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

42/Delto 1117. From Harriman to Vance. Ref: Paris 0038 (Delto 1116).2

After reviewing carefully our lengthy meeting of last evening, we have reached the following conclusions and make the following recommendations.
We believe we have a good chance of closing out the procedures at the next meeting, if we have flexibility to move to an unmarked, circular table, which we believe will be required. Without this flexibility, we do not believe that we can wrap it up.
We have achieved what the GVN has agreed is the most important issue—that is, that there be no flags or nameplates. We believe strongly that it will not be difficult to maintain the principle of two sides by the manner in which we seat ourselves and conduct ourselves without a line of demarcation on the table. We can arrange ourselves on our side of the table in a manner which will make clear that there are two [Page 792] sides. We find it difficult to understand GVN contention that an unmarked round table (without flags or name plates) somehow gives NLF greater status than if there was a baize strip dividing the sides. We therefore recommend strongly that we be authorized to accept a circular table without a line of demarcation.
We also recommend that we be given the additional flexibility which we originally requested on order of speaking, as set forth in State 2916453 paras 9-12, all of which preserve the principle of two sides.
With the achievement of their prime objective—no name plates and flags—the GVN should be in a position to agree to a circular table while maintaining the “our side-your side” formula.
We urge that Embassy Saigon raise the matter immediately with Thieu and obtain the flexibility which is requested.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-January 1969. Secret; Immediate; Nodis/HARVAN Plus. Received at 6:20 a.m. Repeated to Saigon. In telegram CAP 9031 to the President at his Texas Ranch, January 3, Rostow included the full text of the delegation’s telegram, prefacing it with the following sentence: “Herewith Harriman and Vance’s recommendation on modalities.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. VII) The notation “ps” on Rostow’s telegram indicates that the President saw it. The President left the Ranch and arrived at the White House at 3:20 p.m. that day. (Ibid., President’s Daily Diary) Paris, January 3, 1969, 1028Z.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 268.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 264.