235. Memorandum Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1


  • Government of Vietnam (GVN) Decision to Announce on 27 November Its Decision to Attend Paris Peace Talks; President Thieu’s Plan to Send a Delegation of “Representatives of the People” to Paris; Possibility that Vice President Ky Will Not Go to Paris
The South Vietnamese National Security Council (NSC) agreed at a meeting on 25 November 1968 that Government of Vietnam (GVN) participation in the Paris peace talks should be announced to the public on 27 November.2 On the morning of 27 November, at about the same time as the U.S. Government makes its announcement, Foreign Minister Tran Chanh Thanh will make a simple statement about the GVN decision. That afternoon, at about 1600 hours, Thieu will make a follow-up announcement, probably on television. During the NSC meeting, Vice President Ky advocated that Thieu make the announcement at a press conference, with a bit of fanfare, rather than on television.
Much of the 25 November NSC meeting was taken up in discussions of the GVN posture at the negotiations on matters of both substance and procedure. For example, Thieu, who chaired the meeting, asked what the GVN delegation should do if the National Liberation Front (NFLSV) representative insisted on describing himself as the only true representative of the Vietnamese people. Senate President Nguyen Van Huyen declared that in such a case the GVN delegation should walk out. Ky demurred, saying the GVN representatives should ignore the comments and simply address their reply to the “representatives of the other side.” When one of the NSC members asked what the GVN [Page 700] delegates should do if the NFLSV or North Vietnamese (DRV) representatives addressed them in profane or unacceptable language, Ky said the GVN delegates should make it clear at the beginning that they would look at the ceiling the first two times this happened but would walk out the third time. The GVN, Ky went on, should make it clear it was present for serious talks and was wasting its time if the other side did not want them. Ky added he did not think this was a serious problem since he believed the NFLSV/DRV does not want to torpedo the talks.
The meeting also discussed the position the GVN should take if the DRV/NFLSV should move for a quick ceasefire. All those present agreed that the GVN is not yet prepared to face the Communists politically and therefore must oppose an immediate ceasefire. The consensus seemed to be that the GVN should agree to a ceasefire only if the Communists were willing to make serious and important concessions which would lead to a just peace. Most NSC members doubted Communist willingness to make such concessions and therefore thought that the GVN, at least for the present, must be prepared to expose hollow concessions for what they are. The GVN, they agreed, must not appear opposed to a ceasefire per se but only to one that did not appear as a true and significant step toward peace.
After the meeting, Thieu told Ky he had put together a delegation of “representatives of the people” that would go to Paris and observe the work of the peace talks. This delegation will consist of 20 to 30 National Assembly members and other politicians who would remain in Paris for some time. Ky was not pleased by Thieu’s announcement since he thinks the members of the group will be running around giving interviews to the press and reinforcing the belief that the GVN is disorganized.
Thieu also told Ky following the meeting that, having postponed their scheduled lunch meeting on 25 November, he would get together with Ky on 26 November to discuss the make-up of the GVN delegation. However, at about 1400 hours on 26 November, the President’s office informed Ky’s office that Thieu was too busy to see Ky that day. Ky was disheartened by Thieu’s seeming lack of interest, which suggested a possible change in Thieu’s thinking, and said he would not go to Paris if Thieu just threw in his name as an afterthought after selecting the delegates himself. Ky later remarked that he and his entourage may soon be back on vacation in Nha Trang.
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, Department of Defense, OSD Files: FRC 330 73 A 1250, VIET 092.2, (November) 1968. Secret; Sensitive. In an attached covering note transmitting a copy of the memorandum to Clifford, November 26, Helms wrote: “Attached is a report on the 25 November South Vietnamese National Security Council meeting obtained from a reliable Vietnamese source who has been reporting accurately on Vietnamese political affairs since 1962. This report has been passed to Ambassadors Bunker and Harriman. In Washington it is being disseminated only to you, and the Messrs. Rostow, Rusk and Bundy.” A stamped notation, dated December 6, on the CIA memorandum reads: “SecDef has seen.”
  2. A November 23 CIA report reads in part: “The National Security Council met from 1030 to 1400 hours on 23 November, was briefed on the detailed text of the newly drafted Vietnamese/American ‘statement of understanding,’ agreed that the understanding satisfied the governments’ requirements for attendance at the Paris talks, and approved the dispatch of a South Vietnamese delegation to Paris.” (Central Intelligence Agency, Job 80-R01580R, Executive Registry Subject Files, 280—Paris Talks)