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

SUBJECT

  • Analysis of the NLF's Ten Points

Attached at Tab A2 is an excellent CIA analysis of the general implications and possible significance of the NLF 10-Point statement (text at Tab B).3 This memorandum contains a point-by-point analysis and then lists the positive elements, the negative elements and the elements subject to negotiation.

The Ten Points

Point 1, calling for the independence, sovereignty, unity, and territorial integrity of Vietnam, is standard NLF language and is acceptable to us.

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Point 2 calls for U.S. withdrawal, including all military personnel. This is standard and acceptable, except that we would, of course, insist upon the withdrawal as well of North Vietnamese forces.

Point 3 is new and states that “the Vietnamese people's right to defend their fatherland is inalienable. The problems of the Vietnamese armed forces in South Vietnam will be settled by the Vietnamese sides.” The first sentence is a standard assertion to justify the right of the North Vietnamese forces to be in the south. The second sentence implies that the withdrawal should be settled among the Vietnamese including a South Vietnamese Government. If this government is meant to be an NLF -dominated coalition, this is, of course, totally unacceptable. If it is the GVN, it is a step forward in accepting negotiations on the North Vietnamese withdrawal with the US/GVN side. However, to ask the GVN to negotiate alone with Hanoi on withdrawals would put all the pressures on them and is unacceptable. We would not object to the GVN participating with us in negotiations about the withdrawal of North Vietnamese forces.

Point 4 presents a plan for a political settlement involving elections, a constitutional assembly, a new constitution and then a coalition government. It needs to be read in conjunction with Point 5 which calls for an interim coalition government prior to the elections. With regard to Point 4, itself, if the point means that a coalition government must result from the elections, this is, of course, unacceptable. If it means that one possible result of an election is a coalition government, we would not object. We have not yet addressed the question of whether we are prepared to accept the need for a new constitution.

Point 5 deals with a period prior to an election. In stating that “no side is to force the South Vietnamese people to accept its political regime,” it appears to imply that there is an interim period during which the GVN, the NLF and other groups in the south would negotiate about the setting up of a caretaker government. Hanoi's description of those who could participate in such a government appears to rule out the GVN, although the statement omits the NLF's usual assertion that the U.S. must remove the GVN government. Thus, the words, themselves, could permit GVN participation. They also could be read to exclude the NLF from the caretaker government, although this is almost certainly not the NLF's intention. Whatever arrangements are made, the actual political evolution in the south will depend on the actual balance of forces. The prevention of the NLF takeover will require an effective and functioning non-Communist political group.

Point 6 is a standard call for good relations with Laos and Cambodia and diplomatic relations with other countries. The only new point is the reference to the need to establish diplomatic and economic relations with the United States and the assertion that South Vietnam must be able to accept economic and technical assistance from any country. This point is acceptable to us.

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Point 7 calls for a step-by-step move toward reunification on the basis of negotiation between the two zones and for normal relations between the zones in the interim. It accepts the military demarcation line but notes that it is only provisional in character and not a political border. Finally, it states that the two zones will decide on the status of the demilitarized zone and the measures for crossing the provisional demarcation line. Most of this language is standard and acceptable to us. The final sentence seems to call for a new agreement between the two zones about the DMZ. This is acceptable if it means negotiations between the GVN and Hanoi and if it leads to reestablishment of an effective demilitarized area.

Point 8 provides that prior to reunification, North and South Vietnam will not enter into military alliance and will not accept any foreign military personnel on their territory. This is standard language. We have not decided that we are prepared to agree to keeping no advisors in South Vietnam or to accept renunciation of the SEATO protocol by South Vietnam.

Point 9 deals with return of prisoners of war in more explicit terms than in the past. However, it also calls for reparations by the U.S. to both North and South Vietnam and implies a possible linkage between prisoner release and reparations. Reparations in either circumstance would be unacceptable to us.

Point 10 calls for all parties to agree on international supervision of the U.S. withdrawals. This is the first time Hanoi has proposed any international supervision. It could provide an opening for a discussion of international supervision for the withdrawal of North Vietnamese forces as well.

Positive Elements

1.
Acceptance by implication of the presence of North Vietnamese forces in the south and indication that this is negotiable even if only by the Vietnamese sides.
2.
Presentation of a detailed plan for a political settlement with some new and potentially acceptable elements and without insisting explicitly that this government be in accordance with the program of the Front.
3.
Implication that the GVN might participate in negotiations about a caretaker government and the absence of an explicit statement that the U.S. must remove the GVN.
4.
Statement that there should be no retaliation against those who cooperated with either side.
5.
Recognition of the DMZ as a provisional boundary and willingness to negotiate about it if only with the GVN.
6.
Explicit reference to release of prisoners (although possibly linked to reparations).
7.
Initial reference to international supervision, if only related to withdrawal of U.S. forces.

Negative Elements

1.
Absence of an explicit statement of withdrawal of North Vietnamese forces.
2.
Call for both an interim and permanent coalition government with refusal to accept the present constitutional structure of the GVN.
3.
Language which implies that coalition government should be restricted to Communist or sympathetic elements.
4.
Demand for U.S. reparations.
5.
International supervision limited to U.S. withdrawals.

Elements Subject to Negotiation

1.
Procedures for negotiating withdrawal of North Vietnamese forces and the relationship of this withdrawal to the withdrawal of U.S. forces.
2.
Election procedures in South Vietnam.
3.
Political arrangements prior to an election.
4.
Status of the demilitarized zone.
5.
Application of international supervision to North Vietnamese withdrawal.

If Hanoi and the NLF are now ready for serious, detailed discussion, there are many elements in the 10-Point Program which we could probe, perhaps finding the basis for agreement. If Hanoi has presented this on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, it is very far from being satisfactory.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 175, Paris Peace Talks, NLF 10-Points, May 1969, Folder 5. Secret; Sensitive. A stamped note on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.
  2. Tab A, May 9, entitled “The Liberation Front's New Peace Proposal,” is attached but not printed.
  3. Not attached. On May 8 at the session of the Paris Peace Talks, Tran Buu Kiem of the NLF put forward a 10-point peace plan for ending the war in Vietnam. The text of the proposal is printed in Council on Foreign Relations, Stebbins and Adam (eds.), Documents on American Foreign Relations, 1968–1969, pp. 249–252.