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

19703/Delto 635. From Harriman and Vance.

Today’s tea break, although short, was one of the most interesting we have had. Thuy, Tho and Lau sat with us.
After some light conversation, we touched on the Czech situation and Tho observed that each country has its own way of settling its problems.
Tho said that the Viet-Nam problem must be solved by us here. We replied that we agreed.
We remarked that we wished to apologize for accusing Thuy of making no constructive proposals. We said he had made one constructive proposal—that we meet only once a week. After good-natured laughter by Tho, et al., we said we hoped in the future there would be reason to meet more frequently. Governor Harriman said as he had mentioned previously we would like to invite Tho and Thuy to have a meal or private meeting with us at any time.
Thuy replied that he had said to us both that it is normal to have both private and plenary meetings, but it is results which count. Thuy [Page 964] said Lau had told him about Lau/Vance meetings and Thuy’s preliminary analysis is that we have offered nothing new toward peaceful settlement.
Thuy stated that we had said that the DRV offered no constructive proposals. The DRV has made its proposal on cessation of bombing, which is realistic and it has not been realized. Thuy said we had suggested today more private meetings and Thuy would like more time to study what Vance had said in private meetings and hoped we would study what they had said.
We remarked that although nothing tangible had come of Lau/Vance talks, we thought the talks were useful.2

Tho said that comrade Thuy had expressed his views of private talks suggested by Harriman. However, he would like to think it over and let us know his answer in due course. Tho commented that any negotiation includes both official and private meetings. The important thing, however, is that one should come to the conversations with good will and seriousness. That is the only way to get results.

Comment: We both felt that Tho took over conversation at this point as Thuy was being too negative.

Tho added that Thuy and he had stated repeatedly that the DRV came to Paris with serious intent and good will. Tho said their demand for cessation of bombing was serious and only after that could we settle other questions.
We said we were glad to hear their views on private talks. On cessation of bombing, President Johnson had stated our position and you have stated your position. We said, as we previously had said, it is the function of negotiators to discuss these matters frankly to see if the roadblocks can be removed.
Thuy replied that roadblocks can be removed but bombing destroys the road and the traffic can’t move because the cars fall in the hole. We replied bombing only makes holes in the road but doesn’t build roadblock that we here must remove. Thuy smiled and repeated that cars fall in the holes created by the bombing.
The atmosphere of the conversation was relaxed. Tho was more forthcoming than Thuy.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-August 1968. Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Harvan; Plus. Received at 10:26 a.m. The delegation’s reports on the 18th formal session are in telegrams 19705/Delto 636 and 19708/Delto 637 from Paris, both August 21. (Ibid.)
  2. In telegram 19629/Delto 627 from Paris, August 19, Vance reported on his fourth private meeting with Lau, which occurred that day. Lau noted that he would not discuss details of the Phase 1-Phase 2 peace proposal until the bombing ceased unconditionally and he rejected GVN participation in the substantive talks. He did, however, want Vance to report on his recent meetings in Washington. Vance informed him that “the President wants to know what would happen if all bombing stopped” and that other American leaders shared similar concerns. Lau did note that negotiations on Phase 2 and other matters would move forward after the complete bombing halt. (Ibid.)