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

1821. For the Ambassador from the Secretary. I flew up to Ottawa yesterday to talk with Mike Pearson and Martin concerning the Canadian presence in Hanoi. I found our Canadian friends in close concert with the thoughts you and I discussed in Saigon and they assure me that they are most willing to cooperate with us.

Their new ICC Commissioner will be J. Blair Seaborn, an expert in communist affairs, who has recently returned from an assignment as Counselor of the Canadian Embassy in Moscow. The exchange with Cox in Saigon has been scheduled to take place some time this summer, but they agreed to attempt to step this up by a few weeks.

They readily agreed that Seaborn should plan to spend much more time in Hanoi than have his predecessors in this assignment. They also accept as part of his mission an effort to establish ready access to and close contact with senior authorities in Hanoi, beginning with Ho Chi Minh. We discussed several points which we would like Seaborn to undertake for us. I am having talking papers prepared here in the Department and will send an officer to Ottawa in the near future for further development of this matter directly with Seaborn.

Following are some of the matters which we roughed out in Ottawa and which I will have further developed here. I would appreciate your comments on these points together with any additional suggestions for talking points which we can give to the Canadians:

Seaborn should start out by checking as closely as he can what is on Ho Chi Minh’s mind. We want to know whether he considers himself over-extended and exposed, or whether he feels confident that his Chinese allies will back him to the hilt. We want to know whether his current zeal is being forced upon him by pro-Chinese elements in his own camp, or whether he is impelled by his own ambitions.
Seaborn should get across to Ho and his colleagues the full measure of US determination to see this thing through. He should draw upon examples in other parts of the world to convince them that if it becomes necessary to enlarge the military action, this is the most probable course that the US would follow.
Seaborn should spread the word that he is puzzled by Hanoi’s intentions. The North Vietnamese should understand that the US wants no military bases or other footholds in South Viet Nam or Laos. If Hanoi would leave its neighbors alone, the US presence in the area would diminish sharply.
The North Vietnamese should understand that there are many examples in which the Free World has demonstrated its willingness to live in peace with communist neighbors and to permit the establishment of normal economic relations between these two different systems. We recognize North Viet Nam’s need for trade, and especially food, and consider that such needs could be fulfilled if peaceful conditions were to prevail.2

Pearson also agreed to instruct Seaborn and his people in general to work more actively on trying to break the Poles off from constant and active espousal of North Vietnamese aggression. He felt, however, that the Poles are playing something of a middle role in Sino-Soviet matters these days and doubted that there would be much profit in this.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Drafted by Sullivan and initialed by Rusk. Repeated to Ottawa. McGeorge Bundy sent the President a copy of this telegram under cover of a brief memorandum on which the President wrote: “OK, LBJ.” Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. 4)
  2. In telegram 2110 from Saigon, May 4, Lodge stated that he approved these points, but added the following suggestions:

    • “1. Under your pare 1, it is not clear exactly how Seaborn would get the information. He should also, I think, try to find out how interested Ho is in playing an independent role of any kind.”
    • “2. In your pare 2, I would add this for Seaborn to tell Ho: if the United States has to choose between enlarging the war and withdrawing, we will enlarge. We intend to stay. We expect to win; we will retaliate for every terroristic act against us.”
    • “3. Under pare 3, I would have Seaborn make this point: it is in North Vietnam’s best interest to have as few Americans here as possible, and their behavior has great influence on this particular question. Why do they not behave in such a way as to achieve the end which they state is their end?”
    • “4. Under pare 4, Seaborn should try to enlist the Poles with us and with North Vietnam, so as to detach them from China.” (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S)