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122. Editorial Note

In a statement that was subsequently recorded for television and radio broadcast, President Nixon announced on September 16, 1969, that after careful consideration with his senior civilian and military advisers, and in full consultation with the Government of the Republic of Vietnam, he was reducing the U.S. troop ceiling in Vietnam from 549,500 to 484,000 by December 15. This amounted to a 65,500 total reduction in the authorized troop ceiling. Because U.S. units were not usually full strength, the actual reduction was approximately 60,000 troops. President Nixon then reviewed the major peace initiatives his administration had made since taking office: renunciation of a military solution, proposing free elections organized by joint commissions under international supervision, withdrawal of all U.S. and allied troops within a year, no retention of bases, negotiation of cease-fire under international supervision to facilitate the process of mutual withdrawal, acceptance of de facto removal of North Vietnamese troops so long as there were guarantees against their return, acceptance of any political outcome based on free elections, and discussion of the National Liberation Front's 10-point program together with plans put forward by other parties. Nixon concluded, “in short, the only item which is not negotiable is the right of the people of South Vietnam to determine their own future free of outside interference.” The President stated that in light of all these proposals, it was time for “meaningful negotiations.” (Public Papers: Nixon, 1969, page 718)

The day before giving this speech, President Nixon and his Special Assistant Henry Kissinger discussed the Romanian desire to expedite a negotiated settlement in Vietnam. The President thought that the Romanians might prove helpful, noting that “they want to play a big role.” The two men then discussed the Vietnam situation in more general terms. According to notes of their telephone conversation, September 15, at 7:30 p.m.:

“The President said in some way, K's hunch may be correct. They can't simply ignore it. [the Nixon speech?] K said if they do, then they really show they are completely rigid or they have no respect at all. The President said then we would have to find some way of getting that respect. K thought they would do something, but the big question was whether they would do enough. They have been clumsy and they have problems. The President thought that was a good point K made that the intransigence dated from the time of Ho's illness. I think there is something to that. K said if they were politically flexible, they would now try to stall us past our deadline. They have made somewhat of a peaceful move. They have a tough problem. The President said right now if they don't want to be clumsy, they should do exactly what you [Page 407]suggest, to move to give us a tough problem. K said if Xuan Thuy comes back from Hanoi without anything, then we know they are out to break us and he will be back in the next few days. If the long road had a chance of success, they should keep us on it. They always have open to them that once we are down to lower figures, we will lose our combat effectiveness and then they will hit us. The President said we'll see.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 360, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File)