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Digital Archive International History Declassified

October 05, 1964

DISCUSSION BETWEEN MAO ZEDONG AND PHAM VAN DONG

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    Zedong advises Pham Van Dong on how to handle war in South Vietnam and protection of North Vietnam.
    "Discussion between Mao Zedong and Pham Van Dong," October 05, 1964, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, CWIHP Working Paper 22, "77 Conversations." http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/113053
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MAO ZEDONG AND PHAM VAN DONG,[1] HOANG VAN HOAN[2]

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 hide.

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 is workable.

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 they feel.

….

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 of Vietnam—SRV).

[2] 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.

[3] 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).

[4] 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.

[5] 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.”

[6] U Thant (1909-74), Secretary General of the UN 1962-71.

CHINESE (TRANSCRIPTION) HTML

毛泽东与范文同[1]、黄文欢[2]的谈话

1964年10月5日晚7:00-7:50,北京[3]

   毛泽东:黎笋同志[4]说,你们打算派去一个师,可能现在还没有派,何时派,要看时机。[5]美国打不打北方,现在还没定,现在单单南越还解决不了,打北方,打一百年,腿拔不出去。因此,他要考虑一下。美国说了许多吓人的话,又说要追击,要追击到你们国家之内,还要追击到我们国内,要打我们的空军。我看这个话的意思是要我们不要大打,我们的空军不要去打他们的军舰,不去打他们的军舰,就不发生追击问题。是不是这个意思?美国的心里有鬼。

范文同:我们也有这样的想法。美国存在着很大的困难,扩大战争也不是轻而易举的。因此,我们考虑,设法把南越的战争限制在特种战争的范围之内,在特种战争的范围内战胜敌人,力争不让美帝把南越的战争变成为局部战争,力争不使战争扩大到北越。我们必须采取很巧妙的做法,不要去惹他。我们中央政治局曾就此做出决定,今天向毛主席报告。我们认为,这样是可以做到的。

   毛泽东:可以。

   范文同:如果美国发动局部战争,我们就要打,而且要打胜。

   毛泽东:可以打胜。南越有几十万军队,你们能够打他,消灭他一半,直到全部消灭他,都有可能。美国不可能派很多兵到南越,他共有18个师,国内一半,9个师,国外9个,这指的是陆军。在国外,欧洲一半,太平洋亚洲一半,亚洲不到一半,3个师,其中南朝鲜一个,夏威夷一个,另外有一个整师,或是不到一个师的海军陆战队,基地在日本冲绳。现在在南越的美国军队都是海军系统的,是海军系统的一些部队。不过,在海军方面,西太平洋的比欧洲的多。在地中海有第六舰队,西太平洋地区,包括夏威夷、檀香山和你们那里,是第七舰队。现在有四艘航空母舰在你们附近,但是8月2日,他们被你们吓跑了。

   ……

   毛泽东:至于美国冒险把战争扩大到北方的问题,如何打法,我和黎笋同志谈过。当然,沿海要建工事,最好先建朝鲜式的工事,使他们打不进来。第二,如果美国决心打进来,也可以打进来,你们打法要注意,不要用主力跟他拼,把主力留着。我说,留得青山在,不怕没柴烧。

   范文同:黎笋同志已经把毛主席的意见向我们中央作了报告。我们曾把南北越问题通盘作了讨论,与毛主席的意见一致,南越要打,北越要做好准备,但要慎重。

   毛泽东:我们的意见一致。人们说我们好战,其实,我们是谨慎的。但这句话也不是完全没有道理的。

   ……

   毛泽东:你们把他们打的越彻底,他们就越觉得舒服。比如,你们打败了法国,他们就转而愿意和你们谈判。阿尔及利亚狠狠打击了法国,法国就变得愿意同阿尔及利亚实现和平。这就证明,你们把他们打得越狠,他们就越舒服。

   ……

   毛泽东:不是说,请你们到联合国安理会去吗?

 周恩来:这是秘密的,是通过吴丹[6]提出的。

   毛泽东:吴丹通过谁?

   范文同:通过苏联。

   毛泽东:通过苏联拉皮条。

   范文同:据苏联驻越南大使说,一方面见吴丹,一方面见腊斯克。

   毛泽东:谈一谈也有好处,你们已经有谈判的资格了。谈成谈不成是另外一回事。我们也取得了谈判的资格,我们正在和美国谈判台湾问题和中美关系问题,地点在华沙,已经谈了9年了。

   周恩来:已经谈了120多次。

   毛泽东:还要继续谈下去。在日内瓦会谈时,有一次,他不想谈了,把他的代表撤回了,留下了一个负责通讯联络的人。我们整了他一下,去了一封信,叫他们派代表来谈,给他限定时间,后来他还是来了。不过,他不按我们规定的时间,晚了几天,说我们是最后通牒。那时,我们内部也有人说,不必限定时间了,限定时间就是最后通牒。也不必说那些厉害的话,不来,如何如何。但是我们做了,而且美国人也来了。

[1] 范文同(1906-),越南民主共和国(1976年后为越南社会主义共和国)总理。

[2] 黄文欢(1905-1994),1960-1976年为越南劳动党中央政治局委员,1950-1957年任越南驻华大使。1969年胡志明去世后,黄的影响日益减少,1979年叛逃中国,曾出版《沧海一粟——黄文欢革命回忆录》(文庄、侯寒江译,北京,解放军出版社1987年版)。

[3] 据中方记录,此次会谈的地点:人大会堂。参加人有,越方:潘英、陈子平;中方:刘少奇、周恩来、朱德、邓小平、彭真、陈毅、李富春、罗贵波。

[4] 黎笋(1908-1986),在第一次印度支那战争中任越南劳动党中央南方分局书记,曾写信给越劳党领导人反对1954年日内瓦协议。1956年起任越南劳动党中央副书记,1957-1959年是越南南方武装斗争的主要领导人,1960年起一直担任越劳党中央第一书记。

[5] 东京湾事件之后不久,1964813日黎笋即访问北京与毛泽东进行了会谈。两位领导人交换了有关两次事件的情报。黎笋向毛泽东证实说,82日的第一次事件是由越方指挥员现场决定的结果。毛泽东则告诉黎笋,根据北京方面得到的情报,84日的第二次事件“不是美国人的有意进攻”,而是由“美国人根据错误的信息做出了错误的判断”所致。至于说到战争将扩大到北越的前景,毛泽东认为:“看来,美国人不想打,你们不想打,我们也不一定想打。几家都不想打,所以打不起来。”黎笋说:“中国的帮助是不可缺少的,中国的帮助与我们祖国的命运有关。……苏修拿我们做交易,这是很清楚的。”

[6] 吴丹(1909-1974),缅甸外交官,196111月任联合国代理秘书长。1962-1971年连任三届联合国秘书长。