108. Letter From the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Hilsman) to the Director of the United States Information Agency (Murrow)1

Dear Ed: I would like to suggest a steady, low-key, and continuing propaganda campaign, particularly through Vietnamese media, to the effect that North Viet-Nam is falling increasingly under Communist Chinese influence.

Ho Chi Minh poses as the father of Vietnamese independence and it would be galling for him and his government since the Chinese have been the ancestral enemies for more than 2,000 years, having invaded Viet-Nam many times and, indeed, controlled the country for about 1,000 years. Ho chi Minh has always tried to straddle between Russia and Communist China and to play the role of the elder statesman patching up differences between the two. His posture is clearly becoming increasingly uncomfortable and I thus think it would be timely to turn his discomfort to our advantage.

Perhaps more importantly we do not want North Viet-Nam to become a satellite of Communist China. This would be regarded widely in Southeast Asia as one more inevitable step in the takeover of Asia. It would also render that much more difficult any possible political solution to the Vietnamese problem and reduce the viability of the Vietnamese hope that some day their country may be reunited. While this hope may not seem very viable to us even now, it must be a part of the long range political program of any government in South Viet-Nam. We cannot, within our present policy, control the balance of North Viet-Nam’s alignment between Russia and Communist China, but I think we have the capability of influencing it. If Ho chi Minh and his government are labelled as becoming increasing subservient to Communist China it is at least likely that he will increase his efforts to demonstrate his continuing strong connections with the Russians.

Ho’s problems in this respect are highlighted by an Airgram from Paris (A-1693, January 16, 1963)2 citing French sources to the effect that the number of Russian technicians in North Viet-Nam declined from 60% to 15% of all technicians in North Viet-Nam during 1960 and 1961 whereas the percent of ChiCom technicians allegedly increased from 28% to 80% of all technicians. Ho’s problem is also brought out in an AP despatch of April 5 indicating that since he will not achieve a quick victory he will need a lot of logistic support for a [Page 272] long war and reflecting his concern that if he accepts such support from Communist China his country would become “virtually a vassal of neighboring China.”

I suggest such a campaign could be carried on by highlighting every visit or program between North Viet-Nam and Communist China and by frequently citing the innumerable instances in Vietnamese history when the Chinese have sought to or have actually gained control of Viet-Nam. I believe the program should not be high-keyed and short lived. It should be a slow, steady repetition of the theme. We should avoid the untruth of stating that Ho chi Minh is the satellite of the Communist Chinese, but rather suggest that he is falling increasingly under their influence.

In this connection I wonder if someone on your staff could give us the present status of our capacity and of the South Vietnamese capacity to broadcast into North Viet-Nam.

I would be glad to have your views on this question and provide any further information which you might need.


Roger Hilsman3
  1. Source: Department of State, Vietnam Working Group Files: Lot 67 D 54, INF Information Activities (Gen). Secret. Drafted on April 15 by Wood and cleared by Rice. Also sent to Jorden.
  2. Not printed. (Ibid., Central Files, 851H.0060/1-1663)
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.