222. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State 1

42751. Ref: A Saigon 42653; B State 271405.2

I called on President Thieu at 10:30 this morning at his request. He was notably more relaxed than he had been during any of our recent interviews, and clearly in a constructive frame of mind. With respect to our draft statement of November 11, he asked if this was to be regarded as a “counter-proposal” to the GVN proposal of November 8.3 I said yes, and he seemed pleased. (Under the circumstances I did not use the helpful material in reply to the November 8 proposal which the Department had furnished in Ref B.) He asked if the fact could be brought out that this was in response to their proposal, and I said this should cause no difficulty.
Thieu then said that he thought we could come to an agreement on the basis of our draft statement. Foreign Minister Thanh would have some suggested improvements which he would discuss with Calhoun and Herz, after which we could have a full-dress meeting with the President, the Vice President, I and the Foreign Minister. I agreed and said we ourselves had been thinking of ways in which the statement might be made more presentable. I stressed the importance of proceeding quickly to an agreement.
I remarked that I thought the Department’s statement of November 13 should be very helpful to the GVN. Thieu agreed and said, “This is what we had been waiting for.”
Thieu himself raised only two points with respect to our draft attachment. First, he wished to know whether some way might be found to associate the TCC’s with the statement. I said I was sure they would give their public support. (It was clear that Thieu considered that he would gain “face” if some public stamp of approval could be given by the TCC’s to whatever we work out.) Second, he asked if we could now work quietly without any public statements. He said if it had not [Page 657]been for the Clifford statement4 which again roiled the public emotions here, it might have been possible to move a little more quickly. Under the circumstances he needed a few more days for tempers to cool down and he thought this would happen if there were no more public exchanges. I said that Ton That Thien’s emotional outburst in reply had not been helpful either and Thieu agreed, saying this had been made without his prior approval. I said that I hoped we could both work quietly now without public statements from either side in order to make as rapid progress as possible.
We understand Thanh and Bui Diem have been closeted this morning going over our draft statement. Calhoun and Herz have a tentative appointment, subject to confirmation later this afternoon, to meet with Thanh at 6 pm. (This has just been changed to an equally tentative appointment after 9 pm.)5
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. VI. Secret; Immediate; Nodis/HARVAN Double Plus. Repeated to Paris for Harriman and Vance.
  2. Telegram 42653 is Document 219. Telegram 271405/Todel 1555 to Paris and Saigon, November 14, contains the text of the Department’s reply to Thanh’s November 13 memorandum and the November 8 proposal. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Outgoing)-November 1968)
  3. See footnotes 3 and 8, Document 208.
  4. See Document 213.
  5. In telegram 42771 from Saigon, November 15, the Embassy reported that Thanh gave Calhoun and Herz a “working redraft” of the proposed statement on the Paris talks. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 84, S/AB Files: Lot 74 D 417, Files of Ellsworth Bunker, Vietnam Telegram Chronos) The text of the redraft is in telegram 42772 from Saigon, November 15. (Ibid.) Calhoun and Herz presented the U.S. changes to Thanh on November 16 and a revised redraft on November 17. (Telegram 42838 from Saigon, November 16, and telegram 42840 from Saigon, November 17; both ibid.) The text of the redraft is in telegram 42842 from Saigon, November 17. (Ibid.)