32. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union1

128486. Ref: Moscow’s 3218 and 3231.2

Guthrie should ask to see DRV Chargé soonest to deliver following written message:
The USG has carefully noted the DRV message of January 27 and the accompanying remarks by the DRV Chargé. The USG has preserved the strictly confidential nature of these exchanges, but notes that the DRV has broadcast publicly the essence of the January 27 message and asked other governments to inform us that the DRV is prepared to enter negotiations with the USG when bombing of North Viet-Nam stops without stated conditions. The US has felt that it must give some response to third nations conveying messages from the DRV, and will be conveying such responses in the near future. We believe this essential in order to protect the existence of this strictly confidential channel. We assume the DRV will treat third country channels in the same manner, but that strictly confidential statements will continue to be handled through this channel.
The basic objective of the USG remains the holding of direct and private talks covering any elements that either side believes should be considered in reaching a peaceful solution to the Viet-Nam problem. For this purpose, the US would be prepared to include in these discussions the four-point position of the DRV or any other matter the DRV wishes to bring up. The US would welcome DRV comments on the US message of January 10.3
At the same time, the USG notes the concern of the DRV in discussing “intensification” or “escalation” of the bombing of North Viet-Nam as presented in the January 27 aide-mémoire and the oral remarks of the DRV Chargé. We are ready to discuss this and related issues. But we remind the DRV that one step has already been taken by the USG to de-escalate the war in the North: for more than a month our planes have been ordered not to bomb within 10 nautical miles of Hanoi city center. We would like to avail ourselves of this direct private channel to inform the DRV that the USG would be prepared to implement additional measures to de-escalate the bombing of the North to create [Page 76]conditions conducive to the success of talks with the DRV. We, of course, would be impressed with similar acts of restraint on the part of the DRV, and we can assure the DRV that any such acts on its part need not be made public. The favorable atmosphere which would result from these mutual steps toward peace would permit the US and DRV to take additional steps toward obtaining a peaceful solution.
The USG is aware that the DRV is sensitive to any public link between a stopping of the bombing and reciprocal actions on Hanoi’s part. In this connection, it should be observed that the cessation of bombing would lead to a world-wide assumption that talks were under way and it would become increasingly difficult to hold discussions under conditions of secrecy. For this reason, we remind the DRV of the USG suggestion that the stopping of the bombing might take place as a prior and ostensibly unilateral action. Before doing this we would want a private understanding with the DRV that additional subsequent steps would be taken that would amount in the aggregate to an equitable and reciprocal reduction of hostile action. The USG takes this opportunity to renew this suggestion as one to which the DRV may wish to give serious consideration.
Finally, the USG notes that the approaching Tet period, during which both sides have announced cessations of military action, including the bombing of North Viet-Nam, may make the present occasion particularly appropriate for discussions along the lines suggested above. In view of the nearness of the Tet period, the USG hopes that the DRV response to the foregoing will be made as soon as possible.
Before handing over the above written message and reading it for translation, Guthrie should note orally that the USG refutes categorically the charges about US actions and intentions concerning South Viet-Nam and the GVN contained in the DRV aide-mémoire and oral remarks. However, in the interests of bringing about a constructive exchange of views, the USG will refrain from a point-by-point refutation and proceed to our formal reply to the January 27 aide-mémoire.
Either at close, or at appropriate point in conversation, Guthrie should ask when DRV Chargé expects new ambassador to arrive. FYI: Purpose of this inquiry is to suggest possible early appointment of representative qualified for more frank and direct discussions, if DRV desires. End FYI.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/SUNFLOWER. Top Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Sunflower. Drafted by Bundy, cleared by Rostow and Read, and approved by Rusk.
  2. See Document 29.
  3. See Document 8.