272. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam1

201. Department requests Embassyʼs views on line U.S. should take if Communist nations should launched concentrated campaign for conference on Viet-Nam at some future time.

Our present objective in Viet-Nam is to help GVN to achieve the strength necessary to exercise predominant and continued sovereignty over that part of its territory which lies below the demarcation line. There is nothing to negotiate until this minimum objective is achieved.

Having this policy objective the U.S. would, if there were a call for a conference, base itself on the position most recently set forth in Presidentʼs letter of December 142 and in Secretaryʼs press conference statement of March 1.3 (President Kennedy: “Our primary purpose is to help your people maintain their independence. If the Communist authorities in north Viet-Nam will stop their campaign to destroy the Republic of Viet-Nam, the measures we are taking to assist your defense efforts will no longer be necessary.” Secretary Rusk: “the United States is always prepared to talk about situations which represent a threat to the peace, but what must be talked about is the root of the trouble; in this case it is the Communist aggression against Viet-Nam in disregard of the Geneva Accords.”)

The following additional points could be made if necessary to meet a Communist campaign for a conference. However, the decision on whether and how to use them would depend on the circumstances since we will not voluntarily enter a lengthy public discussion on Viet-Nam.

It has been suggested Lao settlement provides model for Viet-Nam. International settlements, like forms of government, must be carefully tailored to situation of a particular country or they cannot be effective. The situations in Viet-Nam and Laos are certainly not the [Page 612] same. While the U.S. was willing to join in guaranteeing a policy of neutrality which was generally desired in Laos, it will not seek to impose neutrality on a nation which is fighting off aggression to keep its independence. The source of this aggression has been indicated in the most recent report of the International Control Commission for Viet-Nam.4
What can be gained by a conference on Viet-Nam now? Viet-Nam will not and cannot negotiate its freedom. Neither a man nor a nation can be asked to bargain for independence while facing an uplifted knife. Until aggression against Viet-Nam stops, all international actions should be designed to help this nation maintain its independence. Can other nations make peace for Viet-Nam? The United States is helping Viet-Nam fight for its freedom; we will not seek to persuade Viet-Nam to abandon its freedom at conference table. This is a Vietnamese war; there can be no lasting peace unless it is freely accepted by the Vietnamese.5
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751K.00/8-2462. Secret; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Wood and cleared by SOV. Repeated to CINCPAC for Polad.
  2. Not printed, but see Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. I, Document 322.
  3. See Document 94.
  4. See Document 208.
  5. In telegram 202, August 27, the Embassy in Saigon concurred with the lines set forth in this telegram. (Department of State, Central Files, 751K.00/8-2762)