328. Memorandum of a Conversation Between the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Hilsman) and the Ambassador to Vietnam (Lodge)1


  • Approach to North Viet-Nam

Lodge cited several intelligence reports to indicate that the North Vietnamese might be considering a way out of the war in South Viet-Nam. Further, Lodge is convinced that the North Vietnamese want more than anything else to have the American presence removed and he felt that we should exact some quid pro quo for withdrawing American forces rather than handing it to them on a silver platter, as our present plans for withdrawal would do.

[Page 634]

What he proposes is a two-pronged approach to North Viet-Nam. The first is a stick: to pass word to the North Vietnamese that the Americans are impatient and are beginning to think of retaliatory action against North Viet-Nam unless they call off the Viet Cong. The second is a carrot: through a separate channel to pass word to the North Vietnamese that the Americans would be willing to withdraw provided they called off the Viet Cong.

Lodge was at pains to point out that this was quite different from De Gaulle’s proposals for a reunified and neutralized Viet-Nam and also different from the Communist and Cambodian proposal for a neutralized South Viet-Nam. What he proposes is, in fact, the neutralization of North Viet-Nam—that is, make it into a Communist neutral along the lines of Yugoslavia.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, Hilsman Papers, Country Series-Vietnam. Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted and initialed by Hilsman.