83. Memorandum From the President's Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1
- Paris Private Talks
At the May 31, private meeting with Ambassador Lodge, the Hanoi representative, Le Duc Tho, took a new tact proposing to negotiate bilaterally with us on all questions, political as well as military. Hanoi no longer insisted that we negotiate with the NLF, but refused flatly to talk privately to the GVN.
Tho also raised three questions of major substance:
- Does the United States agree that it and the DRV should work out a settlement of all problems mentioned in the 10-points, that agreements should be signed, followed by an agreement for a ceasefire?
- Does the United States agree to have the present GVN leadership replaced by a peace cabinet willing to conduct serious talks with the NLF ?
- Who is to organize elections after the restoration of peace?
Two principal issues are raised by Tho's proposals:
- How do we proceed with the private talks?
- If we move ahead with another round of private talks, how do we respond to Tho's three questions?
Ambassadors Lodge and Bunker, in commenting on our possible response to Tho, agree that the basic objective of Hanoi's strategy is to isolate the Thieu Government and produce strains between us and the GVN—as might result if we and the DRV negotiated seriously on a political settlement. Lodge, however, believes that Tho's approach merits further probing to determine if there is a basis for serious negotiation.2 [Page 257] Bunker is essentially less optimistic.3 Nevertheless, Bunker has not disputed Lodge's proposal that we request a further private meeting after Midway on a basis which would neither accept nor reject Tho's proposal for talks on political, as well as military, issues. Lodge would not initiate any discussion of political issues and would respond initially to the DRV that these should be discussed with the GVN. Bunker would prefer to take the offensive in the next round of private talks and is concerned about the GVN reaction if we are drawn into extended political talks with the DRV. Lodge shares this concern but thinks we can avoid this trap.
With respect to Tho's three questions, Lodge and Bunker are not far apart:
- Both would rebuff, for the present, Tho's suggestion for discussing a draft agreement, and emphasize our interest in substance and not form.
- Both would reject Tho's proposal to replace the GVN with a peace cabinet, but Bunker would take a tougher line.
- Both would respond to the question on organizing the elections, by suggesting that elections can be organized without changing the GVN or jeopardizing the NLF and that the GVN and NLF work the problems out.
- Finally, both would try to focus the discussions with the DRV on mutual withdrawal.
My own view is closer to Bunker's appreciation of the situation. I would go ahead with another round of private talks but with greater care to avoid any misunderstanding with the GVN about our undertaking political talks with the DRV. I believe Lodge will agree and intend to discuss this with Lodge and Bunker.
Lodge and Bunker have also suggested that you might review this problem of further private talks with Thieu during your morning meeting. You may prefer to leave those details to Bunker, and instead discuss the private talks in general terms with Thieu indicating our intention to probe the DRV position although we see as yet little ground for optimism.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1319, Unfiled Material, 3 of 19. Secret; Nodis. Sent for action. Originally dated June 7, then re-dated by hand June 11. Sneider sent this memorandum to Kissinger on June 2 with the recommendation that he sign and send it to the President. The second page was redone, apparently at Kissinger's request. A note on the first page presumably by Sneider reads: “President was shown this by HAK on trip to Honolulu, RS.” This note is apparently in response to an attached note by Haig, June 11, that reads: “Dick Sneider, Dick—Pres did not see this [.] it's now OBE in some respects—should we update and refloat? Al.”↩
- Lodge's comment and recommendations are in telegram 8366 from Paris/Delto 1805, June 4. (Ibid., Box 177, Paris Talks/Meetings, Paris Meetings, May–June 1969, State Nodis Cables/Habib Calls)↩
- Bunker's comments and recommendations are in telegram 11261 from Saigon, June 5. (Ibid., RG 59, Winston Lord Files: Lot 77 D 112, Box 338, Vietnam Private Talks)↩