271. Paper Prepared in the Department of State1

BALANCE SHEET ON PARIS TALKS

1. Gains.

a)
In terms of US and world opinion, we have gained widespread approval for our unilateral action of de-escalation which brought about [Page 787]the talks. Our proposals for restraint and de-escalation (DMZ restoration, respect for 1962 Laos Agreement, respect for Cambodia’s neutrality and territorial integrity) have generally been regarded as constructive, as has our proposal to limit polemical exchanges.
b)
We have focussed on the fantasy of Hanoi’s denial that they have troops in the South, and have made public an impressive body of detailed evidence of Hanoi’s violation of the DMZ and direct North Vietnamese intervention in both South Viet-Nam and Laos. In turn, Hanoi has sought to develop a rationale justifying North Vietnamese presence in the South (the “right” of all Vietnamese to attack the enemy wherever he is), while still refusing to admit that this constitutes aggression. These new formulations, however, may lay the groundwork for eventual withdrawals.
c)
In terms of making substantive progress on discussing matters related to the bombing cessation, we have made no visible headway. Our efforts to arrange private talks or at least limit polemics have been rebuffed. Nevertheless, the dialogue has begun, and may be developing more give and take.2 We have set forth our position on matching restraints in specific, realistic terms, and have indicated readiness to accept flexible language on “acknowledging responsibility” for cessation of bombing if that would lead to prompt agreement on matters related to cessation. We have warned Hanoi that the attacks on Saigon are not conducive to progress in Paris.
d)
Hanoi’s decision to send Politburo member Le Duc Tho to join the North Vietnamese Delegation cannot yet be assessed. At a minimum, it signifies Hanoi’s interest in avoiding any early break-off, and at a maximum may portend some greater seriousness in Paris.

2. Losses

a)
In terms of our relations with the GVN, our principal loss has been the unsettling effect of the talks in Saigon, at a time when the enemy is intensifying mortar and rocket attacks on the city and continuing heavy infiltration. Demands for retaliation, or for breaking off the talks, are being heard with greater urgency in responsible Government and legislative circles.
b)
In terms of US public opinion, impatience with apparent deadlock in Paris and continued heavy US casualties in South Viet-Nam may reopen public debates and lead to demands for all-out action against the North.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET. Secret. In an attached memorandum transmitting a copy of the paper to Rostow, June 12, Read wrote: “In response to your request, I attach a brief balance sheet on the Paris talks to date.”
  2. During the tea break at the eighth session on June 12, Harriman and Vance broached with Thuy and Tho the idea of secret talks outside of the formal venue. (Telegrams 16113/Delto 268 and 16137/Delto 271, June 12; ibid., IS/OIS Files: Lot 90 D 345, Paris Peace Conference on Vietnam, 1968–1969, Delto Chron.)