27. Letter From W. Averell Harriman and Cyrus Vance of the Paris Delegation to Secretary of State Rusk1

Dear Dean:

You undoubtedly have seen from our reporting cables on yesterday’s meeting with the North Vietnamese that, as we all anticipated, the crucial issue is GVN representation.2 When we told them that “an understanding on this subject could be a major factor in facilitating a decision to stop the bombing”, they immediately asked whether this was the only “condition”. We repeated our instructions, and emphasized that this was a strong statement.

During a lengthy argument, Tho repeatedly pointed to the fact that we had used the words “‘could be’, only ‘could be’” a major factor in facilitating a decision to stop the bombing. In addition, he stressed that when we said “a major factor” it meant that there were other factors as [Page 68] well. He maintained that, in light of the foregoing, if they discussed this question, the U.S. would lead them into endless discussion of other factors.

In Vance’s conversation with Oberemko this morning, Oberemko asked for clarification on these points.3

We have thought over the situation very carefully and have concluded that the instructions which Averell requested were too narrow, and that if we are to have hope of breaking the impasse, it will be necessary to broaden those instructions. We believe they should be changed to state “an understanding on this subject would be the major factor in facilitating a decision to stop the bombing”.

We feel that it is essential to have this additional authority before next Wednesday’s meeting.4 Although Tho has asked for instructions, he stated repeatedly that he knew his Government’s views on this subject, and we assume that as a result of his report, Hanoi’s instructions will support his position. We believe it would be much more effective to hit them with new instructions voluntarily, before they get locked into a position from which it will be difficult to move them.

We want to emphasize the importance we place on this issue and the manner in which we think it should be dealt with. We hope you will agree.

With warm regards,


  • Averell
  • Cy 5
  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Kennedy-Johnson, Subject File, Rusk, Dean, 1968-69. Secret; Personal.
  2. See Document 24.
  3. See Document 26.
  4. September 25; see Document 32.
  5. Printed from a copy that indicates Harriman and Vance signed the original.