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 You are in: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs: Office of the Historian > Foreign Relations of the United States > Johnson Administration > Volume V
Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, Volume V, Vietnam 1967
Released by the Office of the Historian
Documents 44-64

44. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, February 8, 1967, 0715Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 15 VIET S. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Received at 4:21 a.m. and passed to the White House, DOD, and CIA at 5 a.m. In a covering note transmitting a retyped copy of this telegram to the President, Rostow wrote: "Once again the Vietnamese--this time Thieu--show themselves to be smart and level-headed. You will wish, I believe, to read every word of this. I have been talking for some time to Sec. Rusk about the need to treat Ky and Thieu with more confidence. We shall need that mutual confidence in the days ahead--quite as much as Wilson's, for example."(Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. XV, Memos (A))

17618. 1. I paid a "Tet call" on Thieu, having had hints that he wanted to see me to talk about the political future in Viet-Nam.

2. After wishing him a happy "Year of the Ram," I found that the hint had been correct because he started in immediately on the political outlook here, saying that the present government, while not elected, had nonetheless been stable, and as efficacious as a Vietnamese government could be at this stage in the countryís development.

3. For the future, he said, everyone expected the new government under the Constitution to be even better. To be sure, this would not automatically take place. A democratic government could be worse, but it could also mean improvement, efficiency, responsibility, freedom from corruption.

4. Many people were thinking about a formula for the future and there seemed to be general agreement that there should be a "marriage" between the civil and the military. Assuming, he said, there is a civilian President, it would nonetheless be necessary for the military to hold certain Ministries, notably Defense, Revolutionary Development, and Information. This was not for any symbolic reasons, but simply because it was indispensable that these three be done efficiently for the sake of the war, and this was the only way in Viet-Nam at the present time that it could be assured.

5. Also it would not be practicable to elect the province chiefs right away. That might come later, and if an effective civilian province chief could be found, he could always be appointed. Of course, all military could withdraw when the war was over.

6. I stressed the importance from the standpoint of American opinion to have really adequate civilian representation in whatever "ticket" emerged for the executive branch. He spared me the embarrassment of saying that for Thieu and Ky to emerge after the elections as President and Prime Minister would make a very bad impression. He said himself that this would make the whole constitutional effort look like a trumped up affair. He believed that there ought to be a "coupling" of civilian and military in some way or other, using the office of the President, Vice President, and Prime Minister. He also believed the army should pick a couple and back it./2/

/2/In telegram 133730 to Saigon, February 8, the Department foresaw a contest between a slate headed by Huong and backed by Ky against one led by Thieu as offering a fair choice to the public of South Vietnam. The Department's major concern was whether such an occurrence would split military support for the new civilian government. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 15-1 VIET S)

7. Comment: I went as far as I thought I should go and limited myself to two points: A) that there should be strong civilian representation in whatever "ticket" emerges and B) that the army should stay united, believe it is a mistake for us to back or oppose any of the candidates who appear to have even a remote chance of being considered. Thieu was obviously playing his cards close to his chest on his own political plans. To me, as to Vietnamese, he has not divulged any clear indication of his intentions. Tran Van Do believes Thieu will hold off on such a decision until after the Constitution is finished. End comment./3/

/3/In telegram 17704 from Saigon, February 9, Lodge suggested that the U.S. Government was overlooking a salient factor in Vietnamese political life by putting forward such a desire for "civilian" participation. "In speaking of the role of the military, we perhaps put too much emphasis on their military power and too little on the fact that the military is in many respects the most experienced, cohesive and reliable of the nation building forces in this country," the Ambassador stressed. "There would be no 'Republic of Vietnam' without it." Therefore, he concluded, the military's presence in electoral politics should not be reduced but rather channeled into a genuine power-sharing arrangement with the civilian politicians. (Ibid., POL 21-4 VIET S) In telegram 18354 from Saigon, February 18, Lodge added that there could be no movement toward a popular government in South Vietnam without a political stability that would derive in most part from military support. An election that pitted Ky and Thieu on opposing tickets "could be a disaster which would jeopardize much that we have labored to build." Therefore, Ky's idea of building a consensus for a government-sponsored slate would have more attraction. Huong was the only civilian candidate taken seriously, but Lodge doubted that Ky would in fact support Huong's quest for the presidency. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXVI, Memos) However, Huong later told an Embassy official that he did not believe that Ky would take second place on a ticket headed by a civilian and doubted whether the military itself would truly give up power. (Telegram 19123 from Saigon, February 28; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 VIET S) Ky assured Lodge that he would support a popularly elected government. (Telegram 18936, February 25; ibid., POL 27 VIET S)

8. Having said all this, which he obviously wanted to get off his chest, Thieu paused and I took up the matter which had been concerning me, which was the widespread worry here in Viet-Nam springing from all the published rumors that we were conducting peace activities without consulting them. I told him substantially what I had said to Ky yesterday morning (Saigon 17482)./4/

/4/Dated February 7. (Ibid.)

9. Thieu said Vietnamese opinion was extremely sensitive and touchy about these new stories, notably the part about recognizing the NLF as a separate entity. Indeed he said that if there was a civil government in Viet-Nam now, it would be constrained to make a public statement repudiating the American Senators who are talking in this way. One advantage of having a military government was that nobody questioned their anti-Communism, and that it was not necessary for them to repudiate the Senators.

10. But we should not be under any illusions, he added. There is great worry among many elements of Vietnamese opinion and the critics of the government, notably the Communists themselves, are constantly spreading rumors that the government is trying to bring about a coalition. Viet Cong propaganda everywhere was stressing the importance of Senator Fulbright as "a messenger of President Johnson," and stressing the importance of Senator Kennedy as a leading member of the party in power, and while he, Thieu, understood the way our system worked, he absolutely despaired of making Vietnamese understand that a Senator who is Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and a member of the same party as the President, could say things totally independent of the President.

11. This made matters very difficult, he said, when it came to national reconciliation. In fact, when Prime Minister Ky recently spoke of members of the NLF becoming Ministers, he was at once subjected to a tremendous barrage of criticism--the violence of which was attributable to the impression made by Senator Fulbright.

12. Thieu was also disturbed about what would happen were a "cease-fire" to be offered. He recalled that at Geneva a cease-fire was proposed on the 1st of August to take effect in ten days, and during that ten days, 40 percent of the military personnel in Viet-Nam who had been fighting for nine years left. They could not wait the extra ten days. This could happen again with disastrous results, notably to the American troops. He believes that during the Year of the Ram, the North Vietnamese will do the minimum necessary to maintain themselves in the field militarily, but that their main effort would be to keep a peace offensive going, with "the help of such persons as the Pope and U Thant" and with the hope of diminishing President Johnsonís prestige, creating embarrassments for him, and then trying in 1968 to bring about President Johnsonís defeat. It will, he said, be an intricate and difficult thing to cope with.

13. Turning to the subject of reconciliation, he said that he had opened the door in his speech, and that tonight he would actually use the phrase. We should realize, however, that nothing big could be expected in the way of national reconciliation until peopleís minds were really prepared for it. The ground needs a great deal of cultivation, and the Minister of Information must organize personnel and a program to do this. There is widespread suspicion of defectors, Chieu Hois, etc. This is why the Chieu Hoi rate is "intermittent." You will always get a big Chieu Hoi figure just before them [Tet?] because people want to go home and eat well, but it will slump back right after. Extensive psychological preparations are needed.

14. I then brought up the question of Vietnamese civilian casualties and said that I worried about it. I realized that casualties which were deliberately inflicted on civilians by the Viet Cong were in a different category from casualties accidentally inflicted by the Americans, but I could not help take what the Americans were doing to heart, and asked him whether he had any advice.

15. Thieu said that every sensible person realized that in all wars civilians were accidentally killed. This was true in this war not only as regards the Americans; but the armed forces of the Republic of Viet-Nam themselves killed a certain number of civilians. It was unavoidable and everybody understood it. He seemed to think we were taking proper precautions. I asked him please to notify me if he thought there was something we could do that we were not doing.

16. He then said that on the question of placing U.S. troops at any given place in Viet-Nam, one must ask oneself: would they in fact do damage either as regards the economy, or morals, or deaths? It was for this reason that it had been decided to give the Americans the zones which were largely without population and to avoid the thickly settled areas. This was why the ARVN has been given the populated areas. People understood this. As far as immorality is concerned, this would not happen without the Vietnamese girls who donít have to behave in this way if they do not want to.

17. When he hears criticism of Americans, he canít help but "think of the difference between the tremendous amount of rape, rowdyism, arguments, drunkenness when 10,000 French were here, as compared with how little of this kind of thing there is with 400,000 Americans." The French, he said, had a colonial mentality. They wanted to be here as masters. There was no activity of theirs bearing even the remotest resemblance to our "civic action." The Americans come here well prepared psychologically, anxious to help and to do good and they do. (Comment: I believe our U.S. military have a right to be pleased by this very sincere, very real and wholly unsolicited compliment. End comment.)

Lodge

 

45. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, February 8, 1967, 0900Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Priority; Nodis.

17626. For the President from Lodge. Herewith my weekly telegram:

A. Year of the Ram

1. Tomorrow is the beginning of Tet, the three day holiday which is the most important festival of the year--Year of the Ram--for all Vietnamese. Saigon is in a festive mood, whole blocks covered solidly with brilliant Tet flowers and fusillades of firecrackers ringing constantly on every street. There appears to be no threat here now, as in the recent past, that the city might soon be in Communist hands, even though terrorism is common. There are high hopes for constitutional government. I have less news this Wednesday than at any time in the last year and a half. I hope that "no news is good news."

B. Constitution

2. Before recessing February 3 for a ten day Tet vacation, the Assembly moved about half way through Chapter III of the Constitution dealing with legislative powers and organization. The Assembly has so far decided that the lower house will have from 100 to 200 members and the upper house 30 to 60. An unusual provision is that members of the upper house will be elected at-large from the whole nation rather than from electoral districts. Since most well-known political figures live in Saigon, this provision could mean a "Saigon senate" with little rural representation.

3. Representatives of the Assembly and the Directorate have been meeting intermittently to exchange views and to try to iron out their differences on constitutional provisions. Both Deputies and members of the Directorate have told us that broad areas of agreement exist, but some important disagreements remain. A letter from General Thieu to Assembly Chairman Phan Khac Suu summarizes some of the Directorateís objections to the first draft of the Constitution. The most important of these concern the role of the military in politics, the power of the legislature to force removal of the Prime Minister, the power to declare emergencies, and the abolition of censorship.

4. Members of the Directorate have told us that agreement has been reached on the important question of the legislatureís power to force removal of the Prime Minister. They say that the National Assembly may "propose" the dismissal of the Cabinet, but the proposal is not binding on the President.

C. Revamping the Army

5. The decisive factor in defeating the Huk uprising in the Philippines was that Magsaysay was able to get the Philippine army to behave itself--to be generous and considerate of the welfare of the civilians. The absence of such a helpful attitude on the part of the ARVN here has been a major problem./2/

/2/In a memorandum describing a meeting with members of S/P in early January, Lodge underscored the urgency for retooling the ARVN. "It was clear that any revamping of the ARVN must be done despite the present layer of generals, young as they are," the Ambassador argued. "It took 37 years to depose the horse in the American Army, and it will take as long to sell the generals on the necessary revamping of the ARVN. It can only be accomplished by bringing up new leaders from below." (Memorandum from Allan Evans, Deputy Director for Research, INR, to Hughes and Denney, January 13; Department of State, INR/REA/SA Files: Lot 75 D 378, POL-1 General Policy, Background SVN 1967)

[Here follows discussion of a report on the renovation of the ARVN, casualties, Chieu Hoi, economic matters, and peace talks.]

Lodge

 

46. Telegram From the Embassy in the United Kingdom to the Department of State/1/

London, February 9, 1967, 0241Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/SUNFLOWER. Top Secret; Flash; Nodis; Sunflower. Received at 10:13 p.m. on February 8.

6399. For Secretary from Cooper.

1. Met with Brown at his residence following Kosygin dinner. Found myself in middle of telephone argument with Downing Street re order of precedence of official cars. Retired to kitchen to help Mrs Brown make tea. I wonít trouble Department with other bits of background and atmosphere at this late hour. Gore Booth and Murray arrived 2330.

2. Brown (and FonOff types, though to lesser extent) impressed with Kosygin statement in Guildhall speech today that ". . . the Soviet Govt considers now as in 1954, Great Britain jointly with Soviet Union and other countries, could make her contribution to the settlement of the VN question on the basis of the Geneva Agreements which must be observed by USA."/2/

/2/See footnote 2, Document 48. In a conversation with Dobrynin at 11 a.m. on February 8, Kohler cautioned that President Johnson was concerned that any negative pronouncements by Kosygin might "complicate the President's problems here connected with relations between the two countries." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Sunflower, Vol. II) Harriman interpreted the Kosygin speech as a positive development. In a February 8 memorandum to the President, Harriman suggested that Kosygin had to criticize the United States publicly: "Kosygin can perhaps establish more credibility in Hanoi if he makes this type of statement particularly when abroad. The important thing in dealing with these Communist countries is what they tell us privately and what they do." (Ibid., Amb. Harriman--Negotiations Comm.)

3. Brown feels Sovs may be signalling a readiness to convene Geneva. At private session tomorrow (10 am Wilson and Kosygin to be joined at 1045 by Brown and Soldatov) Brown will ask Wilson to press Sovs on whether this was a serious hint that with or without Chinese they would be prepared to join UK in call for early convocation of Geneva. After much discussion Brown asked for draft written proposal to be submitted to him and Wilson prior to 10 am meeting.

4. Gore Booth, Murray and I went back to FonOff and prepared following (they understand very clearly that this does not have any official endorsement of USG despite my participation in drafting):

"The two co-chairmen will announce immediately that they:

A. Invite the US to assure them that the bombing of NVN will stop;

B. Invite the North Vietnamese and the US to assure the co-chairmen that they will take mutual and equivalent steps to halt the augmentation of their forces in SVN.

C. If all the foregoing assurances are promptly received the two co-chairmen will invite the members of the 1954 Geneva Conference to reconvene in Geneva on 15 Feb to work out a settlement of the present conflict."

5. If Sovs will not buy this, Brown will press them to endorse Phase A-Phase B formula as they formulated it yesterday.

6. Following FonOff drafting session went to Downing Street and caught Wilson on way up to bed. Informed him of contents "Sunflower Plus" and of Washington view re his Commons performance. Wilson said there was more (or less) to story than Wash had gotten. Suggested I get together with Palliser for accurate account, which I will do.

7. Please provide any guidance prior to 0930 London time.

Bruce

 

47. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Secretary of Defense McNamara/1/

Washington, February 9, 1967, 8:29 a.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recordings of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and McNamara, February 9, 1967, 8:29 a.m., Tape F67.05, Side A, PNO 4. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.

McNamara: Thereís several hundred junks, allegedly up around 900, that have been observed there. Of the 900, letís say a hundred or so are fairly substantial junks that may be carrying--roughly a hundred feet long, that size. The Chiefs are very disturbed about it. CINCPAC has recommended resumption of aerial bombardment and naval fire in what they call the Sea Dragon area, which runs from the 17th parallel up to the 19th parallel, roughly 120 miles in there, which in the past has been authorized for naval fire and of course air bombardment. The Chiefs say that these movements are unique, that they have not been observed in these quantities before, either night or day, and that itís quite clear that the North Vietnamese are achieving significant advantages and gains by this action, and therefore they should be authorized immediately, during the remainder of Tet, to engage in fire.

I just wanted you to be informed on this. I think that itís almost impossible for us to accept this recommendation and act on it, but conceivably later today you should give the Chiefs, or Buzz [Wheeler] at least, an opportunity to talk to you about this in the presence of Dean [Rusk] and myself, probably. The counter to the Chiefsí argument, of course, is that this is what you would expect them to do, that thereís no question but what they pay a price for movements outside of the Tet period because of our air strikes, and itís perfectly natural for them to try to move during the Tet period when they donít pay that price. And, furthermore, the movements involved appear to be over a rather limited area, roughly 50 miles of coastline from one river estuary to another river estuary, and if they moved as much as the Chiefs say they are moving, it still isnít of great significance in the overall battle of the South. Beyond all that, youíre engaged in a very delicate set of relationships here between the Pope and Kosygin and Wilson and the American people and the international community, and itíd almost be impossible for you for this reason to, and with as little problem as this, to authorize such fire and obvious breaking of the truce. But it is a serious problem--relationships with military commanders, and I wanted you to be informed of it. Iíll try to take care of it during the day.

President: All right. I expect we ought to have a meeting and talk to them about it. Is there anything in the agreement that would preclude this?

McNamara: No, no, it didnít . . .

President: When you make the agreement, do you anticipate [it]?

McNamara: Well, the answer is yes, I anticipate it, and the Chiefs, when they, in the first place, they were opposed to the truce to start with, youíll recall. Secondly, theyíve said that if we had it, we ought to have authority to fire in the event if the North was doing anything that was disadvantageous to us, whether it was technically a violation of the truce or not. I would say that this is not technically a violation of the truce. It is disadvantageous to us in the sense that theyíre moving without cost to themselves. So, it was anticipated, and the Chiefs initially wanted to act as theyíre now recommending. The counter to their position is that weíre doing exactly the same thing. Weíre reinforcing our forces just as North Vietnam is reinforcing theirs, and in the remaining period of the truce, 2 or 3 days, this just canít penalize us in any important way. But it isnít easy to sell that to the military commanders.

President: Have you had a meeting with them?

McNamara: Iíve just met with Buzz. I havenít met with the other Chiefs.

President: Did you sell him?

McNamara: No. No. But thatís just the first meeting. And heís a good, loyal individual and heíll take the orders that heís given. But Iím not--I donít--I doubt very much we can sell him in the sense of full agreement that we shouldnít go ahead. But why donít we let the day pass, and later in the day if it still seems serious, Iíll give you a call, and we can try to set up a meeting./2/

/2/The President, McNamara, Rusk, Katzenbach, Vance, and Bundy met with Wheeler that afternoon from 1:12 p.m. to 2:07 p.m. No record of the meeting has been found, but apparently a decision was made against resumption. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary)

President: Okay, Bob.

McNamara: Bye.

 

48. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Secretary of State Rusk/1/

Washington, February 9, 1967, 9:07 a.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Rusk, February 9, 1967, 9:07 a.m., Tape F67.05, Side A, PNO 5. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.

President: What is your impression of [Kosyginís speech]?/2/

/2/In a speech at Guildhall on February 8, Kosygin stated that the first step toward a settlement based upon the Geneva agreements would be the "unconditional cessation" of the U.S. bombing of the DRV. See American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 851-852.

Rusk: Well, I think that he said what we expect him to say, and I think that his general tone was reasonably moderate for a fellow in his position.

President: I thought that he was rather restrained. Iím a little bit concerned, though, that heís got Wilson aboard. I think weíre liable to be hearing further from them to stop the bombing, and theyíll trade us our preachers and our youth and our psychological warfare offensive--theyíll cut that down a little bit--if we stop our military action while they keep operating on our boys. Thatís about what it adds up to.

Rusk: Thatís what it sounds like. I donít think the British are going to jump aboard on that. Weíve got a--weíve had a suggestion from them which is not good enough, and weíll be over to suggest a reply to it.

President: What did the British say?

Rusk: Well, they said they wanted to propose to the Russians that first, that the United States stop its bombing; secondly, that there be a commitment from both sides to stop the augmentation of their forces; and third, that then let them call a Geneva conference [like] 1954. Now the trouble with the second point is that augmentation is not good enough as a substitute for infiltration because that would mean that the other side would be free to go ahead with a rotation and sending arms and re-supply and all that kind of thing, you see. I think our original formulation--stopping infiltration--is the one we ought to stay with.

President: Didnít we bring augmentation onto ourselves though somewhere?

Rusk: Yeah, we said that we wouldnít augment, that we wouldnít augment, if they stopped infiltration.

President: So theyíd just agree to not augment either.

Rusk: Yeah, but if they agree not to augment, they can still send in arms and rotate their men and do the things that we would have to do during that period. So I think our original language, or the Phase A-Phase B business, is still the thing we ought to stay with.

President: Now whatís George Christian going to say about his definite proposal that we stop bombing? Theyíre already moving him, heaven, and earth, and at 11 oíclock heíll go right into it, and I guess that . . .

Rusk: Why doesnít he just for the present read that paragraph in your reply to the Pope?/3/

/3/ See Document 42.

President: I thought he might say that "Iím sure no one overlooked the fact that Mr. Kosygin agreed that it would be all right for the

United States to agree to stop its military action, but he didnít comment on the other side stopping their military action, and I donít know whether he could really be serious in this or not--such a one-sided affair. And hereís what the President said on this subject yesterday. Itís amazing that he got no question in that direction and made no comment on it." Something like that.

Rusk: I think Iíd say "noteworthy" rather than "amazing."

President: Well. All right.

Rusk: All right. I think itís all right.

President: If you get a chance, write that sentence out and call George before 11 oíclock so itíll be careful, and I would really point up, though, that itís almost amusing that he would agree that we could stop and not mention what the other side would do, that that doesnít look like itís a two sided affair, and that itís noteworthy that he didnít even get a question on what the other side would do, and if heís proposing just to trade psychological warfare for military action, why weíre not about to do it. If heís willing to trade military action for military action, weíre willing to talk.

Rusk: Right. All right, sir./4/

/4/Rusk called Christian and read to him the following statement to be given to the press: "Mr. Kosygin commented on the military action the United States should take but made no mention of any military action the other side would take. It is somewhat surprising that he did not have a question on that point, or, if he had a question, did not deal with it." (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Rusk and Christian, February 9, 1967, no time indicated, Tape F67.05, Side A, PNO 6) Rusk elaborated on this statement in a press conference that afternoon. For text of Rusk's statement, see Department of State Bulletin, February 27, 1967, pp. 317-322. At the end of the press conference, Rusk distributed copies of a restatement of the administration's Fourteen Points for Peace in Southeast Asia originally made on January 3, 1966, by Vice President Humphrey. For the 1966 version, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1966, pp. 740-742; for Rusk's restatement, see ibid., 1967, pp. 856-858.

49. Telegram From the Embassy in the United Kingdom to the Department of State/1/

London, February 9, 1967, 1439Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/SUNFLOWER. Top Secret; Flash; Nodis; Sunflower. Received at 10:23 a.m.

6411 Ref: 6406./2/ For Secretary and Harriman from Cooper.

/2/Dated February 9. (Ibid.)

1. There follows report of this morningís session obtained from Murray who was present. I have checked this against his notes.

2. Wilson and Kosygin had forty-five minutes alone. According to Wilsonís summary of this private session given to Brown it was primarily procedural. It was agreed that no communiquť would be issued until after the meeting at Chequers on Sunday. Wilson reported that Kosygin made many harsh references re the Chinese.

3. When Brown (and Murray) joined the session at 1045 Wilson indicated, and Kosygin nodded in agreement, that they were now ready for "substantive discussions" on Vietnam, thereby giving Brown a pre-arranged cue. Brown then asked Kosygin whether his remarks about Geneva in his speech yesterday indicated the Russians were ready to reconvene the Geneva Conference, even if the Chinese refused to attend. Kosygin replied this was "not exactly" what he meant to imply. Kosygin, according to Murrayís notes, said that in his speech yesterday "I proceeded upon the assumption that the main thing was for the UK and the Sov Union to assist the two sides to meet together after the bombing stopped. After this has been done there may be various proposals for moving further. The Geneva Conf could be convened even without China. We need not insist on Chinese participation." (Kosygin then made several uncomplimentary references to the way the Chinese felt about diplomatic procedures and forms.) Kosygin then went on to say that he "could not speak for Hanoi on this point." He emphasized that it was important to "do first things first. If we try to work out the tactics too early we might jeopardize everything . . . we might raise other problems such as China and Laos (according to Murray this is the first time Laos has been mentioned in any of the conversations)."

4. Brown then asked whether Kosygin felt that after the two sides had sat down and worked out something in their private talks, should the two co-chairmen then move? Kosygin agreed that this would probably be the appropriate time for a move by the two co-chairmen, but stressed again that their present task was to "get the two sides to the conference table after the bombing stops."

5. Brown then said that no bombing would be going on during Tet. In light of this, "thinking out loud, suppose the US should agree not to resume bombing, and both sides agreed to take mutual and equivalent steps, would Kosygin then agree to call a Geneva Conf on 15 Feb?"

6. Kosygin said that he would first want to know Hanoiís views before he committed himself. He reminded Brown that a Geneva conf would be "a complicated issue"; China will create difficulties and there are "Chinese troops in North Vietnam." There is also a pro-Chinese faction in Hanoi that would have to be dealt with. Kosygin then asked "has this been discussed with the Americans?" Brown said that if Kosygin could deliver his friends in Hanoi the British would try to "deliver the Americans".

7. Kosygin responded "I could send this to Hanoi, but I am concerned about the difficulties." He said he would like to "think it over," and asked if he could have the proposition in writing as early as possible today. Brown said he would do his best to get this to Kosygin later in the afternoon.

8. The next meeting will be at 1030 tomorrow morning. At this session the British plan to point out that they have now delivered two solid propositions to the Russians and presumably Hanoi. One of these provides for a private series of negotiations, the other a public one. Both involve mutual and equivalent steps of de-escalation. If Hanoi is serious about wanting to stop the war, the Russians have an obligation to provide Hanoiís reactions, and this should be done on an urgent basis.

9. The proposition that Brown is ready to submit in writing is literally the same as that sent to Wash last night. Request Wash reaction as soon as possible.

Bruce

 

50. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom/1/

Washington, February 9, 1967, 1:45 p.m.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/SUNFLOWER. Top Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Sunflower Plus. Drafted by William Bundy; cleared by Harriman, Walt Rostow, and Read; and approved by Rusk.

133907. London 6399, 6406, 6411/2/ and relevant telcons.

/2/Telegrams 6399 and 6411 are printed as Documents 46 and 49; for telegram 6406, see footnote 2, Document 49.

1. We understand that at this morningís session Wilson or Brown probed Kosygin whether his remarks on possible role of co-chairmen had any significance and obtained strong impression that they were intended to have. We understand further that, based on this, British went ahead to read orally from draft public announcement along lines para 4, London 6399. In response to Kosygin inquiry, British said this formula did not have USG approval. Kosygin finally asked for British text. Although he did not refer to having USG acceptance of such text, we can only suppose that this was the underlying implication.

2. As we believe we have made clear to you, we have major doubts whether, if Hanoi in fact accepts the deal we have proposed, they will ask to have it nailed down in public through an announcement, and might have additional misgivings about the Soviets doing so in the light of whatever degree of concern they still have about Chicom relations. We would suppose the latter factor would also operate strongly on the Soviets, since any public announcement would carry the unmistakable flavor that the Soviets had colluded with the US, through the UK, to put this deal across. In other words, you should impress on the British that while it may be possible to get Hanoi to accept our proposal, it by no means follows that they or the Soviets would wish a public announcement. We are inclined to interpret Soviet response as indicating a desire to see the US proposal spelled out clearly and in writing, which they could then use with Hanoi but in all probability later drawing back on the idea of a public announcement. British should be left in no doubt that, while we are most grateful for their serious considered efforts, they may well have to accept results rather than overt British participation in them.

3. With this evaluation in mind, we have reviewed text in para 4 of London 6399 and note that, like the British oral formula (London 6329, para 5),/3/ it speaks only of DRV stopping "augmentation of forces" in South Vietnam. This would leave way open for DRV to continue to send equipment without restrictions and also to send forces in the guise of rotation. Moreover, there would be no restraint whatsoever on political cadre and others who could be described as not technically uniformed "forces." In light of these objections, any specific formula along these lines which the British might put forward would have to be amended along following lines:

/3/See footnote 4, Document 41.

"The two cochairmen will announce immediately that they:

a. Invite the US to assure them that the bombing of North Vietnam will stop;

b. Invite the North Vietnamese to assure the cochairmen that infiltration into South Vietnam will stop, and invite the US to assure the cochairmen that it will stop further augmentation of US forces in South Vietnam. (FYI: These are the operative parts both of our own message to the British (State 132481)/4/ and of our message to Hanoi./5/ End FYI)

/4/See footnote 5, Document 39.

/5/Reference is to the letter from Johnson to Ho dispatched on February 8 through Moscow; for text, see Document 40.

c. If all the foregoing assurances are promptly received, the two cochairmen will invite members of the 1954 Geneva Conference to reconvene in Geneva on 15 February to work out a settlement of the present conflict."

4. British should know further that while we have left subpara c of this text unchanged, recognizing that cochairmen status pertains to Geneva conference grouping, they must be as aware as we that Soviets and even Hanoi may have grave reservations about presence of Communist China at any conference. Moreover, we should leave British in no doubt that we might have to press strongly, if and when any multilateral grouping is convened, for inclusion of other appropriate nations who were not at Geneva in 1954. We do of course recognize that under present circumstances Chinese might not attend, but nonetheless we suppose Soviets or Hanoi may still be sensitive to their being included in the grouping. With these factors in mind, we wonder whether British might not find some more general language more realistic and more appealing to Soviets, referring perhaps to inviting "appropriate nations." While cochairmen mandate might be strictly construed to permit only reconvening of Geneva Conference, we believe broader interpretation could be sustained that cochairmen have mandate to take any action that could lead to peace and involve discussion of the 1954 and 1962 Geneva Accords as the basis for settlement.

5. Seeing as we do these possibly serious difficulties with a precise formulation of the deal--and doubting, as we do, that Hanoi will wish a really specific public announcement--you should tell British that we ourselves would be much more inclined to have them table the more general Phase A/Phase B formula.

6. As foregoing makes clear, we gravely doubt that Soviets really envisage any public announcement or that Hanoi would wish it. The main point is the British should leave Soviets in no doubt of essential elements of our proposal. In fact, we have one final and serious worry that the Soviets and Hanoi might interpret British suggestions of a public announcement as indicating that we ourselves visualize the deal being handled in this public way. You should make clear to the British, and they in turn must make clear to the Soviets, that while the British do understand that either of the above formulations reflect the US position accurately, the US has by no means urged a public statement unless the Soviets can completely ascertain that such a public statement is acceptable to Hanoi. We have always been very sensitive to Hanoiís desire that the stoppage of the bombing be ostensibly unilateral, and this fundamental reason for the whole Phase A/Phase B line of thought would be destroyed by a public statement in the only form in which we could accept it.

Rusk

 

51. Telegram From the Presidentís Special Assistant (Rostow) to the Ambassador to the United Kingdom (Bruce) and Chester Cooper of the National Security Council Staff/1/

Washington, February 10, 1967.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Sunflower & Sunflower Plus. Top Secret; Sunflower. Rostow forwarded a copy of this telegram to the President at 5:50 p.m. (Ibid.)

Please pass literally eyes only Amb. Bruce and Mr. Cooper.

To meet 10:30 a.m. signal to Kosygin we are requesting courtesy of this irregular means of transmission. Formulation as cleared here at highest level and comments follow:/2/

/2/Rostow sent the message through the British Cabinet Secretary, Burke Trend, on February 10. The message with the President's revisions is in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET and has no number nor time of dispatch on it.

A) The United States will order a cessation of bombing of North Vietnam as soon as they are assured that infiltration from North Vietnam to South Vietnam has stopped. This assurance can be communicated in secret if North Vietnam so wishes.

B) Within a few days (with a period to be agreed with the two sides before the bombing stops) the United States will stop further augmenting their force in South Vietnam. The cessation of bombing of North Vietnam is an action which will be immediately apparent. This requires that the stoppage of infiltration become public very quickly thereafter. If Hanoi is unwilling to announce the stoppage of infiltration, the United States must do so at the time it stops augmentation of U.S. forces. In that case, Hanoi must not deny it.

C) Any assurances from Hanoi can reach the United States direct, or through Soviet channels, or through the Soviet and British Governments. This is for North Vietnam to decide.

Comments for Wilson:

You should be clear that the stoppage of augmentation by us would still permit the rotation of United States forces and their continued supply. Augmentation means no net increase. Stoppage of infiltration, however, means that men and arms cannot move from North Vietnam into South Vietnam.

The phraseology of paragraph A above is to prevent the sudden movement of two or three divisions across the 17th parallel during the "few days" referred to in paragraph B.

It is very important that this arrangement in Vietnam not be translated into a communist seizure of Laos. The two Co-chairmen should agree between themselves that both will make a maximum effort in support of the 1954 and 1962 accords.

Assurance about infiltration ought to lead to prompt measures by the ICC, either as a Commission or as governments, to provide assurances to all concerned that these arrangements are being carried out. This should mean ICC observers in the DMZ and in whatever places in Laos may be required to keep the Ho Chi Minh trail under surveillance. Unless we receive immediate word from Hanoi that the above arrangements are in effect, it will be necessary for us to resume military action against North Viet Nam forces in and north of the Demilitarized Zone and resupply operations to those forces by land and sea. We do not expect to resume bombing against the Northern portions of North Viet Nam prior to Mr. Kosyginís departure from Britain. We are entirely serious about main proposals but see no reason why Tet should be extended, at substantial military risk, while further exchanges proceed. We still have nothing from Hanoi.

 

52. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, February 10, 1967, 0720Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/SUNFLOWER. Top Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Sunflower Plus. Received at 3:26 a.m.

17769. Ref State 133834./2/

/2/After sending a message to Ho Chi Minh through channels in Moscow, the Department, in telegram 133834 to Saigon, February 9, requested Ambassador Lodge's advice on the necessity of informing Prime Minister Ky of its substance. Washington was reluctant to let Ky know of the message to Ho until there was a response from the other side; at the very least it wanted to wait until the "latest feasible moment." (Ibid.)

1. I believe it is necessary and prudent to inform Ky of message to Hanoi as soon as possible. We do not want to shake his confidence in our good faith. Four day truce period ends morning February 12, so at latest we should inform Ky on February 11.

2. I do not believe we should await Hanoiís response. It would be better to tell Ky what we have done and say we do not know what Hanoiís response will be.

3. In telling Ky I would propose to present our action as a logical follow-up to our previously stated position--namely that we are prepared to stop the bombing in North for reciprocal action. I will find it more difficult to explain the new element introduced by our willingness to stop augmentation of U.S. forces as part of the same exchange, but will seek explain it in context of reciprocal moves. Information giving rationale re stopping augmentation would be most useful.

4. Another problem comes up in terms of extension of Tet truce. This is a stand-down of forces in their present place. If by any remote chance Hanoi agrees to meeting, GVN demands concerning location of forces will necessarily be such as to insure rejection by Hanoi. This might not be true if Tet extension is only for 7 day period, but it would surely arise if truce extension envisaged is for an indefinite period. Does the Departmentís statement mean to imply that we are now clearly interested in an indefinite truce, rather than the earlier formulation of "for seven days or longer"?

5. This point can be side-stepped at this time, however, since GVN has made offer and will stick to it. In explaining our message to Hanoi, we need only tell Ky that it included reference to the position taken by the GVN on truce extension.

6. Ky will probably be interested in how message was conveyed to Hanoi, whether directly or indirectly. Is there anything I can tell him in this regard?

7. Do you wish me to inform General Westmoreland at the time Ky is told? I believe it is desirable that he know what may be in the offing so that he can be prepared.

8. I await your instructions./3/

/3/In telegram 135513 to Saigon, February 10, the Department concurred with Lodge's recommendation, with the instruction to emphasize to Ky that the formula involved a reciprocal exchange and that there was "no indication that Hanoi would accept this proposal." (Ibid.) In telegram 133513 to Saigon, February 10, drafted by Bundy, Lodge was told to downplay the chances for success of the initiative. However, the fact that "Kosygin has probed very hard in London" suggested "receptivity" by the other side. Ky had to be reassured that any halt to U.S. troop accretions would not undermine the military posture of South Vietnam and the allied forces there. (Ibid.) Furthermore, as directed by telegram 135675 to Saigon, February 11, Lodge was to add that the move "was dictated solely by extreme British concern and vital support" which would be jeopardized by American non-complicity. (Ibid.)

Lodge

 

53. Notes of Telephone Conversation Between the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Read) and Chester Cooper of the National Security Council Staff/1/

Undated, 11:50 a.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Sunflower & Sunflower Plus. Top Secret; Sunflower Plus. The document is undated but references in the text confirm the date as February 10. Cooper was in London; Read was in Washington.

Chet Cooper called to double talk following message:

The UK and Cooper think that Kosygin may have indicated "a bite." He indicated to Wilson in talks this afternoon (London time) considerable interest in our Phase A-Phase B proposal and committed himself to send it in cable form to Hanoi with his endorsement. Kosygin is leaving London at 10:30 p.m. London time tonight and wants an agreed text ASAP.

Suggested text (which will be flashed to us) consists of five short lettered paragraphs./2/

/2/A Flash telegram, telegram 6456 from London, February 10, 1900Z, contained these five elements slightly rephrased. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/SUNFLOWER)

a. The US will stop the bombing as soon as it has been assured that infiltration by the North will stop and this assurance can be given privately.

b. Within a few days to be agreed upon by the parties, the US will stop augmenting its forces in the South and North Viet Nam will stop infiltration.

c. What the US does will of course be immediately apparent but no public rationale will be stated at the time.

d. What North Viet Nam does will be more difficult to observe but the US will not demand a public statement that they have taken the required action.

e. These assurances can be given and exchanged by the USG and the DRV directly or through the Soviets and/or British.

Ben Read

 

54. Memorandum From the Presidentís Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/

Washington, February 10, 1967, 2:50 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Sunflower Plus [2 of 2]. No classification marking.

Mr. President:

The meeting/2/ might be broken into two parts:

/2/The President, Rusk, and McNamara met in the Cabinet Room from 3:19 to 5:12 p.m. to work out the message that would be sent to Kosygin. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary) No notes of this meeting have been found. For the message, see Document 51.

--a decision on the message to London which is urgent;
--a discussion of the other issue posed in the attached memorandum./3/

/3/A handwritten notation in parentheses by Rostow reads "on its way in 5 minutes." The memorandum is printed below.

With respect to the first part there are two questions:

--do we permit Wilson to go ahead with his formulation?
--do we extend Tet?/4/

/4/The President wrote "No" after this sentence.

I suggest, therefore, that you open the meeting by asking Secretary Rusk this question: Can we proceed down this track while resuming operations at the end of Tet (6:00 P.M. our time Saturday;/5/ the last we can stop it is a message dispatched 10:00 A.M. Saturday)?

/5/February 11.

When that is settled, we can march through the other issues.

Walt

 

Attachment

Memorandum From the Presidentís Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/6/

Washington, February 10, 1967, 2:30 p.m.

/6/Top Secret; Sunflower.

Mr. President:

Here are some of the questions we ought to answer in our own minds before we flash London, where a response is necessary by about 3:30 p.m., even though we do not have to decide all of them now or inform London now.

1. How do we assure ourselves that infiltration has stopped? (The exact language of your letter to Ho/7/ is: "I am assured.")

/7/Document 40.

Possible answer: We stand down our bombing in the short run when we have Hoís word backed by the UK/USSR. We do not move to the next step, however--"stop augmenting our forces"--until unilateral U.S. military surveillance and Westyís judgment tell us infiltration has, in fact, stopped. In the longer run, we shall need our own unilateral surveillance, plus third country forces, to make this guarantee stick; for example, ICC countries, third country Asians, possibly even UK/USSR.

2. How many days before we stop augmenting our forces? What relation of that interval to our "assurance" infiltration has stopped? As indicated, we do not stop augmenting our forces until Westy tells us infiltration has stopped. (FYI. It was for this reason that I wanted the letter to Ho to contain the phrase "I am assured." You have a right to say when you are assured.)

3. What is Hanoiís choice of a channel for subsequent negotiation? Or do we have, if this deal goes through, merely a more limited war inside South Vietnam?

Obviously we must try to move as fast as possible towards negotiations to end the war inside South Vietnam.

4. If we negotiate bilaterally with Hanoi, how do we engage Saigon and NLF in military/political negotiations to end the fighting within South Vietnam?

This is a question of our persuading Ky to put himself into that posture and Hanoi persuading the NLF to respond. This is extremely delicate because Ky will have to know precisely how steady we are in all this:

--how tough we are going to be on guaranteeing that infiltration has stopped before we stop augmenting our forces;

--how firm we are going to be in interpreting the Manila pledge for troop withdrawals against withdrawals of North Vietnamese forces to the North;

--above all, that we shall be firm in insisting on carrying through an orderly constitutional process on a one-man one-vote basis and in sending the NLF into the Government in Saigon.

5. What do we say when bombing stops or we do not resume bombing at the end of Tet?

We shall have to make clear that we can only hold a "catís got our tongue" position for a relatively few days. The first explanation that bombing has stopped should be a straight military announcement by our military authorities in Saigon that their evidence indicates infiltration has stopped. This would remove from Hanoi the necessity publicly to announce that infiltration has stopped.

6. Now the urgent gut question: Do we extend the Tet truce? Part of the Tet truce? The fact is we must send a cable to Westy and Ky not later than 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning./8/ We cannot expect a response from Hanoi to the British until the hoped for Kosygin message for a day or so at least. Unless Hanoi or the NLF get in touch with Ky very promptly, and respond to his initiative, I would recommend that we resume the war in the South but continue to hold down the bombing of the North for a few days, with this possible exception: the bombing of the supplies and forces just North of the DMZ if there are any really ominous movements. The reason for this suggestion is that it will provide some security cover for the negotiation--we could allegedly hold the planes down for weather reasons--and we ought not to let the forces in the South sit still until we are clear that a negotiation to move towards peace is envisaged between ourselves and Hanoi on the one hand, and Saigon and the NLF on the other. Whatever we decide between now and 10:00 a.m. tomorrow, we must have Wilson tell Kosygin so that there can be no misunderstanding and no claim that we "blew a chance for peace."

/8/The urgency was due to the fact that resumption of aerial bombardment was scheduled for 6 p.m. February 11; the latest that the President could counter-order the resumption would be at 10 a.m. that same day.

7. Do we permit Lodge to inform Ky? Who else should be informed if we respond positively on this message to London? If we give Wilson the assent to put in this piece of paper, I am confident that we are duty bound to inform Ky immediately. More than that, I think it necessary to give him a quite full picture of the track we envisage. It would not be very difficult to panic the government and the Constituent Assembly, which would be true disaster. From the moment we send that message, we must treat them as partners in this difficult venture of ending the war. It is also perfectly clear that Westy must know what we are up to. As for Holt, Park, etc., we could possibly wait until we have Hanoiís response.

8. Should not the two Co-Chairmen reaffirm their support of the Geneva Accords of 1954 and 1962 and their responsibility for assuring that they will now be implemented? Should that assurance be public? Private?

Since what is envisaged here is something the two Co-Chairmen might, if they agree, send to Hanoi and Washington as an understanding, urging its acceptance, the issue of reassurance on the Geneva Accords can be separated. It is, however, our interest that publicly, or privately, (or both) this reaffirmation be one result of the London meeting of Kosygin and Wilson./9/

/9/In a memorandum to the President, February 11, 8:35 a.m., Rostow wrote: "I know it's clarified in my mind, but what I think we have now is not an A-B proposal but an A-B-C-D proposal that makes sense and which we can justify to ourselves and before the world. A. Ho informs us that infiltration has stopped. B. On the basis of his assurance, we stop bombing the North. C. We surface in Saigon as a military fact that infiltration appears to have stopped and Hanoi either:--keeps silent; or--says we never did infiltrate, we are not infiltrating now, and invites people in to see. D. When that condition has been achieved and announced, we announce that further augmentation of our forces will not take place." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Sunflower [1 of 2])

Walt

 

55. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and the Presidentís Special Assistant (Rostow)/1/

Washington, February 11, 1967, 9:15 a.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Rostow, February 11, 1967, 9:15 a.m., Tape F67.05, Side B, PNO 1. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.

Rostow: Bob McNamara, sir, would like to get out by 10 oíclock an operational instruction about the area in which bombing may be resumed at the end of Tet.

President: Yes.

Rostow: May I read you his proposed message?

President: Yes, yes.

Rostow: "Prime Minister Wilson has asked that we defer resumption of military action against North Vietnamese targets until after Mr. Kosyginís departure from Britain. Weíve told the Prime Ministers that North Vietnamís use of the Tet cease-fire will substantially increase the volume of their re-supply activities north of the 17th parallel. We have stated we cannot defer beyond the end of the agreed upon cease-fire period attacks upon such supply activities. You are therefore authorized to resume military operations against North Vietnam at 0700 12 February from the 17th parallel as far north as the 20th parallel in accordance with previously existing instructions."

President: All right, now, wait a minute. The 12th--is that after he has left?

Rostow: No, sir, thatís before he leaves. That would be only in the restricted area between the 17th and 20th parallels where re-supply is taking place.

President: Well, would that comply with the Prime Ministerís request that we not start back bombing until Kosyginís out of London?

Rostow: No. We made clear, however, in our message yesterday,/2/ that we would attack only in that restricted area. We told him yesterday, sir, that we are going to have to resume there.

/2/See Document 51.

President: All right, okay.

Rostow: Then we say we will plan to defer attacks in those portions of North Vietnam north of the 20th parallel until after Kosyginís departure from Britain.

President: And we donít set a time on his departure?

Rostow: No. We will notify you of that time.

President: Uh-huh, all right. Do we have any firm thing that heís leaving Sunday/3/ night?

/3/February 12.

Rostow: Itís--that was the plan, and I assume he will keep to it. Heís having his final session at Chequers with the Prime Minister on Sunday.

President: Anything else from the Prime Minister?

Rostow: No, only the two messages you read, sir./4/

/4/See Document 53.

President: Whatís your evaluation of those?

Rostow: My evaluation is that the Chinese are trying to break relations with Russia and then blame a failure of Hanoi to win the war on the Russiansí connivance with the U.S. The Russians are going to blame the failure in part on the breakdown of transport through China, and they will use the occasion of the Chinese madness to strengthen their position in Hanoi, if possible, as they are already doing in North Korea, in the Communist Party in Japan, and Indonesia, and he [Kosygin] is positioning himself for the world and the Communist movement. Part of his reason for talking so openly is because heís trying in the end to say, "These crazy Chinese killed the chance of Hanoi," and heís going to exploit this period of madness to try to reconsolidate Moscow control.

President: Thatís the future Russia, but now what about the peace that weíre working on?

Rostow: Thereís not a damn thing in those messages that tells us whether itíll come now or later.

President: All right, what do you think? Are you the 85-15 boy or are you the 95-5 boy?

Rostow: Oh, Iím 85-15, sir.

President: On London and Moscow, Prime Minister and Kosygin, do you think theyíre going to develop anything?

Rostow: I think thereís a 15 percent chance, 15 to 20, Iíd say, that something will emerge in the next weeks or months.

President: Oh, yes, I agree with that. But Iím talking about between now and Sunday night.

Rostow: That I put at five.

President: Yeah.

Rostow: That depends on only one thing, sir. That depends on whatís going through their head as they stare not at whatís happening in London but at your letter./5/ That letter . . . theyíre having to . . .

/5/ See Document 40.

President: Well, Iíd just as soon not have a damn bit of connection to London, and the better--the easier the better, because the first thing youíll have, Bobby will have arranged the thing in London. I wouldnít be a bit surprised to see that leak tomorrow--that he worked this all out with Wilson. Anybody thatíd leak all this other stuff like he did--you just say this with Alsop./6/ You better stay close with Alsop every day and tell him how ridiculous these things are without ever mentioning this fellowís name. But you better just be very objective and show him that youíre carrying out the Alsop plan. And Iíd sure give him the stuff on these ships, and Iíd give it to him almost from the Joint Chiefsí viewpoint, not McNamara. Let him . . .

/6/Joseph Alsop, a Washington Post and nationally-syndicated columnist.

Rostow: Okay, Iíll stay with Joe.

President: Yeah, go ahead and send that out.

Rostow: Yes, sir.

President: Fine.

 

56. Memorandum of Telephone Conversation/1/

February 11, 1967, 9:30 a.m.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/SUNFLOWER. Top Secret; Nodis; Sunflower Plus. Cooper and Bruce were in London; Read was in Washington.

PARTICIPANTS
Chester L. Cooper
Amb. David Bruce
Benjamin H. Read

1. Chester Cooper advised me that the British analysis of our outgoing message of last night/2/ was now focussing sharply on the past tense in point A ("the US will order a cessation of bombing of North Viet-Nam as soon as they are assured that infiltration from North Viet-Nam to South Viet-Nam has stopped"). The British have noted that this is in direct conflict with our modified Point 14 which the Secretary underscored in his press conference on Thursday which reads "we are prepared to order a cessation of all bombing of North Viet-Nam, the moment we are assured--privately or otherwise--that this step will be answered promptly by a corresponding and appropriate de-escalation on the other side."/3/

/2/Document 51.

/3/The transcript of Secretary Rusk's news conference of February 9 is in the Department of State Bulletin, February 27, 1967, pp. 317-322.

Chester Cooper and David Bruce are having considerable difficulty rationalizing the change with the British on this point, and would appreciate any argumentation we can provide. They think the Prime Minister might cable the President on this point later today although they have urged him against doing so.

2. On Point B of our message, Cooper and Bruce believe they have persuaded the British that the principal differences between our present and earlier positions are not important substantive ones, but relate largely to a most difficult public relations point on which our position is generally sympathized with.

3. Resumption after Tet--They inquired whether the final paragraph of our outgoing message of yesterday was in effect a decision to resume bombing in the southern portion of North Viet-Nam at 6 p.m. today (Washington time), and I have answered in the affirmative.

At the point David Bruce got on the phone and said if renewal of aerial bombing of North Viet-Nam occurs before Kosygin leaves the UK, he cannot under-emphasize the difficulty that it will cause Wilson (and the Soviets), and he thought that it would end not only for the immediate future but for some time to come the chances of working out a settlement through these channels (British-Soviet).

BHR

 

57. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and the Presidentís Special Assistant (Rostow)/1/

Washington, February 11, 1967, 9:49 a.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Rostow, February 11, 1967, 9:49 a.m., Tape F67.05, Side B, PNO 2. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.

Rostow: Mr. President, there are three things of which you should be apprised. You may want me to come up and talk about them, but Iíll tick them off on the phone for you now. One--the North Vietnamese in Moscow have called our man in and said that they have transmitted the Presidentís message to Ho Chi Minh. It was received, and a reply will be forthcoming. It doesnít say when./2/

/2/Thompson reported this exchange in telegram 3451 from Moscow, February 11. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/SUNFLOWER)

President: All right--when did this happen?

Rostow: This just arrived about 15 minutes ago.

President: All right.

Rostow: Two--David Bruce has been on the phone, and Secretary Rusk and Bob McNamara are together, David Bruce was apparently vehement in saying that if we resume bombing even in the southern part of North Vietnam, itís his judgment that we will remove the possibility of Kosyginís being helpful for some time to come./3/ Thatís--I have not talked to David, but Bob and Secretary Rusk are talking about that.

/3/See Document 56.

President: Well, now wait a minute--until he leaves, you mean?

Rostow: Thatís right.

President: Well, heís not talking beyond the time he leaves, is he?

Rostow: No, sir.

President: Heís just saying that we shouldnít do any bombing until Kosygin gets out.

Rostow: That is correct sir. I told him to get back with you when they talk about this. Time is short because the message should go out about 10 oíclock.

President: Why is it--heís not afraid of getting hit in London, is he?

Rostow: Thatís exactly what I thought [laughing]--I donít--see, well I canít--I didnít hear David, and I just donít know how solid this is or why. But I just wanted to report that I was informed of this conversation and I wanted to inform you that . . .

President: All right. Who informed you of it?

Rostow: Ben Read informed me of the conversation. And thatís the second one. The third thing which Ben Read told me about is that theyíre having great trouble in London with the tense of our informing, you know--"has stopped" versus "will stop." And I pointed out to him two things. One--they say it runs contrary to our statement by the Secretary of State that we would act on the future tense. I pointed out to him two things. One--that the deal weíre now talking about is different from any we have ever talked about before. It involves as part of the package the cutting down of augmentation. So it is in diplomatic terms a new situation. The second thing I pointed out to him is that we cannot be put in a position of negotiating about this language with intermediaries; that it would be one thing if we were confronted with Hanoi saying, "Gee this language is difficult for us." Itís quite a different thing for us to have our position cut back by some intermediaries. In any case, Secretary Rusk and Bob are [convinced] of that point--that the boys in London who are playing around with this thing are playing around with the tense of our language.

President: Now who is that? Is that Kosygin doing that, or is

that . . .

Rostow: No, I think itís Cooper and Bruce and the British and Soldatov,/4/ whoís left behind and is part of Kosyginís party. I just wanted to give you a situation report, sir, so you know whatís going on. I donít want you to get all behind us in all this, and Iíve got no recommendations--if I had to make them, Iíd make them. But I think the first thing to do is for you to know whatís going on. Those three things you should know.

/4/Alexandr Soldatov, Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister.

President: All right, what are you--what would be your recommendations?

Rostow: Uhh . . . I think we can hold the bombing until Kosygin goes, one. Two--I would not change one letter of what we have now said until we hear directly and are dealing directly with Hanoi.

President: I agree with that. I agree with both of them.

Rostow: Thatís my feeling about it.

President: Are they going to want a meeting?

Rostow: I shall find out. I shall talk directly now to Secretary Rusk, but I didnít want to leave you a little behind, sir./5/

/5/In a telephone call to the President at 10:08 a.m., Rostow reported that McNamara would "hold his message" and that a meeting would be set up for noon. (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Rostow, February 11, 1967, 10:08 a.m., Tape F67.05, Side B, PNO 3) The President met with Rostow, Rusk, McNamara, Bundy, and Katzenbach from 12:23 p.m. through 2:26 p.m. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary) No record of the meeting has been found.

President: Fine.

Rostow: Thank you.

 

58. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Johnson/1/

Washington, February 11, 1967.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET. Top Secret. Drafted by Bundy.

SUBJECT
Resumption of Operations Against North Viet-Nam Over the Next Two Days

As you know, the British have put our proposal to Kosygin/2/ and he has transmitted it to Hanoi./3/ Kosygin returns to London tomorrow and his final meeting with Wilson will take place between 5 p.m. and midnight British time (noon and 7 p.m. our time) tomorrow. This carries the meeting into early morning of Monday Saigon time, and Kosygin leaves London on Monday morning British time (late Monday night Saigon time).

/2/See Document 51.

/3/According to a message from Wilson to the President, the text of which is contained in telegram 135606 to London and Moscow, February 11, as a result of the meeting Kosygin "promised to consult Hanoi urgently," and would let Wilson know of any response by the date of their next meeting on February 12. Wilson related that he told Kosygin that the other side could accept either Wilson's own formulation of President Johnson's earlier Phase A-Phase B formula or the two-part proposal itself, both of which allowed for Hanoi's fulfillment of the offer through secret assurances. In addition, Wilson related his rejection of Kosygin's request to join him in a communiquť calling on Washington unilaterally to halt the bombing. Last, he was unsuccessful in gaining Soviet acceptance of the reinstitution of the mechanisms of the Geneva conferences to resolve the current situation. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/SUNFLOWER) Telegram 135615 to London and Moscow, February 11, reported that Wilson underscored the Soviet leader's eager interest in the matter, which Wilson believed derived from the fact that "Kosygin is obsessional about the Chinese problem." (Ibid.)

Ambassador Bruce has now telephoned me to report that he was called down this morning and given a message on behalf of Wilson asking in the most urgent terms that we not resume operations against North Viet-Nam before the end of the Kosygin talks. On the basis of this approach, Bruce has given me his own extremely strong judgment that if we should resume operations against North Viet-Nam tonight, it would mean that the Soviets would refuse to discuss the matter seriously tomorrow, there would be a break-up on the issue, and the break-up would be blamed wholly on our action./4/

/4/Bruce later reported on this morning meeting with Wilson, Brown, and Trend in telegram 6495 from London, February 11. In this "stormy" meeting with Bruce and Cooper, the British leaders expressed concern about U.S. reticence to acquiesce to their formulation. Given that it had been based upon the February 7 message to Kosygin and the last of the Fourteen Points, and the fact that the Johnson administration had "raised no objection" to their idea, the British assumed U.S. support in their endeavor. However, according to Bruce, "they now feel that the ground has shifted from under them." (Ibid., POL 27-14 VIET) As a result of that meeting, Bruce predicted that an end to the bombing halt "would really cook the whole goose." (Memoranda of telephone conversations between Rusk and Bruce, February 11, 10:12 and 10:13 a.m.; ibid., POL 27-14 VIET)

As you know, yesterdayís decision was to resume bombing and naval operations up to the 20th Parallel./5/ We also had a B-52 strike in the northern part of the DMZ (technically North Vietnamese territory), but this has now been canceled for operational reasons. There are other B-52 operations wholly confined to the South, and all of us agree that these do not raise the same issue. The South Vietnamese have announced they are going back into action in the South tomorrow, and we are over that hurdle as far as Southern operations are concerned.

/5/See Document 54.

The major argument for resuming bombing and naval operations is, of course, the overwhelming evidence of large North Vietnamese movements, particularly by sea, down to the southern part of North Viet-Nam. This morningís reports indicate that this has tapered off somewhat, and it may well be that the North Vietnamese have made their plans on the assumption that we will resume action tonight, so that the flow would at least be sharply reduced from what we have seen during the last four days. Nonetheless, failure to take bombing and naval action could lead to significant further re-supply.

On the other hand, I myself believe that Ambassador Bruceís judgment is correct, and that if we resume action tonight we shall inevitably be charged with having broken up a major possibility of peace. In the light of the charges that still surround our December actions, the volume of criticism would, I believe, be extremely heavy. In fact, it would be taken as confirmation of the December charges, and would multiply the effect of those charges very greatly.

This is not a question of how the British or Soviets behave. As a practical matter, either might well leak the situation to our disadvantage. But the basic fact that Viet-Nam has entered into the Kosygin discussions is a matter of common knowledge, so that the damage would exist in any case, and would only be somewhat increased by what the British or Soviets might make known.

I have specifically asked Bruce whether his judgment would apply to naval operations, and his categorical answer to me is that it would. I think this too is correct.

In addition to the argument of charges against us, I believe we must reckon that there remains an outside chance that Kosygin will get some reply from Hanoi. I myself doubt very much whether Hanoi will accept the proposal we have made, but, if they came back and played with it, it would be a major break in Hanoiís position and could well lead to something really serious. Thus, if we accept the judgment that resumption of action tonight would prevent Kosygin from dealing tomorrow, we could be losing a serious, though small, chance of progress.

Finally, I believe resumption of our actions could do really significant harm to our relations both with the British and the Soviets. Unlike the December case with the Poles, we are dealing with two key and generally responsible nations.

Although tonight is the critical time from the standpoint of Kosyginís actions tomorrow, I believe we must reckon that we will not be able to assess whatever Kosygin produces in time to make any useful judgment before the military day begins on Monday. Moreover, to resume while Kosygin is still in London has virtually all the drawbacks that action tonight would have.

If you decide not to resume for the next two days, it will be necessary to inform Ky promptly, with the reasons. He is not too happy about our proposal, and will probably not like our failure to resume for these two days. However, I do not think there will be any serious damage to our relations.

Dean Rusk/6/

/6/ Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.

 

59. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom/1/

Washington, February 11, 1967, 2:08 p.m.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/SUNFLOWER. Top Secret; Flash; Nodis; Sunflower Plus. Drafted by Bundy, cleared by Read, and approved by Rusk. Repeated to Moscow.

135627. 1. This responds to your telecons relaying message from Wilson about resumption of bombing./2/

/2/Documents 53 and 56.

2. As you know, we did not want to make any commitments to extend the Tet bombing stand-down. You also know that our basic position remains not to stop bombing in return for mere willingness to talk.

3. However, we have great respect for your opinion and accept your recommendation not to conduct military actions against the North until Kosygin leaves. It must be absolutely clear to Wilson that we would then go ahead and that we will not consider a further deferral.

4. Wilson should not refer to resumption of bombing on his own initiative. If Kosygin asks about it, we suggest that Wilson reply that he is not familiar with details of allied military plans but that US attitude on this point has been made clear.

5. Wilson should be left in no doubt that we cannot prolong suspension of bombing in absence of firm word on infiltration. He should also know that when we say "stop infiltration" we mean "stop infiltration." We cannot trade a horse for a rabbit and will react to bad faith on this point. We are losing lives today because such commitments in Laos Accords of 1962/3/ were treated with contempt by Hanoi and Co-Chairmen and ICC could do nothing about it

/3/For text of the Declaration on the Neutrality of Laos and a 20-article Protocol, signed on July 23, 1962, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1962, pp. 1075-1083. For documentation on the negotiation of the accord, see Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, volume XXIV.

6. About Wilson trip to Hanoi, we see little point in it. We thought two Co-Chairmen had concluded that best prospects lie in bilateral contact between US and Hanoi. Further, we could not become involved in a visit which would raise problem of another unrequited suspension of bombing.

7. Wilson is of course already aware that the South Vietnamese and we are resuming operations in the South tomorrow (112300 Zulu) and that we have been carrying on bombing operations in Laos throughout.

8. Septel will contain our comments on the question of tenses in our proposal./4/

/4/Document 60.

Rusk

 

60. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom/1/

Washington, February 11, 1967, 4:46 p.m.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/SUNFLOWER. Top Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Sunflower Plus. Drafted and approved by Bundy and cleared by Walt Rostow in substance and by Read.

135662. For Ambassador and Cooper Only.

1. This responds to your report of British concern about our insistence that draft specify that infiltration "has stopped." We gather they are pointing to apparent inconsistency between this position and the future tense employed in the revised point 14 released here Thursday./2/

/2/February 9.

2. You should give them the following:

a. As previous message made clear, we face immediate specific problem of possible three divisions poised just north of DMZ. We must be in position to insist that these cannot be moved into SVN just before their undertaking takes effect.

b. We recognize that revised point 14 spoke in future tense, but that formulation related to a different proposal, i.e., bombing cessation alone on our side, not bombing cessation plus troop augmentation which of course are two major commitments on our part.

c. British should be aware (as we realize State 133834/3/ did not make clear) that message conveyed to Hanoi was in same terms as final corrected draft, i.e., that we must be assured that infiltration has stopped. In the last 24 hours, we have information that Soviets are aware of contents of this message, presumably through their Hanoi contacts, so that change in tense in final draft given to Soviets did not come as surprise to Soviets or Hanoi and cannot have impaired British credibility.

/3/See footnote 2, Document 52.

d. In any event, our position on this point remains firm because of the special problem posed by the divisions north of the DMZ. We very much doubt whether Soviets or Hanoi will reject proposal for this reason. If they should come back on it, we would of course wish to be informed.

Rusk

 

61. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam/1/

Washington, February 11, 1967, 5:15 p.m.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Immediate. Drafted and approved by Bundy and cleared by Read. Repeated to Bangkok, Vientiane, Canberra, Wellington, Seoul, Manila, and London. A handwritten notation indicates that the President saw and approved the telegram.

135676. Eyes Only Ambassadors.

1. Saigon, Bangkok and Vientiane are receiving military message directing that bombing and naval operations against North Viet-Nam not be resumed until after Kosygin leaves London. This decision has been taken in order to avoid any possibility of charges that resumption impaired talks Kosygin having with British. It constitutes a one-shot exception to our standing policy, because of unique circumstances in this particular situation arising from fact that bombing had already been suspended for four days. Our policy on not stopping bombing in return for talks remains unchanged.

2. Saigon should inform GVN of this decision. We leave it to Bangkok and Vientiane whether they think some notification would be desirable. We expect public statement here Monday, after bombing resumed, explaining that short additional suspension period was undertaken because of previous four days and because resumption while Kosygin was still in London might be misconstrued.

3. For press purposes, Lodge or Zorthian should consult with Westmoreland. Our objective is to damp down speculation as fully as possible until we can make announcement here after resumption Monday evening your time./2/ For this purpose, we here will be responding that matter is operational, that any speculation is unwarranted, and that we will have normal press briefings Monday. Precise guidance has gone through military channels instructing your spokesman to make no comment on military operations to the North. We recognize there may be speculative stories that we cannot prevent, but we wish at all costs not to feed these with anything authoritative.

/2/February 13.

4. Canberra, Wellington, Seoul and Manila may in their discretion arrange unobtrusive contacts at appropriately high levels to convey what we are doing, stressing confidence.

5. London should be sure British understand press line we are following.

Rusk

 

62. Memorandum From the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Wheeler) to Secretary of Defense McNamara/1/

CM-2111-67

Washington, February 11, 1967.

/1/Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, McNamara Vietnam Files: FRC 77-0075, Box 1 (January and February 1967). Top Secret. A handwritten notation indicates that the President saw the memorandum that evening.

SUBJECT
Resumption of Offensive Operations against North Vietnam

1. I have been reflecting upon our conversation this afternoon/2/ during which you informed me of the considerations leading to a decision not to resume offensive operations against North Vietnam upon the termination of the Tet truce pending the departure of Mr. Kosygin from the United Kingdom. During the discussion, I expressed to you my serious reservations as to this decision based upon the potential danger incurred by our forces in Vietnam. Moreover, I am gravely concerned that the Soviets and the British may conduct affairs in such a way as to obstruct our resumption of offensive operations against North Vietnam subsequent to the departure of Mr. Kosygin from the United Kingdom. A further factor which bothers me is that, in effect, we have subverted the U.S. Government policy that we will not suspend our air campaign against North Vietnam in return for a promise to engage in talks; indeed, we have gone further than this, because we have delayed the resumption of our offensive operations against North Vietnam in return for a half-promise to propose to the Hanoi leadership that they should engage in talks with the U.S. Government.

/2/No other record of the conversation has been found.

2. While I fully recognize the domestic and foreign pressures upon the President, I wish to bring to your attention and to that of the President my own feelings in this matter. They are these:

a. Prime Minister Wilson is operating basically from a narrow objective of obtaining importance and prestige in the British domestic political scene; i.e., his "peace-making" efforts are pointed primarily at maintaining ascendancy over his political opponents within and without his own party.

b. Britain is regrettably no longer a first-class power. The place of Britain in the international scene depends today in great measure upon its relationship with the United States. If the British can play a major, publicized role in terminating the war in Vietnam, it will further British desire to continue to be a leading power on the world stage.

c. British objectives and those of the United States as regards the War in Vietnam are not the same.

d. Prime Minister Wilson and the British Government will not have to bear the onus of losses inflicted upon our forces as a result of the unimpeded buildup of North Vietnamese forces and logistic means contiguous to the frontiers of South Vietnam.

3. In summation of the foregoing, I wish to register my belief that there is danger that the Soviets and the British for their own reasons, not necessarily the same, will attempt to delay, obstruct and obfuscate the resumption of our offensive operations against North Vietnam. Such attempts should be rejected out of hand. Promptly upon the departure of Mr. Kosygin from the United Kingdom, we should resume our offensive operations, both air and naval, against North Vietnam. In fact, barring a positive and affirmative response from the North Vietnamese Government to proposals made to it through other channels by the United States Government, I recommend that we should expand our air and naval operations. Specifically, the President should now authorize the following actions:

a. Employment of naval gunfire against appropriate ground targets in North Vietnam south of 19 degrees north latitude.

b. Immediate attack against the electric power system, the Thai Nguyen steel plant and the Haiphong cement plant.

4. Because of the timing of events central to the situation we find ourselves in, I have not been able to consult with other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as to the foregoing recommendations. However, I know that they would concur with me in making these recommendations to the President and to you.

5. I request that my views be presented to the President either by means of this memorandum or by personal interview.

Earle G. Wheeler

 

63. Memorandum for the Record/1/

London, February 11, 1967.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/SUNFLOWER. Top Secret; Nodis; Sunflower. Drafted by Cooper on February 12.

This is an attempt to reconstruct the content and mood of the meeting last night at Downing Street.

Ambassador Bruce and I arrived at Downing Street at about 11:15 p.m. with two messages from Washington./2/ The first (which had been transmitted by telephone to Trend earlier) indicated that the bombing pause would continue through Kosyginís visit. The second, which we had just received and had not yet communicated to Downing Street, dealt with an explanation of the change in the formulation of our Pause [Phase] A Pause [Phase] B formula which had been delivered the previous night to Downing Street for transmission to Kosygin.

/2/See Documents 51 and 60.

Present in the Cabinet Room were the Prime Minister, George Brown, Burke Trend, Don Murray and Michael Halls. The atmosphere was tense, and when the British read the message explaining the shift in tenses, it became even more so. Wilson said he could only conclude that Washington did not know what it was doing from one day to the next, or that Washington knew what it was doing but did not wish to keep the British informed, or that Washington was consciously trying to lead him up the garden path by tightening its negotiations posture while letting the British proceed on the basis of an assumption that Washington was in fact ready to reach a settlement.

Wilson in short felt that he had been made a fool of by Washington and that his credibility (which he had built up with great effort over the last 20 years) was now badly damaged. It is my recollection, but I am not absolutely certain of this, that Wilson said that he was "betrayed" by Washington.

Wilson implied that if he could not reach an agreement with Kosygin at Chequers on Sunday/3/ it would largely be the fault of the United States because of its shifting position. He indicated that he might be forced at some point to say this publicly. In any case, he felt he would have to take a much more "independent" position with respect to Vietnam and that US/UK relations on the Vietnam issue could never be the same.

/3/February 12.

Wilson with Brownís agreement felt that at Chequers on Sunday he would have to stick by his original text of the Phase A Phase B formula (that is the one he had handed Kosygin at the Soviet reception on Friday night)/4/ and indicated that he would try to bring the Americans along with it, if in fact the Russians and the North Vietnamese were ready to commit themselves to proceed on the basis of the Wilson wording. Wilson and Brown were relieved by American assurances that there would be no bombing of North Vietnam while Kosygin was in England. They were, however, very concerned about the implications domestically and in connection with their continuing relationships with Kosygin on Vietnam if bombing resumed immediately after Kosyginís departure. Wilson implied that he might have to "dissociate" himself from the resumption of bombing (Brown indicated he would not go along with "dissociation").

/4/See Document 58.

Wilson said that he could not allow Chequers to end without at least some agreement in a communiquť that the British and the Russians would continue to remain in contact with respect to Vietnam. He hoped that if nothing else, the President would endorse the communiquť. He also indicated he might have to fly to Washington (and here he made a point of saying he would take Brown with him) to discuss Vietnam with the President.

During most of the discussion, Brown remained restive, interrupting now and again with rather pompous and not necessarily relevant remarks. He did a considerable amount of posturing and in essence contributed very little to the discussion. He did say, for whatever it was worth, that he had been put upon for the last time, and he hoped Washington realized he had been 200% behind us and that in fact he would have taken a much stronger and tougher line with Kosygin than the Prime Minister. He suggested we tell Washington this. (The Ambassador and I indicated that any differences in approach between Wilson and Brown were not something we would want to send to Washington. The Prime Minister was in obvious agreement with this.)

Cooper made three basic points:

(1) If the North Vietnamese or Russians had been interested in the Phase A Phase B formula as a basic proposal, they probably would have agreed to it by now. If in the past few days they wanted to proceed on the basis of this formula, it was hard to believe that the difference in tense would make the difference between their acceptance and rejection. In short, the British should not exaggerate the substantive differences between the two positions, although they might be annoyed at the apparent change in the American position over the last few days.

(2) In the discussions with Kosygin the Prime Minister could well point out that the Russians had been warned twice about the implications of North Vietnamese misbehaviour during the truce--at the very outset of the talks, and later in the week when it was clear a build-up was going on north of the DMZ.

(3) Wilson could also note that Kosyginís friends were difficult, and that the British had some problems with their friends. The job of the two co-chairmen was not to dwell on these matters, but to try to bridge the differences between the two sides.

Ambassador Bruce reminded Wilson that he was in the process of a negotiation and that both he and Kosygin would obviously be tabling propositions that would require a considerable amount of give and take, not only between themselves but between the two sides they were representing. It would be overly optimistic and utterly unrealistic to think that the Russians or the North Vietnamese would be likely to agree immediately to any British or American proposals.

The Ambassador also pointed out that a distinction should be made between the British irritability with what they believed to be American caprice or folly, and the important substantive problems they would confront at Chequers. The former matter could be dealt with in due course, but the immediate question was how to proceed substantively. The Ambassador pointed out that the British should feel perfectly free to use their own text as a basis for their negotiating stand, and that we were in no position to dictate or master-mind their discussions. Ambassador Bruce also emphasized his personal feeling that it would not be wise for the Prime Minister to dash off to Washington immediately after the session with Kosygin since it would appear to be an act of panic and hysteria. Finally, the Ambassador emphasized that the communiquť should stress the need for a continuing contact and association with Vietnam by the two co-chairmen.

Chester Cooper/5/

/5/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.

 

64. Telegram From Prime Minister Wilson to President Johnson/1/

London, February 12, 1967, 0240Z.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Sunflower & Sunflower Plus. Secret; Eyes Only. Received at the White House at 3:07 a.m.

T.30/67. You will realise what a hell of a situation I am in for my last day of talks with Kosygin. My immediately following telegram sets out what seems to have happened over the past week as I understand it but I want to concentrate here on the immediate way ahead. I have to re-establish trust because not only will he have doubts about my credibility but he will have lost credibility in Hanoi and possibly among his colleagues.

I propose to be pretty frank with him and to tell him that the present situation arises in my view from the deep American concern about intensive North Vietnamese movements during the Tet period. I shall say that I warned him at the beginning of the week that there should not be provocative DRV movements during Tet and remind him that on Friday at lunch on the basis of a message from you people I told him that certain movements in the first two days of Tet had been on a shocking scale.

Nevertheless, I think he will feel, because his own position has been weakened, that we cannot make any definitive progress towards a settlement in the next few days. I have got to get him into as relaxed a posture as possible and tell him that his position and mine must be not to concern ourselves with military activities but to concentrate on the longer term political situation.

On the vitally important question of whether as I have told him a cessation of bombing depends on a prior secret assurance by Hanoi that infiltration will stop/2/ or as now seems to be the case from your recent messages, will only take place after infiltration has stopped/3/ on this question I face very great difficulties. You must realise that at lunchtime on Friday he suddenly bit hard on what I said to him, namely that all that was required was a private assurance that infiltration would stop. He bit on this because he clearly knew as I did not, that your message to Hanoi was the tougher version which required a prior stopping of infiltration before bombing could cease. He thought I was telling him something new. I thought I was merely repeating what I had told him earlier with as I thought your authority.

/2/Rostow underlined the preceding phrase and wrote in the margin: "never when."

/3/Next to this word Rostow wrote: "time."

As soon as I repeated this offer, he asked for it in writing, and he said he would transmit it at once to Moscow for Hanoi. In the evening he told me he had reported this to Brezhnev who had supported his action. At that moment peace looked like being within our grasp. I think this was Davidís view at that time.

I can only now get out of this position if I say to him either that I am not in your confidence or that there was a sudden and completely unforeseeable change in Washington which as a loyal satellite I must follow. I cannot say either. George and I have discussed this dilemma for some three hours with Chet and David. My decision as to how to proceed is of course mine and not theirs, but I have fully taken into account all they have said.

I am standing by, as I must, the document which I handed to Kosygin at 7:00 p.m. GMT on Friday/4/ before I received Rostowís message for transmission to Kosygin. Both Kosygin and I know that as of today we cannot accept this.

/4/February 10; see Document 60.

The only thing I can do is to say to Kosygin if he will go along with this one and press it on Hanoi, I will similarly press it on you. In this I am slightly encouraged, if that is a word I can use on a day like this, by the last sentence of Ruskís telegram/5/ which David has shown me this evening.

/5/Document 51. The last sentence of Rusk's telegram was added by President Johnson as a revision to the original message.

If I do get Kosygin to agree, then I must press our line on you and if it is impossible for you to accept, we shall have to reason together about the situation which will then arise.

More generally it will be my attempt to get Kosygin into a position where he and I accept joint responsibility for trying to assist the parties concerned in the fighting to reach agreement. This is going to be very difficult particularly when bombing restarts. I shall not of course say anything to Kosygin about bombing or any other military question. But all week he has asserted a position very different from his previous posture. He no longer says this question has nothing to do with him, but is a matter for Hanoi. He now says he and I must do all we can to get a settlement. I want to nail him to this position despite his disappointment that nothing happened during Tet. I have thought since November that he chose the date of this week to coincide with Tet and he will be bitterly disappointed as indeed am I.

I do not know whether I can nail him to this in the communiquť. I hope I can. But he and I have got to move to a slightly more central position, each of us loyal to our respective allies but each slightly more capable of taking a detached view which if they and if we could agree we will then press on our respective friends. He agreed with an analogy I used earlier in the week that in one sense he and I were lawyers representing our respective clients, and that because they were at war they could hardly be expected to come together and that we must try to get a settlement out of court ad referendum to the two clients. I must now nail him down to a continuing acceptance of this position.

I assure you our fees will be low, and I am only too conscious of the infinitely heavier price you are paying in this matter.

I am conscious how much depends on the five hours or so I shall have with Kosygin at Chequers on Sunday evening. You should know that Chet Cooper will be in close proximity but no-one will know that. All necessary arrangements have been made for teleprinter and if necessary telephone communication to the White House whether for use by me or by Chet who will of course be in touch with David.

If I can get him to accept a continuing responsibility in these matters that is probably the best I can hope for. There could I suppose be a dramatic change on his side though this is unlikely. If it is, we must be ready to react.

But if I do nail him down to a continuing responsibility, it would be very helpful if, for example, after the communiquť, you were able to make some public reference to the value of a continuing joint effort by him and me.

Perhaps you and I are so close to this problem now--and of course most of the difficulties have arisen on an issue which must remain secret--that it is difficult for us to realise the impact which bombing resumption must make. But also on opinion in our two countries, particularly on Kosygin whom I certainly cannot warn in advance. I think I can handle the political opinion and party pressures in Britain though this is becoming increasingly difficult.

But in view of the clear breakdown in communication and understanding which has occurred this week, and the need for the fullest understanding in the future, we ought to meet very soon.


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