any new military conflict in the region.

41. US prestige would increase, however, and its allies in Southeast Asia would reaffirm their links to the US. Everywhere in the region, the morale of communist forces would sag while that of the noncommunists would improve. But the impact on the actual power relationships in each country would not be significant, except in Laos where the political position of the Souvanna government would be greatly strengthened, and in Cambodia where the will of the regime to oppose domestic communists would be reinforced.

42. Perhaps the most far-reaching consequence would be felt inside the communist countries and within the various communist movements. The successes of the Chinese and Vietnamese revolutions have no doubt been highly influential in the continued commitment of other communists in Southeast Asia to the concept of "peoples' war." Defeat in Vietnam, even if rationalized as a temporary setback, would bring the doctrines of Mao and Ho Chi Minh into question. "Revisionism" might begin to gain some adherents, and there would probably be some splits and degeneration in the various insurgencies. There might ensue a period in which communist forces would place greater emphasis on working within the system through popular fronts and association with other leftwing movements. In such a case, Peking and perhaps Hanoi would lose some influence.

43. Because of the importance of Southeast Asia to China, it is conceivable that Hanoi's acceptance of an unfavorable outcome in Vietnam might provoke recriminations in Peking and result in a leadership crisis. We think, however, that such a reaction is unlikely. For Peking at least, there already exists a rationale for the defeat of the Viet Cong, namely that because of improper tactics they were unable to persist in a protracted war. Chinese policy might become more threatening, but it is more likely that the failure of the communist campaign in Vietnam would not have a major effect on Chinese policy elsewhere in Southeast Asia.

44. As for Hanoi, we believe that it would remain unreconciled to the division of Vietnam and to the presence of US power in Indochina. The Vietnamese communists would try to preserve what assets they could in the form of cadres and organization in South Vietnam. They might well, however, refrain from instituting further violence while they rebuilt their potential and waited for the diminution of US power and interest in Vietnam.

45. A communist failure in South Vietnam might further strain Hanoi's relations with Peking. There might be mutual recriminations and Hanoi, in its weakened position, might be more than ever concerned to retain Soviet support and avoid overdependence on China. Nonetheless, normal prudence, if nothing else, would suggest that Hanoi would attempt to maintain good relations with Peking. Both Hanoi and Peking, of course, would want to prevent any further strengthening of the noncommunist positions in Laos, and Hanoi would try to hold the areas of Laos bordering on North Vietnam.


221. Information Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/

Washington, November 14, 1968, 4:35 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. VI [1 of 2]. Secret; Harvan Double Plus. The notation "ps" on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it.

Mr. President:

The attached memorandum of conversation between Cy Vance and Lau should be read in the light of this further report on what Dobrynin had to say about reconnaissance./2/ When I raised reconnaissance, he asked: Did they understand fully your position on reconnaissance? I said that I had no doubt that they did understand it. It was clear that their initial instructions after the bombing halt forbade firing on reconnaissance aircraft.

/2/See Document 218.

He then asked: What was Lau's reaction when Vance raised this matter with him in Paris ? I said that he took notes and agreed to inform his government.

He then asked: Why do you think they are now shooting at your aircraft when they did not shoot in the first days after the bombing halt?

I said that I did not know, but that he might take the trouble to find out.

Against this background, the Vance/Lau conversation attached suggests that they are going to test us pretty hard on reconnaissance.

You will also note that they say that no North Vietnamese troops are involved at the DMZ--an acknowledgment of that condition--but they do not take responsibility for the NLF. They are pressing us here to some purpose, and I am not sure which of the following it is:

--to establish how determined we are about reconnaissance;

--to force us to talk to the NLF;

--to make us reduce the intensity of reconnaissance;

--to put pressure on us to get Saigon to Paris.

In any case, they are pushing us./3/

/3/ In a memorandum to the President, November 15, 4 p.m., Rostow listed the President's options to respond to the DRV's "test" on reconnaissance and the DMZ, but noted that in the end the decision would be a political one: "Do we wish to react to the rather unpleasant talk in Paris about reconnaissance and the DMZ violations by this show of determination--or not?" (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. VI [1 of 2])




Situation Report by the Deputy Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Walsh)/4/

Washington, November 14, 1968.

/4/Secret; Nodis; Harvan Double Plus.

Cy Vance called at 1:05 p.m. to report on his conversation with Lau

Lau opened the discussions with a reference to Vance's statement to him on November 11 about the violations of the DMZ on the previous day. (Cy had given him specific details and a map of the positions of the US forces and the firing units.) Lau said that he was authorized to state that artillery had not been fired from the North of the DMZ to any position South of the DMZ; therefore there was no shelling on the 10th. In regard to any shelling or mortaring by NLF that is their responsibility.

He said that our remarks yesterday in Washington/5/ were merely a pretext for further delays and a justification of our aggression.

/5/See footnote 2, Document 218.

He then raised the subject of the reconnaissance flights. He said that there were daily flights including alerts in Hanoi. This is a violation of the security of the DRV and acts of force. He urged that there be immediate stops in these flights in accordance with the spirit of the agreement.

Vance responded along the following lines. In respect to the November 10 situation, the evidence indicated the presence of the 27th DRV Regiment in the DMZ. Even assuming the DRV forces were not in the DMZ we would not accept Lau's assertion that the NLF had a free hand. He called to Lau's attention the latter's statements in the course of October that if the bombing were stopped the DMZ would be respected.

In respect to the question of reconnaissance we had chosen our words very carefully. This was not an act of force. We believed that they had fully understood what our words meant. We would continue our reconnaissance flights and if they were fired upon we would take the necessary defensive actions. This could create a dangerous situation which we assume neither side would want.

In the last meeting Lau had mentioned an alleged violation by a US naval vessel of DRV waters. We had carefully checked his accusation and could state that no US vessel had penetrated the territorial waters of the DRV on that date.

Vance rejected Lau's charge that the US was an aggressor and forcefully stated that the true aggressor was the DRV and the NLF.

Lau then responded: He said you think you have a right to infringe on the sovereignty of the DRV; this is serious and dangerous. We will strike back at the reconnaissance flights. The US must bear responsibility. There is no international law that would tolerate the dangers to the DRV brought about by such actions. These acts would not improve the chances of peace. If the US continues, the DRV will use all necessary means of defense. He then rejected Vance's statement about the alleged US penetration of DRV waters.

In respect to the DMZ he again stated that there was a clear difference between the actions of the DRV and the NLF. The U.S. would have to speak to the NLF about this matter.

Vance then stated that reconnaissance does not endanger the security of the DRV. The only problem in this matter is the firing by DRV. Until we approach closer to peace, reconnaissance will be necessary and will continue. We had stopped all bombing and all acts of force against the territories of the DRV and there was no danger to the security of the DRV involved.

In respect to the alleged naval incident our statement was fully accurate. He would, however, be willing to receive any further information on this matter that Lau might wish to provide.

With respect to the DMZ, Vance said we recognize no distinction between actions of the DRV forces and actions of the NLF. He then asked Lau if the DRV had withdrawn all its forces from the DMZ. Lau responded affirmatively.

Vance reported that the conversation throughout was orderly and was not heated. He considered Lau's remark that no DRV forces were in the DMZ as indicative that they recognized an obligation in respect to the Zone. However, there is a considerable problem involved in the suggestion that the forces in the DMZ are NLF. Vance further noted that there clearly is a most serious problem in the offing in respect to reconnaissance flights.

He will file as soon as possible a detailed cable./6/

/6/Telegram 23918/Delto 955 from Paris, November 14. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-November 1968) In telegram 23983/Delto 964 from Paris, November 15, the delegation wrote: "Reflecting upon Vance's talk of last night with Lau, we have some tentative reactions on DMZ as follows: A. The DRV has confirmed the existence of an agreement with respect to the DMZ but is probing to see the limits of our understanding of the agreement. B. The DRV has made its opening move to try to draw distinction between the NVA forces and the NLF forces in the South. They will continue to try to press the alleged separation of responsibility in an attempt to push us toward talks with the NLF soon. C. With respect to Lau's statement that there are no longer DRV troops in the DMZ, we should have all available information as soon as possible to be able to refute or confirm Lau's statement." (Ibid.)

John P. Walsh


222. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, November 15, 1968, 1100Z.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. VI. Secret; Immediate; Nodis/Harvan Double Plus. Repeated to Paris for Harriman and Vance.

42751. Ref: A Saigon 42653; B State 271405./2/

/2/Telegram 42653 is Document 219. Telegram 271405/Todel 1555 to Paris and Saigon, November 14, contains the text of the Department's reply to Thanh's November 13 memorandum and the November 8 proposal. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Outgoing)-November 1968)

1. I called on President Thieu at 10:30 this morning at his request. He was notably more relaxed than he had been during any of our recent interviews, and clearly in a constructive frame of mind. With respect to our draft statement of November 11, he asked if this was to be regarded as a "counter-proposal" to the GVN proposal of November 8./3/ I said yes, and he seemed pleased. (Under the circumstances I did not use the helpful material in reply to the November 8 proposal which the Department had furnished in Ref B.) He asked if the fact could be brought out that this was in response to their proposal, and I said this should cause no difficulty.

/3/See footnotes 3 and 8, Document 208.

2. Thieu then said that he thought we could come to an agreement on the basis of our draft statement. Foreign Minister Thanh would have some suggested improvements which he would discuss with Calhoun and Herz, after which we could have a full-dress meeting with the President, the Vice President, I and the Foreign Minister. I agreed and said we ourselves had been thinking of ways in which the statement might be made more presentable. I stressed the importance of proceeding quickly to an agreement.

3. I remarked that I thought the Department's statement of November 13 should be very helpful to the GVN. Thieu agreed and said, "This is what we had been waiting for."

4. Thieu himself raised only two points with respect to our draft attachment. First, he wished to know whether some way might be found to associate the TCC's with the statement. I said I was sure they would give their public support. (It was clear that Thieu considered that he would gain "face" if some public stamp of approval could be given by the TCC's to whatever we work out.) Second, he asked if we could now work quietly without any public statements. He said if it had not been for the Clifford statement/4/ which again roiled the public emotions here, it might have been possible to move a little more quickly. Under the circumstances he needed a few more days for tempers to cool down and he thought this would happen if there were no more public exchanges. I said that Ton That Thien's emotional outburst in reply had not been helpful either and Thieu agreed, saying this had been made without his prior approval. I said that I hoped we could both work quietly now without public statements from either side in order to make as rapid progress as possible.

/4/See Document 213.

5. We understand Thanh and Bui Diem have been closeted this morning going over our draft statement. Calhoun and Herz have a tentative appointment, subject to confirmation later this afternoon, to meet with Thanh at 6 pm. (This has just been changed to an equally tentative appointment after 9 pm.)/5/

/5/In telegram 42771 from Saigon, November 15, the Embassy reported that Thanh gave Calhoun and Herz a "working redraft" of the proposed statement on the Paris talks. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 84, S/AB Files: Lot 74 D 417, Files of Ellsworth Bunker, Vietnam Telegram Chronos) The text of the redraft is in telegram 42772 from Saigon, November 15. (Ibid.) Calhoun and Herz presented the U.S. changes to Thanh on November 16 and a revised redraft on November 17. (Telegram 42838 from Saigon, November 16, and telegram 42840 from Saigon, November 17; both ibid.) The text of the redraft is in telegram 42842 from Saigon, November 17. (Ibid.)



223. Notes of Meeting/1/

/1/Source: Johnson Library, George Elsey Papers, Van De Mark Transcripts (1 of 2). No classification marking.

Washington, November 17, 1968.


CMC 11:05 a.m.

LBJ call Sun. am./very friendly to LBJ./2/

/2/At 9:30 a.m. that day, Clifford called the President at his Texas Ranch. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary) No record of this conversation has been found.

Symington called too.

I. 1st accomplishment of CMC press conference./3/ No doubt in minds of Americans any more since his press conference.

/3/See Document 213.

S.V.Namese attack on LBJ started at time of bomb halt & continued for 12 days.

a)--cables show it. They deliberately started a campaign of vilification.

b)--Am. newspaper articles such as Keyes Beech prompted by Saigon./4/

/4/See Document 189.

c)--intercepts & intelligence showing statements by Thieu, Ky et. al. against LBJ, (e.g. S.Vietnamese amb. to Seoul/5/ quoting Thieu & Ky saying LBJ was engaging in political trickery.

/5/The South Vietnamese Ambassador to the Republic of Korea was Nguyen Van Kieu, Thieu's brother.

"I happen to know LBJ didn't end the bombing on 31 Oct. just to elect Humphrey because I've never believed he wanted Humphrey to win!" CMC Sunday 17 Nov. '68.

Bunker on [November] 11th reported no sense of urgency at all--January is plenty of time to do anything./6/

/6/See Document 214.

Then came CMC press conference & overnight Saigon suddenly became urgent & caught the point.

CMC's point: Do you wait & let Saigon tear us to pieces--lie, lie, lie--

LBJ can't do it. So CMC decided somebody had to tell the truth--

--about LBJ

--to the Am. people

--to the world

--to Saigon--i.e. letting Thieu & Ky know U.S. Gov't is up to their tricks.

The S.V.Namese attacks were unwarranted & dishonest; someone had to answer them & CMC did.

All CMC did was stick to facts--no conclusions, no personal vilification--I ascribed no motives--just the facts.

Now there is no doubt in minds of Am. people or the press as to the truth in what happened.

This is corroborated by press stories, cartoons & editorials.

GME makes point that only CMC could have done this. LBJ couldn't. State wouldn't. CMC was only one who could & would, & would have credibility. (CMC jumps at this.)

Second accomplishment of CMC press conference.

II. We got Saigon moving. On 29 Oct., at time we first were ready to stop, they balked. They continued to balk, right up to CMC press conference.

Despite State, Bunker, etc. etc., nothing was happening.

Proof positive: Bunker's cable of 12th 0730 a.m./7/ that Saigon is not moving at all & wants to wait until January.

/7/Document 214.

& Thieu's brother told Embassy on some day we need lots of time. Not only weren't they moving--they had no intention of moving & were counting to dig up more & more objections. Movement in Saigon started on 14th reported by Bunker "logjam has broken--"

Saigon galvanized into activity after "righteous indignation."/8/

/8/Telegram 42651 from Saigon, November 14. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. VI)

CMC question--does this sound too self-serving?

(GME answer--No--you're just citing facts.)

Now, however, movement has slowed. State is slowing down & softening.

S.V.Namese is trying to test us by quibbling over words in a joint statement.

Bui Diem dashed home & tells everybody to move!!!

But they aren't moving for last 2-3 days.

III. Maybe the S.Vamese. don't want to move!!!

a) political--the longer they put off, the better SVNam will be.

b) economic--

c) military--they're in No danger at all.

Various reasons to support this:

It makes no diff. to SVNam how many Amers are killed.

The longer it goes on, the better armed the ARVN will be.

549,500 troops pour gold in!!!

The ruling clique is incredibly corrupt & shipping gold by the ton to Swiss banks.

The U.S. shld. not go on fighting & dying just for these guys.

All this leads to conclusion we'll never come to an agreement with Thieu & Ky because they don't want agreement!

IV. Re the criticism that CMC broke new ground & made new policy by stating "we'll go it alone if needed:"

--CMC was merely re-stating a State Dept cable of 8 Nov; & it was re-stated by State 14 Nov in cable & publicly by State same day.

V. What should our policy be from now on?

(CMC refers to a memo from Mort Halperin GME has not seen.)/9/

/9/Not found.

Course A--

Just continue our present course but numerous problems

--continual erosion on DMZ & on attacks on cities.

--growing disaffection in U.S.

Course B--

Postpone talks but hold private talks with Hanoi.

Course C--

Start expanded talks--holding open a seat for Saigon.

He'll end up Strongly on Course "C".

Recommended course

--Send written message to Thieu setting date for talk in Paris

--will go with him or without him

--we must not permit talks to stall

--we must reduce level of combat & start troop withdrawal

--LBJ has borne the brunt--& must not be cheated out of any credit for:

--for lowering the level of casualties

--no reason why he can't bring [home] 5-10,000 troops.


224. Information Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/

Washington, November 18, 1968, 8:55 a.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. VI [1 of 2]. Secret; Harvan Double Plus. The notation "ps" on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it.

Mr. President:

The more I see, at this stage, the more I judge Hanoi's strategy in Paris to be an effort to press the NLF openly into contact with Saigon and the U.S., moving toward de facto recognition of the NLF and a coalition government.

Aside from the attached UPI report (Tab A),/2/ the Vance-Lau talk on the DMZ said, essentially (Tab B):/3/

/2/Attached but not printed is a report from United Press International in which Lau labeled a cease-fire as "unrealistic" until after a political settlement and the withdrawal of U.S. forces.

/3/See Document 221.

--Hanoi will respect the DMZ;

--shelling and penetration of the DMZ by the NLF will continue;

--the U.S. should get in touch with the NLF about this matter.

Saigon, on the other hand, is willing to talk to the NLF either secretly in Paris or deal with the NLF in Saigon as a dissident element in the South Vietnamese population. But Saigon will resist all efforts to have the NLF role in the South dealt with as an international diplomatic matter--at the table in Paris.

The central issue--and test of will--should come, if this view is correct, over how and when Saigon talks to the NLF.

That, in turn, will depend on how steady our side is in Paris and on:

--how fast pacification moves forward on the ground;

--how the VC fare in military operations, which are picking up. (Today's battle west of Danang, with 305 enemy killed versus 4 ARVN, was helpful.)

Once we engage in Paris we may wish to press the Russians to use their influence to encourage secret Saigon-NLF talks and, perhaps, Thieu to open a secret contact--outside of Paris--when the time is ripe.



225. Memorandum Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency/1/

Washington, November 19, 1968.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Harvan Misc. & Memos, Vol. VII. Secret; Sensitive. In an attached covering note transmitting a copy of the memorandum to the President, November 11, 7:15 p.m., Rostow wrote: "Herewith Thieu's rationale for his position and frame of mind as of 19 November. He apparently envisaged at that time to confer with Bunker on November 20 and get out the joint statement within '2 or 3 days.'" The notation "ps" on the covering note indicates that the President saw the memorandum. (Ibid.)


President Thieu's Remarks on U.S./South Vietnamese Relations and His Justification for His Initial Negative Reaction to President Johnson's Announcement

1. On 19 November 1968 President Nguyen Van Thieu said that the Government of Vietnam (GVN) is now prepared to participate in the Paris talks. Referring to the impasse between the GVN and the United States on the Paris talks issue, he noted that while there was an understanding between the two governments that talks with the Communists would take place, the people of Vietnam were not psychologically prepared to accept talks on 6 November 1968. They were also unprepared for the presence of the National Liberation Front (NLF) at the conference table.

2. Thieu stated that this popular unreadiness did not apply to a bombing halt. Recalling the ready acceptance by the GVN and the Vietnamese people of the partial bombing halt, he said the Vietnamese were prepared to accept a total halt in the bombing, and if President Johnson's announcement had been confined to this issue there would have been immediate full support for his action by all Vietnamese. Thieu said that he had prepared the people and the GVN for a bombing halt and even for talks with Hanoi but he would have been faced with a complete breakdown of the government which, in turn, would have resulted in countrywide anarchy, if he had gone to the Paris talks without additional preparations. He admitted that communication between the government and the rural population is poor and observed that the Vietnamese would have been unable to comprehend a quick acceptance of the original formula.

3. Expanding on this latter point, Thieu said the Vietnamese military, divided into doves and hawks, were totally unprepared for talks with the NLF, as were the masses. An immediate acceptance of the 1 November (Saigon date) proposals would have inspired the hawks within the military to renew coup plotting and attempt an overthrow of the administration. The doves in the military would have concluded that the war was lost and would have deserted in droves. He reviewed the disintegration of the Army after the 1954 agreements and said he must prevent a repetition of this at all costs.

4. Turning to popular civilian reaction Thieu said militant Catholic groups also were totally unprepared and would have demonstrated violently against the GVN. The Buddhists, who are softer on the peace issue than the Catholics, would have demonstrated against the Catholics and the GVN. In Thieu's view this would have produced serious political unrest throughout the country's population centers, with clashes in the streets and a breakdown of law and order. The people in the countryside, reacting to the political instability in the cities and towns, would have concluded that a Communist victory was certain and would have tried to reach an accommodation with the Viet Cong. Thieu observed that the only people in Vietnam prepared for talks as suggested by President Johnson were those involved in the discussions with the Americans.

5. Thieu admitted to reaching various agreements with the Americans during the pre-bombing halt discussions. He attributed the differences between the U.S. and the GVN to poor timing by the U.S. and to poor diplomatic mechanics. With respect to the timing he asked, "Why 1 November?", noting that 1 November is Vietnamese National Day. He asked if any reaction other than rejection could have been expected from an unprepared population being told on its National Day that its government would talk with an enemy whose political legitimacy is in question. Thieu also complained about ''the offhand manner" in which President Johnson referred to GVN participation in the Paris talks and said that the President could have stated his views more diplomatically leaving the GVN some room to maneuver. He added that Johnson might have "invited" the Vietnamese to attend the talks rather than suggesting that their attendance was a matter of little concern. He said he appreciated Mr. Katzenbach's remarks discounting Madame Binh's claim of four-sided talks at Paris/2/ but in the same breath registered his anger at Secretary Clifford's press conference./3/

/2/See footnote 5, Document 217.

/3/See Document 213.

6. Referring to Secretary Clifford's press conference, Thieu said he found it difficult to believe that Mr. Clifford did not reflect President Johnson's views. He observed that the GVN Minister of Defense does not comment on matters of national policy without checking with the President. He stated he himself had not been aware in advance of the rebuttal to the Secretary's remarks made by Minister of Information Ton That Thien, adding that he censured the Minister for this. He continued by saying that although he was angry he has concluded that there is nothing to be gained by more recriminations and has suggested to all that both sides get down to trying to resolve their difference through quiet talks.

7. Thieu now believes that as a result of his delays, speeches and comments the Vietnamese people are prepared to accept the "our side-your side" formula for talks with the enemy. He said he is fully aware that at the conference table the GVN delegation will be talking to the NLF but he said this is not a matter that needs to be admitted in public. He also observed that the NLF still insists that the talks will be four-sided and that he realizes that the U.S./GVN side does not have to agree to this position, despite enemy claims.

8. Thieu said that he had talked to the Foreign Minister earlier on the morning of 19 November and that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would be delivering the GVN's draft of a new communiqué to the American Embassy within a few hours./4/ He said that he hopes to be able to confer on the Vietnamese draft with the principal involved on 20 November/5/ and in "two or three days" a joint statement might be agreed upon. Thieu did not go into the details on the differences between the GVN and the U.S. on the "our side-your side" formula, noting that these are already a matter of record.

/4/The text of this draft was transmitted in telegram 43016 from Saigon, November 19. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 84, S/AB Files: Lot 74 D 417, Files of Ellsworth Bunker, Vietnam Telegram Chronos) The Embassy's analysis of it was transmitted in telegram 43017 from Saigon, November 19. (Ibid.)

/5/See Document 228.

9. Thieu's manner during the interview was moderate, considerate, reflective and polite. He gave every indication of sincerely desiring a solution to the impasse, providing Vietnamese face and sensitivities are taken into account.


226. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam/1/

Washington, November 19, 1968, 2211Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Outgoing)-November 1968. Secret; Immediate; Nodis/Harvan Double Plus. Drafted by Habib and Bundy, cleared by Rostow and Read, and approved by Katzenbach. Repeated to Paris for Harriman and Vance as Todel 1601. In a covering note transmitting a copy of the telegram to the President, November 19, 3:05 p.m., Rostow wrote: "Herewith for your clearance is the proposed outgoing to Bunker to guide him in, hopefully, the showdown discussion with Thieu at 8:30 tonight our time." The President cleared the telegram. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. VI [1 of 2])

274093. Saigon Deliver to Ambassador at Opening of Business.

The following is a redraft of the text of the U.S. statement which you should use in your discussions with Thieu. It takes into account the previous discussion with Thanh./2/ Where differences have arisen we have commented parenthetically at the end of each paragraph to indicate the reasons for the position taken.

/2/See footnote 5, Document 222. The full texts of both draft statements were also transmitted in telegram 277033/Todel 1646 to Bangkok, Canberra, Manila, Seoul, and Wellington, November 24. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Outgoing)-November 1968)

Text Begins.

1. This statement is designed to answer the questions which have been raised by the Government of the Republic of Viet-Nam about a new meeting in Paris. (Comment: We agree to deletion of the phrase "the arrangements for.")

2. Prior to the President's announcement of October 31 of the stopping of bombing against North Viet-Nam, agreement had been reached in Paris between North Vietnamese and United States negotiators that a meeting on the substance of a peaceful settlement in Viet-Nam should be convened in Paris. (Comment: You will note that we have dropped the word "promptly." If GVN objection rests on the reference to the promptness of the meeting, this change should be sufficient. In terms of the format of the statement alone, the paragraph is essential as a foundation for later references. Moreover, for our part, it is important to retain that we agreed to a meeting on the substance of a peaceful settlement. Anything less would derogate from the purposes of these meetings and could possibly lead us to fall prey to what we suspect would be the GVN's preference that these meetings be considered preliminary or as dealing with arrangements prior to negotiation of a subsequent settlement. This is a matter of substance on which we should not concede. You may recall to Thieu that the Honolulu Communiqué,/3/ referring to the Paris talks, spoke of "discussions concerning the substance of a final settlement." The Honolulu Communiqué also expressed the agreement of the two Presidents that "The basic objective in the Paris talks is to open the way to a stable and honorable peace.")

/3/See Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. VI, Document 303.

3. During the earlier discussions with the North Vietnamese representatives, United States spokesmen made clear that the stopping of bombing and the holding of such a meeting would not be possible without agreed provision for the participation of the Republic of Viet-Nam as a separate delegation forming with the United States delegation one side of the meeting. United States negotiators made clear to Hanoi that it might bring on its side of the table any persons it wished. It was understood that both sides would organize themselves as they chose. (Comment: We agree to the addition of the word "earlier" in the first sentence but prefer retaining the words "such a" rather than substitute the word "future" as applied to the meeting. If it will simplify GVN acceptance, we would be willing to have the phrase in the first sentence read "and the holding of such a future meeting." We wish to make clear the relationship between the meeting being spoken of in this paragraph and that described in the previous paragraph. You will note that we have re-inserted the last sentence of the paragraph. This is a fact not only which was spoken of in the Department's November 13 statement/4/ but repeated a number of times in the negotiations with the North Vietnamese. It is at the heart of the Our-Side Your-Side formula and should have been apparent to the GVN from the beginning. Thus, we believe we should have one last clear try at getting it into the statement. However, if it becomes the sole obstacle to final agreement, we could accept its omission. The point is that Thieu must be in no doubt that this remains the case, whether we say it in this statement or not.)

/4/See footnote 8, Document 217.

4. The North Vietnamese representatives in Paris accepted this proposal and indicated that they would bring to the meeting members of the so-called National Liberation Front.

5. This was and is the sole agreement concerning representation in the new Paris meetings.

6. In the light of these facts the arrangements agreed in Paris provide in essence for a two-sided meeting. Hanoi clearly understands that our side will be constituted as separate delegations of the Republic of Viet-Nam and the United States.

7. Whatever others may claim, the United States has not agreed and will not agree that the meeting is a four-sided or four-party conference, or properly so described. (Comment: We think this is more comprehensive than the GVN draft and accurate.)

8. Consistent with our view of the nature of the so-called National Liberation Front, we will regard and treat all the persons on the other side of the table--whatever they might claim for themselves--as members of a single side, that of Hanoi, and for practical purposes as a single delegation. (Comment: We believe we must retain the last phrase despite the points raised by Paris. However, the whole point of the reference "whatever they might claim" is to recognize that the other side will try to set themselves up as a separate delegation, and that such action by them cannot be grounds for our walking out.)

9. In the discussions between the United States and North Vietnamese negotiators it was made clear throughout that, whomever Hanoi chose to bring on its side, the arrangement involved no element of recognition whatever. The United States Government has repeatedly made clear publicly and privately that it does not recognize either the National Liberation Front or the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam). Concerning the so-called National Liberation Front in particular the United States Government has at all times regarded it as an agent of Hanoi's aggression against the Republic of Vietnam. The National Liberation Front is not in any sense a separate entity, much less a government. (Comment: While we would be willing to accept the phrase "an emanation of North Vietnam and a tool of Hanoi's aggression against the Republic of Vietnam" in the penultimate sentence, we believe that the sentence as redrafted above is simpler and includes "aggression" which the Government of Vietnam apparently wishes to introduce. Our draft is also much more in keeping with the style to be expected in an official United States statement.)

10. Following the stopping of the bombing of North Vietnam, if Hanoi fulfills its repeated undertaking to enter into serious talks--undertakings repeated throughout the contacts between North Vietnamese and American representatives in Paris--the North Vietnamese delegation must talk directly and seriously with the Republic of Vietnam's delegation.

11. In the Paris meetings the Republic of Vietnam delegation will play a leading role, as was explicitly affirmed in the Honolulu Communiqué of July. The Republic of Vietnam will take the lead and be the principal spokesman on all matters which are of immediate and direct concern to South Vietnam. (Comment: Simply omitting "immediate and direct" is too broad to accept, for reasons you have already expounded. If the GVN still objects, acceptable alternatives for us would be:

a. to omit the second sentence and expand the first to read "a leading role in discussions concerned with the substance of a final settlement in Vietnam, as was . . . ."

b. "paramount concern" or "of concern primarily"

c. "principal spokesman on all matters relating to the substance of a political settlement in Vietnam."

We cannot accept the inclusion of the GVN's paragraph "In the respect of national sovereignty of RVN, problems of internal politics will not be considered as proper subjects of discussion in the framework of these meetings." For reasons summarized in Deptel 273732,/5/ the United States is not prepared to agree to such a broad restriction. It is not correct to state that no sovereign government can permit its internal affairs to be discussed in an international conference. In fact, a sovereign government can discuss anything it wishes. Moreover, Thanh's comparison of the 1962 Geneva Conference is erroneous. At that conference, by agreement, negotiations of internal arrangements were conducted separately by the leaders of the three factions. As we have pointed out previously we cannot allow the GVN to believe that it can walk out if the DRV side raises internal matters. If Hanoi raises the issue of a political solution in the South, our joint position--primarily articulated by the GVN--could be a political solution based, for example, on the principles of the Constitution, election, and reconciliation policy. The GVN should be prepared to set forth its political views as a sovereign government. Only in this way will its position be understandable in the United States and internationally. Moreover, it is only in this way that it can avoid leaving the field open to the other side without any logical reply.)

/5/Dated November 18. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Outgoing)-November 1968)

12. The new Paris meetings will be expected to explore all avenues to end Communist aggression against the Republic of Vietnam and to reach a subsequent peaceful settlement. They will start with a clean slate. The sole agreements that have been reached in the earlier Paris talks between North Vietnamese and US representatives have concerned the stopping of bombing and the convening of a new meeting. As the President stated in his October 31 speech,/6/ "We cannot have productive talks in an atmosphere where the cities are being shelled and the DMZ is being abused." (Comment: Although we would have preferred to omit the word "subsequent" in the first sentence, we believe we cannot argue forcefully against it in the light of our own belief--and commitments to the TCC--that a still wider format would be required to participate in the final total "settlement." Even more seriously, we believe it is essential to change the third sentence in this fashion, since any claim that there were "agreements" concerning even the "circumstances" would be met by sharp rebuttal and is just not true. This was our mistake, and we now believe that we must have a formulation such as this to clarify the matter. Since Thanh and Duc previously suggested using the President's words, we would hope that the GVN could buy this change.)

/6/See Document 169.

13. In the new meetings the United States Government will operate in the closest cooperation with the Republic of Vietnam, and in continuing consultation with the nations that have contributed military forces to the defense of South Vietnam.

14. The substantive position of the American Government will continue to be based on the Manila Communiqué, the Honolulu Communiqué, and on other publicly stated positions. In particular, there has been no change whatever, and will be no change, in the position of the United States Government toward a so-called coalition in South Vietnam. The United States does not believe aggression should be rewarded and will not recognize any form of government that is not freely chosen through democratic and legal process by the people of South Vietnam. The imposition of any coalition government would be in conflict with this principle.





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