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

259895/Todel 1367. For Harriman from the Secretary.

After the Tuesday luncheon2 I saw Ambassador Dobrynin in order to make two or three comments on Vance’s meetings today with Oberemko. I said that I appreciated the effort which Oberemko was making and expressed the hope that we could bring matters to a successful conclusion.

In commenting on Hanoi’s insistence that we accept the principle of complete and unconditional cessation of bombardment, I pointed out that we had no intention of talking about conditions in anything we said but that for us to accept their language would seem to cancel all of the earlier discussion of the facts of life with which the Russians are familiar. I pointed out that what I was saying was for Russian ears and not necessarily for Hanoi. I added that this was a good example of the difficulty of agreeing on language, texts, communiqués, because such attempts would put the emphasis on differences which ought to be brushed aside in order to grapple with the real substance. For what it is worth, Dobrynin did not raise any objection to what I said.

I emphasized the importance of the timing problem and said that a week’s gap between the cessation of the bombing and a first meeting was simply too long and was unmanageable from our point of view. I reminded him that, for many months, Hanoi has been saying or implying that there could be prompt talks just as soon as we stopped the bombing. On one occasion they used the phrase “the next day.” I pointed out that we would have severe problems in managing our own situation both at home and abroad if there were substantial delay between the cessation and the first talks. Our original position was that the talks should be held “the next day;” we then had made a serious move in extending this period to a possible two or three days. We simply could not move to a week. He gave me a strong argument on this point, asserting that the difference in two or three days should not be that important. He said that if this were a discussion [Page 296] between his and our Governments, he did not believe that Moscow would stick on such a matter but that they were dealing with these strange people in Hanoi. My guess is that he was influenced by the error in his reporting recorded in State 2592613 and by the probability that the Soviets had pressed Hanoi to agree to a week. However, at the end, he made the personal suggestion that we take the first or the second of November as dates for the meeting proposed by Hanoi and count back to say the twenty-eighth or twenty-ninth, whichever date we could counterpropose. To this I merely stated that the sooner this matter is resolved the better and did not give him a reply. We will be in touch with you shortly about the reply you should make to Oberemko or Hanoi.

I then told Dobrynin that some of our press were apparently being told by officers in his Embassy that the Soviets were playing an active and important role on the Viet-Nam matter at the present time and urged him to take steps to stop this kind of talk. He assured me that he was the only member of his Embassy who was aware of our exchanges but that it was possible someone in his Embassy had speculated because of his own disappearances to see me on short notices and at odd hours.

I concluded by telling him that there was some reason to believe that Hanoi might be preparing a major public statement which might break up or expose our recent talks before they reached a final conclusion. I told him it might be useful if the Soviets could advise Hanoi against such a course. He said he would report that but that, if Hanoi was planning to make such a statement tomorrow, time factors would be such as to prevent the Soviets from having much influence.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Outgoing)-October 1968. Secret; Priority; Nodis/HARVAN Double Plus. Drafted and approved by Rusk and cleared by Read.
  2. See Document 104.
  3. Document 98.