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

24611/Delto 998. Subj: Consultation with GVN delegation.

An called on Habib morning November 28. He informed us that Ambassador Lam would not be arriving in Paris on Friday, November 29 as planned, and that he had no idea when Lam would get here, although he thought there would only be a short delay. Habib said that this was an unfortunate delay and that it is vital that the GVN be properly represented in Paris immediately so that we may consult with them closely on procedural and substantive issues.
Habib then gave An a ten point paper covering procedure and physical arrangements for the first wider meetings of the two sides. He explained carefully to An that these were the points that the US would resolve in private talks with the DRV prior to the first wider meeting at the Hotel Majestic. Habib emphasized that arrangements and procedures agreed upon in this manner govern only the limited meetings that will in turn determine the rules of procedure that will govern the plenary sessions. Habib told An that we wanted to begin discussing these points with the DRV on Saturday. Therefore, if the GVN had further comments or suggestions on these points they should bring them to our attention as soon as possible. Our desire to move expeditiously made the delay in Lam’s return most unfortunate.

The paper we gave An follows:

Begin Text:

At the first wider meetings of both sides we propose that we discuss the rules of procedure which will apply to the Paris meetings on Viet-Nam, to determine with the other side acceptable rules of procedure governing the conduct of the meetings. Nothing that is decided in the rules of procedure and arrangements for the limited will prejudge the rules of procedure for the plenary session.
These meetings should be limited in size. We propose to suggest to the DRV that each side bring about ten to twelve people to the procedural meetings. This number would be split evenly between the US and the GVN on our side. The other side may divide itself as it wishes.
The US delegation at these opening sessions will be headed by Ambassador Vance. He will be accompanied by an advisor, a secretary, an interpreter and a stenographer.
We propose that the press not be present at the opening sessions of the wider meetings. (They were barred from the Vance-Lau meetings at the Hotel Majestic May 10-11, also. The press will undoubtedly cover the arrival and departure of the delegations from the Hotel Majestic area, as they always do.)
We will propose continuing the language and translation system used during the May-October meetings. Under that system, everything is translated from its original language into French by the interpreter of the speaker’s side, and then from French into either English or Vietnamese, as the case may be, by an interpreter of the listener’s side. (This means that the GVN delegation should include qualified conference interpreters capable of Vietnamese-French and French-Vietnamese consecutive translation.)
We will propose that these opening meetings be held in the smaller conference room in which the US-DRV conversations were held. (This will not necessarily be binding on the location of the meetings following the determination of the rules of procedure.)
We intend that there should be two long tables, facing each other. There will be no tables on the sides, or, if there are sides to the tables, they will be empty. We propose that there be no flags or nameplates on the tables.
Determination of the order of speaking will be worked out. We propose that we seek to have our side speak first at the first wider meeting.
While we of course propose to have tape recordings of the latter sessions, we do not have any strong preference for tape recordings of these first abbreviated sessions.
The French Government will be expected to provide proper working sites for each side at the Hotel Majestic. The French will be responsible for physical arrangements, but these should be as agreed by the two sides.
We went through the paper point-by-point. Second sentence in point (1) was added at An’s request. On point 9, An said that the GVN would like tape recordings of all meetings, and Habib said that we could change our position. Accordingly, when we talk to North [Page 712] Vietnamese we will request that each side be permitted to tape record first abbreviated sessions.
Comment: We are concerned that the GVN will not get representatives here without delay. Our present plan is to proceed into private talks with Lau on Saturday, or at latest Monday, and tie down the procedural matters covered in the paper contained para 3. Once this is done, the first wider meeting at the Hotel Majestic can be held. We propose that this meeting be held as soon as possible and not await Vice President Ky’s arrival in Paris. We are not sure who the GVN intends to send to this meeting; will Ambassador Lam attend or will the GVN send Minister An? In any event, we believe that the GVN must be aware of timing we are thinking of, and we have asked An to report fully.2
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-November 1968. Secret; Immediate; Priority; Nodis/HARVAN Plus. Repeated to Saigon. The Department terminated the HARVAN Double Plus series on November 27 and reserved Nodis/HARVAN for the most sensitive subject matter on the Paris talks. (Telegram 279033 to Bangkok, Canberra, Manila, Seoul, and Wellington (repeated to Saigon and Paris), November 27; ibid., HARVAN-(Outgoing)-November 1968)
  2. Simultaneous discussions on the procedural issues were occurring in Saigon among Bunker, Lam, and Thanh. (Telegram 43667 from Saigon, November 29; ibid., HARVAN-(Incoming)-November 1968) As a result of both channels of discussion, the delegation in Paris believed that it could move ahead with a discussion of procedural matters with the DRV immediately following the arrival of the GVN delegation. (Telegram 24677/Delto 1000 from Paris, November 29; ibid.) News that Lam and Bui Diem would not arrive as scheduled, however, troubled the Paris delegation: “If the GVN drags its feet and we do not even get into procedural discussions in the near future, we not only lose time in resuming the momentum of negotiations, but also we run the risk that things may begin to become rapidly unstuck.” (Telegram 24691/Delto 1002 from Paris, November 30; ibid.)