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


  • Your Meeting with Acting Secretary Johnson and Ambassadors Bruce and Habib, Saturday, July 4, 10:00 a.m.2
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You will be meeting on July 4 with Acting Secretary U. Alexis Johnson, Ambassador David K.E. Bruce, and Ambassador Philip C. Habib. The meeting is in part designed to underline our peace initiative. It also gives you the chance to outline your basic views to your negotiators in the presence of Alex Johnson and against the background of recent unhelpful press reports on possible changes in our position.

I suggest you meet for about an hour and a half in your office and that you then take Ambassador Bruce and me to your house for a private session from about 11:30 to 12:30. (Alexis Johnson and Phil Habib know that you plan to do this.) This will give you a chance to talk frankly to Bruce about:

  • —Your general philosophy about the negotiations
  • —The manner in which you want Ambassador Bruce to conduct them and the procedures you plan to follow.

Their Positions

  • Ambassador Bruce will be mainly interested in informing himself about the current state of the talks, what the problems are, and what the prospects are. He will also wish to know how he can best prepare himself for this mission.
  • Ambassador Habib will want to brief you and Ambassador Bruce on the current situation in Paris. His recent views on the prospects for the talks have not been optimistic, since he doubts that the present framework of negotiations can cover all the problems which need to be discussed for a settlement throughout Indochina.3
  • Alexis Johnson may raise a negotiating initiative which the State Department is seriously considering. Their proposal, as framed by Ambassador Sullivan, would essentially combine the offer of a ceasefire with a stipulated time period for withdrawal of US/Allied forces.4

Your Positions:

You may wish to make the following points:

  • —Any public or private statements by either Ambassador should emphasize that we see this change in our representation as a substantive move, made against a background of repeated reports that the level [Page 1110] of our representation in Paris was a bar to serious negotiations. We have now removed that bar. We do not regard this merely as cosmetics, but as a sign of our sincere desire to find a negotiated settlement. We wish to see what the other side will do now.
  • —You should emphasize that there has been too much loose talk recently about new U.S. initiatives, including a possible change in our position on a coalition government. You made your views clear on this issue in your Wednesday night TV interview.5 You want all departmental spokesmen to stay mum on possible U.S. moves in the Paris negotiations, in particular, on the questions of a coalition government or a fixed unilateral U.S. withdrawal.
  • You believe our essential negotiating position is sound.
    • • We should steer away from talk of a coalition government.
    • • Linkage of a ceasefire and a fixed U.S. withdrawal timetable in effect accepts the other side’s demand that we take out our forces unilaterally in return only for a guarantee of their safe passage.
    • • In any event, as you pointed out on television, a fixed timetable for our withdrawals removes the incentive for the other side to negotiate.
    • • As for ceasefire itself, you don’t think it should be linked to our unilateral withdrawals. You might be willing to consider a separate ceasefire initiative in late summer, but first you want to let the South Vietnamese continue their pacification efforts in the wake of the Cambodian operations.
  • —You would welcome Ambassador Habib’s views on the negotiations and what we might expect from Hanoi in terms of their delegation and their positions.
  • —You wish to thank Ambassador Habib for the outstanding job he has done as Acting Chief of Delegation through a most difficult period. You hope that he will stay on for a few months to assist Ambassador Bruce in getting started.

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Status of Talks

You may wish also to give Ambassador Bruce our general impression of where the talks stand at this time, recognizing that he will be receiving more detailed briefings later:

  • —At present, the talks are completely deadlocked and the gaps between the respective positions are very wide.
  • We have taken the following basic positions on key issues:
    • Military Issues. We have indicated our readiness to withdraw all our forces in twelve months as part of an overall settlement including their reciprocal withdrawals. We do not expect them to announce their withdrawals publicly, but we cannot leave while North Vietnamese forces remain.
    • Political Issues. We believe that this is a subject which the South Vietnamese should work out among themselves. Given the GVNNLF stalemate, however, we have said that we are willing to discuss a political settlement but that the South Vietnamese must participate in the discussions as serious negotiations proceed. We and the GVN have proposed free elections, internationally supervised, with an electoral commission to ensure fairness. The NLF could sit on this commission and participate in the elections. We would accept the outcome.
    • POWs. We attach great importance to this issue. We think that an early exchange of prisoners should be arranged. Barring that, we want to use whatever means we can to ensure proper treatment.
  • —The North Vietnamese and Viet Cong have taken the following positions:
    • Military. They say that we must pull out all our forces in six months and that in exchange they will guarantee the safety of the withdrawing forces. They also have demanded as a precondition that we should state our calendar for unilateral withdrawal before they will negotiate seriously. (This is almost the position that Ambassador Sullivan is suggesting except that he would envisage a longer timetable, i.e. eighteen months, for our withdrawals.)
    • Political. They propose the formation of a temporary coalition government to run elections, which would lead to a permanent coalition. They want to determine who can be in these coalitions. They also have stated as a precondition that we must abandon the South Vietnamese government before they will negotiate seriously.

Attached at Tab A is biographic information on Ambassador Bruce.6

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 189, Paris Peace Talks/Meetings, 1 July 1970–September 1970. Secret; Sensitive. Sent for information. A notation on the first page reads: “The President has seen.”
  2. The President and Kissinger met with Bunker, Habib, and Johnson from 9:56 to 11:52 p.m. There were two breaks in the meeting: from 10:03 to 10:08 apparently for press photographers and from 11:45 to 11:52 a.m. when the President and Bunker made brief statements to the press corps. (Ibid., White House Central Files, Daily Diary) The texts of the statements are in Public Papers: Nixon, 1970, p. 562. No other record of the meeting has been found.
  3. On June 3 Habib sent Kissinger a letter outlining his views of the objectives of the negotiations and suggesting five options which were not mutually exclusive: 1) relying on Vietnamization and gearing for the long run; 2) wider conference in Paris; 3) cease-fire and wider Paris conference; 4) wider conference, supervised cease-fire, offer to withdraw U.S. and Third Country forces within fixed time; and 5) cease-fire and withdrawal with no formal conference. (Attached to a July 2 letter from Kissinger to Habib; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 189, Paris Peace Talks/Meetings, 1 July 1970–September 1970)
  4. The proposal was presented formally to the President in Document 345.
  5. Reference is to the President’s conversation on July 1 in Los Angeles with television journalists Howard K. Smith of the American Broadcasting Company, John Chancellor of the National Broadcasting Company, and Eric Sevareid of the Columbia Broadcasting Company. At the beginning of this question and answer session, Nixon announced the appointment of Bruce. Text of the conversation is in Public Papers: Nixon, 1970, pp. 543–559.
  6. Attached but not printed.