87. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Italy 1

120937. Ref: Rome 4418, 4419, 4422, 4429, 4440, 4441.2 From Harriman for Davidson.

[Page 249]
The full reports of your conversations with Fanfani and D’Orlandi have been most useful in evaluating this North Vietnamese approach. On the basis of what the Italians have told you about the substance and background of these conversations, and particularly in the light of the serious attitude the Italians have taken, we agree that we should give a constructive response to the proposal that D’Orlandi make another visit to Prague as suggested by Ambassador Su. We certainly do not wish to give the Italians the impression we are being negative on following up any possible opening; and, in any event, it would be useful to obtain further insight on just how seriously the North Vietnamese really do view the Italian channel (we have doubts on this score).
However, under existing circumstances it would be unwise to suggest any new formulations (as you propose para 4 Rome 4419)3 which might give Hanoi the idea that we were weakening on the San Antonio position.
In view of the above, it would seem well to keep the Italian channel open for possible future use rather than to pursue it actively at the present time.
You should therefore convey the following to Fanfani and D’Orlandi:
Express our great appreciation for their (particularly Fanfani’s) efforts and attention they have given to these problems, as well as for the information and background that Fanfani’s conversations with North Vietnamese representatives have developed. Secretary Rusk is personally most grateful for Fanfani’s interest and effort in this matter.
You should explain to Fanfani that Hanoi has made a number of different approaches to other interested governments since the Tet offensive although they are of more recent date and none of these has been as skillfully and knowledgeably handled as that made through Fanfani. However, it appears to us that Hanoi is undertaking a combined diplomatic and propaganda offensive rather than showing a serious intention to negotiate in good faith at the moment. It would be useful for the Italians to try to discover whether the North Vietnamese look upon contacts with the Italians as expressing a serious negotiating position or as part of a rather widespread exercise to impress a variety of governments.
As you suggest in Reftel 4441, it appears useful for D’Orlandi to visit Prague in order to tell Su:
His statements have been communicated to the US and after careful analysis did not seem to US Government to be any more forthcoming than public statements of Hanoi. If Hanoi has any intention of conveying anything new, Su should be requested to point it out.
D’Orlandi might on his own responsibility explore with Su anything that Su could suggest which would be more definite on timing and particularly any statements Hanoi would be willing to make as to their intentions relating to the military problem of “no advantage.” D’Orlandi may draw on explanations you have provided him as to meaning of San Antonio formula.4 FYI We have been informed by French and through U Thant on information he received from French that negotiations would start immediately if we announced publicly unconditional cessation of bombing and other acts of war against NVN.5 Therefore there is no value in making an issue of this point through Su. End FYI.
In addition, D’Orlandi might wish to point out to Su that since Hanoi had rejected San Antonio formula, Americans had asked number of questions. For example, does this mean that Hanoi feels free to move men and supplies to the South as they did during the Tet truce last year? Would Hanoi feel free to move troops to the DMZ area in positions to attack US forces south of the DMZ? Would Hanoi consider it has the right to intensify artillery and other fire across the DMZ into US positions in South Viet-Nam?
If the Italians express disappointment at the lack of detail in this message, please tell them that we are understandably cautious because of the major military operations now in progress or being planned by North Viet-Nam in the DMZ and the Laos Panhandle. We cannot ignore Hanoi’s actions on the ground in interpreting what Hanoi’s intentions may be.
We agree Davidson should remain in Rome to debrief D’Orlandi immediately following his return (Rome 4421).6
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/KILLY. Secret; Nodis; Killy. Drafted by Harriman and Heywood Isham (EA/VN); cleared by Bundy, Katzenbach, and George Kelly (S/S); and approved by Rusk and Harriman. Repeated to the White House. Beginning in January 1967, Italian Ambassador to South Vietnam Giovanni D’Orlandi and North Vietnamese Ambassador to Czechoslovakia Phan Van Su met intermittently at Prague. Following these exchanges, which lasted through January 1968, Su came to Rome and met with Italian Foreign Minister Amintore Fanfani on February 5 and 6. According to Fanfani, Su suggested the possibility of the DRV opening contacts after a cessation of bombing. Su rejected reciprocity but noted that his government might take certain “favorable meas-ures” as talks progressed. On February 7 Italian Ambassador to the United States Egidio Ortona read to Rusk a telegram from his government summarizing the contacts and emphasizing the step forward made by Hanoi. A story about these contacts appeared in the Italian press on February 12. (Memorandum from Bundy to Rusk, February 12, and attached translated note from Ortona to Rusk, February 7; ibid., EA Files: Lot 71 D 461, Killy—DD’s Background, and memorandum of conversation between Fanfani and Su, February 5; ibid., Killy (extra copies and drafts))
  2. In telegrams 4418, 4419, and 4422 from Rome, all February 23, and 4440 from Rome, February 26, Davidson reported on his February 22 discussion with Fanfani and D’Orlandi concerning statements made by Su during his meetings with Fanfani. A summary of the Killy contacts appears in telegram 4429 from Rome, February 24. In telegram 4441 from Rome, February 26, Davidson recommended in favor of a trip to Prague by D’Orlandi, during which D’Orlandi could “try to obtain an agreement on requirements of no advantage” and to get a firm statement from Su on the number of days between a bombing halt to the opening of negotiations. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/KILLY)
  3. In this paragraph, Davidson reported that he had suggested to Fanfani and D’Orlandi that the DRV could get around the problem of openly accepting the San Antonio formula “if Hanoi stated that it recognized that during a period when the U.S. was not bombing and while talks were continuing that such acts as attacks on U.S. positions in the area of the DMZ, massive terror against the cities such as the Tet campaign or increased infiltration, would show bad faith on its part and that it, of course, would never do anything that smacked of bad faith.”
  4. Telegram 4590 from Rome, March 4, reported on D’Orlandi’s March 1 meeting in Prague with Su. According to D’Orlandi, Su came close to confirming the San Antonio formula by reportedly implying that the North Vietnamese would not launch or continue offensive operations in South Vietnam if the bombing had ceased and talks had begun. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/KILLY) Lodge reported that he was told by D’Orlandi that the North Vietnamese were prepared to agree that “they would not take advantage of a U.S. bombing pause to improve their military position.” (Telegram 134985 to Rome, March 22; ibid.) An analysis of Killy is in a memorandum from Hughes to Rusk, March 22. (Ibid.)
  5. Goldberg reported this information received from U Thant in telegram 3886 from USUN, February 22. (Ibid.)
  6. Dated February 23. (Ibid.)