152. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson1

Dear Mr. President,

Secretary Rusk has now read and considered Senator Mansfield’s proposals.2 He has also talked to Ambassador Goldberg.3

[Page 357]
—He is ready to take up in the Security Council Senator Mansfield’s proposals.
—Senator Mansfield should be clear that this proposal will be opposed by the Secretary General and a number of other members of the Security Council who will not wish to press this proposal because Hanoi has made clear that it does not wish the United Nations to get in a peace-making role in Southeast Asia.
—With respect to visit to Communist China, the Secretary of State is strongly opposed. It would be a major intervention in a troubled situation. The Soviet Union would be upset and suspicious. Above all, Senator Mansfield should remember that he is “an officer of the United States Government,” as a member of the legislative branch. Therefore there would be great confusion among our friends in free Asia, including the fear that we were about to sell them out.
—The Secretary of State believes the proper way to proceed with respect to Communist China is to elevate the Warsaw talks to the Foreign Ministers level.4 He has been hesitant to propose this until the situation within Communist China has somewhat settled down.
—Secretary Rusk does not share Senator Mansfield’s conviction that Hanoi is now under the control of Peking, and that therefore the route to peace is through Peking. The evidence remains that they have balanced rather well their position between Moscow and Peking, maintaining a high degree of independence.
—In respect to the World Court proposal, the World Court does not have jurisdiction in this problem. It is most doubtful that we can rally more than a few votes for the World Court to accept jurisdiction.

Walt W. Rostow comment:

I’m in general agreement with Secretary Rusk. There may be some advantage in holding up the move in the Security Council, however, until we hear at the end of the week what signals or messages Dobrynin brings back from Moscow.5


  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Name File, Senator Mansfield. No classification marking. The notation “L” on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it. The next day Rusk publicly listed 28 peace proposals made by the U.S. Government that Hanoi had rejected. The text of his May 1 remarks is in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 925–926.
  2. See Document 151.
  3. Goldberg and Katzenbach discussed the Mansfield proposal with Rostow the previous day. Describing it as “a gimmick,” Katzenbach stated his opposition to the proposal, while Goldberg favored at least undertaking the effort to submit such a UN resolution. (Memorandum from Rostow to the President, April 30, 11:45 a.m.; Johnson Library, National Security File, Name File, Senator Mansfield) On May 1 the President discussed the UN approach off the record at a breakfast with Senators Mansfield and Morse, Rusk, Katzenbach, Goldberg, and Presidential aide Joseph Califano. He did so again on May 3 (with Rostow replacing Califano). Mansfield sent a second memorandum to the President on May 3, in which he disputed Katzenbach’s assertion that the proposal would be interpreted as “phony.” It could only be viewed as phony if the administration pursued it accompanied by “some unwitting action or ineptitude.” Such a proposal would not make the United States appear “either foolish or weak but rather willing to walk the extra mile.” (Ibid., Vietnam, Mansfield Memo & Reply)
  4. These talks began in 1958 in the aftermath of the second Offshore Islands crisis.
  5. According to Soviet officials at the United Nations, their government’s opposition to the consideration of the issue of Vietnam in the Security Council remained intense; Goldberg was informed that the “US ought to realize the USSR would never tolerate UN consideration of the issue.” (Telegram 5373 from USUN, May 19; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 VIET S/UN) On April 26 the State Department released a statement noting that the Soviet Union declined to use its “good offices” as a means of approaching the North Vietnamese on the matter of allowing Red Cross inspection of American prisoners of war in the DRV. See American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, p. 924.