Diplomats from North and South Vietnam and the United States will mark a frustrating anniversary on Thursday (January 21) when they sit down at the equal-sided square table in a Paris conference building for the 100th session of the Vietnam Peace Talks.
GV EXT. Conference building in Paris
CU Street sign "Avenue Kliber" and conference centre sign (2 shots)
GV Conference room showing table (2 shots)
LV US Car with Harriman arrives (2 shots)
LV N. Vietnam delegate arrives Xuan Thuy (2 shots)
LV Mdm Binh out of car (3 shots)
SV S. Vietnamese delegate out of car and into building
SV Cabot Lodge arriving out of car and into building
CU Sign "Conference Building"
LV Car arriving with David Bruce out of car (2 shots)
GV INT. Conference Room
Initials BB/JH/VH/1649 BB/JH/VH/1544
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Background: Diplomats from North and South Vietnam and the United States will mark a frustrating anniversary on Thursday (January 21) when they sit down at the equal-sided square table in a Paris conference building for the 100th session of the Vietnam Peace Talks.
The session will take place almost exactly two years after the full-scale talks began on January 25, 1969. Then, the talks commended accompanied by a feeling of great hope throughout the world, but not before they had bickered about the size and shape of the table around which they would eventually sit.
Finally, the geometry of the table was agreed and they all sat down to talk. In the two years that have followed they are agreed upon one point -- that they have made no progress towards a settlement.
Every week the delegates from Communist North Vietnam administration and the Viet Cong and the representatives of the Untied States and the South Vietnamese Government in Saigon, urge each other to come to grips with the basic issues of the long, bloody war, so that serious negotiation can begin.
But, so far, nothing has happened. It appears that the talks will remain at stalemate while tacticians from both sides await the long-term results of the gradual American troop withdrawals and President Nixon's Vietnamisation programme.
The 18-month-old withdrawal programme goes hand-in-hand with a dramatic drop in major attacks by Viet Cong. It seems that the result of both these actions has put the Paris talks on ice.
For some time now the pressure has been off. The American public has been heartened by reduced American casualties and appear content to let President Nixon go ahead with what he calls his long-term "Game Plan".
On the other side, Hanoi and Viet Cong delegates have neveR admitted officially that fighting has declined. But unofficially it has been conceded that the Viet Cong and Hanoi are happy to minimis their losses so long as the American force level is being reduced.
Indications are that the Viet Cong and Hanoi line is to play a waiting game -- for just how long nobody really knows. French President Georges Pompidou, whose Government, as host to the talks, keeps in regular touch with both sides, said recently that he did not expect a settlement in 1971.
Another development which has changed the whole problem is the spreading of the war to Cambodia. Discussion in Paris, however, has not gone beyond mutual accusation of responsibility for the fighting in Cambodia.
With the end of 1970 came the dwindling of hopes which had been aroused earlier in the year, that private talks might find a way out of the situation f impasse.
The stage appeared set for such contacts when veteran American diplomat, David Bruce took up the reins in August at the head of the U.S. delegation, after an eight month interim period when it had been led by Mr. Philip Habib.
North Vietnam responded by bringing its chief negotiator, Mr. Xuan Thuy, back from Hanoi. Both spoke of setting up "secret talks". So far, there has been no indication that any such talks have been held.
In the absence of any real negotiations, the Americans have increasingly used the Paris talks to publicize the plight of captured U.S. airmen and to press for inspection of prison camps in North Vietnam.
The Viet Cong readily respond with accounts of atrocities by American and Saigon forces against prisoners and civilians. The situation is one of tit-for-tat with little but frustration to show for two years of deadlock.
Delegation heads have come and gone from both ides, as have the fleets of cars which arrive bringing spokesmen from both sides to the start of each weekly session. Accusations and diplomatic insults are tossed glibly from side-to-side, but while the talks are devoid of producing a result the war goes on.