159. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1


  • North Vietnam’s Reply to Our Overture for Private Meeting

Attached is the full text of the exchange General Walters had with My Van Bo in Paris Friday morning.

Upon reading the actual text of the exchange, it is apparent that the North Vietnamese reply had some interesting features:

  • —The tone, while tough, is much milder than anything we have heard since spring.
  • —Their suggestion that we should have something new to say is really equivalent to our request for something new from them. Thus, it could be considered in the context of face.
  • —The proposal they make mentions only withdrawal and does not link, as they have in the past, withdrawal with a coalition or a provisional government. For example, in the plenary session a week ago, they stated peace depends on dropping the Thieu-Ky regime and U.S. withdrawal. This may constitute a willingness to concentrate only on troop withdrawals in a “two-track approach” in which the South Vietnamese settle political issues among themselves. While the omission of the political track may be a come-on, this too is not without significance.
  • —The two concluding paragraphs (6 and 7) are especially conciliatory.


In view of the foregoing, I recommend:

We wait until after the next move in the Chicom Plan and until after we have talked to the Romanian emissary although his visit may not be linked specifically to the Vietnam problem.
In about two weeks, that we then send General Walters back to the North Vietnamese in Paris with the message that we consider a meeting would be useful under the assumption that both sides have [Page 517] something new to say, and that under this assumption, we propose a meeting for a specific date in early January.


Telegram From the Senior Defense Attaché in France (Walters) to the Senior Military Assistant (Haig) 3

On 11 December at about 1900 local time I received call that MVB4 wished to see me at Noon on 12 December. I went to house in Choisy today at that time and saw him alone. He asked after usual amenities whether I had remained in France since I last saw him and I said that I had. He then said he would read to me the reply of Government of DRVN but could not give me copy. He then gave me pen and paper and read at dictation speed in French emphasizing punctuation following message which I translated as I wrote into English checking with him any ambiguous points to clear up exact meaning. This English translation is therefore exact translation of what he read to me in French.
“We have on many occasions declared that in order to settle problems relating to South Vietnam the United States must engage in direct conversations with the provisional Revolutionary Government of Republic of Vietnam.
In the meantime however, and inasmuch as the U.S. had proposed private meetings with the Government of DRVN we were disposed their Delegate; this is what we did. Recently in his replies to press,5 Minister Xuan Thuy made clear that if the U.S. had something new to propose and that Delegate (HAK) would desire another meeting, then we would be ready to meet him. This clearly denotes our serious attitude and shows our good will as well as our hope that these meetings would lead to a correct solution of the Vietnamese problem. However, the statements of Mr. Nixon at his press conference on 8 December 1969, and those made these last few days by Mr. Rogers and [Page 518] Mr. Laird,6 prove that the U.S. still hold to their position defined in the warlike speech of three November 1969 by Mr. Nixon.7 Mr. Nixon has further in practice reduced the level of the Paris conference on Vietnam and demanded a reward8 for the designation of a replacement for Mr. Cabot Lodge. At the same time he rejected outright the following proposal which was both logical and reasonable made by the PRG. ‘If the United States declares that they will totally and unconditionally withdraw their troops and those of foreign countries who belong to the American camp from South Vietnam9 in a period of six months, the parties will enter into the discussions concerning the calendar for the withdrawal of U.S. troops and those of foreign countries who are part of the U.S. camp, and on the problem of security guarantees relating to this withdrawal.’
Thus it is clear that on one hand the U.S. demands a reward for the designation of a replacement for Mr. Cabot Lodge and on the other hand they refuse to examine seriously the proposals of the opposing side, limiting themselves to demanding that we accept their conditions. The attitude of President Nixon and other members of U.S. Government proves that U.S. still seeking a military victory and that they do not yet want to achieve a correct solution for the Vietnamese problem by means of negotiations.
We therefore feel that any private meeting between Minister Xuan Thuy and Conselor HAK, as proposed by the latter could not be of any use. However when circumstances become favorable, when American side will really have something new to propose the two parties may then meet.
Insofar as we are concerned we will continue to maintain our serious attitude and good will. For their part the U.S. must also adopt a serious attitude and show good will. It is thus that we can achieve a settlement of the problem.”
Upon conclusion he looked expectantly at me but I told him without expression that I would convey this message. On this occasion for first time he offered me tea which I accepted.10
  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box TS 46, Geopolitical File, Vietnam, Vietnam Peace Talks, 28 July 1969–27 February 1970. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. Sent for action.
  2. Nixon initialed the approve option.
  3. Secret; Personally Eyes Only for General Haig. The copy printed here was retyped for the President.
  4. Mai Van Bo.
  5. Nixon underlined the phrase “recently in his replies to the press” and wrote the following comments on the left margin: “K—This may mean his press statement was directed to you.”
  6. Nixon’s comments at his December 8 news conference are in Public Papers: Nixon, 1969, pp. 1003–1013. The reference to Rogers’ comments are apparently to remarks made during an interview by National Educational Television for broadcast on November 26. (Department of State Bulletin, December 22, 1969, pp. 577–583) Laird’s remarks have not been identified.
  7. Nixon underlined “warlike speech” and put an exclamation point in the margin; see Document 144.
  8. Nixon underlined the phrase “demanded a reward” and put a question mark in the margin.
  9. Nixon wrote the following note at the bottom of the page: “shows they watch every statement we make—carefully” and drew an arrow to the phrase “from South Vietnam.”
  10. At the bottom of this page, Nixon wrote the comments: “K—It still seems to me he expects us to offer something new & does not expect to offer anything on his part.”