123. Telegram From the Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State1

4640. Re: Vietnam. I saw SYG this noon to talk over release of his proposals and our reply yesterday2 and to ascertain nature of NVNese reply. Bunche and Pedersen3 were present.

SYG said he had decided to release texts yesterday morning after press had reported Hanoi reaction and in light inevitability continued speculation on its contents. He noted I had agreed this would be acceptable when Bunche had told me about it on telephone yesterday [Page 294]morning. I said I agreed that in circumstances he had no choice and thought NVNese could not take exception to what he had done.

SYG said he had been guarded in his answers to questions about NVNese reply and in his general answers in press conf because he wanted to protect his future utility. Consequently he did not want be critical about Hanoi position. I expressed view dust would now have to settle for awhile. SYG agreed.

SYG said he had one request to make of us, that was that we not play up too much that we had accepted his proposal and Hanoi had rejected it. In particular he did not want “friends in Moscow,” who were of course informed throughout, to be embarrassed. He hoped we would feel that our public statements yesterday were sufficient and that we would not have to say much more at this point.

I told him we had always thought progress could best be made through private contacts and agreed on desirability of preserving his own capabilities. I noted, however, that we had public relations problems of our own and that it was necessary for our people to understand situation. In this connection I read him reports from several foreign correspondents which had been received by our USIA officers. Reports stated Narasimhan (UN) had been consulted last night by them about SYG’s reaction to US reply and that Narasimhan had told them on background basis that SYG considered our reply to be negative.

SYG said he would look into the matter. No such statement had been authorized. In his statement yesterday he had refused to characterize any replies and this was position he intended to maintain. He had been asked by his press officer, in connection with normal press briefing for today, what he should say on this point. SYG had told him to stand strictly on his refusal yesterday to characterize the replies.

I told SYG I had also been approached by number of correspond-ents who wished further background info and had been considering talking to them, but in light of SYG’s comments about undesirability of further discussion at this point would not do so.

I then asked SYG whether he could give me any info on contents Hanoi’s reply. SYG said reply had come through Moscow. (He did not say when he had received it but we assume from co-lateral info about his contacts with Fedorenko that he had received either preliminary or definitive reply by Friday.) He said it was first time in three years he had received written reply from Hanoi. Also stated reply had been friendly in tone throughout.

SYG said Hanoi’s first point was complaint that he had told them in Rangoon he would not make his proposals public before he got NVNese reply. Bunche interjected to say that in context this statement seemed to mean they felt SYG had told them he would not give proposal to US before he had received their views. SYG said there seemed [Page 295]to have been complete misunderstanding. He had given no assurances that he would not give proposals to US. He noted, however, that the direct statement in their reply related to assurances he would not publicize proposals before receiving their reply. Of course he had not done so. He thought perhaps part of reason for Hanoi’s reaction was because of announcement about SYG’s plan from Saigon and Saigon’s statement several days ago that they had made proposals for direct talks to Hanoi. I noted that what Saigon had said about SYG’s plan appeared to have been inadvertent.

SYG said Hanoi’s second point was that his first step equated the aggressor and victim of aggression and that it was “advantageous to US.” They had not commented on his second and third steps.

Hanoi’s third point was to thank him for his interest and his desire for peace and to say they appreciated his motivation. SYG noted this was very friendly para but his interpretation was that they did not want him to carry on.

Fourth Hanoi point was that UN had nothing to do with Vietnam.

I told SYG we thought no one ought to be advantaged or disadvantaged by a ceasefire. That was why we thought it would be advisable to have preliminary talks through him or directly or in some other form. If Hanoi was so disposed we would be glad to carry on a dialogue through SYG to assure no one was advantaged or disadvantaged by a ceasefire. SYG then added that Hanoi had also commented he had made his proposals while US was escalating the war.

I replied that if they had Guam meeting in mind SYG should know that meeting did not deal substantially with military matters and that basic purpose was to introduce our new diplomatic team to Saigon leadership. I also noted we had made special effort to reply to SYG’s proposals before Guam meeting so as to indicate they were not connected.

SYG then said he thought we should know he had received info on Tues, March 21 from source close to Moscow that USSR and China had settled problem of transportation of supplies to NVN. He said source was reliable but it difficult to get confirmation and that Fedorenko had had no info.

I told SYG we had also had recent report of unknown reliability that he should know about, i.e. that there had been great disposition in Hanoi to respond more affirmatively to concept of negots but that Peking had intervened and threatened a coup in Hanoi if they accepted such proposals. SYG said he thought this was possible. Noted that Colonel Lau in Rangoon had stressed Hanoi’s historical independence and determination to maintain it.

I also asked SYG whether he had any info on degree to which Hanoi was dependent on China for its supplies. Told him some of our [Page 296]reports indicated 70 percent of their outside supplies came from China. SYG said he had no independent info. He understood heavy arms generally came from USSR but small arms and rice came from China. I indicated that if source of supplies was problem in Hanoi’s posture this was something that could be talked about as well.

Goldberg
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Exdis. Received at 8:08 p.m.
  2. On March 27 the DRV Foreign Ministry released a statement categorically rejecting Thant’s initiative, notably asserting that “The United Nations has absolutely no right to interfere in any way in the Vietnam question.” The full text of the statement is in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 892–893. Information on the reaction of UN officials is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XXXIII. In a speech given on the occasion of the visit of officials of the Government of Afghanistan, the President publicly accepted Thant’s plan on March 28. See Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967, Book I, pp. 396–398.
  3. Ralph Bunche, UN Under Secretary-General for Special Political Affairs, and Richard Pederson, Deputy U.S. Representative in the Security Council.