87. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1
40627. 1. Foreign Minister Thanh called in Political Counselor October 18 to inform him that President Thieu has sent instructions to Ambassadors Diem in Washington and Lam in Paris to “reaffirm” that if the NLF participates in Paris negotiations “as a separate entity” the GVN will not participate. The President, Thanh said, considers that participation of the GVN in negotiations would bring “no advantage” under such circumstances.
2. We asked what the GVN means by “a separate entity.” The other side will obviously try to pretend that the NLF is something separate, which is what they have always said, and one cannot control what the other side says in the course of negotiations.
3. Thanh replied that the GVN is not moving away from its accept-ance of the “your side, our side” formula. They understand that the [Page 241] NLF can come as a part of the “other side” but the GVN could not come to the negotiations unless the status of the NLF was settled beforehand.
4. Pol Counselor said this is the kind of issue that cannot be settled either by agreement or beforehand and is best left unsettled, with each side holding to its own position.
5. Thanh thereupon said the GVN understands that the other side will “pretend” that the NLF is a separate entity but they want assurances that the US will not treat them as such. He pointed to the penultimate paragraph of the Honolulu Communiqué which had said that negotiations should “involve directly North Viet Nam and South Viet Nam.”
6. Pol Counselor said that as I had pointed out to President Thieu last night (Saigon 40532)2 and as Berger had earlier emphasized to Thanh himself, these matters cannot be settled before the talks begin. We have always felt that it is important for the GVN to be present immediately after the bombing cessation and to make its position known.3
7. The Foreign Minister was cautioned that it was of utmost importance that instructions to Bui Diem and Phan Dang Lam not leak out to the press, for it would make the GVN appear to be interposing new conditions to a bombing halt and appear to be involved in a major difference with US.
8. The Department will obviously be hearing from Bui Diem in the near future.
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. I [2 of 3]. Secret; Immediate; Nodis/HARVAN Double Plus. Received at 9:35 a.m. In an attached covering note transmitting a copy of the telegram to the President, October 18, 12:00 p.m., Rostow wrote: “Herewith a GVN problem if we appear to accept the NLF as a ‘separate entity’—and not part of ‘their side.’” The notation “ps” on the covering memorandum indicates that the President saw the telegram.↩
- Dated October 17. (Ibid., HARVAN/DOUBLE PLUS, Vol. III)↩
- In telegram 22624/Delto 845 from Paris, October 18, the delegation noted: “We have made a make-or-break issue of almost immediate talks, and we cannot be in the position of being unable to comply on our side if we get definite date for meeting from DRV,” and urged immediate resolution of the issue. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-October 1968)↩