92. Telegram 500 from Geneva1

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500. From Johnson.

Believe following are among considerations in planning our next moves:

Do not believe we should minimize importance CHICOM devotion to “legal forms” in spite their agility in adopting their forms to suit their political needs. It will be seen from today’s meeting as well as previous I have tried hard to leave them a “legal” way out and believe this should be continued.
Also believe they now consider flyer release was probably tactical mistake that has largely backfired on them rather than producing hoped-for results. This has not increased standing Peiping proponents of release of American prisoners.
Possible additional factor is suspicion from our tactics we have been trying trick them into releasing Americans while holding out bait third party representation which we intended find excuses for withdrawing after release accomplished. Our proposal today will have removed any doubts they may have had this regard.

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Believe present tactic can be continued for little while longer particularly at Thursday’s meeting when Wang will have had opportunity receive Peiping reaction our today’s proposal. Now believe we should if possible avoid any prolonged recess which would require public explanation and [Facsimile Page 2] inevitably return problem to public propaganda forum while Americans remained in prison. Therefore believe that I should strive as necessary keep discussion going while continuing maintain my present position.

In order accomplish these purposes and in light today’s discussion, request authorization propose at next meeting amendment first sentence numbered paragraph 1 draft “agreed announcement” (Mytel 463) by insertion phrase “as a result of official action taken in accordance with its governmental processes” following words “and declares that”. Same amendment to be made in paragraph one PRC section.

Would appreciate any other suggestions Department may have in this regard.

I do not anticipate Wang is going to attempt precipitate any “break” in discussions but rather that he will face me with statement they have gone as far as they can go and there is nothing further to talk about under item one.

At that point I perceive no alternative under our present tactic except to propose a recess as suggested in first paragraph Deptel 496. However I believe that to publicly explain the recess I should first propose to Wang we make a simple joint statement somewhat to the effect that two of us have decided that a recess would be helpful in resolving the remaining problems standing in the way of final agreement. I feel we should if possible avoid unilateral public statement along lines suggested Deptel 496 as seems to me this would constitute a public challenge and return problem to propaganda forum.

Dept will observe Wang pressed me hard today on question raised last para Mytel 458 and my efforts avoid direct reply. Would appreciate Dept’s suggestions on what further I might usefully say if as anticipated he continues press me on this.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.93/8–1655. Secret; Limit Distribution.