308. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam1

84238. Ref: a) Saigonʼs 10856; b) State 83786.2

You should convey following to Lewandowski before he departs for Hanoi:
We will be awaiting with great interest Lewandowskiʼs account of his forthcoming visit. What he learns there may have an important bearing on how effectively he will be able to pursue his efforts to facilitate a better understanding and pave the way for further exchanges.
In connection with Lewandowskiʼs observation about the need “to be patient and look for indirect symptoms”, we believe we have exercised what in all objectivity can be called a high degree of patience. We would be prepared to be even more patient if we knew that something of importance was at the end of the road. We have listened to literally scores of well-intentioned persons who in varying degree have claimed to be reflecting Hanoiʼs views, but we have not yet had authoritative word from Hanoi itself as to its real conditions or how it would envisage reaching a peaceful settlement by any means other than our complete acceptance of its terms.
If during Lewandowskiʼs forthcoming visit to Hanoi, the Prime Minister should again ask him “what the Americans think”, Lewandowski should convey the idea, as his impression of our views, that while we remain intent on finding a path to a reasonable and honorable settlement, we are not prepared to withdraw and find that armed subversive elements from the North have moved in again. We are serious in expressing our willingness to remove our troops, to dismantle our bases, and accept a non-aligned South Viet-Nam so long as it is genuinely non-aligned. We do not regard the genuine neutrality of South Viet-Nam as opposed to our interests. With respect to our efforts to find an approach toward reciprocal actions of de-escalation, we are aware that Hanoi must assign weight to considerations of face, and we have said that so long as we were certain that the elements from the North were removed, we would not insist on any acknowledgment that these forces had ever been in the South.
In addition to the foregoing, we have the following specific comments on Lewandowskiʼs four questions:
The Manila formulation on withdrawal was considered and worded with the greatest care. It was included in the communique in the light of specific indications from Eastern European sources that such a mention of a definite withdrawal period would help in establishing an acceptable basis for negotiations. The mechanics of a phased withdrawal would probably have to be a matter for negotiation although the initial de-escalatory steps might be taken by mutual example.
We have often said that we supported free elections in South Viet-Nam to give the South Vietnamese people a government of their own choice. We are prepared to abide by the genuine manifestation of that free choice. We support the emerging constitutional process in South Viet-Nam. The orderly formation of a responsive and representative government based on free elections will receive our support.
We are on record that the question of the reunification of Viet-Nam should be determined by the Vietnamese of both North and South through their own free decision, without any interference from outside. How soon that can take place depends on a number of factors, above all the restoration of peace and order in South Viet-Nam so that South Viet-Nam will be in a position to treat freely with NVN on this matter.
We have already declared our view that the 1954 and 1962 Geneva agreements are an adequate basis for peace in Southeast Asia. Since 1954 there have been many developments which have revealed sharply the need for an effective and truly neutral mechanism of supervision and control. We would be prepared to discuss all matters bearing upon this complicated problem.
We would also observe that what Lewandowski terms our “theoretical” third question of how we get from here to there bears most directly upon his proposal for a “package deal” including, as he put it, not only A and B but all the other letters of the alphabet. These range all the way from the reciprocal measures of de-escalation to the components of a final settlement. The immediate issue is to find out precisely and concretely even if quite privately what steps Hanoi would take if we stopped bombing. Lewandowski would be rendering great service if during his conversations in Hanoi he is able to bring fresh light on the answer to this question. (You should refer again at this point to item 3d) of reftel b.)
Finally you might tell Lewandowski that the remaining aspects of the questions raised by you yesterday, i.e. those not discussed above, are also still of real concern to us and any light he can shed on them by virtue of his forthcoming visit will be helpful. We are proceeding on the understanding, of course, that Lewandowski in Hanoi will be speaking [Page 845] throughout for himself, on the basis of what he understands to be our position.3
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, box 147, Marigold [1]. Top Secret; Flash; Nodis; Marigold. Drafted by Cooper and Heywood Isham of EA/VN; cleared by Harriman, Unger, and William Bundy; and approved by William Bundy. Printed in part in Herring, Secret Diplomacy of the Vietnam War, pp. 268–269.
  2. Documents 306 and 305.
  3. In telegram 10955 from Saigon, November 15, Lodge reported that in a meeting with Lewandowski and DʼOrlandi he had twice read the full text of this telegram, both men had taken copious notes, DʼOrlandi had indicated that he was “rather encouraged” by the U.S. response, and Lewandowski had stated that he shared that view. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27–14 VIET/MARIGOLD)