1. MAO ZEDONG AND PHAM VAN DONG (1), HOANG VAN
Beijing, 5 October 1964, 7-7:50 (p.m.?)
Mao Zedong: According to Comrade Le Duan, (3)
you had the plan to dispatch a division [to the South]. Probably
you have not dispatched that division yet (4).
When should you dispatch it, the timing is important. Whether
or not the United States will attack the North, it has not yet
made the decision. Now, it [the U.S.] is not even in a position
to resolve the problem in South Vietnam. If it attacks the North,
[it may need to] fight for one hundred years, and its legs will
be trapped there. Therefore, it needs to consider carefully. The
Americans have made all kinds of scary statements. They claim
that they will run after [you], and will chase into your country,
and that they will attack our air force. In my opinion, the meaning
of these words is that they do not want us to fight a big war,
and that [they do not want] our air force to attack their warships.
If [we] do not attack their warships, they will not run after
you. Isn't this what they mean? The Americans have something to
Pham Van Dong: This is also our thinking. The
United States is facing many difficulties, and it is not easy
for it to expand the war. Therefore, our consideration is that
we should try to restrict the war in South Vietnam to the sphere
of special war, and should try to defeat the enemy within the
sphere of special war. We should try our best not to let the U.S.
imperialists turn the war in South Vietnam into a limited war,
and try our best not to let the war be expanded to North Vietnam.
We must adopt a very skillful strategy, and should not provoke
it [the U.S.]. Our Politburo has made a decision on this matter,
and today I am reporting it to Chairman Mao. We believe that this
Mao Zedong: Yes.
Pham Van Dong: If the United States dares to start
a limited war, we will fight it, and will win it.
Mao Zedong: Yes, you can win it (5).
The South Vietnamese [puppet regime] has several hundred thousand
troops. You can fight against them, you can eliminate half of
them, and you can eliminate all of them. To fulfill these tasks
is more than possible. It is impossible for the United States
to send many troops to South Vietnam. The Americans altogether
have 18 army divisions. They have to keep half of these divisions,
i.e., nine of them, at home, and can send abroad the other nine
divisions. Among these divisions, half are in Europe, and half
are in the Asian-Pacific region. And they have stationed more
divisions in Asia [than elsewhere in the region], namely, three
divisions. One [is] in South Korea, one in Hawaii, and the third
one in [original not clear]. They also placed fewer than one division
of marine corps in Okinawa in Japan. Now all American troops in
South Vietnam belong to the navy, and they are units under the
navy system. As far as the American navy is concerned, they have
put more ships in the Western Pacific than in Europe. In the Mediterranean,
there is the Sixth Fleet; here [in the Pacific] is the Seventh
Fleet. They have deployed four aircraft carriers near you, but
they have been scared away by you.
Mao Zedong: If the Americans dare to take the
risk to bring the war to the North, how should the invasion be
dealt with? I have discussed this issue with Comrade Le Duan.
[First], of course, it is necessary to construct defensive works
along the coast. The best way is to construct defensive works
like the ones [we had constructed] during the Korean War, so that
you may prevent the enemy from entering the inner land. Second,
however, if the Americans are determined to invade the inner land,
you may allow them to do so. You should pay attention to your
strategy. You must not engage your main force in a head-to-head
confrontation with them, and must well maintain your main force.
My opinion is that so long as the green mountain is there, how
can you ever lack firewood?
Pham Van Dong: Comrade Le Duan has reported Chairman
Mao's opinions to our Central Committee. We have conducted an
overall review of the situations in the South and the North, and
our opinion is the same as that of Chairman Mao's. In South Vietnam,
we should actively fight [the enemy]; and in North Vietnam, we
should be prepared [for the enemy to escalate the war]. But we
should also be cautious.
Mao Zedong: Our opinions are identical. Some other people say
that we are belligerent. As a matter of fact, we are cautious.
But it is not totally without ground to say [that we are belligerent].
Mao Zedong: The more thoroughly you defeat them, the more comfortable
they feel. For example, you beat the French, and they became willing
to negotiate with you. The Algerians defeated the French badly,
and France became willing to come to peace with Algeria. It has
been proven that the more badly you beat them, the more comfortable
Mao Zedong: Is it true that you are invited to attend the [UN]
Security Council meetings?
Zhou Enlai: This is still a secret. The invitation
was made through U Thant. (6)
Mao Zedong: And U Thant made it through whom?
Zhou Enlai: The Soviets.
Mao Zedong: So the Soviet Union is the middleman.
Pham Van Dong: According to the Soviet ambassador
to Vietnam, they met with U Thant on the one hand, and with [U.S.
Secretary of State Dean] Rusk on the other.
Mao Zedong: It is not completely a bad thing to
negotiate. You have already earned the qualification to negotiate.
It is another matter whether or not the negotiation will succeed.
We have also earned our qualification to negotiate [with the Americans].
We are now negotiating with the Americans on the Taiwan issue,
and the Sino-American ambassadorial talks are now under way in
Warsaw. The talks have lasted for more than nine years.
Zhou Enlai: More than 120 meetings have been held.
Mao Zedong: The talks will continue. One time,
during a meeting at Geneva, they did not want to continue the
talks. They withdrew their representatives, leaving there only
one person in charge of communication and liaison matters. We
gave them a blow by sending them a letter, setting up a deadline
for them to send back their representative. They did return to
the talks later, but they did not meet the deadline we set for
them: they were a few days late. They said that it was an ultimatum
by us. At that time, some among ourselves believed that we should
not set the deadline for them, nor should we make the harsh statement,
and that by doing so it became an ultimatum. But we did, and the
Americans did [return to the talks].
1. Pham Van Dong (1906- ), a long-standing member
of the Indochinese Communist Party (ICP) who worked closely with
Ho Chi Minh and was Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic
of Vietnam (DRV) until 1980 (from 1976 the Socialist Republic
Hoang Van Hoan (1905-1994?), a long-standing member of the ICP
and a Politburo member of the Lao Dong (Vietnam Workers' Party-VWP)
from 1960 to 1976. Hoan was a crucial link between the DRV and
China; ambassador to Beijing 1950-57; led many delegations to
China as Vice Chairman of the DRV National Assembly Standing Committee
in the 1960s. Lost much of his influence after Ho Chi Minh's death
in September 1969. In 1973 Hoan again went to China to arrange
for a visit by Le Duan and Pham Van Dong. He defected to China
in July 1979. In 1986 he published his memoirs (A Drop in the
Ocean) which gave a rare glimpse into the inner life of the ICP/VWP.
Le Duan, (1908-86) had been secretary of the Nam Bo (southern
region) Party Committee, later COSVN, during the first Indochina
War. Sent a letter to party leaders objecting to the 1954 Geneva
agreement. From 1956 acting general secretary of the Lao Dong.
(Ho Chi Minh was officially General secretary.) The prime mover,
in 1957-59, for a resumption of armed struggle in the South. From
1960 until his death in 1986, Le Duan served as general secretary
of the VWP (in 1976 renamed Vietnam Communist Party-VCP).
Right after the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, Le Duan visited Beijing
and met Mao on 13 August 1964. The two leaders exchanged intelligence
reports on the two incidents. Le Duan confirmed to Mao that the
first incident (that of August 2) was the result of the decisions
made by the Vietnamese commander on the site, and Mao told Le
Duan that according to the intelligence information Beijing had
received, the second incident of August 4 was "not an intentional
attack by the Americans" but caused by "the Americans'
mistaken judgment, based on wrong information." Touching
upon the prospect for the war to be expanded into North Vietnam,
Mao thought that "it seems that the Americans do not want
to fight a war, you do not want to fight a war, and we do not
necessarily want to fight a war," and that "because
no one wants to fight a war, there will be no war." Le Duan
told Mao that "the support from China is indispensable, it
is indeed related to the fate of our motherland...The Soviet revisionists
want to make us a bargaining chip; this has been very clear."
Ed. note: In some of the footnotes we have added additional information
from the same sources as the documents themselves.
On 22 January 1965, Zhou Enlai told a Vietnamese military delegation:
"As far as the war in Vietnam is concerned, we should continuously
eliminate the main forces of the enemy when they come out to conduct
mopping-up operations, so that the combat capacity of the enemy
forces will be weakened while that of our troops will be strengthened.
We should strive to destroy most of the enemy's Strategic Hamlets
by the end of this year. If this is to be realized in addition
to the enemy's political bankruptcy, it is possible that victory
would come even sooner than our original expectation."
U Thant (1909-74), Secretary General of the UN 1962-71.