37. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State1

2306. Ref: Embtel 2297.2

I met with Le Chang at 11:30 this morning accompanied by Akalovsky. I attempted establish whether there was some common language between two of us. He seemed to understand some English but insisted that conversation be conducted through his Russian interpreter; thus bulk of one hour 35 minute meeting consumed by double interpretation.
I opened by noting we had suspended bombing of DRV one month ago and had notified DRV officially of this in Rangoon. Pointed [Page 118] out our message had made clear suspension might continue if there was no major provocation and further extension would depend on response and reaction of DRV Govt. Expressed hope willingness DRV Govt to have Charge meet with me today might mean he had some response to transmit.
Le Chang said DRV position had been repeatedly stated, most recently in Jan 4 statement by their MFA spokesman.3
I noted there had been many suggestions from Hanoi itself, as well as from many others including Soviets, that cessation of bombing would create opportunity and conditions in which moves could be made towards peaceful solution in Vietnam. In seeking this meeting today, we thought there might be two possible purposes in direct conversations between DRV and US Govts. One such possibility might be to explore whether or not there could be reciprocal reduction of hostilities. As we have said, we could continue suspension of bombing if there were reciprocal action by DRV. We prepared recognize that there might be difficulties for DRV to make public statements admitting cessation of certain actions or responsibility for them; therefore, we thought if two sides had direct and confidential contact DRV could communicate to us re actions it proposed to take so that they would be fully understood by us. If this of interest to DRV, we prepared continue contact for this purpose.
In response my direct question whether there was such interest, Le Chang said DRV position remained unchanged and his govt adhered consistently to Geneva Accords. DRV position and its adherence to provisions of Geneva Accords reflected in DRVʼs four points. Those points recognize basic right of Vietnamese people to peace, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. In accordance with Geneva Accords, US Govt should withdraw from Vietnam all troops and all armaments of any kind, as well as liquidate its military bases in, and military alliance with, South Vietnam.
I asked Le Chang whether he was talking about Pham Van Dongʼs four points and got affirmative reply. Le Chang continued that US Govt refused accept this position. As to suspension of bombing, US Govt has no right to bomb or strafe North Vietnam, and DRV regards such actions as act of war against its sovereign govt and as gross violation of Geneva Accords. Although US has said it had suspended temporarily bombing of North Vietnam, US Govt has been sending reconnaissance planes for intelligence and provocative actions. All these actions severely condemned by DRV. Indeed, temporary suspension of bombing of North Vietnam is for purpose of preparing new stage of escalation and expansion of war in Vietnam. In conducting such maneuvers, [Page 119] US pursuing objective of forcing other side to sit down at table and of forcing Vietnamese people accept conditions favorable to US and based on position of strength. During past month, while conducting so-called peace campaign, US has taken other actions as well. It has actually expanded its effort and sent to South Vietnam about 13,000 additional troops; it has sent Generals there to develop new plan for widening war; US and South Vietnamese puppet forces have conducted large scale operations, including use of gas and other toxic agents; and B–57ʼs have been used to bomb and destroy villages in South Vietnam. Can all these actions be called peaceful initiative? While conducting so-called search for peace, US continued reconnaissance and provocative flights into North Vietnam and sending additional contingents to South Vietnam. All this creates serious tensions in this area. Therefore DRV position remains as stated and has not changed. US Govt should recognize position DRV Govt because DRV four points reflect all basic provisions Geneva Accords. It should not only recognize that position but also prove such recognition through practical deeds. At same time, US Govt must cease, unconditionally and forever, bombing of DRV. Only on this basis can a way be found for solving Vietnam question.

I said we had to recognize fact there military conflict between North and South Vietnam, in which US committed help South against what we regard as aggression from North. Even during period of suspension of bombing, during past month, we have had evidence of further DRV forces infiltrating to South Vietnam through Laos. Thus there is state of conflict and this is what we discussing here today. This sending of troops is also regarded by US as infringement Geneva Accords, which specifically state there should be no such troop movements and no use of force. In suspending bombing, however, we discontinued one aspect of hostilities and, as I had said, we could continue discussions of reduction of hostilities if DRV Govt interested in exploring such mutual reduction. Far from seeking to widen war, very fact I here today shows we interested in reducing and limiting war.

Even better than that, we could, if DRV Govt ready, use this contact to explore more formal possibilities for moving toward peace in Vietnam. Suspension of bombing in no sense effort to force other side sit down; rather it responsive to many suggestions we have had even from North Vietnamese sources that such suspension could lead to creation of conditions for peaceful settlement. Thus this is opportunity and not ultimatum. Fact my presence here today intended to indicate to him and his govt that we sincerely want peaceful solution in Vietnam. I then handed him 14 points, State of Union message, and Goldberg letter to U Thant, noting that they public knowledge but I wished give him texts officially.

Le Chang said DRV had those documents. Referring to my remark that we defending South Vietnam from aggression by North [Page 120] Vietnam and that we committed to South Vietnam, asserted US is distorting fight of Vietnamese people in order create pretext for expanding war in Vietnam, for maintaining hold on Vietnamese people and for retaining South Vietnam puppets, who have no popular support, do not represent anyone, and merely small group of traitors their fatherland.
I then said I very much wanted hear what Le Chang had to say and myself had many additional points to discuss, including DRV four points. However, I had diplomatic luncheon at 1:15 pm and therefore wondered whether this conversation could perhaps be continued at 4:00 pm today, or perhaps tomorrow, or at any time convenient to Le Chang, either at his Emb or, if more convenient, at my residence. I pointed out that it very important keep these discussions confidential and my absence from luncheon would require explanations which I wished avoid.
Le Chang said their Emb suitable meeting place. However, he had said everything he wished to say and therefore saw no need for further meeting unless I had some additional remarks to make. Specifically, he wished to know whether I had anything new to convey. I said that among other things I also wished discuss DRV four points and believed what I had to say would be new and important to Le Chang and his govt. After repeated inquiries by Le Chang whether I had something new to convey, and repeated affirmative responses from me, he finally said they would call us when they ready to meet again.
Le Chang then resumed what seemed like prepared statement, saying Vietnamese people love peace, which necessary for building their life, but peace connected with independence and freedom. Vietnam and its people far away from US and Vietnam has made no aggressive action against US. Source of, and immediate reason for, situation now obtaining in Vietnam is aggression by US. For 11 years it has systematically violated all provisions Geneva Accords acceptance of which it had solemnly stated. US has no right send troops to Vietnam or bomb or strafe North Vietnam. Therefore, if US ceases aggression peace will prevail on Vietnamese soil. Repeated that DRV position as formulated in four points reflects all basic provisions Geneva Accords, and therefore only basis for solution Vietnam question is acceptance by US Govt of DRV position and cessation forever of bombing and strafing DRV. Only then could one count on finding way for settlement. Also reiterated US Govt must prove acceptance DRV position through practical deeds. Asserted if US did so, that would be in accord with interest and honor of US, interest Vietnamese people and peoples throughout world.
I said I would be glad continue discussion as soon as possible since I had many important points to make, some of them also relating to what he had said.
Le Chang then said that if US had anything to say it could meet with DRV reps in Rangoon in order to do so or to learn DRV position. DRV reps in Rangoon prepared clarify DRV position if necessary.
In response my question whether this meant Rangoon preferred place of contact, Le Chang said he wished repeat that if our Amb Rangoon wanted say something on behalf his govt or obtain clarification DRV position he could do so with DRV reps there. However, this did not mean that he, Le Chang, not prepared meet me, although such meetings difficult to set up; his Emb had a very heavy schedule these days and he had had to cancel some commitments to meet with me today. I said I would promptly report his remarks, particularly re Rangoon. He then returned three papers I had given him, saying that in addition to already being available to his govt they also referred to aggression by DRV. He could, however, accept any formal communication from my govt to his govt I might wish to give him. He repeated that there would be no point in having further meetings if I had nothing new to say and that DRV position had been consistent and remained unchanged. This position reasonable, and if US Govt recognized it and stopped bombing way for settlement could be found. He noted that he agreed our discussions should be kept confidential, as stated in my letter to him (Embtel 2239).4
In leaving at 1:10 pm, I told him I would await a call at his earliest convenience.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Pinta. The source text does not indicate the time of transmission; the telegram was received at 4:30 p.m. and passed to the White House.
  2. In telegram 2297, January 24, Kohler provided a brief report of his meeting with the DRV Charge. (Ibid.)
  3. For excerpts from the January 4 statement, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1966, pp. 742–744.
  4. Not printed. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S)