251. Memorandum From the Ambassador at Large (Harriman) to President Johnson and Secretary of State Rusk 1


  • “Negotiations Committee”

While the Secretaryʼs discussion of Vietnam with Gromyko 2 did not reach any affirmative understanding, Gromykoʼs relatively relaxed attitude, his willingness to continue discussions and his emphasis on Soviet influence in Hanoi were encouraging indications of possible future Soviet initiative. We hope that further talks with Gromyko can be held prior to your meeting with him.

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The group found no significant concessions in recent statements by NLF Chairman Tho 3 and Pham Van Dong,4 but we believe that our public reaction to these and other restatements of position by the other side should avoid being too negative. The Secretaryʼs statement5 that we were studying the new formulations strikes the right note, as well as Ambassador Goldbergʼs attitude on proposals made in his UN address. Meanwhile we are asking Ambassador Goldberg in his conversations in New York to encourage the Eastern Europeans and others to try to obtain clarification of what the recent statements mean.

The October meeting in the Philippines provides an excellent opportunity to convince “hard line” Asians such as the Koreans and the Thais of the necessity of continuing efforts to achieve a peaceful settlement. Our group believes we must establish promptly and emphatically that the October meeting is not a “council of war,” as not only the communist but other press and radio are already announcing, but is a “council of peace and postwar reconstruction.”

The group feels strongly that between now and the meeting any escalation of our bombing of the North should be avoided. Military escalations could drown out talk of peaceful negotiation.

In advance of the meeting the group thought it might be worthwhile to have me or another senior American emissary discuss with the leaders of other Asian countries not participating, the aims of the conclave and ask for their suggestions. The countries he might visit would be Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, India and possibly Indonesia. The thirty-odd countries who are making some contribution to the effort in Vietnam should also be briefed in advance as well as after the meeting through their Ambassadors here or by some other channel.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, box 212, Amb. Harriman-Negotiations Comm. Top Secret; Nodis.
  2. See Document 247.
  3. Nguyen Huu Tho outlined his peace terms in an interview on August 25 with Australian correspondent Wilfred Burchett, which was broadcast by NLF clandestine radio on September 13 and by Hanoi radio on September 28. For text, see United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967, Book 12, Part VI B, pp. 218–219.
  4. Presumably a reference to Pham Van Dongʼs speech in Hanoi on September 24 to a Czechoslovak delegation, broadcast over Hanoi radio the same day. For text, see Foreign Broadcast Information Service Report, North Vietnam, September 26, 1966, pp. jjj 13–19.
  5. Not further identified.