230. Editorial Note

The first plenary meeting of the official conversations between the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) and the United States began at 10:30 a.m. on May 13, 1968, in the International Conference Hall of the Hotel Majestic. Xuan Thuy, the chief negotiator for the DRV, set the tone for the 3-hour session in his opening statement, a hard-line presentation of his side’s objectives. He insisted that the talks were to be aimed solely at compelling the United States to terminate its remaining bombing over the territory of the DRV. Discussion of other questions would begin only after that. Thuy also related the long history of “U.S. aggression” against his nation.

At the conclusion of the North Vietnamese statement, W. Averell Harriman, the head of the U.S. delegation, noted his rejection of and disagreement with various points in the statement. Harriman then read his prepared statement. He described the U.S. objective in the Vietnam conflict as an effort “to preserve the right of the South Vietnamese people to determine their own future without outside interference or coercion.” He in turn charged that it was the DRV which had continued its aggression with attacks subsequent to President Johnson’s speech of March 31. He reiterated the long-held position of the U.S. Government that some form of reciprocal restraint was required from the DRV, and suggested the restoration of the demilitarized zone as an initial “test of good faith.” He also emphasized that a restoration of the Geneva Accords of 1954, in conjunction with honoring the Geneva Accords of 1962, would provide the best means for peace in Vietnam.

Thuy responded that Harriman’s statement contained no new elements and again repeated his earlier critique of U.S. policy. The DRV delegation’s suggestion to have the next meeting 2 days later was accepted. Telegrams 13926, 13936, and 13963 from Paris, May 13, reported on the meeting. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, [Page 660] IS/OIS Files: Lot 90 D 345, Paris Peace Conference, Delto Chron.) Harriman and Vance’s telegrams reporting on the meetings are also in the Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Harvan Paris Todel-Delto. Other collections of HARVAN telegrams are in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Outgoing) and HARVAN-(Incoming), and ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSCFiles, Paris Talks/Meetings, HARVAN Cables.

Biweekly meetings began with the second meeting on May 15; beginning in June, the meetings were held on a weekly basis. These public sessions quickly devolved into polemics and thus became opportunities to chastise the other side. Although continuing for nearly the next 5 years, the meetings at the Majestic provided little more than a forum for propaganda and public posturing and soon lost their significance in terms of the diplomatic evolution of the Paris talks. In addition to the record of the formal negotiations as reported in the cable traffic from Paris cited above, the summary records and complete transcripts of the official conversations are ibid., RG 59, EA Files: Lot 71 D 10; see also Paul Kesaris, ed., Transcripts and Files of the Paris Peace Talks on Vietnam, 1968–1973, Reels 1–2 (Frederick, Md.: University Publications of America, 1982). Delegation member William Jorden’s notes of these meetings are in the Johnson Library, William J. Jorden Papers, WJJ Notes, Paris Meetings.