245. Situation Report by the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Read)1

Vance called on the secure phone at 8:30 a.m.

He and Habib had spent three hours with Lau starting at 10:30 Paris time this morning. The discussion involved two subjects: procedures for the first enlarged meetings and the DMZ.
On procedure, agreement was reached on all points except the following:
Who speaks first: The DRV suggested that there be a specific order of speaker: the U.S., NLF, DRV, and GVN. Vance rejected this proposal.
Physical arrangements: The DRV suggested four tables or a four-sided table and Vance rejected this proposal. The DRV also proposed flags at each of the four delegation’s tables which we rejected.

Military: Vance led off with a strong statement of protest about DRV military actions in violation of the understandings reached prior to cessation and Lau countered with alleged violations by the U.S. Vance then put forward the proposal authorized in State 2814682 that both sides fix an immediate date such as December 6 after which there would be no forces of either side in the DMZ and a cessation of gun fire and air and naval attacks on the DMZ.

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Lau asked a number of questions and then expressed his own preliminary views that his side would reject our proposal, and that the matter could be resolved if the U.S. simply stopped what it was doing in the DMZ and everything returned to “normal”.


Vance thought our DMZ proposal caught Lau off-guard and gave us a worthwhile initiative in this situation. He urged Lau to report the matter fully to Hanoi and Lau undertook to do so.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. VII. Secret; Nodis/HARVAN Plus. An attached covering note by Rostow transmitting a copy of the report to the President, December 4, 10:30 a.m., reads: “Cy Vance reports from Paris by secure phone that the North Vietnamese representative’s first reaction to the proposal on the DMZ was to reject it. However, he will report the matter fully to Hanoi. Attached is the telephone summary of other problems discussed by Ambassador Vance.” Vance transmitted the full report of the meeting in telegram 24876/Delto 1020 from Paris, December 4. (Ibid., HARVAN Paris Todel-Paris Delto, Vol. XVI(a))
  2. Dated December 3. (Ibid., Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. VII) In a note dated December 3, 4:45 p.m., which detailed a conversation he had with Rusk, Harriman wrote: “The Secretary told me that he wanted instructions given to Vance to undertake to start negotiating bilaterally with the DRV for the reestablishment of the DMZ. In other words, we would stop all activity in the DMZ if they withdraw all their forces. Then the Secretary suggested we ask how we are going to find out this is being lived up to, and thought that subject should be raised as to who would go in there to satisfy both sides that our mutual agreement was being carried out. He wants Paris to be authorized to attempt to negotiate on above, beginning tomorrow morning at Vance’s meeting with Lau.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Kennedy-Johnson, Chronological File, Scheduling File, Oct.-Dec., 1968)