THE BOMBING HALT: Johnson's Gamble for Peace

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Vice President Nguyen Cao Ky, all along the most intransigent of Saigon's top officialdom toward peace moves, also seemed to be relenting, particularly after several no-nonsense conferences with U.S. Deputy Ambassador Samuel Berger. For the first time since they were inaugurated one year ago last week. South Viet Nam's President and Vice President were seen in deep conversation in the corridor that separates the "Thieu wing" from the "Kywing" of Saigon's Independence Palace. Said Ky to an aide: "What can I do? I must accept this reconciliation for the sake of the country."

The Usual Insults. Other moves were under way in Vientiane, capital of supposedly neutral Laos, for years a center of communications and intelligence for the warring sides. U.S. Ambassador to Laos William Sullivan and his North Vietnamese counterpart, Le Van Hien, were reported to be secretly discussing the eventual regrouping of troops should a cease-fire be proclaimed. In Paris, U.S. and North Vietnamese negotiators met in the ornate Hotel Majestic for the 28th time since the peace talks began on May 13 and exchanged the usual insults. The real news, as elsewhere throughout the current thrust toward peace, lay several strata beneath the surface. The No. 2 man on the U.S. team, Cyrus Vance, was absent. He was said to be working at the American embassy, but there was speculation that he was off somewhere continuing secret talks with Hanoi's Colonel Ha Van Lau, his opposite number.

Amidst the flotsam of rumors, one fascinating tidbit made the rounds in Washington last week. It was that North Viet Nam's President Ho Chi Minh was in Peking, presumably explaining to Mao Tse-tung & Co. the reasons for a shift in stance. It was perfectly clear that the Chinese were not at all happy about the prospect of a bombing pause if it involved the slightest concession on Hanoi's part.

Prayers, Not Curiosity. As the week began, Lyndon Johnson told a Democratic luncheon at Manhattan's Waldorf -Astoria: "What I need now is not your curiosity. I need your prayers." Allied officials emphasized that the next move was up to Hanoi, and Hanoi wasn't moving. "You will have to ask Ho Chi Minh," said New Zealand's Holyoake when asked about the prospects of a pause. "At the present time, it rests with Hanoi."

The North Vietnamese batted the ball right back to the U.S. Said Hanoi's Nhan Dan: "The U.S. propaganda campaign about a so-called breakthrough in Paris will end in a flop." In Paris, Colonel Lau complained: "The Americans' formulas change, give the appearance of being more supple. But in reality, they all boil down to the same thing—reciprocity. And we can't accept this."

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