264. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1

29369. Ref: State 177491.2

It is true as Mr. Kosygin states that progress has not been made in talks in Paris but it seems to me important to point out that talks have begun only because of a major concession on our part, namely the halting of bombing over a major part of North Vietnam. Rather than indicating any reciprocal measure of restraint or desire to reduce the level of violence, the DRV to the contrary has continued its attacks against the civilian population of Saigon and other cities of South Vietnam and has taken advantage of the bombing cessation to greatly step up its infiltration of men and materiel through Laos and the DMZ, both of which it is pledged to respect. Can Mr. Kosygin really think it reasonable to expect us to further expose our own forces and those of our allies to greater vulnerability without any indication of a desire for mutual accommodation from the other side other than the vague statement that all other matters could then be considered?
Mr. Kosygin mentions the fact that he has brought to the cognizance of the DRV in response to our request the desirability of establishing unofficial contacts between the delegations. It seems to me this is now where our main effort should be directed. It is hard for me to conceive that progress can be made while talks remain in the public arena in Paris where the give and take and flexibility necessary in any talks or negotiations, called by whatever term, is impossible. It has been my experience, limited though I recognize it to be, that progress is possible only if talks can be carried on privately and secretly between the parties. It seems to me that this is the direction in which Mr. Kosygin’s influence can most helpfully be exerted in the interest of the progress he professes to want, indeed which all of us want. I believe that only in this way can a fruitful exchange of the limits of possibilities be had.
Finally, I believe that to go beyond the concessions we have already made would confirm in the minds of the GVN and the Vietnamese people the apprehension and suspicions of our intention they once held and which have now greatly subsided because of what [Page 767] they see as the firm yet reasonable position we have taken in Paris. Certainly we share with Mr. Kosygin a sincere desire for the restoration of peace in Southeast Asia, a relaxation of tensions, and an end to bloodshed but can he think it unreasonable that the DRV should also make some contribution to this end?
Comment: I have, as you know, believed that there must be some limit to the “taking advantage” of our bombing restriction by the other side, and that we should so indicate to them privately. Whether or not we should intimate to Mr. Kosygin that there is some limit to our patience you are certainly in a better position to judge than I. This question, however, is coming increasingly to the fore in the minds of the Vietnamese and I have contemplated making this the subject of a further message.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET. Secret; Flash; Nodis. Received at 2:59 p.m.
  2. The Department transmitted the text of Kosygin’s letter in telegram 177491 to Saigon, June 6. (Ibid.) This letter is printed as an attachment to Document 262.