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

43517. 1. I called on President Thieu this afternoon. We noted that at that time, about 5 pm here, concurrences for our statements had arrived from all troop-contributing countries except the ROK (which arrived after I returned to the Embassy).2 Thieu was relaxed and fully expected President Park’s concurrence in time for announcement as contemplated morning November 27.3 I asked if he intended to address the nation in connection with these statements. He said he would probably make a TV and radio broadcast tomorrow evening. He remarked that the South Vietnamese people are now psychologically prepared for the talks. This had been very important. Of course there would be some who would criticize, but they would be few.

2. I inquired about composition of the GVN delegation. Thieu said he had asked the Vice President to work on this and expected to discuss the matter with him tomorrow. He added that I might talk with him, too. I said I presumed it would be better not to do so until Thieu himself had talked with Ky, but he said I might talk with Ky before. (I am asking for appointment with Ky tomorrow morning.)4 Thieu remarked that it is difficult to find the right people. It was possible that Ambassador Pham Dang Lam, who had headed the [Page 702] observer delegation, might also head the full delegation. Ky would probably have overall supervision, shuttling between Saigon and Paris.

3. We next discussed timing. Thieu said the problem is not so much getting a delegation to Paris as getting prepared to discuss substantive matters. I said we were very anxious to get the meetings going. Thieu said he might be able to get the delegation off soon, but he did not see how they could go into serious talks this week or even early next week. I said we hoped it would be before then, and in any case the first meeting would be procedural and need not have full delegation in attendance. I also said in any case we could go ahead with the DRV bilaterally to lay the groundwork for the first meeting on the wider basis, which itself would also deal with procedure. Thieu agreed that this would be useful.

4. Thieu was very anxious to resume our consultative meetings on broad strategy and key issues. I agreed and said while we expected to be in daily consultation in Paris, we would need frequent meetings here, too. Thieu asked how often I thought there would be meetings in Paris. I said it seemed to me they did not have to be in weekly intervals but could be somewhat more frequent. Thieu speculated that the Communists probably would want longer intervals since their delegation would be bound by strict instructions; but it might be possible to work on a basis where the day after a meeting one would study the record, the next day outline our response, then spend a day in preparing the presentation, and meet on the fourth day if the Communists were then ready.

5. I took the occasion to bring Thieu also up-to-date on the latest Vance-Lau discussion of November 24.5

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, Walt Rostow, Vol. 108. Secret; Immediate; Nodis/HARVAN Double Plus. Repeated to Paris for Harriman and Vance. In an attached covering note transmitting a copy of the telegram to the President, November 26, 12:55 p.m., Rostow wrote: “Herewith Bunker’s latest talk with Thieu. As you will see (para. 3), Thieu is still a little foggy about getting into substantive talks until towards the end of next week. This cable underlines the urgency of our working out our own negotiating strategy and talking it over with the GVN—an item on today’s lunch agenda.” The notation “L” on the telegram indicates that the President saw it.
  2. In telegram 43314 from Saigon, November 24, Thanh agreed in principle with a draft to be sent to the Ambassadors in the TCCs in order to gain their endorsement. (Ibid., Country File, Vietnam, HARVAN Chronological, Vol. XXIV) In telegram 43513 from Saigon, November 26, the Embassy reported that it had received concurrences from all five TCCs. (Ibid.)
  3. For the full text of both the U.S. and GVN statements, see Department of State Bulletin, December 16, 1968, pp. 621-622.
  4. In telegram 43606 from Saigon, November 27, in which he reported on his meeting with Ky, Bunker noted that Ky would arrive in Paris on either December 7 or December 9. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-November 1968)
  5. See Document 233.