180. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Bundy) to President Johnson 1

SUBJECT

  • Additional Diplomatic Moves2

Mr. Moyers has conveyed to me your request for suggestions as to what we might do in regard to future diplomatic invitations. Most of what I would suggest could be used whether or not the Cambodian conference fails.3 Some of it should be given a harder push if we don’t get the Cambodian conference.

1. Actual negotiations on any subject. I do not believe we should specifically call for a conference on Viet-Nam itself unless and until we have some real sign of “give” from Hanoi. My best guess is that we will not get such a sign in the near future, and to propose a conference in the absence of it would have demoralizing effects in Saigon and might build up tremendous pressures for us to stop bombing.

This leaves the possibility of negotiation on Laos. Both the Soviets and Hanoi called for a Laos conference in their recent communiqué.4 We have never been against such a conference in principle, but have fully supported Souvanna Phouma in insisting that the Communist side must first recognize Souvanna’s own position and be prepared to permit the ICC to operate in the Communist areas (including the infiltration routes). Last spring, Souvanna, with our support, also insisted that the Communist side withdraw from the territory it had taken over in its military offensive last May; however, the subsequent Government gains north of Vientiane pretty well canceled this out and we would not need to insist on this precondition now. However, the other two conditions do [Page 363] remain important, the Communist side has shown no signs of yielding on them, and to go ahead on a conference without satisfying them would run serious risks of undermining Souvanna’s internal political position with his generals and others potentially opposed to him.

The present state of the bidding is that preliminary talks are under way in Laos simply to fix on an agreed site, also in Laos, for further talks. Although the Communists are hurting in Laos, there is as yet no clear sign that they really want to accept even the political and ICC provisions of the 1962 Accord, much less permit the ICC to do a job in the infiltration areas.

Nonetheless, if the Cambodian conference fell through, we have one avenue for discussion on Laos that avoids the tricky problem of Souvanna’s conditions. The British, on February 2, proposed to the Soviets that the two co-chairmen get together to discuss the continuation and functions of the ICC. This approach was in accordance with Article 19 of the 1962 agreements, which provides specifically for such co-chairman action prior to July 1965, when the ICC technically expires. The Soviets have not replied to the British initiative. Since we believe they really meant it about the Cambodian conference, they might be prepared to pick up the Laos gambit if the Cambodian conference falls through. (I doubt it otherwise.)

This would mean, not an immediate conference, but a meeting of the co-chairmen in the first place, possibly with invitations to the members of the 1962 conference to come and express their views. We could get some sort of informal gathering, at first, which might develop into a full-scale conference or not, but which would at least show that we were still working for discussions. The gathering would also provide opportunity for the same sort of corridor contacts we have envisaged as possible in the Cambodian conference—even though we do not now think the Communist side would be taking advantage of them.

[Here follows a section entitled “Clarification of US and Vietnamese negotiation positions,” relating to definition of terms of settlement in Vietnam.]

William P. Bundy
  1. Source: Johnson Library, White House Central File, Confidential File, FO. Secret. The first page of this memorandum is on White House stationery and the type font is different from the following pages; apparently it was retyped at the White House.
  2. The following note appears at the top of the memorandum in the President’s hand: “Bill, Follow thru & you & Goodwin get another Baltimore speech ready.” The President was alluding to his April 7 speech at John Hopkins University in which he declared U.S. readiness for unconditional discussions on finding a negotiated settlement for Vietnam. For text, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1965, Book I, pp. 394–399.
  3. On March 15 the Cambodian Government requested that the Geneva Co-Chairmen convoke a meeting of the participants of the 1954 Geneva Conference on Indochina to consider the question of the neutrality and territorial integrity of Cambodia. The text of the message is in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1965, pp. 715–716.
  4. Reference is to the joint USSR-DRV communiqué of April 17, issued at the end of a week-long visit by DRV Workers Party First Secretary Le Duan to the Soviet Union. For text, see ibid., pp. 855–856.