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

11814. Ref: Saigon 11790.2

Subsequent to various discussions with Vietnamese officials described in reftel, Zorthian and Habib held lengthy discussion with Minister of Info and Chieu Hoi Nguyen Bao Tri Saturday afternoon to obtain [Page 863] latest GVN thinking on national reconciliation campaign and to stimulate action.
Tri said GVN discussions on basic principles to be incorporated in effort are now under way and reported on various talks he has had with Thieu, Ky, General Khang of III Corps and others. He said that present prospects are for proclamation by Thieu about one month before Tet, to be followed up with nation-wide radio and TV speech by Prime Minister.
Proclamation would outline governmentʼs proposals in terms of intent and appeal to Viet Cong to join hands with government. Prime Ministerʼs speech would provide more specifics, including commitments on rehabilitation into Vietnamese society, political rights and other specific measures designed to absorb VC into active government programs at level roughly equivalent to their present status.
Tri said in his talks with other government officials he had found a good deal of sentiment for initiating reconciliation campaign at time of promulgation of constitution sometime in March but that he personally felt period before Tet was preferable in order to exploit Tet sentiment.
We encouraged Tri to maintain this stand but we should also be aware that any proclamation prior to January 1st would be difficult to obtain in view of these pressures for further postponement.
Tri also said that his thinking, on which he believes he has Thieuʼs and Kyʼs concurrence, would include explicit opportunities for VC middle and high level cadre to assume responsibilities in Vietnamese society commensurate with their experience and present status. He said there would undoubtedly be a requirement for some sort of review of qualifications but subject to this screening process, military personnel would find opportunities in Vietnamese army, civil administrators would be able to obtain appointment, in the first instance, as contract employees for the Vietnamese Government, doctors would be able to practice their profession after period of national service in Vietnamese hospitals, teachers would be utilized as required in many educational institutions, etc. He also said that present thinking would permit all such returnees to enjoy full political rights, including the right of participation and voting in the forthcoming national elections.
Tri also outlined the highlights of his Ministryʼs exploitation campaign, which was described in reftel and on which we are working closely with the Vietnamese.
Meanwhile, we are accelerating our own efforts within U.S. Mission to provide Vietnamese with necessary support in this effort. To replace Koren, I have appointed Zorthian as overall Mission director for our support of the reconciliation campaign. He now has the time to devote to this effort because JUSPAO field operations have been taken over by Porter. Specific assignments in fields of psyops, follow-up actions, Chieu Hoi camps, policy direction, approaches to middle level and high [Page 864] level cadre and the various other arrangements necessary for conduct of this campaign have now been made and detailed document incorporating US ideas in all these fields are under preparation. This will serve to crystalize our own thinking and to provide a coordinated US approach to the Vietnamese as they prepare their own plans. Central to the whole effort, of course, is the necessity for the Vietnamese to be in the forefront of this effort, with the US role kept as much in the background as possible.
These various developments will be further pursued and refined in the coming weeks. As necessary, I will undertake further discussions with General Thieu and Prime Minister Ky in the course of the days to come and certainly I expect to have a long talk with both on the major elements of the program before my departure for Washington. We expect to provide more detailed information on the contents of the anticipated proclamation and speech in the near future but at this point Vietnamese thinking has not progressed to a stage where draft texts are available. We will, however, have more progress on preparations in general to report by the end of next week and will continue to inform you as events unfold. At this stage, however, believe it would be unwise to press Vietnamese for more immediate surfacing of campaign than they visualize or to draw more than cursory public attention to this effort.
As General Tri has indicated, the Vietnamese are going about this effort with deliberation and considerable advance preparation and I believe this sort of solid foundation is far preferable to any hasty announcements on their part which would be premature in terms of actual follow up actions and which would have been true had they made announcement on November 1. Given the sentiment described by Tri for postponement of the effort until the promulgation of the constitution, I would suggest it is far wiser on our part to push for actual public proclamation the first week of January rather than at an earlier time.
Meanwhile, we will of course continue to press for detailed preparations so that campaign may be conducted effectively and vigorously once it is initiated. I believe we are now moving in the right direction on this effort at a pace which will bring along the Vietnamese but not outpace them.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15 VIET S. Secret; Exdis.
  2. Dated November 26. (Ibid.)