Document 15. Memo of George Ball, Undersecretary of State, to President Johnson

Date: April 21, 1965

[taken from George McT. Kahin, Intervention: How America Became Involved in Vietnam, 327-328]

[In this memo Ball responds to the "Four Points" issued by Hanoi on April 13, 1965]

[Ball begins by asserting that the U.S. will need to make compromises from its publically-stated goals.]

Hanoi obviously does not expect us to accept its four points as a pre-condition for negotiations...[but rather has presented them] for the purpose of staking out a bargaining position. I think it is possible that the four points were deliberately drawn to test the possibility of beginning a dialogue - and we would do well to examine them in that light.... The United States should try to find some common ground that would save face for Hanoi and permit it to pull back even though that action were only tactical and Hanoi hoped to prevail at some later date....

[The broad outlines of a possible settlement could be as follows:]

1. All hostilities would be terminated. Hanoi would stop infiltrating men and equipment and the Viet Cong would stop their guerrilla activities. The United States would halt its bombing and both the South Vietnamese and the United States would stop attacking the Viet Cong.

2. The Saigon Government would declare a general amnesty - subject to the faithful carrying out of paragraph 1 by Hanoi and the Viet Cong. As part of the amnesty all Viet Cong wishing to return to the North would be permitted to do so....

3. An International Commission would undertake to police the cease-fire by the appropriate deployment of adequate inspection teams at key points throughout the country.

4. An agreed future date would be set for elections. The Liberation Front would be recognized as a political party and would be permitted to present candidates and conduct an election campaign by peaceable means.

5. An International Force would supervise the elections. Once the new Government was installed the United States would withdraw. However, the new government would have the right to request assistance from the United States or any other country in the event that its independence were again threatened.

6. Reunification would be permitted at a specified future date if desired by the people of South Vietnam and their Government.

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