179. Memorandum From the President’s Special Consultant (Taylor) to President Johnson1


  • The Coming Meeting with the Hanoi Representatives

At your luncheon yesterday,2 I was impressed by the need to reach a prompt decision among ourselves as to the purpose and scope of the coming meeting with the Hanoi representatives. They are likely to arrive determined to limit the discussion narrowly to agreement as to “the unconditional cessation of bombing and all other war acts by the U.S. against the DRV.” In my opinion, it should be our primary objective to verify the likelihood of “prompt” and “productive” negotiations in any second round of substantive negotiations during which the enemy would not take advantage of the suspension of bombing—i.e., check the likelihood of compliance with the San Antonio formula. Not only is it important that we explore these points before we become trapped in a cessation of bombing, but it is to our interest to accomplish as much preliminary work as possible in this first meeting when our opponents are still under the pressure of the present level of bombing. We can afford more foot-dragging here than would be tolerable in a follow-on negotiation with bombing suspended. In the light of these considerations, the agenda of the meeting should include the following:

An understanding as to what actions would cease if the U.S. accedes to the Hanoi demands. Our side should make clear that in agreeing to stop “other acts of war” we will not include unarmed reconnaissance of [Page 529] North Viet-Nam or attacks against targets at sea or on land outside of the limits of North Viet-Nam which are related to infiltration or other aspects of the war in South Viet-Nam.
A verification of the promptness and likely productiveness of follow-on negotiations. To make such a verification, our negotiators should obtain agreement as to the date, place and attendance of the next meeting. Furthermore, they should seek agreement as to the agenda because we know from past experience that debate over this subject as well as that of the attendance could be dragged out interminably if not agreed to in advance. Furthermore, it is impossible to form a judgment of probable productiveness of talks unless we know in advance the subjects which will be addressed.
A unilateral statement of what we mean by our assumption that during these talks “Hanoi will not take advantage of our restraint.” In the course of this unilateral declaration, we should also make clear that we are not going to tolerate foot-dragging in the follow-on negotiations and that we are resolved in such a case to break off discussions and to resume full scale bombing.

If you accept the foregoing outline as the desired agenda for the first meeting, then it seems to me very important to reach an agreement within our own family on the following points which are presently unresolved:

Where and when do we wish the follow-on negotiations to take place?
What is our preferred agenda for the follow-on negotiations?

With regard to the latter point, it is my view that the agenda of the follow-on negotiations should include the following topics:

Mutual agreement to cease reinforcements from outside South Viet-Nam.
The conditions governing the eventual withdrawal of foreign forces.
Disposition of the Viet Cong. This is likely to be the hardest point to negotiate since it includes such matters as the amnesty arrangements permitting their return to South Vietnamese society and political life, the subsequent participation of the Viet Cong in the political life of South Viet-Nam, provision for the economic resettlement of the Viet Cong and the removal of those so desiring to North Viet-Nam.
The conditions for a cease-fire. It is important, I think, to hold this item to last since it in itself is as difficult to negotiate as all the foregoing items. However, the cease-fire arrangements should be made easier if both parties know how they have come out in the agreements on the preceding points which constitute the political settlement.

Since the coming meeting with Hanoi representatives is likely to be the prelude to the follow-on substantive negotiations and since the [Page 530] ground work for the latter must be laid in the former, it seems to me very important that a single negotiating team with the same leader represent our side at both meetings. As this will be the most important diplomatic encounter since Panmunjom where the war may be won or lost, we need the best talent in the country on the negotiating team and a very able, tough chief negotiator thoroughly conversant with the ramifications of the Viet-Nam situation to head it. Clark Clifford, Cy Vance or possibly Alex Johnson would seem to me to meet these requirements.3

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 8 I, 1/67–12/68, Taylor Memos—General. Secret. In an attached note transmitting the memorandum to the President, April 4, Rostow wrote: “Herewith, as usual, Gen. Taylor produces a lucid and cogent memo on the first phase of the negotiations with Hanoi.” The notation “ps” on the covering memorandum indicates that the President saw Taylor’s memorandum.
  2. See Document 177.
  3. In an April 3 memorandum to the President, Rostow noted that he and Taylor did not believe that Harriman should be “the man to carry this negotiation—should it develop—beyond its first stage” since he was not in the best of health and he did not possess “an understanding and sympathy for the South Vietnamese.” They instead recommended that the President select Vance as “the man who will carry this negotiation for the long pull.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, Walt Rostow, Vol. 70)