345. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rogers to President Nixon 1


  • NSC Consideration of Diplomatic Initiatives

There seems to be a fairly broad consensus among the agencies participating in the preparation of papers concerning diplomatic initiatives on Indochina. That consensus has produced an agreement at the Under Secretary level that we should propose initiatives based upon a package that involves (a) an Indochina cease-fire, (b) an enlarged Indochina Conference, (c) an acceptance of the principle of U.S. withdrawals, (d) an exchange of prisoners of war, and (e) an international supervisory presence in the Indochina states.

In order to provide a focus for further consideration of this package in the NSC meeting of principals scheduled for three o’clock tomorrow, July 21, I have asked for the development of a scenario which would lay out the various actions the United States Government should take to implement the sort of package being considered. I do not wish to put this forward as a Department of State position, but merely submit it as a paper which I believe will be of assistance to our deliberations.

It is my recommendation that this paper be distributed on a tightly held basis to the various participants in the NSC meeting for their consideration prior to tomorrow afternoon’s session.

William P. Rogers

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It is assumed that the scenario for our diplomatic initiative on Indochina will start from the concept of a package of proposals which would concentrate primarily upon the military aspects of the problem while leaving the political problems unresolved. For purposes of this paper, the package will be considered to include:

a cease-fire throughout all Indochina,
an acceptance of the principle of U.S. withdrawals,
an exchange of POW’s,
an international supervisory presence,
a call for an enlarged negotiation on all Indochina to be composed of “interested parties”.

While this package is accepted as the concept which will guide our initiative, it is not necessary that we place all of it on the table at one time. Furthermore, consideration must be given to the way in which we will wish to present the various elements of it. The following scenario projects a realistic time frame for the actions contemplated.

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July 21 NSC decision on negotiating package. Instructions given to Ambassadors Bunker, Bruce, and Habib.
July 22 Ambassadors Bunker and Bruce to Saigon. Ambassador Habib returns to Paris.
July 24–25 Discussions in Saigon with President Thieu. These would be of a preliminary nature and would give only a general outline of our thinking. However, they would also touch upon the involvement of Lon Nol in the development of our position. It might be suggested that Thieu invite Lon Nol, Sirik Matak, and Koun Wich to Saigon where they could consult with Thieu and Bunker in order to assure Cambodian acceptance of our proposals.
July 27–August 2 Refinement and preparation of U.S. position in light of preliminary consultations with President Thieu.
August 3 Ambassador Bruce arrives in Paris. His statements to the press indicate that U.S. and GVN will propose new negotiating initiatives. However, he will refrain from giving any details.
August 4–5 Ambassador Bruce makes appropriate courtesy calls in Paris. During these calls, he informs interlocutors [Page 1127] that we will shortly have some new proposals. He makes clear that these will be serious moves designed to move toward serious solutions and will not be mere propaganda moves. However, he will again refrain from details.
August 6 Ambassador Bruce attends his first negotiating session, regardless of rank of those on the other side of the table. His remarks will be general in nature, but will avoid harsh rhetoric. He will make clear that he has come to open serious negotiations and that our side will have some new proposals. When greeting DRV and PRG negotiators informally, he will assure them that we wish serious negotiations. He will arrange to have DRV informed that we wish to renew private talks, with their representatives.
August 7–10 (a) Ambassador Bunker consults with President Thieu on form and manner in which we propose to make our initiative and obtains his concurrence. (b) Embassies Vientiane and Phnom Penh consult with Souvanna and Lon Nol to obtain their concurrence in general lines of our proposed initiative. They are constrained to hold information most closely.
August 10 Australian, New Zealand, Thai and Korean key figures are informed of general outlines which we intend to put forward. They are asked to hold information most closely.
August 11 (a) Djakarta Three (Indonesia, Japan, and Malaysia) are informed of general outlines of our proposal and asked to render their support. They are advised that we and the Indochina states will count on them for aid in observing and supervising the cease-fire.
(b) British and Soviet Co-Chairmen are given generalized outline of our proposals and are assured of our desire to pursue them seriously in negotiation.
August 12 H–8 hrs to H–2 hrs (a) U Thant, Pope Paul, French, Indians, Canadians Poles, and NATO allies are informed in general terms of our proposed initiative and asked to give public support. They are also informed that we intend to negotiate seriously on these proposals.
H–2 hrs (b) Congressional leadership of both parties invited to White House and given advance briefing of proposed initiative. They are then kept as “captive audience” to listen to President’s TV presentation of initiative.
H hour (c) President Nixon goes on nationwide TV (with overseas satellite broadcast) to put forward our proposals.

In his speech, the President emphasizes four features of the proposals:

Indochina cease-fire,
acceptance of withdrawal principle,
call for an Indochina negotiation among “interested parties”,
mutual release of POW’s.

He will deliberately leave the nature of a cease-fire vague, but will stress the need for its application in Laos and Cambodia, as well as Viet-Nam. He will also emphasize the requirement for international supervision and will leave the impression that we consider the ICC alone to be inadequate for a satisfactory control. He will suggest the need for the presence of some Asian states in this effort.

In stating our acceptance of the principle of withdrawal of U.S. forces, the President will avoid use of the word “unilateral” and will also avoid any suggestion of a timetable. However, he should leave the clear impression that he is talking about unilateral action on our part and that we are willing to negotiate about a timetable.

Again, on the question of the composition or venue of an Indochina negotiation among “interested parties”, the President will avoid specifics. He will indicate that we prefer a broader composition of participants than the current “our side-your side” group in Paris, but that we are not willing to pay any price to obtain that new structure. He will make it clear that, if Hanoi turns down a broader form and composition, we are quite prepared and willing to pursue our negotiations in the Paris forum.

On POW’s, the President will be as categoric as possible. The proposal should be couched in terms of a mutual release of all prisoners of war within a specified period after the cease-fire takes place, with no linkage to other events. The release would be unconditional and would permit those released to return to the area of their choice. The ICC, or other supervisory body, would be charged with the responsibility for their safe transportation.

Although he will not touch upon it in his speech, the President may face subsequent questions about the conceptual framework in which cease-fires could be arranged in Laos and Cambodia. Our general [Page 1129] answer to this will be that we would foresee no problems in this proposal if the other side accepts the idea of an enlarged Indochina negotiation. In the event we are constrained to the Paris forum, we would look upon the ICC mechanisms in those two countries to be the principal instruments for effecting a cease-fire.

August 12 Press backgrounding, press and television coverage, and USIA handling will assure world-wide coverage of the President’s proposals. Instructions will be sent to all our diplomatic representatives abroad to bring the proposals to the attention of foreign governments and to seek their support. A major information campaign will begin in its support.
The White House will similarly direct a campaign in the domestic media to obtain the broadest coverage and the widest support.
Immediately after the President speaks, President Thieu in Saigon (August 13 Saigon time) will make a statement endorsing the proposals and indicating his association with their development. Leaders of other Asian allies will make similar statements in order to demonstrate unanimity. Souvanna and Lon Nol will do likewise.
August 13 At the Paris talks, Ambassador Bruce will formally table the President’s proposals. He will indicate his readiness to negotiate their substance.
On the same day, either he or Habib will propose private talks with the North Vietnamese in order to establish the arrangements for a more detailed exploration of the negotiable portions of the proposals.
August 14 and thereafter Negotiations in Paris proceed on two levels, public and private. The private talks will be essentially between US and DRV representatives. However, our representatives may from time to time supplement these channels with the Soviet channel, whenever that is considered useful.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27–14 ASIA SE. Secret; Sensitive; Nodis. Drafted by Sullivan on July 20. Eliot sent this memorandum under a July 20 covering note to Rogers for his signature. Eliot wrote: “The scenario has been amended to add the two points you asked to be included: consultations with Lon Nol and the ICC involvement in ceasefires for Laos and Cambodia.” On July 20 Kissinger sent this memorandum, which he described as “an illustrative scenario for diplomatic initiatives on Indochina … only as background information for the July 21 National Security Council” to the principal members of the NSC with copies to Moore, Bruce, Bunker, and Habib. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–028, NSC Meeting, Vietnam: Ceasefire and Diplomatic Initiative, 7/21/70)