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

17409/Delto 377. From Harriman and Vance. Subj: Tea break—11th session, July 3.

Tea break lasted for about 45 minutes.
Xuan Thuy and Lau met with us in a new room. Vy sat with Habib and Seignious. Bo and Le sat with Jorden and Kaplan. Hieu and two others sat with Holbrooke.
After Thuy’s polite inquiry about wedding, I said I understood some talks took place while I was gone, and asked Thuy how he felt about them. Thuy said he had heard what took place at the meetings between Le and Jorden and Lau and Vance. He said he felt there was nothing new in these conversations. I said I felt there had been something new and that this should be explored in depth. I added that we do have certain new ideas which we would like to talk over. Thuy said he didn’t think there was anything new—if it was new it was new in form and not in substance. Vance said he felt what we said the other night was new and the variation to which Governor Harriman had referred was new, but Thuy and Lau would have to judge for themselves after further discussion. We said we felt it best to arrange a second meeting between Vance and Lau outside Majestic. Thuy nodded affirmatively and Vance suggested that he and Lau arrange a mutually convenient date—perhaps Friday. We said the place we used last time was satisfactory and suitable for future conversations. Lau replied “Let us consider the date.”
I then remarked that I had heard that Le Duc Tho had gone to Hanoi, stopping for talks in Moscow and Peking. I asked when he would return to Paris. Thuy said he would be in Hanoi for some time.
Thuy then said he felt meeting the other day was just a meeting for meeting’s sake. Vance said he did not agree and that constructive [Page 838] proposals were put forward by us in an attempt to make progress. Thuy said “How? I am afraid they will lead us into deeper impasse.” Vance said, “I hope not.”
I then asked whether there was any significance to the fact that Saigon had not been shelled in past two weeks.2 Thuy replied “It must have as now we have released prisoners. I think this is understandable to you.” I asked if the two actions had the same significance and whether no shelling of Saigon would continue. Thuy replied “The rockets have stopped. What is your attitude?” I asked whether this was for political or military reasons. Thuy replied that it was hard to answer. He then said he must point out B–52 bombing around DMZ and Saigon. He said bombing around DMZ was of unprecedented intensity. Lau interjected “75 planes in and just north of DMZ.” I stated bombing at DMZ was to counter NVA build-up. I then said if DRV intended to reduce military action around Saigon and DMZ that they should say so clearly.
Thuy said that means we can’t settle this question because it returns to the principle of reciprocity. He said if we linger in this spot we will never solve this problem.3
Thuy said he agreed Vance and Lau should meet, but that they should think over carefully what they are going to say. Thuy said we know each other’s position and now should go into ways of settling unconditional cessation of bombing.
I then said I wanted to express thanks for release of three pilots. I said the last time we released three North Vietnamese seamen and asked whether they would rather have more seamen released or some North Vietnamese officers. Thuy repeated in several different forms that release of pilots was not an exchange of POWs, and that DRV demanded return of their seamen who were illegally seized in DRV territorial waters. I replied I was not suggesting a POW exchange but was thinking about a reciprocal gesture that might be made by the U.S. Thuy declined further comment.
In conversation with Habib and Seignious, Vy said the North Vietnamese wanted very much to have peace. War was of no value to either side. Habib remarked that the private meeting between Ambassadors Vance and Lau, at which Vy was present, was a successful [Page 839] beginning for the kind of private discussion which we found useful. Vy said that they had found the Lau-Vance talks “very interesting.” He agreed that it was desirable to continue the private talks. They were, however, looking for “something new” from us.
Vy said they would be interested in hearing more of the “contents” of what we propose. Habib said there was a good deal more to discuss and in a continuation of the private talks greater precision and presentation of details would be possible. Vy asked Habib to tell him what this would involve. Habib replied that such matters were worthy of discussion and precise presentation and that under the proper conditions of private talks this could be done. Vy said “we are waiting to hear from you” and added that they would honor the secret nature of the private talks. Habib replied that we were ready to talk further at any time and that he presumed that Governor Harriman was making this clear to Minister Thuy. The rest of this conversation was of a nonsubstantive nature.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Harvan Paris Todel—Paris Delto VII. Secret; Flash; Nodis; Harvan; Plus. Received at 10:52 a.m. In an undated covering note to the President, Smith noted: “Harriman and Vance report on today’s Tea Break exchange. Hanoi is linking halt in shelling of Saigon and release of three U.S. prisoners to our B–52 strikes north of the DMZ. North Vietnamese agreed to another private talk, possibly Friday.” Additional discussion of the tea break is in telegram 17455/Delto 392 from Paris, July 3. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, IS/OIS Files: Lot 90 D 345, Paris Peace Conference on Vietnam, 1968–1969, Delto Chron.) Reports on the July 3 formal session are in telegrams 17406/Delto 346 and 17408/Delto 376, both July 3. (Ibid.) Jorden’s notes of this session are in the Johnson Library, William Jorden Papers, WJJ Notes.
  2. The VC had not shelled Saigon since June 18 and no South Vietnamese city had been shelled since June 21. However, B–52 bombardment of the area north of the DMZ and south of the 19th parallel, halted since May 9, had resumed on July 1.
  3. Norwegian Ambassador to the PRC Ole Algard reported DRV Ambassador to the PRC Ngo Minh Loan’s statement during a meeting in Peking that the DRV was prepared to enact measures of restraint in return for a complete bombing cessation and that “several of proposals which were set forth by Harriman in this connection will be further considered.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/OHIO)