29. Editorial Note

On January 27, 1967, the North Vietnamese responded to the U.S. Government’s January 10 message (see Document 8) when Le Chang [Page 63] handed to John Guthrie, Deputy Chief of Mission in Moscow, an aide-mémoire. The document stated that the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) would only “exchange views” with the United States when the latter ended “immediately and unconditionally the bombing and all other acts of war” against North Vietnam. (Telegram 3218 from Moscow; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–68, POL 27–14 VIET/SUNFLOWER) Walt Rostow suggested to the President that either this statement represented an outright rejection of the January 10 overture or it was “starting a negotiation from the very hard end.” (Memorandum from Rostow to Johnson, January 27; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Sunflower, Vol. I) Ambassador Thompson regarded the message as the “first round in oriental rug trading,” although he believed that the emphasis on escalation betrayed a concern in the Hanoi leadership that the bombing was having a debilitating impact. Thompson cautioned that North Vietnam might even be compelled into “dangerous moves” such as requesting foreign “volunteers” from China. (Telegram 3231 from Moscow, January 28; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/SUNFLOWER)

The next day Hanoi clarified its requirement for engaging in negotiations to stop the fighting. In an interview with Australian journalist Wilfred Burchett on January 28, DRV Foreign Minister Nguyen Duy Trinh stated that negotiations “could” occur if the United States ceased bombing and troop augmentation unconditionally. See American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pages 843–844. The Burchett interview marked the first time that North Vietnam addressed the issue of direct bilateral discussions with the U.S. Government. Simultaneously, the DRV sent confirmation of its modified negotiating stance through the Governments of India and Egypt. In New Delhi, the DRV Consul General emphasized the importance of the requirement of prior termination of the bombing before discussions could take place. (Telegram 128147 to New Delhi, January 30; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/NIRVANA) In turn, the Egyptians considered the North Vietnamese message that they had received, an affirmation that acceptance of the Four Points by the United States was not a precondition to talks, to be a clear indication “that Hanoi was clearly moving towards talks,” which they mistakenly believed would soon occur in Cairo. (Memorandum of conversation, February 1; ibid., POL 27–14 VIET/TULIP; and telegram 4293 from Cairo, February 1; ibid., POL 27–14 VIET)

In response to a question concerning Trinh’s statement during a February 2 press conference, the President stated: “I have seen nothing that any of them have said that indicates any seriousness on their [Page 64] part. I am awaiting any offer they might care to make. They know that we are in contact with them. I cannot speak for them. But I am very anxious for them to make any proposal. And we will give it very prompt and serious consideration.” For the full text, see Public Papers of the President of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967, Book I, pages 128–134.