55. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in France1

96244/Todel 2840. 1. Dobrynin saw Secretary afternoon June 11 prior to his departure Moscow on urgent consultation orders. Secretary raised Viet-Nam with Dobrynin stressing our disappointment that [Page 177] there had been no progress in Paris in beginning private talks by the GVN and NLF on political issues. Secretary reminded Dobrynin of his conversation in March when he made clear that private talks on political issues could be bilaterally between GVN and NLF or in four-power forum.2 Our only reservation was with regard to private talks between US and NLF which we could not accept. This remained our position and Secretary hoped that the Soviets would do what they could to get talks underway.

2. Dobrynin said that he understood position of NLF (which he referred to throughout conversation as Provisional Revolutionary Government) to be that there could be no discussion with GVN unless Saigon prepared to agree to coalition government beforehand. Secretary told Dobrynin that if NLF position was that precondition to talks was removal of Thieu and Ky, this was totally unacceptable. As President had made clear, composition of Saigon Government must be determined by electoral process, and Secretary saw no reason why arrangements for elections including appropriate supervision could not be proper subjects for discussion in Paris in private talks, either bilaterally or with four. Secretary could not understand how composition of possible coalition government could be fixed before views of electorate known. Dobrynin rejoined that in NLF view free choice impossible in presence foreign military forces and while Saigon committed to continuation of war. Secretary said if NLF felt this way, adequate guarantees free elections could be discussed in Paris, and he saw no reason why Soviets themselves could not play role in supervisory process. Dobrynin reiterated NLF position on coalition government and said that NLF felt strongly that Thieu and Ky knew their political future depended on continued presence of US forces and continuation of war, and it was for this reason that they were opposed to commitment to coalition. Secretary firmly rejected this thesis and said that, if other side genuinely interested in peace, moves to replace US forces could be reciprocated by North Vietnamese, and Soviets and their allies could move to get Paris talks off dead center. Secretary reminded Dobrynin of past indications from Zorin and Oberemko to US counterparts in Paris of NLF willingness to discuss questions relating to political settlement in Viet-Nam and said that other side seemed to be raising new and unacceptable preconditions for such discussions.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 177, Paris Talks/Meetings, Paris Meetings, May–June 1969, State Nodis Cables/Habib Calls. Secret; Nodis; Paris Meetings/Plus. Drafted by Toon, cleared by Walsh, and approved by Rogers. Repeated to Moscow and Saigon.
  2. See Document 25.