240. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State1

14365. Delto 100. Subject: Meeting with Soviet Ambassador Zorin.2

After considerable squirming in an effort to induce Governor Harriman over to Soviet Embassy, Ambassador Zorin (accompanied by [Page 689] First Secretary Bogomolov) finally came to lunch May 19 with Governor Harriman and Ambassador Shriver at latter’s residence. Zorin was cordial enough in his own stiff way, but as expected he kept himself within the strict limits of Soviet public position, and consequently nothing resulted from meeting on matters of substance.
Governor Harriman set forth the US position, emphasizing the important unilateral step taken by the President in his speech of March 31st, and explaining that US could go no further without some indications of restraint by Hanoi. He noted our disappointment that rather than restraint, Hanoi had increased flow of troops and material to the South. He said that meeting in Paris resulted from the President’s initiative and was based on Hanoi’s acceptance of the President’s statement in March 31 speech. Instead of discussing substance of what would be necessary to permit the US to stop the bombing completely, Hanoi representatives were simply using the meeting to make propaganda.
Zorin’s reply, repeated throughout conversation with little variation, was that North Vietnamese position was clear (and was supported by USSR): no further steps could be taken or even discussed until US unconditionally stopped bombings of DRV. North Vietnamese came to Paris not on basis of the President’s March 31st speech, but on basis their own declaration of April 3rd;3 they were not bombing US, US was bombing them, and nothing could be done until this stopped. Harriman disputed this and pointed out that even in Hanoi’s April 3 statement and others since, Hanoi had indicated each time that they expected some discussions prior to a decision by US to stop bombing completely.
Zorin was not responsive to any suggestions made by Governor Harriman and Ambassador Shriver to get talks out of current impasse. When Governor Harriman suggested possibility of private informal meeting with North Vietnamese, perhaps with Soviets present, Zorin said anything like that was “far off.” Ambassador Shriver said rather than some formal agreement, perhaps one could envisage private understandings, maybe even some informal listing of steps that might be taken as first measures; what was fundamental was that in order to stop bombing US had to have some view of road ahead. Zorin merely replied that “US should be under no illusions,” that whatever the forum, Hanoi would not move ahead until bombing stopped. In repeating this he added at one point that he did not believe that unless bombing was stopped Hanoi would make any moves before US elections.
In response to this, Governor Harriman emphasized that if Hanoi did not show some restraint, US as a military necessity could not continue [Page 690] bombing restraint indefinitely and might have to resume unlimited bombing again and perhaps other measures. (This was stated not as threat but as a consequence that might follow from Hanoi’s continued delays.)
Recalling that Kosygin had assured him the USSR wanted to see fighting stopped in Vietnam, Governor Harriman spoke of USSR’s influence in Hanoi and emphasized role USSR could play in helping talks out of current impasse in direction of settlement. To this end Governor Harriman said he wished to have frank dealings with Zorin and others in Soviet Embassy, and was prepared to call on Soviet Ambassador at his Embassy at a later stage, particularly as American Embassy was surrounded by press. While conceding nothing on substance and reiterating that unconditional US bombing cessation was essential first step, Zorin agreed emphatically that contacts should continue, both through himself and also through Soviet Minister Oberemko and Bogomolov with others from US side.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, IS/OIS Files: Lot 90 D 345, Paris Peace Conference on Vietnam, 1968–1969, Delto Chron. Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Harvan. Received at 3:15 p.m. and repeated to Moscow.
  2. A memorandum of this conversation is in the Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Kennedy-Johnson, Paris Peace Talks, Subject File, HARVAN and HARVAN/PLUS, Meetings with the Soviets: Zorin-Oberemko.
  3. See Document 175.