240. Memorandum From the Chairman of the Policy Planning Council (Rostow) to the Secretary of State1


  • Information Memorandum: Dialogue on Southeast Asia2
I thought you might be interested in a brief report on the discussion of Communist views of U.S. intentions in Southeast Asia which took place July 16 in the Thursday inter-agency Planning Group.
A substantial—but by no means unanimous—consensus seemed to be that the North Vietnamese believed we were seriously considering the possibility of eventual retaliation against Hanoi, but were not moved by this belief to abate the present level of violence in South Vietnam, and probably would not be so moved until some—but not necessarily all—of the following:
The US made concrete military preparations thus indicating that attack was a near-term possibility.
Those preparations extended to the contingency of ground, as well as air, attack on North Vietnam, since the Communists might be prepared to endure considerable bombing in order to get South Vietnam.
The US gave clear evidence that it was not going to be diverted, at the last moment, by French and other pressures for neutralization, since the Communists may set some store on these pressures as a likely brake on any US military action that may develop.
We indicated what specific actions the Communists would have to cease, if they were to dissuade us from attacking North Vietnam.
It was agreed that ChiCom and North Vietnamese perceptions might diverge, but there was no agreement as to the implications of this divergence.
This is by no means a complete report of the discussion, but I thought these highlights might be of interest.

We have checked this memo for accuracy with the INR representative who was present at the meeting. The FE representative who was there is now on leave.

  1. Source: Department of State, S/P Files: Lot 70 D 199, Vietnam. Secret. A note on the source text indicates that Rusk saw the memorandum. Copies were also sent to Harriman, William Bundy, Hughes, and Llewellyn Thompson.
  2. Reference is to an attached CIA memorandum, OCI No. 2073/64, July 13, entitled “Dialogue on Southeast Asia,” which concluded that China and North Vietnam were undoubtedly receiving U.S. messages that the United States considered the situation in Laos and South Vietnam very grave and that it held North Vietnam responsible for the deterioration. The paper also concluded that neither the Chinese nor North Vietnamese believed the United States meant what it said.