236. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson1

Mr. President:

  • Herewith Harriman's brief account of today's slugfest.
  • We're clearly deadlocked on reciprocity; and we shall see whether:
    • —they stick and test us by seeing how long we can take it, while they try to mount political pressure on us;
    • —or, let some third party suggest a face-saving form of reciprocity.

Their choice will be significant. If they hold—and are in no hurry—it suggests they are content to enjoy peace and quiet down to the 19th parallel and await political events in Saigon and the U.S.

If something turns up on the side in coming days, it suggests they may be in Paris for serious business.

W.W. Rostow2
[Page 677]

Attachment

Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State

14293. Delto 82. From Harrison and Vance. Ref Paris 14240 (Delto 76); State 165857 (Todel 108).3

1.
May 18 meeting opened 10:30 a.m. and ended 2:40 p.m. Thuy asked to speak first and them launched into a diatribe concerning US offenses and crimes against North Viet-Nam, South Viet-Nam, Laos, Cambodia, and humanity. He took two hours fifteen minutes to present all this, beginning and ending with rigid statement that purpose of our meeting was to “determine” cessation of bombing and all other acts of war, and when to take up other matters of interest to both sides.
2.
I opened with notes (Paris 14240), supplemented by a few comments on the inaccuracies of Thuy's statement. I then moved to the details of North Vietnamese military presence in South Viet-Nam, utilizing large part of info contained in State 165857, plus other info concerning the specific NVN regular army units fighting around Saigon. DRV del squirmed visibly during these remarks.
3.
I continued by asking for their response to our proposals on DMZ, Laos and Cambodia, and called upon them to end polemics. I then laid emphasis on the pertinent sentences of the President's March 31 speech, which I stated was the basis for our meeting. I closed by asking again, “What restraints will you take to contribute to peace?”
4.
Thuy said he would reply to the questions which I had put to him. He then responded in brief fashion, not really answering any of my questions. He stated categorically that the first thing which had to be determined was when we were going to stop the bombing and all other acts of war. He said only after fulfilling the requirement of cessation [Page 678]of bombing can other questions be taken up. I asked him to read carefully the sentences of the President's March 31 speech to which I had referred, reiterating the danger to US and allied forces. He said it is the US which has launched attacks on the DRV, and it is up to the US to exercise restraint. He added, “The US cannot ask for evidence of restraint on the part of the DRV.” Since we had hit a head-on disagreement there were a few moments of silence. Thuy then said he had nothing further to say today and suggested we adjourn. He asked when we would like to meet again, and I suggested Wednesday May 22, to which he agreed.4
Harriman
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Harvan Paris Todel-Delto 11, 5/17–24/68. Secret; Nodis; Harvan.
  2. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
  3. Telegram 14240/Delto 76 from Paris, May 17, transmitted the delegation's planned opening remarks. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Harvan Misc. & Memos, Vol. I) These remarks had been redrafted in accordance with instructions transmitted in telegrams 165857 and 165860 to Paris, both May 17. (Ibid., Harvan Paris Todel-Delto 11, 5/17–24/68) According to a notation on a May 17 memorandum from Rostow to the President, the President affirmed Rostow's suggestion that Harriman make a statement noting the “positive propositions” he had made as well as “the areas of potential agreement” that had been indicated. (Ibid.)
  4. Thuy set the tone during the next meeting on May 22 by re-reading his statement of May 18. (Telegrams 14502/Delto 113 and 14503/Delto 114 from Paris, May 22; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, IS/OIS Files: Lot 90 D 345, Paris Peace Conference, Delto Chron.) In Intelligence Note No. 371 sent to Rusk, May 20, Hughes noted: “Throughout this week, the Hanoi regime strove hard for propaganda effect, showed itself more sensitive to U.S. propaganda charges than might have been expected, and tried to back up its Paris team with spectacular military gestures and pressures in South Vietnam.” (Ibid., Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET)