4. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State1

3732. Literally Eyes Only Secretary from McBride.

Vo Van Sung (henceforth referred to as Jean) received Y at 4 afternoon third at 6 Rue Vineuse in apartment double living room of which arranged as office; Jean on one side closed French doors, unidentified French woman secretary remained on other side. Y expressed regret Rupertʼs illness and hope his early recovery. Jean indicated illness no more than a cold.
Y handed over text Rangoon aide-memoire, typed on plain paper, together with hand-written French translation. Y said instructions to Ambassador had been to pass to DRV representation Rangoon.2 Jean quickly described this as Consulate General. Fast response plus failure indicate any surprise or particular interest suggest he may have had prior knowledge of transmittal, but this is only supposition Yʼs part. In any case, Jean read document carefully and raised no question about accepting it. Y carefully spelled out what possession this document meant with regard Yʼs bona fides. Y added he could henceforth be considered authentic spokesman and Paris channel for any USG communications with DRV. Jean registered comprehension. Y said Xʼs role and his hitherto dictated by need maintain entire secrecy of contacts. Jean murmured agreement such need existed. (At end of interview Y said he was seeing no French in Paris and no other Vietnamese.)
Thereafter Y handed over French translation Xʼs version of DRV four points,3 with explanation of background. He added USG continued ready serious conversations and spoke of amended version of four points as offering good point of departure, since it included what seemed to us as essentials, i.e., eventual US military departure and reunification country in accord freely expressed wishes people of Vietnam north and south. Jean asked why USG unable accept DRV four points as they were published. Y replied USG unable accept proposition South Vietnam could be bound to program of NLF. Jean said, “Then you ignore [Page 13] wishes of the people”. Y rejoined NLF was far from constituting all the people, but that they could be consulted like anyone else. He then reminded Jean this was same old ground trodden many times, and perhaps it would be useful pass on to other matters. In conclusion he referred to President Johnsonʼs statement US was putting everything in basket of peace except liberty of people of South Vietnam.4 Jean snorted at this, saying “You talk of peace and negotiations, but all your actions are warlike. What about McNamaraʼs statement after bombing Haiphong power plant that war would go on?5 What about the reinforcements that are pouring in?” Y replied that the business of the military and of defense ministers was to wage war until they were told to wage peace. The same was true of his military as of ours. Ardent wish of President and American people was to find acceptable end to Vietnam war, but until this was found, there was no option but to continue military build up, for our own sake and sake of our friends. Jean queried sourly, “Do you think government of South Vietnam really exists?”
Y mentioned visits of presidential emissaries to various capitals and explained carefully purpose of missions was to indicate to heads of government that USG intention was to give DRV opportunity make useful response which could be first of series of steps leading to peace talks. While war could and no doubt would be resumed, this was only a fact of life and near certainty of resumption in absence DRV response could not be interpreted as ultimatum.
Jean wondered aloud what response would be possible so long as USG refused accept DRV four points. Y said he had always been puzzled by sense and importance DRV attached to four points. Of course we agreed that anybodyʼs four points, assuming the anybody to have a valid interest in the matter, could be considered in negotiations. Was admittance of them to an agenda enough? If so, there was no problem. Jean said, quite clearly, DRV four points must be basis of solution.
Jean indicated he would pass papers to Rupert but added that if Y were at any time unable reach Rupert, Y could reach Jean at Trocadero 08–23. Comment: this may indicate Rupert is away from Paris or does not wish personally continue contact. On other hand, it may be evidence of desire maintain contact unbroken. Y told Jean he could be reached at any time at his hotel and that if for any reason he left Paris he would inform Rupert in writing how he could be reached.
At no time did Jean indicate he had other than a listening brief, despite comments he made. He was entirely willing to accept papers passed to him. He had no message to transmit. Making polite conversation at end interview, Y asked Jean which part of Vietnam he came from. Jean said he came from the south but had been north since 1955; for this reason he knew what the people of the south were thinking.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27–14 VIET/XYZ. Top Secret; Immediate; Nodis; XYZ. Drafted by Paul Sturm (identified as “Y” in the telegram) and authenticated by Culver Gleysteen. For documentation on earlier contacts of Edmund Gullion (“X”) of the United States with Mai Van Bo (“Rupert”) of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. III, pp. 312316, 319, 328332, 334337, and 367371.
  2. For text of the aide-memoire and instructions to Ambassador Byroade, see ibid., pp. 721–722.
  3. For text, see Herring, Secret Diplomacy of the Vietnam War, p. 97.
  4. This statement appeared in a paper prepared by Rusk on December 27, 1965, for use by U.S. officials sent abroad to promote the peace process; for text, see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. III, pp. 704707.
  5. Reference is presumably to McNamaraʼs statement at a press conference on December 16, 1965; see Public Statements of Robert S. McNamara, Secretary of Defense, 1965, vol. V, p. 2237. (Johnson Library)