226. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam1

274093. Saigon Deliver to Ambassador at Opening of Business.

The following is a redraft of the text of the U.S. statement which you should use in your discussions with Thieu. It takes into account the previous discussion with Thanh.2 Where differences have arisen we have commented parenthetically at the end of each paragraph to indicate the reasons for the position taken.

Text Begins.

This statement is designed to answer the questions which have been raised by the Government of the Republic of Viet-Nam about a new meeting in Paris. (Comment: We agree to deletion of the phrase “the arrangements for.”)
Prior to the President’s announcement of October 31 of the stopping of bombing against North Viet-Nam, agreement had been reached in Paris between North Vietnamese and United States negotiators that a meeting on the substance of a peaceful settlement in Viet-Nam should be convened in Paris. (Comment: You will note that we have dropped the word “promptly.” If GVN objection rests on the reference to the promptness of the meeting, this change should be sufficient. In terms of the format of the statement alone, the paragraph is essential as a foundation for later references. Moreover, for our part, it is important to retain that we agreed to a meeting on the substance of a peaceful settlement. Anything less would derogate from the purposes of these meetings and could possibly lead us to fall prey to what we suspect would be the GVN’s preference that these meetings be considered preliminary or as dealing with arrangements prior to negotiation of a subsequent [Page 666] settlement. This is a matter of substance on which we should not concede. You may recall to Thieu that the Honolulu Communiqué,3 referring to the Paris talks, spoke of “discussions concerning the substance of a final settlement.” The Honolulu Communiqué also expressed the agreement of the two Presidents that “The basic objective in the Paris talks is to open the way to a stable and honorable peace.”)
During the earlier discussions with the North Vietnamese representatives, United States spokesmen made clear that the stopping of bombing and the holding of such a meeting would not be possible without agreed provision for the participation of the Republic of Viet-Nam as a separate delegation forming with the United States delegation one side of the meeting. United States negotiators made clear to Hanoi that it might bring on its side of the table any persons it wished. It was understood that both sides would organize themselves as they chose. (Comment: We agree to the addition of the word “earlier” in the first sentence but prefer retaining the words “such a” rather than substitute the word “future” as applied to the meeting. If it will simplify GVN acceptance, we would be willing to have the phrase in the first sentence read “and the holding of such a future meeting.” We wish to make clear the relationship between the meeting being spoken of in this paragraph and that described in the previous paragraph. You will note that we have re-inserted the last sentence of the paragraph. This is a fact not only which was spoken of in the Department’s November 13 statement4 but repeated a number of times in the negotiations with the North Vietnamese. It is at the heart of the Our-Side Your-Side formula and should have been apparent to the GVN from the beginning. Thus, we believe we should have one last clear try at getting it into the statement. However, if it becomes the sole obstacle to final agreement, we could accept its omission. The point is that Thieu must be in no doubt that this remains the case, whether we say it in this statement or not.)
The North Vietnamese representatives in Paris accepted this proposal and indicated that they would bring to the meeting members of the so-called National Liberation Front.
This was and is the sole agreement concerning representation in the new Paris meetings.
In the light of these facts the arrangements agreed in Paris provide in essence for a two-sided meeting. Hanoi clearly understands that our side will be constituted as separate delegations of the Republic of Viet-Nam and the United States.
Whatever others may claim, the United States has not agreed and will not agree that the meeting is a four-sided or four-party conference, or properly so described. (Comment: We think this is more comprehensive than the GVN draft and accurate.)
Consistent with our view of the nature of the so-called National Liberation Front, we will regard and treat all the persons on the other side of the table—whatever they might claim for themselves—as members of a single side, that of Hanoi, and for practical purposes as a single delegation. (Comment: We believe we must retain the last phrase despite the points raised by Paris. However, the whole point of the reference “whatever they might claim” is to recognize that the other side will try to set themselves up as a separate delegation, and that such action by them cannot be grounds for our walking out.)
In the discussions between the United States and North Vietnamese negotiators it was made clear throughout that, whomever Hanoi chose to bring on its side, the arrangement involved no element of recognition whatever. The United States Government has repeatedly made clear publicly and privately that it does not recognize either the National Liberation Front or the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam). Concerning the so-called National Liberation Front in particular the United States Government has at all times regarded it as an agent of Hanoi’s aggression against the Republic of Vietnam. The National Liberation Front is not in any sense a separate entity, much less a government. (Comment: While we would be willing to accept the phrase “an emanation of North Vietnam and a tool of Hanoi’s aggression against the Republic of Vietnam” in the penultimate sentence, we believe that the sentence as redrafted above is simpler and includes “aggression” which the Government of Vietnam apparently wishes to introduce. Our draft is also much more in keeping with the style to be expected in an official United States statement.)
Following the stopping of the bombing of North Vietnam, if Hanoi fulfills its repeated undertaking to enter into serious talks—undertakings repeated throughout the contacts between North Vietnamese and American representatives in Paris—the North Vietnamese delegation must talk directly and seriously with the Republic of Vietnam’s delegation.

In the Paris meetings the Republic of Vietnam delegation will play a leading role, as was explicitly affirmed in the Honolulu Communiqué of July. The Republic of Vietnam will take the lead and be the principal spokesman on all matters which are of immediate and direct concern to South Vietnam. (Comment: Simply omitting “immediate and direct” is too broad to accept, for reasons you have already expounded. If the GVN still objects, acceptable alternatives for us would be: [Page 668]

to omit the second sentence and expand the first to read “a leading role in discussions concerned with the substance of a final settlement in Vietnam, as was . …”
“paramount concern” or “of concern primarily”
“principal spokesman on all matters relating to the substance of a political settlement in Vietnam.”

We cannot accept the inclusion of the GVN’s paragraph “In the respect of national sovereignty of RVN, problems of internal politics will not be considered as proper subjects of discussion in the framework of these meetings.” For reasons summarized in Deptel 273732,5 the United States is not prepared to agree to such a broad restriction. It is not correct to state that no sovereign government can permit its internal affairs to be discussed in an international conference. In fact, a sovereign government can discuss anything it wishes. Moreover, Thanh’s comparison of the 1962 Geneva Conference is erroneous. At that conference, by agreement, negotiations of internal arrangements were conducted separately by the leaders of the three factions. As we have pointed out previously we cannot allow the GVN to believe that it can walk out if the DRV side raises internal matters. If Hanoi raises the issue of a political solution in the South, our joint position—primarily articulated by the GVN—could be a political solution based, for example, on the principles of the Constitution, election, and reconciliation policy. The GVN should be prepared to set forth its political views as a sovereign government. Only in this way will its position be understandable in the United States and internationally. Moreover, it is only in this way that it can avoid leaving the field open to the other side without any logical reply.)

The new Paris meetings will be expected to explore all avenues to end Communist aggression against the Republic of Vietnam and to reach a subsequent peaceful settlement. They will start with a clean slate. The sole agreements that have been reached in the earlier Paris talks between North Vietnamese and US representatives have concerned the stopping of bombing and the convening of a new meeting. As the President stated in his October 31 speech,6 “We cannot have productive talks in an atmosphere where the cities are being shelled and the DMZ is being abused.” (Comment: Although we would have preferred to omit the word “subsequent” in the first sentence, we believe we cannot argue forcefully against it in the light of our own belief—and commitments to the TCC—that a still wider format would be required [Page 669] to participate in the final total “settlement.” Even more seriously, we believe it is essential to change the third sentence in this fashion, since any claim that there were “agreements” concerning even the “circumstances” would be met by sharp rebuttal and is just not true. This was our mistake, and we now believe that we must have a formulation such as this to clarify the matter. Since Thanh and Duc previously suggested using the President’s words, we would hope that the GVN could buy this change.)
In the new meetings the United States Government will operate in the closest cooperation with the Republic of Vietnam, and in continuing consultation with the nations that have contributed military forces to the defense of South Vietnam.
The substantive position of the American Government will continue to be based on the Manila Communiqué, the Honolulu Communiqué, and on other publicly stated positions. In particular, there has been no change whatever, and will be no change, in the position of the United States Government toward a so-called coalition in South Vietnam. The United States does not believe aggression should be rewarded and will not recognize any form of government that is not freely chosen through democratic and legal process by the people of South Vietnam. The imposition of any coalition government would be in conflict with this principle.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Outgoing)-November 1968. Secret; Immediate; Nodis/HARVAN Double Plus. Drafted by Habib and Bundy, cleared by Rostow and Read, and approved by Katzenbach. Repeated to Paris for Harriman and Vance as Todel 1601. In a covering note transmitting a copy of the telegram to the President, November 19, 3:05 p.m., Rostow wrote: “Herewith for your clearance is the proposed outgoing to Bunker to guide him in, hopefully, the showdown discussion with Thieu at 8:30 tonight our time.” The President cleared the telegram. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. VI [1 of 2])
  2. See footnote 5, Document 222. The full texts of both draft statements were also transmitted in telegram 277033/Todel 1646 to Bangkok, Canberra, Manila, Seoul, and Wellington, November 24. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Outgoing)-November 1968)
  3. See Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. VI, Document 303.
  4. See footnote 8, Document 217.
  5. Dated November 18. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Outgoing)-November 1968)
  6. See Document 169.