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

1785. 1. DʼOrlandi, Lewandowski and I met at DʼOrlandiʼs office at 4:30. The meeting lasted for twenty minutes. Lewandowski talked as follows:

2. “I have the following instructions from Warsaw which I have been asked to transmit to Ambassador Lodge:

“It is difficult to discuss any proposition during the current important escalation of war activities in the South and of the bombing in the North.
“To hold such discussions could be looked upon as a maneuver to force the DRV to negotiate under American conditions.
“We know very well that the DRV will not give up the fight while the United States pursues its present policy of military pressure.
“We have reasons to state that no proposition without the cessation of the bombing of the DRV will produce results.
“United States Government has no right to bomb the DRV and no right to propose conditions for its cessation.
“If the United States desires a peaceful solution, it must recognize the Four Points proposed by the DRV and prove it in practice.
“The United States must stop bombing and other military activity against North Viet-Nam. Only then can a political solution be expected.”

3. That was the end of his prepared statement.

4. I said that it was evident that not one of the three questions which we had asked on July 9 had been answered, to which he nodded his head.

5. I called attention to the fact that in his first paragraph, he had mentioned the escalation of war activities in the South as well as the bombing of the North. Did this, I asked, mean that they were not only insisting that we stop bombing the North but that we also stop all our military activities in the South while they offered to do nothing in return?

6. Lewandowski said, “my interpretation” is that there are five places in the text where the bombing of North Viet-Nam is mentioned in paragraphs 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. This is the most sensitive and most important part of the statement. Twice in the statement he said Warsaw says: “We know very well” and “We have reasons to state” that no proposition can succeed without cessation of bombing. He implied this was significant.

7. I said that I would, of course, report all this to Washington, but that it looked to me as though this was a backward step, and that we were being asked to give up a great deal and that Hanoi was not prepared to give up anything.

8. Lewandowski said it is a question of who will be the first to start giving.

9. I said: why canʼt each give something simultaneously?

10. Lewandowski read his statement in a very matter of fact tone and didnʼt seem at all surprised by my statement.

11. He then said: “There is one thing more in the telegram. My government believes that the contact here should not be made public for the very practical reason that if anything is known, we wonʼt be able to have this contact in the future”—the implication being that they would like to have the contact in the future.

12. I said that this was one thing on which we could agree and that he could absolutely count on the United States keeping this secret.

13. Lewandowski said that in the first week in August, he was going to Hanoi and that “I canʼt tell what effect that may have on this,” meaning our meetings.

14. This mentioning of future meetings led me to say that it was obvious that we could not in the future continue to meet in DʼOrlandiʼs office in the middle of Sunday afternoon. I was continually followed by[Page 527]Vietnamese police, I understood that he was too. I said that I felt sure that I could get out at night without being followed, and that I had access to any number of houses which were not being watched. I said that I understood that he, however, could not get out unobserved.

15. To this he said, yes, he could and that in the case there would be no great difficulty of him and I meeting in the future.

16. DʼOrlandi then spoke as follows:

17. “This is definitely a step backward. I had thought that the first meeting was rather encouraging. Both the opening and the American questions were encouraging. I felt something might come out and, as a matter of fact, I still feel this as a hunch. Accordingly, I hope the stiffness of your reply today is due to prevailing circumstances, and that this channel may be kept open and resumed as soon as possible. We were expecting a reply. Now we have a statement. I understood what led to this statement. It is the circumstances of the moment.”

18. I asked to what circumstances he was referring. He said to all of the rumors in the newspapers of peace talk.2

19. I had thought he might say the bombing of the North or the intensified military activity in the South, and I was surprised when Lewandowski agreed that it was all the peace talk which created the current circumstances.

20. I said that I presumed Warsawʼs statement was formulated with the knowledge of Hanoi. Lewandowski did not deny this, but said that Warsaw was, of course, not in a position to commit Hanoi.

21. When I got up to go, Lewandowski said with a smile, “Iʼm sorry we canʼt have a glass of wine this time in celebration of a real result.”

22. There is one postscript which I should add to make the record complete, as follows:

23. DʼOrlandi told me last night (Saturday) at a diplomatic function that he had called on Lewandowski that morning and had said that Fanfani wanted DʼOrlandi to come to Rome for consultation. DʼOrlandi therefore asked Lewandowski how long it would be before Lewandow-ski had something since DʼOrlandi wanted to make plans.

24. Lewandowski answered by saying that, by a strange coincidence, the word from Warsaw had just arrived and that he would be ready to talk on Sunday. Lewandowski then made the following additional remark:

25. That realistically this whole conversation with the Americans could not take less than six months. DʼOrlandi gathered that what he meant was that it takes time for Hanoi and Warsaw to formulate its[Page 528]proposals; it then takes time to submit them to me; it then takes time for the USG to consider the proposals and formulate their own answer.

26. Comment: It seems obvious that if the conversations are to accomplish something and if misunderstandings are to be avoided and precise results achieved, this is not unreasonable. I also think that while there may be progress, one cannot expect decisive results until after our elections.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27–14 VIET/MARIGOLD. Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Marigold. The source text does not indicate the time of transmission; the telegram was received at 9:25 a.m. Printed in part in Herring, Secret Diplomacy of the Vietnam War, pp. 248–249.
  2. For example of speculation in the press about peace talks during June and July 1966, see United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967, Book 12, Part VI–A, pp. 22–25.