361. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam 1

57885. Ref: Saigon 8854.2

We appreciate being informed of Thieu’s thinking on a possible message to Ho following inauguration. We fully agree with Thieu that it would be advisable to avoid kind of message that would either be read in Hanoi as an ultimatum or elsewhere as a propaganda gimmick.
We think that serious peace initiatives by newly elected GVN can be important contribution to allied peace stance. We are therefore gratified that Thieu has continued to give serious thought to pursuing his campaign pledges and developing a more flexible posture on the peace issue. (This incidentally has been most helpful in our dealings with press here.) Clearly it will be vital to continue our close consultations on this issue.
You should inform Thieu promptly that we are giving most careful consideration to his constructive ideas and that we will convey our thinking to him in the very near future. You might note that Thieu presumably would not dispatch any message to Ho until at least several days after his inauguration (e.g. second week of November), so that there is time for a considered reaction to his proposals. As our consultations proceed, we trust Thieu will limit discussion of this matter to the smallest possible circle of trusted advisers, as will we. In particular, we assume he and his associates will avoid being drawn by press into any specifics of substance or timing.
Foregoing drafted before receipt of Saigon 8995 reporting Ky’s views on this subject, which differ markedly from Thieu’s, and we will take his comments fully into account in subsequent messages. Our own preliminary view remains as set forth in general terms above.3
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 15–1 VIET S. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Drafted by Isham, cleared by Davidson, and approved by William Bundy. A notation on the telegram indicates that the President also approved its transmission.
  2. Document 356.
  3. Bunker reported in telegram 8995 from Saigon, October 19, that Ky told him that the Communists would not respond to any direct contact until the GVN could approach the North from “a position of accomplishment,” a position which would take at least 6 months to achieve. Before that time, Ky opposed any direct overture by Thieu. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 15–1 VIET S) In telegram 58070 to Saigon, October 22, the Department advised that given the negative responses by the Hanoi leadership to various U.S. overtures it opposed Thieu’s desire to have a halt followed by an overture from him; Thieu instead “should limit himself to general statements on peace in his inaugural speech” and then follow up if the North Vietnamese indicated any positive response. (Ibid., POL 27–14 VIET/PENNSYLVANIA)