351. Telegram From the Embassy in Poland to the Department of State1

1555. Reference: State 107911.2

At 1900 Warsaw time Dec 24, accompanied by DCM, I called on Rapacki (Michalowski and Janczewski were present). After opening pleasantries about Christmas Eve, I read text of reftel. I reiterated our willingness to talk with NVN representatives in Warsaw or, if NVN prefers, in another third country.
I then mentioned current discussion of the possibility of an ICC meeting in New Delhi,3 which I termed a good idea for two reasons: (1) they might be substantively helpful; and (2) if they took place, they would distract attention from the Warsaw discussions. I expressed our hope that Poles would give this proposal most serious consideration.
After thanking me for trouble I had taken in going to Washington, Rapacki expressed regret that this action had not occurred Dec 4 or earlier. Had that been the case, he said, we might already have first Warsaw meeting behind us and have good results by now.
Rapacki referred to his doubts about our Dec 22 proposal (Warsaw 1537)4 stating that we now have come in with a concrete proposal which Poles will immediately transmit to Hanoi. While unwilling to directly predict when we can expect Hanoiʼs response, during later discussion of timing of my Garmisch trip, he referred to unlikelihood of response in next day or two in matter which leads me to believe he expects fairly quick response.
I asked if he would permit me to express my personal views on reftel proposal. I said I had gone to Washington bearing in mind the problems which Rapacki felt were impediments to initiation of talks and that I believe Washington has responded very positively to Rapackiʼs views. I pointed out that our elimination of bombing around Hanoi had gone beyond his concern about intensification of bombing, noting that in the Hanoi [Page 972]area we had in effect implemented Phase A of the two-phase proposal, negotiation of which was agreed to be first order of business after the beginning of negotiations.
I added that in our Dec 22 proposal, by making stopping of Hanoi bombing conditional on a sign from Hanoi with respect to Viet Cong actions in area of Saigon, Rapacki had expressed concern that we were still trying to put pressure on Hanoi. I said that the present proposal eliminates this concern, because the order to stop bombing was ordered yesterday and thus could not be regarded as a contingent action. I added that our proposal for Hanoi to take some reciprocal action as an indication of good faith should be read in the context of the basic necessity of both sides taking reciprocal actions once negotiations get underway.
I concluded by referring to Rapackiʼs Dec 22 hope that I could bring back a message to convey to Hanoi which would be easier for him to give his blessing. I said I hope he agrees with me that this is the case.
Rapacki replied that present proposal has eliminated problem as far as bombing of Hanoi is concerned and modified his objections to the second point (Saigon). He noted, however, that we must distinguish between NVN and actions around Saigon which are an NLF matter, adding that he can well imagine Hanoiʼs response to this suggestion. I pointed out that we had not limited our present proposal to Saigon, but had noted that many alternatives are available to Hanoi.
Rapacki then said that he would like to look for other ways to get a more favorable start to talks but at this point any comments would be in his own name and not appropriate. He did not exclude the possibility that after hearing Hanoiʼs response the Poles might make proposals to both sides. (Comment: Rapacki gave no hint but could conceivably have reference to second sentence para 16, Warsaw 1508:5 “On the other hand, the NVN may prefer in the initial stages to deal through the Polish Govt.”)
Rapacki then expressed hope that U.S. order terminating bombing around Hanoi was more than simply a gambit to get negotiations started, and that it pointed way to an attitude that other drastic steps elsewhere would not be taken which would interfere with getting negotiations started. When asked for clarification, he repeated that he hoped that drastic action would be avoided elsewhere as well as Hanoi—possibly action initiated by those opposed to negotiations—so that Hanoi bombing cessation could be viewed as symbol of a trend toward a future broader approach.
I replied that I hope he was not looking on our cessation of the Hanoi bombing merely as one phase of a trend in our actions to get negotiations [Page 973]started. I regard it as a measure which removed the impediment to initiation of negotiations which you yourself had singled out. I said there are two sides to the picture, and in Washington there are those who have real questions about drastic actions around Saigon during the critical phase of discussions in the first half of December. I emphasized that the quicker we get talks going, the better the opportunity to avoid such problems in the future. (Comment: At this point, Michalowski nodded his head affirmatively, as he had done on a previous occasion when I made a similar remark.)
I discussed briefly advisability of my joining family in Garmisch for Christmas, noting fact DCM Jenkins could notify me, at momentʼs notice, if something comes in from Hanoi. Rapacki concurred that this would work out all right.
I am leaving for Garmisch morning Dec 25 and returning Dec 27 unless DCM informs me of necessity to return sooner.6
  1. 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 8:20 p.m.
  2. Document 349.
  3. In telegram 9077 from Paris, December 14, Rusk, who was attending the NATO Ministerial Meeting, reported that Paul Martin told him that morning that Canada had received a proposal from the Indian Government for the ICC countries to meet shortly in New Delhi. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27–14 VIET/MARIGOLD) In telegrams 105378 and 105380, December 19, the Department of State briefed six Embassies on the proposed ICC meeting. (Ibid., POL 27 VIET S and POL 27–14 VIET, respectively)
  4. See footnote 2, Document 349, for a summary of the December 22 proposal and Rapackiʼs reaction, which was reported in telegram 1537 from Warsaw.
  5. Document 345.
  6. On December 25 the President and Rusk had the following exchange regarding Marigold during an 11-minute telephone conversation that began at 7:45 p.m.:“President: Iʼve never thought it was anything but propaganda but maybe weʼre wrong. I gather you are more hopeful.”Rusk: Only marginally because I donʼt think the intermediary is very good on this. I think heʼs playing a separate hand there and I donʼt like the way heʼs handled it very much.” (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation between Johnson and Rusk, Tape F6612.03, PNO 2)