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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 243-260

December 1, 1968-January 20, 1969: Resolution of the Procedural Delays and the Opening of the Expanded Peace Talks

243. Statement Prepared in the Embassy in Vietnam/1/

Saigon, undated.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 1 US-VIET S. Secret. Drafted by Roger Kirk of the Embassy Political Section, cleared by Herz and Berger, and approved by Bunker. Transmitted as an attachment to airgram A-1077, December 1, which was received in the Department on December 9, 8:29 a.m. The airgram reads in part: "The enclosed statement of Fundamental US Objectives in Viet Nam, Intermediate Goals, and Courses of Action represents an effort to draw up a brief classified statement on the subject which can serve as a general guideline for our activities here. Pending receipt of Washington comments the statement should be regarded as a draft working document."


1. Fundamental Objectives

a. Contain communist power when it seeks to expand through aggression across national boundaries in the general area of Southeast Asia.

b. Demonstrate to our friends and foes that we will honor our commitments under regional and bilateral security arrangements.

c. Demonstrate that we will prevent the success of "wars of national liberation" as practiced by the Communists--i.e., Communist insurrection supported by outside military force.

d. At the same time, avoid war with the major Communist powers.

e. Reduce the number of US personnel fighting in Viet-Nam as much and as fast as possible and withdraw as many as possible from Viet-Nam without frustrating achievement of the other fundamental objectives.

f. Provide the opportunity for all South Vietnamese to choose their form of government free from external force.

g. Assist in development of a free, independent and viable nation of South Viet-Nam that is not hostile to the United States, functioning in a secure environment both internally and regionally.

2. Intermediate Goals

a. Reduce the Communist military and political pressure in South Viet-Nam and

b. Increase the ability of the non-Communist South Vietnamese to counter this pressure to the point where:

(1) direct US participation in the fighting is no longer necessary to withstand the Communist military pressure, and

(2) the non-Communist South Vietnamese can establish their military control over substantially all of South Viet Nam and maintain a non-Communist national government.

c. Maximize, within the limits determined by the basic objectives above, the military, political, and economic pressure on the North Vietnamese to stop their attempt to achieve domination over South Viet Nam by force and to accept a peace settlement consistent with our Fundamental Objectives outlined above.

d. Minimize the pressures on the US Government to abandon the struggle in Viet Nam before it has achieved the Fundamental Objectives outlined above.

e. Increase non-Communist South Vietnamese economic strength so as gradually to reduce the amount of US economic support required and eventually to make South Viet Nam economically self-sustaining.

3. Courses of Action


a. Assist the GVN to destroy VC and NVA forces in or entering South Viet Nam and to drive VC and NVA forces into remote areas away from populated areas by ground, naval, and air operations against VC and NVA main forces, LOCs, and into and within enemy base areas in South Viet Nam.

b. Assist the GVN in expanding the areas of secure environment by accelerating vigorous offensive operations against VC provincial forces and guerrillas, with priority to eliminating or neutralizing the enemy political and military infrastructure.

c. Prevent the enemy from additional recruiting.

d. Foster and promote the GVN national reconciliation program.

e. Develop and maintain a suitably balanced RVNAF that are progressively better trained, equipped, and motivated and

f. Turn over to RVNAF, as its capabilities increase, a growing share of the combat responsibility.


g. Assist in the progressive extension and consolidation of an effective non-Communist administration, responsive to the desires of the South Vietnamese people, over the territory of the RVN.

h. Encourage the Government and people of South Viet Nam to develop and make full use of the existing framework of democratic institutions and to strengthen the non-Communist political and organizational structure at all levels.

i. Promote national reconciliation that will enable the currently disaffected elements of the population to find an acceptable place in the political life of the country.

j. Assist the South Vietnamese to develop a politically cohesive society, with freedom for individual development under a rule of law.

k. Promote the national development effort, including pacification and nation-building, through an integrated program within a militarily secure environment.


l. Assist the Government of Viet Nam to maintain a level of economic activity and stability which will contribute to political growth and to the conduct of the fighting.

m. Help the GVN adopt policies and strengthen or create institutions that will have the effect of increasing savings, investment, and exports and will insure a reasonable degree of price stability.

n. Help the GVN to expand and to exploit fully its agricultural, mineral, and other resources.

o. Minimize the undesirable effects of the massive US presence on Vietnamese society and economy.

p. Assist the GVN to develop a vigorous information effort at home and abroad to portray its efforts and progress in the military, political, economic, and social fields.

q. Help the GVN convince their people of the desirability of a peaceful settlement to the war, involving some form of non-military competition with the Communists, and help them to prepare for it.

r. Attempt, through our actions and the presentation of them, to get maximum sympathy for our motives and purposes throughout the world.

s. Similarly, make clear to the enemy, and to the USSR and China, our self-restraint and the limited nature of our objectives in Viet Nam.

t. Make efforts to increase the pressure from world public opinion, non-Communist governments, and Communist states (particularly the USSR) on Hanoi to stop its attempt to achieve dominance over South Viet Nam by force and to agree to a peace settlement consistent with our basic objectives.


u. Devise a mutually acceptable settlement consistent with our Fundamental Objectives, and obtain its acceptance through negotiations with enemy representatives.

v. Consult with the GVN and the Troop Contributing Countries to obtain their agreement and cooperation in such an effort.


244. Notes of Meeting/1/

Washington, December 3, 1968, 1:29-2:54 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson's Notes of Meetings. No classification marking. The meeting was held in the White House Mansion. Clifford remained with the President until 3 p.m. and Tom Johnson until 3:01 p.m. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary)


The President
Secretary Rusk
Secretary Clifford
Director Helms
General Wheeler
Walt Rostow
George Christian
Tom Johnson

Secretary Rusk: Nixon asked to see Harriman. He will see him Thursday morning./2/

/2/December 5. Harriman apparently met with Nixon and Kissinger on December 2. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Kennedy-Johnson, Subject File, Kissinger, Henry) No record of a meeting between Harriman and Nixon on December 5 has been found.

The President: Communications, Transportation, Medics and the Secret Service have never failed me. I like the new Military Aide, Colonel [Donald] Hughes. Doctor Burkley has done a wonderful job. All of them are underpaid.

Secretary Rusk: I would echo that. The wing at Andrews is excellent. They have flown me 850,000 miles. I would authorize larger forces than a squad to go into the DMZ to protect the forces.

Secretary Clifford: My concern is the tactics of the South Vietnamese Government. Last word is that Ky won't get there until the 9th.

You stopped bombing 32 days ago. I fear we will have this package fall apart and get back to heavy fighting.

Saigon appears to be stalling until after January 20. We see ahead delay and delay and delay.

We are not getting progress. We have Saigon delaying and stalling. I think we should agree on a date for the talks to start. I would suggest Wednesday, December 11. That is 8 days off.

Secretary Rusk: We are now in talks with Hanoi. We should go ahead tomorrow and push hard on the DMZ.

I regret that Saigon hasn't turned up, but I regret more what Hanoi has been doing--they were clear on the DMZ and reconnaissance.

Averell feels the President should get credit for withdrawal of U.S. forces in South Vietnam.

I think that is the wrong way to get peace in South Vietnam. We must be careful about a token withdrawal of forces. We agreed to pour it on in South Vietnam after the bombing was halted.

I would not have a token withdrawal. I would work toward clearing out the DMZ.

Secretary Clifford: If an agreement could be reached, it would be good to start a mutual withdrawal of troops.

A withdrawal of 5000 troops by each side would mark a significant change in the conduct of the war.

If this step could be taken it would show the turn had been taken. This would be valuable framework for future talks./3/

/3/In a December 3 memorandum to Clifford, Warnke wrote: "Bill Bundy called with respect to an item that may come up at today's lunch. Cy Vance has received word that Ha Van Lau wants to meet tomorrow to give his answer on the procedural matters. Cy would like to propose to Ha Van Lau that both sides agree on a date certain on which they will both withdraw from the DMZ. He would point out that we admittedly have some forces in there and we know that they do. He would suggest that this dangerous situation should promptly be rectified. Bill thinks this is a good idea and plans to draft up appropriate authorization. I would recommend that you support this if it is raised at lunch." (Johnson Library, Clark Clifford Papers, Cabinet--Cabinet Meetings)

Secretary Rusk: Provided this is real and not phony.

Two infiltration groups a day are scheduled into South Vietnam. If we are going to bring back troops, it must be that.

Secretary Clifford: They must have a net reduction in troops.

General Wheeler: A piecemeal approach to military de-escalation is the worst thing you could have.

CIA Director Helms: I agree.

Secretary Rusk: I am for a total mutual reduction.

CIA Director Helms: North Vietnam and the Soviets aren't playing--they said if we stopped the bombing they would help. They haven't. I think we should turn the heat on.

The President: 1. Dean, get all the heat on South Vietnam you can to get there./4/

/4/That evening, the President approved a letter to Thieu encouraging him to expedite the departure to Paris of the GVN delegation. Johnson rescinded the letter after Thieu announced that the delegation would be in Paris by the end of the week. (Ibid., National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Harvan Misc. & Memos, Vol. VII)

2. Go strong on reconnaissance and the DMZ tomorrow morning.

We have stood about all the delay from South Vietnam we can. See if they can be there by December 11.

I think we are justified in resuming the bombing.

We have tested them and they have been proved wanting.

I would like to leave office de-escalating--not escalating--but I do not want to make a phony gesture. I do not want to run. We have listened to dovish advisers. We have tested them. We don't want a sellout.

General Wheeler: General Abrams' authority expires at 11:00 o'clock today to put squad size patrols in the DMZ.

The President: You can extend that now.

General Wheeler: He wants same authority.

The President: I am for that.

Secretary Rusk: Unless we get quick answers from North Vietnam tomorrow, we should go all out in the DMZ.

Walt Rostow: They have taken the northern part of the DMZ as their own.

They won't talk sense unless we go up to Binh Hoi River. This is much more satisfactory./5/

/5/In brief notes on this meeting, December 3, Rostow wrote: "Negotiating strategy. Very detailed talk on question Harriman raised of limited de-escalation. President came out very hard and said would love, of course, to get the war over and make real progress. But will not bug out. What was agreed: Sec. of State will draft two cables--one to Cy giving him instructions to go in hard; second to Sam Berger, diplomatically to keep himself under control. Lot of talk about the DMZ. Abrams' authority will be renewed. On Thursday we will have a meeting to consider the whole DMZ." (Ibid., Walt Rostow Files, Meetings with the President, July-December 1968 [1])

Secretary Rusk: Today is Tuesday. Tomorrow we should look at this.

Let's meet at 5:00 tomorrow./6/ Do it at 1:30 p.m. Lunch tomorrow.

/6/See Document 248.

[Omitted here is discussion of Biafra.]


General Wheeler: Goodpaster told [Bryce] Harlow he preferred to stay in the field, but would do what he was told to do. Nixon wants him 6-7 weeks starting in mid-December.

The President: I would do just what Nixon proposes.

General Wheeler: General Abrams can do it.

Secretary Clifford: I would hope you could put a limitation on it.

Secretary Rusk: Goodpaster's future is with the next President.

The President: Say we passed on the request. Talked to Goodpaster.

[Omitted here is discussion of arms control matters.]

The President: What is your impression of Kissinger?

Secretary Rusk: Theoretical more than practical.

The President: Does McConnell go out in July?

General Wheeler: Yes, sir.

Secretary Rusk: If Abrams must choose "do less" or "do more" he'll do less.

Kissinger handled himself in an honest fashion on the Paris talks.

Walt Rostow: [Omitted here are comments on European security.]

Henry is a man of integrity and decency. Henry doesn't understand emergency [in] Asia.


245. Situation Report by the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Read)/1/

Washington, December 4, 1968.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. VII. Secret; Nodis/Harvan Plus. An attached covering note by Rostow transmitting a copy of the report to the President, December 4, 10:30 a.m., reads: "Cy Vance reports from Paris by secure phone that the North Vietnamese representative's first reaction to the proposal on the DMZ was to reject it. However, he will report the matter fully to Hanoi. Attached is the telephone summary of other problems discussed by Ambassador Vance." Vance transmitted the full report of the meeting in telegram 24876/Delto 1020 from Paris, December 4. (Ibid., HARVAN Paris Todel-Paris Delto, Vol. XVI(a))

Vance called on the secure phone at 8:30 a.m.

1. He and Habib had spent three hours with Lau starting at 10:30 Paris time this morning. The discussion involved two subjects: procedures for the first enlarged meetings and the DMZ.

2. On procedure, agreement was reached on all points except the following:

(a) Who speaks first: The DRV suggested that there be a specific order of speaker: the U.S., NLF, DRV, and GVN. Vance rejected this proposal.

(b) Physical arrangements: The DRV suggested four tables or a four-sided table and Vance rejected this proposal. The DRV also proposed flags at each of the four delegation's tables which we rejected.

3. Military: Vance led off with a strong statement of protest about DRV military actions in violation of the understandings reached prior to cessation and Lau countered with alleged violations by the U.S. Vance then put forward the proposal authorized in State 281468/2/ that both sides fix an immediate date such as December 6 after which there would be no forces of either side in the DMZ and a cessation of gun fire and air and naval attacks on the DMZ.

/2/Dated December 3. (Ibid., Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. VII) In a note dated December 3, 4:45 p.m., which detailed a conversation he had with Rusk, Harriman wrote: "The Secretary told me that he wanted instructions given to Vance to undertake to start negotiating bilaterally with the DRV for the reestablishment of the DMZ. In other words, we would stop all activity in the DMZ if they withdraw all their forces. Then the Secretary suggested we ask how we are going to find out this is being lived up to, and thought that subject should be raised as to who would go in there to satisfy both sides that our mutual agreement was being carried out. He wants Paris to be authorized to attempt to negotiate on above, beginning tomorrow morning at Vance's meeting with Lau." (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Kennedy-Johnson, Chronological File, Scheduling File, Oct.-Dec., 1968)

Lau asked a number of questions and then expressed his own preliminary views that his side would reject our proposal, and that the matter could be resolved if the U.S. simply stopped what it was doing in the DMZ and everything returned to "normal".


Vance thought our DMZ proposal caught Lau off-guard and gave us a worthwhile initiative in this situation. He urged Lau to report the matter fully to Hanoi and Lau undertook to do so.



246. Notes of Meeting/1/

Washington, December 4, 1968.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Transcripts of Meetings in the Cabinet Room. No classification marking. The meeting, which lasted from 12:04 to 1:30 p.m., was a formal meeting of the Cabinet. Harriman joined the meeting at 12:30 p.m. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary)

[Omitted here is discussion of the situation in the Middle East.]

President Johnson asked Secretary Rusk to report on Paris and then introduce Ambassador Harriman.

Secretary Rusk reported that we were pleased that President Thieu announced that his delegation would arrive in Paris by the end of this week. He said we anticipate some rather complicated negotiations ahead of us, but he was pleased that we are able to call upon the services of Ambassador Harriman and Ambassador Vance. Secretary Rusk, in introducing Harriman, said that this Nation is once again very fortunate to have available to it the dedicated public service of Harriman, whose performance in this field is already legendary. Secretary Rusk said we have some hard bargaining, some hard negotiating, and some hard fighting still ahead of us.

Ambassador Harriman then said that he was pleased to have Cy Vance as a partner. He said the present situation was not as they had hoped, they had expected the serious new session to start on November 6th and that North Vietnam understood that none of those serious sessions could continue and for the bombing cessation to be maintained they had to do certain things. He outlined the same things that the President had been setting out, one with respect to the DMZ, two, not shelling the cities, etc.

Ambassador Harriman then reported on the talks thus far. He said there were two basic subjects to discuss. One is a political settlement which he hoped the Vietnamese will get together and work out a political settlement. [sic] He said they were very far apart. He said that we were supporting the position of the Government which is a constitutional--a democratic constitution; that the VC are rebels against the Government and that if they lay down their arms, they can join in the political life of the country.

He reported that the other side maintains that there must be an agreement and that there should be a coalition government, in which they would expect Vietnam to control so the talks had been stalled. He said there had been a lot of propaganda on both sides. He wanted to make it plain to them that the U.S. is supporting the South Vietnamese in their contention and that the other side is the aggressor and must come to terms.

Ambassador Harriman said:

"On the other side, there are some questions which relate to the Manila communiqué and mutual withdrawal of armed forces. We take the position that the United States Government will withdraw its forces as the other side withdraws its armed forces, the North Vietnamese. Then I would hope that we could do two things.

"First, we must affix the restoring of DMZ. Nothing can be done until that is settled. We would then, I would hope, have some thoughts about the mutual withdrawal between now and the 20th, insofar as we'll really discuss it. Whether any agreement can be reached before that time, I wouldn't want to predict. There is one subject which is of interest, and that is that Hanoi seems to want to continue bilateral talks. They even went so far as to say that they were impressed with your (the President's) Johns Hopkins speech, although they take the regular communist line on American aid--they even went so far as to say that the Marshall Plan was a scheme of the United States to invade Europe. Now that's the words that Stalin used--that's the words he used in 1948. And they still maintain it. But they do show an interest in being independent of Peking and not too dependent on Moscow."

Harriman went on to say that they are quite proud of the fact that they are trying to be French and they are enormously interested in Western technology. They are fascinated by the idea of American rights, and he feels that is an asset that we have in the discussions.

Ambassador Harriman said that the Soviet Union at the moment had great influence on Hanoi--greater than Peking--and the Soviet Union was helpful in the September and October efforts in getting the North Vietnamese to drop some of their outrageous demands and also to glean some of the proposals that we had made./2/

/2/Harriman met with the President after the meeting from 1:47 to 2:01 p.m. (Ibid.) Notes of the meeting have not been found. Harriman later compiled the full text of his remarks at this meeting in an undated paper. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Kennedy-Johnson, Subject Files, Johnson, Lyndon, 1968-69) In a memorandum attached to his remarks dated January 4, 1969, Harriman wrote: "After my statement at the Cabinet meeting (attached), several people came up--I particularly remember John Macy, who said it was the clearest statement he had ever heard about Viet-Nam. As the President was leaving the State Department, and was sitting in his car (after his speech at the Human Rights meeting), his last remark to me was, 'That was a fine statement you made at the Cabinet meeting.' It occurred to me that several people must have mentioned it to him or else he wouldn't have thought of it." The President was at the State Department that evening to deliver remarks in honor of the Presidential Commission for the Observance of Human Rights Year 1968, of which Harriman was the Chairman. (Johnson Library, President's Daily Diary)

The President called on Secretary Clifford to give a brief statement on the military situation as he saw it, which he did and brought the group up to date on what was happening on the military front. He said the great majority of the contacts that we were having in South Vietnam are the result of the searching efforts of General Abrams and his troops to find the enemy and, if possible, to destroy them. He reported that they thought this had been exceedingly successful.

Secretary Clifford went on to say that while he says we are having success with our military efforts in South Vietnam, he does not wish to suggest that the enemy is being affected in such a manner that he cannot carry on his military efforts. He can do so. If he chooses to mount some important offensive, he can bring the men down and can supply them and can arm them to do so.

Secretary Clifford then gave a report on the number of casualties on each side. He said that while there had been some withdrawals of enemy troops from South Vietnam, he estimated there were still a force in the neighborhood of 300,000 of the enemy still there. That consists of Viet Cong regulars, North Vietnamese regular soldiers, guerrillas that are spread throughout all four corps, and administrative service personnel, of which there are a great many.

The President then asked Charles Murphy to report on some of his problems with the transition. He reported it was his feeling that the transition was going relatively smoothly and there had been no major problems. He said he believed it was apparent that the initiative which the President took to provide an early start for planning for the transition is proving its merit.

He reported there had been one problem that occurred from time to time where there have been unauthorized requests for information or other help that have been addressed directly to the agencies by persons purporting to be for Mr. Nixon. He told them that all of their requests should be channeled through their contact who was Mr. Lincoln./3/

/3/Frank Lincoln, a Nixon transition team representative.

[Omitted here is discussion of the budget and the Presidential transition.]


247. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State (Katzenbach) to Secretary of State Rusk/1/

Washington, December 5, 1968.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, S/S-I Files: Lot 74 D 271, Nicholas Katzenbach Files, NK Chron, 1968. Secret; Nodis/Harvan Plus.

As the first wider meetings in Paris approach, the following elements are at play:

I. The GVN

It is now clear that the GVN may move slowly and reluctantly in the Paris negotiations. This is the tactic they have followed in the last few weeks. It is hard for the GVN to move as rapidly as we want them to, even if President Thieu wants to. He has his own problems, which are quite legitimate from his point of view. Applying pressure through Bunker-Thieu confrontations cannot in itself produce speed.

--The GVN delegation still has to get to Paris, to set up shop, and establish working relations with the U.S. delegation and with its own backup (still non-existent) in Saigon.

--The GVN will probably want to bicker over procedural matters and open with firm public statements describing its attitude towards the enemy. We will have to accept some of this, although it will slow down visible progress, in order to prevent a fight with the GVN.

--We will have to begin serious and frank discussions with the GVN over substantive negotiating positions. It will take time for the GVN to digest our views, although we do not necessarily have to have their agreement on substance before we embark on exploratory or bilateral negotiations with the DRV on certain specified subjects (see below).


Hanoi is by now fully aware of the potential for US/GVN friction which Paris has provided. We should expect that they will seek to exploit this opportunity, as they did December 4 when they made an unacceptable proposal on the order of speaking./2/ I agree with Ellsworth Bunker that they have made a decision to move their primary efforts from the military arena to the political/negotiations arena.

/2/See Document 245.

Some of Hanoi's strategy in these talks has already become evident. They will use every opportunity to put forward the NLF as the party to whom we should talk if the subject under discussion concerns South Viet-Nam. This is why every time Vance complains to Lau about violations of the DMZ, Lau replies that there are no NVN troops in the DMZ, and that any attacks from the DMZ have been made by the NLF; and, Lau adds, Madame Binh is in Paris now ready to talk to the US about this matter. We are going to see more of this tactic as the negotiations progress. Hanoi's opening objective will be to force us to talk to the NLF. Its fall-back objective probably will be to get the US and GVN to talk to the NLF. They may eventually settle for a GVN/NLF discussion. We should resist DRV efforts to get us to deal directly with the NLF without the GVN being present.


The GVN is getting what it wants out of a slow public pace in Paris. The US has a legitimate and reasonable objective of its own, to which the GVN cannot object: bilateral talks, in secret but with GVN awareness on certain specified topics.

The GVN will not object strongly to this. Since they have always assumed that US/DRV bilaterals would take place, we lose nothing (and actually gain something by our candor) by telling them that we have resumed bilateral talks with Hanoi, and that we will keep the GVN informed on their status.

There are at least three issues which are a legitimate subject for bilaterals--the DMZ, mutual troop withdrawal, and Laos. We should tell the GVN that these bilateral discussions will not deal with matters pertaining to the political future of South Viet-Nam.

We should keep the GVN generally informed on the course of the bilaterals, recognizing that the bilaterals will have a direct influence upon both the public and private behavior of the GVN.

IV. On the Substantive Issues for Bilaterals:

A. DMZ: Vance has already proposed that we fix a date after which there would be no military activity in or across the DMZ. The DRV has not yet made a serious counter-offer. We may, however, already be in the first step of a genuine exchange of views on the subject. We should pursue the subject in the bilateral format.

While these talks are going on we should not take military action in the DMZ which would increase the fighting, unless Hanoi makes major military actions from the DMZ. Abrams at present has authority sufficient to deal with the problem.

In any case, we should be prepared for a series of meetings on the DMZ; we should not hesitate to press the issue with the other side, but not concentrating on it to the exclusion of other subjects.

B. Mutual Withdrawal: The most obvious other subject that can be discussed bilaterally is mutual troop withdrawal. We have already raised the subject with the NVN prior to the cessation of bombing, on September 15, 1968 (see attached)./3/ At the appropriate time, we should repeat our proposal and offer to discuss it in more detail. The discussion of this subject does not need to await a satisfactory conclusion to the DMZ discussions.

/3/See Document 14.

C. Laos: In putting forward mutual withdrawal, we should specify that NVA troops must leave not only South Viet-Nam but return to North Viet-Nam. Further, when we talk of mutual withdrawal, we should include under our definition of troops to be withdrawn all NVA in Laos and Cambodia. We also insist on respect and compliance for the 1962 Laos Accords.

Far more than procedures can be discussed in the coming weeks. We can lay the groundwork for key elements in a settlement of the Viet-Nam conflict. The above proposals would accomplish this.


248. Notes of Meeting/1/

Washington, December 5, 1968, 5:31-6:20 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson's Notes of Meetings. No classification marking. The meeting was held in the Cabinet Room. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary)


The President
Secretary Rusk
Secretary Clifford
Ambassador Harriman
General Wheeler
CIA Director Helms
Walt Rostow
George Christian
Tom Johnson

General Wheeler: Things are quiet in Vietnam today. It may be a repositioning in the War Zone D near Saigon.

The President: Anything to report something big may be planned?

General Wheeler: Yes, sir. There could be something big. We're looking for them.

Secretary Rusk: I personally would not change directives in the DMZ now. We should get Cy to press the DMZ issue.

General Wheeler: General Abrams and I talked Tuesday./2/ He said he needs to continue patrols in the DMZ. He wants to keep the enemy north of PMBL [demarcation line].

/2/December 3.

This would give friendly forces better security.

The President: Does he ask for more than he has now?

General Wheeler: He wants more authority. He wants to use up to a battalion (900 to 1200 men).

(General Wheeler showed maps showing the DMZ area. He said enemy platoon and company-size units had been seen.)

General Abrams wants to drive the enemy forces back north of the PMBL [demarcation line].

This does not have to be decided tonight.

North Vietnam has encroached on the southern half of the DMZ.

The President: Is this dangerous?

General Wheeler: Yes, sir.

The President: Should we say to the North Vietnamese that they should get people out of the DMZ--give them warning?

General Wheeler: You have done that already. If this goes on for three weeks to a month I don't know what will happen.

The President: Clark?

Secretary Clifford: We had one solid agreement--to get the GVN to the Conference table.

The President: What did we say at Paris?

Ambassador Harriman: We said "major cities".

Secretary Clifford: Averell and Cy sought advance agreement on the DMZ and the cities.

We said talks couldn't go on if the cities were attacked and the DMZ abused.

Talks haven't started. They have not violated any agreement. It has been 35 days. Talks haven't started. I do not attach as much importance to violations in the DMZ as the JCS.

Only on three separate occasions did they actually fire on us. To build up in the DMZ wouldn't be good at this time.

We first went in to find prisoners. To increase the level of the forces sent in would heighten the level. They'll move them in.

This is a bad time to increase the level.

First element in the talks is to take up a firm agreement in the DMZ.

Technically, we do not have any agreement on the DMZ until talks start./3/

/3/In a December 5 memorandum to Clifford, Warnke noted: "Activity in the DMZ or against the population centers can hardly be said to be inconsistent with productive talks when the absence of such talks is our responsibility, rather than Hanoi's. It is thus imperative that we engage Hanoi in substantive talks in the immediate future so that we can nail down firm agreements on observance of the DMZ and seek to find some solution to the highly dangerous reconnaissance issue." (Johnson Library, Clark Clifford Papers, Cabinet-Cabinet Meetings)

General Wheeler: If we have no agreement on the DMZ, there is no reason we can't move in and clean these people out. This is South Vietnam territory.

Secretary Rusk: We want the enemy to perform on the understanding we had at the time the bombing halted.

The President: Let's assume talks started and they still abuse the DMZ. What would you do?

Secretary Clifford: I would like to see what they had in mind. We were general--"abuse" the DMZ.

Walt Rostow: It was much more specific.

Secretary Rusk: We had four points.

Secretary Clifford: I think we are moving in the direction of peace./4/

/4/In an addendum to a memorandum of conversation, December 10, Harriman noted his observations about the December 5 meeting: "The sharp conflict between Rusk and Clifford was completely obvious. Clifford was for deescalation, disengagement of American forces, as rapidly as possible. Rusk was for a policy of all-out pressure on the enemy which he contends is the manner in which we can establish best results in the negotiations. I disputed this position, and although I did not have the time to explain in sufficient detail, my belief that if we continued to hit the enemy hard they would bring down more men and the fighting would be resumed at its old level." Harriman further noted that the President had "reversed himself" and authorized that, in dealings with the North Vietnamese, the Paris delegation could "go ahead and talk to them about anything you want." Harriman also summarized remarks Clifford made to him after the meeting: "Clifford emphasized to me that when we next talked to the North Vietnamese, we should tell them clearly of the fact that there was a strong element in Washington that wanted to start bombing again, and that we should make real progress as rapidly as possible in mutual steps to deescalate the war, such as reestablishment of the DMZ and agreement on mutual withdrawal. He underlined that we should make clear to the North Vietnamese if they continue to violate the DMZ and shoot at our planes, it might have very serious consequences. I didn't ask him where the pressure came from, but I gather it was among the Chiefs of Staff, and I don't think he excluded Rusk and Rostow as jumping on this bandwagon if adequate reasons could be built up. Clark feels very much that he has been isolated in the inner circle, [and] recognizes that Cy Vance and I feel as he does." (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Kennedy-Johnson, Trips and Mission, Paris Peace Talks, 1968-69, Memoranda of Conversations)

Ambassador Harriman: We were specific that shelling from across the DMZ--massing of troops in the DMZ--infiltration of the DMZ would not be permitted.

I agree with Secretary Clifford. If they violate the understanding when the talks start that is a different matter. There was plenty of talk.

We need a method of verification.

The President: Let's proceed on Clark's theory that we can't do anything until the talks start.

Ambassador Harriman: We must stress this even before the talks start.

The President: We must let them know we consider this an abuse.

Secretary Rusk: If we put in squad, then put in platoon--I don't see why we put limitations on Abrams' ability to rescue his own men.

I agree we shouldn't occupy the DMZ.

Secretary Clifford: I would refrain from bringing about incidents in the DMZ.

We finally have Saigon in Paris. Why start this up?

General Wheeler: Only way to identify them.

The President: If you don't do this we may be caught with our pants down.

General Wheeler: That's right.

The President: Ask General Abrams to minimize incidents. If there are men involved and he needs superior force, you use it.

Secretary Clifford: When we talked about halting the bombing we were worried about an increase in danger to the men in I Corps.

We don't have any evidence of infiltration through the DMZ into South.

First Air Cavalry pulled out of the DMZ into the 3rd Corps.

Secretary Clifford: Sending men into the DMZ was a result of request from Paris. It is unwise to send our men in. We accomplish this through aerial reconnaissance.

The President: Do you agree with that, Bus?

General Wheeler: I do not, sir.

Secretary Rusk: We asked do they understand three facts of life--DMZ, cities, GVN.

If the enemy gets away with the DMZ, what else do we let them get away with?/5/

/5/In a personal memorandum of December 14, Harriman discussed Rusk's hard-line position. He commented: "Murrey Marder told me that Rusk had said to him in a very impetuous tone that he shouldn't bother to go to Paris because nothing would happen there as long as he was Secretary of State and Johnson was President. He would see that nothing was done there. The only thing I can gather about Rusk is that he wants to end his career as the strong Cold War warrior, with all the guns firing, with Nixon giving in and being the appeaser. Of course I believe in loyalty to President Johnson that we should start the negotiations for mutual reduction of violence, for reduction in American casualties and begin movement of troops home. His historic position will then be justified as the man who was primarily responsible for bringing this unhappy conflict to a close." (Ibid., Subject File, Rusk, Dean, 1968-69) Murrey Marder was a Washington Post reporter.

Ambassador Harriman: I don't want an argument, but I was surprised they pulled out enemy troops from the DMZ.

The President: I do not want to endanger our men. I want my military commander to do this probing if it's necessary.

If he needs bigger force to help them he has it.

The President: Let's do one thing at a time.

Secretary Clifford: In November of '67 there were 4399 sorties against Laos. In November of '68, 12,803 sorties against Laos.

Total: In November '67 28,000--In November '68 31,000 sorties.

B52's hit them in November '67 816 times, in November '68 1786 times.


249. Memorandum of Conversation/1/

Saigon, December 9, 1968.

/1/Source: U.S. Army Center for Military History, DepCORDS/MACV Files, Pacification File, GVN Liaison File: 1968. Confidential. Prepared on December 10. The meeting was held at Independence Palace. Copies of the memorandum were sent to Abrams, Bunker, Berger, Goodpaster, and Major General Charles A. Corcoran, Assistant Chief of Staff for CORDS. Abrams had reviewed the military situation with Thieu the previous day. (Telegram 44409 from Saigon, December 9, and an attached memorandum from Rostow to the President, December 9, 11:15 a.m.; Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Meetings with the President, July-December 1968 [1])

The President
Ambassador Colby

1. The meeting consisted of a general review of pacification strategy, history, and organization. The President showed particular interest in the organizational structure of pacification and the role of the pacification effort in relation to the Paris talks and the possibility of a cease fire.

2. After an initial discussion of the President's visits to III and IV Corps, we talked a little about the overall strategy of pacification. I drew the contrast between Sir Robert Thompson's thesis of gradual and careful development outwards from an oilspot, and the alternative of rapidly asserting the Government's authority throughout the land./2/ I pointed out the first strategy might be appropriate when the enemy was particularly strong a few years ago, but that the second strategy is the only possible approach at this time, when the enemy main forces have been pushed out of the way and the enemy is moving to a political phase. This discussion included some historical references to the strategic hamlet program, the President commenting that if the strategic hamlet program had been started in 1957, there would not have been a war. I agreed in general with the thesis, although I said that the weakness of the Diem regime during its early stage came from lack of a politically participating population, and only after 1960 inadequate territorial security forces. I pointed out that the strategic hamlet program afforded a good lesson in organizational principles as well. Certain programs can be delegated to field commanders and local authorities and only general supervision maintained from the center. On new and different programs, however, a vigorous projection of central government guidance and detailed supervision is necessary. The strategic hamlet program benefited from this until the time of the Buddhist explosion, at which time the Government's attention was diverted and the program began to deteriorate. I drew from this the need for a strong, central management of the present pacification program, a rather complex affair which is not entirely familiar to the local authorities who will be carrying it out. I illustrated this with a few examples of adjacent provinces having obviously uncoordinated plans. I thus suggested that the planning process this year should be very carefully looked at from a central point of view and detailed approval be required of province pacification plans. The President was in accord with this overall approach.

/2/Thompson was a British General who had led a similar pacification effort against Communist insurgents in Malaysia. His theories on how to fight the Vietnam war were published later in No Exit From Vietnam (New York: David McKay, 1969).

3. We then discussed in general the 1969 Guidelines, which I said were currently before the Prime Minister for consideration. The President said that he expected to be consulted on them before they were actually issued. I pointed out the somewhat conservative goals of several of the programs, such as 20,000 Hoi Chanh and resettlement of only 300,000 refugees, and suggested that a somewhat more vigorous effort might be appropriate. In this connection I referred to General Abrams' negative reaction to the goal that 90 percent of the population be relatively secure, stating that it is necessary to include reference to the extension of Government authority, if not relative security, over the remaining 10 percent as well. I made a particular point of urging the necessity of activating the political process, moving upwards from popular participation at the village to the government rather than merely downwards through the government administration. This again brought up a contrast with the Diem period and the President was fully in accord with this approach.

4. The President raised the question of organization, which quite apparently was one of the major things he wished to discuss with me. He said that six months ago when the Government was changed, he had considered eliminating the Ministry of RD and moving it into a general directorate under the Prime Minister, working directly with the Presidency. The function would be to give overall direction to the pacification program as a whole, rather than allowing it to be lost as only one of a number of equal ministries working on the overall national situation. He said he had thought of putting a Minister of State in as the head of the pacification program. He asked my views. I concurred fully with the need for a strong staff and individual to give overall direction and control to the pacification program. I pointed out the necessity that the program fully involve a number of ministries, not just RD. I suggested, however, that the execution [executive?] functions of the RD Ministry, in the Cadre and Self Help fields, might be separated from this overall programming and planning function. These functions could perhaps be transferred to another ministry (e.g., the RD Cadre to the Interior), or these two functions could be left in the Ministry of RD, while overall programming and planning be moved to the central staff. The President seemed somewhat attracted to this idea, and evidenced a reluctance to eliminate the RD Ministry due to the misunderstandings this would create that the Government is turning away from the whole RD program. I emphasized the need for an effective Minister of State to do this overall coordinating and planning job, and suggested that he should have a military background. We did not discuss precise names.

5. The President asked whether I thought that plans were adequate for pacification in case of a cease fire. This led to an extended discussion of the role of the VC Liberation Committees and appropriate counteraction, especially as exemplified in the current Accelerated Pacification Campaign. I stated that I had read LTC Be's plan for the establishment of Cadre teams in one of three neighboring hamlets,/3/ with instructions to move rapidly into the adjacent ones in case of cease fire. I said that I found this somewhat artificial and impossible to apply, pointing out the map of Long An with its great collection of VC controlled hamlets covering a large portion of two districts. I then described our efforts to accumulate information on GVN village governments, those elected, those appointed, those in exile, and those without any government. I pointed out that the villages with either elected or appointed governments cover a great portion of the land, although some of these are in exile. This brought out the importance of not only reestablishing Government presence in all these villages, but also of actually conducting elections, in order to secure legitimacy for the GVN's claim. I suggested that considerably greater discussion and emphasis on villages, rather than on hamlets, would give the GVN an advantage in the contest for legitimacy, as the GVN could easily admit certain hamlets to be minority controlled within the overall village, but assert that village government is the basic structure of the state, despite a possible minority VC presence within the villages. This would effectively meet any claim to legitimacy or right to coalition by the enemy, who was actually assisting this tactic by putting his claim primarily into village Liberation Committees.

/3/GVN pacification training chief Nguyen Be's plan has not been found.

6. We then discussed the modalities of a cease fire, and ended up pretty well agreeing at the difficulty of defining a cease fire which would be acceptable to both sides, especially with respect to the role of territorial security forces and police. During the course of this, we discussed the possible reassignment of the territorial forces to the Ministry of Interior, in a separate directorate and not as members of the police, in order to meet any contention that military forces be frozen in place. The conclusion of this discussion was the importance of continuing a vigorous effort to assert GVN presence and authority in all the villages, hold elections therein in order to provide a base of legitimacy and involve the population, establish real territorial security (including an ending of the accommodation in many areas by which the VC rules the countryside at night and the GVN by day), and prosecute the Phung Huong campaign. The President fixed on the point that the GVN even in the Tet period had not actually been driven out of most of the rural areas, but when the VC had attacked the urban areas, the GVN had itself withdrawn its forces from the rural areas, abandoning them to the enemy. He stated that his recent emphasis on the need to be prepared to meet a resumption of the VC general offensive was designed to require local province chiefs and commanders to be prepared to maintain themselves in the countryside while they fought off any possible renewed attack on the urban areas.

7. The President asked what I saw as the major problems facing pacification in the coming months, and how the pacification plan should be managed. I referred to several obvious problems such as: the quality of leadership; the necessity of careful supervision and direction of province planning and execution required by the central authorities; bringing about the active participation of the population; the danger of a psychological setback in Vietnam and abroad from a new enemy offensive, if we built up a state of euphoria on our side; the necessity to develop a base of law and legal procedure for the Government's actions, especially in the process of detention, etc. In the course of this the President commented on the impact he had had on the Corps Commanders in recent months, referring to the spring when they had alleged that they had no responsibility for "civil matters" in contrast to the current period in which they were fully engaged in pacification planning and execution. I stated that one of the major problem areas was the need to convince the population of a psychology of success and to develop confidence that they could take more and more of the responsibility of the war upon their own shoulders. I commented that the President's strong emphasis on People's Self Defense was very much along this line, but that it would have to be followed up by an insistence on elections and a deference to the elected authority of village councils, etc.

8. In the course of the discussion, the President indicated much interest in the Malaysian rural development system and its derivation from the wartime emergency committees. He appreciated the key role played by Deputy Prime Minister Razak and his frequent, random, and rigorous inspections. He was interested in this technique of management, but aware that he did not have the same ability to circulate nor to preempt the Government's role. We agreed, however, that a vigorous Minister of State could perhaps develop this capability, and that the central planning and programming staff discussed above could also carry out this kind of specific inspection. I pointed out that we are preparing some suggestions for a systematic way of presenting information on pacification to command levels and showed him a couple of our examples. He was interested and expressed appreciation for the documents he had already received, and I led him through a working study of one of the provinces in order to show him how to utilize them.

9. The President asked how the situation in Thailand seemed. I drew the obvious comparison between Vietnam and Thailand's overall religious and national unity, institution of the monarchy, and lack of a colonial background, to say that the Thai had nowhere near the same serious problems as the Vietnamese. I then stated that at the national level the Thai have developed a fairly full structure to carry on counterinsurgency and national development, but that at the local level it began to thin out and that the process of involvement of the population and deference to their political initiatives was perhaps even less developed than they were here in Vietnam.

10. In the course of the discussion we talked about the possibility of a year-end roundup on the status of pacification for the press. I suggested that it might be put together by the Central Pacification and Development Council as a report to the President. It could then be released to the press by Vietnamese sources. I stated that I would be glad to background our press on the situation, but that I thought that the basic source of information about the program should be Vietnamese. The President indicated approval of this idea and I said that I would prosecute it further. We agreed that the presentation should be in low key, bringing out the fact that a conscious program had been developed, but that the enemy was still around and might well come back and fight us again.

11. I regret that this memorandum indicates that I did most of the talking, but this appeared to be the President's intention, as he would throw out a subject and ask me to discuss it. He was obviously in the process of adding one more source for his ideas for decision making.

W.E. Colby


250. Memorandum of Conversation/1/

Paris, December 11, 1968, 10 a.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Harvan Misc. & Memos, Vol. VIII. Secret; Nodis/Harvan. Drafted by Holbrooke. The meeting was held at the GVN offices. The previous day, the U.S. delegation briefed the GVN delegation on the procedural arrangements agreed to by the DRV, as well as those still to be settled. (Memorandum of conversation, December 9; ibid.)


GVN: Ambassadors Lam, Diem, Phong, Bac and Minister An

US: Ambassador Vance, Messrs. Habib and Holbrooke

Ambassador Vance began the meeting with a complete summary of his meeting with Lau on December 10./2/

/2/The delegation transmitted the full report of this meeting in telegram 25136/Delto 1039 from Paris, December 10. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-December 1968)

Ambassador Lam interrupted only once, to ask if Lau had agreed to use the "Qui Vi" form of address.

Vance said that they had not answered.

After his résumé, Vance said that he wanted to draw the GVN's attention to the fact that at 9 p.m., December 10, the North Vietnamese has issued a statement about the Vance-Lau meeting, claiming credit for making new proposals and generally portraying themselves as seeking progress.

Vance said at this time the press play on procedures was running in their favor. Vance said he was disturbed with this and said that it was important for us to discuss how we should proceed, what alternate seating plans we could suggest which were consistent with the our side-your side formula and how to appear flexible and not be accused of being intransigent.

Lam said that he agreed that we should not lose the initiative to the Communists. The two-sides principle must be maintained. Lam then said that any arrangement for seating other than the already proposed one--two long tables facing each other--represented a basic change in the two-sides principle which would cause difficulty in Saigon and was therefore unacceptable.

Vance said that there were other seating arrangements which could preserve the two-sides principle.

Lam asked whether Hanoi had ever accepted the two-sides formula.

Vance said that they had not, nor had we ever accepted their characterization of the meetings as four party.

Lam said that the GVN's presence in Paris was based on the declaration of the United States Government of November 26./3/

/3/See Document 238 and footnote 4 thereto.

Habib said that the November 26 declaration does not demand that the other side accept the two-sides formula.

Lam repeated that the GVN was in Paris on the basis of the November 26 statement and on the principle of two sides.

Vance said that US participation here was also based on the two-sides formula.

Lam said that Hanoi is trying to put into dispute the two-sides formula.

Vance agreed saying that Hanoi is trying to make it look like a four-party conference.

Lam said that he understood that after having accepted the two-sides formula, Hanoi's propaganda machine was trying to make this into a four-party conference. He said this was not a question of propaganda but of principle.

(At this point there was considerable confusion as to what Lam had meant by the above remark. After some confused discussion, Phong interrupted.)

Phong said that the US and GVN delegations understood that:

1) The US and Hanoi never reached an agreement on the two-sides principle; and

2) There was a clear US-Hanoi understanding that the ambiguity in the two-sides formula was deliberate in order to allow a way out of procedural impasse for both sides.

Vance and Habib agreed with Phong's remark.

Lam then said that the GVN has accepted the two-sides principle and all its consequences. If the other side doesn't accept this principle, Lam did not see how we could go much further. As the US has explained it to the GVN, Lam said, the two-sides principle meant it could make its propaganda as it wishes.

Vance intended to say that was not correct; each side could organize as it wishes.

Lam repeated that if the other side did not accept the two-sides principle, he did not think we could go any further. He said that the GVN could accept the fact that the other side could make whatever propaganda it wishes on the two-sides formula and could organize itself as it wishes, but it is essential that the two-sides formula be accepted in principle by Hanoi first. Then, Lam said, we can discuss the shape of tables.

Vance said he did not understand what Lam meant.

Lam said that the US and the GVN had had discussions which had resulted in acceptance by the GVN of the two-sides formula. If the Communists would also accept the two-sides formula, the procedural matters could easily be decided.

Vance said that the two-sides formula was deliberately ambiguous and permitted each of the sides to regard the situation in a different way, thus allowing the discussions of peace to continue.

Vance said we would get lost in semantics and abstractions unless we concentrate on concrete matters and relate the our side-your side formula to specific issues. We now have a concrete problem on arrangements and we must concentrate on that.

Lam said that the GVN accepts the two-sides principle, even with its ambiguities; but the other side doesn't accept it even with its ambiguities.

Bac repeated Lam's views.

Bui Diem asked if we were proposing concessions on the question of seating.

Habib said that we were not talking of concessions but alternatives, which would be consistent with and preserve the principle of the two-sides formula.

Habib sketched alternative seating arrangements which he said were consistent with the two-sides principle: two semicircles; four tables, two facing two; a diamond broken in two places; and a round table.

Habib said that he wanted the GVN to consider all of these so that we could consider proposing alternate arrangements which were consistent with the formula. Habib pointed out that the North Vietnamese had already retreated from their opening position of a square table by the two proposals they had made yesterday.

Lam said that the two long table arrangement was not a starting position but rather their firm position. For the DRV, he said, a square table was only a starting point.

A discussion followed in which Vance and Habib pointed out again that there were other seating arrangements which were just as consistent with our side-your side as the two long table arrangement.

Lam finally said that he agreed with Vance that our alternatives were in a juridical sense consistent with our side-your side. But, he said, until now the two-sides formula has been reported to the Vietnamese people and to the Congress by President Thieu and Foreign Minister Thanh as manifested by the seating arrangement we have proposed, and this cannot be changed easily. Our starting position was that this was a three-sided conference on the basis of the November 26 US statement, the GVN was participating in these negotiations.

Lam said he was showing the position of his government clearly with these comments. He said he would report our conversation and discuss the matter further with us as soon as possible. (At first he did not specify whether he would report to Ky or to Saigon. However, he indicated later that Saigon would have to be consulted.)

Vance said that we must come to grips with this matter. Perhaps we can meet with Ky and resolve it.

Bac said that the GVN believed that the two long table arrangement had been accepted by both sides.

Vance said that if we were going to be so rigid, we could not get anywhere.

Lam said this was a delicate and sensitive public relations matter.

The GVN was not here to block progress, but they had to make their point of view understood. Lam said he would try to be in touch with us after referring the matter to his government.

Vance said we should plan to meet the morning of December 12 and it would be helpful if Ky were present.

Lam said he thought Ky would not want to meet in this large a group.

Vance asked if there were any other matters to discuss.

Bui Diem raised the question of the order of speaking.

Habib said that this point was clearly related to seating.

Phong said that he wished to draw attention to the fact that Ky had made a moderate and reasonable arrival speech and the GVN delegation has behaved correctly and properly since its arrival. The other side has not reciprocated. Phong asked us to tell the North Vietnamese that the GVN expects them to act correctly and properly.

Lam added that this should be not just in the meetings, but also in public, particularly at this time.

Bui Diem said that the GVN had come here seriously, but if Hanoi keeps up its dirty attacks, the GVN will have to warn them and to respond.

Vance said he would convey this message to Lau.

Habib said that Ky's arrival statement had had a very good impact and cited the New York Times as an example./4/

/4/Stories on Ky's December 8 arrival were published in The New York Times on December 9, 1968; a related editorial appeared on December 10.

Vance said that the Secretary of State had asked him to tell Ky that he had read Ky's arrival statement and was pleased by its constructive tone.


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

Saigon, December 12, 1968, 0824Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 13 VIET S. Secret; Exdis. No receipt time is indicated.

44649. Subject: Lien Minh.

1. Having recently concluded a complete Embassy reassessment of the Lien Minh, I decided to raise that subject with President Thieu when I saw him December 11. I started by setting out for him our analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of that organization and our conclusion that the balance still comes out on the positive side although there are a number of problems, weaknesses and deficiencies. I said that in spite of these difficulties we still believe that the basic concept is sound and that the Lien Minh can command the people's attention and can do things with the participation of the people.

2. I then went on to say that while we respect the President's judgment that he should avoid over-identification with the Lien Minh, we believe it is clear that an enterprise of this kind is not going to gather momentum, let alone become a powerful non-Communist popular movement challenging the NLF/VC apparatus, unless there is a greater expression of Presidential interest. We do not believe this needs to be in the form of an aggressive public (or even private) application of pressure; but there might be a more active, if quiet, demonstration of the President's desire that the apparatus of government should specifically encourage the Lien Minh in appropriate ways. I cited as an example that General Lam in I Corps had repeatedly told our people that he could make a significant contribution to political unity among the divided political elements there if he knew just what the President expected of him on that score.

3. Thieu said he agreed with what I had said. The only reason he was going a little slower was that he did not wish the Lien Minh to be an artificial creation or hot-house plant, but he wanted it to grow more naturally so that people will regard it as something genuine. This required a little time. People are skeptical about organizations of this kind, he said, since so many have sprung up only to wither away. He agreed, however, that he had to become more active in showing his support and he intended to take some action along these lines. But the Lien Minh must not be looked upon as an exclusive creation of the government; the people must be led to see it as something that is important for their own future and the future of the country and that is earning their confidence and their support.

4. Picking up this remark, I turned to the question of financing. I said we had noted that there are certain liabilities in replying on paid cadres, and it seemed that Thieu himself had emphasized the importance of getting people to volunteer their services. I said we thought that volunteer cadres would become available when it became clearer that the Lien Minh enjoyed support from the top and that there would be political benefits, even if not financial ones, for those who work in the organization. On the other hand some paid cadre would always be needed, and we were wondering if the time had not come to get some financing from private individuals, for instance from wealthy Vietnamese businessmen. Thieu said this was another reason for letting the organization grow naturally. If people saw that the Lien Minh was something solid, then they would gladly contribute money to it. He realized that this was an important problem, that private financing must be enlisted, and he intended to look into it.



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

Washington, December 12, 1968.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Nixon and Transition. Secret. In an attached covering note transmitting a copy of the memorandum to the President, December 12, 3:15 p.m., Rostow wrote: "Herewith notes covering all the items you asked me to prepare, plus Pueblo, in this order: Vietnam; Paris; Arab-Israeli dispute; NPT; Pueblo. I have not put anything down on the Summit because I do not know where you came out last night with Sec. Rusk and what precisely you wish to say to Mr. Nixon today. I don't know whether Nixon will be bringing with him any of his staff; but you may wish to talk alone with him about the Summit. I made these notes rather lengthy but have marked key passages to permit you to proceed more tersely if you wish to do so." The President's Daily Diary records the President's meeting with Nixon. The entry for 5:35 to 7:25 p.m. reads: "President departed Oval Office to meet President-Elect and Mrs. Richard M. Nixon and daughter Tricia. President met the Nixons on the South Grounds, proceeded from there to Oval Office with President-Elect Nixon. Mrs. Nixon and Tricia went to the Mansion." During the meeting, the President made a telephone call to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. The meeting ended at 7:25 p.m., when the President and Nixon proceeded to the White House Mansion. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary) No other record of the meeting between Johnson and Nixon has been found.

Mr. President:

Herewith notes for 5:30 p.m. briefing of Mr. Nixon.

1. Viet-Nam

A. "Facts of Life"

--no attacks yet on major cities.

--little or no shelling from or across the DMZ.

--no massing of forces at the DMZ.

--DMZ being violated by presence of small North Vietnamese forces, which we attack heavily when spotted. We also run patrols into southern half of DMZ, in part to capture personnel and demonstrate in Paris that it is North Vietnamese and not NLF forces which are violating the DMZ.

--We have protested strongly to Hanoi, and plan, as first order of business when the new talks begin, to take up DMZ.

--Reconnaissance being intensively conducted up to the 19th parallel and by drones and high-level aircraft north of the 19th parallel. The enemy has been firing on our aircraft. Our military are empowered to strike back on air-to-ground as well as on air-to-air basis. We have thus far lost four recce manned aircraft over North Vietnam.

--Thus, the enemy has partially complied with our understandings. Abrams does not believe there is any substantial danger at the DMZ and at I Corps at the moment. The major cities have not been attacked. But when talks start, we obviously have a major job in getting at the problems of DMZ violation and recce.

B. Military Situation

For several months many of the enemy's main force units have been pulled back into North Vietnam, Laos, and the Cambodian border area. This gave the ARVN and Abrams a great opportunity to extend government control of the countryside, which they have done at a rate of better than 3% a month for the last two months. (It was actually 3.5% in November.) VC-controlled population has apparently dropped to 13.4%; the contested areas are about 13.3%. Therefore, more than 73% of the population lives in relative security under government control. Pacification progress is moving about three times our best sustained period in the past. The pacification offensive has been accompanied by systematic attacks on the VC infrastructure.

The President would underline that the fact that we can move against the enemy in this way, while negotiations are going forward, is the major difference between this negotiation and Panmunjom, where military action around the 38th parallel in Korea could not affect significantly the enemy's bargaining assets.

It now looks as though--at any moment--the enemy is about to kick off an offensive. Elements of five divisions have been assembled opposite Saigon to the west. Abrams' intelligence has been excellent and precise. We shall now see whether the offensive occurs and what happens.

It could raise two major issues for decision:

--Should we permit hot pursuit some modest distance into the Cambodian sanctuary where many of these forces have been assembled?

--If they actually get into Saigon--or shell Saigon substantially--should we resume bombing for, say, a 48-hour interval?

Our intelligence people believe there are two major reasons for this enemy effort if it takes place. First, they have, since 1954, always accompanied a new phase of negotiations with a military offensive to demonstrate their strength. Second, they may well feel they must slow up this pacification offensive, or negotiate with indecent haste in Paris--since their political assets in the South are draining away. But the risk they are taking is that Abrams and the ARVN will throttle this offensive in a way which will look to the world like a major setback. That is Abrams' intent and mission; but they have concentrated a very high proportion of their usable forces opposite Saigon, and it may be quite rough.

2. Paris

The opening of the new phase of the talks is hung up on two procedural matters which have considerable symbolic and political meaning to Hanoi and Saigon:

--The Order of Speaking.

It is agreed that names will be drawn at random from a hat; but Hanoi wants four names drawn and the order of speaking determined in that way, to underline this as a "four power" conference. We and the GVN want only two names drawn, symbolizing our view that this is a "your-side-our-side" conference. The two members of each side would then speak.

--The Shape of the Tables.

Hanoi wanted four separate tables--a rectangle, or four segmented arcs to symbolize a four-power conference. We want two parallel tables. Hanoi suggested a round table. We have not yet finally decided our position, and will be talking it over with the GVN in Paris.

There is some inconclusive intelligence that Hanoi is rather anxious to get down to serious substantive discussion; but that is not evident in the way they have been handling these procedural issues. Thus far, Ky and his delegation have behaved correctly and spoken temperately in public. There is no basis for today's story that the US and GVN delegations are split; although some differences--at some stages in the complex negotiation--would be quite normal.

[Omitted here is a review of the Arab-Israeli dispute, the status of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the issues surrounding the return of the crew of the Pueblo.]

W.W. Rostow


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

Washington, December 12, 1968, 7:25 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. VII. Top Secret; Literally Eyes Only.

Mr. President:

Secretary Rusk, Secretary Clifford and I met in the Cabinet Room from 6 to 7 p.m. The meeting broke up because Sect. Rusk had to go home to dress for the Kuwaiti dinner tonight./2/

/2/The State dinner, which began at 8 p.m., honored Kuwaiti Amir Sabah Al-Salim Al-Sabah. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary)

1. There was extended discussion of the evidence in Abrams' cable./3/ The general view was that, while we had had other false alarms, this evidence looked pretty solid, coming from many sources. The "unusually reliable agent" who was the source of the first page of evidence is, indeed, well placed and has furnished good information in the past. We all agreed that Abrams was right to take every precaution as a matter of prudence and we should assume that the attack will take place. Sect. Clifford raised some questions about:

/3/A copy of Abrams' telegram is ibid., National Security File, Memos to the President, Walt Rostow, Vol. 110. Rostow summarized and assessed the telegram in a December 11 covering memorandum, and in telegram CAP 82954 to the President, December 30. (Ibid., National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Vol. 110 and Vol. 112, respectively)

--whether the enemy might be planting false intelligence on us; and
--on the scale of the attack.

We all agreed that we would just have to see, monitoring things closely in the days ahead.

2. It was agreed that Gen. Wheeler would dispatch, at Sect. Rusk's request, a copy of Abrams' cable to Paris requesting that Harriman and Vance be briefed on it first thing tomorrow morning Paris time. That was the only action taken.

3. With respect to hot pursuit back into Cambodia, there was an extended discussion. Sect. Rusk suggested that Wheeler might, on a contingency basis, prepare orders which would permit hot pursuit up to 5 kilometers on the ground, and air attacks up to 10 kilometers. This would be not pre-emptive attacks but, strictly, hot pursuit.

4. Sect. Clifford, on the other hand, thought that this would be a bad time to broaden the war and that hot pursuit would not provide much military advantage since the units would be broken up and dispersed. He summarized that the military return would not warrant opening up "a new phase of the war" with possible consequences for the Paris talks, the Soviet attitude, etc.

5. Sect. Clifford added that if the President decided to go, he would much prefer that the action be taken without explicit orders from the President--but rather as a local matter. There was considerable discussion of the kind of language that might go into an order that would protect the government from the charge of ordering our troops into Cambodia and leaving us free to regard the incidents as a by-product of the melee of battle. It was agreed that Gen. Wheeler would give some thought to how such orders might be drafted if the President were to receive from Abrams a request for this authority and should grant the authority./4/

/4/In memorandum JCSM-742-68 to Clifford, December 13, Wheeler, on behalf of the Joint Chiefs, recommended that authority be granted for pursuit of enemy forces into Cambodia if the NVA and VC began offensive operations from base areas located there. (Department of Defense, Official Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 880/520 (11 December 1968), IR 6154) In a December 21 memorandum to the Joint Chiefs, Clifford deferred a decision on granting such authority pending receipt from the JCS of a risk assessment, as well any other proposals for military operations against enemy forces inside Cambodian territory. He noted: "This broad spectrum of possible military actions against enemy forces in Cambodia and your appraisal of the military effects and risks thereof will provide a basis for a review of the objectives of our military operations in Cambodia and their possible relation to the broader question of our diplomatic objectives in Southeast Asia." (Ibid.) In the Tuesday Luncheon of December 10, Wheeler noted: "There is a strong possibility that General Abrams will review his recommendation that we move on base areas." (Notes of Meeting, December 10; Johnson Library, Tom Johnson's Notes of Meetings)

6. With respect to an attack on Saigon, Sect. Rusk said that if Saigon were attacked, it was absolutely essential that we respond, or our credibility with Hanoi and Moscow would be finished.

7. Sect. Clifford sought clarification on what we mean by: "an attack on Saigon." Attacks on towns in the direction of Saigon? Attacks in the suburbs? Shelling of Saigon? Ground force attacks into the city? No action was, of course, taken on this point.

8. Sect. Rusk initiated some discussion of a Summit. He was much concerned with the problem of:

--bringing the new Administration aboard;
--briefing our allies.

Perhaps the job could be done if the meeting were about Christmas time; but he comes back to the notion of exchanging principles and papers at a lower level./5/

/5/At the end of this paragraph, Rostow wrote: "(Sect. Rusk will talk to you tonight about this. I put your position to him over the phone.)"

9. Sect. Clifford thought that there was danger, if we did not get started now, that the talks would be postponed for a very long time since the new President, Sect. of State, and Sect. of Defense would be dealing with exigencies and would not be able to put themselves soon in a position to launch such talks.



254. Memorandum From the President's Special Consultant (Taylor) to President Johnson/1/

Washington, December 13, 1968.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 8I, Taylor Memos-General (1 of 2). Secret. According to two attached memoranda, one from Rostow to the President, December 14, 12:40 p.m., and one from Smith to Rusk and Clifford, December 17, Taylor's recommendation was one of the principal topics of the December 17 Tuesday Luncheon. See Document 257.

Mr. President:

You are well aware of the indications of a possible renewal of offensive action by the enemy in the Saigon area and have seen General Abrams' cable describing his preparations./2/ I hope that we are equally prepared here in Washington to respond quickly and decisively if, indeed, the enemy launches a significant attack.

/2/See footnote 3, Document 253.

In such a case, in addition to our action against the attacking forces in South Viet-Nam, my own judgment would be to respond quickly with a reprisal air attack against one or more key logistic installations north of the 19th parallel, the magnitude of our attack being proportioned to that of the enemy. No one seems to believe that we are capable of such a drastic step--certainly Hanoi does not as the exposed disposition of supplies all over North Viet-Nam gives evidence. While the "doves" at home and abroad would be aghast, the shock effect on Hanoi could produce not only better behavior in South Viet-Nam but a more cooperative attitude in Paris. You will recall that we never got action in Panmunjom until we broke off the discussions a couple of times--at that moment, our only recourse in responding to Communist intransigence.

I would think that Harriman and Vance should make clear to their counterparts the risks they are running if they renew the offensive or if they stall the negotiations. Our government spokesmen, in backgrounding the press, should get out the word that our restraint is no more permanent than the good behavior of the enemy and that we are quite prepared to revert to bombing for good cause at any time. Our air weapon is an asset either as a reprisal for a violation of our "understandings" with regard to Hanoi restraints or as a response to foot-dragging at the conference table. We should be prepared to use it without compunction for either purpose if it is in our interest, and the enemy and the public should know it in advance.



255. Memorandum Prepared by Ambassador at Large Harriman/1/

Paris, December 14, 1968.

/1/Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Kennedy-Johnson, Trips & Missions, Paris Peace Talks, 1968-69, Chronological File, Dec. 1968-Jan. 1969. Absolutely Personal.


In June while Cy Vance and I were both in Washington, the President received a message from Kosygin./2/ It was shortly after Le Duc Tho's stopover in Moscow en route Paris, in which the press had indicated he had had a talk with Kosygin. Kosygin's message to the President stated, "I and my colleagues believe and with good reason. . ." and then continued to the effect that the DRV was prepared to negotiate seriously for a peaceful settlement, providing the bombing of North Viet-Nam stopped and no U.S. interest would be adversely affected.

/2/See Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. VI, Document 262.

Rusk called a meeting in his office which Clifford, Vance and I, Bill Bundy and Ben Read, as I recall it, attended. Clifford took the position that the President should take Kosygin at his word and state that he was prepared to stop all the bombing, providing the DRV did certain things, on the assumption that the Soviet Government was assuring him of the good faith of the DRV, etc. I supported Clifford, pointing out that I did not recall any Soviet leader taking such a direct position as "I and my colleagues have reason to believe".

Rusk asked a few questions, but did not at that time oppose Clifford's proposal.

We thereupon got into automobiles, drove to the White House to discuss the reply with the President./3/

/3/See ibid., Document 265.

Rusk started in with a carefully worded analysis which cut the ground out from under Clifford's proposal, and in fact took the position that of course we couldn't take what Kosygin said seriously.

The President turned to me and I said that I believed the Secretary of Defense had an answer which I thought he ought to consider, that I was in support of that, and mentioned again these opening words of Kosygin were more definite than anything that I could recall. (Abe Fortas later had something to say, negatively.)

Clifford was then turned to and asked by the President for his proposal after a negative atmosphere had already been prepared. He did the best he could under the circumstances. Clifford made the point clearly, however, that if the President took Kosygin at his word he would have a chance to insist upon Soviet Government assurances.

The President turned over the reply to Fortas and Rusk to make. They brought back a negative reply, pretty much demanding action to be taken by the DRV along the standard lines.

The net effect of this was extremely hard line, turning Kosygin down, and Clifford and I both thought we lost an opportunity to get the Soviet Government on the hook in a way that would be most valuable in future negotiations.

What appalled me was that Rusk took this negative position without telling Clifford that he was going to do it, and without indicating to the President that Clifford had a different point of view. He clearly attempted to cut the ground out from under Clifford before he had a chance to present his position. I have never participated in any discussion in the White House where there was such a clear attempt made on the part of one member of the President's Cabinet to destroy the position of another before the second man had a chance to present it.

This, I believe, exposed to me the kind of attitude that Rusk took with McNamara and his proposals, and evidently was the manner in which he had reduced Clifford's credibility with the President since Clifford took over the Defense Department.

I went back with Rusk to the Department and he said, "The trouble with Clark is he has lost his nerve since he has been over in the Pentagon." I replied that I didn't agree, that I thought an opportunity had been lost, and that ended the conversation. I feel Dean must have used this attack on Clark's character with the President. To me, this kind of attack on a colleague is contemptible.

This was the first opportunity since our discussion in Paris started in May, of stopping the bombing under conditions which, in my judgment, would have placed the President in a strong position to obtain a reasonable settlement.

The second opportunity came in July.

After we had made a major issue of indiscriminate shelling of Saigon, and stirred up world public opinion (editorials in Indian newspapers, Manchester Guardian, Norwegian, Mexican newspapers, as well as the first critical statement about Hanoi by U Thant), the DRV stopped the shelling on June 18th.

In July, the general tempo of all military action was down and there was public discussion of whether this lull was the kind of indication of restraint that the President had asked for in his March 31 statement. After full consultation here in Paris and discussions with both Bill Bundy and Katzenbach, who happened to be here over the weekend, Vance and I sent a telegram recommending to the President that we stop the bombing on the assumption that this lull was the restraint asked for./4/ It was a well thought out detailed plan, and we strongly recommended it. I have been told that it arrived in Washington the same day as the Times editorial making a similar suggestion. Later I found out that Hubert Humphrey had prepared a memorandum of his own position which included stopping the bombing.

/4/See ibid., Documents 169 and 312.

The President went through the roof, and instructed the Secretary of State to hold a press conference on Monday, July 30./5/ This was the hard line press conference that cut the ground out from all the work Vance and I had been doing in Paris since early May. It was interpreted by the DRV as a change in position. In fact, Ha Van Lau asked Vance, since the Secretary of State's statements were at variance with what Vance and I had been talking about, whether we in fact did talk for the President. (Vance had been carrying on private discussions with Ha Van Lau for some weeks.)

/5/See ibid., footnote 2, Document 312.

The next backward step was the President's trip to Honolulu to meet President Thieu./6/ As Clifford was in South Viet-Nam at the time, he joined the party from there. I urged that Vance return to Washington to discuss the questions and explain our position. He got nowhere. I had urged Vance to insist that he go to Honolulu, but since he was not invited, did not do so.

/6/See ibid., Document 302.

There was no reason for the Honolulu Conference. Out of it came a hard line communiqué which didn't advance anything and set us back again in Paris. Even Bunker reported one of the leading Saigon politicians as saying, "The communiqué sounds too good to be true." What motivated the President, or who put in the oar to encourage it, I don't know, presumably Rusk and Rostow and Fortas.

There is no doubt in my mind that if the President had taken this opportunity to stop the bombing about three weeks before the Democratic Convention, the Democrats would have been united, without serious divisions, Humphrey would have been nominated without conflict over the plank on Viet-Nam, and as the polls had been showing in June and July, would have started a campaign in which he would have been elected comfortably.

I can see no benefit from the President's actions or the manner in which he behaved. Even if the President had not stopped the bombing but avoided going to Honolulu, and Rusk had not had his unnecessary press conference, things would obviously have been better. I do not know the details of the attempt to get a compromise plank on Viet-Nam at the Convention, but Freeman told me that Humphrey went to the Convention with a compromise initialed DR (Dean Rusk), which later President Johnson repudiated. He sent a message to Charles Murphy to insist on holding to the hard-line plank that was finally adopted by a 60-40 vote after the odd telegram from Abrams./7/ This, of course, split the Party wide open and led to Humphrey's nose dive in the polls.

/7/See ibid., Documents 339 and 337.

I went home in early September for Mrs. Norton's funeral, and took the occasion to go to Washington. I saw Clark Clifford first in order to get a feel of the way things stood. In that conversation I asked him bluntly whether he felt the President wished to see Humphrey defeated. He waited for a moment and then replied, "If you agree it is just between you and me, I believe you're right: the President wants to see him defeated." I asked this question of several others, including Hale Boggs. Hale said he made a great issue with the President and feels he had some influence in getting the President to change his position.

There is no doubt in the very last period of the campaign he did take his coat off and did contribute to the Humphrey comeback. It was too late. He had done a number of things which seemed obviously damaging; i.e., when Humphrey suggested the possibility that troops might be brought home, a few, even before the end of the year, he took the occasion to make a speech at one of the veterans organizations, denying any possibility of troop withdrawals this year (or near future).

For some reason, Humphrey seemed to be baffled and unsure of himself. Some of his friends say he found someone blocking him in every direction. The President in one direction; McCarthy in another. John Bailey, and Mayor Daley, and others appeared to be opposing any position that he might take. As a result, the campaign got off to an impossible start with no money, largely because of the disastrously negative polls.

George Ball came to Paris on September 20 and told me he was considering seriously resigning, and supporting H.H.H. I applauded his doing it, but we agreed that I should not do so, as there was always a chance we might work something out here which would have an effect on the election. Something happened with Ball's joining campaign which changed the tide favorably. The Salt Lake speech was well received./8/ George took his coat off in New York and began to get some money and a new direction appeared in the campaign. I was told that he was the one man around Humphrey that took a definite position. Others were advising him in one conflicting direction or another. Humphrey had been confused by conflicting advice. Whatever the reason, the campaign did take on a new impetus.

/8/See Document 40.

In the meantime, we were pressing our discussions privately with the North Vietnamese in Paris, and finally got to a point on October 18 when we had achieved the points that Washington had instructed us to take. The only remaining question was the date for the serious talks. We reported that the DRV said the NLF representatives couldn't get here as quickly as we had asked, but that it would be as soon as possible-- "the sooner the better." They explained it would take some time for the NLF Delegation to travel to Paris. We argued that they could have one of their representatives already in Europe represent them for the first ceremonial meeting, and the South Vietnamese would be represented probably only by their observer, Ambassador Lam, so that neither side would be at a disadvantage. The North Vietnamese refused, saying they had no authority. Vance and I recommended that this reply be accepted, namely, as soon as possible, the sooner the better./9/ We got a telegram back which arrived early next morning, instructing us to tell the North Vietnamese that we insisted on holding the meeting within 24 hours after the bombing stopped./10/ We had no alternative but to go to the meeting and did propose it. It was of course rejected, and we continued to work between then and October 29, when it was finally agreed that if the President announced the stopping of the bombing that night, the other side would meet November 2. The Russians played a major role in getting some of the minor points cleared away. Much to our surprise, Thieu then ran out. The facts stated by Clark Clifford in his press conference of November 12 (attached)/11/ in answer to questions, give an account which we here agreed was accurate. Of course, much of this was between Washington and Saigon, and how much of the blame is due to Bunker's mishandling or Thieu's double-crossing, we cannot tell./12/

/9/See Document 84.

/10/Telegram 258650 to Paris, October 19. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files:Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Outgoing)-October 1968)

/11/Not attached; see Document 213.

/12/Inserted here is the following notation in Harriman's handwriting: "Note--Nov. 12, 1969--Bunker sent a telegram which I did not see to the effect that Thieu had reneged & could not be trusted again. WAH"

In the early period, October 18, Bunker had supported the President's position that the meeting had to take place the next day./13/ What motivated Bunker in making this recommendation, unless he was sure that Thieu agreed, I cannot say. When Bunker, after October 29, asked three times for an extension in time in order to get Thieu aboard, the first two were granted, the third was not. Vance and I had made the point the President had taken a commitment on October 29 to stop the bombing, and that commitment should be honored. Clark Clifford's press conference points that out. In any event, on October 31 the President did order the cessation of the bombing, and it had a noticeable effect in the U.S. even though Thieu was balking. I have no idea how much of an effect it had on the voter reaction. Some people say, little. I do know that strange Democratic Senatorial candidate (Paul O'Dwyer) finally came out in support of Humphrey after this event, which may have had some influence to unite the Democrats in New York.

/13/See Document 87.

Senator Percy told me when he came to Paris that the floor was falling out of Nixon's campaign. Two or three days more, and it would have been finished. He based this on his experience in Michigan, where he had been told to go to stem the tide, and he had been told nothing could be done.

For several years, I have taken the position that Viet-Nam was important in U.S. policy, but that other things were more important. When asked what was more important, I always gave as my first point, not permitting it to elect Nixon as President. There is no doubt that the manner in which Viet-Nam was handled, with Rusk's and Rostow's advice or urging, elected Nixon. Of course, I had a number of other subjects which I thought were also more important. One was that Viet-Nam was not worth the deep division that it was causing among the American people. Second, it was developing an attitude of isolationism which would cripple us in dealing with future world problems in other areas, and then I felt that it was diverting our attention from other issues in other areas which were being neglected. Fundamentally, I felt the loss of American prestige was perhaps the most important. Before Viet-Nam, the U.S. was the standard bearer of moral principle in world affairs. This was being greatly shattered by Viet-Nam because of the people's misunderstanding of the issues, or perhaps the arrogant manner in which we were going it alone. I want to add that I feel strongly it is essential we recognize the sensibility of non-communist Asia, and that a settlement of Viet-Nam should be of such a nature that it would not destroy the confidence of other Asian countries in the U.S. But I did not feel this included a commitment to Thieu and Ky. We have achieved that objective which led the President to send American troops into Viet-Nam: namely, prevented the North Vietnamese from taking over the South by force. The President's second objective--that the people of South Viet-Nam be able to decide their own future on the basis of one man, one vote, is the political objective. This does not include the present position of Bunker and others that we must support the present Constitution, and the present elected officials. The present Constitution is in violation of the President's one man, one vote principle, as Article IV does not permit communist members or communist sympathizers to vote. In addition, the election laws are untenable. Anyone who has ever done anything to help the communists is excluded from running for public office. Hardly anybody could qualify under such a definition if reviewed by an unfriendly committee--McCarthyism at its worst.

In any event, Thieu/Ky were elected by 34% of the people living in the part of the country secure enough to participate in the election./14/ Komer figures this at 67%. Two-thirds of 34 is less than 23% of the people. For us to try to maintain that these officials are the free choice of the South Vietnamese people cannot be maintained. A new election must be held under appropriate conditions. The NLF must be compelled to renounce the use of terror and the election should be voided unless this is strictly adhered to.

/14/The election was held in September 1967.

All of these matters will be dealt with by Nixon, as it is too late for us to make any real progress. Based on our experience with the North Vietnamese in not having kept the Laos Agreement for one day, it seems obvious that the U.S. must come to an agreement with Hanoi to "leave its neighbors alone." (This I have said publicly.) This agreement can only be reached with Moscow's help and can be based on Hanoi's desire to be independent of Peking's domination, as well as interest in establishing friendly relations with U.S. which would give it access to American and other Western technology and equipment. In other words, it must be an agreement which is in the interests of Hanoi to keep. I am satisfied from my talks with Kosygin and other developments, that the Soviet Union wants a Southeast Asia non-aligned to check China's advance to the South. This is the same position the Soviet Union is taking in the subcontinent (India/Pakistan), and there is no reason to believe that for a number of years they would not have the same attitude towards Southeast Asia.

To me, the great tragedy of President Johnson is that he had a superlative record which out-achieved Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy put together, on domestic issues, civil rights, education, medical care, poverty, cities, etc., etc., issues which were never hit squarely before. He said they must be achieved now. However, he got bogged down and was sold the idea that it was his duty to fight Viet-Nam through. I think one of the historians in Columbia wrote him that he was like Lincoln, and urged him to have courage and faith. Abe Fortas took the same position. As far as I know, except for Rusk, not many, if any, in the State Department did. Ball and Katzenbach urged a Viet-Nam settlement. So did both McNamara and Clifford.

To me the tragedy was that a man who had little knowledge of international affairs should have been induced to become so deeply involved.

The basic error of Viet-Nam started with not taking Roosevelt's advice, in permitting the French to return to Viet-Nam, but the most appalling mistake was Dulles taking on the French responsibility in the southern half of Viet-Nam, which everyone knew was politically unstable. There was no real chance of maintaining it as an independent country without strong military assistance from the outside. Just where we made our basic mistakes, history can decide.

I have stuck with the Administration, hoping that since the President had given me the job of peace, I could bring about negotiations which would end the war. Unfortunately, it came too late to help Humphrey, but let us hope Nixon will find a way to negotiate a reasonable settlement. I certainly want to do all I can as a private citizen to help, if his policy indicates a sincere effort to arrive at such a solution. President Johnson has given him the start through initiating these negotiations in Paris./15/

/15/In a personal memorandum assessing military and political objectives in the Paris talks, January 7, Harriman described two factors that would allow for an agreement to be achieved with the DRV: the nationalistic desire of the North Vietnamese to remain independent of outside domination by other Communist powers and the interest of the Soviet Union in a strong Vietnam as a counter to Chinese expansionism. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Kennedy-Johnson, Trips & Missions, Paris Peace Talks, 1968-69, Chronological File, Dec. 1968-Jan. 1969)


256. Editorial Note

On December 16, 1968, Vice Admiral Rufus Taylor, Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, sent Rostow a copy of the CIA Saigon Station's field assessment of the Phoenix program, the effort to challenge the Viet Cong infrastructure. The Phoenix program was run by an inter-agency group in conjunction with South Vietnamese programs. The summary of the report reads:

"A. The attack on the Viet Cong infrastructure (VCI) has made encouraging progress, but has not yet produced a significant reduction of the Communists' ability to carry out essential activities. VCI operations have been disrupted in several geographic areas; an increasing Chieu Hoi rate points to morale problems--at least among lower ranking personnel; and a noticeable attrition has resulted from a combination of losses in combat and from anti-infrastructure activities.

"B. VCI attempts to revitalize and strengthen their organizations in the major cities often have been disrupted by aggressive police work. But government intelligence on the VCI and targeted operations against their activities diminish significantly as one gets further from the secure urban areas. What losses the VCI has suffered apparently have not unduly hampered its functioning. Recent moves have been made to streamline the infrastructure by reclassifying cadres according to their effectiveness and by transferring numbers of low level or inefficient cadres into military units. It seems that VCI personnel losses are not approaching the critical stage, nor do they appear likely to do so in the near future."

The report concludes:

"Are there, then, steps which can be taken to improve our combined effort to destroy or neutralize the VCI. The answer is 'yes,' and of course some of these already are under way.

"1. We must continue the present strategy of combined, coordinated action to destroy or drive back VC/NVA Main Forces, to extend and consolidate territorial security and pacification, and to destroy or neutralize the VCI. These actions are interdependent.

"2. We need still further GVN command emphasis on Phung Hoang operations, particularly to insure the assignment and allocation of top-flight personnel and reaction forces to exploit intelligence against selected targets.

"3. Concurrently with increased emphasis on targeted operations (as opposed to programming, organization and facilities), the GVN must, with our assistance, provide stepped-up training and indoctrination of personnel earmarked for Phung Hoang roles.

"4. Concurrently, we must somehow see to it that both civilian and military U.S. personnel designated as Phoenix advisors are qualified intelligence officers with backgrounds in counterintelligence, positive intelligence collection, or police intelligence investigation operations. A maximum number of these individuals should be trained in the Vietnamese language. The absence of language ability, particularly at the DIOCC level, is the greatest single bar to effectiveness.

"5. We must give greater heed to providing necessary, flexible support to operations at district and province level, in terms of temporary or short-term detention facilities adjacent to DIOCCs or district police offices; of intelligence and support contingency funds; of assignment of additional intelligence NCOs in priority areas of heaviest operational activity; and of additional helicopter support for sustained operations.

"6. We must take and are taking urgent measures to instruct and orient Vietnamese, U.S. and other free world personnel in the identification and modus operandi of the VCI, and in the roles which our various forces and agencies can best play, and in the techniques found by current experience to be most productive in VCI neutralizations.

"7. Finally, and possibly most important, the lessons learned by all GVN agencies participating in the Phung Hoang program now may serve as the glue to hold them together when they are forced to fight the political machinations of the VCI in the post hostilities period." (Central Intelligence Agency, Job 80-R01580R, Executive Registry Subject Files, Vietnam)

An assessment of the potential impact of the Phoenix program on the Paris peace negotiations is in a memorandum by Carver prepared for Helms, January 10, 1969. (Ibid., Job 80-R01720R, George Carver Files, GAC Chrono., December 1968-February 1969, #2)


257. Editorial Note

From 1:27 to 3 p.m. on December 17, 1968, the President met with Clifford, Rusk, Moorer, and Christian at a Tuesday Luncheon Meeting. (Johnson Library, President's Daily Diary) The topics of discussion included the return of the crew of the captured ship Pueblo and Vietnam. Christian's notes of this meeting read:

"The President: What's happening in Vietnam?

"Admiral Moorer: The 2d NVA Division is active--but not much special happening.

"Secretary Rusk: Do we want to warn Hanoi on the consequences of an attack on Saigon?

"The President: Yes, we ought to tell them to give these talks a chance to succeed. After we've stopped the bombing all this time and they hit Saigon, what kind of people are we if we don't respond?

"Secretary Clifford: If they've made a policy decision to hit Saigon, then that says the deal's off. That's why we ought to tell Hanoi and Moscow. They ought to know before they take this course.

"The President: Dean, get that off to them. Don't threaten--be diplomatic." (Johnson Library, Meeting Notes File, 7/68-12/68)

Bundy reviewed this meeting's Vietnam-related discussion topics in a December 17 memorandum to Rusk. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, S/S-S Files: Lot 74 D 164, Secretary-President Luncheon (2))

In a telephone conversation with Secretary Rusk later that evening, the President commented on the related issue of compelling GVN attendance at the Paris negotiations:

"Well, I didn't open my mouth today, if you'll observe. I think that we ought to quit--I honestly think that we don't get anything by baiting the South Vietnamese. I think that what the Communists would like for us to do is to be at war with our allies, and that's the shape we're getting in if we're not careful. That's my own judgment. I didn't want to get into it. I just didn't feel like getting into a discussion of it, and I didn't. I think we've just got a few days and I don't believe we'll do any wonders in those few days one way or another. But I would--I don't want [sic] to avoid getting into a fight with them if we can help it." (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Rusk, December 17, 1968, 5:26 p.m., Tape F6812.02, PNO 11)


258. Memorandum From William J. Jorden of the Paris Delegation to Ambassador at Large Harriman and Ambassador Vance/1/

Paris, December 19, 1968.

/1/Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Kennedy-Johnson, Trips & Missions, Paris Peace Talks, 1968-69, Memoranda of Conversations. Secret; Nodis/Harvan Plus.

Conversation with Vice President Ky

Summary: Vice President Ky wishes to cut through the procedural wrangle and get into substantive talks quickly. He is tired of having himself and his government attacked as the principal obstacles to movement. What he is considering is a proposal for immediate talks as follows:

--A "first-phase" discussion that would focus on reestablishing the integrity of the 17th Parallel (note: he used the 17th consistently rather than the DMZ) and arranging for the withdrawal of both North Vietnamese and American and allied forces from South Viet-Nam;

--a "second phase" that would involve two steps, direct discussions between Saigon and Hanoi concerning arrangements for the movement of persons, commerce, and eventual reunification, and direct discussions between the Saigon government and all other political groups in the South, including the NLF, regarding the political future of the country.

If the other side would agree to enter into serious talks on this basis, Ky said, we could forget about the size and shape of the tables and who speaks first and "all these other procedural matters."

Ky said he has asked Ambassador Bui Diem to discuss the above approach with Secretary Rusk (possibly today)./2/ He has promised to give me an English text of the draft statement he is considering making.

/2/Rusk, Bundy, and John Burke of EA/VN met with Bui Diem from 10:38 to 11:18 a.m. at the State Department. (Johnson Library, Dean Rusk Appointment Books, 1968-1969) Notes of this meeting have not been found.

He will not move in this direction, he said, until he gets a report from Ambassador Diem on the Secretary's reaction. He also indicated a willingness to hold off further should Ambassador Vance wish to discuss this with the President on his return to Washington.

Ky stressed the importance of secrecy in this matter. He also said it was absolutely crucial that if this approach is to be adopted that it come from the Vietnamese themselves.

He anticipates great trouble with some elements in Saigon, particularly from the ultra-nationalists in the Assembly, but he said he was prepared to face that and take the heat himself. He proposes to return to Saigon as soon as he has made his statement here so that he can win the backing of the military, the politicians and others for this approach to a peaceful settlement.


Vice President Ky saw me at the Vietnamese reception last night and invited me into a separate room for a chat. He knew me from several previous meetings in Saigon. With a number of reporters looking on through the door and ambassadors paying their respects, we decided the setting was too obvious. He asked me to come to his residence later in the evening. We agreed on 10 p.m.

I was shown into a sitting room in the Blvd. Maillot house. When the Vice President came in, members of the staff departed and we were alone for the remainder of the talk--which lasted an hour and a half.

Ky asked me how I saw the present situation. I said I thought we had been winning the propaganda war beginning with the limited cessation of bombing in March. We had suffered a setback when Saigon failed to send a delegation to Paris in early November. That had been largely offset by the arrival of the Vice President and his delegation. But we were now slipping badly because of the procedural wrangle. People in the U.S., elsewhere in the world, and I thought even in Viet-Nam itself, could not be expected to understand our arguing over table shapes and who would speak in what order while the fighting and dying continued. The sooner we could get over procedural hurdles and into discussion of bringing the war to an end, the better our position would be. I said I thought we would have no great difficulty in making our case on such things as the DMZ and withdrawal of North Vietnamese forces. But I didn't think we could make a nickel by arguing procedural fine points./3/

/3/During a televised interview on December 15, Clifford noted that both the GVN and the DRV had caused the delay and that the United States had no objections regarding procedural details and was ready to begin expanded negotiations. See The New York Times, January 16, 1968. In response, Ky charged that Clifford had "shown a gift for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time" and insisted that there was no divergence between the GVN and U.S. positions. See ibid., December 17, 1968. Thieu's reaction was "one of shock and anger." (CIA informational memorandum, December 21; Johnson Library, Clark Clifford Papers, Face the Nation--December 15, 1968) In a December 17 memorandum to Rusk, Bundy assessed the impact of this dispute on the peace talks: "I must say frankly that if I were in Hanoi's shoes I would let us stew for several days more in the juice of the Clifford/Ky public disagreement; as a rule of thumb, I think we can say that public criticism in either direction delays our chances of progress by several days." (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, S/S-S Files: Lot 74 D 164, Secretary-President Luncheon (2)) A December 24 CIA memorandum reported the statement of Lieutenant Colonel Pham Van Minh, Ky's Executive Director, that the differences between the U.S. and GVN delegations at Paris "stem from a lack of understanding and communication between Ky and Ambassador Harriman." (Ibid., Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET)

Ky said he could not agree more. He was fed up with talk about this kind of table or that. He noted he had stuck his neck out by going along with us on the "dividend doughnut" and on drawing lots by sides to determine speaking order. But he would stand by these agreements. The important thing, he said, is to move the discussion from this kind of trivia into real substance.

He had given this a great deal of thought. He was prepared to make an offer that would, he hoped, break the logjam. What he had in mind was a two-phased proposal for serious talks. If the "other side" would agree to his approach, he couldn't care less about who spoke first or what kind of tables we sat at.

His proposal was as follows:

In the first phase of the new talks, the subject matter would be re-establishment of the 17th parallel (he repeated this several times and avoided use of the term "DMZ"), and arrangements for the phased withdrawal of North Vietnamese and American and other allied forces from South Viet-Nam. He mentioned the need for effective policing machinery for the 17th Parallel.

Once these two matters had been settled (he did not specify whether he meant agreement on them or completion of the actions contemplated), there would be a "second phase" of talks. This phase would involve two separate steps:

--First, direct talks between the Saigon and Hanoi governments regarding their relations, movement of persons, and eventual reunification of the country by peaceful means. Reunification would have to be by the freely expressed will of the people, North and South. In connection with the movement of persons, Ky said there should be some arrangement whereby anyone now in the South who wished to go to North Viet-Nam would be permitted to do so and, by the same token, those in the North who wished to move South should have that chance.

--Second, direct talks between the GVN and "all other political groups in the South, including the Liberation Front." Ky thought these talks could take place in Paris or "anywhere else."

Ky thought this was a reasonable package./4/ It would get us into the heart of the central issues and get us away from haggling over minor matters. If the other side agreed to this approach, he didn't care what kind of tables we had or who spoke first.

/4/Smith summarized Ky's plan in a memorandum to the President, December 19, 8 p.m. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Harvan Misc. & Memos, Vol. VIII) In a telephone conversation with the President on December 23, Clifford praised Ky's two-part plan. (Ibid., Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Clifford, December 23, 1968, 9:30 a.m., Tape F6812.02, PNO 13)

Ky said he had asked Ambassador Bui Diem to discuss this approach with Secretary Rusk in Washington (probably today). He claimed that he had President Thieu's approval as well as that of the National Security Council in taking this initiative./5/

/5/According to a CIA memorandum of a December 26 conversation with Bui Diem, Ky did in fact have this approval. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET) According to a December 30 CIA memorandum, Dang Duc Khoi, Ky's aide, confirmed that "Thieu and Ky are in general agreement on this approach." (Central Intelligence Agency, Job 80-R01580R, Executive Registry Subject Files, Peace Talks)

Nonetheless, he anticipated some serious problems in Saigon. He thought that some of the ultra-nationalists would balk, especially at the idea of direct contacts with the Front. But Ky felt he could handle the situation. In any case, he was prepared to take the heat. He thought it would be vital for him to return to Saigon as soon as he made this approach, presumably in a public statement. He would have to talk things over with friends in the military, with members of the National Assembly, and with other groups. He felt confident he could bring them around.

He underlined the importance of this being a totally Vietnamese initiative. It would be a grave mistake if the above came from the American side.

Ky promised to supply me with an English text of his draft statement. He agreed that President Johnson should be aware of this proposal before it was made, and he assumed that Secretary Rusk would be discussing it with the President after Ambassador Diem raised it. Informed of Ambassador Vance's plan to return to the U.S. this weekend, Ky said he presumed the Ambassador might wish to discuss this with the President as well. But I had the clear impression Ky was thinking in terms of getting his initiative into the public domain early next week at the latest, and that he would then go to Saigon in time for Christmas./6/

/6/Following an appearance on an American TV network's interview program in which he detailed the plan and stated publicly that the GVN would be willing to negotiate with the NLF directly, Ky left for Saigon on December 22 and did not return to Paris until January 24, 1969. See Keesing's Contemporary Archives, September 6-13, 1969, p. 23551. In a December 22 memorandum to Clifford, Warnke commented: "General Ky's statements on 'Face the Nation' put him in agreement with much of what has been proposed by you in your press conference of 12 November and your TV appearance on the 15th." (Washington National Records Center, Department of Defense, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 330 73 A 1250, VIET 093.2, (December) 1968)



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

Saigon, December 19, 1968, 1136Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Received at 9:10 a.m. Repeated to Paris for the Vietnam Mission. This telegram is printed in full in Pike, ed., The Bunker Papers, Vol. 3, pp. 629-635.

45163. For the President from Bunker. Herewith my seventy-fourth message.

Viet-Nam: Continuing Progress and Some Problems Ahead.

1. I reported in my last message on November 30th/2/ that, despite preoccupation with the problem of negotiations, the government and people of South Viet-Nam continue to make steady, indeed accelerating, progress in many ways. This has continued to be true.

/2/See Document 242.

2. The forming and dispatch of the delegation for Paris was a matter of great concern involving the necessity of obtaining Assembly approval and requiring a Supreme Court decision. Thieu handled this matter, I think, in an impressive fashion, displaying respect for the institutions set up by the Constitution, and at the same time seeing to it that they worked effectively. During this period, some impressive gains were scored in pacification while relentless military pressure was kept on the enemy. Both the gains and the pressures have continued.

3. Vietnamese leadership is, of course, well aware that success in the pacification and military sphere will have a direct effect on the negotiations. By extending territorial control and driving enemy forces across the border into Laos and Cambodia, the South Vietnamese greatly strengthen their position at Paris. This is obviously a strong incentive, and Thieu is pushing his people to get on with the war effort and pacification faster and with better effect than at any time since I arrived.

4. The current difficulties with Hanoi over procedural matters are part of the same problem we had to resolve when the GVN held back right after the bombing halt. It took several weeks of arduous, and patient, negotiations to persuade them to go, and in the course of those negotiations, the GVN made some points which in their view go to the very heart of the problem, especially that they must not be placed on the same footing as the National Liberation Front. We accepted these points, first in the statement of November 13 and later more formally in our statement of November 26./3/ It was on this basis that the South Vietnamese delegation finally left here December 7.

/3/See footnote 8, Document 217 and footnote 3, Document 236, respectively.

5. The GVN regards these matters as of the utmost importance. They see the initial moves as critical, believing the enemy will conclude from them whether he can get us to make important concessions on matters of substance and whether he can divide the us and the GVN. As the North Viet-Nam analysts within the inter-agency planning group in Washington correctly observe (State 274223),/4/ "Hanoi will probably be rather sticky on procedural matters. To the North Vietnamese--as to the South Vietnamese, procedure is substance, because procedure can determine substance." The South Vietnamese fear that we may be over eager to make concessions. The Clifford interview of December 15,/5/ in which the Secretary said that we need not work out common positions with our Vietnamese allies, that we could discuss military matters, including troop withdrawals, unilaterally with the North Vietnamese enemy, and hinted in fact that we had already done so, and deprecated the importance of the seating arrangement, has tended to confirm those suspicions in the minds of the Vietnamese.

/4/Dated November 19. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, HARVAN Chronological, Vol. XXIV)

/5/See footnote 3, Document 258.

6. I think we must face the fact that the GVN simply does not agree that the present situation requires us to act with undue haste. They consider that time is on our side, the war is going well (thanks to our help as well as to their increased efforts), they are getting stronger and the enemy is getting weaker. I think they are right in their assessment of the effect of premature concessions on the climate here in South Viet-Nam. If our side caves in during the first preliminary round, there could be a serious decline in morale here. People will judge the chances of freedom in South Viet-Nam, and the firmness of our commitment to that freedom, by how we handle ourselves--the US and the GVN together--during the opening phase of the talks.

7. The enemy said for years he would not negotiate while the bombing went on, then he did negotiate while the bombing went on, said we had to meet in Phnom Penh or Warsaw, and then he agreed to meet in Paris. He said he would not accept conditions in return for the bombing halt; finally he did accept conditions. He insisted on a secret joint minute, and abandoned that in the face of our firm rejection. He now says that he will not sit down unless the "four-sided" character of the negotiations is recognized. Since we are not going to recognize that, he will settle for less. With the Communists (indeed, in my experience, this is not confined to the Communists), fruitful negotiations are rarely advanced by being accommodating, especially at the beginning. In fact, I believe that by showing ourselves too eager for early results, we may make the achievement of a viable solution to the conflict more difficult and more time consuming in the end.

[Omitted here is Bunker's report on political, military, and economic matters.]



260. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State/1/

Paris, December 19, 1968, 1510Z.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, HARVAN Paris Todel-Paris Delto, Vol. XVII(a). Secret; Immediate; Nodis/Harvan. Received at 11:22 a.m. Repeated to Saigon. The delegation transmitted the full report of the meeting in telegram 25574/Delto 1080 from Paris, December 19. (Ibid.)

25548/Delto 0177. From Vance. Subject: Summary Report--Vance/Lau Dec. 19 Meeting.

1. This morning Habib and I met with Lau and Ky for about two hours at our house in Sceaux. The same people as usual were present on both sides.

2. I opened the meeting by presenting the substance of the instructions contained in State 288751 (Todel 1804)/2/ with some modifications in language. Lau took careful notes and asked that certain points be repeated so that he could get the points precisely.

/2/Dated December 18. (Ibid., Vol. XVII(b))

3. I then turned to the outstanding procedural issues. I said that it was high time we resolved our differences on procedures so that we could move into the new meetings and get down to discussing the vital subject of peace in Viet-Nam. I pointed out that from the outset we had made it clear that we regarded the new meetings as meetings of two sides, with each side free to organize itself as it chose. I said we would not depart from this important principle and that the other side has indicated that it will not depart from its point of view that it is a four-delegation meeting. I said that we had made constructive and reasonable proposals on seating arrangements and order of speaking which should be acceptable to both sides as meeting their respective positions.

4. I then went over in some detail the three outstanding issues (flags and nameplates, seating arrangements and order of speaking) and our position with respect to each of them. I concluded by urging Lau to reconsider his position. And to agree that our proposals represented a practical solution to the differences between us.

5. Lau met privately with Vy for about one-half hour before responding to what I had said. He first addressed what he called my remarks concerning the situation in South Viet-Nam. He stated that the us had launched aggression against Viet-Nam and that so long as the aggression continued, the Vietnamese people would exercise the right of self-defense. He said that the NLF has the competence to settle all questions involving South Viet-Nam and that the US must talk to the Front. He said that the representatives of the NLF came to Paris on November 4 for meetings which have not yet been held, and he added that the responsibility for the delay must be borne by the US and the RVN.

6. Lau charged that the RVN had deliberately delayed the holding of the meetings and that the US must bear part of the responsibility. He said that when the bombing was stopped, the US had urged that the meeting be held promptly and that the DRV had agreed to the date of that meeting, but that the meetings still had not been held.

7. Lau said that it was not yet time to discuss the questions we had raised with respect to the situation in South Viet-Nam. He said that we are discussing procedures and that when we sit at the conference table other questions can be settled.

8. Lau said in order to get to the first meeting the DRV had made a final proposal for seating arrangements, namely, a round table. He asked us to give our reply on that proposal, saying that if we could settle the seating, other questions relating to procedural matters would be discussed later.

9. Lau then referred to the statement I had made that if the impending attack on Saigon took place, we would have to take appropriate military actions and that the responsibility for this would rest with the DRV. Lau said that they had been fighting for many years and that we should know that our threat cannot swerve the determination of the Vietnamese people to struggle for independence and freedom.

10. I responded by first rejecting Lau's statement that the US was the aggressor and responsible for the war. I said, concerning the impending situation around Saigon, that I hoped the statements Lau had made were not an indication of a lack of recognition of the seriousness of what I had said. I stated that what I had said was not a threat but a clear statement of the US position so that there could be no misunderstandings between us. I said it was a matter of direct concern to the DRV, and that I could not accept the DRV's attempt to abandon responsibility. I underscored the seriousness with which we viewed the matter and the consequences.

11. In reply to Lau's charge that the US had not shown serious intent, I reminded Lau that the US had stopped the bombing and all other acts involving the use of force against the DRV.

12. I then took up Lau's remarks on procedural arrangements, dealing first with seating. I then asked for Lau's comments on the other procedural matters.

13. Lau replied that he had nothing further to say for the time being on the situation in South Viet-Nam. He said, as to the procedures and arrangements, if we would accept his proposal of the round table, we would find a way to come to agreement on the other procedural questions. I pressed Lau to clarify what he meant. He said he did not for the time being, have any new ideas on the remaining questions, but that if we could come to agreement on the table he thought these questions could be settled. I pressed further on what he meant, but only received the answer that if the seating were settled, they would show goodwill in resolving the other issues.

14. We adjourned, agreeing to take under consideration what each of us had said and to be in touch whenever either of us had something further to say.

15. During the tea break I raised with Lau the statements attributed to Hanoi, reported by Moscow and Tokyo, that the DRV would be releasing additional pilots at Christmas. I said that I hoped the stories were accurate. He said he had no information to give me. I pressed him further without success.



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