4. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in France1

27695. Subject: Message From the Secretary to SRV Foreign Minister Trinh.

1. Embassy Liaison Officer Pratt should deliver soonest to SRV Embassy following letter from the Secretary to SRV FonMin Trinh:

Dear Mr. Minister:

Among the responsibilities which President Carter has entrusted to me as Secretary of State is that of exploring fully the possibilities for normalization of relations between the United States and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. I am convinced that moving toward normal relations is in the interests of both countries, and I hope that you will agree that such a process can begin promptly.

With this objective in mind and as a first step, the President proposes to appoint a Presidential Commission2 composed of several distinguished Americans to visit Hanoi in the near future. In the course of its visit the Commission, which would be led by the President’s personal representative, will seek information from your government regarding the fate of our servicemen missing or killed in action, and will hope to obtain remains of our dead. The Commission would also be prepared to exchange views on other matters of concern to both countries.

As you know, President Carter has publicly expressed a great personal interest in sending such a Commission to your country. Your [Page 13] willingness to receive this group would be a welcome and promising step in opening a dialogue between us in order to begin building a new relationship that I believe will be in the interest of both countries.

I look forward to receiving an early response from you on this matter. Sincerely, Cyrus Vance.

2. If SRV Embassy inquires, EmbOff should indicate that Commission would probably consist of four or five members, plus a small supporting staff, and would expect to stay two or three days. Discussion of further arrangements should await the SRV reply.

3. When delivering above message, EmbOff should point out orally that President and Secretary wish to move promptly toward normalization of relations with SRV, which is in the interests of both countries. The President’s desire to send his personal representatives to Hanoi, as proposed above, is clearly an indication of this attitude. As an additional demonstration of our intentions, we have taken or are in the process of taking the following unilateral steps:

A. We will no longer raise objections or reservations to the SRV’s succession to the former South Vietnamese regime’s seat in various UN specialized agencies and similar international institutions. As a first concrete step in this direction, we recently indicated to the IAEA Director General that we have no objection to administrative actions by the agency which apparently presume official SRV succession.

B. We raised no objections or reservations to the UNDP Governing Council’s recent approval of a $44 million indicative planning figure for Vietnam.

C. We are in the process of removing several wartime restrictions on the bunkering in U.S. ports of vessels in the Vietnam trade and on the carrying of USG-financed cargoes in such vessels.

D. We are approving a license (i.e., an exception to our trade and asset controls) for a U.S. firm to participate indirectly in the reestablishment of a Manila-Saigon telecommunications link by an affiliated Filipino company. You should ask SRV Liaison Officer to bring these steps to his government’s attention and emphasize that we will consider further gestures as appropriate.

4. You should also note that the MIA issue remains a primary concern for us and express the hope that the SRV will take further steps on it, particularly in light of our initiatives.

5. Re press handling, you should advise SRV Liaison Officer that we do not intend to announce delivery of letter or this contact at present; however, if matter becomes public anyhow or there is widespread public speculation, we will confirm that we have been in contact with the Vietnamese but will provide no further details. FYI: Assuming a positive SRV response, we envisage announcing Commission visit [Page 14] after SRV reply, in manner to be worked out with them at that time. Further instructions on this will be provided. End FYI.

6. Separate message3 deals with informing other governments including French of this initiative. You should not—rpt—not tell Vietnamese of these efforts.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850056–1992. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Drafted by James D. Rosenthal (EA/VLC); cleared by Holbrooke, Habib, Lake, and Leo J. Reddy (S/S); approved by Vance.
  2. Reference is to the Woodcock Commission. See Document 8.
  3. See Document 5.