208. Telegram From the Embassy in Laos to the Department of State 1

6057. Ref: Vientiane 6055.2

Hurwitch and I called on Chan and Con at 1630, in accordance arrangements reported reftel. Chan apologized for asking us to come to him, but said that he felt press too active at our Embassy. We confirmed to him that Con had been sighted in his visit to us and that we were probably followed to his place in any event.
Chan opened conversation with small talk about our recent visit to Luang Prabang and about other matters of no direct import. In due course, he turned to note which Hurwitch had delivered April 23.3 He said he wished make an observation. That note had spoken of “private discussions” and yet we had in very short order told the world press about the note. This indicated there was a difference between our words and our actions.
I challenged Chan on this point and said that a careful study of what had been said in Washington would indicate that nothing had been said about the contents of the note or even giving precision about the date when it had been delivered. Our spokesmen had merely answered a direct question by admitting that a communication had been passed since the note of April 18.4 I undertook to send him the exact text of what was said. (We will send material from USIS wireless file tomorrow.)
Chan repeated that this was merely an observation and dropped the subject. He then went on to recite one sentence which contained the whole sum and substance of the meeting, to wit: “My government has received your note of April 23 and is studying it.” (This same sentence was repeated verbatim twice again before seance ended.)
We sought to determine whether Chan had any indications about the time frame in which he expected “study” to be completed. He merely repeated his sentence.
Chan then led conversation to his “surprise” that we had turned down Phnom Penh and Warsaw. I returned favor by citing our “astonishment” that they had not replied to Geneva, New Delhi, Rangoon, etc. I pointed out that Geneva was city where I had met so many of his colleagues such as Xuan Thuy and Ha Van Lau. This subject petered out on that general line.
Next he turned to local situation and asked what I thought Lao attitude was. I said that most of their thoughts were turned to possibilities for “honest negotiations” and universal compliance with 1962 Geneva Agreements. This led on to some more tit for tat about Souvanna, U.S. and DRV “assurances” of peace, Ho Chi Minh’s respect for the King, etc. No hits, no runs, no errors, nobody left on base.
We concluded by assuring him that our Embassy was always open and that we were ready to receive a reply at any time. He said he would not fail to let us know.
When he emerged, AP correspondent Goldsmith and local stringer were in driveway, took pictures of handshakes, etc. They then raced us back to Embassy and asked if they could report that “ball was now in U.S. court.” My only comment was that “ball was still in the air.”
Comment: Rather difficult to analyze this whole performance unless it was effort to eschew role of “dog in the manger” and give some impression of action. My spies tell me that Soviets and Poles both visited Chan this morning. There may, therefore, be some pressure from that general direction to keep Hanoi looking active rather than immobile.5
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/CROCODILE. Secret; Flash; Nodis; Crocodile. Received at 6:56 a.m.
  2. Sullivan reported in telegram 6055 from Vientiane, April 25, that a reporter saw two North Vietnamese diplomats coming to the U.S. Embassy in order to arrange the 4:30 p.m. appointment. Sullivan surmised, therefore, that the meeting would be observed by the local press. (Ibid.)
  3. See footnote 3, Document 204.
  4. Document 200.
  5. In telegram 6075 from Vientiane sent eyes only to Vance, April 26, Sullivan noted: “During my conversation with Nguyen Chan yesterday, he asked me what I could tell him about Ambassador Vance. I said you were an old retired undersecretary of Defense with a bad back and a twisted knee, that you had lynched Negroes in Detroit, suppressed Turkish patriots in Cyprus and conspired with warmongers in Korea. Chan seemed gratified. If there is any other good word you would like me to put in for you, pls let me know.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/CROCODILE)