137. Record of Meeting1

Meeting of the President with President Saragat, Prime Minister Moro, and Foreign Minister Fanfani, Saturday evening, December 23, 1967, at President Saragat’s villa, Castel Porziano

President Saragat had talked privately with President Johnson for about 20 minutes before the meeting started. The following is an account of the more general session. President Saragat opened by expressing his pleasure at the recent wedding in the Johnson family. He said he had met Captain Robb and had thought him a fine soldier. He also took the occasion to wish the President and his family a happy Christmas.

President Johnson expressed his appreciation. Prime Minister Moro then said it was a time to reaffirm the feelings of friendship which were again conveyed on President Saragat’s recent trip to the United States. The President’s current visit indicates American solidarity with Italy and with Europe in general. Europe needs that sense of solidarity and support from the U.S.; and Europe in turn must reciprocate. That is the central point of Italian policy: collaboration between Europe and the U.S. There were, obviously, difficulties in Europe, which saddened and worried the Prime Minister. There were those trying to prevent European unity and trying to make U.S.-European relations more difficult. But Italy and the U.S. must remain loyal to the concept of a unified Europe which worked in intimate collaboration with the U.S. Italy was determined to see the possibility of U.K. entry into Europe not damaged. But Italy doesn’t want to break up what has already been built in Europe. Therefore, he hopes the U.K. will continue to indicate its interest in joining Europe. Italy will maintain a policy of constructive solidarity with both the U.K. and U.S.

President Johnson expressed his satisfaction at the continuity of these enlightened Italian policies, as expressed by President Saragat, Prime Minister Moro, and the whole Italian government. It is a marvel of modern communications that we can exchange views frequently face to face. He almost always found his own views in harmony with those of the Italian government; for example, they were explored in detail in Washington when President Saragat was there. Moreover, the [Page 286] American people are the friends of the Italian people, and want the U.S. Government to work with the Government of Italy. This underlying human feeling has strengthened both governments over the past 20 years. Specifically, the President was pleased with our common support for NATO, which we had reaffirmed at Adenauer’s funeral. He was grateful for the collaboration between the U.S. and Italian monetary authorities. He appreciated Carli’s recent support in the wake of the British devaluation. He was sure that Italy would not regret having supported the U.S. position. When the U.S. was a surplus country, we undertook the responsibility of helping deficit countries. We now look to the surplus countries to help us carry our burdens until we can get into balance. We shall be taking stringent steps in the near future with respect to our balance of payments, notably with respect to investments abroad. By wisely handling our investments, we can begin to turn a deficit into a surplus, which we intend to do. But we do not want to damage the liquidity position of others. We appreciated in the past, and look in the future to continued collaboration of Italy, Netherlands, and others who have been such good partners.

Finally, Vietnam. The tribute of the Asians to Prime Minister Holt was a tribute to the enlightened policy in Asia of white Australia. The growing solidarity of Free Asia was apparent to all of us in Canberra and Melbourne. It is evident that the North Vietnamese and those who support them cannot win in South Vietnam. The problem is how to apply enough pressure to bring about peace without widening the war. In no case will the U.S. withdraw. Less than one out of five in the U.S. supports our doing less than we are now doing. Two out of three want us to do more. The President’s policy is that the war shall not be widened; pressure shall be continued; and we seek negotiations at the earliest possible moment.

All of the countries of the region agree with this policy: from Singapore and Malaysia, through Laos, up to Korea. We have the support of those who live there and who are in the greatest danger.

As for stopping bombing, the San Antonio formula2 is as far as we can go. We are prepared to stop bombing for prompt and productive discussions, assuming that the other side will not take advantage. For two months after August 25 we had a 300-square-mile circle around Hanoi and were in direct communication with Hanoi. On September 10, we made the formula—which Hanoi already knew—public, but the response was flatly negative.

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We shall stop bombing if they stop bombing with hand grenades. But we cannot stop half the war. The Italian government should know that we have intelligence that two North Vietnamese divisions are now moving towards the South. We have stopped bombing five times, and they have responded only by increasing their flow of supplies during the pause.

The President does not believe that Hanoi is prepared to negotiate at this time. But he had noted Pope Paul’s response to the Cardinals,3 and he wished to do everything possible to get discussions started. Perhaps discussions between the government in Saigon and members of the NLF on an informal basis would be the best route.

He wished the Italian government to know that he would take up this matter with Pope Paul and also urge him to see what could be done on behalf of the prisoners and on both sides.4 We are prepared to have the arrangements for prisoners fully inspected on our side.

The President concluded by saying that we are prepared to leave South Vietnam when the aggression ceases and a constitutional government exists based on one man, one vote. This outcome was essential to the creation of a Free Asia, but equally to the maintenance of a Free Europe. If the U.S. were to pull out of South Vietnam, the Europeans would be the first to feel the consequences in the form of diminished security.

W. W. Rostow 5
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, Walt Rostow, Vol. 55. Secret. Prepared on December 27. President Johnson was completing an around-the-world trip that included stops in Australia December 21-22; Thailand, Vietnam, and Pakistan December 22-23; and Italy December 23. He returned to Washington on the morning of December 24.
  2. For text of the President’s September 29 address at San Antonio, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967, Book II, pp. 876-881.
  3. Apparent reference to the Pope’s December 8 statement welcoming announcement of a Christmas truce in Vietnam.
  4. A memorandum of their December 23 conversation is in the Johnson Library, National Security File, International Meetings File, Vatican.
  5. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.