263. Editorial Note

On August 1, 1967, Henry A. Kissinger, a Harvard University professor of government and part-time consultant to the Johnson administration, submitted a memorandum reporting the opening of a new channel of contact with the North Vietnamese regime that would become known as Pennsylvania. At the Pugwash conference of international scholars, held in Paris in June, Herbert Marcovich, a French biologist and long-time acquaintance of Kissinger, proposed an unofficial visit to Hanoi in order to further the cause of peace. Marcovich proposed to travel with Raymond Aubrac, a director in the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and a man well-known to Ho Chi Minh and Pham Van Dong. Based upon discussions with Ambassador at Large W. Averell Harriman and his aide, Chester Cooper, Kissinger briefed Marcovich in late June and early July on the negotiating position of the U.S. Government, particularly emphasizing the need for a “quid pro quo” from Hanoi in response to an end to the bombing. Although stressing his own private citizen status, Kissinger promised to report any result of the effort to Washington.

Marcovich and Aubrac traveled to North Vietnam July 21–26, and they met once with Ho Chi Minh and twice with Pham Van Dong. At a July 24 meeting with Pham Van Dong, they informed him of their informal arrangement with Kissinger as a conduit to the U.S. Government and presented a two-stage proposal for opening peace talks that involved a halt to bombing in conjunction with North Vietnam’s assurance that “the rate of supplies should not increase under this step.” Dong responded: “We want an unconditional end to the bombing and if that happens, there will be no further obstacle to negotiations.” The cessation did not have to be officially declared as long as it simply occurred; a “de facto” stoppage was acceptable. Marcovich and Aubrac came away believing that negotiations would follow the termination of bombing “within a matter of days.” The next day, Dong again emphasized [Page 655]that although he preferred a public statement from the United States declaring that bombing would end unconditionally, none was necessary. Dong even conceded that some U.S. troops would have to remain in South Vietnam until a political settlement evolved, and he reiterated his government’s desire to not impose socialism on the South, where a broad coalition government could include members of the present regime. There would be no delay in negotiations once the bombing ended.

When they returned to Paris on July 28, Marcovich and Aubrac briefed Kissinger fully on their meetings. Kissinger advised them to inform Mai Van Bo and Vo Van Sung, top North Vietnamese diplomats in Paris, of their talk with him. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/PENNSYLVANIA)

An August 2 synopsis of the beginnings of the contact by Chester Cooper and part of Kissinger’s report are reprinted in Herring, The Secret Diplomacy of the Vietnam War, pages 717–725. Additional documentation on Pennsylvania is in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, S–AH Files: Lot 71 D 461, Kissinger Project; ibid., Bundy Files: Lot 85 D 240, Kissinger 1967; and Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Pennsylvania.