289. Information Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson1

Mr. President:

Herewith outgoing to Vance, as a result of yesterday’s meeting,2 and Vance’s response (Tab A).3

Also attached is a Harriman-Zorin conversation, instigated by the latter (Tab B).4

Sect. Rusk will have a draft outgoing cable for you at lunch—if not earlier.

I have told State I believe it should contain the addition I have inserted on page 2.

But there is a larger issue which we debated amiably yesterday and on which Zorin’s cable bears. The issue is this: on the next occasion, should we merely ask the North Vietnamese if they are prepared to sit [Page 834] down with us to work within the Zorin framework, or should we fill in what we want and are prepared to do in Phase 2?

Yesterday I had suggested the latter; Sect. Rusk suggested that we move more cautiously and simply raise the structure in principle—then proceeding in a private session, if they showed interest, to fill in Phase 2. He argued persuasively that they were probably making critical decisions in Hanoi right now and we should not put in a proposal which might scare them off by being too tough.

Now Zorin tells us: “It was critical that the columns in Phase 2 be filled out in detail. He said without the specific points in Phase 2 the proposal would mean nothing.”

The question that you may wish to decide at lunch is, therefore, whether we proceed promptly to lay before them a Phase 1-Phase 2 proposal of substance.

We should recall that they have already had in the Jorden dinner,5 as well as by way of example in other conversations, what we have in mind: the DMZ; reduced infiltration; no shelling of Saigon; continued reconnaissance. It is just barely possible if we frame the proposal in this way, with familiar items but Phase 2 filled in, we could advance the pace of movement.

At the base of the matter is this judgment: since the biggest development in Paris has been the Soviet willingness to get into the middle of this—beginning with Kosygin’s letter—should we be prepared to take their advice, so long as we could live with the proposal if it is accepted?6

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Meetings with the President, May–December 1968 [2]. Secret; Harvan; Plus. A notation on the memorandum reads: “Lunch item.”
  2. See Document 288. According to notes of the President’s luncheon with Rusk, Clifford, Ball, Wheeler, Taylor, Helms, Rostow, Christian, and Tom Johnson on July 2, Rusk stated: “We had a good meeting yesterday. We should not put forth what Phase II should be yet. Vance and Harriman should press for a private meeting on the subject. Hanoi is up against a major obstacle. Something is stirring on the other side. Still we must know what they would do if we stop bombing. If you approve, we will seek a private meeting on Phase II.” The President replied: “That is fine.” (Johnson Library, Tom Johnson’s Notes of Meetings)
  3. In the attached telegram 194772/Todel 587 to Paris, July 2, the Department informed the delegation that “it would be premature to table a possible second phase package at this point” until a basis of understanding was developed with the DRV. It instructed Vance to state to his counterpart: “We do insist that, before the bombing actually stops, we must have a clear understanding on actions that would follow the second phase.” The telegram added the following sentence: “In the actions to be clearly understood, we can envisage actions on the U.S. side and measures that would be equally applicable to both sides.” Rostow rewrote the sentence as: “In the actions clearly understood, we can envisage actions on the U.S. side, actions on the DRV side, and measures that would involve appropriate actions on both sides.” In telegram 17324/Delto 366 from Paris, July 2, Harriman noted that he and Vance would carry out this instruction at the next tea break. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-July 1968)
  4. In the attached telegram 17332/Delto 369 from Paris, July 2, Harriman and Vance reported on a meeting with Zorin in which the Soviet Ambassador inquired about reaction to his previous suggestion. They replied that while the suggestion remained under study, it was viewed as “a constructive suggestion so long as agreement was reached on both stages beforehand.” The full report of the conversation was transmitted in telegram 17425/Delto 381 from Paris, July 3. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Harvan Paris Todel—Paris Delto VII)
  5. See Document 275.
  6. In telegram 31593 from Saigon, July 2, the Embassy relayed its own ideas of the minimum requirements Hanoi had to meet in order for a full cessation to occur. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-July 1968) In telegram 196665 to Paris and Saigon, July 4, the Department transmitted a tentative proposal to be made to the North Vietnamese in private talks. (Ibid.) In telegram 197553 to Paris and Saigon, July 6, Katzenbach analyzed the similarities and differences in the positions put forth by both the Paris delegation and the Embassy in Saigon. (Ibid.)