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

25548/Delto 0177. From Vance. Subject: Summary Report—Vance/Lau Dec. 19 Meeting.

This morning Habib and I met with Lau and Ky for about two hours at our house in Sceaux. The same people as usual were present on both sides.
I opened the meeting by presenting the substance of the instructions contained in State 288751 (Todel 1804)2 with some modifications in language. Lau took careful notes and asked that certain points be repeated so that he could get the points precisely.
I then turned to the outstanding procedural issues. I said that it was high time we resolved our differences on procedures so that we could move into the new meetings and get down to discussing the vital subject of peace in Viet-Nam. I pointed out that from the outset we had made it clear that we regarded the new meetings as meetings of two sides, with each side free to organize itself as it chose. I said we would [Page 772] not depart from this important principle and that the other side has indicated that it will not depart from its point of view that it is a four-delegation meeting. I said that we had made constructive and reasonable proposals on seating arrangements and order of speaking which should be acceptable to both sides as meeting their respective positions.
I then went over in some detail the three outstanding issues (flags and nameplates, seating arrangements and order of speaking) and our position with respect to each of them. I concluded by urging Lau to reconsider his position. And to agree that our proposals represented a practical solution to the differences between us.
Lau met privately with Vy for about one-half hour before responding to what I had said. He first addressed what he called my remarks concerning the situation in South Viet-Nam. He stated that the us had launched aggression against Viet-Nam and that so long as the aggression continued, the Vietnamese people would exercise the right of self-defense. He said that the NLF has the competence to settle all questions involving South Viet-Nam and that the US must talk to the Front. He said that the representatives of the NLF came to Paris on November 4 for meetings which have not yet been held, and he added that the responsibility for the delay must be borne by the US and the RVN.
Lau charged that the RVN had deliberately delayed the holding of the meetings and that the US must bear part of the responsibility. He said that when the bombing was stopped, the US had urged that the meeting be held promptly and that the DRV had agreed to the date of that meeting, but that the meetings still had not been held.
Lau said that it was not yet time to discuss the questions we had raised with respect to the situation in South Viet-Nam. He said that we are discussing procedures and that when we sit at the conference table other questions can be settled.
Lau said in order to get to the first meeting the DRV had made a final proposal for seating arrangements, namely, a round table. He asked us to give our reply on that proposal, saying that if we could settle the seating, other questions relating to procedural matters would be discussed later.
Lau then referred to the statement I had made that if the impending attack on Saigon took place, we would have to take appropriate military actions and that the responsibility for this would rest with the DRV. Lau said that they had been fighting for many years and that we should know that our threat cannot swerve the determination of the Vietnamese people to struggle for independence and freedom.
I responded by first rejecting Lau’s statement that the US was the aggressor and responsible for the war. I said, concerning the [Page 773] impending situation around Saigon, that I hoped the statements Lau had made were not an indication of a lack of recognition of the seriousness of what I had said. I stated that what I had said was not a threat but a clear statement of the US position so that there could be no misunderstandings between us. I said it was a matter of direct concern to the DRV, and that I could not accept the DRV’s attempt to abandon responsibility. I underscored the seriousness with which we viewed the matter and the consequences.
In reply to Lau’s charge that the US had not shown serious intent, I reminded Lau that the US had stopped the bombing and all other acts involving the use of force against the DRV.
I then took up Lau’s remarks on procedural arrangements, dealing first with seating. I then asked for Lau’s comments on the other procedural matters.
Lau replied that he had nothing further to say for the time being on the situation in South Viet-Nam. He said, as to the procedures and arrangements, if we would accept his proposal of the round table, we would find a way to come to agreement on the other procedural questions. I pressed Lau to clarify what he meant. He said he did not for the time being, have any new ideas on the remaining questions, but that if we could come to agreement on the table he thought these questions could be settled. I pressed further on what he meant, but only received the answer that if the seating were settled, they would show goodwill in resolving the other issues.
We adjourned, agreeing to take under consideration what each of us had said and to be in touch whenever either of us had something further to say.
During the tea break I raised with Lau the statements attributed to Hanoi, reported by Moscow and Tokyo, that the DRV would be releasing additional pilots at Christmas. I said that I hoped the stories were accurate. He said he had no information to give me. I pressed him further without success.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, HARVAN Paris Todel-Paris Delto, Vol. XVII(a). Secret; Immediate; Nodis/HARVAN. Received at 11:22 a.m. Repeated to Saigon. The delegation transmitted the full report of the meeting in telegram 25574/Delto 1080 from Paris, December 19. (Ibid.)
  2. Dated December 18. (Ibid., Vol. XVII(b))