50. Talking Points for President Nixon 1


Express your appreciation to Ambassador Lodge for returning to the U.S. at this time for an exchange of views on the progress of negotiations in Paris. Compliment Lodge on the conduct of the negotiations to date and make the point that you wanted him back at this time so that he would have the first-hand benefit of the results of last Friday’s National Security Council meeting on Vietnam prior to proceeding with the private talks.
Review the game plan for the private talks:
Visualize separate discussions between the US/DRV and the GVN/NLF, private talks including all participants not excluded but the initial focus should be on the US/DRV route.
Our posture on the pace of the talks should be ready but not eager. We want to avoid giving Hanoi the impression we are acting from weakness or under pressures.
We should maintain public posture of seeking progress without revealing content of private talks.
During the early stages we would:
Stress mutual withdrawals. This subject is the foundation of any agreement, of concern to both sides, and our major source of leverage.
Secondary but significant emphasis on restoring the DMZ.
Keep after the question of prisoners.
De-escalation. There was a split position in the bureaucracy on this subject prior to the NSC meeting. Some believe we should present and discuss proposals; others disagree. As a result of the NSC meeting on Friday, you have decided:2
There will be no de-escalation except as an outgrowth of mutual troop withdrawal.
The U.S. side will not initiate any de-escalation proposals in the Paris negotiations.
If the DRV raise the issue of de-escalation, the U.S. side will listen but only discuss it in the context of mutual withdrawal.
In the broader phase of the negotiations, we would:
Consider moving into a whole set of issues associated with the 62 and 54 Accords and try to get as many agreements as possible. Even in the early stages of talks, Laos, Cambodia and the withdrawal of NVN troops to the DRV must be emphasized. On the definition of U.S. forces subject to withdrawal and as a result of Friday’s NSC meeting, you have decided that we should be prepared to state publicly that the U.S. would withdraw all combat forces from South Vietnam if Hanoi meets rigid conditions of a mutual withdrawal agreement. These conditions should include provisions for:
Verification and supervision of withdrawal.
The withdrawal of North Vietnamese forces from Laos and Cambodia.
Guarantees to maintain the agreement.
On the issue of a timetable for completion of U.S. withdrawal, you have decided that there will be no public repudiation of the former U.S. position that we would complete our withdrawal within 6 months of the completion of Hanoi’s withdrawal (Manila formula). This position, however, will be adopted with the recognition that, in practice, the U.S. will be in a position to control the timing of the completion of our withdrawal, since we can determine if Hanoi has fully met the conditions of the mutual withdrawal agreement. The key point will not be the timetable but rather getting Hanoi to comply with the conditions of the withdrawal.
Concerning the political structure of the South, we should push forward South Vietnamese discussions of the internal political structure. At the same time, we should minimize our involvement in these questions, closely coordinate with the GVN, and urge them to develop negotiating positions.
Concerning GVN, Allied and Soviet roles, we should strive at all times to keep our position fully coordinated with the GVN. We should give the Soviets every opportunity to exert influence in the direction of progress. We do not now envisage a major French role.
Inform Lodge that you recognize that the North Vietnamese have been quite successful in conducting their military operations in South Vietnam in such a way as to exert maximum influence on the Paris negotiations. At the same time, you believe we should avoid the de-escalation route at this time in order to preclude a Panmunjom stalemate at the outset. Indicate that you are willing for a time to “take the heat” on this issue.
Inform Lodge that you have instructed Ambassador Bunker and General Goodpaster to continue on a priority basis to improve the efficiency and capabilities of the South Vietnamese armed forces and that you anticipate some unilateral U.S. troop withdrawals commencing as early as July, providing there is no drastic change in the situation on the ground.
Ask Lodge to provide his appraisal of how the negotiations are proceeding.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 181, Paris Talks/Meetings, Memos and Miscellaneous, March–May 1969. Top Secret; Sensitive. No drafting information appears on the paper, but it was likely prepared by the White House Staff. Nixon and Kissinger met with Lodge and Habib from 2:05 to 2:55 p.m. on March 31. (Ibid., White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary)
  2. See Document 51.