136. Draft Paper Prepared by the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Bundy)1



The Secretary to call in Lord Harlech, preferably this evening, and to inform him that we have given thought to the British request that we indicate what we thought they might say to the Soviets as to action by the Co-Chairmen, and that we had further given thought to the British statement that a clear public exposition of our aims would be of great use. In the light of these British views, our suggestion would be that the British approach the Soviets to say that the most useful thing the Co-Chairmen could now do would be to call on other interested governments for an expression of their views on the situation, so that the Co-Chairmen could consider what further action they might usefully take.

The Secretary would tell Lord Harlech that in response to such a request the US Government would state its position fully in a note addressed to the UK and USSR,2 and would further state that it would give careful and sympathetic consideration to any proposal the Co-Chairmen might make for action to deal with the essentials of the situation as set forth in our note.

We would expect the British to respond favorably to this suggestion, and to take it up at once with the Soviets—as their initiative. If the British then reported that the Soviets agreed, they would combine this with a request for our views, and we would immediately send them the revised note.
Any press conference would be timed in relation to the completion of this sequence, since the press conference would not be useful unless it could be the occasion for revealing our note.
At whatever time we approach Lord Harlech with this suggestion, we would inform our Embassies in Saigon, Bangkok, and Vientiane of what we were proposing to do, arming them with the necessary arguments [Page 317] to explain it to their governments. Query whether we should immediately have Saigon go to work with the GVN framing a similar GVN response to go alongside our own. Query also whether the approaches to these three governments could take place even before the British had hit the Soviets; I would think there would be much merit to doing so at once, particularly as we might wish to explain to Saigon why we would not wish to have another joint strike until the sequence had been completed. In this respect, the firm tone of the President’s statement of yesterday3 should serve, as read in Saigon, to leave no doubt that we are going on with strikes, and this is the essential point.
Australia and New Zealand could be fully informed of our proposed sequence immediately after we have told the British. They should also be told that we are going ahead with joint strikes and approximately the desired pace and degree of severity.
Canada, India, and U Thant are special problems. Canada could be told exactly what we are doing, but both India and, more severely, U Thant raise security problems in that they might surface the sequence as a US-UK collusion, which we are anxious to avoid to the degree possible,
We should hold off on the next strike until the British have gone to the Soviets and have a response. If the Soviets should ask time to think it over, this might, however, cause undue delay. Accordingly, we should consider whether we would then ask the British to seek our views, and go ahead on the basis of this request only without waiting for the Soviets to join in. However, this would somewhat weaken the key element in the sequence, which is to bring the Soviets at least half way aboard in the Co-Chairman role right at the outset.
With respect to the UN Security Council, we would still plan to circulate the full printed document of our case, after we had completed the sequence. We would also have the possibility of an additional oral presentation either concurrently, or within a day or two after the written version was sent to the President of the Security Council.
  1. Source: Department of State, Bundy Files: Lot 85 D 240, WPB Chron, Jan.-Mar. 1965. Top Secret. The source text was attached to a brief covering note of February 18 to Rusk, in which Bundy wrote that it attempted “to reflect the proposal discussed this morning at the White House.” Bundy said he was also sending copies to Ball, Thompson, McGeorge Bundy, and, if Rusk wished, to Cleveland. The White House meeting was apparently that held from 12:02 to 1:03 p.m. and attended by the President, William Bundy, McGeorge Bundy, Ball, Thompson, and Marvin Watson. (Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary)
  2. A draft “Note to UK and USSR as Co-Chairmen of the Geneva Conferences of 1954 and 1962,” drafted by Rusk on February 17, is in Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S.
  3. At the conclusion of his remarks to the National Industrial Conference Board on February 17 in the Sheraton-Park Hotel in Washington, the President summarized U.S. purposes and objectives in Vietnam. For text of his remarks, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1965, Book I, pp. 202–205.