429. Telegram From the Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State1

5606. Secretary, accompanied by Amb Goldberg and Sisco, called on SYG who was joined by Bunche.

Secretary, after thanking SYG for receiving him on short notice, said he would be meeting with Kuznetsov today to discuss two serious matters, Vietnam and Berlin.

On Vietnam, Secretary said we deeply concerned over escalation of the war in the South. 78 per cent of the land of North Vietnam and 90 per cent of the population are free from bombing, while not a single square mile of territory in South is free from North Vietnamese rockets and bombing. President took an important step in limiting bombing on March 31, hoping North Vietnam would respond to de-escalate war in some way and begin serious talks. Neither has occurred. In fact, NVN infiltration rate for month of May is highest on record. A new North Vietnamese division has shown up in area of DMZ and VC leaflets have been spread that 100 rocket attacks can be expected on Saigon for the next hundred days. Hanoi is immune, whereas Saigon is under increased attack; this is situation which we cannot tolerate. Nobody has been able to tell us what would happen if we stopped the bombing. We would be talking to Kuznetsov today to see whether the Soviets can make a contribution which would move matters towards serious talks. In Paris, we have been talking past each other. We are there on basis of President’s Mar 31 statement, and North Vietnamese are there on basis of their statement of Apr 3.2 Unfortunately, statements have been public across the conference table and there has been no real private contact. We will continue to explore the possibility of quiet talks. While coffee breaks have become a little longer, we do not know whether these can lead to serious quiet talks.

SYG recounted info he had recd. He was informed by Hanoi during first week of May through a third party that while bombing of North Vietnam had been restricted in area, its intensity has been more severe and more numerous than previous. In March bombing over whole of North Vietnam was about 2,000 attacks; in spite of the restricted bombing area, it was up to 3,000; this represented 50 per cent [Page 924] increase in intensity. He further understood that during the first week of May the intensity of bombing was more than the first week in Apr. Point he was making was that although area had been restricted, intensity of bombing was greater.

SYG said he was against all escalation. There was difference of view between himself and Washington re the first of his three point proposal3 (stoppage of all bombing of the North), whereas second point which called for de-escalation was not agreeable to Hanoi. Secretary interjected that US had not rejected first point; rather, we had asked what steps of de-escalation would be taken if US stopped bombing.

SYG said that Hanoi felt that it could not be treated on a par with “aggressors.” He admitted he had not been able to convince Hanoi to take steps of de-escalation, and that he did not know whether there would be a “revised” position on de-escalation by Hanoi if all the bombing has stopped. He felt this could be found out only after we had stopped all of bombing. As to third point of his three-point proposal, SYG felt question of participation was in Pres Johnson’s words “not an insurmountable problem.” He maintained he had told Hanoi it was unrealistic for only one side to de-escalate. Hanoi’s response was that there must be American withdrawal, which SYG said he had never advocated.

Secretary said level of bombing is directly related to level of infiltration. Number of sorties are seasonal, and if there is comparison with previous season, there is not an escalation in that sense. On the other hand, escalation on the ground in South is very marked, especially since Mar 31. It is difficult for US and for South Vietnamese to understand why Saigon can be bombed every day whereas Hanoi is immune.

SYG opined that Hanoi’s objective was probably to get new government in Saigon. Secretary asked what would be situation if we adopted objective of a new govt in North Vietnam. Where is reciprocity in that? Amb Goldberg added we could all agree that escalation is not a proper framework for negotiations. SYG’s three-point proposal was directed towards de-escalation. SYG has said it is not realistic for one side to de-escalate while the other side increased its activity.

Secretary said 80 percent of casualties are in First Corps near DMZ, and that this means that area north of DMZ is integral part of entire battlefield. We cannot tell our Marines not to shoot until trucks and personnel are within mile of them. There are dozens of ways in which Hanoi can let us know what it is willing to do to de-escalate and what would happen if we stopped all bombing of North.

[Page 925]

SYG said Chi Comms are 300 per cent against Paris talks. Fact that Hanoi is talking in face of Peking opposition is something. He noted that North Vietnamese del was not received by any officials in Peking on its way to Paris Talks. He noted too that Peking Radio avoided broadcasting about Paris Talks. He underscored it is important that we understand Hanoi’s difficulties. He described Tho as a super hawk, and he thought that perhaps he had been sent to Paris to make Peking happier. He has met with French UN rep Berard this a.m. and urged French to help bring about private contacts which he believed important.

Secretary concluded this part of conversation by saying we would continue our efforts in this distressing situation.

Secretary then filled in SYG on Berlin situation which he said he would also discuss with Kuznetsov.4 He said Berlin is serious matter arising from unilateral East German action to change existing understandings and procedures. He did not see why East Germans had taken such steps and there had been no prior consultations by Russians with us on matter. He did not feel that East German action could be attributed to so-called emergency legislation in West Germany which has no bearing on Berlin. East German action comes at a very bad time since there are differences in West Germany re NPT. Some in West Germany feel that it represents a unilateral concession to Sovs without West Germany getting anything in return. This action has certainly complicated possible West German ratification on NPT, and this is something which Sovs cannot possibly like. Secretary said that interference with access might result in serious situation like that which arose in 1961 and 1962. We view situation seriously, and we are making clear that viability and freedom of access cannot be tampered with.

SYG limited himself to saying he was not familiar with situation and therefore cld not react or assess it. He understood, however, its seriousness. Secretary pointed out that Sovs have supported East Germany publicly, that East Germany had probably discussed this matter with the Sovs when Ulbricht was in Moscow. Secretary said that maybe Ulbricht was afraid of a poss détente and was concerned over developments in Chechoslovakia and Rumania. SYG viewed Czech developments as much more fundamental than those that have occurred in Rumania. Secretary indicated he was calling on Manescu this afternoon, and he felt he had done good job as GA President.

In response to Secretary’s inquiry as to why Tanzania and Zambia voted against NPT, SYG attributed it generally to Chinese influence. [Page 926] Bunche added he thought it was primarily Chinese Communist influence on Nyerere and in turn Nyerere influence on Kaunda.

Suggest Dept decide on distribution.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, United Nations, Vol. 10. Secret; Priority; Nodis.
  2. For extracts from both statements, see Department of State Bulletin, April 22, 1968, p. 513.
  3. Reference is to the three-point proposal U Thant first introduced on June 20, 1966. For text, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1966, p. 819.
  4. A memorandum of conversation between Rusk and Kuznotsov is in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. XV, Document 270.