318. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in France1

35967. For Kissinger. Ref: Paris 3097.2

You should get in touch with M promptly to say that you have a message from USG and that you believe its importance warrants direct communication with Bo. Ask him to convey this promptly to Bo.
If Bo agrees to see you, you should give him the English and French texts of the message from the USG, English text of which appears at the end of this cable.
We hope this message will provide an opportunity for you to meet with Bo and to use the occasion to probe as far as possible Hanoi’s present views and its apparent misunderstanding, unintentional or intentional, of the USG position with respect to negotiations. In order to have free and frank discussion you should state that you are familiar with past contacts and proposals with DRV and welcome an opportunity to see if past misunderstandings can be clarified by such discussion. In this connection you should make following points: [Page 785]
The USG has consistently attempted to phrase its proposals in conciliatory language, seeking to be as realistic as possible, and addressing certain key problems which are essential to the success of any diplomatic approach. The replies of Hanoi have not been responsive to these proposals and have not yet addressed key elements thereof.
The failure of Hanoi to deal with these proposals and Hanoi’s interjection of outside factors such as specific military actions in the field, have raised doubts in the minds of USG officials as to the willingness of Hanoi to enter into productive discussions. For example, Hanoi’s attitude toward the kind of restraint we have employed in this channel is particularly baffling. If we bomb near Hanoi we are accused of bringing pressure. If we voluntarily, and without any suggestion from Hanoi, impose a restraint on our actions and keep this up without time limit—as we have in fact done—we are accused of an ultimatum.
Another example of DRV actions that puzzle the USG relates to secrecy. The USG conducted contacts through the Poles which we kept secret but which were divulged by others through a number of sources. The contacts and correspondence of last winter between President Johnson and President Ho were conducted in deepest secrecy, yet Hanoi made them public. This pattern of action led US officials to question whether Hanoi simply seeks a propaganda purpose rather than serious discussions.
We would encourage you to use your own background information in line with the above ideas to probe as deeply as you can the attitude of Hanoi. We are interested in your assessment of the possibilities of serious negotiations.

English text of US message follows:

Begin Message: The United States Government believes that the September 11 message from the Democratic Republic of North Vietnam may be based on a misunderstanding of the American proposal of August 25. The American proposal contained neither conditions nor threats and should not be rejected on these grounds.

It has been the understanding of the United States Government that the Democratic Republic of Vietnam would be willing promptly to engage in productive discussions leading to peace when there was a cessation of aerial and naval bombardment. The United States Government sought to confirm this fact in its proposal of August 25—a proposal which the Democratic Republic of Vietnam has in front of it.

In the view of the United States Government military activities prior to such cessation are totally irrelevant to the objective of productive discussions leading to peace. In this connection, the United States Government points to the fact that military activities in South Viet-Nam by the forces opposed to the Government of South Viet-Nam were greatly increased during the period in which its proposal was under consideration in Hanoi. Indeed, during the period from August 25 onward, when the United States voluntarily undertook not to conduct bombing action in the vicinity of Hanoi, the forces opposed to the Government [Page 786]of South Viet-Nam acted without any restraint whatsoever and engaged in a particularly determined terrorist campaign aimed at the recent elections there.

The August 25 proposal of the United States Government remains open. End Message.

French text of US message follows by septel.

The above is written on the assumption that Bo agrees to see you. He must in any event respond to the information from M that you have an important message even though he will probably have to receive additional instructions from Hanoi. You should conduct your initial conversation with M in such a way as to leave open the possibility that the message could be delivered through M and A should Bo be unwilling to see you. Clearly it would be desirable to have A on hand if we have to pursue this course of action. We are anxious to have you talk with Bo but do not want to close the door to the other possibility.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/PENNSYLVANIA. Top Secret; Immediate; Nodis/Pennsylvania. Drafted by Bundy and Katzenbach; cleared by McNamara, Harriman, Walt Rostow, and Read; and approved by Rusk.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 315.