50. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom1

133907. London 6399, 6406, 64112 and relevant telcons.

We understand that at this morning’s session Wilson or Brown probed Kosygin whether his remarks on possible role of co-chairmen had any significance and obtained strong impression that they were intended to have. We understand further that, based on this, British went ahead to read orally from draft public announcement along lines para 4, London 6399. In response to Kosygin inquiry, British said this formula did not have USG approval. Kosygin finally asked for British text. Although he did not refer to having USG acceptance of such text, we can only suppose that this was the underlying implication.
As we believe we have made clear to you, we have major doubts whether, if Hanoi in fact accepts the deal we have proposed, they will ask to have it nailed down in public through an announcement, and [Page 113]might have additional misgivings about the Soviets doing so in the light of whatever degree of concern they still have about Chicom relations. We would suppose the latter factor would also operate strongly on the Soviets, since any public announcement would carry the unmistakable flavor that the Soviets had colluded with the US, through the UK, to put this deal across. In other words, you should impress on the British that while it may be possible to get Hanoi to accept our proposal, it by no means follows that they or the Soviets would wish a public announcement. We are inclined to interpret Soviet response as indicating a desire to see the US proposal spelled out clearly and in writing, which they could then use with Hanoi but in all probability later drawing back on the idea of a public announcement. British should be left in no doubt that, while we are most grateful for their serious considered efforts, they may well have to accept results rather than overt British participation in them.
With this evaluation in mind, we have reviewed text in para 4 of London 6399 and note that, like the British oral formula (London 6329, para 5),3 it speaks only of DRV stopping “augmentation of forces” in South Vietnam. This would leave way open for DRV to continue to send equipment without restrictions and also to send forces in the guise of rotation. Moreover, there would be no restraint whatsoever on political cadre and others who could be described as not technically uniformed “forces.” In light of these objections, any specific formula along these lines which the British might put forward would have to be amended along following lines:

“The two cochairmen will announce immediately that they:

Invite the US to assure them that the bombing of North Vietnam will stop;
Invite the North Vietnamese to assure the cochairmen that infiltration into South Vietnam will stop, and invite the US to assure the cochairmen that it will stop further augmentation of US forces in South Vietnam. (FYI: These are the operative parts both of our own message to the British (State 132481)4 and of our message to Hanoi.5 End FYI)
If all the foregoing assurances are promptly received, the two cochairmen will invite members of the 1954 Geneva Conference to reconvene in Geneva on 15 February to work out a settlement of the present conflict.”

British should know further that while we have left subpara c of this text unchanged, recognizing that cochairmen status pertains to Geneva conference grouping, they must be as aware as we that Soviets [Page 114]and even Hanoi may have grave reservations about presence of Communist China at any conference. Moreover, we should leave British in no doubt that we might have to press strongly, if and when any multilateral grouping is convened, for inclusion of other appropriate nations who were not at Geneva in 1954. We do of course recognize that under present circumstances Chinese might not attend, but nonetheless we suppose Soviets or Hanoi may still be sensitive to their being included in the grouping. With these factors in mind, we wonder whether British might not find some more general language more realistic and more appealing to Soviets, referring perhaps to inviting “appropriate nations.” While cochairmen mandate might be strictly construed to permit only reconvening of Geneva Conference, we believe broader interpretation could be sustained that cochairmen have mandate to take any action that could lead to peace and involve discussion of the 1954 and 1962 Geneva Accords as the basis for settlement.
Seeing as we do these possibly serious difficulties with a precise formulation of the deal—and doubting, as we do, that Hanoi will wish a really specific public announcement—you should tell British that we ourselves would be much more inclined to have them table the more general Phase A/Phase B formula.
As foregoing makes clear, we gravely doubt that Soviets really envisage any public announcement or that Hanoi would wish it. The main point is the British should leave Soviets in no doubt of essential elements of our proposal. In fact, we have one final and serious worry that the Soviets and Hanoi might interpret British suggestions of a public announcement as indicating that we ourselves visualize the deal being handled in this public way. You should make clear to the British, and they in turn must make clear to the Soviets, that while the British do understand that either of the above formulations reflect the US position accurately, the US has by no means urged a public statement unless the Soviets can completely ascertain that such a public statement is acceptable to Hanoi. We have always been very sensitive to Hanoi’s desire that the stoppage of the bombing be ostensibly unilateral, and this fundamental reason for the whole Phase A/Phase B line of thought would be destroyed by a public statement in the only form in which we could accept it.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/SUNFLOWER. Top Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Sunflower Plus. Drafted by William Bundy; cleared by Harriman, Walt Rostow, and Read; and approved by Rusk.
  2. Telegrams 6399 and 6411 are printed as Documents 46 and 49; for telegram 6406, see footnote 2, Document 49.
  3. See footnote 4, Document 41.
  4. See footnote 5, Document 39.
  5. Reference is to the letter from Johnson to Ho dispatched on February 8 through Moscow; for text, see Document 40.