76. Backchannel Message From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to the Ambassador to Vietnam (Bunker)1

WWH90761. Exclusively Eyes Only for the Ambassador (hold for arrival in Saigon).

The President has asked that you convey to Thieu the importance that he places upon the forthcoming Midway meeting. He is aware that press speculation here has probably aroused some concern on the coalition government issue, and wishes Thieu to be assured that we are determined to hold the line on this. I gave this message to Bui Diem yesterday. However, it is essential that we retain tactical flexibility. Our major problem here is to gain time and to enable us to combat the growing public pressures. This is why troop withdrawal announcement is so crucial.

Press is speculating that Midway meeting was convened to remedy a growing divergence between Saigon and Washington. Therefore, it is most important that troop withdrawal announcement be made in context of Thieu initiative in order to maintain his image here. It will strengthen our ability to help him on political front.

At Midway, we currently visualize that President and Thieu will meet privately from 11:30 until 1:00 p.m., and then issue a very brief joint announcement on troop withdrawal along lines of my earlier message.2 This will produce a maximum impact especially if it is unexpected. Following lunch, the entire group will meet, then at 5:00 p.m., a formal joint statement will be made on other matters dealt with at the conference.

Because of the psychological implications of the troop withdrawal statement, it is absolutely essential that there be no leaks beforehand that announcement is to be made. For this reason, this matter has been held strictly to the President, myself, and Secretaries Rogers and Laird. It is equally important that similar restrictions be retained on this information at your end. You will note that some references have been made to troop withdrawal and Vietnamization in regular State traffic concerned with the formal joint statement at the conclusion of the meeting and preparatory coordination of respective positions. These references have been made by drafters unaware of the decision to proceed [Page 238] with a separate announcement at Midway and serve as an additional cover to maintain the necessary security.

Request your views on foregoing, as soon as possible.3

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 65, Vietnam Subject Files, 8–A, All Backchannel. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only.
  2. See Document 70.
  3. In backchannel message 802 from Saigon, June 2, Bunker reported that he did not expect problems with Thieu on troop withdrawals and Thieu would be reassured by Nixon’s assurances on a coalition government. Bunker also reported that Abrams hoped to maintain flexibility in withdrawals. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 65, Vietnam Subject Files, 8–A, All Backchannel)