119. Telegram From the Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State 1

342. For the Secretary from Ambassador Goldberg. Vietnam. I believe we should respond in a forthcoming and constructive way to the SYG’s proposals contained in memo on Vietnam he handed me today.2

Memo states objective as a settlement based on a “return to the essentials of the 1954 Geneva Agreements”. Within this framework SYG suggests two propositions as a basis for settlement: (1) military neutralization of Vietnam involving withdrawal of all foreign troops; and (2) elections under international supervision as established in the Geneva Agreements (we assume this means ICC machinery which would hardly be an effective instrumentality) as a basis for possible reunification at a later stage.

SYG suggests we conduct private explorations “on his personal responsibility” (this is the same distinction Hammarskjold made between his position as SYG and he as a person when he undertook his [Page 327] trip to Peking to free the American fliers)3 in order to probe detailed positions of respective parties. He envisages these private dialogues as a preliminary step toward convening a Geneva conf, at which point Saigon and reps of the NLF would participate.

He also proposes a cessation of all military operations by all sides, as an undertaking prior to the formal convening of the Geneva conf. He suggests that either a public appeal by himself or private probes by himself or others might be a way to determine whether a cease-fire could be achieved.

While SYG’s memo will have to be studied in Dept with great care, it offers us opportunity to respond positively, consistent with the Pres’s call for unconditional discussion, and to encourage SYG to continue his informal explorations.4 It will be further evidence of our willingness to seriously engage the UN in the Vietnam matter. While Hanoi and Peking may continue to react negatively to the SYG’s involvement, memo might at least provide handle for Sovs to become more active in dialogue with us through the SYG as well as with Hanoi and Peking.

I hope therefore Dept can arm me with short letter or memo to give to SYG promptly which makes whatever limited reservations we feel we need to make on certain substantive points, but placing primary emphasis on getting SYG to press informally for clarification from the other side on what the component elements of the de facto cease-fire would include.5

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Top Secret; Exdis.
  2. The text of this memorandum, which was also conveyed to the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, India, Poland, China, North Vietnam, and South Vietnam, was transmitted to the Department of State in telegram 340 from USUN, August 12. (Ibid.)
  3. For documentation on Hammarskjold’s mission to Peking, January 5-10, 1955, see Public Papers of the Secretaries-General of the United Nations, Vol. II, Dag Hammarskjold, 1953-1956, pp. 415-459.
  4. Goldberg telephoned Rusk at 1:34 p.m. on August 12. He summarized Thant’s memorandum and told Rusk that U.S. allies at the United Nations felt that the U.S. appeal for Security Council action held out better prospects for success. He added that he was returning to Washington that evening and would brief Rusk at greater length on the initiative on the following day. (Department of State, Rusk Files: Lot 72 D 192, Telephone Conversations)
  5. In telegram 250 to USUN, August 13, 10:53 p.m., Rusk sent a copy of a message sent to the President at the LBJ Ranch summarizing Thant’s initiative. In the message to the President, the Department proposed returning a generally encouraging reply to the Secretary-General and stating that “we believe it would be highly desirable for you to send a personal message to the Secretary-General—purely procedural in nature—encouraging him to continue his private explorations and assuring him of US cooperation.” (Ibid., Central Files, POL 27 VIET S)