118. Memorandum of a Conversation Between Secretary of State Rusk and Prime Minister Khanh,1


  • Discussion of action against the North. All other topics were fully covered in the reporting cable. (Secto 71 from Saigon 4/19/64)2


  • Secretary Rusk
  • Ambassador Lodge
  • General Wheeler3
  • Mr. Bundy
  • General Khanh
  • Dr. Quat

The Secretary responded that there were two important considerations. First, the base here must be made firmer, as Khanh himself had indicated to Secretary McNamara in March. Secondly, the Sino-Soviet situation was not yet clear. Khrushchev appeared to think a real break could be prevented.

Moreover, the Secretary said, the United States had to study the implications carefully. The United States would never get into another Korea with large conventional forces, and enlargement of the war might mean a high level of military action in which we would have to consider using nuclear weapons. Because of these problems, we should do absolutely all we could to improve the situation here before we started actions against the North.

The Secretary further noted that some of our Asian allies had expressed opposition to the use of nuclear weapons.

Khanh responded that as far as he was concerned we could use anything we wanted against China. As long as Communist China remained “you will never have security.” Communist China was Vietnam’s hereditary enemy, and the issue must be resolved.

The Secretary said others in Asia felt the same way. He went on that there were a number of actions that might be taken that would not be likely to lead to general war. These we needed to discuss between our two governments.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 1 US–VIET S. Top Secret; Exdis. Drafted by William Bundy.
  2. Document 119.
  3. General Wheeler was in Vietnam, April 15–20, to represent the Department of Defense during Rusk’s visit and to assess air operations in South Vietnam. Wheeler’s report, April 22, is in Washington National Records Center, RG 330, McNamara Files: FR(3 71 A 3470. South Vietnam. Khanh initiated this topic. He said he agreed with the idea of carrying the war to North Vietnam, and that there were a lot of possibilities of action such as commando raids, etc. We could not stay on the defensive but must move to the enemy.