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

260480/Todel 1371. For Harriman and Vance.

As background to your meeting with Thuy, you should bear in mind the following points which are fundamental in Washington:

We are entering the climax of a Presidential campaign year. If and when you achieve an agreement in principle along the lines of the instruction which follows, the President will have to make sure he has firm civilian and military support for the step we are prepared to take; there will be political leaders to be talked to; there will be candidates who must be informed. The candidates will be scattered about the country. It may take as much time to go through this process as it may take the other side to bring NLF representatives from Tay Ninh province.
Before you give the other side even tentative approval to the arrangement we propose, you must make it very clear again what our understanding is with respect to the DMZ and the cities—on a “facts of life” basis.

Against this background instructions for your next private meeting follow:

Begin Instructions:

You should start with a clear and firm position presented orally along following lines:

We are prepared to stop the bombing, etc., on the basis of the discussions that we have held.
Your side has constantly emphasized that after a bombing cessation, talks would be promptly held. You have even mentioned “the next day.” We still think that a substantive meeting including the GVN should be held the next day. However, in a maximum effort to reach agreement we have indicated there might be a two-three day interval between the cessation of bombing and a first meeting.
You should indicate that we are prepared to accept their suggested date of November 2 for the first meeting after the bombing cessation. [Page 317] We are not, however, prepared to stop the bombing in that case earlier than two or at the most three days before—which would be October 31 or October 30. That itself would require us to issue orders one or two days prior thereto.
You should make clear that, when we announce our action, we expect to announce the date of the meeting and the fact that represent-atives of the GVN will be present at it. They can make their announcement as they wish.
On representation, we agree on the substance—that the GVN will be alongside us, and that they will have the NLF alongside them. We see no need at all to haggle over “two sides” vs. “four parties.” We look at it one way and they another. We all know who will be there, and that the question is participation not recognition.
We see no need for an agreed minute if we agree on what will happen and when. In particular, we are not prepared to agree to anything that goes beyond the concrete points agreed, as listed above. “Without condition” or “unconditional” are not acceptable in a joint minute, unless we also spell out what we have stated as facts of life. The same problem exists in characterizing the participation. If they are serious in wanting to get down to business, forms of words should not stop them. As the events take place either side will be free to make announcements or statements as it sees fit. If these should be at variance with what has in fact been agreed, they can be refuted both by words and by the facts as they unfold in compliance with the real understandings. The only assurance we will give is that no US official statement will use the word “conditional.”

You should make a maximum effort to achieve agreement on these lines, making clear, however, that any agreement you reach must be subject to final review and clearance here and further notice to them or a short additional meeting.
If it appears that they insist on an agreed minute, you should ask for a recess long enough for plausible preparation of a handwritten copy of the following text:
On the basis of our discussions, all air, naval, and artillery bombardment and all other acts involving the use of force against the territory of the DRV will stop as of (date and time provisionally agreed).
It is agreed that meetings on the substance of a peaceful settlement in Viet-Nam will begin in Paris on (date and time provisionally agreed). The US has indicated that representatives of the RVN will be present, and the DRV has indicated that representatives of the NLF will be present. The foregoing in no way implies recognition of those represented at the meeting.
The date and time of the first Paris meeting will be made public at the time of announcement of the bombing cessation.
You should hold firm on the rest, reporting any remaining differences here. You will readily see why we have chosen this wording and why it is essential to adhere to it. Paragraph 5B in particular states the case exactly as we have presented it, and they have accepted it. At the same time, it avoids the straight listing—which has clear four-party implications—and any use of “our side” and “your side,” which would simply lead to fruitless controversy.
Whatever degree of agreement is reached, we repeat that we must review it here—and perhaps with our allies—before it becomes final. This must be understood by all of us.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Outgoing)-October 1968. Secret; Immediate; Nodis/HARVAN Double Plus. Drafted by Bundy, cleared by Rostow and Read, and approved by Rusk. Repeated priority to Saigon.