311. Memorandum of Telephone Conversation Between Secretary of State Rusk and the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow)1


R. just had long talk with the Pres. P. asked R. question re this UN business.2 R. simply did not really know. Question is whether Goldberg really knows this is a precarious exercise and we in general should be prepared to get out of it or is he being hard and hopeful about it. Sec. would think more the former than the latter. Sec. had a talk with Goldberg following meeting with the Pres. G. does think a way to get out is to have a further meeting with Mansfield and Morse et al and report to them on the soundings. He thinks the way to close it out is to call the roll and see what the prospects are and look at them and then say to hell with that!3

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The other thing P. has on his mind is some sort of a meeting with Thieu perhaps—however, he is aware that some sort of a bilateral meeting with him might look as though Thieu would be receiving his instructions. Other than that he is thinking of us meeting with Bunker in Honolulu—asked how far Honolulu was from Saigon. Sec. said about same distance as from here—it is a half-way mark. R. said he thought it might be very worthwhile to have a talk with Bunker. R. passing this on as a thought P. has in his mind and Sec. might wish to give it some thought.4

Sec. asked if R. would be around this afternoon. R. will. Sec. expects to be getting something more from Kissinger shortly.5 A meeting is now going on between the other two and the other fellow. R. said the Pres. is very much interested in that—asked for R. to give him the history of how this came about and R. reviewed the facts with Sec.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Rusk Files: Lot 72 D 192, Telcons, 1961–1969 and Presidential. No classification marking. Transcribed by Rusk’s secretary at 12:45 p.m. Rusk and Rostow talked on the telephone between 11:17 and 11:58 a.m. Rostow was with the President at the LBJ Ranch September 6–10. (Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary)
  2. In speeches in the Senate on May 15, 18, and 24, Mansfield called for U.S. support of a Vietnam peace initiative in the United Nations. See Congressional Record, Vol. 113, pp. 12593–12594; 13213–13214; 13728. On August 7 Mansfield publicly called for an end to the bombing of the North, the completion of the barrier, and the reintroduction of the failed UN resolution of January 1966 on Vietnam. In a memorandum to the President responding to Mansfield’s points, August 7, Rostow noted U Thant’s advice against bringing the question of Vietnam into the United Nations. Rostow added: “The heart of the matter is not the UN, however, but what the USSR can and will do.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President, Walt Rostow, Vol. II, 8/3–27/67) The administration began exploring the feasibility of such a resolution. In a memorandum to Rusk, August 29, Sisco wrote: “Bill Bundy tells me the President wants to be sure that Mansfield understands that there is no undertaking to go to the Security Council unless we can get the nine necessary votes and that there is no commitment in connection with such a possible initiative that we would stop the bombing or reduce it.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 VIET S) By early September Goldberg had made quiet approaches to the Representatives of Britain, Canada, Denmark, and Japan on the issue. (Telegram 31350 to Seoul, September 2; ibid.)
  3. In telegram 67807 to the President, September 9, Rostow confirmed that Rusk had fully conveyed to Goldberg the President’s “view of the UN Viet Nam initiative.” Goldberg received “soundings” from not only the Soviet delegation but also the British, Canadian, and Australian representatives that implied “opposition or grave reservations” to the proposed resolution. Rusk reported the results of the “soundings” to Mansfield and other Senators who supported the resolution. (Ibid., National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, CAP Cables)
  4. This meeting did not occur until July 1968.
  5. Rostow telephoned the President on September 11 and reported that Rusk had received a “pretty negative” message from Kissinger. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Rusk Files: Lot 72 D 192, Telcons, 1961–1969 and Presidential) For Kissinger’s report, see Document 315.