115. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam1

1718. The President today approved the following program for immediate future actions in follow-up on decision he reported to you in Deptel 1653.2

We will intensify by all available means the program of pacification within SVN.
We will execute a program of measured and limited air action jointly with GVN against selected military targets in DRV remaining south of the 19th parallel until further notice. FYI. Our current expectation is that these attacks might come about once or twice a week and involve two or three targets on each day of operation. End FYI.
We will announce this policy of measured action in general terms and, at the same time, we will go to UN Security Council to make clear case that aggressor is Hanoi. We will also make it plain that we are ready and eager for “talks” to bring aggression to an end.
We believe this 3-part program must be concerted with GVN, and we currently expect to announce it by Presidential statement directly after next authorized air action. We believe this action should take place as early as possible next week.
You are accordingly instructed to seek immediate GVN agreement on this program. You are authorized to emphasize our conviction that announcement of readiness to talk is stronger diplomatic position than awaiting inevitable summons to Security Council by third parties. We would hope to have appropriate GVN concurrence by Monday3 if possible here.

In presenting above to GVN, you should draw fully, as you see fit, on following arguments:

We are determined to continue with military actions regardless of Security Council deliberations and any “talks” or negotiations that may ensue, unless and until Hanoi has brought its aggression to an end. Our demand would be that they cease infiltration and all forms of support and also the activity they are directing in the south.
We consider the UN Security Council initiative, following another strike, essential if we are to avoid being faced with really damaging [Page 264] initiatives by the USSR or perhaps by such powers as India, France or even the UK.
At an early point in the UN Security Council initiative, we would expect to see calls for the DRV to appear in the UN. If they failed to appear, as in August, this will make doubly clear that it is they who are refusing to desist, and our position in pursuing military actions against the DRV would be strengthened. For same reason we would now hope GVN itself would appear at UN and work closely with US.
With or without Hanoi, we have every expectation that any “talks” that may result from our Security Council initiative would in fact go on for many weeks or perhaps months and would above all focus consistently on the cessation of Hanoi’s aggression as the precondition to any cessation of military action against the DRV. We further anticipate that any detailed discussions about any possible eventual form of agreement returning to the essentials of the 1954 Accords would be postponed and would be subordinated to the central issue.

For your private guidance, the following draft language is under consideration for Presidential announcement:

“The aggression has continued. It has continued against the Vietnamese, and it has continued against Americans. In support of the independence of Vietnam, in the service of our nation, and in fulfillment of the solemn public obligation of our nation, and in our individual and collective self-defense, the Government of the United States, with the Government of Vietnam, has now decided that further action must be taken.

The actions we have agreed upon are three.

  • First and most important, we will continue and we will intensify still further our campaign against terror and violence in South Vietnam itself. The establishment of civil peace and the disarming of the Communist forces are the first order of business for both our Governments. Our military and police actions will be increasingly energetic and effective. We will also strengthen and enlarge our efforts to move forward with the peaceful development of a society set free from fear. We will never make the mistake of assuming that there is any substitute for victory against aggression where it shows its open face—inside the borders of South Vietnam itself.
  • Second—and at the same time—we will carry out measured but effective actions against military targets in North Vietnam. These actions will be reported to the United Nations Security Council under the Provisions [Page 265] of Article 51 of the United Nations Charter4—and each such report will include a full account of the continuing acts of aggression which make our actions necessary. These actions will stop when the aggression stops.
  • Third, we will press with urgency for talks designed to bring an end to the aggression and its threat to peace. I have today instructed Ambassador Stevenson to seek such action urgently, in the Security Council of the United Nations, and if that body should be hamstrung by any veto, we shall then press for talks in another appropriate forum. We believe that in any such talks the first object must be an end of aggression, and we believe that the government in Hanoi must be brought to the conference room. Our common purpose—and our only purpose—is to restore the peace and domestic tranquillity which others have so savagely attacked.”
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Top Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Drafted in the White House, presumably by McGeorge Bundy, cleared by William Bundy, and approved by Ball. Printed in part in Pentagon Papers: Gravel Edition, vol. III, pp. 428–429.
  2. Document 91.
  3. February 15.
  4. Article 51 of the U.N. Charter reads as follows: “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defense shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.” (Charles I. Bevans, Treaties and Other International Agreements of the United States of America, 1776–1949, vol. III, p. 1165)