288. Information Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson 1

Mr. President:

We have just completed a meeting of almost two hours on Viet Nam negotiations of just the kind you wished us to have; General Taylor, as well as Secretary Rusk, Clark Clifford, Bill Bundy, etc., were present.2


  • —reviewed where we are in the negotiation, looking back to the beginning;
  • —considered what Averell and Cy should do on Wednesday;3
  • —and looked further down the road.

The consensus was that our negotiators limit themselves on Wednesday to asking, essentially, this question: Are you willing to sit down and discuss in private with us a proposition in which:

  • —we would stop bombing; but before the bombing actually stops we achieved a clear understanding on actions that would follow;
  • —in the actions that would follow we can envisage some that would be applicable to both sides; some to one side; and some to the other;
  • —any time interval between the stopping of the bombing and the package of actions would have to be short;
  • —they would have to understand that aerial reconnaissance must continue after cessation of bombing.

We would tell them that if they were prepared to sit down on this basis we would be prepared at that time to put in concrete proposals.

In short, it was agreed that on Wednesday we would not actually put in concrete proposals, but simply ask them if they are prepared to talk on the basis of this structure which Zorin commended to us.

While we were talking, the attached cable came in to the Secretary from Vance. The general view was that paras. 1–10.A. were on the right track except that we must try to negotiate a delay of less than seven [Page 832] days. Something like 48 hours would be nearer right. There was strong resistance to an early implementation of paras. 10.B. and C. at this time.4 There was considerable discussion of the attacks on urban areas. Secretary Rusk wants them firmly brought into the conditions; Secretary Clifford feels that we can probably do without that assurance, relying on our own military capabilities to keep them from bombing Saigon too heavily.

We are putting our proposition on a quick turnaround to Paris tonight. In the light of what Cy says, we shall present a fairly unified view at lunch tomorrow for your final decision.

W. W. Rostow 5
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, Walt Rostow, Vol. 86. Secret; Harvan.
  2. Notes of this meeting taken by Helms are in Central Intelligence Agency, DCI (Helms) Files, Job 80–B01285A, DCI (Helms) Chrono, 01 Jan-31 July 1968.
  3. July 3.
  4. In the attached telegram 17321 from Paris, July 1, Vance characterized the two phase proposal based upon Zorin’s formula: “In sum, we would propose to present to the North Vietnamese an elaboration of our first suggestion so as to relate North Vietnamese restraints to mutual actions taken in Phase 2, rather than to our bombing cessation in Phase 1.” In order to enact the halt under Phase 1, an understanding on certain actions required in Phase 2 needed to be reached. In paragraph 10 (A), Vance outlined the military actions relating to the DMZ which both sides would take. In paragraph 10 (B), he noted required actions relating to current force levels. In paragraph 10 (C), he noted the actions relating to the withdrawal of troops on both sides.
  5. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.