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

40788. 1. FonMin Thanh afternoon Oct 21 presented me with memorandum, of which text below, which he said he had been instructed by President to hand to me and which he subsequently discussed in some detail. An account of the ensuing discussion and comments follow in septel.2 Thanh also mentioned that he is having trouble with rapid code transmission to Paris, and I offered to have text of his memorandum transmitted to Amb Lam by our delegation. I would appreciate if this could be done immediately. (We have renumbered paragraphs for easy reference. This should be explained to Amb Lam, so that he does not refer to paragraphs by the same numbers in his communications with Saigon.)

[Page 270]

2. Begin Text. The position of our government rests on the following basic principles:

The Government of the RVN is a legal, elected, constitutional government, recognized by more than 90 countries and has diplomatic relations with more than 30 countries. The Government of the RVN participates in numerous international conferences and is full member of most of the specialized agencies of the United Nations. The parliament of the RVN is member of the International Parliamentary Union.
The NLF is only but an organization created, directed and supported by Hanoi. It is a tool of Hanoi in its policy of aggression against South Vietnam.

3. Consequently, our government will not participate in any conference in which the NLF is represented as a distinct entity from North Vietnam.

4. In any case, it is to be avoided that even the appearances give credit to the pretension of the NLF to represent anyone in South Vietnam

5. It is necessary to reach a prior agreement with Hanoi on these details of procedure:

6. Point One. The delegation of the RVN will sit behind a table board, bearing the name “Government of the RVN.”

The “two-sides” formula does not mean that our delegation has not its own existence and that it is part of the US delegation.
The truth is that on our side, there are 6 allied governments which entertain diplomatic relations with the RVN and are assisting the RVN repel the North Vietnamese aggression.
Of course, we will not object that Hanoi has a board of its own. But, we will not accept a board bearing the name of the NLF on the other side of the conference table.

7. Point Two. Seating arrangement at the conference table: On our side, the seats of the RVN and US delegation are distinct and cannot be subject to any confusion or give the interpretation that the RVN delegation is part of the US delegation.

8. Point Three. Procedure of speech:

At the moment, each side speaks first when opening the sessions alternatively.
When it will be the turn for our side to open that session, we propose that the RVN delegation speak first on all military and other matters which will be brought at the conference table.
We think that the US delegation should discuss military matters such as: cease fire, regrouping of forces, withdrawal of forces, military bases, control and supervision, international guarantees, international police forces etc… .
The problems concerning the 2 zones should be the object of direct negotiations between Hanoi and Saigon—problems of internal [Page 271] politics of South Vietnam cannot be raised in an international conference.

9. Point Four. The RVN delegation proposes that at the first session of the conference in which it will assist, it will clearly state that its participation in the conference cannot be interpreted as a diplomatic recognition of the Hanoi authorities. We think it useful that the US delegation make a similar statement.

10. Point Five. Every time that a member of the North Vietnamese delegation claims to represent the NLF or any other related organization and speak in their name, the delegation of the RVN will reiterate that they are part and parcel of the North Vietnamese delegation, speak on behalf of North Vietnam, and that we do not consider them as a separate entity from the North Vietnamese delegation. We propose that the US delegation adopt a similar attitude.

11. Point Six. At the conference table, the rule of courtesy should be duly observed by both sides and on a reciprocal basis. The name of each delegation should be properly and correctly used during the conference. Of course, our attitude will depend on that of the other side. End Text.3

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. I. Secret; Immediate; Nodis/HARVAN Double Plus. Received at 8:38 a.m. Repeated to Paris for Harriman and Vance.
  2. Telegram 40794 from Saigon, October 21. (Ibid.)
  3. In telegram 22797/Delto 861 from Paris, October 22, Harriman noted emerging discrepancies between the GVN and its diplomats in Paris: “Lam appears to be receiving rigid instructions from Thanh which do not sufficiently take into account the points made by the Embassy to the GVN.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-October 1968) In a covering note transmitting this telegram to the President, October 22, 5:30 p.m., Rostow commented: “I presume Ellsworth will work on this in Saigon, but it is clear that we haven’t got the theology straightened out with Saigon and translated into agreed procedures yet.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. I [1 of 3]) A CIA memorandum to Rostow and Rusk forwarded by Karamessines, October 25, cited a source that noted that in response to a complaint about being kept uninformed, Thanh instructed Lam that until the commencement of expanded talks, “substantive discussions between the Americans and the South Vietnamese would take place solely in Saigon and Lam thus bore no responsibilities in this area.” (Central Intelligence Agency, Job 79-207A, Folder 1)