106. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam 1

154248. For Lodge from the Secretary. I have discussed with the President your telegrams on the possible visit of Thieu and Ky to Guam. We do not wish to press the matter in view of your strong misgivings.2

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I do think you should consider the possibility that Thieu and Ky might themselves be offended if the President comes as close as Guam and does not give them a chance to see him. Please consider whether it would be wise for you to discuss this matter with them, go over the advantages and disadvantages so that they would fully understand why they have not already received an official invitation. I have some feeling that if they do not come it should be their decision. They are the leaders of the country which the fighting is all about, they have over 400,000 American troops in their country and the Commander-in-Chief of those forces would be some four to five hours flying time from Saigon. We might get the worst of both worlds if they now take offense publicly about not being invited. If your analysis is correct, we might get the best of both worlds if they consider the matter and decide not to come.

On balance, our view here is that there is some advantage in their coming but it is sufficiently close as not to cause us to press the matter against you who know most about it. I would appreciate one further indication of your views on this particular message.3 Sometime one can even toss a coin. Regards.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 7 GUAM. Top Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Eyes Only. Drafted and approved by Rusk and cleared by Read and by Walt Rostow over the telephone.
  2. In a March 10 memorandum to Rostow, Jorden also argued against the invitation. “If the Vietnamese leaders are invited, I am convinced the outcome will be detrimental for our President,” he warned. The trip would be viewed as an intervention in Vietnamese politics, the GVN would appear as if “being summoned to report,” and “resentment” would arise from allied nations that were left out of the conference. (Johnson Library, National Security File, International Meetings and Travel File, President’s Trip to Guam (Conference) [II]) Regarding the Guam meetings, see Documents 115 and 116.
  3. In telegram 20291, March 13, Lodge concurred with Rusk’s view on the matter. He suggested that he tell the GVN leadership the following: “We have not extended a formal invitation because this is primarily a U.S. stock-taking on the state of our different programs, and it is not a meeting at which major new decisions are expected. I would not, therefore, expect a very full communiqué. On the other hand, if you do want to come, we will be delighted to give you a very cordial welcome.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 7 GUAM) In a March 15 speech, the President mentioned that the South Vietnamese could attend the Guam discussions but only “if it were convenient for them.” Thieu and Ky did accept the “invitation.” For text of the March 15 speech, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967, Book I, pp. 348–354. The scheduled meetings did cause some turmoil inside Vietnam. Ky tried to counteract negative publicity stemming from the news of the conference by staging “spectacular” public protests against “false peace” on the streets of Saigon, which the Department requested that Lodge intercede to cancel. (Telegrams 20406 from Saigon and 155939 to Saigon, March 15; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 7 GUAM)