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

2235. Ivory.

As we proceed with plans for further discussion of Phase II with GVN, it will be important that we clarify in our own minds, and seek to begin developing with GVN our agreed objectives, and negotiation tactics to be pursued in reading them. Broadly, the first question is whether our ultimate objective is to be establishment of new international agreement with respect to Vietnam and/or Laos or to base our policy on a return to observance of 1954 Agreements with respect to Vietnam and 1962 Agreement with respect to Laos. We have up to now generally taken the public position that the latter was our objective—”if the DRV would observe those agreements so would we”—”the basic problem in both Laos and SVN is that the DRV is violating those agreements,” etc. Also in this connection the GVN letter of December 9, 1961 to the ICC stated the increased US military aid which it had requested because of the “flagrant violations of the 1954 Agreement” by the DRV “can be terminated as soon as the authorities of NVN will have ended their acts of aggression and will have begun to respect the Geneva Accords.”
Our objectives as now framed are to “get Hanoi and North Vietnam support and direction removed from SVN, and, to the extent possible, obtain DRV cooperation in ending VC operations in SVN” and “re-establish an independent and secure SVN with appropriate international safeguards, including the freedom to accept US and other external assistance as required.”
The question is whether these objectives can be embraced within the concept of a “return of the 1954 Geneva Accords” or if a new international [Page 72] agreement will be required and, if so, its terms and with whom and how such an agreement would have to be negotiated.
This, in turn, involves the short-term question of the conditions (and their negotiation) under which we would be willing to suspend Phase II and other such actions against the North and the longer-term question of negotiating a new international agreement or whether it would be feasible to combine the two.
Of course, to the degree that the DRV finds the conditions difficult to accept, increased pressure on our part will be required with consequent increased possibility of other Communist bloc involvement in hostilities. Also related is the degree of support or opposition that we can expect from other free world countries.
As of possible helpfulness to the Department there follows some of our own preliminary thoughts on this subject together with some analysis of the pros and cons.
First, we suggest that while in our own minds it is necessary to recognize that the DRV probably does not have full control over all VC in SVN, at least to the extent of being able to bring about the surrender of all VC, we should frame our demands on the DRV in terms of the DRV “bringing about a cessation of VC armed insurgency”, leaving to the DRV to plead its lack of control. Such a formulation gives us most flexibility in determining at the time what we feel is an acceptable degree of compliance by the DRV. In the absence of a substantial cessation of VC activity in SVN it also gives us maximum flexibility in determining the extent of our continued assistance to the GVN, or the carrying out of any offers we may make to the DRV, as until the VC insurgency has ceased we could point to the DRV failure to meet our conditions. The DRV will, of course, also perceive this and we could expect some tough negotiations on this point. Our conditions should, of course, also embrace Viet Minh withdrawal from Laos and freedom for the ICC to operate throughout Laos and, in particular, in the corridor area.
The next question is what we and the GVN might offer in return for DRV compliance with whatever conditions we establish. Implicit in our statements that we would observe the Geneva Agreements if they were observed by the DRV is a willingness to return at least to that level of military advisory strength in SVN which it was recognized we were entitled as replacements of the French, i.e., about 600. This, we could, of course, well afford to do if the VC armed insurgency and its support and direction from the DRV had, in fact, ceased. Progressive reduction of US advisory effort would, of course, have to be related to VC fold-up and GVN progress in long-term pacification program against remaining VC infrastructure and VC war zone complexes, since DRV likely [to] issue instruction for VC to go underground. It might also be possible to obtain GVN agreement to offer to enter into trade talks looking toward the normalization [Page 73] of economic relations between the DRV and GVN. Subject to faithful compliance by the DRV, we and the GVN could also give assurances that we would not use or support the use of force against the DRV. An essential part of any offer would also be an undertaking by the GVN (perhaps with ICC observation) to permit VC desiring to do so to return to the DRV and to grant amnesty to those peacefully laying down their arms desiring to remain in SVN.
If the foregoing commends itself as a general framework for an arrangement the question arises as to whether it can be embraced within the concept of a “return to the 1954 Accords” or whether it inherently requires a new international agreement.
The 1954 Accords with respect to Vietnam embrace two principal elements: First the “agreement on cessation of hostilities” signed “for the CINC of the Vietnam Peoples Army” and “for the CINC French Union forces in Indo-China” and secondly the “final declaration” of the conference in which the GVN and USG did not join, but made separate statements.
Without attempting to go into details there is much in the first document of a transitory nature and much (such as the provisions on introduction of war material) that have been overtaken by events on both sides. However, both documents embrace the principle that they were not to be “used for resumption of hostilities or to further an aggressive policy”. The second document, i.e., the final declaration, contains the principle of respect by all the parties for “the sovereignty, the independence, the unity and the territorial integrity” of “Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam,” and “to refrain from interference in their internal affairs.” Only the first document embodies the definition of the “provisional military demarcation line”, i.e., the 17th parallel, the DMZ and the ICC.
Thus from a legal point of view the 1954 Geneva Accords leave much to be desired as a definitive international framework for an independent and secure SVN with appropriate international safeguards. However, all the basic elements are present in one form or another and thus it is our conclusion that a new international agreement with respect to Vietnam is not essential.
If this is the case, the question arises as to what needs to be negotiated prior to terminating Phase II actions against the DRV and how we should seek its negotiation.
It is suggested that in general terms our demands on the DRV could be encompassed in the following: strictly observe the spirit of the 1954 Geneva Accords with respect to SVN, that is, “refrain from interference in the internal affairs of SVN”, specifically, stop infiltration into SVN and bring about a cessation of the VC armed insurgency in SVN, thereafter ceasing all support for and communication with any dissident elements in SVN. With respect to Laos strictly observe the 1962 Accords [Page 74] with respect to Laos, including the withdrawal of all Viet Minh forces and personnel from Laos and recognize that the freedom of movement granted the ICC in Laos under those accords is not subject to veto or interference by any of the parties in Laos.
In turn the GVN could offer safe passage to VC (including their families) desiring to proceed to the DRV and an amnesty to those peacefully laying down their arms. Subject to faithful compliance by the DRV with the conditions set forth in the preceding paragraph the GVN could also give assurances that they would not use force or support the use of force by any other party against the DRV and that it would return over a period of time to the 1954 ceilings with respect to the presence of foreign military personnel in South Vietnam. Additionally, as noted above, consideration might be given to an offer by the GVN, subject to the same conditions, to enter into trade talks with the DRV looking toward some type of normalization of economic relations between the DRV and the GVN.
There are two aspects with respect to any negotiation within the foregoing framework. First, their timely and accurate communication to the DRV (as well as to others) emphasizing the limited nature of the demands and, secondly, if and when the DRV indicates any interest in accepting them, the actual negotiation of any agreement or understanding.
It will be noted that all of the conditions and offers with respect to Vietnam are framed in terms solely of the GVN with the thought that, in spite of the problems it will present, when it comes to an actual negotiation it will be preferable that the principle be that of a GVN/DRV arrangement, thus seeking to avoid the problems of a formal USG/DRV negotiation. With respect to the conditions pertaining to Laos it would not be entirely inappropriate for the GVN to put forward, in agreement with the RLG, proposals such as suggested herein inasmuch as the GVN was a participant in the 1962 conference and the conditions relate directly to the use by the DRV of Laotian territory for infiltration into SVN. Nevertheless, it will probably be necessary to seek to orchestrate simultaneous RLG/PL/DRV negotiation.
The concept with respect to Vietnam would be that if and when direct negotiations were undertaken between the GVN and the DRV they could take place at the military level in the DMZ under the auspices of the ICC. Throughout, it will be very important to avoid the twin dangers of, on the one hand, becoming involved in a cease-fire vis-a-vis the DRV accompanied by strung-out negotiations, or, on the other hand, making conditions so stringent as to be unreasonable from an international point of view. We should also avoid any acceptance of the National Liberation Front as a party to the negotiations.
It is well recognized that the foregoing concept presents many possible difficulties. Above all its success would depend on a degree of political and negotiating sophistication and capabilities which no one in the GVN, and especially the military, have thus far demonstrated. It also assumes an intimacy of relations and cooperation between ourselves and the GVN that we have thus far been unable to achieve. It is suggested that this might in part be overcome without entirely sacrificing the principle if the US were also directly to participate in the negotiation at the military level on the basis of the direct participation of US forces in the actions against the DRV.
It is also realized that the situation could so develop as to make such negotiating tactic entirely impractical. However, it is suggested that whatever the negotiating tactic the essence of our demands and offer would remain the same.
In any event, whatever the substance of our position and the negotiating tactics, we should at an early stage of our discussions with the GVN on Stage II, undertake also to discuss and arrive at agreement on our terms. At best, this will be a long job of education.
We would appreciate the comments and views of Vientiane and Bangkok, as well as those of the Department.

Note: In view Ambassador Martin’s presence in US, this message not now being transmitted to Bangkok. Would appreciate Department making copy available in Washington to Ambassador Martin for his comments there. Or if he desires we will transmit to Bangkok for Charge.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Top Secret; Exdis. Also sent to CINCPAC for POLAD and repeated to Vientiane.