104. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rogers to President Nixon1
- Canadian Views on International Commission in Vietnam
Under Secretary Porter saw Canadian Foreign Secretary Sharp for an hour and a quarter last night. Sharp did not pick up Porter’s invitations to suggest things we might do to help maintain the cease-fire. Sharp did make very clear that Canadian reservations about their ICCS role are deep and genuine.[Typeset Page 385]
Sharp’s thesis was that for many reasons there was little political or popular support in Canada for ICCS participation. These reasons included the country’s previous unhappy experiences in Indochinese peacekeeping, the belief that the DRV/PRG were determined to get what they wanted by whatever means may be necessary, that in such event not even a good ICCS could help and that the Polish and Hungarian protectiveness of the DRV/PRG made this a far from good Commission. Canada risked holding the bag.
Sharp also believed that if peace were kept at all, it would be through great power relationships, our channels into and leverage with Hanoi and the ultimate threat to bomb. It would not be through the presence of the unessential fifth wheel that is the Commission. All these factors in Canadian attitudes made it very difficult for the government. Since returning from Paris Sharp has been attacked for failing to obtain satisfaction of the conditions for participation that he had earlier laid down. Yet, he said that if as a result of his trip he was convinced a useful role were possible, he would continue. If it looked futile, Canada would withdraw. He insisted that the government’s mind was open, and no decision had been made.
Under Secretary Porter stressed your continuing commitment to peace in Vietnam after the 60 days. He said that at a time when political prospects in the South were somewhat more encouraging and our leverage in Hanoi was developing, it would be a disaster for Canada to withdraw and to remove from the Commission its most effective member. He said Canada’s voice was an essential basis for actions by others, and he hoped Sharp had no doubts about our readiness to act in support of them. Porter repeatedly invited suggestions as to what we might do in this respect, but Sharp did not respond.
It was quite clear from the meeting that the Canadians have very serious doubts about their continued participation in the ICCS despite Sharp’s insistence that the government was open-minded on the subject. We are informing Bunker of Sharp’s views, and instructing him to make every effort—including with the GVN—to give Sharp’s party an encouraging picture.
Summary: Rogers discussed Canadian views on the ICCS.
Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–1973, POL 27–14 VIET. Secret; Exdis. A memorandum of conversation on Porter’s March 8 talk with Sharp is ibid. During a March 8 telephone conversation with Kissinger, World Bank President Robert McNamara reported that he had recently urged continued participation in the ICCS on Sharp, who “was really on the ropes” politically over the issue. Kissinger remarked, “They are a God damned bunch of selfish gripers.” McNamara replied that the purpose of his call was to advise Kissinger “to massage” the Canadians. Kissinger agreed, commenting, “I guess we’ll send Porter up there to talk to him.” (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, Kissinger Telephone Conversations, Box 19)↩