60. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State1
22313/Delto 820. Distribution only as directed by the Secretary. From Vance.
- This morning Minister Oberemko called on me at his request. The meeting lasted about 30 minutes, including five minutes for a cup of coffee. Oberemko telephoned last night requesting the meeting for 10 am this morning, saying that he wished to discuss a very urgent matter.
- Oberemko opened the meeting by saying that as he had indicated in his message last night he had come on a very urgent matter. He said that what he was about to say was not to be considered a reply from the Soviet Government. He then said he wished to repeat what I had said to him previously. Oberemko said that I had told him in the last few weeks that the US attaches great importance to the issue of the participation of the representatives of the Government of South Viet-Nam in future negotiations and that it is necessary for the US to be sure that serious talks will start and start promptly. He said that I had said there could not be serious talks without the participation of the representatives of the GVN. Oberemko said that I had further stated that an agreement or understanding between the DRV and the US on the issue of GVN representation could be a major factor in facilitating a decision of the cessation of bombardment of the DRV. Oberemko said I had subsequently told him that the word “could” should be changed to “would.”
- Oberemko said that I had further stated to him that the action of the delegation of the DRV on the issue of GVN participation was sharply negative, and that it had produced suspicion on our part as to the seriousness of the DRV in the Paris talks. Oberemko added that I had said that the issue of GVN participation was not a condition but rather a test of the seriousness of the DRV.
- Oberemko said that I had further stated to him that we had discussed the matter of military action in and around the DMZ and the matter of attacks on major cities with representative of the DRV and that we had concluded that they would know how to act if the bombing were stopped.
Oberemko then asked me if this correctly summarized what I had stated to him. I said that it did. Oberemko said “I would now like to give you a statement and I am sure you will want to take it down verbatim.” He then gave me the following statement:[Page 161]
“I have good reason to believe that if the US stops unconditionally and completely the bombardments and other acts of war against the DRV, the delegation of North Viet-Nam will agree to the participation of the representative of the Saigon government in the talks on the problem of political settlement in Viet-Nam. Thus these talks would be held by the representatives of the DRV, of the United States of America, of the NLF, and the Saigon government.” I asked Oberemko who the “I” was, and he said, “It is I, Oberemko.” Oberemko said “The wording is a little awkward but that is the way I got it from them.”
Oberemko then said that he hoped that what he had just said would help move the talks off dead center and that this view was shared by the North Vietnamese. He told me that he had met with the North Vietnamese yesterday afternoon after our meeting with them. Oberemko then said “We consider now is the right time to act. The situation is most favorable right now and this opportunity should not be lost.” Oberemko then digressed to say that as we undoubtedly knew, there were factions with different views in Hanoi and that if positive action was not taken now it would be a major setback for those who wanted peace and that it would then be a very long time before peace could be reached. Oberemko added that if we advanced any new conditions it might bring many difficulties. Indeed, he said, “it may provoke reversal of the whole DRV position.” Oberemko said, “What I have told you is the rock bottom to which the DRV can go.” Oberemko said, “I have another statement which I would like to give to you verbatim if you would care to take it down.” He then said:
“I can tell you also on good authority that if the question of the unconditional and complete cessation of bombardments and all other acts of war against North Viet-Nam is resolved positively and promptly, the delegation of the DRV is ready to discuss seriously and in good faith other questions relating to the political settlement in Viet-Nam, provided of course that the other side would also act seriously and in good faith.”
- Oberemko said that he understood that we had told the North Vietnamese yesterday that we were communicating with our government and would be back in touch with them.2 He asked me whether I knew when we would have an answer. I told him that I did not know but doubted that we could answer on Monday.3
- Oberemko got up to leave and expressed the hope that what he had said would be constructive and would bring about positive action which would lead to a settlement.