207. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1

25643. For the President from Bunker. Herewith my forty-eighth weekly message.

A. General

The past week seems to have been, in a sense, one of suspended animation. There has been a feeling of expectancy in the air, people waiting to see whether talks will get underway, and where they will be held. Your statement on the need for agreement on a site to which the interested parties would have adequate access under conditions which would be fair to both sides2 is considered here to be eminently reasonable and is strongly supported. At the same time, I have the impression that the general feeling of apprehension, the fear of American abandonment, which I reported in last week’s message,3 has subsided somewhat; although some anxiety is still evident there is much more confidence in our intentions. I think it is fair to say that concurrently there has been some hardening of popular and government attitudes and positions in respect to negotiations and the whole range of questions they raise. In the speech of the Prime Minister on April 17, in the resolutions adopted by the Confederation of Vietnamese Labor Unions, and in the two anti-Communist meetings held in [Page 596] Saigon over the weekend, as well as in statements by members of the government and the Assembly, opposition to any form of coalition with the NLF, insistence on the freedom and territorial integrity of South Viet-Nam, on its primary role in negotiations, and its determination to carry on, alone if necessary, to see that the fruits of its long struggle are not lost through negotiations have been emphasized repeatedly.
Your joint communique with President Park has had a good effect here.4 Virtually all Vietnamese leaders were much reassured by the statement regarding Vietnamese participation in the peace talks. I think this statement alone has taken a good deal of the edge off of their fears. Vietnamese in general also seem to be more encouraged than otherwise by the delay in finding an acceptable site for preliminary contacts. The snag over a site has at least had the merit of demonstrating to them that we are not going to be bullied or cajoled into dealing with Hanoi on whatever terms it chooses to demand. The delay has also given many people here time to absorb this turn of events and to evaluate more soberly the meaning of your March 31 speech, various subsequent allied statements, and Hanoi’s response.
Leaders such as Tran Van Huong and the head of the Senate’s independence bloc, Senator Nguyen Van Chuc, this week publicly expressed confidence that the U.S. would not abandon Viet-Nam. Prime Minister Loc’s speech, which I have mentioned, is generally positive in tone. He noted that Thieu is trying to carry out the promises made at Manila, referring to the establishment of constitutional government and the attack on corruption as examples. He added that freedom loving peoples everywhere are “looking with confidence at the role and leadership of the United States in the task of stopping the Communists’ bold invasion.” He then said that in the light of GVN performance “Viet-Nam has the right to expect from her allies that they keep the promises they made in Manila5 with the view to halting Communist inroads.”

[Omitted here is discussion of military, political, civil, and economic matters.]

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Received at 5:43 a.m. This telegram is printed in full in Pike, ed., The Bunker Papers, Vol. 2, pp. 419–425.
  2. Reference is to the President’s remarks on April 15. For the full text, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1968–69, Book I, pp. 511–513.
  3. Telegram 25197 from Saigon, April 19. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 VIET S)
  4. For this joint U.S.-South Korean communique, which contained a statement of dedication to the cause in Vietnam, see Department of State Bulletin, May 6, 1968, pp. 575–577.
  5. Reference is to the Manila Declaration of October 1966 calling for the withdrawal of U.S. and allied troops from South Vietnam within 6 months of enemy disengagement. See Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. IV, Document 281.