88. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State 1

22619/Delto 844. From Harriman and Vance.

This morning Minister Oberemko called on us at his request. The meeting lasted about an hour and nothing of real substance came out of the meeting. Oberemko was unaccompanied.
Oberemko said that he had come to find out what the status of our discussions with the North Vietnamese is. We told him that we believed his government had been informed through Washington, but that we would be happy to bring him up-to-date. We thanked him for the constructive part he had been playing in our discussions here.
We outlined briefly the current situation, concluding that the ball was now in Hanoi’s court. Oberemko said that he had been in touch with the North Vietnamese and that they felt that we had imposed a new condition at the last moment, i.e., that talks must begin within 24 hours. We said that no new condition had been imposed, that the issue was one of definition of “prompt” and that, assuming good faith on the part of the North Vietnamese, there had been a misunderstanding as to the definition of “prompt.”
We said further that in any event we had now told the North Vietnamese that when they give us a date certain for the beginning of serious talks, the bombing will be stopped two or three days before that day. As he obviously wanted to be helpful, we explained at length why this is not a new condition but simply a definition of “prompt” talks.
Oberemko said that he felt that both the United States and the North Vietnamese were overemphasizing the importance of this final matter and that there should be a way to find the compromise. We said that we saw no way to compromise the matter, that we had already [Page 243] agreed to change 24 hours to two or three days, and that the best thing for both Oberemko and the Soviet Union to do was to use their influence to get the North Vietnamese to give us as soon as possible the date on which serious talks would begin. Oberemko said he would communicate our conversation to his government.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-October 1968. Secret: Nodis/HARVAN/Double Plus. Received at 10:53 a.m. In a covering memorandum transmitting a copy of this telegram to the President, October 18, 11:45 a.m., Rostow described the Vance-Oberemko discussion as a “clarifying conversation.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. I [2 of 3]) Vance reported on the meeting by telephone that morning. In a memorandum to the President at 8:45 a.m., October 18, Rostow wrote: “Cy Vance just called with the following: Oberemko asked to see him to catch up on the situation. Cy took him very carefully through the whole position. Cy feels it was time well spent. Oberemko promised to use his ‘best influence’ to get his government to lead Hanoi over the hump. Oberemko himself had nothing new to throw into the discussion.” (Ibid.)