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

7234. Delto 1741.2

Now that we have introduced the President’s proposal for peace formally into the plenary session, the negotiations between the two sides in Paris can be pursued in a rational way. In this cable, we outline our suggestions for the next moves designed to bring the other side to serious negotiations on the basic issues.
The 10 points introduced by the other side and our own proposals provide the logical framework for negotiation. The two sets of proposals provide issues which are subject to negotiation. A preliminary listing of these issues would contain at least the following:
Force withdrawal;
Political settlement?
Prisoners of war?
Respect for essential elements of the Geneva Accords of 1954 and 1962;
International supervision and verification (in connection with force withdrawal, elections, ceasefire and other agreed purposes); and
Issues in the aftermath of the war—guarantees, bases, foreign military presence, alliances, neutrality, relations between North and South Viet-Nam, regional cooperation.
To define clearly the framework for negotiation—and to demonstrate again the reasonable and flexible nature of the President’s proposals—we suggest that at the next plenary session we present a point-by-point review of the issues and positions taken on each side. We are submitting in a separate cable a draft statement along these lines— pointing up the extent of common ground—for the May 22 meeting.2
It would be helpful, at that point, if the GVN made clear its position, consistent with our own but with particular attention to the question of a political settlement, notable their willingness that free elections be held. This would complement our proposal and fill a gap. The GVN statement should be as large in scope as that of the NLF, and demonstrate willingness to negotiate. It need not give away negotiating [Page 221] positions, but it should be fully consistent with the general principles guilding self-determination set forth in the President’s May 14 speech. We believe Embassy Saigon should be urging on the GVN the clear need for such a statement as soon as possible. In the event the GVN does not produce a new statement of sufficient scope, we should move on the basis of the President’s proposals alone.
We would seek to engage the other side in negotiation in depth. We suggest that this is best done in private. But we must recognize that there are also ways to further this process in plenary sessions. There are a number of possible arrangements for us to consider. We suggest we keep an open mind, but with a preference toward privacy.
Thus we can consider a negotiation format that could include any of the following, or some combination of them:
Plenary sessions on an agreed restricted basis. There would be no public disclosure of the details of statements made on either side. The fact of the meetings and a mutually agreed description of their contents would be made public.
Plenary sessions would continue as they are, but restricted subcommittee meetings will be held to Lodge deal with specific issues. Rules of disclosure for subcommittees would be agreed as in (A) above.
Plenary sessions would continue as they are, but fully private, secret meetings would be held. These could be in any agreed combination of the parties present, only excluding the case where the US would meet with the NLF without the GVN present. We are inclined to believe that private meetings of all four reps will be necessary, but even if this is the case, we foresee holding supplementary bilateral US-DRV meetings as desired.
Before proceeding to one or a combination of the above arrangements, we believe it is necessary and desirable to resume our bilateral meetings with the DRV. These would have two immediate purposes: (a) to elaborate and debate our substantive position on specific issues in a more informal atmosphere; (b) to exchange views with the DRV on the best way to proceed in the negotiations, taking as an outline of possible arrangements the alternatives listed in para 6 above. For our purposes, it would be well to work out some mutually acceptable working arrangements for the future.
Immediately following the May 22 plenary meeting, we propose, therefore, to seek a private meeting with Le Duc Tho and Xuan Thuy. We will submit to the Dept, within the next few days, a suggested draft of our opening remarks at such a meeting.
If our plan of action is approved, it will require discussion with the GVN in Saigon and Paris. It is now becoming increasingly urgent for the GVN to be thinking more specifically of the negotiating position they will be taking in private sessions of one sort or the other. [Page 222] From our experience to date, the GVN del in Paris does not have sufficient instructions to carry on the type of negotiations we envisage. In fact, Lam and Phong have embarrassedly pointed out to us that over the past week they have been suffering from a scarcity of guidance from Saigon. The thought expressed by Bui Diem to Green (State 79000)3 that we have 4 to 6 weeks for GVN to formulate its position strikes us as much too long a time. We should be prepared to be in full-scale, detailed negotiations with the other side before then.
In such negotiations, we believe that it will be necessary to discuss military and political questions in tandem, if we are to seek a full understanding of what we can achieve. This will require a degree of GVN preparation beyond what we have had to date, with the burden of negotiation on political matters falling on them.
We would welcome comments and guidance.4
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 176, Paris Talks/Meetings, Paris Meetings, May 6—State, Saigon, and Paris. Secret; Nodis; Paris Meetings; Plus.
  2. Not found.
  3. Not found.
  4. Telegram 79000 to Saigon, May 17, contains an account of the discussion between Bui Diem and Green on reaction to Nixon’s speech of May 14 and the future of the negotiations. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 176, Paris Talks/Meetings, Paris Meetings, May 6—State, Saigon, and Paris)
  5. In telegram 9878 from Saigon, May 20, Bunker stated: “While I completely support the objective of getting into serious negotiations. …I feel I should sound a note of caution about trying to force the pace.” Bunker noted that the Government of Vietnam had made progress in thinking about a political settlement, but they needed time to come to accept it. Furthermore, Bunker cautioned against seeming too eager for another private meeting. (Ibid.)