62. Telegram From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson in Texas1

CAP 82546. Herewith the lucid, firm Bunker-Abrams response.2

General Abrams and I interpret the exchange with Hanoi at the eleventh private meeting as a fairly clear indication that Hanoi is ready for a tactical shift from the battlefield to the conference table.
We concur in the instruction to Harriman and Vance, and believe Hanoi will give indications that it finds para one “acceptable,” and paras two and three “understandable.” We would regard such a response as meeting our essential requirements for a cessation of the bombing.
We welcome the assurance that Thieu and other key allies will be consulted.
I believe that Thieu will find the instructions acceptable, despite the fact that he has been under some pressure from the hardliners to toughen his stand on negotiations. His main concern, I think, will be that he will see this as the precursor to an early cease-fire, which he would prefer to put off as long as possible.3
We believe that Thieu must be given time to inform VP Ky, PriMin Huong, MinDefense and possibly one or two others, shortly before our action becomes known, so that their full cooperation will be enlisted. If they first hear news from public sources it would arouse suspicion, certainly in Ky and others.
Our further comments on significance of Hanoi’s position at October 11 private meeting, and why it looks from here as though Hanoi is at last ready to move to the conference table, are in a separate message.4
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, HARVAN/Double Plus, Vol. I. Secret; Sensitive; Literally Eyes Only. Received at 1438Z at the LBJ Ranch, where Johnson stayed October 11-13.
  2. In telegram 254364 to Saigon, October 11, the Department requested comment from Bunker and Abrams on proposed instructions to Harriman and Vance. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Outgoing)-October 1968) For the instruction as sent, see Document 65.
  3. See Document 64.
  4. See Document 66.