283. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in France1

190068/Todel 529. Paris 16928 and 16929.2

We agree that at a tea break you should act on Zorin’s suggestion and probe possibilities of private discussion of two-phase [Page 814]approach to bombing and military de-escalation. You should inquire whether they would be interested in private discussions whereby the US would agree to cease all bombing of the DRV on a day certain to be communicated to them. Before that day, an understanding would be reached on the “circumstances,” i.e., actions on Hanoi’s part toward de-escalation, which would be carried out following upon the cessation.
The main purpose of approach should be to find out whether they are willing to talk in these terms. In this approach, we believe you should avoid specifying the precise “circumstances” we would regard as satisfactory. However, if they show interest and inquire as to what you have in mind, you could indicate that we have already noted the importance of restoration of the DMZ and have expressed our concern (in the terms used by Harriman on June 12) concerning: firing of artillery and other weapons from and across the DMZ into SVN; ground attacks launched in the area of the DMZ; and the massive increase in infiltration that has taken place and continues. Finally we have made clear our concern about the continuing attacks on the civilian population of Saigon. All these points should be mentioned, but in the sense that these are the kind of topics we would visualize discussing in private talks, avoiding the implication that these are our final and irrevocable “circumstances” but simply saying that these are the kind of topics we have in mind.
In your approach, you should avoid the label “Phase A-Phase B.” There have been many formulations in the past to which this label has been attached, and which have been communicated to Hanoi. Some of these have included the possibility of additional US actions—over and above stopping the bombing—at “Phase B.” You should, at least initially, deal with the actions on which understanding would be reached through private talks as wholly those of Hanoi. If they raise the possibility that the US might take additional actions in a second phase, you should state that this is a matter that could be discussed.
Further, you will note that we do not believe that you should, in you initial approach, specify that the “second phase actions” would follow “at an interval”—the phrase used between Zorin and Shriver. We wish to stay fluid on this point as well, while not excluding the possibility. Accordingly, if they should ask whether we envisage a time gap between the stopping of the bombing and the going into effect of the understood actions, you should state that this is another matter that could be considered in the private discussions.
For your own background, we will send you a history of the past formulations to which the label “Phase A-Phase B” has been attached [Page 815]and which have been communicated to Hanoi.3 However, we repeat, it seems to us important to avoid this label so that there will be no confusion as to what we are now proposing.4
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Harvan Paris Todel—Paris Delto VI. Secret; Immediate; Nodis/HARVAN. Drafted by Bundy; cleared by Rostow, Clifford, Harriman, and Read; and approved by Katzenbach. Repeated to Reykjavik for Rusk who was attending the NATO Ministerial meeting, Moscow, and Saigon.
  2. See Document 281 and footnote 4 thereto.
  3. A list of the various U.S. formulations of the Phase A-Phase B proposal was transmitted in telegram 190161 to Paris, June 25. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, IS/OIS Files: Lot 90 D 345, Paris Peace Conference on Vietnam, 1968–1969, Todel Chron.)
  4. Harriman telephoned Vance and informed him that this telegram was on its way. “I feel rather strongly you ought to make engagement yourself and establish your contact; it should have started with you, though I appreciate your man,” Harriman noted. Vance stated that he did not need further guidance. (Notes on Telcon, June 26; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Kennedy-Johnson, Chronological File, May–June 1968)