271. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in France1

1359/Todel 1915. 1. You should have Saigon 1542 reporting useful step and thoughts.

2. In line with the fundamental GVN desire to depict the solution in terms of two sides, it seems to us that an order of speaking arrangement could be worked out that would give both the GVN and ourselves ample support for a two-sided interpretation, assuming we go along on the continuous and unmarked round table. We think you were wise on January 2 not to get deeply into this, and thus to leave our hands reasonably free.

3. Specifically, it is simple common sense—both for private argument with the North Vietnamese and for public exposition—for the order of speaking to be clearly by sides. Just as so many lawyers and others familiar with adversary proceedings have found it extremely difficult [Page 795] to understand our apparent rejection of the round table, so the same influential groups will readily see that in any multi-party litigation the common sense way to proceed is for all the parties on one side to present their views, and then for all the parties on the other side to respond. In short, a position on order of speaking that calls for two lots and then each side completing its presentation would have wide appeal and could become very difficult for Hanoi to stick on.

4. The thought this leads to is that we should seek to get Thieu’s concurrence on accepting the continuous and unmarked round table but insisting at the same time on two lots and an AABB order of speaking. With the indication that Ky might advise even letting the other side go first, we would have even more of a persuasive case.

5. Could you advise at once your judgment of such a proposal, in substance and in terms of its being accepted by the North Vietnamese? We would like to send additional instructions to Bunker with your advice in hand.

6. While you are at it, it would help to have in writing a statement of the additional physical elements that tend in the direction of two sides already. For example, we understand that it has become a regular practice for our delegation and the North Vietnamese to use separate entrances to the conference room and to reach their seats, in effect, on a two-sided basis. There may be other elements that are likewise useful both in explaining the position to the GVN and in describing the ultimate result publicly as entirely consistent with two sides.

7. Please reply to Department only. We can repeat if necessary.3

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, IS/OIS Files: Lot 90 D 345, Paris Peace Conference, Delto Chron., January 1969. Secret; Flash; Nodis/HARVAN. Drafted and approved by Bundy, and cleared by John P. Walsh of S/S.
  2. Document 270.
  3. In telegram 113/Delto 1127 from Paris, January 4, Harriman and Vance replied: “We agree that order of speaking by sides is sensible and defensible. With a continuous, unmarked round table in hand we believe our chances would be good to get DRV to accept lots by sides and speaking by sides.” They also noted additional means by which to “promote a two-sided image,” such as the particular manner in which the combined U.S./GVN delegation arranged itself at the negotiating table and public and private references to the DRV/NLF delegation as the “other side,” “your side,” or “their side.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, IS/OIS Files: Lot 90 D 345, Paris Peace Conference, 1968-1969, Delto Chron., January 1969)