427. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Viet-Nam and the United Nations


  • Sir Patrick Dean, British Ambassador
  • Mr. Michael Wilford, Counselor, British Embassy
  • The Secretary
  • Irving Cheslaw, EUR/BMI

Sir Patrick Dean said that Foreign Secretary Brown has always been in favor of Security Council action if this could clearly help promote negotiations or lead to a reduction in fighting. Whether the present moment was right could only be judged when action was initiated. He recognized, however, that the U.S. Government was bound to take very serious account of the Senate resolution.2 The Foreign Secretary was also under constant pressure to take some initiative either through the UN or through the Geneva machinery, and interest would increase once it was evident that the USG was making another attempt through the Security Council.

Sir Patrick added that he had instructions to tell the Secretary that, in these circumstances, Mr. Brown would help all that he could, both generally and with the Russians, when any U.S. initiative got underway.

Specifically, he would help on inscription and by supporting a simple resolution to get the Geneva machinery going. U.S. and UK delegations in New York would need to keep in close touch if there were moves towards a resolution referring to a cessation of bombing, which Foreign Secretary Brown thought was very probable. HMG might be able to resist a simple demand for a cessation of bombing in standard Communist terms. But Mr. Brown thought it more likely that we would be faced with an outwardly reasonable resolution calling for bombing to stop so that talks could begin. If a resolution or amendment in these terms came to a vote, Mr. Brown would find it difficult to oppose or abstain.

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The British Ambassador also gave the Secretary the drafts of both an “inspired” parliamentary question and a proposed reply on this general subject. The question would ask what was HMG’s policy toward further consideration of the Viet-Nam conflict by the UN. The Foreign Secretary would reply that he was in favor of action through the UN as soon as it was possible for the organization to play a part in promoting a negotiated settlement or in encouraging effective negotiations, either through the Geneva Conference of which the British Foreign Secretary was co-chairman or through any other machinery which might lead to a solution.3

The Secretary said that he would not object if HMG thought it would be useful to talk privately with Kuznetsov in New York or with its contacts in Moscow.

The Secretary observed that a San Antonio formula was reasonable, i.e., that bombing would stop with the assurance of talks without undue delay and without seeking any military advantages. A proposal to stop bombing permanently for the possibility of talks would be “too thin.”

The Secretary pointed out that the President had not yet made a final decision, and that there would be full consultation before we moved in New York. Meanwhile, he noted that two divisions were reportedly on the move from North to South Viet-Nam.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 VIET. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Cheslaw, Desk Officer for the United Kingdom, and approved in S on December 8. The meeting was held in Rusk’s office.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 421.
  3. Attached but not printed is an unofficial and undated excerpt of an answer to Parliament in which the British Government pledged Brown’s support for the U.S.-led effort on the UN initiative, particularly in connection “with the Russians.” The British Government would state that it would not oppose an “outwardly reasonable” resolution calling for a halt in order to start talking. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 VIET) NSC Staffer Nathaniel Davis cautioned, however, that it would be very difficult for the British to go along. “We have already made the British uncomfortable with our Middle East position, and they may become more so,” he asserted in a December 4 memorandum to Rostow. “A Vietnam debate would add still another strain in our relationship.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Meetings with the President, July–December 1967)