434. Telegram From Secretary of State Rusk to the Department of State 1

1005. Secto 013. For the Acting Secretary from the Secretary.

During the NATO meeting this afternoon Paul Martin came over and handed me a short piece of paper which he said represented the latest proposal by Mr. Ales Bebler, President of the World Federation of United Nations Associations. Text of proposal follows:

“Whether negotiations can start while the bombing continues or whether the bombing can stop while there are no negotiations.” To this end he has put forward three propositions which read as follows:

  • “1. The heads of government of the five powers and the Presidents of USA and DRV agree to choose a date in the near future to be the date of the beginning of the end of the war in Viet-Nam.
  • 2. The President of USA agrees that he will order the bombing of the territory of DRV to be definitely stopped on that day.
  • 3. The heads of government of the five powers agree to hold on that day the opening session of the five power meeting with the sole object of organizing without delay negotiations and/or a conference on peace in Viet-Nam.”

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Martin wanted my reactions on the spot but I told him I would have to refer it to Washington. I would like to give him some response before I leave Brussels.

My own first comments are:

Bebler’s proposal takes care of the word “prompt” in the San Antonio formula. It does not, however, take care of the assumption that North Viet-Nam would not take military advantage of the cessation of bombing.
Our knowledge of the movement of additional major forces by North Viet-Nam is highly relevant.
The grouping of the five powers, including the two Co-chairmen and the three ICC countries, is a logical way to involve the Geneva machinery without getting into complications about the composition of the conference or the possible Soviet reluctance to have China.
Perhaps we should include in what we say to Paul Martin that paragraph 2 is imbalanced. Perhaps Martin should say to Bebler that paragraphs 1 and 3 are all right but that Bebler should ascertain from both sides what military measures each side will take to give substance to “the beginning of the end of the war in Viet-Nam.”
I doubt that this formulation would get anywhere with Hanoi especially if it is to include the most minimum element of military reciprocity included in the San Antonio formula.
I have told some of my colleagues at NATO that the San Antonio formula is the minimum US position, and that it is as fair and reasonable as any proposition ever made in the course of conflict. I think we should begin to make it clear that there is no point in people knocking on our door to dilute the San Antonio formula and that if they want peace they should knock on the door of Hanoi for a change.

Would appreciate any advice as to what I should say to Paul Martin.2

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET. Secret; Nodis. Received at 2:43 p.m. Secretary Rusk was in Brussels attending the North Atlantic Council Ministerial meeting.
  2. In response, the Department advised that Martin be told to pass on to Bebler the sense that his second proposition “is lacking in balance” since it required the U.S. Government to halt the bombing while “it makes no mention whatsoever of any corresponding military action to be taken by North Viet-Nam.” In addition, Bebler had excluded the GVN from his propositions. “It would be our judgment that the GVN would take most unkindly to its omission from this kind of grouping and for this reason alone we believe that the point must be made, as the Bebler approach, if made, might well become public,” the Department noted. (Telegram 83910/Tosec 28 to Brussels, December 13; ibid.)