28. Telegram From the Embassy in Norway to the Department of State 1

6688. 1. This morning’s (Saturday, Sept 21) meeting between Algard, Vraalsen and North Vietnamese began at 10:30 and ended at 1:00 and Norwegians gave following report to Davidson and Ridgway later this afternoon.

2. Algard began Saturday sessions, picking up North Vietnamese statement yesterday that NLF had right to self-defense. Algard asked whether it was correct to understand that if US troops did not take offensive action, they would not be attacked. Chan replied he had not said that yesterday and then said that the us should recognize the NLF and should talk about above issue directly with the NLF now in Paris. There was more emphasis on talking to NLF than on recognition. (Although Algard says he clearly recollects the North Vietnamese saying that we should talk to the NLF now in Paris, Vraalsen, the note taker, does not remember any North Vietnamese reference to Paris in this context and his notes do not contain any such reference.)

3. Chan said us declares it can’t let South Vietnamese regime go. He derided South Vietnamese Govt as bad sons of Vietnam, saying the Vietnamese people will know how to educate them. Algard used statement as opportunity to raise question of GVN representation in discussions after the bombing halt. The North Vietnamese said that the question of GVN presence was a matter that could be discussed after the bombing stopped. Chan also said that the North Vietnamese delegation in Oslo did not wish to discuss the question of representation.

4. Most of the discussion centered on US politics and its intentions. The North Vietnamese said that after putting the two party platforms under a “microscope” they had concluded that the Republican plank was general and did not contain any concrete suggestions on ending war but said that the North Vietnamese know “who (Republicans) are and how they are,” obviously implying disapproval. The North Vietnamese said the Democratic platform did mention how to solve the Vietnamese problem but was mainly devoted to justifying the President’s policy. Two elements in the Democratic platform were particularly dangerous and had to be rejected firmly. The first was the principle of reciprocity which was the equivalent of asking a victim to pay [Page 70]ransom. The second dangerous element was continued US support to the present South Vietnam regime including elaborate plans for strengthening and equipping its forces coupled with ignoring the fight for freedom of the Vietnamese people whose representative is the NLF. The North Vietnamese appeared to be afraid of Nixon and pointed out that according to every evaluation, progress in Paris would work to Humphrey’s advantage.

5. Algard told the North Vietnamese that if President Johnson stops the bombing and the North Vietnamese misuse the cessation it will backfire on the President, on the Presidential candidates and most of all upon the North Vietnamese. Chan nodded but made no comment. During their discussion the North Vietnamese claimed that the US election campaign is like a power game between two gamblers and that is why it is dangerous for the North Vietnamese to make any commitment to the US.

6. At another point in the discussion, Chan said concerning the situation around the DMZ that it was the US that had violated the zone by sending troops into it and firing across it. The US believed that North Vietnamese would not be able to shell back. By shelling, the US committed an illegal act and the North Vietnamese have the right to self-defense. In this connection (apparently meaning self-defense) US representatives had to discuss the matter with the North Vietnamese in Paris. The North Vietnamese indicated that US shelling of North Vietnam was one part of a package of attacks on North Vietnam which also included bombing and naval bombardment. Chan said that after the US had stopped bombing and all other acts of war, North Vietnam would not have any target to fight.

7. The North Vietnamese suggested that either during their stay in Oslo or at the time of their departure, the GON issue some public statement about the visit in order to avoid possible impression, if visit later reported, that NVN delegation came to sue for peace. North Vietnamese suggested statement along the lines that because of the concern of the GON with the Vietnamese conflict and to return Algard’s visit to Hanoi, the DRV sent Ambassador Chan to Oslo to give the GON an exposé of the situation in Vietnam. Algard told them that he still believed that serious purpose was best served by secrecy but since the North Vietnamese had raised the question of a public statement by the GON, he would give them the GON position after discussing the matter with his Foreign Minister.

8. Algard asked us to give him our thoughts on the desirability of a GON statement by noon on Monday, Sept 23. Preliminary FonOff view is that GON public statement might end GON usefulness as channel since it would both decrease possibility of further secret conversations and create internal difficulties on Foreign Minister Lyng’s right.

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9. Chan told the Norwegians that because of his position as Ambassador to Moscow he had told the Soviets that he was taking a trip to Oslo and had contacted their Embassy in Oslo. However he emphasized that he was not telling anyone (including the Soviet Union) the contents of his talks.

10. Algard said that it was his impression that the North Vietnamese were marking time today either because they had nothing more to say or because they were waiting for their appointment with Foreign Minister Lyng on Tuesday. He still believes that they are trying to convince GON that if US stopped the bombing the danger to US troops would not be increased. Algard said that North Vietnamese appeared to want the GON to certify North Vietnamese good intentions to US.

11. When Davidson asked Algard whether he believed that US troops would not be further jeopardized if the US stopped the bombing, Algard replied that, realizing full seriousness his words, it is his belief that the North Vietnamese would not act in a way to increase the danger to US troops after bombing cessation and that they are sincere in their intentions. Algard believes that the North Vietnamese are aware of the consequences that would follow their taking advantage of any bombing cessation. Algard recalled that this summer Loan had told him that the North Vietnamese had the advantage of good public opinion and asked Algard whether he thought North Vietnam would destroy it by taking advantage of a bombing cessation. Vraalsen said he agreed with Algard’s evaluation of North Vietnamese sincerity.

12. Davidson read operative portions of Paris 211802 and asked if Algard would raise these matters with North Vietnamese. Algard and Vraalsen promised to do so but indicated that it would have to be done more obliquely and said that they anticipated great difficulties in asking North Vietnamese how they intended to deploy troops on their own territory. Davidson also asked GON not to convey any impression that US might be interested in exchanging freedom of US base camps from attack for commitment not to take offensive action or move freely through countryside (see para 2 above). The Norwegians said they would do so.

13. The North Vietnamese will be taking sightseeing trip on Sunday and fly to Bergen with Vraalsen on Monday, returning Monday night for dinner at Soviet Embassy (composition of guest list unknown). On Tuesday morning North Vietnamese will meet with Algard who will then accompany them for meeting with Foreign Minister. Algard has [Page 72]told North Vietnamese that his Foreign Minister is preoccupied with the question of bringing about a cessation of the bombing and would prefer to devote most of the conversation to discussion of modalities which might achieve this objective. He also asked the North Vietnamese to avoid any long prepared statement.

14. North Vietnamese delegation has asked Vraalsen to make arrangements for North Vietnamese departure Wednesday via Berlin.

15. Algard and Vraalsen have strong impression that while Chan acts as spokesman for delegation, Sung is really its boss.

16. Foregoing account (as well as yesterday’s) largely episodic because Vraalsen spends only limited amount of time with us before rushing out to accompany North Vietnamese on sightseeing expeditions. Vraalsen again promised to give us his notes as soon as they are transcribed but indicated they might not be available until “sometime next week.” Vraalsen said that to preserve secrecy he is not allowed to use a secretary and this plus his duties as shepherd to North Vietnamese delegation slows process down considerably.

17. We have promised to advise Algard of US views on desirability of press release Monday morning. Would appreciate any guidance on that issue, bearing in mind that FonOff staff will no doubt need our help in persuading FonMin of disadvantages of initiating publicity. Also appreciate any points we might make to GON before Algard next meets North Vietnamese.3

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/OHIO. Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Ohio/Plus. Received at 4:54 p.m. Repeated to Paris for Harriman and Vance.
  2. Dated September 20. (Ibid., A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-September 1968)
  3. Telegram 242980 to Oslo, September 22, instructed Davidson to inform Algard that the United States was “strongly against any public statement.” The telegram also contained the following instruction: “You should certainly get Algard away from his total preoccupation with ‘the danger to U.S. troops,’ noting that this is necessarily our way of explaining the problem to the American people, but that what we have in mind relates to specific actions, notably in the DMZ.” Davidson was also instructed to stress the importance of including attacks on cities and the participation of the GVN as actions requisite to a full halt. (Ibid.) The additional points that Davidson planned to cover with Algard were transmitted in telegram 6689 from Oslo, September 22. (Ibid.) Davidson conveyed these points in a meeting with Algard on September 23. (Telegram 6713 from Oslo, September 23; ibid.)