7. Memorandum of Meeting1

PARTICIPANTS

  • Eugene Rostow
  • W. Averell Harriman
  • Henry Cabot Lodge
  • William Bundy
  • John McNaughton
  • Joseph Sisco
  • Benjamin Read
  • Leonard Unger
  • Chester L. Cooper

Rusk-Dobrynin Conversation

Mr. Read briefly outlined the highlights of the 2–1/2 hour conversation between Secretary Rusk and Ambassador Dobrynin. Mr. Read identified two points that he felt were new: The Secretary’s suggestion that we and the Soviets meet to see if we couldn’t come to some joint agreement on the points at issue; and the Secretary’s query to Dobrynin on what Moscow would do if bombing stopped. On both points Dobrynin seemed interested and receptive, but it was apparent that he had to wait for instructions before pursuing them further. The Secretary gave Dobrynin a revision of the “14 points” (originally developed in connection with the peace offensive a year ago). Dobrynin, speaking personally, stated that there seemed to be little in the 14 points with which the Soviets could not agree. The MemCon will be made available to participants.2

Mr. McNaughton reported on a luncheon conversation he had with Mr. Zinchuk of the Soviet Embassy (Mr. Read is to furnish the MemCon of this).3 Zinchuk suggested that we let the Warsaw exercise “cool off” for a while, but felt that direct talks between the North Vietnamese [Page 23]and the Americans would be productive; NLF participation could come later.

Instructions for Ambassador Thompson

It was agreed that key documents, including the “package for Hanoi”, should be pouched to Moscow as soon as possible (these documents are now on their way).4 It was also agreed that a message should be forwarded to Thompson for receipt on his arrival which would give him an up-to-date account of the state of play. Another message containing suggestions and instructions for his talks with Soviet leaders should await the playback from the Rusk/Dobrynin discussion and elaboration of the Salisbury interview with Pham Van Dong.

Harrison Salisbury

Salisbury has declined the invitation to use British code facilities in Hanoi to provide additional information on his interview with Pham Van Dong in favor of a personal conversation with the Secretary. The timing of his return to the U.S. is uncertain, but it appears that he will be in Washington on or before January 11.5

Mr. Unger indicated that a preliminary reading of the Mai Van Bo interview showed no basic change in the DRV position.6

Sainteny

It was generally agreed that Sainteny should proceed to Hanoi “to take soundings” if DeGaulle permits him to do so. The Secretary should be informed of the judgment of the Committee and, subject to his judgment on timing, a message should be forwarded from the Governor [Page 24]through John Dean of our Embassy suggesting that Sainteny make the trip.7

Japanese Contacts with North Vietnamese in Moscow

Mr. Bundy suggested that we ask the Japanese Ambassador in Moscow to query his North Vietnamese colleague about Salisbury’s report that Pham Van Dong is being more flexible on negotiations to clarify our position with respect to reciprocal action in connection with a bombing cessation (i.e., to indicate that we want something more than an agreement to talk), and to correct the record with respect to the North Vietnamese claim that there are no North forces in the South. We should also indicate to the Japanese that we would welcome contacts between their Ambassador to Moscow and the New DRV Ambassador. (Mr. Bundy is to handle.)8

Contacts with the NLF

Ambassador Lodge felt that any American contacts with NLF representatives should be secret, unofficial, and deniable, although, by and large, he advised against any independent approaches to the Front. He felt that the NLF had little direct control over the Viet Cong; the Viet Cong are directed from Hanoi rather than by the NLF. The Front, in turn, is under the control of Hanoi, primarily through the “power of assassination”. Ambassador Lodge felt that the GVN would be ready to talk to the NLF “when the time was right”. The GVN feels that Hanoi is ready to continue the war at least for another year and for this reason there would be no point in early contacts with the Front. In any case, it would be preferable to wait until the Viet Cong or Hanoi takes the initiative to seek us out. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] [Page 25]contacts with the NLF and SVN contacts with individuals of the Front, however, were desirable.

Before we or the GVN can have any effective talks with the Viet Cong or the North Vietnamese, Ambassador Lodge felt that we had to demonstrate our ability to break up the hard core terrorist apparatus. Although some modest steps were being taken to do this, we still were far from developing an effective operation. “We don’t even know what happens to those hard core terrorists who have been caught”; apparently many of these who were imprisoned have escaped.

Ambassador Harriman felt that the differences between the NLF and Hanoi were probably greater than intelligence analysts tended to believe—pointing to differences within the Polet Bureau [Politburo] even under Stalin.

Mr. McNaughton suggested that the GVN would score many points internationally and in the U.S. if they would agree to “unconditional talks” with the NLF. Ambassador Lodge emphasized the difficulties such a course would have for the GVN and Mr. Bundy stressed that we must accept and live with the proposition that the GVN cannot talk with the “NLF qua NLF” publicly. He could envisage contacts by U.S. representatives, or by Ky himself at an appropriate time.

It was agreed that the question of dealing with individuals of the NLF should be part of the program of national reconciliation.

It was also agreed that Mr. Cooper should explore the whole question of NLF-GVN-US contacts.

Miscellaneous Items

Mr. Cooper is to get in touch with Mr. Colby to see if some contacts could be arranged with the DRV and NLF Delegations to the French Communist Party Congress currently in session. (This has been done.)

It was generally agreed that, in the Marigold operation, Hanoi was trying to see how far it could go in getting U.S. concessions before being confronted with the necessity of talking to us. It was also suggested that Rapacki himself may have been less than forthright in his handling of the talks (Ambassador Lodge indicated that Lewandowsky probably felt that he had been let down by the conduct of the talks in Warsaw).

Mr. Unger indicated that the question of a 7-day Tet truce, which was recommended by State, was under current consideration in DOD. Governor Harriman indicated his personal view that, from the point of view of world opinion, a 7-day truce would be desirable.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/MARIGOLD. Secret; Eyes Only Participants; Marigold. No drafting information appears on the memorandum. This meeting of the Negotiations Committee was held in Harriman’s office; it is also summarized in a January 6 memorandum from Harriman to the President and Rusk. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Amb. Harriman—Negotiations Committee)
  2. A memorandum of conversation of the January 4 meeting between Rusk and Dobrynin, January 5, is ibid., Files of Walt Rostow, Box 9, Marigold-Sunflower. For the Fourteen Points, as expounded by Vice President Hubert Humphrey and other officials in early 1966, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1966, pp. 740–742; for the Ten Points, which were suggested U.S. negotiating positions put forward by Lewandowski during the Marigold exercise in December 1966, see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. IV, Document 322.
  3. Not found.
  4. The “package” was a letter that the Embassy in Moscow would deliver directly to the DRV Embassy on January 10 proposing confidential discussions that would lead to formal peace talks. See Document 8.
  5. See Document 3.
  6. See Document 3. On January 5 Bo amplified his remarks before a meeting of the Congress of the French Communist Party by assuring that the DRV would “examine and study” U.S. proposals for peace after a halt to the bombing. See The New York Times, January 6, 1967. State Department spokesman Robert McCloskey responded during a news conference the same day with the following statement: “Our position has been repeatedly made clear. We are prepared to have talks without any conditions with North Viet-Nam at any time. We are prepared to order a cessation of all bombing of North Viet-Nam the moment we are assured, privately or otherwise, that this step will be answered promptly by a corresponding and appropriate de-escalation on the other side. This could occur before talks started, or it could be the first order of business in such talks.” His statement is printed in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 828–829.
  7. Jean Sainteny was a former French Government official with long experience in Indochina and an associate of President Charles de Gaulle. Sainteny had met with Ho Chi Minh in July 1966, and planned to return to Hanoi in early 1967 at the request of the U.S. Government. On January 20 President De Gaulle vetoed the trip because he doubted the sincerity of the U.S. Government with respect to negotiations. (Memorandum from Harriman to the President, January 24; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Subject Files, Johnson, Lyndon 1967) According to a memorandum of conversation dated January 30, Sainteny later told Senator Robert Kennedy (D–NY) that the North Vietnamese would never regard a simple bombing cessation as sufficient for peace talks if it was not permanent and accompanied by a troop withdrawal and an acceptance of the Four Points as a basis for a political settlement. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXV, Memos (B)).
  8. During July, September, and December 1966, as well as during January 1967, the Japanese Ambassador in Moscow carried on discussions with his DRV counterpart. The Japanese Government characterized the response of the DRV representative to its overtures as the “standard line.” (Telegram 118870 to Tokyo, January 14; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 VIET S)