306. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam1

32591. For Ambassador from Secretary.

My separate cable2 gives you one idea that we believe you should discuss urgently with Thieu at the first opportunity.
In general, highest authority hopes that new government will be as forthcoming in effort to bring NLF into constitutional political process as it can be without excessive US pressure and without threatening unity of government itself.
If you think it wise, we believe you should explore with Thieu and Ky as soon as possible the question of either covert approaches or some possible offer to the Viet Cong relating to their entering into political life in SVN under the constitution. If Communism is interpreted as a technique for seeking power and governing by dictatorial one-party rule, acceptance of the Vietnamese constitution and organized political activity within it by Communists could be regarded as compatible with Article 4.3
We are aware of possibilities that discreet channels may be about to open up for covert approach and these channels—if Thieu and Ky now know about them—would be one possibility. A public offer might have its own merits and could be undertaken separately from covert and private approaches.
Since any such approach or offer raises question of the right of the VC to form their own political party, we recognize that this is a bridge GVN has not yet been willing to cross, and it in particular may [Page 757] be more than is wise to put to them at the present time. However, we would like your judgment on question of putting this matter to them and including this feature. If you see no problem, you are authorized to go ahead as far as you like along these lines at your first contact.
As a variant or supplement to the above, one idea that has occurred to us here would be that of suggesting a local amnesty for the Viet Cong in selected areas, for example the IV Corps area. We recognize that this would involve more careful planning and an assessment of military factors, but would like your preliminary views.4
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 15 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Drafted by Bundy and revised in White House, cleared by Thompson and Walt Rostow, and approved by Rusk.
  2. Not further identified.
  3. Article 4 of the 1967 Constitution contained a statement of opposition to Communism in any form and prohibited any activity designed to publicize or carry out Communism. For text of the Constitution, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 897–909.
  4. In his reply, telegram 5646 from Saigon, September 11, Bunker cautioned against raising the issue of Viet Cong political participation during the current period of political maneuvering between the civilians and the military. “For us to inject such a prickly and politically explosive question prematurely into the midst of this delicate negotiating process would, in my opinion, be unwise and possibly counterproductive,” he argued. Bunker also noted that the GVN would never consider organized Communist activity as permissible under Article 4. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 15 VIET S)