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

206932. Eyes only for Harriman and Vance from the Secretary. Despite one or two elliptical efforts by Hanoi representatives to suggest that they have de-escalated the fighting on the ground, I believe that we should maintain the public position expressed in the Honolulu communique while continuing private explorations. In the first place, we would look and be silly if we proceeded on the theory that the other side had made a political decision to de-escalate the violence only to find ourselves confronted with new and major attacks which are now in prospect. Only yesterday there were serious bombing incidents in Saigon and the enemy forces in the Saigon area are only twenty-four hours away. Perhaps even more important, if we were to acknowledge, without any assurances from Hanoi, that the present somewhat lower scale of fighting results from Hanoi’s “de-escalation,” many soft-headed people would take that as a sufficient answer to the President’s March 31 speech and call upon us to take another major step of unilateral de-escalation such as a non-reciprocal ending of the bombing.

The purpose of this message is not to foreclose any options whatever but simply to suggest that we not box ourselves in by accepting the present lull as a response to the March 31 speech. I would of course be glad to have any comments you wish to make.2

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-July 1968. Secret; Priority; Nodis; HARVAN; Plus. Drafted and approved by Rusk and cleared by Alan Parker of S/S.
  2. In replying, in telegram 18337 from Paris, Harriman and Vance wrote: “In short, we fully agree it is important not to box ourselves in by either accepting or rejecting the present lull as a response related to the March 31 speech. Consequently, we believe we must continue to examine carefully the pattern and meaning of actions in South Vietnam.” (Ibid.)