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

SUBJECT

  • Your Meeting with President Thieu at Midway, June 8

I. Arrangements for the Midway Meeting

You will arrive at Midway at 11:00 a.m. President Thieu arrives at 11:30 a.m. After an official welcome and military honors (draft statement attached at Tab A),2 you will meet privately with President Thieu for about an hour and a half. The remaining members of both delegations will meet in a separate conference room during this period. (Delegation lists are at Tab E.)

After a brief break, there will be a business luncheon attended by members of both delegations. (Points for a toast are at Tab B.) Secretary Laird departs after this luncheon.

Your final meeting with Thieu will begin at 3:15 p.m. after a half-hour break. Secretary Rogers and other senior advisors will sit in on this meeting at which you and President Thieu will review the draft joint statement. (Current draft is at Tab C.) At 5:00 p.m. there is to be a joint press conference at which time the joint statement will be issued. President Thieu is scheduled to leave about 5:45 p.m. (A draft departure statement is at Tab D.) You are scheduled to leave shortly thereafter.

II. The Setting for the Midway Meeting

The Midway meeting with President Thieu comes at a crucial time. It has been preceded by months of concerted and effective efforts on the part of your administration to dissipate misunderstanding between us and the South Vietnamese Government and to place our relations on a solid basis of both full consultation and mutual confidence. The meeting, furthermore, follows the enunciation of your peace program in the May 14 speech and the issuance of the NLF 's ten points, providing a potential basis for negotiations at Paris. Finally, in recent months, Thieu has taken key actions reflecting his greater sense of self-confidence, his recognition of the political problems facing you at [Page 244]home, and his sense that the Vietnam war is probably entering the decisive negotiating stage. These actions include:

1.
His full support for improvement and modernization of the Vietnamese forces.
2.
His agreement to a withdrawal of some U.S. military units during 1969.
3.
His March 25 statement of the six-point GVN peace program and other public indications of some flexibility on a political settlement.
4.
His even greater flexibility, privately, on political arrangements affording the NLF a guaranteed post-war political role.
5.
His formation of a political coalition of supporters, whatever its deficiencies, on May 25.

III. Thieu's main purposes in his talks with you will be

  • —To establish a personal relationship with you which will serve both as a bridge for future consultation and as a focal point for strengthening his leadership position in South Vietnam.
  • —To reassure himself that the United States will remain committed to South Vietnam both during and after the war; from Thieu's viewpoint the key areas of reassurance (which relate in part to the eight-point plan in your speech) will be:
    (1)
    Withdrawal of U.S. forces, whether unilateral or mutual, will not be at a rate likely to increase the vulnerability of the GVN to Communist military action.
    (2)
    The Vietnam settlement will include guarantees against a renewal of the North Vietnamese military intervention in South Vietnam.
    (3)
    The U.S. plan, particularly those aspects dealing with disengagement and local ceasefires, would not result in a de facto partition for South Vietnam.
    (4)
    The U.S. is not seeking to impose a provisional coalition government or scrapping of the present constitution in the pre-election period.
  • —To establish for public consumption a close identity of purpose and action with you, while establishing for his Saigon audience his stature as an equal.

IV. Your main purposes in the talks with Thieu will be

  • —To establish a personal relationship with Thieu which provides him with both a necessary sense of confidence in your commitments to South Vietnam and reinforces his own sense of self-confidence.
  • —To reassure Thieu on two fundamentals:
    (1)
    We will not be a party to an agreement imposing either a coalition government in the pre- or post-election periods, or any other political arrangement against the will of the South Vietnamese.
    (2)
    Withdrawal of U.S. forces, whether unilateral or mutual, will not be undertaken at the risk of the military security of either South Vietnam forces or the remaining U.S. forces.
  • —To encourage a sense of urgency, vigor and joint U.S.-GVN purpose in the Vietnamization program.3
  • —To prod Thieu gently to articulate in more specific terms a political program for discussion at the Paris negotiations which affords the Communists sufficient guarantees of free political completion without conceding to their demands for a coalition government.4

    (Thieu has privately suggested this might be done through a combination of international supervision, mixed electorate commissions, and amendment—rather than scrapping—of the constitution.)

  • —To encourage Thieu to continue his efforts to unify the nationalists on the political front and to strengthen the local governmental apparatus, while hinting judiciously about the utility of dealing gently with opposition non-Communist forces.5

    (Note: The political situation in South Vietnam is more fluid than appears on the surface; Thieu and his principal non-Communist rivals are already maneuvering for position in the post-war political structure, and each in all probability also has some lines out to elements in the NLF. Thieu, therefore, could be tempted or prodded by his supporters to bear down hard on his non-Communist rivals.)

  • —To assure Thieu that you will not accept any settlement that does not provide assurances of North Vietnamese withdrawal to North Vietnam and against their future military intervention in South Vietnam.
  • —To establish publicly an image of unity with the GVN and a joint determination to seek a very early settlement of the Vietnam conflict which does not compromise basic principles.

V. Danger Signals

While it will be important for you to encourage forward motion on Thieu's part both with respect to Vietnamization and the formulation of a political program, there are risks in pushing Thieu too far, too fast. Thieu has been bolder in charting future policy on both withdrawal of U.S. forces and a political settlement than his supporters or his political rivals. He faces the constant necessity of bringing these elements along to his more flexible posture. Therefore, it will be neither to his nor to your interest for Thieu to get too far out ahead of other nationalists in Saigon or to appear to be acting on Vietnamization and a political settlement strictly at our behest.6 Thieu's pre-Midway visits [Page 246]to Seoul and Taipei, in any event, will probably strengthen his determination to resist any appearance of American pressure.

VI. Specific Issues Likely to Arise (Talking Points at Tab F)

A.
Thieu is likely to raise, or should be encouraged to raise:
1.
His views on a program for a political settlement.
2.
Progress in organizing political support among the non-Communists.
3.
Modernization of the GVN forces.
4.
Progress on the pacification front.
5.
Land reform.
B.
Issues you should raise:7
1.
U.S. plans for a reduction of U.S. forces.
2.
Reassurance on the U.S. position opposing either partition or the imposition of unsatisfactory provisional arrangements before the elections.
3.
Our view on the current status and the prospects of the Paris negotiations.
4.
Your overview on Asia, including the importance of a steadfast U.S. commitment to the non-Communist countries in the region.

VII. Thieu Personality

Thieu is a career military officer who has proved his political astuteness both by surviving successive coups and by demonstrating growing qualities of leadership since taking over as President in 1967. Cast in the traditional Vietnamese mold, Thieu is reserved in manner, moves cautiously, and keeps his own counsel. However, as he has gained greater self-confidence, he has increasingly shown himself to be more perceptive and sensitive to the needs of his country—and more flexible—than his potential rivals. He has worked in close harmony with Ambassador Bunker and has developed a real sensitivity toward the domestic problems faced in the United States. He accepts our advice, but at every crucial instance has made it clear that he is his own master. Unostentatious in manner, he is devoted to his wife and family. His single known “vice” is a passion for fishing.

VIII.

The State and Defense Departments have prepared a number of background papers, in the attached briefing book. A scope paper is attached at Tab G.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 71, Vietnam Subject Files, Midway Meeting with President Thieu, 6/8/69, Briefing Book, Vol. I. Secret. Sent for information.
  2. All Tabs are attached but not printed.
  3. Nixon highlighted this sentence.
  4. Nixon highlighted this sentence.
  5. Nixon underlined the phrase: “utility of dealing gently with opposition non-Communist forces” in this sentence.
  6. Nixon underlined this sentence.
  7. Nixon underlined issues 1 and 2.