99. Situation Report by the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Read)1

Cy Vance called on the secure phone at 8:00 a.m.

Oberemko phoned Vance last night to ask for a late evening or early morning meeting. They met at 9:30 a.m. this morning for 2-1/2 hours.
Oberemko said he had met with the DRV delegation after their private meeting yesterday with us.2 Oberemko had found them “emotional” and “suspicious”, and after discussion with them Oberemko had come to the conclusion that some of their problems came from misunderstandings in the translation process. He said that he had had the same difficulty in communicating with the DRV himself.
Oberemko said that both sides were showing stubbornness and it was now up to a third party to try to resolve the situation by putting forward a “common sense solution”.
Oberemko, “acting under the general instructions given by his government”, then put forward the following proposal: “The United States gives the order to stop bombardment on October 24 or October 25. A meeting with representatives of the United States, DRV, the NLF, and the GVN is held in Paris on November 1 or November 2.”
Vance said that he would report to Washington immediately. Oberemko said that he planned to deliver the identical proposal to the DRV as soon as he left Vance. Oberemko said he hoped we could get back to him today because of the urgency of the matter and Vance said only that he would report back to Oberemko as soon as possible and before we communicated with the DRV on the Oberemko proposal.
Oberemko referred to the question of a joint communiqué or joint minute and Vance said we were opposed. Oberemko said it was not the business of his government whether the DRV and U.S. reached an oral or [Page 276] written understanding. The Soviet Union was trying to get an agreement on principle.
Oberemko said it was essential that we take the initiative in calling the next meeting after we had heard from Washington regarding the Oberemko proposal. Since the DRV had called the last one it was impossible for them to take the initiative on the next private meeting.
It was clear to Vance from the discussion that the language in the first sentence of the proposal is intended to mean that bombing would stop on the 24th or 25th, not merely that orders to stop would be issued on those dates. It was also made clear that if the bombing stopped on the 24th the meeting would occur on the 1st; if the bombing stopped on the 25th, the meeting would occur on the 2nd. The time interval was chosen according to Oberemko to split the difference between our “two or three-day” proposal and the minimum interpretation of the other side’s “several weeks” proposal which the Soviets interpreted as meaning two weeks. Oberemko said the language he had put forward in the second sentence of the proposal was intended to avoid our insistence on “our side/your-side” language and to avoid the DRV insistence on “four power” meeting or conference. Oberemko said on the latter point he understood from the Dobrynin/Rusk conversations that Secretary Rusk had agreed that the nomenclature for the meeting was not essential.
Question of unconditional cessation was discussed briefly. Vance said that he was sure Oberemko understood that if, for example, there was indiscriminate rocketing of cities following cessation no President could maintain cessation. Oberemko said he understood but we were stating an exaggerated case. We should be content to rest on the statement that the other side would know what to do and the understandings already reached.


Vance called back at 8:45 to say that Oberemko had phoned him to say that he had seen the DRV representatives following his discussion with Vance this morning and Oberemko made an appointment to come to see Vance at 2:30 p.m. Paris time this afternoon.3



Harriman and Vance recommend accepting the Soviet proposal in principle. They believe that in our answer we should use the agreed phrase that “the U.S. will stop all air, naval, and artillery bombardment [Page 277] and all other acts involving the use of force on or within the territory of the DRV” on the date to be specified. They also suggest that we rearrange the order of the representatives named in the second sentence so that it would refer first to the U.S., second to the GVN, third to the DRV, and fourth to the NLF. Harriman added the view that the fact the Soviets have become so involved in the resolution of this issue means that they will have a big stake in seeing that the subsequent negotiations are successful.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. I [1 of 3]. Secret; Nodis; HARVAN Double Plus. In an attached covering note transmitting a copy of the report to the President, October 22, 9:30 a.m., Rostow wrote: “Herewith the Soviet proposition.” The notation “ps” on the covering note indicates that the President saw the report. Vance’s written report on the meeting was sent in telegram 22750 from Paris, October 22. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-October 1968)
  2. See Document 95.
  3. See Document 101.