197. Telegram From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council (Smith)1

Please communicate following to Sec Rusk personally from the President.

President wishes Sec Rusk to see Dobrynin and make points set out below—underlining Soviet interest in responsibility for present exchanges leading to successful negotiations along lines discussion at Camp David.

Same points should be made by Goldberg to U Thant, urging Rangoon again.2

It is now two weeks since the President stopped the bombing of North Vietnam in the area containing 90 percent of the North Vietnamese population and more than three-quarters of the area of North Vietnam.

The President had two purposes in mind in taking this unilateral step.

  • First, it would be matched by a comparable step in deescalating war.
  • Second, it would lead promptly to contacts and negotiations. With respect to the first, our information is that North Vietnamese are engaged in a massive effort to bring additional military forces into South Vietnam.

We must consider whether, in effect, they intend to take advantage of our restraint.

With respect to the second objective, the United States has proffered Geneva—plus Vientiane, Rangoon, Djakarta, and Delhi, four Asian neutral sites—as suitable and appropriate points for initial diplomatic contacts.

Any fair minded observer must judge the sites proposed by Hanoi as not neutral.

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The United States believes it urgent that a neutral site soon be found—convenient and suitable to both parties—preferably in Asia, the region most directly and vitally interested in secure and stable peace in Southeast Asia.3

Signed Rostow

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/CROCODILE. Top Secret. Received at 3:07 p.m.; no dispatch time is indicated. Rostow was with the President on board Air Force One en route to Honolulu. Smith forwarded the message to Rusk under cover of an attached note.
  2. Rusk telephoned Goldberg at 6:48 p.m. to inform him of the President’s request. Notes of the conversation are ibid. Goldberg met with U Thant on April 17; see Document 199.
  3. Rusk met with Dobrynin that evening at 7 p.m. After the meeting, Rusk dictated to Smith a message for the President which reads: “Within minutes after receiving the President’s message I saw Ambassador Dobrynin and made the points suggested by the President almost verbatim. Substantially the same points had been made to Dobrynin earlier by Ambassador Thompson and Ambassador Harriman at my request. Dobrynin was aware that my demarche to him was a direct result of a message which I had just received from the President from Honolulu. Dobrynin made no direct comment except to say that he would relay the message immediately to his government. He asked about other possible sites and I said that other possibilities could of course be considered. I also explained to him the importance of a neutral site where we could have on-the-spot liaison with our allies. He asked if we had made that point to Hanoi and I told him that we had not because we thought it might increase difficulties for Hanoi. He seemed to think that liaison with our allies was a reasonable point and could help Hanoi understand what is in our minds. He told me that he would let me know of any response from Moscow.” (Ibid.)