May 25, 1965.
A Diplomatic-Political Track for Vietnam
was prepared for you at Mr. Moyers' request. It deals with certain
diplomatic and political steps the U.S. might take over the next
several weeks largely, but not entirely, in response to recent
initiatives from Hanoi. This paper has been seen by Ambassador
Unger, but has not otherwise been reviewed by either State or
On April 13,
DRV Prime Minister Pham Van Dong put forward four points as "the
basis for the soundest political settlement of the Vietnam problem".
The points were incorporated in the Soviet-DRV communique of 17
April (2) and can thus be assumed to have Moscow's
blessing. Peiping, in its own treatment, made the four points
appear to be negotiating preconditions--a position which went
beyond Hanoi's original exposition. [A memorandum to Mr. Bundy
exploring these four points from our own point of view is attached
as Tab A.] (3)
On May 19
Ambassador Bohlen reported that, according to the French, just
prior to the end of the bombing pause, Mai Van Bo, Hanoi's representative
in Paris, had made a "fairly pressing approach". In
essence, Bo stressed that Pham Van Dong's four points were not
to be considered as preconditions for negotiations, but rather
as "working principles" toward an ultimate settlement.
State has indicated its interest, but has told Bohlen that we
would not like to see the French involved in the exchange and
indicated its desire to explore direct channels to Bo or to a
DRV representative in
some other capital. [Key telegrams are attached as Tab B.] (4)
In a separate,
but possibly related, development, a Monsieur Devilliers, a French
journalist and scholar specializing on Vietnam, was in Washington
last week. He made two major points in his discussions with me
and in a separate talk with Ambassador Unger: Pham Van Dong's
proposals should be regarded as a serious intent to negotiate;
the U.S. should proceed to engage in direct discussions with Hanoi,
thus avoiding the complications implicit in the participation
of other parties. (5) While Devilliers' exposition
at this time may have been only coincidental, there is at least
an outside chance that he was asked to float these ideas by the
French Government and/or Mai Van Bo, with whom he professes to
have good contact.
The Next Step
as indicated, is exploring possibilities for engaging in direct,
private talks with representatives of the Hanoi regime if we get
reliable indications that they are ready to talk without preconditions.
(6) Once we have such indications and have settled
on a site and forum, we might proceed along the following lines:
(6) On May
25 Secretary Rusk sent a memorandum to the President containing
items for evening reading. One of the items assessed the possibility
of private talks with North Vietnam:
treating cautiously the French report to us of a sounding they
believe indicates a North Vietnamese desire to discuss conditions
for negotiated settlement in South Viet Nam. Amb. Bohlen is telling
the French that we are interested in anything which the North
Vietnamese may tell them on this subject. We have asked our Ambassadors
in Vientiane and Rangoon for views on possible venues for private
talks with North Viet Nam, should this lead prove productive,
and Amb. Byroade recommends his capital. Amb. Bohlen sees disadvantages
in trying to talk in Paris, but thinks the tenuous
contact may not survive transfer elsewhere." (Department
of State, President's Reading File: Lot 74 D 164, President's
Evening Reading Items 1965)
summarized in the memorandum are telegram 1013 to Vientiane and
Rangoon, May 24; telegram 636 from Rangoon, May 25; telegram 6690
from Paris, May 25; and telegram 1924 from Vientiane, May 26.
(All ibid., Central Files, POL 27 VIET S)
and Moscow privately of our intent. This to be done 48 hours prior
to the beginning of our suspension of bombing.
(and possibly Moscow) that we are aware of Mai Van Bo's approach
to the French, and are prepared to engage in quiet, bilateral
exploratory discussion with representatives of Hanoi without preconditions.
We accept that Pham Van Dong's four points, as modified and interpreted
by Bo, would form part of the basis for discussion as would certain
points we have put forward. We await Hanoi's response.
Select a small
U.S. delegation which should be prepared to engage in preliminary
or even definitive discussions.
3-4 days of pause (which, in effect, will have given Hanoi 5-6
days to consider our proposal), we get no response, resume our
assumed that the GVN and our key allies will be informed of our
initiative. The approval of the GVN (but not necessarily of our
other allies) should be obtained.
of whether or not bombing should continue during discussions with
Hanoi requires further study.
of Undertaking This Approach
At best, we
might be able to isolate Hanoi from Peiping and, with judicious
application of carrots, sticks and general bargaining techniques,
induce Hanoi to disengage militarily from SVN and cease its support
and direction of the VC and (hopefully) bring an end to large-scale
offensive action by the VC in the South, in exchange for our suspension
of bombing. This could be tied to a second phase of negotiations
involving the GVN and the VC, which, especially if the Acheson
proposals (7) had taken effect, might lead to
a satisfactory political resolution within South Vietnam. The
final phase of this process could be a relatively simple one:
the ratification of the agreements by the Co-Chairmen of the 1954
negotiations might be undertaken and be broken off in bitterness
and hostility. This might make subsequent attempts at a diplomatic
resolution more difficult, but this is a risk attendant on any
attempt to negotiate. Of less grave import, would be Hanoi's ignoring
or turning down our initiative. In this case, we would leak or
publicize our approach and the fact that we undertook such a serious
and constructive step would buttress the Administration's image
domestically and abroad. Finally, even if negotiations are carried
out, there is the possibility that we might find, some time after
our bombing has ceased, Hanoi was not keeping its part of the
bargain and that our bombing would have to be resumed with all
the attendant political problems this would raise.
If the Acheson
plan meets with approval at the highest level, steps should be
taken to delay the initiation of direct talks with Hanoi until
the plan has been set in motion by Quat. Since the essence of
the Acheson scheme is to establish the authority of the GVN throughout
South Vietnam and to offer the Viet Cong a political exit from
their insurgency, it is important that this be in train prior
to any negotiations with Hanoi.
A small group
should be established to manage all aspects of our diplomatic-political
approach as a full-time highest priority task. This group should
be selected with a view that it will provide the nucleus for the
US negotiating team. Immediate study should be given to the preparation
of a US negotiating track taking into account Hanoi's four points
as recently put forward as well as our own position and objectives.
by the Canadian ICC representative to Hanoi on 31 May offers an
opportunity to explore the possibility of direct talks, to inform
Hanoi of an impending "pause", or to seek further clarification
of Bo's initiative.
C L Cooper