118. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1

2588. Ref: Deptel 1718;2Embtel 2583.3 Following are comments promised Embtel 2583:

I welcome decision for us to take initiative in bringing question into UNSC and to do this as early as possible before others take initiative away from us. However, I am concerned, both from point of view of overall negotiating tactics and political considerations here, that the formulation in last paragraph of Presidential announcement makes us appear impatient to get to the conference table. Such eagerness, expressed at the start in the UNSC, would in my view only compound pressure on US for premature negotiation. The immediate Soviet reaction and that of many of our allies, for example, would be to call for reconvening Geneva Conference. It seems to me instead that we should seek to divert pressure for negotiation from us to Hanoi and its partners.

If our reasonableness and our willingness to negotiate is played properly here it could have a positive political effect, particularly if as we hope we have a new civilian government headed by Quat. However, any [Page 269] impression of great eagerness to negotiate on our part following hard on the heels of evacuation of dependents is likely to be interpreted by large segments of Vietnamese opinion as confirming suspicions of a US decision to pull out, despite the expression of our determination to continue joint air strikes in southern part of DRV. It particularly important in my view to hold the question of talks open until we have worked out a common approach with the new GVN.

I am also concerned that our announced haste to get to conference table may spark upsurge in VC efforts designed to achieve the maximum negotiating advantage, since Hanoi and Peking may interpret our eagerness as a sign of weakness. We should remember the example of the ChiCom attacks in Korea just before the signing of the armistice.

Finally, I strongly believe that the Lao and the Thai should be brought on board before we seem to be inviting reopening of a Geneva Conference. If we fail to do this, much of the effect of our present course of action will be lost on them.

I recommend, therefore, elimination of any reference to willingness to talk in final paragraph of proposed Presidential announcement4 or in initial presentation in UNSC and that we preserve basic approach contained Embtel 2235,5 particularly paragraph 14 re how we state our demands on DRV and nature of negotiations. Our willingness can well be brought out in UNSC debate. While some form of negotiations is obviously our ultimate objective and UNSC discussion could eventually lead to such negotiations, we should in my judgment divert and focus these pressures for negotiation in Hanoi, Peking and Moscow and maintain a posture of firmness and determination.

I recommended following revision of final paragraph of Presidential announcement:

“I have today instructed Ambassador Stevenson to seek urgently a meeting of the Security Council of the United Nations to explain the reasons leading to the joint decision of the USG and GVN and to inform the UNSC members of the history of DRV aggression which makes this course of action necessary. Our common purpose—and our only purpose—is to restore the peace and domestic tranquility which others have so savagely attacked.”

I also recommend the following additional changes in the announcement: [Page 270]

In the first paragraph, insert the following new sentence between the present third and fourth sentences: “These actions will continue until lawless elements are either destroyed or driven from the country.”
At the end of the second “action” paragraph add “and not before.”

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Top Secret; Nodis. McGeorge Bundy forwarded Taylor’s telegram to President Johnson on February 15 noting in his covering memorandum that there was “an issue between him and us” over “the exact noise to be made in the first round in the Security Council. As I understand it, this is a question in your mind too.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. VIII)
  2. Document 115.
  3. Document 116.
  4. In a February 15 memorandum to Rusk Harland Cleveland took issue with Taylor’s recommendation, proposing instead that the announcement “make a specific proposal for preliminary talks based on specific pre-conditions of our own choosing.” (Department of State, Bundy Files: Lot 85 D 240, WPB Chron, February 1965)
  5. Document 32.