199. Telegram From the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council (Smith) to the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) in Hawaii1

CAP 80921. Following is Ambassador Goldberg’s report of his conversation with U Thant: on a site for contacts with the North Vietnamese.

Re: Vietnam

Summary: Amb Goldberg and Sisco met with SYG and Bunche to review current state of matters re site of U.S.-NVN talks. Goldberg stressed reasons why Warsaw or any other Communist capital caused difficulties for U.S. as a site, our strong desire to get talks started promptly, and our willingness to consider neutral sites where proper atmosphere could prevail with reasonable communications, and opportunity [Page 577] for proper liaison with our allies.2 SYG confirmed he sent message to Bo over weekend through French indicating our preference for Rangoon and willingness to meet there on 16th.3 SYG has not received reply; he pointed out that since he had to work through French, Bo had not received this message until Sunday morning, April 14.

Goldberg said he had been asked by Pres Johnson to speak to SYG and to express our concern over delays in getting talks started and our desire to get prompt agreement on venue.4 Goldberg said there are number of possible sites which would be acceptable where neutral atmosphere could prevail. It important that site provide for proper atmosphere where all concerned could be treated with dignity, moreover important site permit opportunity for proper liaison with our allies. Goldberg pointed out difficulties we have with Phnom Penh and detailed reasons for our difficulties with Warsaw or other Communist capitals as site. He reminded SYG we have made number of suggestions including Rangoon where we confident Ne Win would approach matter with proper neutral spirit. SYG interjected that he sure Ne Win would agree to have Rangoon as site if both sides agreed.
Goldberg confirmed to SYG that we are maintaining our contact in Vientiane. SYG said he transmitted message through French to Mai Van Bo over the weekend, expressing our preference for Rangoon and our willingness to meet there on 16th. Since French FonOff was closed Saturday evening for Easter holidays, French did not get message to Bo until Sunday evening. SYG then made same points which Bunche communicated to us over this past weekend. SYG said important consideration for Hanoi is Peking and that Hanoi wishes to keep its reaction as little violent as possible. He attributes particular significance to fact Hanoi responded positively to Pres Johnson’s speech against Peking’s advice. He cited Chou En-lai postponement of his trip to Phnom Penh [Page 578] as a reflection of Peking’s irritation that Sihanouk had agreed to Phnom Penh as a site. He said Hanoi finds Delhi very difficult because of bad relations between India and ChiComs. For same reason, though not as difficult, Rangoon is in same category. Hanoi had suggested Warsaw because it felt Peking’s reaction would be less violent. In SYG’s judgment Hanoi will probably be more agreeable to Geneva or Paris than Delhi, Rangoon or Djakarta but he had no info to confirm this.
Goldberg confirmed that Geneva would be acceptable to U.S., although we had suggested Rangoon on assumption that being an Asian capital it would be more convenient to all concerned. In response to SYG’s query, Goldberg confirmed that we have approached Russians to seek their support for a neutral site. Bunche reported that Malik seemed optimistic and said at a recent luncheon that in his judgment talks would get started within a week. SYG expressed hope for early agreement and despite difficulties Hanoi has with Delhi as a site, his judgment is NVN meeting with Kaul indicates Delhi not necessarily precluded. SYG asked Goldberg whether Paris would be acceptable to U.S., and Goldberg responded that no such suggestion or proposal had been made but that his personal judgment was that this probably would be acceptable since our basic objection was to meeting [in] a Communist capital.
In closing SYG mentioned that he had discussed with Bo question of NVN sending a correspondent to UN which had been previously raised with SYG some months ago. SYG said he was not making any proposal to U.S. at this time. He realized that this would be very difficult for U.S. From his own point of view if NVN decided to send someone it would be helpful as a point of contact since his operation is cumbersome, having to go through third parties to reach Hanoi. He stressed to Goldberg that he had made clear to Bo that he had not discussed this matter with U.S. nor could he guarantee that should NVN decide it wished to send a correspondent that he would get a visa. SYG said that if Hanoi so decided, he would let Goldberg know so that matter can be discussed. Goldberg said that without making any commitment we would be prepared to discuss the matter if the occasion arose.5
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 6 G (4)b, 4/11–24/68, Talks with Hanoi. Secret.
  2. Bunche told Goldberg in a telephone call on April 12 that U Thant had met with Mai Van Bo that morning. Bo requested that Thant persuade the United States to accept Warsaw as the site for talks since the President had said he would meet with representatives of Hanoi “anywhere, any time.” (Notes of telephone conversation by Sisco, April 12; Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, Walt Rostow, Vol. 72) As reported in telegram 2798 from Warsaw, April 12, the Polish Government also pressed for acceptance of its capital, at Hanoi’s behest. (Ibid.)
  3. In a memorandum to Rusk and a separate memorandum to Rusk and Katzenbach, both dated April 13, Sisco confirmed that Goldberg had requested that Thant transmit to the North Vietnamese the U.S. preference for Rangoon and a meeting there on April 16. However, he noted the impression that Thant had received from Bo regarding the importance of China’s reaction to any potential site, especially in regard to places like India and Burma, governments with which China had poor relations. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/CROCODILE) Thant sent this message to Bo by way of the French Mission to the United Nations. (Telegram 12705 from Paris, April 16; ibid.)
  4. See Document 197 and footnote 2 thereto.
  5. That same day, the DRV announced that it would appoint as Minister Xuan Thuy, a former Foreign Minister and member of the delegation to the 1961–1962 Geneva Conference on Laos and the man who would likely lead the DRV delegation in the upcoming peace talks. In telegram 5852 from Vientiane, April 17, Sullivan described Thuy as “a sophisticated and urbane person” who strictly adhered to the “Hanoi party line.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/CROCODILE)