129. Telegram From the Department of State to the Mission to the United Nations1

313. Following is text of US aide-memoire for SYG on Viet Nam. Deliver at earliest opportunity on receipt final authorization.

Begin Text.


The United States believes that your memorandum of August 122 contains a number of highly constructive suggestions. It is our earnest hope that the memorandum will be useful in initiating discussions which can provide a basis for the settlement of the Viet Nam conflict. The views expressed below are designed to contribute to this important objective.
We agree with your observation that the objective of a Viet Nam settlement should be “a return to the essentials of the 1954 Geneva Agreements.”
We concur in the principle you have set forth that neither zone in Viet Nam should adhere to a military alliance or furnish military bases to others, and that foreign troops should be withdrawn from both zones. You have already cited President Johnson’s statement of April 73 to this effect on military alliances and military bases. On troop withdrawal, the United States stated on April 8 in reply to the 17-nation declaration on [Page 354] Viet Nam “… when conditions have been created in which the people of South Viet Nam can determine their own future free from external interference, the United States will be ready and eager to withdraw its forces from South Viet Nam.”4
Equally basic is the principle of the Geneva Agreements that neither zone of Viet Nam should interfere in the affairs of the other zone. This principle was incorporated in numerous provisions of the Agreements, including Articles 19 and 24 of the Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities in Viet Nam5 and in the provision of Article 5 of the Final Declaration of the 1954 Geneva Conference,6 providing that the respective zones “shall not be utilized for the resumption of hostilities or in the service of an aggressive policy.” It is the violation of this principle by the DRV which has led to the conflict in Viet Nam and to the presence of American forces in the Republic of Viet Nam. These forces, like the forces of other states assisting the Republic of Viet Nam, have as their sole purpose its protection against aggression, consistent with the provisions of the United Nations Charter.
It is therefore essential that provisions be made in any settlement of the problem of Viet Nam for the withdrawal from South Viet Nam of the troops and cadres infiltrated from North Viet Nam into the South. The modalities and timing of withdrawal of American and other forces assisting the Government of the Republic of Viet Nam can, of course, only be worked out in the light of similar dispositions regarding the tens of thousands of regrouped Southerners and Northerners infiltrated by North Viet Nam into South Viet Nam over the past several years.
A third basic principle of the Geneva Agreements of 1954 was to ensure that the people of Viet Nam have the right of free choice. That purpose still guides our actions in two fundamental respects related to the Geneva Agreements:
We maintain that the people of South Viet Nam should have the right to shape their own destiny by peaceful, democratic means and without interference from an aggressive neighbor to the north.
We believe that the people of both South Viet Nam and North Viet Nam should have the right of free choice regarding the reunification of Viet Nam. As called for in the Geneva Agreements, any elections held for this purpose should be truly free and secret, with effective international supervision. It was in this sense that President Johnson on July 28 referred to “free elections … throughout all Viet Nam under international supervision.”7
With respect to the political problems of South Viet Nam, we do not consider that the provisions of the Geneva Agreements of 1954 are directly applicable to the resolution of the internal problems of either North or South Viet Nam separately, pending procedures for reunification as discussed above. In this connection, the United States Government notes that the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Viet Nam, on June 22, made clear the view of the Republic of Viet Nam that South Viet Nam should be free to shape its own destiny “in conformity with established democratic processes without any intervention of whatever form and whatever source.”8 As Secretary Rusk noted on June 23, the United States Government fully supports this principle,9 and it was in this sense also that President Johnson referred on July 28 to “free elections in the South.” North Viet Nam appears to have expressed a different point of view. We would welcome any appropriate efforts by the Secretary-General to determine whether these divergencies are in fact as profound as they now appear.
We concur in the Secretary-General’s suggestion that a cessation of military activity might be subject to a variety of formulae, and that it might initially be a matter for de facto action—by both sides—rather than for a more formal arrangement. In any unconditional discussions, or in a conference, conditions for the cessation of hostilities might well be the first order of business.
Finally, with respect to the role of the so-called National Liberation Front, we agree that issues of this type need not and should not obstruct the way to a settlement. On July 28 President Johnson referred to negotiation taking place with governments (for example, if there should be a Geneva Conference, those governments which participated in the Geneva Conference of 1954), and indicated that the Viet Cong would have no difficulty being represented and having their views represented if Hanoi desired a peaceful settlement. This should not be an insurmountable problem and could be worked out. This position does not, of course, prejudice the United States Government’s view that the so-called National Liberation Front is not in fact an independent party inasmuch as it has been established and is controlled by Hanoi.
We remain prepared to engage in unconditional discussions looking toward a peaceful settlement whenever the other side is ready. This can be done, for example, through reconvening the 1954 Geneva Conference or by other means, including discussions through your good offices. We shall give serious consideration to any proposals of this character. End Text.
[Page 356]

Prior to delivery, inform GVN observer, pursuant to last para Deptel 310 (sent to Saigon as 564).10

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Top Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted by William Bundy and David H. Popper of IO on August 26 and cleared by Sisco of IO and Ruth Bacon of FE. Repeated to Saigon, London, Ottawa, Canberra, and Bangkok. At 2:55 p.m. on August 27, McGeorge Bundy sent a copy of this cable to the President, noting in a covering memorandum that the response to Thant had been coordinated with the South Vietnamese Government by Ambassador Lodge, and had been prepared in close collaboration with Goldberg. Bundy added: “Dean Rusk and I consider that this entire paper represents no modification of our position, but only a careful and diplomatically skillful statement of it for U Thant’s eyes.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. XIII)
  2. See Document 119.
  3. See vol. II, Document 245.
  4. For complete text of this statement, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1965, pp. 853-854.
  5. For text of the agreement, signed on July 20, 1954, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. XVI, pp. 15051520.
  6. For text of the declaration, signed on July 21, 1954, see ibid., pp. 1540-1542.
  7. See Document 97.
  8. For an excerpt from Foreign Minister Tran Van Do’s address, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1965, p. 883.
  9. For text of Rusk’s remarks, see ibid., pp. 884-886.
  10. Telegram 310 to USUN, August 26, dealt with coordination of a reply to U Thant’s initiative. The final paragraph reads: “We now plan to give our reply to UNSYG some time early next week, and shall consult re timing in advance.” (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S) In telegram 541 from USUN, August 27, Goldberg reported that he had delivered the aide-memoire to Thant that evening. In reply to a question from Goldberg, Thant said that he did not know yet whether the Chinese, North Vietnamese, or Viet Cong had accepted the copies of the proposal, which he had sent to them through a “second channel.” (Ibid.)