247. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State 1

14709/Delto 154. From Harriman.

I called on Zorin at his Embassy this morning for about an hour’s talk, accompanied by Embassy officer Perry. Young Bogomolov interpreted.2
In reply to my question, Zorin admitted he had instructions to keep in contact with me in accordance with my suggestion to Dobrynin. I said I felt sure Soviet Government wished to see fighting stopped, and therefore I would tell him frankly of our impressions of our conversations to date. I described the futility of across-the-room highly publicized speeches, and Hanoi representative’s refusal of my suggestion to undertake unpublicized discussions. I suggested that he might wish to encourage the NVN delegation to have informal contacts with us through a member of the delegation or staff. He said this was impossible until we stopped bombing.
After some discussion, he asked whether I suggested contacts between one member each of the delegations, or more than one. I replied either, and urged him to think over my suggestion.
He gave me the usual line, handed Stewart by Gromyko.3 I explained in detail that we considered the President’s March 31 speech the basis for our meeting, and rejected the idea that the only reason for meeting was to learn the hour and date of bombing cessation. I said that if this was all, no meeting would have been necessary. I explained our interpretation of the language of Hanoi’s April 3 statement, which proposed “contacts with the view of determining with the American side” etc. I told him we had constantly been ready to talk about the cessation of bombing, but would insist upon discussing at the same time relevant matters on the basis of the President’s speech.
One point of a little less rigidity on his part came when I said we would not insist on an agreement for restraint, that we would accept signs of restraint instead of words. He seemed interested in this and asked whether we had made this clear to the other side. I said yes, but if he thought there was any doubt I would make it clear again on Monday,4 but suggested he might wish to bring this to their attention as well. I explained that unfortunately Hanoi had thus far increased the movement South and the action around the DMZ, rather than shown any signs of restraint. When he refused to pass any messages to NVN representatives as intermediary, I said that I wasn’t asking him to tell me what he was going to do, but that I would assume that in accordance with his instructions he would bring this to the attention of the other side.5
Several times, when he stated Hanoi’s rigid position, I said that if the North Vietnamese maintained that attitude I thought the situation would become dangerous. I made no threats, but emphasized the kind of pressure the President would be under from public opinion, which would complain that Hanoi, while enjoying a limitation of bombing, was not talking seriously or showing restraint.
The best I can say is that Zorin was somewhat less argumentative and at least listened courteously. He will certainly report our talks to Moscow.
  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 2:47 p.m.
  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 246.
  4. May 27.
  5. In 171322 to Paris, May 26, the Department expressed “serious concern” at Harriman’s intention to raise this idea again directly and suggested that instead he focus on the restoration of the DMZ. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, IS/OIS Files: Lot 90 D 345, Paris Peace Conference on Vietnam, 1968–1969, Todel Chron.)