Created: 5/6/1968

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Hanoi's Negotiating Position and Concept of Negotiations

68 No.



Hanoi's Negotiating Position and Concept: of Negotiations


Hanoi's negotiators will come to Parisconfident that the negotiations can be used to advance Hanoi's basic objectives in Vietnam, The Communists see themselves more as revolutionariesecond front than as negotiators exploring the possibilities for compromise. Given their conviction that little can be gained at the bargaining table that has not been won on the ground, the North Vietnamese position in Paris will be governed largely by events in South Vietnam. Thus Hanoi almost certainly intends to intensify and maintain as much military pressure as possible, for psychological impact as well as for tactical reasons*

Hanoi sees itself leading from strength, even though it probably recognizes that its over-allis not as strong as it had hoped it would be at this point in the struggle. Both military and political achievements in the South have fallen well short of Hanoi's stated objectives since the opening of its major offensive last fall. Although pressures for peace may bear more heavily on the OS, North Vietnam will also be constrained byand external pressures.

Hanoi is likely to yield little on the bombing issue. Its negotiators will insistnilateral cessation of all hostile action by the US. Although the North Vietnamese are likely to reject, officially and openly, any variant of the San Antonio formula, they might acquiesce in some tacit understanding not to take advantagealt in the air strikes in order to keep the discussions going. We would not

expect any significant de-escalation of themilitary effort at this stage.

More formal negotiations probably will hinge

on the question of Communist representation from

South Vietnam. In this phase Hanoi will focus

on its four points and the program of the National

Liberation Front (NFL) aa the baeisolitical

solution. Ita Immediate aim would be to determine

how far the US is prepared to go in accepting

a new coalition government with Ccaimunlat representa tion.

Hanoi probably is not certain in its own mind] just how the play will unfold and precisely what ita positions will be on every issue. It probably is prepared, however,ong and arduous campaign of fighting and talking, carrying perhaps through the US elections and possiblyew American administration.

General Considerations

ons shape iuSSrilnS JStf* tOWar? negotiation and will

r* .

is much more interestedthan settlement, hencein entering discussionsfurther North Vietnam'smore than to work out

a compromise acceptable to all parties engaged in the Vietnam struggle.

leaders presently believewidespread desire for peaceto the Vietnam war,within the OS, placespressure on Washingtonin any


<c) Hanoi does not believe that diplomacy alone can achieve significant gains not securoble or already secured by military and political struggle in South Vietnam itself.

Hanoi's view of the actual resultsettlements negotiatedas made the Laochary of negotiationsof less than


i 8 negotiators will be coming to Paris

SSof "volutilnarV in exploiting

hehehe acquisition or imposition of


Communist control over South Vietnem-thanthe war orsolution. Hanoi ie al-^lUiZfiI SUSp^ioua of us intentions and de-^astHfldanycant point? Position has been fullyd.J2 horoughly probed. Hanoi's initial intent, therefore, will be to


VletnMS leaders probably believe

icttheressurea nnrtK* domestic political ? d becauae Washington felt the tide was

Hanoi allUdin South Vietnam.

course or?he0|ar,r^

Hanoi will endeavor

Ivof talking'to its advantage

outhe US to endwith-

f^deS* If ing the con-

South Vietnamese in

fnd Chelr future- "ano^staUOred t0 a

Propaganda Considerations

win .iSS1wnat Hanoind does in ParisS muchs *nd world press as at the American negotiators. Hanoi believes that

^"ent"nTnrSor^ StV" iS me North Vietnamese may exaqqerate

factor but certainly intend to take

alculate that once acXil diplomatic contacts are opened, war-weariness (and opposition) will increase in the US and pSace willPolitical Sgency asU*lti"he US election campaign

dAn*rican concessions.

iUto isolate the

C?*J? tfit complete

n9hathe way of aerlous negotiationeaceful settlement.

: t-


Talks and the Battlefield

4. The.behavior of Hanoi's negotiators in. Paris will be materially influenced and in certain aspects actually dictated by the course of events in South Vietnam, it is no accident that Hanoi's statementay proposing the Paris talks was shortly followed by country-wide attacks in South Vietnam. Throughout any talks there willlosely coordinated correlation between action at the negotiating table and action on the battlefield. The current series of attacks illustrates Hanoi's obvious intention to use its military and political action potential in South Vietnamanner andiming designed to enhance its bargaining position. Hanoi will orchestrate military pressures as much for psychological and propaganda impact as for concrete or tactical considerations. The North Vietnamese will almost certainly believe that any apparent Communist gains or apparent alliedwill probably be reflectedeakening of the American negotiating position, in this context, the Communists will consider appearance at least as important as substantive reality, and hence they will almost certainly exert every effort (and accept severe casualties) to prevent any apparentof allied progress.

The Lessons of History

5* Hanoi's leaders have twice before, ventured down theand In their opinion, both times they were euchred by events which developedanner contrary to all reason-Able, expectation. nder Russian and Chinese pressure, the Lao Dong polltburo settled foroaf, confident that Diem's fledgling and beleaguered government was certain to collapse and hence South Vietnam would be theirs either throughr the simple absence of any effective non-Communist opposition. Reality's confounding of this near-certain calculation has forced Hanoi's leaders to embark upon and wage an eleven-year struggle for something they saw within their grasp fourteen years ago. 2 theysettlement" in Laos in the confident belief that Souvanna was in their

pocket. His subsequent behaviorruly independent neutralist confounded Hanoi's eminently reasonable.

Vietnamese history, in short, hasleaders extremely chary of negotiations orthat leave anything to the vagaries Hanoi's reading of this history willinfluence its willingness to entertainsettlement propositions that do notCommunist control over South Vietnam inshort time frame.

Communist Strengths and Weaknesses

negotiators will come to theconfident of obtaining roost of theoutlined above. Hanoi sees Itself Jn aits position is not oneria^cjyed strength. On thein our view the over-all prospects forin South Vietnam have become morerecent months. Currently, their position is not

at all what they thought it would be, let alone hoped for, when they conceived the winter-spring campaign last year. The GVN/ARVN have not only survived the Tet onslaught, but have proved more resilient than many thought possible. The military initiative has passed again to the US in many areas, even though the North Vietnamese have every intention ofto regain it. That Hanoi now counts on the early disintegration of the GVN and ARVN under newis at least open to serious question. And the political atmosphere in the US, which must have been an important factor in Hanoi's calculations, hasbecome more uncertain and ambiguous than itin the period from the Tet attacks through President Johnson's address ofarch.

Hanoi is not entering into thephase with the support and encouragementof its principal For thisit must proceed carefully and avoid makingat theew subject of The net effect of this factthat Hanoi's flexibility is somewhatthe potential influence of the USSR is further

limited. China's influence and leverage over Hanoi is also limited, however, though an early- collapse of the talks would appear to justify China'sand objections, and probablyew round of charges against the USSR for collusion with the US.

The Overview

sum, Hanoi'3 negotiators will comebelieving that their positionoodthatinimum the talks offerpolitical warfare. But they probablythat they do not yet hold all the highprobably cannot impose their terms. Ifto achieve the significant gains they hopein South Vietnam during the course ofthey will then confront the hard choiceto stonewall in the face of adversity onor settle for something short ofobjectives.

Ob-ectives and Tactics

think it realistic to acceptobjectives more or less at facewill open byull halt to theand all other "acts of war" against theitresently unlikely majoronly when all the bombing has stoppedproceedecond phase to deal withquestions." These will almostaround the essentials of its four points":

a negotiated US withdrawal from Vietnam,ew government in Saigon as specified in the program of the NLP, the neutralization of South Vietnam,overnmental structure built around the HLF or, at least, an NLF-dominated

majoror speculationthese objectives and phases relate andHanoi will display in their Hanoi has probably alreadyfairly clear scenario but, as indicatedof the basic decisions will still dependon the ground in South Vietnam ason the response and reaction of the US inof the discussions.


The Bonbing Issue

As .an. opener Hanoi will insist that, the} only_ purpose of preliminary contacts is to determine the dateessation of all bombing, naval artillery shelling, and reconnaissance against North Vietnam. Moreover, Hanoi's negotiators will insist that this be accomplished unilaterally and without reciprocity, and that lis failure tothese demands will mean an end to further North Vietnam will refuse to acknowledge any participation of its own forces in the Southstruggle and thus will probably not officially or openly accept any variant of the San Antonio formula.

Ppr several reasons, not. believe, however, that Hanoi intends for the discussions to break down on the bombing issue. To begin with, Hanoi wants the present bombing restrictionand wants an end to all bombing. Furthermore, the statementay agreeing to talk in Paris

and the appointment of Xuan Thuy as the negotiator suggest Hanoi has deliberately blurred thebetween contacts and formal talks. Finally, Hanoitrong incentive to move the discussions on to some of the more critical substantive issues, that can affect the mood and outlook in Saigon and further unsettle the South Vietnamesehe formationoalition regimeS withdrawal).

think it likely, therefore, thatwill be hard, but that Hanoi willway out of any impasse over the bombingNorth Vietnamese leaders probably nowthe US position in this entire matter isor fixed, and that Hanoi need not gokind of vague indication that it willomplete halt in air strikes. through third parties or inwould be one way. The North Vietnamesetacitly accept some continuing USbelowh parallel, to verify that Hanoiaccelerating its movement of men and materiel.

in short, while avoiding overt commitments, Hanoi may try to create the impression that the US would be justified in "assuming" Hanoi will not taketo an end of all bonibing.



As an alternative route around thisimpasse, Hanoi might eventually settle for an agreement "in principle" to an end of theonce an agreement had been reached on the place, level, and agenda of the next phase of talks. In this way, Hanoi could, if it desired, slide into "formal talks" without technically abandoning its initial position.

Whatever the agreement on the bombing, we would not expect any significant de-escalation of the Communist military effort at this juncture. Hanoi almost certainly believes the US ison the bombing question and that there will be great public pressure in the US and the world at large not to allow the discussions to break down on this issue. Thus, unless extremely hard pressed in the South, Hanoi is not going to pay muchrice to end the bombing. ay the bombing issue is resolved will be read by Hanoiey indicator of the relative hardness or weakness

of the entire US negotiating position.

Formal Talks

is more difficult to look beyondencounter over the bombing issue tostage of talks. In the formal talksdevelop any of three broad courses: proceed forthwith to discuss the fullissues involved in Vietnam, but willdo so promptly unless the NLFthe GVN is excluded. Alternatively,insist on narrow discussions ofreparation for the bombing, etc. Excepttalling deviceno special advantage from Hanoi's More likely, Hanoi would probablyformal talks as focusing on US acceptance

of North Vietnam's four points and the program of the NLF as the "basis"oliticalof the Vietnamese war.

the course of this debate, andat the very outset, Hanoi's negotiatorsfix on the issue of political representation


from South Vietnam and are certain toary adamant lino in refusing to accept anyby tha present GVN. The Horth Vietnamese will probably insist that no discussionettlement can proceed very far withoutew government in Saigon,all political forces, and ita participation in tha negotiations. As an ostensible concession, they might abandon tho old position that only the NLF was the legitimate voice of thendew government be formed byfrom tha NLF, tha new "Alliance forembers of the present GVN (except Thieu or Ky) and parhapa even groupings currently in exile.

might also propose adjourningtalks while these South Vietnameseamong themselves, or Hanoi nightthem to join with the US and DRV. case, here is the fundamental issue atVietnam! who will hold real power in Saigon?

In Hanoi's view the purpose of the formal talks with the US at this juncture will be to determine whether the US will, in fact, agree toew government (and hence to scuttling the present constitutional structure) and how far the US will be prepared to go in accepting Communist influence inovernment.

umber of variants on For example, Hanoi might press forbetween the NLF and tha US, orof the NLF In tha Paris talks. In anyis likely to be tha critical juncture ofand Hanoi's toughest position. Hanoithat any discussions on Communistin Saigon will help precipitate thethe Thieu-Xy government and qpw nfobjectives throughout the talks will be

to exert political pressure on South Vietnam.

Other Issues

la at this point that Hanoi wouldintensify military pressure. But it may alsoto make some concessions if it believed

they would facilitate negotiations toward aof "national union" in Saigon. Hanoi might hintease-fire could be quickly arranged with establishmentew government. And of course Hanoi's interestease-fire wouldif its military position in the South seemed likely to deteriorate. Hanoi might slow down oertain military operations in certain areas, especially along the DMZ. And it might hint that the US could retain some limited presence in Vietnam, or at leastS withdrawal could be extendedairly long period. Probably, these questions would come up off-stage, since Hanoi will insist that questions directly related to the war in the South must be discussed with some representation by the NLP. The issueS withdrawal, however, could conceivably be discussed under the rubric of "aggression" against Vietnam, which is one of Hanoi's four points. It might even be discussed simultaneously with the question of formationoalition government.

Beyond this it is difficult to estimate Hanoi's position on such issues asew Geneva conference, international guarantees,reunification, etc. Moreover, there are side issues which can alwayslevel of the talks, new sites, agenda. Hanoi could, if it chose,umber of ways to becloud the issues and draw out the discussions at any phase, if the situation in South Vietnam warrants it.

In any case, it is unlikely that Hanoi has decided how to handle every issue or procedure or what outcome would ultimately be acceptable. Hanoi probably is preparing, however,engthy and difficult process of fighting and talkingto interruptions and breakdowns, lastingthrough the elections and the installationew American administration.

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