277. Memorandum for Henry A. Kissinger1

You may give your contacts the following message and ask that they deliver it to Pham Van Dong:2

The United States is willing to stop the aerial and naval bombardment of North Vietnam if this will lead promptly to productive discussions between representatives of the US and the DRV looking toward a resolution of the issues between them. We would assume that, while discussions proceed either with public knowledge or secretly, the DRV would not take advantage of the bombing cessation or limitation. Any such move on their part would obviously be inconsistent with the movement toward resolution of the issues between the US and DRV which the negotiations are intended to achieve.

You should say further to Messrs. Marcovich and Aubrac that the United States is prepared to negotiate either openly or secretly. It would seem, however, that a total cessation of the bombing is inconsistent with keeping secret the fact that negotiations are taking place. Accordingly, the DRV may prefer to consider the alternative of a cutback in the magnitude or scope of the bombing while secret negotiations are in progress.

The US is ready to have immediate private contact with the DRV to explore the above approach or any suggestions the DRV might wish to propose in the same direction.3

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, PENNSYLVANIA. Top Secret; Sensitive; Nodis. No drafting information appears on the memorandum.
  2. Before the message’s transmission, Kissinger translated it into French. A reprint of this message, which according to the authors of the Pentagon Papers was approved by the President, appears in Herring, The Secret Diplomacy of the Vietnam War, p. 726.
  3. In an August 12 memorandum, Bundy suggested one semantic alteration to the message to which Katzenbach had agreed: replacement of the words “negotiate” and “negotiations” in the first and second paragraphs of the message with “enter into discussions” and “discussions,” respectively. Their reason for the change was concern that the North Vietnamese would attach significance to the fact that the word “discussions” was not used consistently throughout the message in its original form. Presumably Rusk approved the modifications. Also in his memorandum, Bundy requested Rusk’s approval for guidance in a meeting that Katzenbach, Harriman, and Cooper were planning to have with Kissinger on August 14. Bundy stated that Kissinger would be given this modification and additional instructions, including not to meet solely with Aubrac, at this meeting. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/PENNSYLVANIA) No record of this meeting has been found.