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

191. Subject: Vietnam. Reference: Deptel 138.2 Subsequent to presentation credentials Goldberg accompanied by Plimpton and Yost spent hour yesterday afternoon with SYG accompanied by Bunche, Narasimhan and Rolz-Bennett.3

On Vietnam, Goldberg covered fully points made reftel and talking paper,4 including Harriman-Kosygin conversation.5 Goldberg emphasized that we were suggesting SYG explore three possible steps: (1) an SC mtg concluding with simple res calling for negots; (2) a direct appeal by U Thant for negots; (3) North and South membership in UN. SYG comments on these and other points were as follows.

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SYG inquired whether Kosygin in conversation with Harriman had indicated receptivity to SC mtg. Goldberg replied that he had not but that he had during conversation, as evidenced by points Goldberg had just reported, shown degree of flexibility which seemed to warrant further exploration by SYG. Goldberg mentioned that Kosygin had referred to Vietnam as “small problem,” though pointing out that he might have meant only that it is small in relation to such broader issues as disarmament and over-all US-Sov relations.

SYG replied there had been no indication of flexibility concerning UN involvement in Vietnam on part of Sov reps in NY. They had been reluctant to talk about problem at all and had in particular been very negative about any SC mtg. French had also been opposed to SC mtg though less categorically.

Thant mentioned that Stevenson had sounded him out in Geneva in early July on this same point6 and he had replied that he would explore possibility but was not hopeful. Subsequently in Paris he had sounded out Couve, who had been negative because he did not think Peking, Hanoi or Saigon would be willing to attend SC mtg. Thant also mentioned that Ben Bella, during their exchange concerning SYG’s attendance at Afro-Asian mtg, had argued Hanoi would not agree to any UN involvement in Vietnam question because of absence from UN of ChiComs. Thant himself fears that in any SC mtg Sovs would have to take strong line against UN involvement and to veto any res. He is doubtful, therefore, as he told Secy at their mtg July 19, that there is any advantage in pursuing idea of SC mtg with Sovs and French.7

As to SYG himself issuing some sort of appeal, Thant mentioned that he had some time ago been asked by Washington to delay cease-fire appeal and had done so. Goldberg expressed appreciation for his having delayed such an appeal and pointed out problem that would be created for us by unpoliced cease-fire. Thant suggested that desirability and character of appeal by him should be more fully explored next time he and Goldberg meet.

SYG expressed disagreement with indication in Harriman report that Hanoi is moving away from Peking. It has been his impression that they are drawing closer to Peking, certainly closer than they were last autumn when Hanoi through Moscow, without clearing with Peking, agreed to meet with us.

As to membership North VN and South VN in UN, Thant posed certain questions. Would Hanoi apply for membership? If it did, would [Page 279] Nationalist China veto admission? It is Thant’s belief that Peking would oppose DRV membership and would tell Hanoi not to apply. However, SYG welcomed US “green light” on this point and said he would explore possibilities.

SYG then made several comments on possible Geneva conf. He said it is matter of indifference to him whether conf precedes or follows cease-fire. In former case he concurred that cease-fire should be first item on agenda. However, it is essential that Peking should participate and, while he has had no contact with Peking since becoming SYG, he sees two possible impediments to their participation.

First impediment would be problem of South Vietnamese representation. Peking would claim only Viet Cong should represent SVN. This of course is unrealistic and unacceptable. However, in SYG’s view, it would also be unrealistic that only Saigon should represent SVN. Government of SVN changes from month to month and it would not be realistic to claim that Ky and Thieu, or whoever will be in their place at time conf convenes, are competent to represent S Vietnamese people. SYG recommends that SVN be represented at such conf by two delegations, Saigon and Viet Cong, having equal status. He mentioned incidentally that Hanoi would certainly reject Viet Cong appearing only as part of DRV deleg. SYG said he had sounded out both UK and France concerning his suggested dual SVN deleg, but both had said they preferred to await US reaction before commenting.

Second possible impediment to Peking participation in Geneva conf is fact that Peking has insisted publicly, though not recently, that 1954 Geneva Accords must be reaffirmed and implemented by any new conf. Such implementation would of course include withdrawal foreign forces and bases, as well as elections. SYG noted however that Hanoi has apparently not insisted on withdrawal US forces before new conf.

This subject was closed with agreement that SYG would consider suggestions we had presented and would explore them with Sovs and others where he considered appropriate and that conversations would be resumed upon Goldberg’s return to NY.8

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Priority; Exdis.
  2. In telegram 138 to USUN, July 27, the Department of State reviewed previous exchanges with Thant on the question of Vietnam, and outlined the points that Goldberg should make with Thant in their first talk. Goldberg was instructed to explain the defensive character of the anticipated U.S. troop build-up in South Vietnam, and to suggest that it might be useful at some point for Thant to issue a personal appeal for a Geneva conference to establish conditions for the cessation of hostilities. The Department added that it remained interested in the question of whether the Security Council might play a useful role in connection with Vietnam. (Ibid.)
  3. Francis T.P. Plimpton and Charles W. Yost, Deputy U.S. Representatives at the United Nations. C.V. Narasimhan, Under Secretary for General Assembly Affairs and Chef de Cabinet of the United Nations, and Ralph J. Bunche and Jose Rolz-Bennett, Under Secretaries for Special Political Affairs.
  4. Not further identified.
  5. See Document 68.
  6. See footnote 7, Document 52.
  7. Rusk and Thant met at 4:30 p.m. on July 19 at the United Nations in New York. (Johnson Library, Rusk Appointment Book)
  8. Goldberg also gave U Thant a personal letter from President Johnson, dated July 28, at this meeting. In the letter, Johnson indicated that he had instructed Goldberg to maintain contact with Thant on developments in Vietnam, and he welcomed Thant’s efforts to move the conflict to the conference table. Thant responded on July 29 in a letter to Johnson in which he expressed his determination to pursue a negotiated settlement of the Vietnam conflict with all the means at his disposal. On July 30, Goldberg sent a letter to the President of the Security Council in which he stated that the United States was prepared to work unconditionally with the members of the Security Council in search for an acceptable formula to restore peace and security to Southeast Asia. All three letters are printed in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1965, pp. 892-894.