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[Page 48]

14. Memorandum From the President's Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to Secretary of State Rogers 1

SUBJECT

  • Communication with Hanoi Prior to January 20

Prior to the inauguration, President Nixon was in communication with the North Vietnamese through a contact who is personally known to the top leaders in Hanoi.2 The messages were sent by me to the contact who delivered them to Mai Van Bo (DRV representative to the Government of France) and vice versa.

The President initiated the exchange with his message of December 20 (Tab A), which told the North Vietnamese that his Administration was prepared to undertake serious talks. On December 31, Hanoi sent its reply (Tab B), which emphasizes that its point of primary concern is U.S. willingness to withdraw troops. The ball was kept in play by the President's response of January 2 (Tab C), which states inter alia that his Administration is ready to withdraw U.S. forces from South Vietnam as part of an honorable settlement which includes mutual troop withdrawal. The North Vietnamese replied on January 13 to the President's message (Tab D). The President has not replied to this latest message.

The President has asked that this be very closely held.

Tab A

Message From President-elect Nixon to the Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam 3

Message to the North Vietnamese

  • “1. The Nixon Administration is prepared to undertake serious talks.
  • “2. These talks are to be based on the self respect and sense of honor of all parties.
  • “3. The Nixon Administration is prepared for an honorable settlement but for nothing less.
  • “4. If Hanoi wants, the Nixon Administration would be willing to discuss ultimate objectives first.
  • “5. If Hanoi wishes to communicate some of their general ideas prior to January 20, they will be examined with a constructive attitude and in strictest confidence.”

Tab B

Message From the Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam to President-elect Nixon 4

1.
We have on several occasions clearly declared that we came to Paris with a serious attitude and full of goodwill. If the US sincerely desires to resolve the problem and reach an honorable solution, as it has often said, it also must have a serious attitude and goodwill.
2.
In order to arrive at a peaceful solution to the problem of Vietnam our position is very clear. It is founded on the Four Points of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, which were reaffirmed on November 2, 1968. We also approve the Five Points for a political solution of the problem of South Vietnam put forward by the National Liberation Front on November 3, 1968.
3.
At the present time, if the conference of the four in Paris has not yet begun, it is because the Saigon Administration uses procedural issues to delay its opening, and because the representatives of the US support the absurd demands of the Saigon Administration. It is only after the opening of the conference that one will be able to discuss the deeper questions relating to a peaceful solution to the problem. However, if the US wishes, it may communicate its general ideas, and its [Page 50]specific ideas for making more precise points that are already known, for our serious examination.

Mai Van Bo commentary: At the beginning, I believe that the question is to know if the US wants peace, if it really wishes to withdraw its troops from South Vietnam, or if it only talks of this to make it possible to do nothing. For the rest, evidence indicates that the Saigon Administration does not want peace. Instead it wishes that the US remain in Vietnam so that it can continue to make a living from the war. As the US already leans on that Administration, we seriously doubt its attitude. To be quite honest, as long as the ThieuKy–Huang clique remains at the head of that Administration, it will be difficult to settle any of these problems.

Tab C

Message From President-elect Nixon to the Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam 5

Message to the North Vietnamese

“We have noted with interest Mai Van Bo's communication.

“In reply to his question, the Nixon Administration is willing to negotiate seriously and in good faith.

“The Nixon Administration solemnly affirms its readiness to withdraw U.S. forces from South Vietnam as part of an honorable settlement, which includes mutual troop withdrawal.

“It is our belief that progress depends on concrete proposals to achieve an honorable peace.

“We reaffirm our readiness to examine Hanoi's ideas carefully, with goodwill and in strictest confidence.”

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Tab D

Message From the Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam to President-elect Nixon 6

1.
The Conference of Four comprising the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam, the US, and the Saigon Administration, of which the purpose is to search for a peaceful solution to the Vietnamese problem should have started on November 6, 1968; however as of today it has not opened. It is precisely because the Government of the US and the Saigon Administration deliberately seek to delay the opening of this conference. The appointment of certain American figures who have been deeply involved in the war of aggression in Vietnam to responsible posts in the negotiations casts greater doubt upon the attitude of the US.
2.

The policy of aggression of President Lyndon Baines Johnson against Vietnam, based upon an erroneous evaluation of the determination of the Vietnamese people to fight against aggression, has failed.

The Vietnamese people ardently desire peace but it has to be a peace with independence and liberty! If the US wants to settle the Vietnamese problem, the Vietnamese people are ready to engage in serious conversations with them. If they pursue the war of aggression, the Vietnamese people have no other choice than to continue the resistance in order to recover, whatever it costs, independence, liberty, and a true peace.

3.
If the US really desires to settle the Vietnamese problem it must end the war of aggression in Vietnam, withdraw in the shortest possible period all American and satellite troops from South Vietnam and leave the South Vietnamese population to settle itself its own affairs without foreign interference. The US must as soon as possible start without delay the Conference of Four to discuss these profound questions.
4.
The general and concrete ideas concerning the peaceful settlement of the Vietnamese problem will be examined with care by the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 861, For the President's File, Vietnam Negotiations, Camp David Memoranda, 1969–1970. Secret; Nodis; Eyes Only. The memorandum is an uninitialed copy.
  2. Frenchman Jean Sainteny, former French Government official with extensive official experience in Indochina. Nixon describes and quotes from these messages in RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon , pp. 349–350.
  3. Secret; Nodis.
  4. Secret; Nodis. The text indicates it is an unofficial translation. On January 2 Kissinger sent the President-elect a memorandum suggesting that “the tone of the message [of December 31] is more conciliatory by far than is customary; there is the usual effort to drive a wedge between Saigon and Washington; [and] Hanoi, which always drafts very carefully, emphasizes that its point of primary concern is US willingness to withdraw troops (no reference to a ceasefire, de-escalation, etc.).” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 2, HAK Administrative and Staff Files, Memoranda to the President-Elect)
  5. Secret; Nodis.
  6. No classification marking. The message is a: “Rough/Unofficial translation.”