200. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Laos1

149160. 1. You should immediately arrange delivery to DRV Embassy with appropriate salutations the following message:


The USG has made clear its readiness to enter into contacts with the DRV without further delay. The concern of the United States is to save lives—to serve the cause of humanity, not to make propaganda.

To have the best chance for success, initial contacts should occur in a setting fair to both sides.

The USG has proposed four countries in Asia as appropriate sites for the initial contacts: Laos, Burma, Indonesia2 and India, and the US remains of the view that Asia is the proper region for discussions of peace in that area. In addition, the US has suggested Switzerland as an appropriate site.

These five countries do not exhaust the list of appropriate sites. If their governments are willing, the United States representatives are prepared to meet with representatives of the DRV in Colombo, Tokyo, Kabul, Kathmandu, Rawalpindi,3 and Kuala Lumpur.4 [Page 580] If the DRV prefers a European site, the USG is ready to meet in Rome, Brussels, Helsinki or Vienna. US representatives, Ambassador Harriman and Ambassador Vance, are ready to meet at any of the suggested sites at the earliest date suggested by the DRV. End Text.

2. Secretary Rusk will be making public statement along foregoing lines at 1630 Washington time today, so delivery should be effected with maximum speed.5

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/CROCODILE. Secret; Flash; Exdis; Crocodile; Nodis. Drafted by Read, cleared by Harriman, and approved by Rusk.
  2. In telegrams 149726 to Djakarta and 150327 to Rangoon, both April 19, the Department expressed hope that the negotiations would occur in either capital. It also noted in each telegram: “It may be that the addition of ten more sites to our list would make it a little easier for Hanoi to accept one of the original sites we suggested, although we have no indication whatever out of Hanoi that such would be the case.” (Ibid.)
  3. In backchannel telegram 6221 to Rawalpindi, April 18, Ambassador Benjamin Oelhert was instructed to deliver to President Ayub Khan a message from President Johnson requesting him to discuss with Kosygin the possibility of Rawalpindi as a venue. (Ibid., POL 27–14 VIET) Ayub’s reply, as reported in backchannel telegram 311 from Rawalpindi, April 19, in part reads: “As requested by you, I immediately took up with Mr. Kosygin the question of a venue for Vietnam peace contacts. His reaction was that after your repeated statements that you would be prepared to hold talks anywhere at any time, there should be no problem about the selection of a venue. He considers that you might agree to Warsaw where both sides have official representatives. He further considers that talks can begin at once following a positive response from you. He said that the selection of a site does not depend on USSR but is for both North Vietnam and USA to decide. It is purely my personal assessment that whatever may be the Soviet public stance, inwardly they too are anxious that talks should start and peace should be restored as soon as possible.” (Ibid.)
  4. On April 17 and 18 The New York Times published stories concerning an April 16 meeting among U Thant, Goldberg, and Sisco, and asserted that Thant would suggest Paris as a site for talks. In a memorandum to Rusk the same day, Harriman described Thant as “the best intermediary to make a suggestion of a new location to both Hanoi and ourselves.” If Thant was to be used, Harriman advised that he be given several capitals to suggest, such as Colombo, Vienna, Kabul, and “including Paris.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Kennedy-Johnson, Subject File, Vietnam, General, April 1968) In telegram 4647 from USUN, April 18, Goldberg reported that he had informed Bunche of the additional U.S. proposals and that Paris would be expressly left off the list. In turn, Bunche noted that Paris had not been formally proposed although the Secretary-General had mentioned it in his talks with Bo. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/CROCODILE) In an April 18 memorandum to Rusk, Harriman argued for Paris, noting that especially Manac’h and Sainteny would be invaluable in overcoming any impasse if the talks were held there. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Kennedy-Johnson, Subject File, Vietnam, General, April 1968) The President discussed these initiatives with Daley the next day. (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Daley, April 19, 1968, 10:21 a.m., Tape F6804.03, PNO 1–2)
  5. For text of Rusk’s statement, see Department of State Bulletin, May 6, 1968, p. 577. On April 20 the DRV rejected all of the sites proposed by the United States, noting that it did not have representation in the suggested venues and that these nations were not in fact neutral. See The New York Times, April 20, 1968.