297. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in France and the Embassy in Vietnam1

202032/Todel 676. Ref: Paris 17843; State 199838.2 Personal for Harriman and Vance from the Secretary.

The President and I believe that certain shades of difference which appear in reference cables could be reduced by a fuller exposition of what is really on our minds.
We see little evidence that the Hanoi delegation is prepared seriously to discuss other factors on which there must be an understanding before there is a complete cessation of the bombing. Their delegation may be awaiting the return of Le Duc Tho, they may be awaiting the results of the new offensive which they clearly seem to be preparing, they may be marking time for political developments in the United States, or they may feel that they are under no pressure to get going. Chairman Kosygin just recently wrote Prime Minister Gandhi pressing the point that we stop all of the bombing before anything else could be done and asked her to press this upon the United States. What the Soviets are doing behind the scenes, we just do not know clearly. There has been no further answer to the President’s message to Kosygin on this subject.
Under these circumstances we are reluctant to make a full and detailed exposition of our views until it is quite clear that Hanoi is prepared to sit down and seriously discuss the problem on a two-way [Page 856] basis. Otherwise, there would be nothing more than a unilateral exposition to someone who is not really listening. It would put Hanoi in a position to make our views public at any time and in such a way as to inject questions of detail into public debate in this country and to stimulate fears and suspicions among the South Vietnamese and other Asian allies.
It seems to me that the question is basically one of timing. I would think that you have plenty to talk about in your Monday private meeting within the framework of State’s 199838. You could begin with a discussion of the concept of the Phase One-Phase Two approach. If they reject this in principle at the outset, this could be pursued at some length on the basis that it is an attempt on our part to meet their problem—namely, to prepare the way for a stopping of the bombing by the United States as a first step. If they seem sufficiently interested as to want a sample of what you are talking about, you could go into the DMZ point in considerable detail. At the same time, you could mention the other topics as a sort of agenda for a further discussion of the Phase One-Phase Two concept. It would of course be of great value if you could elicit from them their thoughts on topics Phase Two would have to take into account.
It seems to me that State’s 199838 gives you plenty of ammunition for your next private meeting, pending Vance’s return on Tuesday3 for further detailed discussion here.
On your specific question as to whether you are authorized by State’s 199838 to put down a complete package, you should not put down what purports to be a complete package until you and we have resolved such questions as the withdrawal of forces by both sides from South Viet-Nam and the broad questions referred to in Paragraph 13. As indicated above, you are authorized to explore the concept of Phase One-Phase Two fully, explore the DMZ in great detail, and indicate more generally the other topics that you would wish to explore further. It seems to me that this is in itself more than you can possibly cover in a single meeting.
“Indiscriminate attacks” certainly include rocketing and shelling of cities and should include other acts primarily designed for terroristic purposes. We think this should ordinarily include mines and explosive devices used for such purposes and certainly could include use of NVA/VC personnel on the ground in indiscriminate attacks primarily for political purposes. You should use above as illustrative in order to probe any DRV reactions. We would like to get as much as we can in this connection.
Military experts here are concerned that prohibition against alteration and composition of military units could raise technical problems for both sides. It appears to give a certainty and security which is more apparent than real since it is possible to attach large numbers of additional troops to existing units. In any event, it is scarcely necessary for you to make this an initial proposal. If they are interested, we can negotiate the details subsequently.
You need not include proposals with respect to complete withdrawal by each government of its forces from SVN. We think it may interest the other side and you may raise it if as a result of your discussions this appears to you useful. The principle is obviously an important one and should be of considerable interest to the North Vietnamese but we leave timing to your discretion. We continue to have under consideration your proposal with respect to token withdrawals and appreciate the argumentation you have provided. We are not, however, persuaded this should be an initial proposal on our part but are wont to believe it should await evidence of their seriousness with respect to Phase One-Phase Two proposal. If there is evidence of willingness to negotiate on this basis we will reconsider your recommendation.
You need not raise the broad matters contained in Paragraph 13 of our Reftel. These are discretionary with you and were intended to be responsive to a point in Zorin’s original suggestions on which you reported he “attached considerable importance” (Paris 17226 7.13 Delto 361).4
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Outgoing)-July 1968. Secret; Priority; Nodis; Harvan; Plus. Drafted by Katzenbach and Rusk, cleared by Rostow and John Walsh (S/S), and approved by Rusk. An analysis of this telegram is in a July 12 memorandum from Rostow to the President. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Harvan Misc. & Memos, Vol. V(b) 7/68) At the end of Rostow’s memorandum, the President wrote: “Vance is cleared for Tuesday return.” Vance returned to Washington on July 16.
  2. In telegram 17843 from Paris, July 11, Harriman and Vance noted: “If we wish to determine whether the North Vietnamese are seriously interested in the formula, we should be prepared if necessary to lay it out for them in full. So that they understand its implications.” They therefore recommended that their instructions “be modified to allow Vance to go as far circumstances warrant to expose Phase 1-Phase 2 proposals.” They wanted to limit the term “indiscriminate attacks” to include only rocketing and shelling of cities but not the use of mines, explosives, and personnel to implement these attacks as the Department wanted. In addition, they proposed a proscription of any alteration of the composition of military units, suggested a “token withdrawal” of troops from each side, and recommended that no set agenda items be listed for the expanded talks. (Ibid.) In telegram 199838 to Paris, July 10, the Department transmitted to the delegation instructions for their private meeting with the North Vietnamese on July 15. (Ibid.)
  3. July 16.
  4. Document 286.