322. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1
12247. A. When I arrived at DʼOrlandiʼs apartment December 1 at 6:15 for our meeting with Lewandowski, DʼOrlandi met me in the hall, [Page 891] saying that something big had happened. When we went into the room where Lewandowski was waiting and we sat down around the table, DʼOrlandi said that it was imperative that continued secrecy be assured. Hanoi, he said, had made a specific point of leakage. If there should ever be any leak, there will be an immediate denial by Hanoi and by the Polish Government.
B. I assured him that I was totally in sympathy with the policy of secrecy and that so was the United States Government. They could absolutely count on our leaving no stone unturned to preserve secrecy.
C. Lewandowski then began his statement. He first thanked me for coming today. He then said: “My trip to Hanoi was very important. You should understand that what has been reached up to now in our conversations in Saigon and in my conversations in Hanoi may be decisive. Both Mr. Rapacki and Mr. Gomulka think so.
D. “I presented to Hanoi my understanding of the U.S. position based on our conversations of November 14 and our previous conversations.” He indicated the numbers of the paragraphs as he went along, as follows:
- “1. I have insisted that the United States is interested in a peaceful solution through negotiations.
- “2. Negotiations should not be interpreted as a way to negotiated surrender by those opposing the United States in Viet-Nam. A political negotiation would be aimed at finding an acceptable solution to all the problems, having in mind that the present status quo in South Viet-Nam must be changed in order to take into account the interests of the parties presently opposing the policy of the United States in South Viet-Nam, and that such a solution may be reached in an honorable and dignified way not detrimental to national pride and prestige.
- “3. That the United States are not interested from a point of view of its national interests in having a permanent or long term military presence in South Viet-Nam once a peaceful solution to the conflict has been reached. That is why the offer made in Manila regarding the withdrawal of U.S. troops and the liquidation of American bases should be considered in all seriousness.
- “4. The United States would be ready, should other parties show a constructive interest in a negotiated settlement, to work out and to discuss with them proposals of such a settlement covering all important problems involved from a cease-fire to a final solution and withdrawal of U.S. troops.
- “5. That the United States, within a general solution, would not oppose the formation of a South Vietnamese Government based on the true will of the Vietnamese people with participation of all through free democratic elections, and that the United States would be prepared to accept [Page 892] the necessary control machinery to secure the democratic and free character of such elections and to respect the results of such elections.
- “6. The United States hold the view that unification of Viet-Nam must be decided by the Vietnamese themselves for which the restoration of peace and the formation of proper representative organs of the people in South Viet-Nam is a necessary condition.
- “7. The United States are ready to accept and respect a true and complete neutrality of South Viet-Nam.
“8. The United States are prepared to stop the bombing of the territory of North Viet-Nam if this will facilitate such a peaceful solution. In doing so, the United States are ready to avoid any appearance that North Viet-Nam is forced to negotiate by bombings or that North Viet-Nam have negotiated in exchange for cessation of bombing. Stopping of bombings would not involve recognition or confirmation by North Viet-Nam that its armed forces are or were infiltrating into South Viet-Nam.
Comment: At this point Lewandowski cited Phase A and Phase B of our last conversation in which I quoted para 3D of your 83786.2 End comment.
- “9. I have informed the proper governmental sources that at the same time, the United States, while not excluding the unification of Viet-Nam, would not agree to unification under military pressure.
- “10. While the United States are seeking a peaceful solution to the conflict, it would be unrealistic to expect that the United States will declare now or in the future its acceptance of North Viet-Namʼs four or five points.” End of statement.
E. He then stopped and said, “I ask you whether this is a correct statement of the United States point of view.”
F. I said that obviously on a matter of such importance, I would have to refer to my government for a definitive reply, but I could say off hand that much of what he cited was in keeping with the spirit of our policy.
G. Personally, I would like to have a closer definition of the language in his paragraph 2 stating that the “present status quo in Viet-Nam must be changed in order to take into account the interested parties opposing the policy of the United States in South Viet-Nam.” He said that he would be glad to change the word from “must” to “would.” I said that this was obviously something which could be discussed.
H. Another point which I felt might need some clarification would be the first sentence in paragraph 8 which stated: “The United States are prepared to stop the bombing of the territory of North Viet-Nam if this will facilitate a peaceful solution.”[Page 893]
I. In general, it was correct to say that we were interested in a peaceful solution, we wished to humiliate nobody, we did not wish anyone to lose pride or prestige, and that our offer at Manila was made in good faith.
J. Lewandowski then said that what he had just read was “very firmly based on conversations with the most respectable government sources in Hanoi” and that it was in addition “vouched for by Mr. Rapacki.” He said that he made that statement so as to “avoid any belief on your part that this was not a serious proposition.”
K. He added: “I am authorized to say that if the United States are really of the views which I have presented, it would be advisable to confirm them directly by conversation with the North Vietnamese Ambassador in Warsaw.”
L. He then repeated once again that “in case of any leak, a denial would be issued.” He repeated that “secrecy is of fundamental importance in this case. In fact, it is an essential element of the whole proposition.”
M. He then said: “The United States should stop the bombing of North Viet-Nam apart from all other things.”
N. He stated: “I was also informed by Hanoi and Warsaw that I should be ready to place myself at your disposal for any comment that you might wish to make.”
O. I said that I would be interested in knowing who was the “responsible government source in Hanoi” with whom he spoke. After some hesitation, he said that it was Pham Van Dong, who spoke after “collective debate among all the proper authorities.” In other words, this had “the Presidium behind it.” He then said:
P. “If you agree that my presentation is in accord with yours and are ready to confirm it with the North Vietnamese Ambassador in Moscow, I would ask for another meeting to clear up things of a practical character.” I asked what these were, and he said “the identity of the U.S. representative.” He added that both Rapacki and Gomulka attached great importance to his talks with me. “They specifically want to convince you of the importance which should be attached by the United States,” he added.
Q. I assured him that we did attach great importance to this. He added that Moscow had been informed.
R. He then said that he hoped we would get at this as “fast as possible.” The more delay, the greater the danger. The dangers were two-fold—1) the danger of a leak, and 2) that there would be someone “working against a solution.” He felt that we should “keep the present channel” and that we should “not try other channels.” To do so would [Page 894] not only create the danger of a leak but also the danger of misinterpretation.3
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27–14 VIET/MARIGOLD. Top Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Marigold. The source text does not indicate the time of transmission; the telegram was received at 11:04 a.m. Rostow forwarded the telegram to the President at the LBJ Ranch on December 2 and commented in a separate telegram to the President, CAP 66134, December 2, that both Rusk and Thompson believed the message was of importance and that he himself was impressed by several factors, “above all, by the phrase ‘as fast as possible.’ As you know, I have felt that if Hanoi was ever serious they would want a quick complete deal, not a slow negotiation.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President—Walt W. Rostow, vol. 16)↩
- Document 305.↩
- In telegram 94660 to Saigon, December 1, the Department of State told Lodge that telegram 12247 was “receiving urgent consideration with virtually no distribution” and then asked for clarification of several points, which Lodge provided in telegram 12323, December 1. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27–14 VIET/MARIGOLD)↩