8. Telegram From the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Bundy) to President Johnson in Texas1
CAP 80264. Secretary Rusk and Secretary McNamara recommend that you now arrange to see the Romanian representative in order to deliver to him the written and oral messages below. These messages have the full concurrence of Walt Rostow, Nick Katzenbach, and myself, and were drafted in extensive consultation with Governor Harriman.
If you approve these texts, the Secretaries recommend that you select a member of your staff to work out with Walt or me an absolutely secure means of flying the representative to the Ranch and return, for an appointment at a time designated by you. The representative must have his interpreter and his personal aide and note-taker as well; these two persons are important to enable him to give us and Hanoi what have seemed to us all extremely clear, full, and accurate accounts of what is said. It is also recommended that Governor Harriman act as escort with his aide, Daniel Davidson, who has taken all the notes on our side. We believe it essential that a full record of the conversation be made.
Governor Harriman and Davidson could see you before the actual meeting to give you any further background you may desire. However, we believe the proposed texts speak for themselves.
In our meeting tonight, it was the feeling that Bunker should be given a summary of the Romanian messages and these texts, for his own personal information and not for revealing to Thieu.2 We expect to send another message to Bunker on what he can say to Thieu to ease the tense atmosphere in Saigon, and also a very short statement to the Manila allies—to the effect that, as Secretary Rusk said in his press conference, we are exploring the meaning of the Trinh statement and how it relates to your San Antonio formula, we have no information as yet, but will be in touch with them when and if there is any useful light.
The Romanians should communicate the following written message (in English and French texts) to the DRV: [Page 19]
The DRV has communicated to the USG this statement of DRV position:
“If the USG really wants discussions with the Government of the DRV it should first unconditionally cease bombing and any other acts of war against the DRV. After the unconditional cessation of all bombing and of any other US act of war against the DRV and at the end of an appropriate period of time the Government of the DRV will enter into serious discussions with the USG.”
The USG welcomes this statement.
- We understand that Foreign Minister Trinh has stated that “as soon as” all bombing ceases, the DRV “shall be prepared to receive” a U.S. representative. The USG will be prepared to have its representative have contacts with a representative of the DRV as soon as all bombing ceases. (The USG believes that the first contacts should take place almost immediately, perhaps one or two days after the cessation of bombing.) The purpose of these “contacts,” which might be in Vientiane, Rangoon, Bucharest, or some other suitable third-country location, would be to fix the time and place of serious discussions referred to by the DRV. Arrangement of the necessary modalities for the serious discussions should take no more than a few days.3
- The USG takes note of the fact that a cessation of aerial and naval bombardment is easily verifiable. In fact, the act of cessation would be observed immediately internationally and become a matter of public knowledge and speculation. In these circumstances, the USG believes that the “serious discussions” referred to by the DRV should commence immediately on the conclusion of the arrangements through the contacts.
- Obviously it will be important at an appropriate time, in connection with the serious discussions, to accommodate the interests of all parties directly concerned with the peace of Southeast Asia. One such means is that the DRV and the USG might suggest to the two co-chairmen, [Page 20] and possibly to the three ICC members, that they be available at the site chosen for the serious discussions in order to talk to all parties interested in the peace of Southeast Asia. This procedure could avoid the problems of a formal conference.
- The USG understands through representatives of the Romanian Government that the serious discussions contemplated by the DRV would be without limitation as to the matters to be raised by either side. The attitude of the USG toward peace in Southeast Asia continues to be reflected in the 14 Points and in the Manila Communiqué.
The USG draws attention to the statement of President Johnson in San Antonio on September 29 in which he said:
“The United States is willing to stop all aerial and naval bombardment of North Viet-Nam when this will lead promptly to productive discussions. We, of course, assume that while discussions proceed, North Viet-Nam would not take advantage of the bombing cessation or limitation.”
The Aide-Mémoire handed to the Romanian Government in November, 1967, which we understand was communicated to the DRV in mid-December, explained this statement in the following language:
“The President, in making his assumption that the North Vietnamese would not take advantage of the bombing cessation or limitation while discussions proceed, was not assuming North Viet-Nam would cut off entirely its support of its forces in the South while the armed struggle was continuing; at the same time the USG would feel if NVN sought to take advantage of the bombing cessation or limitation to increase its support of its forces in the South, to attack our forces from North of the DMZ or to mount large-scale visible resupply efforts, now impossible, it would not be acting in good faith.”
The USG wishes to confirm to the DRV that this statement remains the position of the USG.
- The USG would inform the DRV in advance of the exact date of the cessation of aerial and naval bombardment in order to enable the DRV to have its representative prepared to meet the representative of the USG.
End of Written Message
The following points would be made orally to the Romanian representative:
- The Romanian representative should be thanked for his efforts and told that we are confident that he has fully and faithfully reported the positions of both sides in these matters. We are grateful for this action and have confidence that he will continue to do so.
- He should understand that the first sentence of paragraph 4 in the written message is intended to refer to the importance of the South Vietnamese Government and other interested parties being present at the site of the discussions in order to play an appropriate role.
- The USG wishes to avoid any misunderstanding also with respect to any allegations which may be made concerning specific military actions by the USG against the DRV prior to cessation. In deference to the serious intent and sincere objectives of the mission of the Romanian Government, the USG will refrain for a limited period of time from bombing within 5 miles of the center of Hanoi or of Haiphong. This information is for the Romanian Government only. The USG states this as a fact and not as a commitment as to the future, but the USG would not wish the DRV to be informed of this fact for fear that, as in the past, it could be misinterpreted by them.
- The USG awaits with interest the report of the Romanians, after consulting Hanoi, on the foregoing written and oral points.
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, PACKERS (II) Continued. Top Secret; Nodis; Packers. Received at 0408Z at the LBJ Ranch.↩
- Bunker was authorized to do so in telegram 98130 to Saigon, January 12. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/PACKERS)↩
- In a January 8 memorandum to Rusk, Harriman described a meeting that day among himself, Bundy, Davidson, and the Romanians exploring what they had been told on the issue of talks following a halt: “Macovescu explained that it was his impression there could be preliminary contacts through diplomatic representatives to exchange points of view and then after an appropriate period of time official meetings to prepare for negotiations. In other words, he visualized the possibility of three stages: contacts, official talks and then negotiations.” (Ibid.) A full report on this conversation is in a memorandum of conversation, January 8. (Ibid.) In a January 9 memorandum to Katzenbach, Harriman wrote: “I’ve been surprised that a number of people have assumed that Hanoi would insist on having the talks Secret. For my part, I don’t see how it would be possible to keep any talks ‘secret’ after bombing has stopped. It seems to me the sensible thing to do is to pick a place such as Rangoon or Bucharest, where the presence of international press is limited. Should there be contacts prior to the talks, the possibility of which was suggested by Mr. M.[acovescu], I assume these would be secret.” (Ibid.)↩