3. Notes of Meeting1

The President: Tell us about our meeting in Paris.

Secretary Rusk: It was standard. There was not much progress. North Vietnam blasted American politics. But the tea break produced an agreement for a Saturday meeting—a private talk.2 We might press Hanoi for a response on something, to tell us what parts they can agree to. I believe we are at a real watershed here. If North Vietnam takes the DMZ, it means the jig is up for them in South Vietnam. The same applies to us if we stop the bombing without reciprocal action. It is important that we make no public move until Saturday.3

The President: What is the military situation?

Secretary Clifford: There is more activity, but we Don’t know whether this is the third offensive. The attacks are not coming off very well. It may be Abrams spoiling the operations. I heard about a plan to assassinate General Abrams because he has been so successful.

Their losses are substantial. Their actions Don’t seem to have much plan or program.

General Wheeler: I asked General Abrams to increase his personal security arrangements—and also that of his staff and Ambassador Bunker. I agree with General Abrams that the enemy has been trying to mount an offensive, without success.

[Omitted here is discussion of East Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, the Pueblo crisis, and Australia.]

Walt Rostow: On the Saturday meeting, it is important that we decide the minimum conditions for a bombing halt. We’ve listed many [Page 10] things but kept it flexible. It is conceivable Ambassador Harriman should have it in his pocket.

Secretary Rusk: I’d be inclined not to give this to Harriman Saturday, but find out what Hanoi will propose. Their willingness to talk to Saigon and the DMZ would be the gut.

[Omitted here is additional discussion of East Asia and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.]

Walt Rostow: A cease-fire format might be the easiest way to reach contact with the Government of North Vietnam about a willingness to talk about the details of a cease-fire plan.

[Omitted here is discussion of unrelated matters.]

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Meeting Notes File. Top Secret. Drafted by Christian. The meeting was a regular Tuesday Luncheon. Attending were the President, Rusk, Clifford, Helms, Wheeler, Taylor, Rostow, and Christian. (Ibid., President’s Daily Diary) An agenda for this meeting prepared by Read is in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, S/S Files: Lot 74 D 164, Presidential Luncheon Memoranda.
  2. At the tea break during the formal session on September 4, Tho and Thuy agreed to meet privately with Harriman and Vance 3 days later. (Telegrams 20340/Delto 668 and 20347/Delto 689 from Paris, both September 4; ibid., A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-September 1968) In a telephone conversation with Read that day, Harriman suggested that Tho had considered the upcoming private meeting as an indication of goodwill on the part of the North Vietnamese, noting that “there were just little hints around at the tea break conversations that they realized what they would have to do.” (Notes of Telephone Conversation between Read and Harriman, September 4; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Kennedy-Johnson, Subject File, Read, Benjamin H.)
  3. For the meeting on September 7, see Document 7.