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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 356-373

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

Saigon, October 18, 1967, 0905Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 15-1 VIET S. Secret; Priority; Exdis.

8854. 1. During my call on Thieu with Habib and Jorden, President-elect discussed plans for an approach to Hanoi./2/ He is frankly skeptical a move now will produce a favorable response from Ho. Nonetheless he feels obligated to follow up on his campaign promise.

/2/Habib and Jorden visited Vietnam October 15-21. This discussion was also reported in Bunker's 25th weekly telegram to the President, telegram 8875 from Saigon, October 18. (Ibid., POL 27 VIET S; also in Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vietnam 8B(1), 4/67-11/67, Bunker's Weekly Report to the President [2 of 2]; and printed in Pike, The Bunker Papers, pp. 205-214) Telegram 8578 from Saigon, October 14, reported on a published story in a Saigon newspaper that Thieu had met with a group of Japanese correspondents on October 13 and told them about his desire to send a letter to Ho Chi Minh proposing direct talks between their governments. He invited Japanese Prime Minister Eisaku Sato to become involved in the search for peace. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S)

2. His present intention is to cover the peace theme in a general way in his inaugural address. He will stress that his government wants to "open the door to peace--and keep it open." Desire for peace will be balanced by expression of South Vietnamese determination to continue to fight against aggression from the North and for Southern independence.

3. Thieu plans to follow inaugural with a direct message to Ho Chi Minh. He sees two possible approaches:

A. An expression of desire for peaceful settlement and for direct discussions to achieve that end. If this produced a favorable response, Thieu would ask us to halt bombing. We would assume that reciprocal action would be forthcoming from the other side.

B. A halt in bombing to be followed immediately by a message to Ho proposing immediate talks.

4. Thieu is aware of the desirability of avoiding the kind of message that would be read in Hanoi and elsewhere as an ultimatum. He seems anxious to avoid the appearance of adopting a propaganda gimmick. Even so, he fully expects Ho to reject any initiative from Saigon at this time. "But at some time he may respond--in two months, or six months, or a year."

5. I told Thieu I would report his views immediately and would come back to him with our reactions. We agreed that close and full consultation between us on this matter was necessary.

6. Comment: The first of Thieu's proposed alternatives seems to me clearly preferable. A simple, straightforward message from Thieu to Ho expressing a desire for peace and a willingness to talk would, when surfaced, put the new Saigon regime in a favorable light internationally and at home. If rejected, as we must assume it would be, the offer would highlight the contrast between Hanoi's intransigence and Saigon's reasonableness. This approach would, of course, leave room for the critics to charge that an offer to talk without an end to bombing was meaningless. Saigon's answer to that would be: we are interested in ending the war, not half of it, and attacks from the North and infiltration had not ended.

7. Thieu's second course, a bombing halt followed by a message to Ho, would require far more elaborate preparation and coordination. In undertaking a bombing stoppage, we would want to maximize chances for a favorable response and it is questionable that a proposal from Saigon would achieve that end.

8. Would appreciate soonest Department's reaction to above./3/ If we come down on side of first alternative, it may be desirable to go back to Thieu with suggested language for at least the key portion of any message to Ho.

/3/See Document 361.

Bunker

 

357. Notes of Meeting/1/

Washington, October 18, 1967, 7:30-9:30 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson's Notes of Meetings. Top Secret; Eyes Only. The meeting was held in the Cabinet Room.

NOTES OF THE PRESIDENT'S WEDNESDAY NIGHT MEETING

ATTENDING THE MEETING WERE:
SECRETARY OF STATE DEAN RUSK
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ROBERT McNAMARA
UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE NICHOLAS KATZENBACH
MR. WALT ROSTOW
PROFESSOR HENRY KISSINGER
MR. JUSTICE ABE FORTAS
GENERAL MAXWELL TAYLOR
MR. CLARK CLIFFORD

Secretary Rusk: I am sure I speak for all of us in expressing appreciation and admiration of Professor Kissinger. He handled a very delicate matter in a very professional manner. I think we may wish to begin this discussion with Professor Kissinger's explanation of M and A./2/

/2/Marcovich and Aubrac.

Professor Kissinger: M is a biologist with very little political judgment. He is similar to many American scientists who are carrying placards. His primary motive is to bring the war in Vietnam to an end.

A is probably a Communist. He is very aware politically. He has close relations with Ho. In 1946 Ho stayed at his home in Paris.

I have little confidence in M's judgment. I have greater confidence in A's judgment. If it served his purpose A might color his report, however.

My contact began last summer. I was attending a meeting in Paris of scientists. The Soviet and French representatives to that meeting expressed interest in sending two representatives to Hanoi. M and A were sent to Hanoi. They saw some possibilities of movement as a result of their meetings with Ho and with Prime Minister Dong. We have been in touch with them since their return to Paris after their visit to Hanoi. There have been a number of exchanges with them and through Bo to Hanoi.

Secretary Rusk: The key paragraph of our outgoing message and their response sum up what has taken place.

The exchanges have been going on since August 25. We stopped bombing in the ten nautical mile circle of Hanoi and haven't hit inside that area since August 25.

Secretary Rusk then read the key paragraph of our message to Hanoi via the Paris channel. The paragraph follows:

[Here follows the text of the message quoted in Document 349.]

The Secretary said it was important to remember that the statement included an important assumption of August 25. This was that while discussion proceeded the U.S. government would assume that the Democratic Republic of Vietnam would not take advantage of the bombing cessation. This was directly related to prompt and productive discussions without taking military advantage of the bombing cessation.

The reply from Hanoi follows:

At the present time the United States is continuing the escalation of the war in an extremely grave manner. In these conditions words of peace are only trickery. At a time when the United States continues the escalation we can neither receive Mr. Kissinger nor comment on the American views transmitted through this channel. The position of the Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam is perfectly clear. It is only when the United States has ceased without condition the bombardments that negotiations can take place./3/

/3/The response was received by Marcovich during his meeting with Bo on October 17. Kissinger reported the text of the message to Read as follows: "Actually the U.S. has been following a policy of escalation of an extremely serious nature. In these conditions the U.S. proposals of peace are double-faced. At a time when the U.S. is pursuing a policy of escalation we cannot receive Kissinger, nor comment on the American proposals transmitted through this channel. The position of the Government of the DRV is perfectly clear: it is only when the US has ended without condition the bombardment that discussion can take place." (Memorandum of telephone conversation between Kissinger and Read, October 17; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/PENNSYLVANIA)

Secretary Rusk: There are two points to be made. The first, we have had nothing constructive from this exchange. They haven't said yes. They have taken no reciprocal actions for the restriction against bombing within the ten-mile limit of Hanoi.

Second, M and A think Bo wants talks to continue. There is a question whether this is a result of M's enthusiasm or Bo making it clear that Bo himself wants discussions to continue.

All we have indicates Bo believes this to be an important contact.

Their message refers to "escalation." They are also more specific. They say "talks can start if there is a cessation of bombing without conditions." "Can" is more specific. The mood seems more definite.

But there is no assurance talks will start.

There have been no talks about the assumption that no military advantage would be taken of a bombing cessation. It seems to me that they're discussing a possible negotiate and fight strategy.

On the whole, their attitude seems to be fairly negative. Three Nobel peace prize winners who visited Hanoi ran into a very harsh position. They were pessimistic about the outcome. Norway thinks Hanoi is not interested in conversation. They say that Hanoi believes it would have to offer concessions so large as to persuade them that a better course is to wait for the result of the 1968 U.S. elections./4/

/4/A retyped telegram, undated but attached to an October 18 covering memorandum to the President from Rostow, contained a report that the Yugoslav State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Marko Nikezic, had told the Norwegians that the North Vietnamese would wait to enter negotiations until after the American presidential elections of 1968, at which time the situation would be more favorable. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Pennsylvania (continued))

The Rumanian Foreign Minister who visited Hanoi said that if the U.S. stopped the bombing he thought "something would happen."/5/

/5/The reference should be to Romanian Prime Minister Ion Maurer, who visited Hanoi in early October. As reported in telegram 566 from Bucharest, October 17, Maurer told a French diplomat that if the bombing stopped "something could be arranged." Telegram 566 is attached to a covering memorandum to the President from Rostow, October 18; ibid.

We have heard the same thing from Eastern Europeans. They have said such things as "the atmosphere would be improved . . . we are confident negotiations would result."

Professor Kissinger: As I have said, I attended a meeting of a group of scientists in Paris discussing the Middle East. The scientific meeting sent M and A to Hanoi. A saw Ho. Both saw Pham Van Dong. He [Kissinger] saw them within an hour after they returned to Paris. At that point they knew nothing of the history of negotiations. He took down notes of our meeting and sent them to the Department.

I have some indication of Bo's eagerness to keep the channel open.

At the last meeting Bo asked (through M and A) if I would be in Paris. He said he would be available all the time. He said he was willing to receive any communications.

We sent them three communications. There was some slight change in tone in the last reply.

When one looks at the whole record it shows that Bo is eager to keep this going. There has been a slight movement in their position.

Secretary Rusk: Is their eagerness attributed to the restrictions around Hanoi?

Professor Kissinger: No, I do not think so. Our first message coincided with a major attack on Hanoi. Our second message coincided with an attack on Haiphong. We offered them the ten-mile circle. They did not ask for it.

The President: What are your recommendations?

Professor Kissinger: I prefer two options depending on which way you gentlemen decide to go./6/

/6/Kissinger expanded upon these options in an undated memorandum to the President. (Ibid.)

If there is an intention to have a bombing pause it would be desirable to do this through the existing channel. I would recommend in this case that we interpret their last message under conditions of de-escalation and ask that they receive me or somebody else in conjunction with the cessation of bombing. I would notify them of the time and date of the beginning of significant de-escalations.

If there is no pause it becomes a question of how to wind up this channel diplomatically and publicly. Confronted with a termination they may yield. We could indicate that we can only construe their last message as a refusal. If it is not a refusal I would give them a chance to say why it isn't a refusal. I would give them ten days, the normal time required for turn around; if there is no response then I would resume full-scale activities.

The President: As I see it there are these options:

(1) An early bombing pause.
(2) Close out the channel and resume activity.
(3) Wait for further response.

Secretary Rusk: There are variations of those alternatives and others. I would say to M that it looks like the last message was refused. If not, we need a fast answer.

I am concerned about how far we go with M and A. There is a middle party whose actions are to be considered and whose judgments must be weighed and analyzed.

It may be that we have to do it with intermediaries. But a lot is to be gained by the most official exchanges possible.

I see no need to close out the Paris channel. I would make it clear that the offer of October 9/7/ remains open. The other side has refused this, it appears.

/7/See Document 349.

The most serious problem is the disinterest of Hanoi--talking about not taking advantage of the pause.

In December we were in touch with them through the Poles. It appeared then that we could talk without stopping the bombing. We had a man ready in Warsaw to talk with the representative of Hanoi.

If we pause without an indication that something will happen we are in a very exposed position.

In my judgment we also will have to pause longer than 37 days to convince anybody./8/ We did not gain much from it. Unless there is a serious effort by the Soviets and the British who are co-chairmen of the Geneva Conference.

/8/Reference is to the bombing pause of December 1965-January 1966.

Frankly, I am itchy for direct official talks. We need to arrange for a direct official exchange. Bo will not see Professor Kissinger.

Professor Kissinger: Yes, I asked to see him and he would not meet with me.

Secretary Rusk: Bo knew that M was taking very detailed notes. We do not doubt the authenticity of this channel.

Secretary Katzenbach: All of this does make a difference. We need to leave our options open. The thing which has most interest to me is that I cannot see any motivation on Hanoi's part unless it is considering some kind of talks. I cannot see the ten-mile circle as a rational reason for their position. They never asked for the ten mile restriction. They haven't asked for more.

It may be that they may not be able to make up their mind what to do.

The President: My judgment is that they are keeping this channel going just because we are not bombing Hanoi. I know if they were bombing Washington, hitting my bridges and railroads and highways I would be delighted to trade off discussions through an intermediary for a restriction on the bombing. It hasn't cost him one bit. The net of it is that he has a sanctuary in Hanoi in return for having his Consul talk with two scientists who talked with an American citizen.

Secretary Katzenbach: I disagree with that very much. It does not seem worthwhile to go to Ambassador Thompson in Moscow and request that he talk with the North Vietnamese representative there. This would have no expectation of success in my judgment.

I do not know if this is going to get us anywhere.

The President: Which alternative would you favor?

Secretary Katzenbach: The pause does make more sense. It would bring together the ranks in this country and abroad. I would favor a pause in mid-November or early December.

The President: Just pause, period?

Secretary Katzenbach: Yes, I would say very loud and clear that we are ready. I would make clear through private channels that the assumption that they would not take advantage of the bombing still holds. If they attacked us along the DMZ I would respond immediately. If they were to begin a major resupply we should deal with that immediately.

The President: Bob, how effective can you be in dealing out resupply?

Secretary McNamara: Mr. President, I believe I can show beyond a shadow of a doubt that bombing in Hanoi and Haiphong will not affect resupply in the South one bit.

If they take military advantage we should counter with military reciprocal action. If they unleash artillery across the DMZ, we should pound it. If they begin a step up in infiltration we should hit their lines of communication between North Vietnam and South Vietnam and in the panhandle.

I disagree with the analysis of the effects of the ten mile circle on the Paris channel.

World opinion would support our hitting back at them if we are hit during a pause.

The President: Do you see the possibility of a pause longer than 37 days?

Secretary Katzenbach: They have said in their communications with us three to four weeks. I would recommend 30 to 40 days.

Professor Kissinger: They have said in their discussions with me "a few days."

The President: As I see it you would wait 40 days and resume only on a tit for tat basis. Otherwise you would wait 40 days. You would tell other people that you would hit them if they hit us.

Secretary Katzenbach: Yes, I would explain the "take advantage" clause. I would stop the bombing until they take advantage of it.

We should say publicly we are stopping the bombing and that we are ready for discussions.

Tell the world that we are waiting.

The President: How does that differ with what Professor Kissinger has already told them?

Secretary Katzenbach: It doesn't differ. They haven't accepted or rejected that either.

The President: Read what they said again.

Secretary McNamara then read the text of Hanoi's response again. (See page 2.)

Secretary Katzenbach: They did reject seeing him (Kissinger).

Mr. Rostow: In Secretary Rusk's memo,/9/ the word "negotiations" was used. In my interpretation, the word "discussions" was used. We should make clear which interpretation is correct.

/9/Not further identified.

General Taylor: My reaction is that this is one of the few times we have had an authentic link.

What came back looks to me like a refusal. Our public stance to the world should be that we are sincere and willing to make concessions.

But we should remember that negotiations are not the end in themselves. Panmunjom wasn't pleasant.

Any indication of weakness is viewed with contempt. On the trip Clark Clifford and I made to our Asian allies, they could not understand our not using force.

By showing weakness we could prejudice any possible negotiations.

I recommend that we accept this as a rejection. I would tell them that the channel is always open if they have anything further to say.

In my opinion, we should not have a pause without the principle of reciprocity.

If we have a pause, let Thieu request it. This would give us a better position and would not make it appear as another Washington proposal to Hanoi.

We cannot afford to be weak.

Mr. Clark Clifford: As I see this, there are two questions to be considered. The first concerns the matter of the Paris contact. The second concerns the bombing of North Vietnam.

On the matter of the contacts, I want to make absolutely clear how this sequence of events developed. If I understand it, you (Professor Kissinger) went to a meeting of scientists. M was there. At the initiative of the Soviets and the French, the scientists decided to send a representative to Hanoi. M's purpose in going to North Vietnam was to try to end the war. This started as a Cyrus Eaton group./10/

/10/Cyrus Eaton was a philanthropist who helped to organize the Pugwash Conference.

Professor Kissinger: That is correct. It is no longer a Cyrus Eaton group but an independent entity.

Mr. Clark Clifford: They (M and A) went to Hanoi, saw Ho and Pham Van Dong, and then returned.

Professor Kissinger: I saw them (M and A) at their initiative. I saw to it that their report would get to responsible American officials. They saw Pham Van Dong for two meetings. A saw Ho for an hour. They reported to me what they knew.

We then came back to them with our message of August 25. There have been no private discussions on my part. All of the messages and discussions I have had have been at the direction of the Department.

Clark Clifford: As I see it, there are five parts to their response:

(1) They charge the US with escalation.
(2) They charge the U.S. with trickery.
(3) They will not receive Mr. Kissinger.
(4) The position of their government is clear.
(5) It is only when bombing ceases that negotiations--or discussions--can take place.

It looks like they are saying the same thing they have said before. It seems to me that a reply along these lines is indicated. We should tell them that we have seen nothing new out of this exchange and that we are prepared to terminate the dialogue. If they have a different idea about it, of course they are free to let us know what those ideas may be.

We should say that we assume from the language you have used that you feel there is nothing to be gained from a continuation of this dialogue. If you have a different view we would be glad to hear it.

There is talk that this channel may keep Bo informed. I believe they will use it for whatever purposes they choose.

I do not believe they will use this type of channel when they are serious about really doing something.

I feel there should be something solid in this. This is so subject to interpretation.

It is an unfortunate way for really serious progress to be made.

The channel in Moscow affords a direct means of contact with a fully authorized representative of this government.

On the matter of bombing, I see no basis for suspension or cessation.

I think it would be misinterpreted in Hanoi. It would be utilized to build up their supplies, just as they did during the four day Tet holiday.

On the matter of suspension, this is the wrong time. I think the right time is after the election of the South Vietnamese assembly and after the formation and shake-down of their new government.

We need to get the government of South Vietnam as a functioning unit.

I would recommend the advantages of Thieu proposing a pause rather than the U.S. The U.S. and Hanoi are locked into their positions. With a new, stable government in Saigon, North Vietnam may feel different about their position.

I would have Thieu say "We have asked the United States for a suspension of the bombing." From the standpoint of world opinion, it might be much better for South Vietnam.

So I would recommend three things:

(1) Watch
(2) Wait
(3) See how the situation develops.

We would have allies to be considered. There is a question as to the benefit of a pause after a Summit meeting with the allies.

In conclusion, I would have a sign-off on Henry's effort. I would go to a contact of a more formal nature. On the matter of bombing, I would show no weakening of resolve. I would not change the situation around Hanoi. It may lead to some development later on.

Mr. Justice Fortas: What is important is how all of this comes out.

We aren't just concerned with how to get them to talk but with a total resolution of the situation.

It is important for us to keep this in mind. We have given fantastic credentials to a non-official effort by halting the bombing around Hanoi. The President has made an ultimately generous offer. Hanoi gave its own spokesmen no credentials. They did not let Bo even see Professor Kissinger.

I see no ray of hope out of this.

If we take into account all of this, we know there are words which could give a ray of hope.

Non-official discussions are for the purpose of testing perimeters.

I believe this non-official channel is now closed out.

Professor Kissinger should say, "thanks, it's too bad. You know you could have gotten somewhere if you had really wanted to."

We need to summon all our courage and strength from the Lord and maintain our position here.

With all of the pressures that are brought to bear on us, the temptations are strong to pursue an avenue which may in the end be more destructive and not constructive at all.

In my opinion, the next time you suspend bombing you have quit bombing.

The bombing pauses have intensified criticism in this country. I cannot see why they will not negotiate with the bombing but say they will talk without the bombing. This has always been incomprehensible to me.

A bombing pause will not reduce the pressure and clamor in this country. The pressure cannot be diminished by a cessation of the bombing. It would be sad if on the basis of what you have before you, you were to cease the bombing.

Clark Clifford: The attitude from the Asians with whom General Taylor and I spoke while we were on our tour was that North Vietnam could go on indefinitely without the bombing. They are not concerned about the losses which are being sustained in their young men. They believe men are servants of the state, and the loss of men is not a serious matter. The fighting all takes place in South Vietnam. Without the bombing, Southeast Asians feel there is no inducement for the North Vietnamese to seek peace. This thing could go on for twenty years.

If we stop bombing, they will build up their industries, their transportation lines, and industries, their food supplies, and their communications.

In my opinion a bombing pause makes the possibility of peace much more remote. This is the unanimous opinion of the Asians out there.

The President: While we would make it difficult for them with the bombing, the very fact that we hit Hanoi arouses 100 nations of the world. Many say that what we gain is not worth what we suffer in pilot losses and in the loss of support in other nations of the world.

The President then read a memo from McGeorge Bundy outlining Mr. Bundy's views on the war./11/ The President did not identify this document as having been authored by Mr. Bundy. In short, Mr. Bundy said that bombing in the Hanoi-Haiphong area does not affect supply in the South. It does not affect the real conflict in the South. He said that the top brass and their political friends disagree. They are wrong on the evidence.

/11/Document 354.

The President: Hanoi has been off limits for two months. There are only twenty targets which have been recommended which are not now authorized out of about 416 strategic military targets.

Secretary McNamara: On the matter of the Paris exchange, I consider this to be an important dramatic change in attitude.

Their behavior is consistent with the way they should act under pressure. They have not been forthcoming in these exchanges. But my evaluation is that if bombing were to cease, talks will start quickly.

There is some possibility this will lead to a settlement.

I would not cut off the channel before February or March. It is a question of whether we should have a pause, a pause in the next twelve months.

We need to move toward settlement in the next twelve months.

On September 12 we asked the Joint Chiefs of Staff to give us the ways they saw to substantially shorten the war./12/ Every action they recommended related to areas outside South Vietnam. I believe we need to probe this slight possibility to see if it can be productive. I do not believe we can maintain the support of our people in this country for twelve months.

/12/In JCSM-555-67 from Wheeler to McNamara, October 17, the JCS responded to the President's September 12 request. They recommended removal of restrictions on targets in the DRV, expanded air and ground operations in Laos and Cambodia, more aggressive naval operations, including the mining of harbors and rivers, and the expansion of covert paramilitary operations in Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam. For full text of the memorandum, see U.S. House of Representatives, Armed Services Committee, United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967, Book 6, vol. II, pp. 108-110. McNamara forwarded JCSM-555-67 to the President on October 18. A notation on this covering note indicated that the President saw the memorandum. According to an attached note dated October 23, the President said to Rostow: "I want to take this up today--at lunch. See that we talk about it--and Walt, see if General Wheeler can be there today, too." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 2EE Primarily McNamara Recommendations)

I disagree with Abe (Fortas). I do not believe that the pauses have led to more dissension and division in this country. I believe a pause would increase rather than decrease support.

A pause need not have military disadvantages.

We should not cut off the Paris channel. I share the view of whoever wrote the memo the President just read. The bombing cessation isn't affecting how the war is carried on in the South. I believe Thieu should be brought in to this.

Secretary Rusk: I recommend that Professor Kissinger go on to Paris as planned tomorrow. When he arrives there we will have a cable waiting for him saying that we have not had a satisfactory answer and give him what we believe he should tell M and A. Tell them we have had nothing back.

Professor Kissinger: A is coming up from Rome. They may have a fallback position once we give them this information.

Secretary Rusk: I do not underestimate the value of informal contacts on any occasion. In the past, unofficial contacts have been very helpful. I remember the role of Mr. John Scali in helping us misinterpret a message from Khrushchev during the Cuban Missile crisis./13/ I do not think it wise to have Ambassador Thompson tickle his man in Moscow.

/13/During the October 1962 crisis, reporter John Scali met secretly with Soviet diplomat Alexandr Fomin in order to facilitate communications between the Soviet and American leaders. See Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. XI, Documents 80, 85, 137, and 195.

In our previous contacts, the other side knew how to say more than they have said in this.

They have been presented with a very serious, generous offer. This doesn't smell like much yet.

I would say to M in an uninstructed session that "my people back home don't think I've got anything." I would scare him. I would tell him that if he has anything he had better put it in right away.

Mr. Rostow: I recommend that we keep the channel open and adopt the posture of waiting a signal from them.

When they are serious there is a way for them to say it.

The military situation in the South is weak. They are using their reserve across the DMZ to keep the war going. The major field of battle is no longer in the South or even I Corps but in American politics. We are slow seeing the war.

The question is would a pause destroy our strength with the hawks and the doves? Domestic politics is the active front now.

I would prefer a pause soon rather than late. I would put in all of the creative imagination of this government in order that we not lose the hawks and come out in support of the doves./14/

/14/In a memorandum to the President earlier that day, Rostow had argued for "building on the Paris channel into a pause on or about October 31," in order to avoid debate over Pennsylvania, ascertain whether it had been given a full chance to work just in case the North Vietnamese were earnestly seeking peace, and assuage critics of the administration's policies in Vietnam. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/PENNSYLVANIA)

A pause would be no more than an exercise of domestic politics and international politics.

We should give to M a message indicating that we read their message as a dignified rejection of our proposal.

I agree that a bad beginning now could very well prejudice the final outcome.

Therefore, I would regret that they have taken no positive steps and leave the next step up to them.

After that, then we could see about a pause which would unite the country rather than divide it./15/

/15/Earlier that evening, at 6:45 p.m., Rostow had sent to the President a memorandum listing various arguments in favor of continuing the bombing of North Vietnam. Principal among these was the fact that an end to the bombardment of North Vietnam would allow its leaders to continue the war at a "lower cost." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Bombing)

The President: Professor Kissinger, we'll have a message for you there when you arrive./16/ In my own mind, I see a failure on their part to indicate any desire to talk. I see no necessity of breaking off. Tell them our reaction. After we see what happens, then we can go on to another phase and discuss the possibilities of a pause.

/16/Document 358. In an off-the-record session on the morning of October 19, the President met with Rusk, McNamara, and Rostow presumably to approve the message to Paris. (Johnson Library, President's Daily Diary) No other record of this meeting has been found.

 

358. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in France/1/

Washington, October 19, 1967, 1641Z.

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

56516. For Kissinger. This cable provides initial guidance for your discussions with M. and A. during the next two days. In accordance with our discussions last night/2/ the talking points suggested are intended exclusively for your use with M. and A., and do not include any message to Bo.

/2/See Document 357.

1. From the time of your opening discussions with M. tonight, you should make it entirely clear to him that Washington considers that the DRV has rejected the forthcoming USG proposals to bring about an end to the bombing and prompt and productive US/DRV discussions with no advantage being taken by the DRV on the ground. You should indicate that we base this conclusion not only on the negative DRV message of Oct. 17/3/ but also upon Hanoi's negative public statements and, most importantly, upon renewed DRV hostile actions in the vicinity of the DMZ. Each of these points are developed further below for your subsequent discussions, but it should be your objective from the start to indicate that the patience of your Washington friends is running out and that they feel that Hanoi has been unwilling to respond on any significant point.

/3/See footnote 3, Document 357.

2. In the course of reviewing this channel with M. and A. on October 20 and 21 you should cover the following points:

a. It has been eight weeks since M. and A. gave Bo the USG written proposal of August 25/4/ which indicated that the US was willing to stop the aerial and Naval bombardment of North Viet-Nam with the understanding that this would lead promptly to productive discussions looking toward a peaceful resolution of the issues between the US and the DRV on the assumption that the DRV would not take advantage of the bombing cessation. You should remind M. and A. of their initial reaction that the US offer was generous and forthcoming and note the reasonableness of the assumption stated and other principal points of the offer.

/4/See Document 293.

b. You should recall the US message of Sept. 13,/5/ text being cabled by septel, in which the US explained that the original proposal contained "neither conditions nor threats" and simply stated the "understanding of the USG that the DRV would be willing promptly to engage in productive discussions leading to peace when there was a cessation of aerial and Naval bombardment."

/5/See Documents 318 and 321.

c. Remind the intermediaries of President Johnson's public commitment in San Antonio on September 29/6/ that "the US is willing to stop all aerial and Naval bombardment of North Viet-Nam when this will lead promptly to productive discussions. We, of course, assume that while discussions proceed, North Viet-Nam would not take advantage of the bombing cessation or limitation."

/6/See Document 340.

d. Cite your message of October 8/7/ which stated that the USG was prepared to carry out its original proposal by authorizing you to advise Bo of the precise date on which the bombardment would cease, to suggest to Bo a date and place for US/DRV discussions and to receive from Bo the DRV views with respect to the modalities for opening such discussions. Very much to your chagrin Bo refused to see you.

/7/See Document 349.

e. Note that since the date of our first substantive communication to the DRV in this channel in August, the US has for eight weeks unilaterally refrained repeat unilaterally refrained from bombing in the immediate vicinity of Hanoi.

f. Contrast the foregoing restraint with the sustained major military offensive in the vicinity of the DMZ during the first 3-1/2 weeks of September, which included the use of heavy DRV artillery located in North Vietnam against GVN and US troops located in South Vietnam and large DRV troop attacks across the Ben Hai River boundary against Con Thien and other GVN/US military and civilian positions. Observe that even since your message of October 8 which took note of a reduction of military activities in the DMZ area, the DRV during the last week has again mounted heavy military attacks across the 17th parallel against South Vietnam. In these circumstances the allegation in the DRV message of October 17 that the US is pressing a policy of escalation is wholly lacking credibility.

g. You should emphasize that when the DRV messages in this channel of September 11,/8/ September 23/9/ and October 17 are analyzed they show that the DRV has been unwilling at any time (1) to indicate in this channel or otherwise that for its part it will engage in discussions with the US even if the bombing had stopped in accordance with US proposals; or (2) to make any substantive counter proposal on how to proceed to discussions leading to peaceful settlement of differences.

/8/See footnote 2, Document 315.

/9/See footnote 8, Document 337.

h. Note that on this date, October 19, a Reuters dispatch from Hong Kong indicates that "North Vietnam today rejected the American offer for a conditional bombing pause in return for peace talks" as offered by President Johnson on September 29 and repeated by Secretary Rusk at his October 12 press conference./10/ We will send by septel the pertinent portions of the Nhan Dan official Hanoi daily article on which this report is based.

/10/See footnote 7, Document 355.

3. In reviewing this channel with M. and A. you are authorized to show to them the text of the September 13 USG message and other messages which you sent during your last visit in Paris which they have not yet seen.

4. Without requesting M. and A. to see Bo, which we assume they will promptly do to report your mood of discouragement and concern, you should indicate interest in learning what essential differences Bo (not M. and A.) could find, if any, with the main points in your review of the channel.

5. If pressed, you are authorized to state that the US proposals do remain open at this time but that you are not empowered to speak about future US views or actions.

Rusk

 

359. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State/1/

Paris, October 20, 1967, 1015Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/PENNSYLVANIA. Top Secret; Priority; Nodis; Pennsylvania. Received at 7:20 a.m. In a covering note transmitting the telegram to the President, October 20, 10:50 a.m., Rostow wrote: "Herewith Kissinger does his initial job; but he's got a problem with the optimism of his two amateurs, M and A." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Pennsylvania) The notation "L" on the covering note indicates that the President saw the telegram.

5472. From Kissinger. M met me at the airport in a state of advanced euphoria. According to him, the last message from Bo made all the frustrations worthwhile. When I asked him for the cause of his optimism he called attention to the distinction between escalation and bombing and the change of tense in the last sentence. I quickly disillusioned him. I said that the issue was really quite simple. If Hanoi wanted to negotiate it should be able to find some way of expressing this fact by means other than subtle changes in tense and elliptical references full of double meanings. We had made a clear cut offer. It had had no response. We had accepted unilateral restrictions. Hanoi had increased its military activities including an offensive along the DMZ which could in no way be justified by military necessity. Washington's patience was nearing an end. M said our restrictions were a diminution of an escalation. I replied that if they were lifted, he would see quickly enough how real they were. I reminded him of his own positive reaction to the message of August 25. This had meanwhile been clarified and further strengthened. It was now up to Hanoi to be explicit enough to permit a conversation. M said that Hanoi by its silence had ratified A's notes of the conversation with Pham Van Dong. I replied that no serious person could expect the President to act on the basis of such conjectures while hundreds of shells were being fired daily by the other side along the DMZ.

M clearly shaken said that A would have to change his plans and return to Paris on the first available plane rather than Friday afternoon as he had planned. We called A in Rome. I spoke first. A also in a euphoric mood replied to my request for an early return: "You must have very good news." I told him the opposite was more nearly the case. I am leaving now to meet A at the airport where he, M and I plan to continue the conversation. I shall stress the points of your 56516./2/ I am certain they will wish to see Bo this afternoon.

/2/Document 358.

Bohlen

 

360. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State/1/

Paris, October 20, 1967, 2634Z [sic].

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/PENNSYLVANIA. Top Secret; Priority; Nodis; Pennsylvania. Received at 1:49 p.m. In a covering note transmitting the telegram to the President, October 20, 4:35 p.m., Rostow wrote: "Herewith Kissinger brings M and A closer to the facts of life." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Pennsylvania) The notation "L" on the covering note indicates that the President saw the telegram.

5507. From Kissinger. A very distraught M, A and I had a long conversation at the airport. I was deliberately very hard in painting the Washington mood. I covered all the points of your 56516./2/ I dwelled particularly on the situation along the DMZ. I stressed that the current restrictions were among several that we had imposed on ourselves this year without eliciting a response. The current impatience in Washington was in part due to the fact that we had gone several times through a process where negotiations seemed imminent and then proved futile.

/2/Document 358.

A replied that he did not think it was quite fair to charge Hanoi with failing to respond completely. They had given up the demand for a public declaration that bombing would stop. Their last message was much soberer than the first and said nothing about the withdrawal of American forces from SVN. Nevertheless he thought it urgent that he and M see Bo as soon as possible. I said that the decision was up to him as long as it was clear that the USG had nothing to say. If they met Bo they should understand that four points were of particular concern to Washington: (A) that a bombing stop be followed by prompt negotiations, (B) that these negotiations not be indefinitely delayed, (C) that no advantage would be taken on the ground, (D) the special situation along the DMZ.

M had to go to his laboratory at this point. A said that perhaps it had been a mistake for him never to see Bo alone. I said that it seemed to me futile to appeal to Bo's personal good will. He was a professional acting under instructions. He would change his position only if the seriousness of the situation were brought home to him. A replied that he would go to the appointment fifteen minutes early. A then called Bo. Unfortunately both Bo and Sung were away and will not return till 2100. They will try to see him shortly thereafter.

Bohlen

 

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

Washington, October 21, 1967, 0014Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 15-1 VIET S. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Drafted by Isham, cleared by Davidson, and approved by William Bundy. A notation on the telegram indicates that the President also approved its transmission.

57885. Ref: Saigon 8854./2/

/2/Document 356.

1. We appreciate being informed of Thieu's thinking on a possible message to Ho following inauguration. We fully agree with Thieu that it would be advisable to avoid kind of message that would either be read in Hanoi as an ultimatum or elsewhere as a propaganda gimmick.

2. We think that serious peace initiatives by newly elected GVN can be important contribution to allied peace stance. We are therefore gratified that Thieu has continued to give serious thought to pursuing his campaign pledges and developing a more flexible posture on the peace issue. (This incidentally has been most helpful in our dealings with press here.) Clearly it will be vital to continue our close consultations on this issue.

3. You should inform Thieu promptly that we are giving most careful consideration to his constructive ideas and that we will convey our thinking to him in the very near future. You might note that Thieu presumably would not dispatch any message to Ho until at least several days after his inauguration (e.g. second week of November), so that there is time for a considered reaction to his proposals. As our consultations proceed, we trust Thieu will limit discussion of this matter to the smallest possible circle of trusted advisers, as will we. In particular, we assume he and his associates will avoid being drawn by press into any specifics of substance or timing.

4. Foregoing drafted before receipt of Saigon 8995 reporting Ky's views on this subject, which differ markedly from Thieu's, and we will take his comments fully into account in subsequent messages. Our own preliminary view remains as set forth in general terms above./3/

/3/Bunker reported in telegram 8995 from Saigon, October 19, that Ky told him that the Communists would not respond to any direct contact until the GVN could approach the North from "a position of accomplishment," a position which would take at least 6 months to achieve. Before that time, Ky opposed any direct overture by Thieu. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 15-1 VIET S) In telegram 58070 to Saigon, October 22, the Department advised that given the negative responses by the Hanoi leadership to various U.S. overtures it opposed Thieu's desire to have a halt followed by an overture from him; Thieu instead "should limit himself to general statements on peace in his inaugural speech" and then follow up if the North Vietnamese indicated any positive response. (Ibid., POL 27-14 VIET/PENNSYLVANIA)

Rusk

 

362. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/

Washington, October 21, 1967, 9:15 a.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Pennsylvania. Top Secret; Pennsylvania. The notation "L" on the memorandum indicates that the President saw both it and the attached telegram. A copy of the attached telegram 5545 from Saigon, which was received at 9:27 p.m. on October 20, is also in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/PENNSYLVANIA.

Mr. President:

Herewith Kissinger's account of the end of the Paris channel.

The hardening in their position is made absolutely clear by the reference to the Trinh interview of January 28: that language is talks "could" take place not "can," as in the private message of a few days ago.

The latest Burchett interview also goes directly back to the earlier interview and uses "could."/2/

/2/An Associated Press dispatch from journalist Wilfred Burchett in Hanoi detailed new interviews with North Vietnamese officials such as Premier Pham Van Dong and Foreign Minister Nguyen Duy Trinh. Burchett reported that the North Vietnamese were "in no mood for concessions and bargaining and there is an absolute refusal to offer anything--except talks--for a cessation of the bombardment." Trinh simply reiterated that his statement of January 28 (that talks could follow a halt) "still held good." See The New York Times, October 21, 1967. INR analysts believed that Burchett's article represented a toughening of North Vietnam's negotiating stance and that the North Vietnamese leadership had confirmed Bo's statement that talks of a preliminary nature, necessary to define objectives, had to precede negotiations. "Our estimate is that Hanoi probably wants to get all it can before the Christmas and/or Tet period when it will be in a better position to evaluate the situation in South Vietnam and the trends of US politics." (Memorandum from Hughes to Rusk, October 23; Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, East Asia Region, Vietnam) Another correspondent, David Schoenbrun, discussed his meeting with Pham Van Dong in an October 4 conversation with Cooper, Isham, Smyser, and other government representatives. Schoenbrun reported that Dong had purposely omitted the previous demand of the DRV for a "permanent" bombing halt. (Memorandum of conversation, October 4; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S)

The two major possibilities are:

--They regard U.S. politics and world diplomacy as too attractive to begin talks now.

--Their talks with Communist China involve a new deal for support or, even, Chinese military action.

I am putting CIA to work on the latter hypothesis urgently./3/

/3/Responding to Rostow's request in an October 23 memorandum, Helms concluded that throughout the Paris contacts North Vietnam had not revealed a position "significantly different from or has ever been appreciably more forthcoming than the Hanoi position enunciated through other means, including public statements." The leaders in Hanoi were not interested in meaningful negotiations, would reject any insistence that talks be "fruitful," and would not be "forthcoming" given their belief that the administration's political position was "eroding." The North Vietnamese did not regard the Paris channel "very seriously"; thus not even demands by the Chinese would have influenced the outcome of Pennsylvania. (Central Intelligence Agency, DCI (Helms) Files, Job 80-B01285A, DCI (Helms) Chrono, Aug-Dec 1967)

Walt

 

Attachment

Text of Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State/4/

Paris, October 20, 1967.

/4/Top Secret; Nodis; Pennsylvania.

Paris 5545, from Kissinger

I saw M and A for an hour and a half at 1900 at M's house to review our position prior to their calling Bo. I told them that Hanoi's message had been reviewed at the highest level and most carefully. In its present form it was simply too vague to be acceptable. M said that a French judge had told him that "pourront" implied a moral commitment. I replied that one of our highest judges held a different view. A then wrote down the following phrases and asked me about my reaction: "The bombardment and other acts of war against the territory of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) are the sole obstacle to meaningful negotiations. As soon as the bombing ceases, negotiations can begin." A said that he was prepared to put his personal position with Ho behind these phrases. I replied that while I could not speak for the U.S. Government, these phrases would be a big step forward. The DMZ problem would still have to be dealt with. (I had not seen the Burchett interview reported in your 57498/5/ then.)

/5/In telegram 57498 to Paris, October 20, the Department informed Kissinger of Ambassador Sullivan's report that before the release of Burchett's interview, the DRV Chargé in Vientiane cautioned Sullivan on the necessity to ensure that the U.S. Government would not "misunderstand" statements in the upcoming interview as it had with the January 28 interview. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/PENNSYLVANIA) Sullivan's report was transmitted in telegram 2081 from Vientiane, October 13. (Ibid., POL 27 VIET S)

I left M's house at 2030 and returned to my hotel to await word about the appointment with Bo. At 2130 A called in great distress that Bo had refused to see them. We agreed to meet at 2230. The following is their report of the conversation. A did the talking and M listened on the extension and took notes.

A: We would like to see you urgently.

Bo: There is nothing new to say. The situation is worsening. There is no reason to talk again.

A: There is something new and very important.

Bo: Repeated word for word the same phrase as before.

A: There is something very important--perhaps the most important juncture of our exchanges.

Bo: Repeated word for word the same phrase but then added: What is the important matter.

A: It has to do with the meaning of the last sentence of your last message and the sequence with which steps have to be taken.

Bo: Our position is perfectly clear. We stand on the Trinh interview with Burchett of January 28. Bo then repeated word for word the original phrase.

M and A were distraught. M was close to tears and A, too, was extremely depressed. In these circumstances I confined myself to thanking them for their dedication and meticulousness. The channel failed, not for lack of goodwill or imagination, but because Hanoi either could not or would not talk. M said that at least we had learned what Hanoi meant by unconditional. I replied that no serious person could believe in an absolute unconditional relationship. Our concerns had really been minimal: To make sure that Hanoi would talk promptly, that the talks would be serious and that Hanoi would not take advantage of the situation. A and M agreed. They half-heartedly urged a unilateral bombing pause but I said that this channel gave little encouragement for such a course. I told them again how much Washington appreciated their efforts. I told them that I would maintain strict secrecy. They promised that they would not comment no matter what might be said in other quarters. We agreed to meet tomorrow at 0930 to review the history of this channel.

 

363. Notes of Meeting/1/

Washington, October 23, 1967, 1:05-3:40 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson's Notes of Meetings. Top Secret; Eyes Only. The meeting was held at the White House.

NOTES OF THE PRESIDENT'S MEETING
WITH
SECRETARY RUSK
SECRETARY McNAMARA
WALT ROSTOW
GEORGE CHRISTIAN
GENERAL WHEELER

The President: Discussed the arrest of two UPI reporters mistaken for demonstrators.

Secretary McNamara said his information was that they had hid their credentials and went along to the detention camp for the story.

Secretary Rusk: I am going tomorrow to Los Angeles to make a speech at the same hotel where the President spoke in July. I expect a demonstration and it will be necessary that I be choppered to the location.

The President: As long as I am President we are going to make sure that justice is given to all but that the laws are enforced and applied. I think we handled the Pentagon problem very well./2/

/2/During October 21-22, 208 antiwar protesters were arrested at the Pentagon. See The New York Times, October 23, 1967.

I am proud of the way our men in Vietnam handled themselves in commenting on the demonstrations here last weekend. I am concerned as to how we handle the draft card burners who are handing in their draft cards at various federal centers.

Secretary Rusk: I would enforce the law.

General Wheeler: Not to enforce the law is going to create unrest among Americans who do support the law.

[Here follows discussion of an Egyptian attack on an Israeli vessel.]

Director Helms: Discussed the text of CIA's analysis of Pennsylvania./3/ In brief, it showed no new movement on the part of the Hanoi government toward peace negotiations./4/

/3/See footnote 3, Document 362.

/4/In a personal note sent to British Foreign Secretary George Brown, Secretary Rusk relayed that "Hanoi has slammed the door on our most recent peace efforts." The note was transmitted in telegram 58668 to London, October 24. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/PENNSYLVANIA) However, in telegram 5578 from Paris, October 23, Ambassador Bohlen drew a lesson from the Pennsylvania affair. He recommended removing qualifications, such as requiring that ensuing talks be "productive," from any future bombing halt formula, since to the North Vietnamese this statement would imply that "we would already have determined how the talks should come out and would amount to the acceptance of an American solution to the talks before they have even begun." The administration's formula should mention simply that as soon as the date and venue for talks could be agreed upon, bombardment of North Vietnam would cease. (Ibid.)

[Here follows discussion of a possible visit by Abba Eban of Israel.]

Director Helms: Read CIA analysis. He said there is a strange consistency in messages. "In short, Mr. President, you ended up where you began."

The President: Isn't there a lot we would gain by exposing this channel? You can summarize the results of the channel without identifying the people involved.

Secretary Rusk: The doves will make trouble if we publicize the message. In addition we may want to talk some serious business through this channel at a later time. M and A and Kissinger will not talk if we do not identify the channel. Kissinger is sending down a summary of the entire business. I would not identify the channel.

Director Helms: We have no indication that China is about to do anything in terms of getting into the Vietnam war.

Secretary Rusk: I have seen no change in the Chinese situation in over a year.

The President: Are we now ready to take the wraps off the bombing?

Secretary McNamara: It depends on what you want to do for the rest of the year. If you open up the ten mile circle the JCS have recommended the power plant and the two bridges.

General Wheeler: I would strongly urge the President not to have a pause. I urge you to open up the ten mile circle and also hit the Phuc Yen airfield.

Secretary Rusk: One serious disadvantage is that every time a new target is added it becomes an act of escalation. I would not rush in with a whole new series of targets.

I have no strong feelings about Phuc Yen but it will have to be hit over and over. It may cost more planes than it will destroy. I do not object to the re-entry into the ten mile circle. But I do believe we should spread these targets out.

Secretary McNamara: There has not been a bunch of these targets.

The President reminded those present that the air field had been authorized previously subject only to winding up the Kissinger talks. Now we have gotten rid of all the excuses. Let's go with it.

Secretary McNamara: If we are going to strike we should hit the two bridges and the power plant. They will be announced as a restrike.

General Wheeler: There is a list of thirteen targets. Some of these are restrikes.

Secretary McNamara: Then we are agreed that Phuc Yen is authorized; the two bridges are authorized, and the power plant is authorized. No more than one of these is to be hit in a single day.

The President: Are you pretty well up on schedule?

General Wheeler: Only three of the authorized targets haven't been hit.

Secretary Rusk: The attack on Phuc Yen will require two or three hundred aircraft, won't it?

General Wheeler: All totaled, it will require a couple of hundred. There will be four different waves of attack aircraft.

Secretary Rusk: What is the rationale for this when there are only twelve aircraft on the field?

General Wheeler: To destroy the support facilities as well as the aircraft.

Secretary Rusk: Phuc Yen will not give us a major international political problem unless there are a couple of hundred Soviets there. I wonder if the target is really there.

General Wheeler: Their air effectiveness will be further reduced by hitting Phuc Yen.

At Bac Mai, there is ground control intercept capabilities. There is also a filter center and over-all control. We have been paying a price for this facility. But we do not want to hold anything back. There is, we know, one prisoner of war facility at that location.

The President: Dean, are you ready to go on Phuc Yen?

Secretary Rusk: Yes, if you can spread out the number of strikes.

The President: Bob, are you ready to go on Phuc Yen?

Secretary McNamara: Yes./5/

/5/On October 23 the President lifted the suspension of bombing in the Hanoi prohibited area and ordered attacks on various targets including the Hanoi Thermal Power Plant and the Long Bien and Doumer bridges. Authority to strike Phuc Yen airfield was restored at the same time, and U.S. aircraft struck it on October 24. See Joint Chiefs of Staff, The History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: The Joint Chiefs of Staff and the War in Vietnam, 1960-1968, Part III, pp. 44-1-44-12.

The President: I want Bob and Buz (General Wheeler) to talk to the JCS. Unless they have a target on their list which they are willing to put their reputation behind, don't recommend it. And let's not wash any more dirty linen in public.

My political instinct is to make public this exchange in Paris but say we are unable to make a proposal which we can stand on publicly. It doesn't seem we can win the war militarily. I asked the JCS suggestions on how to shorten the war but all of their proposals related to suggestions outside South Vietnam.

We can't win diplomatically either. We ought to make the proposals so clear and get such clear answers back that we can tell a farmer what has taken place and be able to have him understand it.

Now we are back to where we started.

We've tried all your suggestions. We've almost lost the war in the last two months in the court of public opinion. These demonstrators and others are trying to show that we need somebody else to take over this country.

People who want us to stop the bombing should know all we have gone through in this exchange. There are men at this table who do not know what all has taken place. We have not seen one change in their position. They are filling the air waves with this propaganda. Your two departments must provide answers to these charges. Senator Russell won't even talk about it. The hawks are throwing in the towel. Everybody is hitting you. San Antonio did not get through. I cannot mount a better explanation.

If we cannot get negotiations, why don't we hit all the military targets short of provoking Russia and China. It astounds me that our boys in Vietnam have such good morale with all of this going on.

We've got to do something about public opinion.

I want to make sure that Kissinger is on board. We ought to have a sentence every farmer can understand and the enemy say no to it.

We must show the American people we have tried and failed after going the very last mile.

What about the reserves?

Secretary McNamara: We do not need them in Vietnam now.

General Wheeler: We certainly do not need them at the current level of operations.

[Here follows discussion of the Middle East.]

 

364. Notes of Meeting/1/

Washington, undated.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson's Notes of Meetings. Top Secret. According to the President's Daily Dairy, this October 23 meeting lasted from 5:36 p.m. to 7:04 p.m. Those in attendance beginning at 5:36 p.m. were the President; Senators Mansfield, Russell Long (D-LA), Robert Byrd (D-VA), and Thomas McCormack (D-MA); Congressmen Carl Albert (D-OK) and John Moss (D-CA); Vice President Humphrey; Presidential aides Harold Saunders, Joe Califano, Mike Manatos, and Tom Johnson. They were joined at 6:05 p.m. by the participants listed here. (Ibid.)

JOINING THE MEETING WERE:
SECRETARY McNAMARA
SECRETARY RUSK
CIA DIRECTOR HELMS
AND THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS OF CONGRESS:
SENATOR DIRKSEN
CONGRESSMAN BILL BATES
SENATOR HICKENLOOPER
CONGRESSMAN MAHON
SENATOR MARGARET CHASE SMITH
SENATOR SPARKMAN
SENATOR HAYDEN

The President: We were having our regular leadership meeting on various programs this afternoon. I wanted to review with you on a very confidential basis some of our difficulties in Vietnam./2/

/2/Notes of the early part of the meeting are ibid., Tom Johnson's Notes of Meetings.

As of tonight Hanoi's position is just as rigid as it has been. We have had as many plans as we have Senators.

But I want you to be completely informed on our most recent exchange with Hanoi through intermediaries.

I have asked the Leadership to meet with me today in order to discuss with you our search for a peaceful settlement in Vietnam, and particularly the question of whether or not a cessation of bombing would lead to negotiations.

As you know, for the past several months, and particularly in the past month or two, there has been increasing sentiment here and abroad urging the United States to stop bombing in the hope or expectation that this unilateral act would bring us to the peace table. While undoubtedly some of this sentiment has been instigated by those who are sympathetic to Hanoi's position--or unsympathetic to the position of the United States--there are nevertheless a substantial number of responsible people who have taken this view.

I have felt that this proposal should be taken seriously not only because it is held by a substantial number of people and governments, but also because it has been and will continue to be my policy to take whatever steps would lead to a peaceful resolution of Vietnam.

Unfortunately, it is my conclusion, and that of all of my principal advisers, that a total cessation of bombing at this time would not in fact lead to productive negotiations. I want review with you the reasons why we have come to that conclusion.

First of all, it should be clear that the United States has long been willing to enter into talks without any conditions at all--in any forum or through any channel--public or private, formal or informal, open or secret. At one time last November, there was some indication from a third country that Hanoi might be willing to enter into such secret discussions./3/ While we had some doubts about the reliability of this information, we nonetheless pursued it and indicated our readiness to meet with Hanoi in accordance with proposals which we had previously suggested to third parties and which, we were told, they had tentatively accepted. Hanoi failed to show up for these discussions. We were told that the reason for this was bombing in the area of Hanoi. To meet this obstacle, I then ordered a cessation of bombing in the immediate vicinity of Hanoi and maintained this restriction for some four months. Hanoi continued, however, to refuse to meet with us at that time.

/3/See Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. IV, Document 308.

Following that November incident, we made efforts to pursue negotiations in Moscow, where we made a number of suggestions to the North Vietnamese and sought their views. They did not respond to our suggestions and the exchange culminated in my February letter to Ho-Chi-Minh and his flatly negative response, which Hanoi chose to publish./4/

/4/See Document 82.

Since that time, despite additional efforts by the United States, the North Vietnamese have been unwilling to engage in any contact--privately or publicly--with Government officials. And they have repeatedly stated publicly that there could be no "talks" until such time as the United States ceased bombing North Vietnam. Generally, their condition has been stated as a "permanent and unconditional" cessation of bombing and other acts of war, although sometimes the word "permanently" has been omitted.

It is not my purpose here to review in detail the various efforts which we and others have made but to discuss this condition which Hanoi has imposed as a prerequisite for negotiations.

I am quite willing to order a cessation of bombing and to meet any condition imposed by Hanoi if this will in fact lead promptly to productive discussions. But I simply cannot take this action if the only result would be that North Vietnam would take advantage of the cessation to reinforce and resupply its troops in a major way.

Remember, we are not talking about our conditions for talks--we will talk tomorrow without any conditions at all. We are talking about a minimum response to their condition--a cessation of the bombing.

At San Antonio, on September 29, I said: "As we have told Hanoi time and time again, the heart of the matter really is this: The United States is willing to stop all aerial and naval bombardment of North Vietnam when this will lead promptly to productive discussions. We, of course, assume that while discussions proceed, North Vietnam would not take advantage of the bombing cessation or limitation."

I would like to tell you very privately that this same proposal was made to Hanoi through a private channel a little more than a month before my San Antonio speech. We also offered to give them a specific date on which bombardment would cease and discuss with them privately the place and date where negotiations could begin. We also offered the possibility of preliminary contacts and a lesser reduction in hostilities.

Ten days ago we received an answer from them in which they declined to assure us that talks would promptly take place; refused to meet any American representative to discuss the cessation of the bombing and the time and place of negotiations; and said that there could be no contacts until the bombing ceased--without affirming that there would be such contacts then. Finally, they categorically refused to discuss the matter further with the foreign intermediaries involved thus closing down the private channel.

This private rebuff must be read in the light of Hanoi's recent public statements. These have all been extremely negative on the subject of peace negotiations. Let me cite a few of the more important ones:

1. On October 19 an editorial in their authoritative Party newspaper said categorically that all American proposals, including my San Antonio proposal, "had been refused."

2. Wilfred Burchett, the Australian Communist correspondent who is often a reliable spokesman for North Vietnam, last Friday/5/ published an article from Hanoi which some of you may have seen in the press, in which he reports the views of Premier Pham Van Dong and other high officials./6/ He describes Hanoi as "in no mood for concessions or bargaining" and attributes this position to key North Vietnamese leaders: "There is no possibility of any talks or even contacts between Hanoi and the US Government unless the bombardment and other acts of war against North Vietnam are definitively halted."

/5/October 20.

/6/See footnote 2, Document 362.

3. The Soviets, who we believe may have tried for peace on at least two occasions in the past, are now silent and not offering the slightest encouragement to us or to anyone else. Their conversations confirm our reading that Hanoi's only desire is a permanent cessation of the bombing; they have said bluntly in private conversation with reliable third-country diplomats that Hanoi continues to regard any bombing pause as an ultimatum--which fits with all that Hanoi has been saying for nearly two years./7/

/7/According to an INR analysis dated October 30, during the last month the Soviets had on several occasions made strong statements in support of the NLF, insisting that the United States had to deal with it independently of the Hanoi government. In addition, on October 30 Premier Kosygin rejected a proposal for the reconvening of the Geneva Conference, citing the prior need for a cessation of hostilities and recognition of the NLF. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Buttercup, Vol. (B)) In the covering memorandum transmitting this report to the President, Rostow speculated that the Soviets expected some sort of dialogue to arise from the Buttercup exchanges. (Ibid.)

4. Hanoi has applied serious military pressure south of the DMZ. General Westmoreland's forces beat this back in late September but the threat now seems to be building up again. Several North Vietnamese in private conversations have referred to Hanoi's expectation that it will achieve a significant military victory--probably meaning in the DMZ area--in the near future. There has even been talk by North Vietnamese representatives of "another Dien Bien Phu."

Where does this leave us? First, all of us reluctantly conclude that the North Vietnamese are not seriously interested in meaningful peace negotiations at this time. There may be many reasons for this attitude. Clearly, the line from Hanoi is a hard one and this may be because they feel they can get a significant psychological or military victory south of the DMZ at some point. Or they may think that the political structure in the south will come apart under the new Constitution. Or that they can outlast us, as they outlasted the French, in a struggle of will. Or that criticism and division within the United States, and on the part of some of our important Allies in Europe, will deepen and cause us to abandon Southeast Asia.

In addition, we have to realize that serious discussions about peace present political problems for Hanoi at home, with its Communist Chinese ally, and with the NLF which might feel abandoned.

There is some evidence to support all of these views. But, quite honestly, I am unable to find any evidence--apart from hope or wishful thinking--which indicates that Hanoi is ready at this time to talk seriously.

I recognize that there will continue to be people who will urge--despite the evidence--apart from hope or wishful thinking--which indicates that Hanoi is ready at this time to talk seriously.

I recognize that there will continue to be people who will urge--

despite the evidence--that a change in our bombing policy could lead us toward peace. But I am not prepared to act simply on hope. A cessation which did not in fact lead promptly to discussions, or which proved to be only an opportunity for North Vietnam to repair its bridges, its roads and railroads, and build up its stockpiles and supplies for a further attack upon our Marines in I Corps, would not be in the interests of peace.

But I also want to assure you that we shall keep every possibility for peace in mind, every offer and every door open. What we want--and what we shall continue to seek in every way possible--is some indication from their side that they are willing to discuss with us in good faith how to put an end to this war. And proposals they make--or any comment they make on our proposals--will have our sincere and considered attention.

In short, we have said that we would stop the bombing promptly if it led to prompt and productive discussions assuming they would not take advantage of it. Within the last few days we have had people who have talked to emissaries who talked to North Vietnam.

The best judgment and advice I have is that the current policies are best to bring us to an honorable peace. That is what I want you to know.

Senator Hickenlooper: If we stop the bombing, we will surrender in effect. I do not know what other objections the President has, but I think perhaps we should do more damage than we are doing. I would support a continuation in the bombing.

Senator Dirksen: I am still in your corner. Do not lose this leverage of bombing. Remember how many casualties resulted from the talks during the Korean war.

Congressman Bates: Senator Dirksen expressed my view. I would like to ask Secretary McNamara what is the effect of the bombing? There has been great misunderstanding about what the Secretary has said on this matter.

Secretary McNamara: We cannot win the war with bombing in the north. We need action in South Vietnam supplemented by bombing in the north with limited objectives. Bombing is a supplement to, not a substitute.

The great danger is to lead our people to think we can win the war overnight with bombing. We cannot.

The President: We do have differences of opinion. And there has never been a time when we had fewer disagreements with our Joint Chiefs of Staff than we have now.

There are less than two dozen targets we disagree on. These are in the port of Haiphong and in Hanoi.

Congressman Mahon: You should keep the pressure on. Continue the bombing.

Senator Long: Don't stop the bombing. If anything, step it up. Anytime you want to lose a war you can. If we lose Vietnam we lose influence in this entire area of the world. We must make a stand here.

Senator Smith: I don't see any good coming out of our other pauses. Stand firm is my position. I don't know the President's alternatives but I don't think you should stop the bombing. I have a great admiration for the firm stand you have taken.

Senator Byrd: You can't do more than you've done. If anything, you have been overly eager. I am not surprised these people feel the way they do.

These people have every reason to believe they should hold out until the next election. I hope you continue to be firm. I hope you try to work through the U.N. If you feel what you are doing is right I hope you continue to do it. You may lose next year's election because of it, but I believe that history will vindicate you.

Senator Sparkman: You have done all you could. I think you should stand firm.

Senator Mansfield: I am not in accord on the matter of the effectiveness of the bombing. We could bomb North Vietnam into the stone age if we wanted to. I do not believe we have reached the objective, which was stopping the flow of men and material into the South. We have lost many planes and we are flying within 24 seconds of China. I think there is much to what Senator Cooper said. We should think of contact between the NLF and Saigon to try to cut them out from North Vietnam.

Do not be fooled by the internal disturbances in China either.

The President: There were three objectives for the bombings:

(1) To raise the morale of the South Vietnamese. We have done that.

(2) To cause North Vietnam to pay a price at home for its aggression. We have done that.

(3) To make more costly the flow of men and material into the South. The bombing has made it much more costly.

Senator Byrd: Are the Viet Cong running short of ammunition?

Secretary McNamara: No.

Secretary Rusk: Last year we listed 28 public proposals to the Hanoi government. We gave an affirmative response to all of these. Hanoi said no to each of them. Interspersed with these 28 proposals were a number of private contacts.

This most recent contact began in mid-August. In the past there have always been some discussions about counter proposals.

Now Hanoi has said that there is nothing new to say. There is no reason to talk again.

The President: There was a man who sat across this very table last week. He went and talked with intermediaries who are in contact with the North Vietnamese.

Secretary Rusk: Their response was simple: "The situation is worsening. There is no reason to try again."

The President: We pursued this channel religiously. We are trying all we can. We will try again.

Congressman Albert: I would tell them to jump in the lake. We must continue to do what we have to do./8/

/8/On October 28 the President received a memorandum from McPherson offering counter-arguments to continued bombing. In it, McPherson told Johnson that many Democrats who supported the war effort "have grown increasingly edgy about the bombing program." The bombardment of the North had many unfortunate consequences, including the fact that it diverted attention from the war in the South, generated negative public and international hostility, and acted as an obstacle to peace. McPherson suggested that the President limit the bombing to the extreme southern portion of the DRV and indefinitely discontinue bombing around Hanoi and Haiphong. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, March 19, 1970 Memo to the President) The President talked with McPherson on the telephone at 2:45 p.m. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary) No record of the conversation has been found.

 

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

Saigon, October 24, 1967, 1215Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/PENNSYLVANIA. Top Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Pennsylvania. Received at 9:33 a.m. In an October 24 covering note transmitting a copy of the telegram to the President, Rostow wrote: "Herewith, with his usual lucidity, Amb. Bunker handles Thieu on his inaugural formal on negotiations and a pause. Thieu accepts the idea of no pause without a prior understanding along San Antonio lines." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Pennsylvania) The notation "L" on the covering note indicates that the President saw the telegram.

9433. For the Secretary from Bunker. Ref: State 58070;/2/ Saigon 9310./3/

/2/See footnote 3, Document 361.

/3/Dated October 23. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/PENNSYLVANIA)

1. I saw General Thieu at 9:00 a.m. October 24 to discuss further efforts in the direction of negotiations and a peaceful settlement. I spoke to him along the following lines:

"My authorities in Washington have expressed their appreciation for the information you furnished me last week about a possible message to Ho Chi Minh following your inauguration. We agree fully with your view that it would be advisable to avoid the kind of message that would either be read in Hanoi as an ultimatum or elsewhere in the world as purely a propaganda move. We believe that serious peace initiatives by the newly elected government in Viet-Nam can be an important contribution to the allied position directed toward peace, and we are therefore gratified that you are giving serious thought to how your campaign pledges can be pursued and a more flexible position on the peace issue developed.

We consider that it is vital for us to continue our close consultations on this subject. As our consultations proceed, we hope that you will limit the discussion of this important matter to the smallest possible circle of trusted advisors. We will do the same. I would appreciate knowing the persons with whom you will normally be discussing these subjects, and assume that General Ky and Foreign Minister Do will be among them. On my side, Ambassador Locke and Mr. Calhoun will be kept informed by me.

You may have seen the recent article filed by Wilfred Burchett from Hanoi, but I have brought with me a copy of the full text in case you have not. This article seems to us an important public indicator of Hanoi's position. A North Vietnamese representative in another capital told a third-country diplomat only a few days before its publication to watch closely for it. We therefore believe it has special significance and clear authority from Hanoi. As we interpret the article, it represents a clear rejection of any possibility for cessation of the bombing except on the original terms of the January 28 interview between Foreign Minister Trinh and Burchett./4/ These terms provided that the bombing should be stopped permanently with only vague possibility of talks and with no indication of military restraint on Hanoi's part. This new article clearly conveys the present hard mood of the leaders in Hanoi.

/4/See Document 29.

For your personal information, you should know that reliable third-country intermediaries have been in contact with Hanoi during the past six weeks using the kind of formula expressed by Ambassador Goldberg and President Johnson and including also the possibility of a lesser reduction in hostilities combined with preliminary contacts. These efforts reached a clearly negative conclusion at the same time the Burchett article was published, with the Hanoi representative finally indicating an unwillingness even to talk further with the intermediaries. This private contact has completely confirmed our impression of a clearly negative position on the part of Hanoi toward any acceptable formula for stopping the bombing and probably more broadly toward any avenue to peace at the present time.

We have been considering the alternatives mentioned by you last week in the light of these developments. We believe that your first alternative should be the only one used at this time. Our understanding of this alternative is that you would limit yourself to general statements on peace in your inaugural address and would confine your message to Ho Chi Minh to an expression of desire for a peaceful settlement and for direct discussions to achieve that end. If this produced a favorable response you would then ask us to halt the bombing and we would assume that reciprocal action would be forthcoming from the other side. Since we believe the Burchett article will be read in a negative sense by most responsible opinion throughout the world, we believe that an offer to Ho along the lines of your second alternative, a halt in the bombing to be followed promptly by a message to Ho proposing immediate talks, would be widely regarded as only a propaganda gesture. We are sure that you would wish to avoid this reaction and we are furthermore inclined to believe that such a message in present circumstances might well be interpreted in Hanoi as a sign of weakness. In considering the alternative courses which you suggested, we have concluded that the first alternative would put your government in a favorable light internationally as well as within Viet-Nam, since it would highlight the contrast between Hanoi's intransigence and Saigon's reasonableness.

My authorities in Washington would like to know immediately your reactions to these comments and your own plans for handling this important matter. We are considering what further action might be taken in this situation and would of course want to take your views into account in determining them. I plan also to talk with General Ky about this matter in the very near future."

2. Thieu said he agreed entirely that the first alternative proposed by him in our conversation October 13 was preferable. He said he plans to speak in general terms in his inaugural address October 31, expressing a desire for peaceful settlement, his readiness to talk with Hanoi leaders and to keep the door open. If there is a favorable response and indication of Hanoi's willingness to take reciprocal action then he would seek a bombing pause.

3. Thieu said he would like our advice on a number of aspects of his course of action. Following his inaugural address he would plan to send a letter to Ho appealing to the latter's conscience, stating that the Vietnamese people have suffered for many years from war and it is in the interest of all of the Vietnamese people that the two of them should meet and talk about what might be done to end hostilities. Thieu added that the letter would be couched in terms which would not be construed as either an ultimatum or as escalation. He said he would make clear that as far as he is concerned the doors will remain open.

4. Thieu said several questions arise. First is the method of transmission of the letter. He saw several possibilities: (1) to send it through the ICC; (2) to have it transmitted through Prime Minister Sato who had offered his assistance during his October 21 visit; (3) to use the GVN's own channels through NVN representatives in other capitals. Thieu wondered whether other personalities might be of assistance or be better than one of the foregoing channels. He seemed to have no strong preference among them, and would like to have our advice.

5. A second question related to how and when other countries should be informed of this communication. Thieu anticipated Ho would reject his letter and move to exploit it publicly as propaganda to strengthen the morale of NVN forces and population. From his own viewpoint, Thieu thought its principal value would be to establish publicly the new GVN's desire for peace and its flexibility in achieving this aim. Thieu seemed to have no pronounced preference for public release by the GVN or awaiting publication by Ho, and he wished our views.

6. Thieu agreed entirely that knowledge of these matters would be restricted very closely on both sides. He seemed to agree that Prime Minister Ky and Foreign Minister Do should be involved on the GVN side, although he was not explicit on whom he would consult.

7. Comment: I plan to talk with Prime Minister Ky later today on this subject and will report any views he may have. It seems to me that Thieu's ideas are very much in line with our own and I would appreciate early instructions from the Department on the points on which Thieu asked our advice.

8. The general tenor of Thieu's letter sounds eminently reasonable and I shall attempt to get a copy of his draft as soon as he has one worked out. On the matter of channels for transmitting the letter to Ho, I do not see any overriding considerations arguing for one means or another. I am inclined to see some advantage in having it done through the GVN's own channels direct NVN representatives in a third country, since this would be consistent with our own earlier direct contact with NVN representatives and would be a logical way to try and open a dialogue. It does of course invite a refusal to accept such a letter but this would probably be true no matter what channel is used.

9. I agree with Thieu that in the present Hanoi mood, Ho Chi Minh will probably reject the letter and seek to exploit it for his own internal purposes. It would seem advantageous for Thieu to leave publication to Ho's initiative since this would underline the sincerity of his approach and not make it look like a propaganda gesture. If Ho does not release it over a period of time, however, it may be necessary for Thieu to make a public move since the press is fully aware of his plans and will be pressing him to see whether he has sent such a communication. For this reason I think it would be best to keep open the possibility that after a certain lapse of time, Thieu would indicate publicly that he has sent such a letter, and ultimately would release its text if he has not had a reaction from Hanoi which would argue otherwise.

10. Department will be the best judge of what other countries, if any, should be kept informed at this stage, and whether there are other possible channels for transmitting Thieu's letter which might be better than those suggested by him.

Bunker

 

366. Telegram From the Central Intelligence Agency to the White House/1/

Washington, October 26, 1967, 1038Z.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, I E(1), Post Inaugural Political Activity. Top Secret; Literally Eyes Only; Via CAS Channels. Received in the White House at 12:25 p.m. In his attached covering note transmitting the telegram to the President, Rostow wrote: "Herewith Amb. Bunker's back channel response to my message to him, also attached. I am making it available, on an eyes only basis, to Sec. Rusk and to Sec. McNamara." The notation "L" on the note indicates that the President saw the telegram. Rostow's message to Bunker has not been found, but presumably it asked Bunker to consider a meeting with the President.

Fm Ambassador Bunker 264. To Walt Rostow Priority.

1. Although I welcome the prospect of a personal meeting with the President to take a look at where we are and where we should be going, I have some reservations about the suggestion for a weekend meeting at Honolulu beginning November 3.

2. The entire top echelon of the Mission is largely tied up in preparations for the visit of the Vice President and the U.S. delegation to the inauguration and will be completely occupied from the time of the Vice President's arrival on Sunday, October 29, through the afternoon of Wednesday, November 1, when the Vice President departs from Danang. This leaves inadequate time for preparation for meeting such as proposed. In spite of the fact that we try to keep Washington fully informed of developments here and of our recommended plans, programs, and procedures, to achieve adequate and compensatory returns from such a meeting we would want to pull together much data and material.

3. I have reported in my last several weekly messages and in other messages the increasing sensitivity here at all levels to appearances of U.S. pressure on the Vietnamese Government. I do not question the need to apply pressure or leverage as the case may be. The question is how it is done. It is important to form a judgment in each case as to what method will be most effective in achieving results, e.g., persuasion, urging, prodding, leverage, or pressure, and the form in which the method should be applied. In view of the characteristic pride (not exclusive to the Vietnamese but existing generally in most underdeveloped countries) and increasing susceptibility to public evidence of U.S. pressure, it is my feeling that we obtain results most effectively and rapidly by exerting the above methods as quietly and privately as possible. They are most effective when they have been applied in such a way that the ideas, programs, and projects appear to be coming as ideas proposed by the Vietnamese themselves. I believe that we have been increasingly able to do this and I am convinced that we should continue to work in this way with the new government when the spotlight, with the Assembly in existence and functioning, will be more concentrated on what we do and how we do it.

4. As you know, we have had to press the GVN leadership rather hard recently on a number of important and urgent questions. This fact will become evident as certain of these actions are taken. In view of the sensitivity I have mentioned, which has been evident during the recent election campaigns and from the full and frank criticism in the uncensored Vietnamese press, a high-level meeting at Honolulu immediately after the inauguration of the new government is likely to be interpreted here and outside as new efforts to apply strong pressure on the new Vietnamese Government. This could strengthen criticism and give credence to those who have already labeled the GVN as a U.S. puppet. It might well cause embarrassment to the new government and their friends just as it is getting under way. Its reaction might well be that it had not been freely given the chance to get organized and moving.

5. In such a session we would of course be discussing precisely that, namely, how to get the new government organized and moving, and this is why I believe it would be far preferable to do this in a way which would not appear publicly to be what it is. I recognize that your needs at home are different from the requirements of our situation in Saigon, but I hope you will appreciate the importance of keeping the atmosphere here as undisturbed as possible during this critical new period.

6. An alternative, and it seems to be preferable, would be to hold a meeting such as proposed in Washington rather than in Honolulu a week or two weeks later, say November 10th or 17th. This would give time for adequate preparation, and the fact of our presence in Washington could be handled as more or less a normal, routine consultation after the new team has been here six months. In fact, I wrote yesterday, before receiving your message, to Dean Rusk suggesting that I return in November about that time for consultation to take up with President, you, Dean, and Bob McNamara a number of things relating to policy and programs here both regarding our own efforts and the programs of the new government.

7. I pass these thoughts on to you as my best judgment as to what would be the most productive and useful procedure as seen from this end.

Bunker

 

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

Washington, October 26, 1967, 2346Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/PENNSYLVANIA. Top Secret; Flash; Nodis; Pennsylvania. Drafted by Davidson; cleared by Harriman, Read, and Bundy; and approved by Katzenbach.

60458. Ref: Saigon 9433, 9653./2/ For Bunker from the Secretary.

/2/Telegram 9433 is Document 365. In telegram 9653 from Saigon, October 26, Bunker reported his intention to see Thieu on October 27 and requested Department comment. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Pennsylvania)

1. Though the final choice of a channel for transmittal of the message is one for Thieu we offer the following thoughts:

a) While we agree with your judgment that any channel of transmittal is likely to result in refusal by Hanoi to accept the message, we think that such a rejection is most likely if Saigon tries to deliver it directly to North Vietnamese representatives. We are concerned such a direct rejection might result in loss of face by the GVN.

b) Use of the Japanese channel would offer the following advantages: (1) engaging an important Asian nation and perhaps thus making the effort appear to others as more serious, (2) decreasing the likelihood of rejection by Hanoi and (3) minimizing the loss of face to SVN as it would be the Japanese who would bear the insult in the first instance.

c) We are uncertain whether India in its ICC capacity would agree to transmit the message but think that India or Canada could be considered as possible channels.

2. We think the question of public release of the message by the GVN can best be considered after we know Hanoi's rejection or reaction. Until then it is important that secrecy be preserved.

3. If possible we would hope that you and we can review draft which Thieu proposes to transmit and have opportunity to make suggestions./3/

/3/In telegram 9751 from Saigon, October 27, Bunker replied that Thieu assented to "our hope that he would only make the most general reference in his inaugural address to his desire to achieve a peaceful settlement and his willingness to meet with Hanoi for this purpose." Thieu also expressed interest in using the Japanese Government as an intermediary. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/PENNSYLVANIA)

Rusk

 

368. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/

Washington, October 26, 1967.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 3L(1) NVN Leadership Attitudes. Secret. According to the President's notation on the memorandum, he requested that it be put on his desk.

Mr. President:

This is one way to look at the war.

From Hanoi's point of view there are two central facts:

--the decline of the Viet Cong manpower base;

--the possibility of a political break in the United States.

Hanoi's purpose, therefore, is to buy time to see what U.S. politics may yield. Hanoi has attempted to achieve this purpose by:

--reducing activity in II, III, and IV Corps;

--increasing pressure in the DMZ area to (1) prevent a more rapid erosion of the communist structure and (2) inflict higher U.S. casualties in hopes of eroding the U.S. will.

Hanoi's strategy has been only partially successful--but extremely costly, in that:

--Revolutionary development progress has been slowed as a result of the diversion of U.S. forces to I Corps--but it has not been stopped.

--U.S. losses have increased substantially (7,000 killed in action in nine months against 5,000 all last year)--but for every American killed they have had more than nine deaths.

--Total friendly casualties have also increased (15,600 killed in nine months compared with 11,100 for the same period in 1966)--but they have suffered disproportionately (the kill rate is now 4.6 against them compared with 3.2 in the same period in 1966).

--Despite their increased losses in I Corps (and higher kill ratios against them in I Corps), they have been unable to cut their losses in the other corps areas (April through August losses equalled 25,800 compared with 18,400 for the same period last year. Monthly average was 5,200 compared with 4,900 for the preceding 15 months).

--North Vietnamese losses have probably increased more than VC losses.

In the meantime, the intensity of the fighting in I Corps has tended to obscure the fact that the over-all pace of the war has slowed down:

--Communist-initiated incidents in I Corps have increased from 20% of the total to 26%--but the total incident rate is down about 30% from the peak.

--Battalion-size contacts in I Corps have increased from 34% of the total to 66%--but the total rate is down 55%.

--Small unit actions and contacts per quarter in I Corps have increased from 600 to 3,000. In the other corps areas they have decreased from the peak of 1,900 to 1,500.

--September death rates are substantially down from their peaks this spring: U.S. rate is down from 1,233 to 775; South Vietnamese, from 1,026 to 740; enemy, from 9,351 to 6,354.

It is too early to tell whether the current "lull" will be followed by a renewal of intense fighting in I Corps or whether Hanoi will now change its strategy.

Hanoi may feel that its DMZ strategy has been too costly in terms of its limited gains. If so, their alternatives are:

--negotiate with or without a continuation of the fighting;

--retreat from stage III to stage II insurgency (fragmentary evidence indicates that this process may be underway in some areas);

--switch their main effort from the DMZ to some other areas;

--a combination of the above.

On the other hand, Hanoi may well decide to pursue its DMZ strategy despite its high cost, because:

--they simply are not yet ready to quit;

--even though it is a "losing" strategy, it may buy more time at less cost than other alternatives (Hanoi may calculate that they would have suffered even more if they had not adopted the DMZ strategy);

--for a time, at least, the communists may be prepared to exchange 7,200 killed a month for 800 American deaths (or 1,700 friendly deaths) if they believe that their will to persist is that much stronger than ours.

Walt

 

369. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/

Washington, October 28, 1967, 7 a.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Buttercup, Vol. I (B). Top Secret; Sensitive. The notation "PS" on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it.

Mr. President:

Before you leave for El Paso,/2/ you should know:

/2/The President left for his ranch in Texas on October 28 and returned to Washington on October 30. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary)

1. We received yesterday a reply from our first NLF contact on which Dick Helms' people had been working in Saigon for many, many months./3/

/3/See footnote 4, Document 341. After making contact with Tran Bach Dang, the VC intermediary Truong Dinh Tong returned to Saigon on October 26 with Dang's letter of reply approved by COSVN. This letter included a request for the release of 10 prisoners held by the GVN and a restatement of the NLF platform. The text of the letter is attached to a memorandum from Helms to Rostow, October 30. (Central Intelligence Agency, Executive Registry Subject Files, Job 80-R01580R, Vietnam)

2. It is now being carefully translated, but here are the elements, as I recall them without benefit of even a rough text in front of me.

--It starts with prisoners, for that was the origin of the exchange.

--It asks that one man held by the GVN be released and a list of others be "well treated."

--It then moves on to discussion of a settlement of the war.

--Almost like a Planning Council paper, it says there are, essentially, three negotiations to be envisaged: a negotiation on the political settlement within South Vietnam; a U.S.-Hanoi negotiation; and a negotiation, which is pushed some distance down the road, between the North and the South.

--It states the four points with, superficially, a softening of the critical point, because it does not demand that the NLF be the sole voice speaking for South Vietnam.

--Here is the hooker: It states vehemently that under no circumstances will they deal with Thieu-Ky and Company. They want the political negotiation to begin between the NLF and the U.S. They name Dzu and a few others as the kind of South Vietnamese they are willing to work with.

--In tone it is very tough in the sense that it says we must recognize that they are winning the war.

--The intermediary, whom we released to make contact at a Viet Cong headquarters area, reports his judgment that the message was checked in Hanoi.

Again, this is a document that was read aloud to me yesterday, which has not been carefully translated yet. We shall, of course, be studying it over the weekend.

My first reflections are:

--It is the first piece of paper we have received from the other side which goes directly to the heart of the matter which is political settlement inside South Vietnam.

--It comes, as we always thought a truly serious probe would come, while the war proceeds, including a full-scale bombing of North Vietnam.

--It raises the gut issue of what we are fighting for in South Vietnam by posing the question of Thieu-Ky. (My first reaction is, for what it is worth, that we shall have to stand firmly by the constitutional process in South Vietnam and find out if, when we and they have been fully tested, they are prepared to accept a role as a political party under the constitution when they lay down their arms.)

The intermediary is now being put through a polygraph test in Saigon to establish whether his story, the details of which are quite interesting, is true./4/

/4/In addition to the polygraph tests, the veracity of the message was ascertained by examining the handwriting in the note and by attempting to corroborate Tong's travel dates with observations he made about the times of U.S. artillery barrages. (Telegram CAS 4636, November 15; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-7 VIET S/BUTTERCUP)

Walt

 

370. Telegram From the Central Intelligence Agency to the White House/1/

Washington, October 28, 1967, 1111Z.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 7E1(a), Public Relations Activities. Secret; Eyes Only; Via CAS Channels. Received in the White House at 2:25 a.m.

Fm Amb Bunker 325. To the White House, eyes only Rostow.

1. I understand that DOD has approved draft press briefing on new VC/NVA order of battle picture and sent it to White House for final approval.

2. One aspect of it still bothers General Westmoreland, Bob Komer and myself. Given the overriding need to demonstrate our progress in grinding down the enemy, it is essential that we do not drag too many red herrings across the trail. Thus referring to old estimates of the shadowy Self-Defense and Secret Self-Defense Forces, and then saying we have dropped them from the order of battle it seems to me is simply to invite trouble. We may end up with stories that enemy strength is greater rather than less. Far better in our view to deal with this matter orally if it arises.

3. We also note that some confusion can arise from stating that the old estimate of 100-120,000 irregulars is divided into one-third guerrillas and two-thirds SDF and SSDF. This implies that we estimated 40,000 guerrillas in 1966. Since our new estimate is 70-90,000, a big increase is suggested, whereas we think actual guerrilla strength has declined. Our new guerrilla figures, adjusted retroactively, indicate that the guerrilla strength alone totaled 110-150,000 in December 1966.

4. I suggest that in the discussion of the strength figures for the old category of "irregulars" that we merely say that this figure contained guerrillas and other personnel of no military importance, and that our new figure carried guerrillas only. This short explanation will forestall many confusing and undesirable questions.

5. Sorry to badger you again on this, but the credibility gap is such that we don't want to end up conveying the opposite of what we intend.

 

371. Telegram From the Central Intelligence Agency to the Station in Saigon/1/

Washington, October 28, 1967, 1934Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-7 VIET S/BUTTERCUP. Top Secret; Nodis; Buttercup. Released by Colby and cleared by Bundy following a telephone consultation with Marvin Watson of the White House staff.

CAS 47716. Pls deliver following message strictly eyes only, repeat strictly eyes only to Bunker from Secretary.

"1. All of us here are of course deeply interested in the report through this channel of message from Tong. We are awaiting Station interpretation and your comments as you see fit, before going further on nature of response.

"2. However, it strikes us all at once that it is vitally important, unless there is some factor of which we are not aware, for you to inform Thieu at once of this development. We assume he already knows about the outgoing message from our side, and it is obvious that if anything should develop in the field of prisoner exchange we would have to consult very closely with them on all aspects. Moreover, the broader second half of the message may conceivably be known and more likely become known to them, and it looks to us virtually impossible to separate this broader second half from the questions of prisoner exchange in which the GVN would be inextricably involved. Furthermore, time looks to us to be of the essence in terms of GVN confidence in our actions.

"3. Thus, we believe you should see Thieu in private just as soon as possible to inform him of at least the general nature of the response. If he should then designate someone to work with us on the details, we could thereafter give the whole story to that man. However, our inclination would be in the direction of a total and verbatim disclosure to Thieu right at the outset.

"4. Please act accordingly unless you have some overriding contrary reason, in which case advise us at once. Please give us a full report of what you have told Thieu if you do go ahead.

"5. We are meeting further on this Sunday/2/ morning our time, to review information and thoughts available here. It would naturally be most helpful to have Station and your interpretation and comments at that time if you are in position to handle it.

/2/October 29.

"6. If you see Thieu at once, question may naturally arise whether this development should in any way affect contents of his inaugural speech. While we continue to hope that he can say something along line of reconciliation, we believe any dramatic new message at this moment, going beyond what has been foreshadowed, might be read by the senders of Tong's message as a specific reply from the GVN, whom they may believe would not be fully informed at this stage. Hence, our net conclusion is not to urge Thieu to take any special account whatever of this development in his inaugural speech plans."/3/

/3/For a summary of President Thieu's inaugural speech of October 31, see Document 379.

 

372. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Bundy) to Secretary of State Rusk/1/

Washington, October 31, 1967.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S. Top Secret; Nodis. A copy was sent to Katzenbach.

SUBJECT
Implications of RT-58 and General JCS Bombing Strategy

In the customary manner, I have given you our best judgment on the 11 targets proposed in RT-58,/2/ and on the rather drastic changes in ground rules proposed by the JCS.

/2/This target list, authorized on October 23, included several targets that had never before been attacked due to a prior prohibition on targets in the Hanoi area. See Document 364.

However, I have the distinct feeling, from actually reading the JCS back-up material in full, that much more is involved than a sorting out of targets week by week.

Specifically, the JCS justification asserts that there is now "successful interdiction" of the northeast rail line, and holds out the distinct hope that a progressive series of attacks on transportation targets in the Hanoi and Haiphong areas may actually isolate one city from the other, and thus presumably cut off a second major link in the entry of supplies into North Viet-Nam.

Both of these points seem to me open to the most serious doubt, and at any rate to require outside examination perhaps by CIA. My own hunch would be that traffic over the northeast rail line continues to operate at well above the tonnage levels required to sustain the effort in the South, and almost certainly at tonnage levels that can support a full air defense effort in the North as well. Secondly, my own hunch is strongly against any hope that we can really cut off shipment from Haiphong to Hanoi. I am supported in this by recent intelligence on the development of alternate water routes of all sorts between the two cities, supplementing the road and rail lines--which in any event I doubt can be prevented from carrying major traffic.

In other words, I think the JCS are drastically overselling the military advantage of the Hanoi and Haiphong transportation targets that now appear to be the major element in their proposals. At most, I would suppose, subject to check, we are making traffic handling significantly more difficult. This is all fine as a matter of degree, but it does mean that the military advantage is solely that and not at all what the JCS are depicting it.

Against this, we now have extensive reporting suggesting that there may be significant civilian damage in both Haiphong and Hanoi. AFP is being carried in the New York Times to this effect, and I believe our own photos show quite significant numbers of houses and residential areas hit. To take each target on the basis of whether it involves 20 or 50 estimated civilian casualties--always a dangerous matter at best--is to ignore the cumulative effect of strikes in the pattern the JCS are now apparently proposing. Little by little, we may well be making large areas of Haiphong and Hanoi uninhabitable--and we could quite well wake up one morning to find some new American visitor reporting dramatically to this effect.

Thus, I conclude that we are at something of a crossroads on this issue and that we need some careful study before we move significantly further along the lines of the JCS proposals. I think we particularly need an immediate CIA assessment of the actual effect on traffic into Haiphong and its distribution, and secondly a careful study of the pictures and an assessment of what we are actually doing in terms of civilian damage. I strongly urge that you take up these points with Secretary McNamara, perhaps through a copy of this memorandum.

W P Bundy

 

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

Washington, October 31, 1967, 0107Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S/UN. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted and approved by Bundy and cleared by Rostow.

62070. For Ambassador.

1. You have doubtless noted fact that Senator Mansfield has introduced a resolution in the Senate, with 54 additional Senators as co-sponsors, that would express the sense of the Senate that the United Nations should be asked to act on the Viet-Nam question. Resolution does not specify exact type of action, but refers to resolutions along the lines of that we put forward in February of 1966./2/

/2/Mansfield signaled his intent to submit such a resolution in an October 9 letter to the President, to which he attached a copy of a letter he sent to members of the Senate requesting their support for the measure. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Mansfield, Senator Mike) Introduced as Senate Resolution 180 by Mansfield on October 25, the legislation as written stated the Senate's desire for the President to "consider taking the appropriate initiative through his representative at the United Nations to assure that the United States resolution of 31 January 1966 or any other resolution of equivalent purpose be brought before the Security Council for consideration." For text, see Congressional Record, Vol. 113, p. 30024. The 1966 draft resolution called for an immediate discussion of the Vietnam question accompanied by a cessation of hostilities. For texts of Ambassador Goldberg's January 31, 1966, transmittal letter to the President of the Security Council and the draft resolution, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1966, pp. 760-762. Senator Wayne Morse (D-OR) introduced another resolution, Senate Concurrent Resolution 144, on September 11, which was considered at the same time but passed over. The resolution advised the administration to seek a binding consideration of the war in the Security Council, and if that failed, in the General Assembly.

2. Bui Diem called on Bundy today to ask Administration position on this resolution. He replied frankly along following lines:

a. With 55 sponsors already in hand, it seemed virtually certain that resolution of this type would pass. Thus it would be very difficult for Administration to take negative view in any event.

b. While final decision at Presidential level had not been taken, it was possible that Ambassador Goldberg would appear before Senate Foreign Relations Committee before the end of this week and take position along following lines:

(1) Start by giving history of past attempts to obtain useful and even-handed action by UNSC.

(2) Indicate that Administration was prepared to continue these efforts and therefore had no problem with resolution supporting such continuation./3/

/3/In telegram 1789 from USUN, October 27, Goldberg advised Rusk that the administration should "embrace Mansfield res and react positively to it." (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET) In telegram 61575 to the President in Texas, October 29, Rusk agreed that the administration had to support the resolution. "My own judgment is that it is tactically far better for us to take the view that the Senate resolution crawls upon your coattails rather than that you are being pressed by the Senate to do something which you are reluctant to do." (Ibid.) Related documentation is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, volume XXXIII. On November 30 the Senate unanimously adopted the resolution. For text, see Congressional Record, Vol. 113, pp. 34348-34364. Goldberg testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on November 2; his strong support for the resolution was reflected in his testimony: "It is my considered view as the U.S. Representative to the United Nations that the adoption of Senator Mansfield's resolution at this time will support the efforts I have been making at the United Nations at the direction of the President to enlist the Security Council in the search for peace in Vietnam." For text of Goldberg's remarks, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 1015-1021.

c. Bundy then noted that practical problem of any further action in UN had not yet been worked out and would require careful consideration--even as to further private consultation--of such factors as a hostile Security Council Chairman in the month of November, the difficulty of obtaining nine votes for an even-handed resolution, and similar elements. Bundy clearly said that any follow-up action would be taken only after these factors had been weighed and after we had had normal consultation with GVN. Thus, all that was involved this week was the possible taking of a forthcoming Administration position on the Senate resolution.

d. We regretted that Senate action at this moment might force us to take position that could appear to GVN and South Vietnamese as in some sense an independent US peace action at this particular moment, when both of us had hoped focus could be on GVN inauguration. Moreover, we were conscious of sentiment in SVN that US might appear to be acting unilaterally. One possible remedy might be appropriate GVN statement at some time that it had always welcomed even-handed UN action, in contrast with DRV rejection of UN competence.

3. FYI: Exact Administration position will be further worked out in the next day or two, and we may then be able to give you more precise instructions. However, Bui Diem report may well lead to further inquiries, to which you should respond along lines above. We leave to your discretion whether matter should be raised affirmatively with Thieu in any fashion. You should of course inform Vice President./4/ End FYI.

/4/Humphrey was on a visit to Vietnam and other nations at the time.

Rusk

 


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