52. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1

17769. Ref State 133834.2

1.
I believe it is necessary and prudent to inform Ky of message to Hanoi as soon as possible. We do not want to shake his confidence in our good faith. Four day truce period ends morning February 12, so at latest we should inform Ky on February 11.
2.
I do not believe we should await Hanoi’s response. It would be better to tell Ky what we have done and say we do not know what Hanoi’s response will be.
3.
In telling Ky I would propose to present our action as a logical follow-up to our previously stated position—namely that we are prepared [Page 117]to stop the bombing in North for reciprocal action. I will find it more difficult to explain the new element introduced by our willingness to stop augmentation of U.S. forces as part of the same exchange, but will seek explain it in context of reciprocal moves. Information giving rationale re stopping augmentation would be most useful.
4.
Another problem comes up in terms of extension of Tet truce. This is a stand-down of forces in their present place. If by any remote chance Hanoi agrees to meeting, GVN demands concerning location of forces will necessarily be such as to insure rejection by Hanoi. This might not be true if Tet extension is only for 7 day period, but it would surely arise if truce extension envisaged is for an indefinite period. Does the Department’s statement mean to imply that we are now clearly interested in an indefinite truce, rather than the earlier formulation of “for seven days or longer"?
5.
This point can be side-stepped at this time, however, since GVN has made offer and will stick to it. In explaining our message to Hanoi, we need only tell Ky that it included reference to the position taken by the GVN on truce extension.
6.
Ky will probably be interested in how message was conveyed to Hanoi, whether directly or indirectly. Is there anything I can tell him in this regard?
7.
Do you wish me to inform General Westmoreland at the time Ky is told? I believe it is desirable that he know what may be in the offing so that he can be prepared.
8.
I await your instructions.3
Lodge
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/SUNFLOWER. Top Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Sunflower Plus. Received at 3:26 a.m.
  2. After sending a message to Ho Chi Minh through channels in Moscow, the Department, in telegram 133834 to Saigon, February 9, requested Ambassador Lodge’s advice on the necessity of informing Prime Minister Ky of its substance. Washington was reluctant to let Ky know of the message to Ho until there was a response from the other side; at the very least it wanted to wait until the “latest feasible moment.” (Ibid.)
  3. In telegram 135513 to Saigon, February 10, the Department concurred with Lodge’s recommendation, with the instruction to emphasize to Ky that the formula involved a reciprocal exchange and that there was “no indication that Hanoi would accept this proposal.” (Ibid.) In telegram 133513 to Saigon, February 10, drafted by Bundy, Lodge was told to downplay the chances for success of the initiative. However, the fact that “Kosygin has probed very hard in London” suggested “receptivity” by the other side. Ky had to be reassured that any halt to U.S. troop accretions would not undermine the military posture of South Vietnam and the allied forces there. (Ibid.) Furthermore, as directed by telegram 135675 to Saigon, February 11, Lodge was to add that the move “was dictated solely by extreme British concern and vital support” which would be jeopardized by American non-complicity. (Ibid.)