185. Memorandum From the Director of the United States Information Agency (Marks) to All United States Information Agency Public Affairs Officers1

Dear PAO:

During the first two weeks of negotiations in Paris on the Viet-Nam war it has become quite apparent that world opinion will play a large role in determining the positions of the North Vietnamese negotiators.2

We have analyzed press opinion in all areas from March 31 to date and have prepared the enclosed summary.

It is significant to note that there has been increasing sympathy and approval of U.S. efforts to end the war. In your discussions with local media and with officials and prominent leaders of the country, you should make liberal use of this material.

I also suggest that you call the attention of the Ambassador to this summary since it might be useful to him in making speeches and public statements.

Regular reporting on media reaction from principal posts is the source material on which this analysis is based. We rely heavily on this reporting, as well as on your assessments of public opinion in your country.


Leonard H. Marks
[Page 589]


Foreign Media Reaction Summary Prepared in the United States Information Agency3


Since March 31 when President Johnson opened a new peace initiative on Viet-Nam while removing himself from the 1968 Presidential race, the attitude of West European media toward the U.S. has lost much of its previous hostility. Increasing sympathy and approval of U.S. efforts to end the war have been expressed by newspapers in pointing out:

1. The President’s sacrifice of his political future in his overriding desire to achieve peace in Viet-Nam.

2. U.S. military restraint in curtailing the bombing.

3. Sincere U.S. efforts to open peace talks with North Viet-Nam.

4. Assignment of “skilled” Averell Harriman to head a high-grade U.S. delegation to the peace talks.

5. Reasonable, constructive U.S. negotiating terms, expressed in part by Harriman’s five points.4

6. Hanoi’s intransigence in Paris, accompanied by new offensives and the murder of civilians in South Viet-Nam.

West European press emphasis of these points since March 31 is in clear contrast to previous charges that the U.S. had been talking [Page 590] about peace while actually ignoring or belittling Hanoi peace feelers in seeking a military decision and a victor’s place at the peace table.

Meanwhile, in other areas of the world, the press has made some of the same points, emphasizing the President’s efforts to achieve an honorable peace despite Hanoi’s intransigence. However, media in Saigon, Seoul, and Bangkok have reflected deep concern that in pursuing peace, the U.S. might be led to remove its protective shield from its Asian allies.

No change is evident in the basic views of newspapers in supporting or objecting to U.S. involvement in Viet-Nam and the bombing of the north.

Attached are editorial excerpts which make the above points in West Europe, East Asia, the Middle East and South Asia, and Latin America.5

[Omitted here are excerpts from newspapers reporting on Johnson’s decision and the Vietnam war peace process.]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 306, USIA Historical Collection, Agency History Program Subject Files: 1926–1975, Entry A1–1072, Box 5, L. Marks, Reports, 1968. No classification marking.
  2. Formal peace negotiation talks between the United States and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam began on Monday, May 13, at the Hotel Majestic. For additional information on the first plenary meeting, see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. VI, Vietnam, January–August 1968, Document 230.
  3. No classification marking.
  4. Presumably a reference to what Xuan Thuy, Chief of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam Delegation to the Paris Peace Talks, described as “the five points” made by Harriman on May 15 in Paris. (“Harriman’s Statement in Paris and Excerpts From Remarks by Thuy,” New York Times, May 19, 1968, p. 44) The points were enumerated by Harriman as “areas in which it seems reasonable to hope to find agreement” between the United States and North Vietnam. According to Harriman: “First, we both speak of an independent, democratic, peaceful and prosperous South Vietnam. You also speak of a neutral South Vietnam. We have no problem with this if that is South Vietnam’s wish. Second, we both speak of peace on the basis of respect of the Geneva accords of 1954—to which we add the 1962 agreements on Laos. Third, we both speak of letting the internal affairs of South Vietnam be settled by the South Vietnamese themselves—which we would clarify by adding ‘without outside interference or coercion.’ Fourth, we both speak of the reunification of Vietnam by peaceful means. In our view this must not only be peaceful but also through the free choice of the people of South Vietnam and of North Vietnam. Fifth, we both speak of the need for strict respect of the military provisions of the 1954 Geneva Accords.” (“Texts of Remarks by U.S. and North Vietnamese Envoys at Second Paris Session,” New York Times, May 16, 1968, p. 16)
  5. Attached but not printed.