2. Memorandum From Michael Armacost of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Yost Mission to Hanoi

I understand consideration is being given to dispatching Charlie Yost to Hanoi at an early date to discuss MIAs and other matters with the Vietnamese authorities. Though I am unfamiliar with the details and underlying rationale for this proposed mission, I thought I owed you my own reservations about it. It seems to me that a high-level mission of this sort at this time poses greater risks than are warranted by any potential gains. Specifically, I would be concerned about the following:

—Such a mission could convey to Asians a false impression of our priorities. Taken in conjunction with the difficulties we are likely to experience with both the Koreans and the Filipinos in the weeks ahead, a dramatic gambit toward Hanoi could suggest to the Japanese, Chinese, and others a more far-reaching reordering of our priorities in [Page 9] the Far East than I think we intend. I think we should take a quick reading of Japanese, Chinese, and ASEAN attitudes toward U.S. policy toward Indochina before embarking on anything as dramatic as this.

—I think a high-level mission to Hanoi is premature. The SRV has taken a tough line toward President Carter’s statements on Vietnam both during the campaign and following his inauguration. The Vietnamese characteristically set forth very tough positions at the outset of negotiations. If Yost were to go there under current circumstances, one cannot rule out a cool reception and the sort of intransigence on key issues that could put a more enduring chill on our relationship. I think we can afford to proceed more gradually, trading gestures—rhetorical and substantive—to prepare the ground for normalization talks.

—I believe it would be unwise to have the initial encounters between the Administration and the Vietnamese take place in Hanoi. We would be on their turf, and if we wish to make progress on MIAs, they will hold the cards on a key issue. As you know, we held one meeting with the Vietnamese on November 12.2 Another was scheduled, then cancelled.3 The ball is in our court to hold the next session in Paris—if that is to be the venue for further discussions. I think it is worth testing the waters in Paris before deciding how to proceed on something like the Yost mission.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Far East, Box 1, Armacost Chron File: 2/1–6/77. Secret. Sent for information.
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–12, Documents on East and Southeast Asia, 1973–1976, Document 91.
  3. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–12, Documents on East and Southeast Asia, 1973–1976, Document 94.