192. Memorandum of Telephone Conversation Between the Ambassador at Large (Harriman) and Cyrus R. Vance1

V called H to talk about his announcement about accompanying WAH had got to the press, and that he had been in touch with Geo Christian about it, and they had confirmed it, etc.2 Conversation turned to site of contacts:

H—There was a flap this morning about this Warsaw business.

V—I would have liked it myself. It seemed to me fine.

H—The offer was a slap in the face at the Chinese. The Eastern Europeans are frightfully keen to see the war over for the same reasons as the Western Europeans—they don’t want to see a confrontation between the US & the USSR. But the President has decided against it, partly because Bunker was with him this morning and Bunker thought it would create difficulties in Saigon. He was very firm.

V—I think Averell, we are going to get into a real problem if we keep saying “no”.

H—I know. But he made the decision. And that’s that. So we have to—the statement has gone back to them that on reconsideration we thought Asia was probably the right place as they had first thought. That we were quite ready to consider any of the places they had mentioned. Neutral places, where the local people are not committed. This isn’t the language they use. But it ought to be a place where they each have missions so we could have reasonable communications. So we have gone back on that basis. I don’t disagree with you at all. But the boss made the decision.

H—I am afraid it was bad luck. The trouble was that TASS announced it. And the President assumed that Moscow had leaked it. But this was a name correspondent from Hanoi who put it on the air. We can’t very well criticize them for doing that because our correspondents do that all the time. We had it here from Sullivan about the same minute in the Code Room. The President heard it on the air first. That was naturally not very pleasant. And Bunker there, having breakfast, said for God’s sake, “no”. I think Clark, Nick, Bill Bundy, agree with me. I am sorry because I think we need people in place that can help us. But there is logic in this and Nick’s put out a revised statement. I don’t know what they will do. We have accepted the date of the 18th.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Kennedy-Johnson, Chronological/Schedule, April 1968. No classification marking.
  2. Reference is to the announcement that Vance would join Harriman as a member of the negotiating team. See The New York Times, April 11, 1968.