31. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State1

3381/Delto 1449. Saigon: Deliver at opening of business.

Subject: Summary Report—Meeting with Xuan Thuy, March 8.2

Accompanied by Ambassador Walsh, I met for two hours afternoon March 8 with Xuan Thuy at DRV house in Choisy. With Thuy were Lau, Vy and three staffers. Habib, Negroponte and Engel were also present.
I opened by reading the prepared statement as revised in accordance with Department’s instructions.3 Thuy began his response with a brief description of the origins of the war in Vietnam in accordance with usual DRV line, going back to the 1954 Accords, US support of Diem, expansion of US military presence in South Vietnam, and US responsibility for aggression.
He said that following total cessation of bombing of North Vietnam, US moved to try to settle the Vietnam problem from a position of strength. It wanted to de-Americanize the war, it strengthened the South Vietnamese Army, increased the number of US and Allied troops, it expanded its sweeps in Vietnam, and used B–52’s to bomb indiscriminately in South Vietnam.
He then said the US also continued to infringe on the sovereignty and security of the DRV after the cessation of bombing. He mentioned reconnaissance missions over North Vietnam, bombing in North Vietnam, and shelling by warships.
He referred to US statements about tacit understandings on the cessation of bombing and repeated, in standard terms, DRV position that cessation of bombing was unconditional, citing official statements by Hanoi spokesmen in November and his own statements since then. He claimed that US had violated its own pledges on the cessation of bombing by its actions in the North.
Thuy then, in general terms, referred to statements that he had made at the plenary sessions. He spoke in derogatory terms of what he called the “warlike Saigon administration” which he said stood in the way of a peaceful settlement. He said that the way to settle the Vietnamese problem had been laid out in the DRV’s four points4 and the NLF’s five points.5 He wished today to emphasize three points: a) the US must withdraw unconditionally from South Vietnam; b) the US should cease sustaining the present administration of Saigon, because no settlement will be possible as long as that administration was in power; c) if the US is really interested in settling the Vietnam problem, it would have to speak seriously with the NLF, without which there could not be a solution in Vietnam.
Thuy summed up by referring again to his general statements in the plenary sessions and said that he wanted to repeat that the DRV had goodwill and serious intent. They really want to come to a peaceful settlement, but peace must be associated with Vietnamese independence and freedom. He closed with a usual peroration about the importance of goodwill and serious intent on both sides.
In rebuttal I said that I did not accept his views of the past history and origins of the war. Our views on the question of aggression and on the question of the legality of the Government of Vietnam were well known. They are a matter of record, and I had not come today for [Page 94] that purpose. I then commented on some of the specific points that he had raised by reading each of the rebuttal statements which had been prepared in advance. They were all applicable.
I repeated our views on the necessity for observing the understandings with respect to the DMZ and the indiscriminate shelling of cities. I requested that Thuy consider my remarks carefully and report them to his government. I closed by suggesting, in accordance with my instructions, that the fact and content of these meetings not be made public.
Thuy made a brief statement, repeating basically what he had said previously. Thuy agreed to consider my statements and report them to his government and asked me to do the same with his remarks. He agreed that this meeting would not be made known publicly.
We adjourned and had a cup of tea, during which conversation was totally non-substantive.
I would characterize this first meeting with Thuy as businesslike with a correct atmosphere. It was apparent that Thuy wished to use this occasion for a brief but nevertheless comprehensive exposition of standard DRV positions on the negotiations. He clearly left the door open for further meetings between us.
Full report follows.6
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 187, Paris Cables, Vol. III. Secret; Flash; Nodis; Paris Meetings; Plus. Repeated to Saigon.
  2. In a March 8 memorandum to Kissinger, Haig summarized the LodgeThuy meeting and relayed the following observation by Lodge: “1. The meeting had been extremely useful in that the NVN did accept the U.S. protest. 2. At the end, Lodge spoke informally to Thuy using language, which reflected his concern that the war was continuing, and that it applied punishment on the Vietnamese people. Lodge stated Thuy nodded in full agreement. 3. Lodge believes that we should wait and see whether we are to get a reply to our complaint, whether it be with words or rockets over the weekend, or if there will be no reaction.” (Ibid., Box 182, Paris Talks, Memos and Miscellaneous, Vol. II, 2/3–69)
  3. In telegram 3300 from Paris, March 7, Lodge outlined his plan to review with Xuan Thuy previous discussions from June of 1968 to the present between North Vietnamese and U.S. representatives in Paris on requirements for serious and productive negotiations for a peaceful settlement and the maintenance of the cessation of the bombing. In telegram 036359 to Paris, March 8, the Department and White House concurred with Lodge’s proposed presentation with revisions. (Both ibid., President’s Trip Files, Box 489, Dobrynin/HAK 1969 [Part 2]) An undated memorandum entitled, “Background on Lodge/Thuy Meeting of March 8” characterized the revisions as “centered on State’s desire to commit us now to private talks and to make other major changes in our negotiating strategy.” According to the memorandum, the White House wished “to enter into private talks by stating that private talks cannot take place if the shellings continue. Other changes were suggested both by the White House and State to make clear we were not prepared for early open-ended private talks, particularly on political issues and mutual de-escalation.” (Ibid.)
  4. On April 8, 1965, Pham Van Dong, Premier of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, addressed the United National Assembly in Hanoi and stated the readiness of the North Vietnamese to negotiate a Vietnam settlement based on the recognition of four points. For these points, see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. II, Document 245; or American Foreign Policy, Current Documents, 1965, pp. 852–853.
  5. On March 22 the Chairman of the Central Committee of the NLF (Nguyen Huu Tho) issued at a news conference a 5-point statement dedicating the NLF to driving the United States out of Vietnam as a preliminary to the liberation of the South and reunification of the country. (Ibid., p. 852) The NLF called for the U.S. to: 1) cease their aggression; 2) withdraw from South Vietnam; 3) stop their attacks against the DRV; 4) respect and implement the 1954 Geneva Agreements on Vietnam; and 5) allow the Vietnamese people to solve their own problems without any foreign intervention. (United States-Vietnam Relations 1945–1967 (Pentagon Papers), Book 12 of 12, p. 101)
  6. The full report of this meeting is in telegram 3384 from Paris, March 9. (National Archives, RG 59, East Asia Bureau, Office of Asian Communist Affairs Files: Lot 70 D 47, Incoming from Paris and Saigon, March 1–31, 1969)