188. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Bundy) to Secretary of State Rusk1


  • Instructions for Governor Harriman

Governor Harriman and I wish to confirm our understanding of today’s review of the draft instructions.

Our understanding is that today’s meeting confirmed the instructions in accordance with the attached draft. On the specific question of paragraph 5(c), dealing with the rate of infiltration of North Vietnamese troops, our understanding is that Secretary Clifford’s suggestion was adopted, i.e., that no change would be made in the instructions, but that Governor Harriman should understand that, in presenting this point, reference should be made to the increased infiltration rate of recent months as abnormal, and the clear record should be that we were thinking in terms of a normal rate such as had prevailed when the San Antonio formula was first given to the North Vietnamese last August.

We further understand that we would not include under paragraph 5 a record indicating expectation that the North Vietnamese, in response to our bombing cessation, would be taking advantage if they did not accept demilitarization of the DMZ and/or compliance with the Laos Accords. In other words, these matters would not be used as examples of “not taking advantage.” However, we would expect that they would be raised—either in the contacts or in the talks—as early US objectives.

We suggest that, if you approve, this memorandum and the instructions be given to Secretary Clifford and Mr. Rostow to be sure that there is complete agreement on the way these matters will be handled.2

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Basic Objective

To make arrangements with the North Vietnamese representative for prompt and serious substantive talks looking towards peace in Viet-Nam, in the course of which an understanding may be reached on a cessation of bombing in the North under circumstances which would not be militarily disadvantageous. Such understanding to be within objectives defined below.

Specific Objectives


Cessation of the Bombing

The US is prepared to agree to a cessation of naval, air and artillery bombardment of North Viet-Nam. In keeping with North Vietnamese statements, it is our understanding that such action on our part will lead promptly to talks in which both sides would be free to raise any elements which they believe would lead to a peaceful settlement. We are prepared in these talks to make arrangements to this end, including agreement on announcement of bombing cessation and subsequent talks.


Prompt Talks

Substantive talks should be held within 3 to 7 days following the cessation of bombing.


Serious Talks

We should seek explicit confirmation by the North Vietnamese that any topic relevant to the substance of peace could be raised in the substantive talks.



In any substantive discussions we expect to take account of the interests of the South Vietnamese Government and of our Manila [Page 554] allies. Participation in any such discussions affecting South Viet-Nam must not exclude the Government of the Republic of South Viet-Nam.4


Not Taking Advantage

We should provide an adequate basis for the expectation that North Viet-Nam would not attempt to improve its military position as a result of the US cessation. North Viet-Nam should understand that the US would regard as acts of bad faith inconsistent with its restraints any such attempts. We would consider as examples of bad faith:

Artillery or other fire from or across the DMZ.
Ground attacks across the DMZ or the massing of additional forces or supplies in North Viet-Nam or the DMZ in a manner which poses a direct threat to Allied forces in South Vietnam.
An increase in the movement of North Vietnamese troops and supplies into South Viet-Nam.

Reconnaissance Flights

The US intends to continue certain reconnaissance flights, and the record should not preclude such flights.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 VIET S. Top Secret.
  2. No approval is indicated. Concurrence on the instructions came at the afternoon meeting; see Document 189.
  3. A notation at the top of the page reads: “Draft as reviewed at the White House April 6, 1968.”
  4. In an April 8 memorandum to Helms, Carver described the views of the so-called “Non-Group” on the instructions. This group was an informal subcabinet-level group, chaired by Katzenbach and comprised of varying membership, which met weekly to discuss issues relating to the war. Most of the “Non-Group” took issue with this sentence in the instructions, which they believed “was designed to be fuzzy and not to direct that we will insist upon GVN participation in any such second-stage discussion,” and recommended that it be clarified. (Central Intelligence Agency, SAVA (Carver) Files, Job 80–R01720R, GAC Chrono., April 1968–May 1968)