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

16376/Delto 285. From Harriman and Vance.

We lunched with Zorin June 13. Oberemko present. Bogomolov interpreted with Perry’s assistance.
Zorin first brought up Senator Kennedy’s death and linked this to violence engendered by Viet-Nam war. We explained Palestinian/Arab background of assassin with no indications so far of any accomplices.
We commented on our recent trips to the US, pointing out the widespread public support the President has received since March 31 speech, and expressed concern over rising demands for retaliation on Hanoi for indiscriminate shelling of Saigon.
Zorin brought up his recent talk with Cyrus Eaton, who had told him American public most anxious for early end of war.2 Harriman then asked Zorin whether Eaton had correctly reported Kosygin’s willingness after bombing stopped totally to pitch in and help on question of Viet-Nam and SEA settlement. Zorin replied “If you make that assumption you will not be far wrong.” When Harriman pressed him for specific statement, Zorin said it was “inconvenient” for him to find out precise details. Harriman said that if Kosygin was in fact interested in our ultimate objectives, Zorin could report to him. Harriman explained them by drawing on Manila CommuniquŊ and President’s Johns Hopkins speech.3
We then discussed negotiations in some detail, stating we thought the best way to end deadlock would be to encourage private talks. Zorin tried to argue Hanoi’s contention that air attacks had in fact been increased and total cessation was essential. He stated that he had seen the North Vietnamese [Page 793]delegation on a number of occasions, including private talks with Tho. He summarized their position in four points:
US was the aggressor in sending troops to Vietnam and bombing North and could not expect Hanoi to concede anything in return for total cessation of bombing.
Hanoi could go no further in talks until US had stopped the bombing “or reached an understanding on cessation of bombing.”
Private talks could not begin under present circumstances.
North Vietnamese would be prepared to talk freely about all other outstanding problems once bombing question was settled.
We both emphasized present impasse as a result of Hanoi’s escalation, mentioning attacks on Saigon which posed serious dangers for success of talks.
Harriman then bluntly told Zorin that as we saw it, it was through Moscow’s influence that these talks have started in Paris against Peking’s wishes. If the talks broke up, Moscow’s prestige would suffer to the advantage of Peking. Therefore, Moscow clearly had a stake and should use its influence now to jar situation off dead center. Harriman continued that there were certain points of US, Soviet and Hanoi common interest. One, for example, was a desire to have North Viet-Nam remain free of Chinese domination. Harriman expressed the belief that we could readily agree that North Viet-Nam remain a socialist state with South Viet-Nam neutral and non-aligned, leaving unification of the two for the future to be determined by both. Harriman suggested Soviet Union could play a crucial role in getting the two sides together in a private talk, after dark, in the Soviet Embassy, or elsewhere. Zorin was rigid: no private talks until total cessation of bombing.
In a brief personal talk with Oberemko over coffee, Vance answered his question by assuring him that the US was serious in desiring a peaceful settlement. Oberemko, however, stated frankly he could not say whether there would be any military restraint on Hanoi’s part if we stopped the bombing completely.
The entire conversation, though friendly, was rigid. Zorin is quite obviously so cautious that he is not the most satisfactory man to deal through.4
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, IS/OIS Files: Lot 90 D 345, Paris Conference on Vietnam, 1968–1969, Delto Chron. Secret; Immediate; Nodis/Harvan. Received at 3:37 p.m.
  2. In telegram 16058 from Paris, June 11, Harriman summarized the following message from Kosygin relayed by industrialist Cyrus Eaton: “That the Soviet Union wanted to see a peaceful solution in Viet Nam, that he would do ‘everything in his power’ to get a settlement on the broader issues but that the United States should show flexibility on the lesser matters that influenced public opinion but which were not in the long run significant. Under this latter heading it was clear that Kosygin included stopping of all bombing of North Viet Nam.” (Ibid., A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-June)
  3. For the October 25, 1966, Manila CommuniquŊ, which stated that U.S. and allied withdrawal would occur 6 months after the complete withdrawal of North Vietnamese forces from the South, see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. IV, Document 281. In the President’s April 7, 1965, speech at Johns Hopkins University, he offered a billion dollar redevelopment plan for the Mekong Delta; see ibid., vol. II, Document 245.
  4. In telegram 184205 to Saigon, June 15, Rusk discussed his unfruitful meeting with Kuznetsov the previous day. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, IS/OIS Files: Lot 90 D 345, Paris Peace Conference on Vietnam, 1968–1969, Todel Chron.)