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109. Backchannel Message From the President's Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to the Head of the Delegation to the Paris Peace Talks on Vietnam (Lodge)1

The President has asked that I forward to you the following message:

“I am in full agreement with Ambassador Bunker's views on the private talks as outlined in Saigon 162922 and have noted that instructions from State on this subject are generally consistent with Bunker's views. Nevertheless, I am reinforcing these views through a separate back channel message to you. I believe that the U.S. has been as forthcoming as can be reasonably expected in the talks thus far and direct that in subsequent meetings, Habib confine himself to confronting the other side with a number of direct questions designed to elicit their views. Lacking responsiveness on the part of the other side, Habib should avoid any reiteration of our position, avoid protestations of our good will, and avoid the hint of any new concessions on our part lacking reciprocity.[”]3

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box TS 64, Memoranda to the President, 1969 August. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. In an attached August 15 covering memorandum to the President, Kissinger informed Nixon that “pursuant to our discussion, I sent messages to both Lodge and Bunker via back channels, informing them of your views on the conduct of the next secret meetings in Paris.”
  2. In telegram 16292 from Saigon, August 13, Bunker agreed with Lodge's analysis that in Paris the DRV was interested in learning as much as possible about the U.S. position on a settlement, but he also “believed there was a tactical limit as to how far and how fast we go in opening our hand without any sign of reciprocal movement from the other side.” Although he endorsed the idea of confronting the other side with a number of direct questions designed to elicit their views, he would not recommend going “on endlessly elaborating our views without receiving something in return.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 180, Paris Talks/Meetings, Private Paris Meetings, July–August 1969)
  3. Kissinger sent a similar backchannel message to Bunker on August 14. (Ibid.) In backchannel message Saigon 087, August 15, Bunker acknowledged receipt of Kissinger's message and commented: “I feel that the posture [the President] has defined of position to be taken in Paris is one most likely to elicit views of the other side and hence produce progress.” In backchannel message 509 from Paris, August 15, Lodge acknowledged Nixon's instructions and noted he assumed it did not mean that Habib would not be precluded from brief restatements of U.S. positions, if the discussion called for it. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box TS 64, Memoranda to the President, 1969 August)