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285. Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation Between the Secretary of State in Washington and the Representative at the United Nations (Stevenson) in1

TELEPHONE CALL FROM AMB. STEVENSON, USUN

S said the earliest possible would be noon; Yost is notifying U Thant. Sec said President will make his statement at 11:15; there were some changes in the text. Sec said the key thing and we must make it very clear up there tomorrow is that this is limited action appropriate to the nature of the intolerable kind of attack; we do not want a big war, in no sense is this destroyer a pretext to make a big thing out of a little one. S asked if this were self-defense under Article 512 Sec said he thought so; we cannot have our vessels operating in danger of being torpedoed; we are not going into any general assault, just after these boats. They discussed whether U Thant visit should be postponed;3 they did not think so but it was possible. Sec said he did not think a resolution would be introduced tomorrow; this was basically a reporting situation. S asked in the event they ask for North Viet Nam to be seated, should we ask for South Viet Nam. Sec said yes, but he doubted they would. S asked if we had any info about the boats. Sec said they were built in Chinese yards, but have been in North Viet Nam for some time and for all practical purposes are North Vietnamese. Sec said we should concentrate on the fact that they are North Vietnamese, so that we do not force the Chinese into it.

  1. Source: Department of State, Rusk Files: Lot 72 D 192, Telephone Conversations. No classification marking. Transcribed by Proctor.
  2. Article 51 of the U.N. Charter provides that nothing in the Charter impairs the right of self-defense, if an armed attack occurs against a member, until the Security Council has taken measures to maintain international peace and security.
  3. U Thant was scheduled to visit Washington on August 6.