12. Telegram From the Embassy in Japan to the Department of State 1

2391. For the President and the Secretary from Harriman.

Having found myself with my first relatively free day here in Tokyo, I feel that it might be useful to summarize my reactions to my trip so far.2
Reischauer tells me that the reaction here during the first several days of what everyone now calls President Johnsonʼs peace offensive was tinged with a certain amount of skepticism. The government in Japan has supported our efforts in Vietnam, but even in Foreign Ministry circles, I am told, there was some feeling that the bombing pause and the peace offensive might be aimed more at justifying to the American people a subsequent expansion of military action than at a real desire and expectation that peace might be attained. As the facts have come out about what we have done and are doing to bring about negotiations and a peaceful settlement, there has been a steadily growing acceptance of the Presidentʼs effort. This is being accompanied by a willingness on the part of the Japanese Government to seek ways in which they can help to bring influence to bear on Moscow and Hanoi, and perhaps on Peiping, to reduce the tempo of fighting and move towards a peaceful solution.
This experience in Japan is generally similar to what I have observed at other stops along the way. All the government leaders I have seen have agreed to use their influence where they considered useful but have said time was necessary to achieve results and they urged patience.
I do feel the tide of support and understanding for our position in Vietnam is rising. During the past two weeks, I believe, the seeds of the Presidentʼs peace offensive have been planted and are showing promising signs of healthy growth.
It is too early, however, to expect a real harvest either in the form of consolidating world opinion on our side or of bringing North Vietnam to the conference table. If we were to cut short our efforts at this time and resume the bombing we would end up with few if any gains. In fact those leaders who had started to take actions on behalf of the peace offensive [Page 35] would feel let down and there might be such general disillusionment as to leave us in no better position in world opinion and perhaps worse in some countries than we were before.
On the other hand enough progress has been made in world public opinion to justify continuation of the pause long enough to allow this opinion to solidify on our side. This in turn would increase pressures on Hanoi that might produce some favorable response now or in the future.
I hope very much, therefore, that, barring a major provocation clearly attributable to the initiative of Hanoi, the pause in the bombing will be continued until the end of the Vietnamese new year period (Tet, which I understand ends January 23) particularly since there are, I hear, proposals for a cease-fire during the Tet period. Reischauer strongly agrees with me, pointing out that we are making more progress with Japanese public opinion during this period than in the whole of the preceding twelve months. I believe that all the other U.S. Ambassadors I have visited would also be in agreement. I realize the pause is being bought at the cost of certain military disadvantages but I feel that these are definitely outweighed by the importance of gaining the support of governments and worldwide public opinion.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Pinta. The source text does not indicate the time of transmission; the telegram was received at 9:18 a.m. and passed to the White House at 10. McGeorge Bundy forwarded this telegram to President Johnson at 1:30 p.m. on January 8 under cover of a memorandum stating: “Harriman fires all his arguments at us on keeping the Pause going.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President—McGeorge Bundy, vol. 18)
  2. Between December 29 and January 7, Harriman met with foreign leaders in Poland, Yugoslavia, India, Pakistan, Iran, the United Arab Republic, Thailand, and Japan.