320. Memorandum From Richard Smyser of the Operations Staff of the National Security Council to the President's Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1
- Message from General Walters regarding Meeting with Le Duc Tho
Hanoi has turned down our suggestion for another meeting with Le Duc Tho with language which clearly indicates that it wants to keep the channel open. Hanoi's reply was noteworthy for the following:
- —It stated that there had to be a “temporary suspension” of the meetings (allowing for later resumption).
- —After repeating the charge that we had caused the Cambodian coup, it blamed the suspension of the meetings on that rather than on any substantive breakdown. In fact, it stated that substantive discussions had “barely” started.
- —Nor did it link our air attacks to the suspension of the meetings, though it did cite them as evidence of our desire for “military victory.”
- —It added further that the meetings would produce nothing useful “at this juncture” (again keeping the door open).
- —The preconditions to another meeting are very vague and can be interpreted as forbidding or as virtually perfunctory. We can try to claim that we have met them after the Cambodian operations are finished, in order to test Hanoi's intent.
- —As for settlement conditions, this message failed to mention the NLF “ten points” or the usual Communist demands for U.S. withdrawal and for a “provisional coalition government.”
This statement represents the minimum that Hanoi could say under the present circumstances, particularly because Hanoi may well believe that we did cause the Cambodian coup and that, in any event, there can be no serious negotiations until the Cambodian outcome is a little clearer.
At the same time, Hanoi obviously wants to keep the door open. This may reflect its desire to negotiate seriously or its estimate that our continued contacts reduce the likelihood of further American escalation. In either case, it is an indication that North Vietnam's situation at this point is not free of pressure either.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 853, For the President's File—Vietnam Negotiations, Sensitive, Camp David, Vol. V. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only.↩