239. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State1

24609/Delto 996. 1. In the meetings between Vance and Lau since November 1st, and in particular in the meetings preceding November 6th, we discussed a number of matters concerning the procedural and physical arrangements for the first wider meeting which will deal with the rules of procedure for the next phase. The following reflects the status of these discussions and the exchange of notes verbale of November 5th.2 It should be emphasized that these discussions concerned only the arrangements for what both sides have agreed would be meetings on the rules of procedure for the plenary sessions (i.e., analogous to the Vance/Lau meetings of May 10 and 11, 1968).3 Prior to and after our resuming discussion on this subject with the DRV, we intend to have detailed consultation with GVN delegation on which we will report fully.

2. Based upon the discussions which we have held with the DRV since November 1, the following is a summary of US-DRV positions regarding procedure and other matters for the wider talks:

Both sides agree that the first wider meeting (with GVN and NLF present) will discuss the rules of procedures, and that the subsequent meetings will also be devoted to procedural questions. It is not clear whether both sides agree that substantive, plenary sessions will not begin until after the rules of procedure have been agreed upon.
Press. Our position is that there should be no press at the first meeting in the wider format and the press should not be permitted “until such time as the rules of procedure have been agreed upon” (similar to last May). The DRV originally wanted press at the first wider meeting. In their November 5 note verbale, the DRV conceded the point “temporarily” in an effort to have a meeting the following day. We may assume that they will similarly yield on barring the press from the meetings on procedure, while insisting on a press session at the opening of the first plenary.
Language and Translation. During the November 5 Vance-Lau meeting, we agreed to continue the system we have used so far. This will, however, have to be determined in final form during the procedural meetings; as our discussion now stands, the procedural meetings will be concluded using the double translation system.
Name of Conference. Prior to the cessation of bombing, we had told the DRV that we wanted to refer to the next phase as “meetings” and they had indicated acceptance. However, on November 5, during a discussion which focused primarily on the question of participants, we stated that “we cannot agree on what the wider format will be called and that will be decided in the rules of procedure as it had been done with our official conversations.”
Number of People. We told Lau that we thought that each side should have about nine to ten people in the room during the procedural meetings. Lau said that he thought each delegation could send somewhere between five and seven persons. Comment: Discrepancy here is not serious, as Lau himself said.
Room. Originally, the DRV wanted to hold the first wider meeting in the large conference room. In its note verbale of November 5, the DRV conceded this point and agreed to our suggestion to hold the procedural meetings in the smaller room. Their agreement was, as on the question of press, “temporary” in an effort to get a meeting on November 6. However, we can expect the DRV will agree to remain in the smaller conference room in the procedural meetings.
Seating. This appears to be the major unresolved question. The DRV has informed the French that since there will be a four-sided conference, they should prepare new seating arrangements to reflect this fact; i.e., a four-side table. We have told the French so far only that we do not agree with the DRV suggestion and that we will let them know our views later. We have agreed with the DRV that it would be preferable to work through the French for the final arrangements subject to the agreement of each side on this matter.
Order of Speaking. Lau has said that he does not consider this matter important. Presumably, we can therefore take the initiative and propose that we speak first at the first procedural meeting.
Designated Spokesmen. This matter has not been adequately aired. It is possible that the DRV may raise a problem on this point, although it is more likely that they will propose that each delegation designate its spokesman or spokesmen in adVance. We will presumably want to counter by proposing that each side designate its spokesmen. We would intend to designate both US and GVN representatives.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, HARVAN Paris Todel-Paris Delto, Vol. XVI(a). Secret; Immediate; Nodis/HARVAN Plus. Repeated to Saigon.
  2. See Document 198.
  3. See Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. VI, Document 230.