131. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom1

5147. For Ambassador Bruce. For your guidance in talking with Wilson, our current thinking is as follows:

We have recommended, and we think the President will concur in,2 continuing air and naval action against North Viet-Nam whenever and wherever necessary. Our thinking has been and continues to be that any such action shall be limited and fitting and adequate as a response to the continuous aggression in South Viet-Nam directed in Hanoi.

Within 24 hours after the next military action we expect to make a statement. Current plan is that this statement would come from the Secretary of State, but decision is not final. This statement of policy will reflect following elements of our thinking:

First and foremost, we shall intensify by all available means the program of pacification within South Viet-Nam. Every3 possible step will be taken to find and attack Viet Cong concentrations and headquarters within South Viet-Nam by any and every conventional means available to GVN and US.
Execution of a joint program of measured and limited air action against selected military targets in the DRV. Air strikes under this program will be jointly planned and agreed. We presently plan to present this program to our National Security Council tomorrow.4
We plan detailed presentation to UN Security Council of the case against the DRV as the aggressor. We do not expect to touch upon readiness for talks or negotiations at this time.

In execution of item c., above, Ambassador Stevenson will call for a meeting of the Security Council immediately after next military action against DRV and will there present a fully documented demonstration that the basic cause of the trouble in SVN is aggression from the North. Stevenson will keep focus on DRV aggression.

Careful public statement of USG, combined with fact of continuing air action, are expected to make it clear that military action will continue [Page 295] while aggression continues. But focus of public attention will be kept as far as possible on aggression, not on military operations. There will be no comment of any sort on future actions except that all such actions will be adequate and measured and fitting to aggression. Each new military action will be reported at once to the Security Council, together with an account of continuing acts of aggression.
Concurrently with next military action, the US will inform major friendly governments as well as the Soviet Government of our views as outlined above.

In presenting this position you should emphasize to the Prime Minister the very high degree of secrecy attaching to this plan of action until final Presidential decision and orders have put it into operation.5

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Top Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Drafted by McGeorge Bundy, revised and cleared by the President, and approved by William Bundy. For more information on the drafting of this telegram, see Document 130.
  2. Prior to revisions made by President Johnson in the draft, this sentence opened with the words: “We have recommended, and the President has concurred in.” For the President’s many other handwritten revisions, see the draft referred to in Document 130.
  3. The President crossed out the following words preceding “every” in the draft: “The President has directed that.”
  4. See Document 140.
  5. In telegram 3961 from London, February 17, Bruce reported that he had talked with Prime Minister Wilson about the U.S. Government’s policy as outlined above. Wilson said that his government would “solidly support” U.S. policy, but he was “deeply concerned,” especially in view of domestic pressures and what he felt would be the reaction in many other countries, regarding the second sentence under paragraph 2C. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S)