75. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1
17875. 1. Pursuant to your 135744,2 I flew to Dalat Monday afternoon and saw Ky.
2. I recalled that the U.S. had decided to refrain from bombing the North until Kosygin left London. This decision, I said, was dictated solely by extreme British concern and the vital importance of keeping British support. We believed that the British might have been seriously disturbed if their talks with Kosygin had produced no results—which seems likely. We also did not want to be in the position of being blamed because their talks with Kosygin had produced nothing. While we are not yet sure that either the British or the Soviets can play any useful role, we felt that resumption of bombing would have heavily damaged any such prospect. Moreover, we believe repercussions in British public opinion could have placed Prime Minister Wilson in an almost untenable position, and the U.S. considers that his support remains of major importance in the European picture and more broadly.
3. This decision, I added, does not mean that either the British or we have any indication that Hanoi will accept the proposal which I described to Ky Saturday. We believe Kosygin has transmitted the proposal on to Hanoi but we have no more reason than before to suppose that it will be accepted. Kosygin had nothing new Sunday to convey to Wilson on the subject.
4. The latest development in London, I said, is that at Prime Minister Wilson’s suggestion we have authorized him to tell Kosygin that if Hanoi accepts our proposal by 10:00 A.M., London time today (5:00 P.M. Saigon time), we would continue the bombing suspension. The requirement remains, I added, that Hanoi must assure us that infiltration has stopped, with our cessation of augmentation of U.S. forces to follow in a few days.
5. I declared that we have made it absolutely clear to the British that in the absence of Hanoi acceptance, we expect to resume bombing the North within a few hours after Kosygin’s departure from London, which is expected to be about 6:00 P.M. Saigon time today (Monday). [Page 163]We have also, I said, made absolutely clear to the British that we are maintaining our basic position of not stopping the bombing in exchange for mere talks of any sort.
6. If we resume the bombing, I told him that we expect to make a public statement on Monday (Washington time) along the following lines:
- “As you know, the South Vietnamese Government announced on the 11th that its forces and those of other nations assisting South Viet-Nam would resume normal operations during the day on February 12. This resumption was in accordance with the truce period announced by the South Vietnamese Government some weeks ago. As the South Vietnamese had made clear in early January and again last week, it was prepared to discuss extension of the truce period at any time. There was no response to this offer.
- “During the Tet period, bombing and other military operations against North Viet-Nam were also suspended. This suspension was continued for a short additional period in order to avoid any possibility that earlier resumption would be misconstrued in relation to Mr Kosygin’s visit to London. Operations have not been resumed.”
7. I said that many speculative press stories were now appearing, adding that General Westmoreland and I had made (and would make) no comment whatsoever about the matter before this statement is issued in Washington, I repeated that secrecy on this matter is of the highest importance.
8. Finally I recalled his expression of concern Saturday3 regarding the effectiveness of the International Control Commission in verifying possible infiltration from the North. I said I would like to add to what I said then that in the unlikely event that Hanoi should take up the proposal we would expect ourselves to conduct extensive reconnaissance. Our reconnaissance capabilities together with other intelligence operations in Laos should, I said, give us a virtual certainty of detecting any substantial North Vietnamese violations of an undertaking to stop infiltration.
9. Ky’s only reply was to thank me and to say in French: “J’ai peur que Hanoi va vous jouer un mauvais tour” which I translate as: “I’m afraid Hanoi will play a dirty trick on you.” He repeated that we would both be much stronger in a few months: militarily and, above [Page 164]all, politically—which, he stressed, underlay the military. We would, he said, be stronger after the hamlet elections were held next month than we are now.4
- Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/SUNFLOWER. Top Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Sunflower Plus. Received at 7:02 a.m.↩
- Telegram 135744 to Saigon, February 12, explained to Lodge that primarily British pressure caused the Johnson administration to defer a bombing resumption and it urged him to inform Ky promptly of the continued suspension. (Ibid.)↩
- February 11.↩
- In telegram 18022 from Saigon, February 15, Lodge informed the Department of his opinion that the decision to let Ky know of the events in London “was unquestionably wise.” He suggested that potential friction could be avoided if the United States would inform the South Vietnamese Government what it was planning to do ahead of time. Due to a “strong sense of fatalism” in the South Vietnamese, Lodge worried that they might become “capable of desperate action” if they were left out of the channels of information. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/SUNFLOWER)↩