415. Telegram From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson in Texas1
CAP 671007. Herewith a summary of highlights from Ambassador Locke’s weekly telegram from Vietnam. The complete text of the telegram will be available upon your return.2
We are in process of discussing Christmas, New Year’s and Tet cease fires with President Thieu. Whatever we agree to will be discussed with the Ambassadors of the seven troop contributing countries before release.
Thieu’s idea (after talking with Generals Vien and Vy) was 36 hours Christmas, 36 New Year’s and 72 Tet, with proviso that each cease fire would be contingent on the enemy’s observance of preceding cease fire.
Our idea was the formulation 24–24–48 hour standdowns, which I feel sure President Thieu will accept if we wish.
The new Cabinet of Prime Minister Loc, installed in office November 9, is a symbol of the return to constitutional government in South Vietnam.
The new Cabinet has brought a substantial number of new faces into the government, only 7 previous members of the Cabinet remaining on.
President Thieu indicated to Ambassador Bunker on several occasions that the selection of the Cabinet was based on the need to find the best-qualified group of Ministers, who would work together as a team in resolving national problems. President Thieu is confident that the new Cabinet will be able to work together as a team.
Limited evidence would indicate that the new government is reasonably competent, honest and dedicated and there has been no evidence of serious differences between Thieu and Ky.
A framework exists for a slowly and carefully broadening of the base of the government. I would say so far, so good, but it is a little early to make definitive judgments.
Prime Minister Loc has made a good beginning, presenting a wide-ranging, though ambitious short-term and long-term, government program.
The program appears to be a rewritten, shorter and more modest version of the more ambitious top priority program and national policy described in Ambassador Bunker’s 28th weekly telegram.
Implementation of the government program will be a major task, and only beginnings can be made on considerable parts of it in the near future.
- The reaction of the Saigon press and the politically active public to the new Cabinet has been cautious and reserved. There is some doubt expressed that Prime Minister Loc will be able to get things moving, however, Vice President Ky told the new Cabinet he expects it to serve in office for four years.
We were encouraged by a conversation between Bob Komer and Vice President Ky on November 133 in which Ky expressed his desire to do his best to help with current difficulties in the United States with respect to Vietnam.
Bob emphasized that progress in the political and military spheres during the next 6 months would be the most helpful antidote to United States criticism and frustration.
On November 20 the Viet Cong’s Liberation Radio rejected recent public comments by President Thieu that he may soon send a letter to Ho Chi Minh, proposing direct peace talks.
The radio scorned the statement saying Thieu does not have the capacity to represent anyone. The broadcast continued that “peace negotiation arguments definitely cannot deceive anyone.”
President Thieu is proceeding with his plans to send a letter to Ho sometime before Christmas and has apparently decided to ask the Japanese to transmit it to Hanoi. The Japanese Government has not responded to his request yet.4
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 8 B (1), 6/67–11/67, Bunker’s Weekly Report to the President. Secret. The President was in Texas November 21–26. (Ibid., President’s Daily Diary)↩
- Locke’s telegram has not been found. According to an unattached covering note to the President, November 27, Rostow apparently submitted a complete copy of Locke’s telegram to the President when he returned from Texas. (Ibid., National Security File, Country File, Vietnam 8 B (1) B) The notation “ps” on the covering note indicates that the President saw the telegram.↩
- Memorandum for the record by Komer, November 13. (Center for Military History, Dep CORDS/MACV Files, Komer (Aug.–Dec. 1967))↩
- See footnote 4, Document 402.↩