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

Mr. President:

The more I see, at this stage, the more I judge Hanoi’s strategy in Paris to be an effort to press the NLF openly into contact with Saigon and the U.S., moving toward de facto recognition of the NLF and a coalition government.

Aside from the attached UPI report (Tab A),2 the Vance-Lau talk on the DMZ said, essentially (Tab B):3

  • —Hanoi will respect the DMZ;
  • —shelling and penetration of the DMZ by the NLF will continue;
  • —the U.S. should get in touch with the NLF about this matter.

Saigon, on the other hand, is willing to talk to the NLF either secretly in Paris or deal with the NLF in Saigon as a dissident element in the South Vietnamese population. But Saigon will resist all efforts to have the NLF role in the South dealt with as an international diplomatic matter—at the table in Paris.

The central issue—and test of will—should come, if this view is correct, over how and when Saigon talks to the NLF.

That, in turn, will depend on how steady our side is in Paris and on:

  • —how fast pacification moves forward on the ground;
  • —how the VC fare in military operations, which are picking up. (Today’s battle west of Danang, with 305 enemy killed versus 4 ARVN, was helpful.)

Once we engage in Paris we may wish to press the Russians to use their influence to encourage secret Saigon-NLF talks and, perhaps, Thieu to open a secret contact—outside of Paris—when the time is ripe.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. VI [1 of 2]. Secret; HARVAN Double Plus. The notation “ps” on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it.
  2. Attached but not printed is a report from United Press International in which Lau labeled a cease-fire as “unrealistic” until after a political settlement and the withdrawal of U.S. forces.
  3. See Document 221.