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

69. Shenstone2 of Canadian Embassy Washington has given us copy July 5 cable from Seaborn3 stating it now seems likely ICC will meet in Hanoi about July 14. Seaborn will try see Ho and Giap whom he would ask for comments or reply to message conveyed to Pham Van Dong.

Seaborn asked whether any specific further points for him to convey to DRV. We told Canadian Embassy here July 8 that Sullivan4 will be in direct touch with Seaborn in Saigon and will let him know whether we have anything further to convey at this stage.

On behalf Seaborn Canadian Embassy here requested our comments on Pham Van Dong’s position re status and role of National Liberation Front. We told Canadians there is nothing new or surprising about this position as it is generally consistent with DRV public attitude on this question. We drew Canadians’ attention however to fact that speeches and resolution of Third Congress of Lao Dong Party in September 1960 placed great stress on “peaceful national reunification” as major aim of “national united front” to be set up in South Viet-Nam. Thus Pham Van Dong was substantially less than candid when he told Seaborn that “neutrality” was not necessarily first step only.

We also told Canadian DRV should be in no doubt we regard National Liberation Front as puppet and agent of Hanoi, and we hope Canadians will keep this firmly before DRV leaders.

Seaborn stated that he proposes to tell DRV leaders that appointment of Taylor-Johnson team is evidence of seriousness of US purpose but not of bellicosity. He proposes to say there is no change in basic US approach already given to Pham Van Dong. We have confirmed to Canadians that this is correct interpretation and proper line to pursue with Hanoi.

Shenstone at July 8 meeting also told us Ottawa feels on basis statement at recent National Assembly meeting in Hanoi of DRV position on South Viet-Nam struggle that DRV is putting forth maximum [Page 544] position. Ottawa suggested therefore it might not serve our interest to appear too eager to get DRV response to message conveyed to Pham Van Dong. While we see nothing new in DRV position, we told Shenstone we agree with Ottawa’s view about not appearing too eager. We therefore concur with Seaborn that if ICC meeting in Hanoi does not come off in July he should put off new trip to Hanoi until August. (Latest word from Seaborn is that July 16 is earliest ICC commissioners could leave for Hanoi and apparent Polish lack of enthusiasm may delay date further.) We also told Shenstone we believe that if Seaborn’s request to call on Ho and Giap on next visit to Hanoi not readily granted he should not press to see them.5

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27–14 VIET S. Top Secret; Priority; Exdis. Drafted by Mendenhall, cleared by William Bundy, and initialed and approved by Ball. Repeated to Ottawa.
  2. Michael Shenstone, First Secretary of the Canadian Embassy.
  3. Not printed. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27–14 VIET S)
  4. William H. Sullivan went to Vietnam temporarily to assist Taylor and Johnson on the understanding he would become Ambassador to Laos in a few months. Events in Vietnam kept him there for 5 months. (William H. Sullivan, Obbligato, pp. 196–197) Forrestal replaced Sullivan as the Special Assistant for Vietnam.
  5. In telegram 74 from Saigon, July 11, Taylor agreed with this line and reported that Sullivan would discuss the matter in detail with Seaborn in Saigon after July 13. Taylor reported that Sullivan would offer Seaborn the following advice:

    “Unless ICC fixes date for early meeting Hanoi, Sullivan will counsel against appearing too eager and will advise August trip rather than July. Will also advise against Seaborn ‘asking’ for comments or reply to message conveyed Pham Van Dong. In our view, ball now in Hanoi’s court and their views should be volunteered rather than solicited. Finally, we will reiterate views re puppet nature Liberation Front.” (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27–14 VIET S)

    In telegram 81 from Saigon, July 13, Taylor reported that Seaborn told Sullivan that the trip to Hanoi was postponed until August. (Ibid.)