451. Editorial Note

On December 29, 1967, North Vietnamese Foreign Minister Nguyen Duy Trinh issued a statement that seemed to refine earlier official remarks and that categorically affirmed the single condition under which his government would enter into discussions on peace in Vietnam. The key paragraph of Trinh’s statement reads:

“The U.S. Government constantly leads public opinion to believe that it wants to talk to Hanoi but receives no reply. If the U.S. Government really wants to talk, then, as clearly stated in our 28 January 1967 declaration, the U.S. must first of all unconditionally end the bombing and all other acts of war against the DRV. After the U.S. unconditionally ends the bombing and all other acts of war against the DRV, the DRV will talk to the U.S. about the problems concerned.”

The statement was made during a reception for a visiting official delegation from Mongolia to North Vietnam but was not released publicly until broadcast on Radio Hanoi on January 1, 1968. For full text of the statement, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pages 1055–1057.

The operative term used in Trinh’s statement was that talks “will” follow a halt rather than “could” occur, as mentioned in previous proclamations. The statement, however, was not a radical departure from Hanoi’s past intransigence. In a news conference of January 4, 1968, Secretary of State Rusk admitted that the “use of the word ’will’ instead of ’could’ or ’would’ seems to be a new formulation of that particular point, but that leaves a great many questions still open.” He noted that the sincerity of the Hanoi regime was suspected in light of the fact that the North Vietnamese ordered an offensive for the winter season and already violated the holiday truces. See Department of State Bulletin, January 22, 1968, pages 116–124. President Nguyen Van Thieu stated that he “saw no real change” in the North Vietnamese Foreign Minister’s formulation for peace. (Telegram 14927 from Saigon, January 3, 1968; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL US-VIET S) The Consulate in Hong Kong, the primary post for “China-watching” by the U.S. Government, described the Trinh statement as “a flat contradiction” of Peking’s position on Vietnam and thus a reflection of the policy differences between the North Vietnamese and the Chinese. (Telegram 3774 from Hong Kong, January 3, 1968; ibid., POL 27 VIET S)