2. Memorandum From the Presidentʼs Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Johnson 1


  • The Peace Offensive—where we are today

1. With the Communists

The Communists directly engaged—Moscow, Peking and Hanoi—have made no diplomatic comment and their propaganda continues to be negative. But only Peking takes an absolute position. The most recent semi-official Hanoi statement2 should not be taken as final. It is an excellent example of the continuing effort by Hanoi to secure major concessions on the four points,3 while seeming to be reasonable. The key word [Page 5] this time is that the U.S. should “acknowledge” the points. Hanoi also asks for a complete and unconditional cessation of all attacks on North Vietnam.

The Communists who are interested in getting negotiations started—the Hungarians, the Poles, and the Yugoslavs—are still at work, and we have no reports back. All three of them have emphasized the need for time—the Hungarians speak of the problem of communicating with the jungle; Tito speaks of the need to let differences ripen in Hanoi.

2. Less direct mediators

These include the British, the Canadians, the Vatican, U Thant and Nasser. The British are simply telling the Russians how serious and sincere we are, and the Canadians have already done likewise. The Vatican is sending Monsignor Rodhain to Saigon, and if possible to Hanoi. The Algerians have agreed to talk to all their Communist contacts, including the NLF. Harriman sees Nasser tomorrow. Here again, the lines are nearly all out, but we have no diplomatic answers back. One additional possibility is Japan.

3. The French

De Gaulle is in a class by himself. He has been fully informed and has expressed his warm appreciation. At the same time, he has made clear his conviction that nothing will happen until we announce that we will definitely withdraw at the end of negotiations.4 His Foreign Minister emphasizes the importance of a recognized role for the NLF. De Gaulle has sneered at our efforts in a private conversation with the British Ambassador.5 We have not asked the French for anything. This was wise.

4. Our Pacific allies

These are more sympathetic to the peace offensive than we might have expected. There was slight nervousness in Taipei and Bangkok, but the Vice President has calmed one and the Secretary of State the other. There is deep understanding and support for our effort in Japan, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand. So far we have not sent presidential messages to Menzies and Holyoake, and I have requested drafts today. Their governments have been kept very fully informed and there has been no complaint.

5. The Latin Americans

Here we have had unusually strong response from Diaz Ordaz, Leoni, and others, but no reply yet from Castello Branco. It remains for [Page 6] consideration whether we should follow up one suggestion and have an OAS meeting to reaffirm the need for peace.

6. The Africans

The response to Governor Williamsʼ trip6 has been excellent so far. He has been in Morocco, Tunis, Algiers, and Ethiopia, and is in Kenya and Tanzania today. Except for Algiers, there is no active interest so far in joining the diplomatic game, but there is general support.

7. The United Nations

This is a special case. Goldberg recommends a letter which would become a Security Council document, and a draft will be at hand at noon.7 It has also been suggested that U Thant be asked to organize an advisory group of neutrals. I find the strongest opposition to this idea from McNamara and Rusk. Both of them feel that we must not hand over the diplomatic scales to this kind of a third party. Most of the world would like nothing better than to recognize the NLF in ways that would be very damaging in Saigon. This is only one of a number of issues on which we must do our own bargaining, because no one else can be relied on to do it for us.

Issues for Discussion

1. Immediate tactical steps

Harriman to Japan
Letters to Menzies and Holyoake
Letter to U Thant

2. Public position for this week

Our 14 points8 have only begun to get the attention they deserve, and they have had a reaction of affirmative interest from such surprising quarters as Algiers, and even indirectly the New York Times. We should develop and expand them on a background basis, and we should challenge all concerned to say why they are not a perfectly solid basis for discussion. This job will best be done under the direct supervision of the Secretary of State.

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We should continue to avoid any discussion of the duration of the pause, and we should continue to bat down any discussion of an ultimatum.

By the end of the week, attention will begin to move toward the State of the Union message.9 We should have a firm position as to what we do and do not say ahead of time on that subject.

So far we have had almost no public criticism of the pause. But Senator Symingtonʼs cable10 is a sample of what we will get more of as the days go by. Since it is entirely clear that the diplomatic power of the pause is directly related to its length, we need to study additional ways of maintaining its momentum. Properly orchestrated, the 14 points can help us through this week. Can the State of the Union take us as far as Tet?

McG. B.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President—McGeorge Bundy, vol. 18. Secret. The source text is marked with an indication that the President saw the memorandum.
  2. Probably a reference to the commentary by “Observer” in the January 3 issue of Nhan Dan, which was carried by Hanoi radio in English at 12:31 a.m. EST on January 3. (Department of State, EA/ACA-Vietnam Negotiations: Lot 69 D 277, Communist Positions and Initiatives)
  3. The four points were set forth on April 8, 1965, by North Vietnamese Premier Pham Van Dong; for text, see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. II, pp. 544545.
  4. De Gaulleʼs views on Vietnam were reported in telegram 3701 from Paris, December 31; for text, see ibid., vol. III, pp. 757–760.
  5. Reported in telegram 3709 from Paris, January 3. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S)
  6. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs G. Mennen Williams visited Africa January 3–6. His draft conclusions and recommendations were transmitted in telegram 501 from Dakar, January 7. (Ibid., EA/ACA-Vietnam Negotiations: Lot 69 D 412, Nodis/Pinta, Series 1, Vol. 1)
  7. Goldbergʼs January 4 letter to U Thant is printed in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1966, pp. 744–745.
  8. Drafted by Secretary Rusk in late December 1965, the fourteen points were included in an “Outline of U.S. Position on Viet-Nam” made available to the press on January 3 by Vice President Humphrey and released separately by the Department of State on January 7 under the title “United States Official Position on Viet-Nam.” For text, see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. III, pp. 704707, and Department of State Bulletin, January 24, 1966, p. 116.
  9. Delivered January 12; see footnote 3, Document 19.
  10. Not further identified.