158. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State 1

23202/Delto 903. From Harriman and Vance.

We met with Xuan Thuy and Lau from 1:30 to 3 a.m. local time October 31 at a new location of theirs in Choisy-le-Roi.

We opened by reading the following prepared statement:

“Your Excellency, this afternoon Ambassador Lau said that you were prepared to dispense with an agreed secret minute.2 Is that correct? (At this point Thuy asked that we complete our statement before his comments. We said that what we were going to say would be based on his answer and contingent upon agreement to dispense with a minute.)

“In that case, I am authorized to inform you that the President is going to issue orders in the early evening of October 31, namely seven [Page 459] or eight o’clock Washington time which is 2400 GMT October 31 or 0100 GMT November 1 to stop all air, naval, and artillery bombardment and all other acts involving the use of force against the entire territory of the DRV. Those orders will be fully effective twelve hours later. The President will make an announcement of this action at about the time the orders are issued. In this connection, I must of course, emphasize the necessity for absolute secrecy until he makes the announcement.

“The meeting of the type agreed upon will not be held before November 6. We will be in touch with you on the exact time of such a meeting but it will not be before next Wednesday November 6.

“This action is being taken on the basis of all the conversations we have had, taking into account what you have said and what we have said.

“Can I report to my government that you agree to the foregoing?”

Thuy asked that we repeat our statement in its entirety for clarity. We repeated the statement.
Thuy then asked for a recess to consult with Lau and Vy.
After a 30 minute break, Thuy returned and said he would like to express some views. He said that for nearly six months of conversations in Paris, the DRV has been demanding that the United States unconditionally cease the bombing and all other acts of war against the entire territory of the DRV. This evening as on our previous meetings, the United States side said that it was prepared to stop all air, naval, and artillery bombardment and all other acts involving the use of force against the entire territory of the DRV. The DRV side understands the bombing cessation will be unconditional. The US side has also said that in substance this is cessation of bombing without any condition of reciprocity and in the statements of the US Government there will be no mention of the word conditional.
In regard to the meeting to find a peaceful settlement of the Viet-Nam problem, the US has said that the Republic of Viet-Nam will be present and the DRV has said that the NLF will be present and accordingly the meeting will include representatives of the DRV, SVN-NLF, the RVN and the US. This point Thuy said has been agreed between us.
Regarding the question of putting this into a minute, Thuy said that he has proposed a number of different views, but the US had objected. As Thuy had said to Harriman at Wednesday’s tea break and as Lau had told Vance on October 29,3 the reason for raising the question of a minute was to see whether the words and actions of the United States conformed to each other. The DRV side feels that these words and actions are not in harmony and, knowing this, Thuy said, he did not insist [Page 460] on the writing of a minute. He therefore reaffirmed what Lau had said on October 29 and what Thuy had said in Wednesday’s tea break—that he was dropping the request for a minute.
Regarding the date of the cessation of bombing and the date of a meeting, Thuy said that previously we had suggested October 30 for the bombing cessation and November 2 for the meeting. Now we were suggesting that the bombing stop on October 31 and the meeting be held not before November 6. Thuy said the important matter was the interval between the cessation and the meeting allowed sufficient time for the NLF representatives to come to Paris. Now, Thuy said, the date of cessation is postponed and the date of a meeting is postponed but the interval is sufficient to allow time for the Front to come and therefore the DRV agrees.
Thuy said the US also requests that the DRV keep this matter secret until the order has been announced by the President. He said the DRV is prepared to keep it secret. This means the DRV will not make any broadcasts, will not publish in any newspapers and will not make any official announcements before the announcement by the President. For his part, here in Paris, Thuy would not say anything. If anyone asks he will simply reply “There is nothing new.” On this point, we replied that we would do the same.
In brief, Thuy said, he agreed with our proposal today, but he wanted to say that previously there had been points agreed upon and thereafter the US had changed. From now on, both sides should carry out their agreements correctly. Thuy remarked that no doubt we had realized throughout our private talks that the DRV has shown goodwill and serious intent. The DRV also wants to put aside all differences so that we can come to an agreement. No doubt, Thuy said, the US realizes that the DRV has come with a real desire to find a settlement but this involves two sides. The US should show goodwill just as the DRV side has, and then our future work will be dealt with smoothly.
We said we had no comment on what Thuy had said. He had mentioned some of the things that he had said in the past as well as some of our past remarks. Since he had gone into this detail we thought we should raise some of the things we have said about serious and productive talks. We were sure that they have in mind the things which we have pointed out to them which would affect the maintenance of serious talks. We were sure they knew what they were. So, we accepted their statement that they want serious talks.
We added, for the sake of clarity, and in light of what they had said about October 31, order to stop the bombing will be issued at seven or eight p.m. Washington time October 31 which is 2400 GMT October 31 or 0100 GMT November 1. It will take 12 hours before the order [Page 461] becomes fully effective so that means it will be effective November 1. We were sure that Ambassador Lau as a military man knew that some military units could not receive and therefore carry out these orders immediately because they were not in direct contact with higher headquarters. Thus it would be 12 hours before the order would be completely effective. Lau nodded acknowledgment.
Thuy asked if we intended to inform the host government, France, before the actual announcement. We said we had no such plan. Therefore, Thuy said, we would inform the French after bombing cessation. We noted, in this connection there was the problem of secrecy and avoiding leaks which we considered very important.
Thuy said that if we tell the French in advance, it would leak and added that the house in which we were meeting belonged to the Vietnamese themselves and nothing would leak out of it.
Finally, we said that the United States is good for its word and will carry it out. We have made a statement today which the US intends to carry out. We then adjourned for some tea. At that time it was agreed that Vance and Lau would meet on Saturday4 to go over the arrangements related to the convening of our first meeting.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-October 1968. Secret; Flash; Nodis/HARVAN Double Plus. Received at 12:23 a.m.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 157.
  3. See Document 149.
  4. November 2.