26. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State 1

21192/Delto 754. Subj: Meeting with Oberemko.

This morning Vance met at Soviet Embassy with Minister Counselor Oberemko, who is chargé d’affaires in Zorin’s absence. Negroponte was also present.
Vance told Oberemko that we had now had four private meetings with Tho and Thuy. The third meeting, on September 15, had been an important one.2 At the meeting we had defined our position on withdrawal of forces because the DRV seemed to have some misunderstanding on our position in respect to the Manila Declaration. Next we had gone into the question of the cessation of bombing and the circumstances which would make it possible for such cessation. We had referred to the Lau/Vance talks and had then said there were two matters we considered of great importance: one was the question of military activity in the DMZ, the other was the inclusion of GVN representatives in any discussion of the political future of South Vietnam.
Vance said that we had come away from the third meeting with Tho and Thuy with the impression that they understood our position on the DMZ but the question of representation had not been satisfactorily resolved.
At our fourth meeting on Sept 20,3 we concentrated on the matter of GVN representation which we felt had been left in unsatisfactory condition at our last meeting. The matter was discussed at length, Vance told Oberemko, and the DRV side’s attitude was totally unrealistic. [Page 65]They repeatedly spoke in platitudes about “serious intent” and “good will.” It is easy to talk about serious intent and good will, but what is important and necessary is that it be demonstrated by acts and not just words.
Vance then gave Oberemko verbatim account of that portion of our Sept 20 statement which dealt with the representation issue (paragraphs 6-11 of Paris 21191 Delto 753.4 Vance then explained that DRV side had responded by saying we were imposing a condition and our position was tantamount to reciprocity. We had replied that it was inaccurate and improper to characterize our demand as reciprocity. We had made it clear for a long time that we could not have serious discussions without representatives of the GVN on our side because the political future of South Vietnam should not be decided by either Washington or Hanoi, but by people of South Vietnam. We had said that the inclusion of GVN representatives on our side was necessary to permit serious conversations to take place, and that the DRV could include the NLF or any other they wanted on their side. Thus by insisting on this, we were merely defining what we meant by serious discussions. We had indicated to DRV side that their opposition to our totally reasonable request raised grave questions in our mind as to whether they were really serious.
Vance then remarked that Soviet Govt has often expressed its interest in seeing this conflict resolved. We believe that the time has come for Soviet Govt to weigh in heavily to make DRV realize that they are taking a wholly unreasonable and unrealistic position which is blocking the way to peaceful settlement. We believe we are now at a critical juncture, and we feel it is important that the DRV face up to reality. Vance noted that the world thinks we are intransigent on the NLF, whereas in fact we are willing to see them seated on DRV side. The world would think it totally unreasonable if it knew that Hanoi would not have anything to do with the GVN in discussions regarding the political future of Vietnam. The world would then realize that Hanoi simply wants to dictate by force of arms what the political future of South Vietnam will be.
Vance reiterated that we were approaching Oberemko today because we are at a critical juncture and it is important that the Soviet Govt use its influence at this time to permit us to get around the road block and move forward.
Oberemko replied that he would transmit our views to his govt without delay. He said he had a couple of questions. He noted that [Page 66]our proposal regarding the inclusion of the GVN in future talks could be a major factor in the decision to stop the bombing. Was the inclusion of the GVN the only US condition being put forward at the moment, or does the US have anything in mind regarding the DMZ? In other words, Oberemko said, does the US have one or two conditions for the cessation of bombing?
Vance replied that we have stated to the DRV what we would do in the DMZ if the bombing stopped and we have indicated to the DRV side what we expect them to do in and around the DMZ after the cessation of bombing. We have drawn our conclusions and we believe that the DRV would know what to do.
Oberemko said that it seemed to him that the question of GVN representation had became the major road block to serious discussions. Vance replied that it was a major road block. Oberemko then noted that Vance had mentioned the Manila formula and the question of withdrawal. Vance then gave Oberemko the precise wording we had used on this subject at our Sept 15 meeting with Tho and Thuy.
Oberemko said he did not understand the point concerning the withdrawal of US and free world forces remaining in South Vietnam not later than six months after the complete withdrawal of all North Vietnamese forces. He asked if this meant that once all of the DRV troops whom we consider to be in SVN have been withdrawn that there would still be some of US troops in SVN. Vance replied affirmatively, saying that the US had more troops and that they would have a longer way to go. Vance said the important point is that mutual withdrawals should begin and that they begin simultaneously. The modalities and timing of mutual withdrawal should be discussed and agreed upon between the US and the DRV.
Oberemko again said that he would communicate our views to his govt. He did not think that it would be appropriate for him to comment at this time. The US, he said, already knows the comments of the DRV side. He said that he personally believed that the major obstacle in our talks is the continuation of the bombing and he felt that an unconditional and definitive bombing cessation could open the way to a political settlement. Vance replied the major obstacle was whether the DRV was really serious about seeking a political settlement and that the DRV position on GVN representation casts real doubt on their seriousness.
After the meeting Vance discussed the conversation with Gov Harriman and supplemented it by the following letter which was hand delivered. [Page 67]

“Dear Mr. Minister:

After returning to our Embassy this morning, I discussed our conversation with Governor Harriman.

I wish to add one thought to what I said this morning, to make sure that you have it in mind in reporting to your government.

As we have said many times, we are firmly committed to the principle that we will not discuss matters pertaining to the political future of South Vietnam without the inclusion of representatives of the Republic of Vietnam. It is unthinkable for us to stop the bombing, and then be faced with a continuation of the present situation—months of fruitless debate. This would be the result if representatives of the Republic of Vietnam were not included on our side. Sincerely yours, Cyrus Vance.”5

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-September 1968. Secret; Priority; Nodis; HARVAN/Plus. Received at 3:54 p.m.
  2. See Document 14.
  3. See Document 24.
  4. See footnote 2, Document 24.
  5. A copy of this letter is in the Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Kennedy-Johnson, Trips and Missions, Paris Peace Talks, Chronological Files, September-November 1968.