283. Message From President Johnson to Prime Minister Khanh1

I am asking Ambassador Taylor to convey to you personally a statement I am making in Washington tonight concerning the deliberate attacks which have been made by Communist North Vietnamese torpedo boats on American vessels operating on the high seas. The measures I have ordered are intended to make it unmistakably clear to the Communist leaders in Hanoi that the United States defends its rights and that our commitment to assist your country in preserving her freedom and independence cannot be shaken.

The Hanoi regime has embarked upon an adventure which can have the gravest consequences for world peace, and I believe that you and I have responsibilities which extend beyond our own borders. For this reason our response to North Vietnamese provocation has been, for the present, limited in the hope that the Hanoi regime will recognize the dangers which flow from increasing violence in Southeast Asia.

It is of the utmost importance therefore that our two countries continue to plan and act in the closest consultation during the very critical days ahead. Ambassador Taylor will always be prepared to communicate your thoughts to me, and I will keep in close touch with you through him.2

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Flash; Exdis; Pierce Arrow. Transmitted to the Embassy in Saigon in telegram 342, 9:47 p.m., for delivery to Khanh with President Johnson’s statement (see Document 286). Telegram 342 is the source text.
  2. Telegram 342 does not bear President Johnson’s signature.