362. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson1
Herewith Kissinger’s account of the end of the Paris channel.
The hardening in their position is made absolutely clear by the reference to the Trinh interview of January 28: that language is talks “could” take place not “can,” as in the private message of a few days ago.
The latest Burchett interview also goes directly back to the earlier interview and uses “could.”2
The two major possibilities are:
- —They regard U.S. politics and world diplomacy as too attractive to begin talks now.
- —Their talks with Communist China involve a new deal for support or, even, Chinese military action.
I am putting CIA to work on the latter hypothesis urgently.3
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Pennsylvania. Top Secret; Pennsylvania. The notation “L” on the memorandum indicates that the President saw both it and the attached telegram. A copy of the attached telegram 5545 from Saigon, which was received at 9:27 p.m. on October 20, is also in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/PENNSYLVANIA.↩
- An Associated Press dispatch from journalist Wilfred Burchett in Hanoi detailed new interviews with North Vietnamese officials such as Premier Pham Van Dong and Foreign Minister Nguyen Duy Trinh. Burchett reported that the North Vietnamese were “in no mood for concessions and bargaining and there is an absolute refusal to offer anything—except talks—for a cessation of the bombardment.” Trinh simply reiterated that his statement of January 28 (that talks could follow a halt) “still held good.” See The New York Times, October 21, 1967. INR analysts believed that Burchett’s article represented a toughening of North Vietnam’s negotiating stance and that the North Vietnamese leadership had confirmed Bo’s statement that talks of a preliminary nature, necessary to define objectives, had to precede negotiations. “Our estimate is that Hanoi probably wants to get all it can before the Christmas and/or Tet period when it will be in a better position to evaluate the situation in South Vietnam and the trends of US politics.” (Memorandum from Hughes to Rusk, October 23; Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, East Asia Region, Vietnam) Another correspondent, David Schoenbrun, discussed his meeting with Pham Van Dong in an October 4 conversation with Cooper, Isham, Smyser, and other government representatives. Schoenbrun reported that Dong had purposely omitted the previous demand of the DRV for a “permanent” bombing halt. (Memorandum of conversation, October 4; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 VIET S)↩
- Responding to Rostow’s request in an October 23 memorandum, Helms concluded that throughout the Paris contacts North Vietnam had not revealed a position “significantly different from or has ever been appreciably more forthcoming than the Hanoi position enunciated through other means, including public statements.” The leaders in Hanoi were not interested in meaningful negotiations, would reject any insistence that talks be “fruitful,” and would not be “forthcoming” given their belief that the administration’s political position was “eroding.” The North Vietnamese did not regard the Paris channel “very seriously”; thus not even demands by the Chinese would have influenced the outcome of Pennsylvania. (Central Intelligence Agency, DCI (Helms) Files, Job 80–B01285A, DCI (Helms) Chrono, Aug-Dec 1967)↩
- Top Secret; Nodis; Pennsylvania.↩
- In telegram 57498 to Paris, October 20, the Department informed Kissinger of Ambassador Sullivan’s report that before the release of Burchett’s interview, the DRV Charge in Vientiane cautioned Sullivan on the necessity to ensure that the U.S. Government would not “misunderstand” statements in the upcoming interview as it had with the January 28 interview. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/PENNSYLVANIA) Sullivan’s report was transmitted in telegram 2081 from Vientiane, October 13. (Ibid., POL 27 VIET S)↩