299. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1
- Pressures on Hanoi
There are a number of indications that our Cambodian operations and the recent increase in tension throughout Indochina are generating pressures upon Hanoi and also between Hanoi and its allies. Some of these indications are the following:
- —Hanoi’s top party leader Le Duan spent three weeks in Moscow but left without any fanfare. This suggests that he and the Soviets did not reach a common understanding as to what to do at this point.
- —The Soviet Union has still not recognized the Sihanouk government-in-exile.
- —An “Izvestia” correspondent recently told a Japanese Foreign Office official that the situation in Indochina is “fluid,” that Hanoi might be obliged to negotiate, and that the DRV is weakened by the long war and lacks “both the people and the material” to conduct “an expanded and protracted war.” Soviet officials may have taken this line with Le Duan while he was in Moscow.
- —On the other hand, the Chinese have almost overwhelmed Le Duan since he arrived in Peking on his way from Moscow. Mao Tsetung, Lin Piao, Chou En-lai, and most other top Peking officials have seen him. China is apparently putting a lot of pressure on Hanoi to pursue the war.
- —There have been no U.S. reconnaissance planes fired at over North Vietnam since the second of May.2
- —Although Hanoi spoke very boldly of fighting “shoulder to shoulder” with the Cambodians before your April 30 speech, its rhetoric since that time has been more restrained. It speaks merely of increasing its “solidarity” with the Cambodians. Viet Cong organs and speakers, who are perhaps less concerned about the possible U.S. reaction to direct and overt involvement of their forces in Cambodia, still speak in very militant terms.
- —When Hanoi postponed last week’s session in Paris, it did so in terms which clearly indicated that it did not want to disrupt the meetings completely. Moreover, the decision to postpone the session was not made until the very last moment although the President’s speech and the bombing of North Vietnam took place five days before the meeting.
Hanoi Problems and Evaluation
These developments suggest that there are some real frictions between Hanoi and its allies and that the Hanoi leadership may have to review and evaluate recent developments before deciding what to do next.
Specifically, Cambodian developments have apparently created the following problems for the Hanoi leadership:
- —They cannot now be certain what the U.S. will do under any given set of circumstances. They had not expected our move into Cambodia.
- —They have lost a huge quantity of stores and valuable base areas. The loss will require considerable time to make up.
- —If South Vietnamese and Cambodian forces can drive Communist forces out of the area south of the Mekong and the Parrot’s Beak, Communist operations against South Vietnam will be much restricted.
- —They are faced with an extension of the war at a time when they were already under pressure.
Hanoi Assets and Prospects
I do not believe we should exaggerate the problems which Hanoi faces all out of proportion. Obviously, the North Vietnamese still retain considerable assets:
- —They have the best army and the best political organization in Southeast Asia.
- —They probably also feel that recent demonstrations in the U.S. have placed some limits on our freedom of maneuver and that we may therefore not be able to react quite as firmly again.
- —Despite conflicting pressures from Moscow and Peking, Hanoi may feel that ultimately both will have to fall into line with at least limited support for North Vietnamese efforts and policies.
- —Last but not least, the Cambodian government is still very weak and the GVN is beset with severe political and economic difficulties.
Nonetheless, the developments of the last two weeks have probably complicated the options for Hanoi and compelled it to face some difficult decisions. It remains to be seen, perhaps in a month or two, what the leadership will decide to do.