203. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Bundy) to Secretary of State Rusk1


  • Next Steps on a Location for Contacts

1. Rejection of Warsaw.

We have instructed Gronouski Saturday to make it crystal clear to the Poles that Warsaw is not acceptable.2 While this will doubtless reach Hanoi, the repeated Hanoi propaganda that we have not categorically responded on Warsaw—plus the U Thant message from Mai Van Bo to the same effect3—seems to indicate that we should submit a formal message to Hanoi, through Vientiane, that Warsaw is unacceptable.

In so doing, we could take the occasion to argue quite bluntly that Warsaw is out principally because of its avowed role as a supplier of grant military equipment to NVN. We could latch on to Hanoi’s own complaint that some of our latest 10 suggestions were “support bases” on our side; presumably this would refer to Japan and Malaysia; but we could point out that none of our 10 have actually supplied grant military equipment, whereas the Poles have.

At the same time, I think there would be considerable propaganda advantage if we were to narrow our criteria to a simple and single criterion of “an adequately impartial atmosphere.” We could go on to say that such an atmosphere almost necessarily involved adequate and dignified treatment, with communications facilities, for representatives of both parties, adequate press access and facilities, and no difficulty in fair access for liaison representatives from vitally interested allies on both sides. This would be a far more palatable presentation of what we are actually after, would meet Hanoi’s propaganda point that we have now raised “four conditions,” and would be much more consistent with the fact that 10 of our 15 nominations have been places where Hanoi does not have resident representatives.

In short, I propose a message to this effect as our first move, and believe it should be done today. I will revise your existing draft in this sense.

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2. US Proposal of Another Site.

In my judgment, we should clearly not do this. Hanoi will have grave reservations about accepting anything that we have proposed, even secretly. With 15 already in the hopper from us, we have no need to do more as our own initiative in any event.

In my judgment, we should also refrain from further public comment at this point beyond a simple restatement of the position we have taken, perhaps adding a reference to the use of diplomatic channels as the best way to handle the matter. Even the ship idea seems to me to partake much too much of a gimmick, at least coming from us. It follows that, if the President is to say anything on the subject, it should be a simple and moderately stated defense of the position we have taken to this point. I re-worked the Saturday draft in this sense, but would now strongly suggest omitting the ship idea or any new proposal.

3. Getting Someone Else to Propose a New Site.

This seems to me by far the most promising avenue. The questions are:

What site would we like to see proposed?
What would be the best channel through which to get it proposed?
What would be the other elements in the scenario, notably the timing of consultation with Saigon and the allies, and getting required assurances that the prospective site would provide facilities for our allies and the press as required?

I address these questions below, with a recommendation at the end.

Choice of Site

On Bucharest, we have an intelligence report that the Romanians are interested. Bunker thinks he could sell it in Saigon, and our Ambassadors to the allies are hopeful with the exception of Unger4 as to the Thai; however, if we got Saigon aboard, the Thai could hardly cavil.

Bucharest can be distinguished from Warsaw in the following respects:

A Romanian is President of the General Assembly.
The Romanian diplomatic record is accurate and impartial.
The Romanians have been fairly muted on Viet-Nam at least in the past year.
While Romania is on record as supplying assistance that includes defense items, we have every reason to believe the quantities have been token.
Romania is conspicuously the most independent of the Eastern Europeans and—it could be argued—should be at least as acceptable to the [Page 586] Chinese as Warsaw. Like Warsaw, it has a Hanoi Embassy, and also Soviet and Chinese Embassies.
Romania has had no record of interference with the press in recent years—as Warsaw has—and it has no present internal political problem such as Polish antisemitism. (The latter point might have particular weight in some liberal Jewish circles here.)

On the other hand, Bucharest would still have some negative factors in Asia simply because it is a Communist capital.5

The second possible site in several minds is Paris. DeGaulle’s vitriolic criticism of the war, the overwhelmingly hostile French press, and unlimited press access can all be considered drawbacks. On the other hand, Paris would probably be far more acceptable and explainable than Bucharest in Saigon and with our allies. The South Vietnamese have representation there, and so do all of our allies.6

A third site, foreshadowed in one Indian report from a North Vietnamese representative, would be Cairo. Nasser has been considerably [Page 587] less hostile than DeGaulle, and one can assume that he would accede to the necessary arrangements. Nonetheless, our own makeshift diplomatic status there, plus the emotional aspects of identification with Cairo at this moment, seem to argue strongly against it.

Who Should We Get to Propose a New Site?

In the case of Bucharest, we could act through U Thant to Manescu, or we could approach Manescu, through a friendly third country such as the British. If we did the latter, we could have the British spell out the assurances we would need, so that we would have this under way at the same time.

If we wish Paris to be proposed, we could certainly get U Thant to do this.

Other Elements of the Script.

Whoever we use, we should make clear that we cannot finally accept the site until we have consulted with Saigon and our allies. We should do this just as soon as we have some plausible official report that the proposal is in train.

Moreover, we need to be sure that we get—either directly or through third parties—the required assurances.


This course of action has much to commend it, but it is inherently cumbersome and could involve misunderstanding. Bucharest, with the British going through Manescu, seems the best bet for discretion and responsibility. If we use U Thant at all, we risk distortion and getting ourselves out on a limb.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/CROCODILE. Secret; Nodis; Crocodile.
  2. In telegram 150456 to Warsaw, April 20, the Department instructed Gronouski to inform the Polish Government that the United States would not accept Warsaw as a site since it was likely that “Hanoi’s hopes of pressing us into Warsaw has caused them to delay in looking at other sites.” (Ibid.)
  3. See Document 199.
  4. Leonard Unger, Ambassador to Thailand.
  5. Bucharest continued to remain a possible site. In an April 20 memorandum commenting on East European sites, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Walter Stoessel noted that despite physical limitations, Bucharest was attractive because “Romania has been relatively restrained in its criticism of U.S. policy in Viet-Nam and has attempted to play a constructive role in the conflict.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/CROCODILE) In telegram CAP 81020 to the President, April 20, Rostow relayed an intelligence report which said that the Romanian Government was fully supportive of the proposal to use its capital and would endeavor to facilitate discussions in Bucharest. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, Walt Rostow, Vol. 72) In telegram CAP 81024 to the President, April 21, Rostow reported that several of the allied nations would not object to Bucharest. (Ibid.) Telegram 152367 to Bangkok, Canberra, Manila, Seoul, and Wellington, April 24, reported that Thieu “was prepared to go along” with Bucharest as a site for the talks if no better alternative could be found; the Ambassadors were urged to prepare their counterparts for the possibility of Bucharest’s selection. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/CROCODILE) In a conversation with Bogdan on April 25, Harriman noted that the United States would not propose Bucharest but would accept it as a site for contacts, although not as the place for substantive talks. (Ibid.)
  6. In an April 23 memorandum to Wallner, which was transmitted to Davidson the next day, John Gunther Dean, a political officer at the Embassy in Paris, discussed the pros and cons of Paris as the site for initial talks. In arguing in opposition to Paris, Dean advised that accepting it as the site “would be tantamount to rewarding DeGaulle for his past unfriendly position on Vietnam,” cautioned that the French Government had followed a policy of “benevolent neutrality” toward Hanoi and thus might undertake actions during the talks that would further favor the North Vietnamese, and warned that the French media and Vietnamese exiles in Paris would provide a great deal of anti-American pressure. He noted in Paris’ favor that its access, communications, and diplomatic representation were good; the city was large enough for informal meetings on a discreet basis; and the French could possibly prove useful by reporting on the DRV delegation and by ensuring a role for France in postwar Indochina. (Ibid., S-AH Files: Lot 71 D 461, Daniel Davidson Negotiating Papers, French) Wallner discussed this matter in telegram 13000 from Paris, April 23, noting in particular: “I take the liberty to rehearse the disadvantages which as seen from here far outweigh the obvious material and technical advantages of access to all parties, good communications and excellent accommodations.” (Ibid., Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/CROCODILE)