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


  • Instructions for Private Talks at the Paris Negotiations on Vietnam

Following his meeting with you in Paris, Ambassador Lodge has submitted a proposal setting forth the views of the negotiating team on the timing and content of private talks with the North Vietnamese (Tab A).2

Lodge suggests that we try to schedule a meeting with the DRV as soon as we are convinced the circumstances are right. The meetings should be bilateral, but if the DRV is absolutely adamant on dragging in the NLF, we should try to get the GVN to agree to private four-party meetings.

Lodge would make discussions on mutual withdrawal the central subject of the private sessions, while insisting that the question of political settlement be handled by the GVN and the NLF. Lodge proposes full consultation with the GVN prior to any meetings and emphasizes that we must try to get both the GVN and the DRV to keep the meetings secret. The purpose of the first sessions would be to get a dialogue started with the DRV. We would move slowly on scheduling subsequent meetings, carefully studying Hanoi’s reaction at each point.

The State Department instructions cover the key questions requiring consultation with Thieu at this time. Some modifications in the State draft are suggested for your approval, however, partly to soften Bunker’s instructions in raising the possibility of discussing four-party talks with Thieu. The major changes suggested are noted in the attached draft.3 Briefly, they are as follows:

In para 2(b) we have deleted any reference in discussions with Thieu to our willingness to enter into quadrilateral private talks at this time.
In para 2(d) we have suggested, and Secretary Rogers concurs, that the request for private meetings come in about seven days rather than as soon as possible.
Also in para 2(d) we have added a proviso for a warning to the DRV that further private sessions would be difficult if the shellings of major cities continue. We have also noted that we are considering how we should respond in this context to the rocketing of Hue.
In para 4, we have elaborated on the instructions, underscoring that we wish a measured pace in the talks, over the next few months which will not reflect any anxiety on our part.
In para 5 we have modified the judgment that Hanoi is clearly ready for bilateral discussions, indicating we think there is only about a 50/50 chance of this at present. This is particularly true in the light of my talk with Dobrynin this evening.4
In para 6 we have deleted mention of a full statement of position on withdrawal, since that will probably not be hammered out in time. We are scheduling an NSC discussion on our withdrawal position.5

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Kissinger Papers, Box TS–64, Memoranda to the President, 1969 February–April. Top Secret. A handwritten notation on the memorandum reads: “Pres ok’d 3/14/69”.
  2. Attached at Tab A was telegram 3388 to Paris/Delto 1451, March 10.
  3. The attached draft with the revisions was sent as telegram 38736 to Saigon, February 13. (National Archives, RG 59, EAP/ACA Files: Lot 70 D 47, Outgoing to Paris and Saigon, 1–31 March 1969)
  4. Kissinger is apparently referring to his discussion with Dobrynin, the evening of March 11. On March 19 Kissinger sent Nixon a memorandum summarizing that discussion, which was held at the Soviet Embassy in Washington. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 489, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/HAK, 1969, [Part 2])
  5. On March 14 at 6:40 p.m., Kissinger and Rogers discussed private talks in Paris. According to notes of the discussion, Kissinger stated: “President has talked to K a number of times this week about negotiating procedures.… His basic concern is that we start on a bilateral basis and not a quadrilateral basis. Then if the GVN asks for them that would be an ideal way to broaden them. K said he had not shown President Lodge cable [see footnote 2 above] because he did not want to get him upset. R said he is very anxious to get started on these talks—he has difficulty in seeing why we should waste more time in way we get started. K said his impression that we were going to start next week—is he wrong?…R said he does not see how we can logically take the position we will not talk in private with the same group and with the same arrangements that we do in public. K said he thinks there would be concern about giving away ahead of time before they even asked for it.” After more discussion, much of it reiterating these basic viewpoints, Rogers agreed to try to get the private talks started bilaterally, but if that proved impossible he would go to four-party discussions. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 359, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File) Nixon and Kissinger’s discussions about the issue of bilateral or quadrilateral private talks are in notes of a telephone conversation, March 11, approximately 10 p.m. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 489, President’s Trip Files, DobryninHAK, 1969, [Part 2])