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

2067. Eyes only for Ambassador from Secretary. Deptel 2052 and Embtel 3066.2 Appreciate that context throws somewhat different light on your sentence about limits to escalation. Nonetheless you should be aware statement has already been picked up in damaging fashion by [Page 474]Communist propaganda and that Wilson has been hit hard on it in UK. Our whole feeling here is that our actions should speak for themselves and that we should not be seeking to change our signal in any way through verbal statements or speculation. President’s Feb 17 statement3 remains basic and we believe all of us should decline to go beyond it.

In connection same problem, I note your background briefing reported Embtel 3060,4 especially remark that industry targets “not ruled out”, statement that study has been made of cutting supply routes between China and DRV and last two paras concerning negotiation and “carrots”. For example, your statement that we are prepared to talk “if DRV ceases infiltration” and we have clear evidence of this might be open to interpretation we would not go further and insist on major reduction VC activity. This is most difficult issue which we are currently considering and will discuss during your visit. “Carrots” are also a touchy subject, although we have nothing firm in our minds at this time.

I do not wish to be critical of your backgrounder but fact is that any remarks in these areas may emerge in unfavorable form in stories either from Saigon or from home offices here, perhaps with allegedly authoritative stamp as in case of Kleiman article.5 For this reason, I continue to think it would be better if all of us refrained from speculation on future military or diplomatic possibilities beyond the limits of the President’s statement and my own press conference of Feb 25,6 plus whatever future utterances we may work out here with the President.7

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Drafted by William Bundy and approved by Rusk.
  2. In telegram 2052 to Saigon, eyes only for Taylor, March 22, Rusk stated that Washington press reports alleged that Taylor had given an interview in which he had said “there is no limit to our escalation.” Rusk asked for further information on the interview and whether Taylor had been accurately quoted. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S) Taylor’s reply, telegram 3066 from Saigon, has not been found.
  3. For text of the President’s comments on Vietnam at the conclusion of his remarks to the National Industrial Conference Board on February 17, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1965, Book I, pp. 202–205.
  4. Telegram 3060, March 23, summarized the background briefing Taylor had given to U.S. press representatives in Saigon on March 20. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S)
  5. See footnote 6, Document 199.
  6. For text, see Department of State Bulletin, March 15, 1965, pp 362–374.
  7. In telegram 3073 from Saigon, March 24, Taylor replied that if he were to stay within the limits of Washington’s public statements in his backgrounders, “it will require a fundamental revision not only of my press habits but that of most of the senior officials of the mission.” (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S)