90. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1
- Appointment with Ambassador Lodge2
Ambassador Lodge will call on you at 3:15 p.m., Tuesday, June 24. He is currently on leave from his post in Paris. He will return this week.
Ambassador Lodge will wish to review the status of the Paris negotiations with you and will be seeking your guidance on strategy to be followed after his return.
Status of the Talks: At Midway you and Thieu agreed to new bilateral talks with the North Vietnamese. We would raise only military issues in these talks but would be willing to listen to proposals on political issues concerning South Vietnam. We would not, however, reply to political proposals concerning South Vietnam without consulting the GVN. You also promised Thieu that there would be no private meeting before July 1. You might review this for Lodge.
Following the Midway meeting, you agreed that we should seek another private session with the North Vietnamese early in July in order to probe their intentions. Instructions for that meeting are in the process of preparation.
Lodge’s View: Ambassador Lodge believes we should begin an active round of private meetings now with the North Vietnamese. We would avoid taking any verbal stand on our willingness to discuss “all” the questions, but would not hesitate to respond to any North Vietnamese probes on political issues. We would, if the opportunity offered, seek to probe the DRV reaction to some of the ideas which we have discussed with Saigon for a political agreement, i.e., mixed electoral commissions, etc.
I recommend that:
- You authorize Lodge to seek another private session with the North Vietnamese to explore their position, but that you make no commitment at this point on further meetings and their agenda. It would be worthwhile to stress that we must consult the GVN before making substantive comments on internal South Vietnamese political questions.
- You emphasize your desire that Lodge stress as his main theme the fact that we have
made a number of concessions now, and it is time for the other side
to respond.3 We have: [Page 275]
- —stopped the bombing of North Vietnam;
- —withdrawn 25,000 combat troops;
- —expressed our willingness to submit the conflict to internationally supervised free elections; and
- —expressed our willingness to mutually withdraw all forces from South Vietnam within a year.
The interview with Le Duc Tho indicates that we must play a harder line in Paris for the present.4
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 78, Vietnam Subject Files, Vietnam, Memos to President/HAK on Lodge. Secret. Sent for information. A note on the memorandum reads: “The President has seen.” Haig also prepared talking points for Kissinger for this meeting and sent it to him in a June 24 memorandum. (Ibid., Box 183, Paris Talks/Meetings, Paris Talks, Memos and Miscellaneous, Vol. XIV, 1969)↩
- According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon met with Lodge from 3:20 to 4:07 p.m. on June 24. Kissinger also attended and Byrce Harlow, Assistant for Congressional Affairs, joined the meeting for the last 3 minutes. (Ibid., White House Central Files) No memoranda of conversation of this discussion has been found, although Lodge made notes of what were apparently peripheral issues: statements by combat officers which could be misinterpreted by journalists, Lodge’s desire to change guidelines for MACV, and some light discussion between Lodge and Nixon about Lodge’s next assignment “once this is over.” (Massachusetts Historical Society, Henry Cabot Lodge II Papers, Reel 25)↩
- In a June 27 letter to Nixon, Lodge stated he had to comment on “the suggestion made in our presence last Tuesday [June 24] about breaking off the peace talks.” Lodge stated that on further reflection, “this would be a very bad idea and would put us hopelessly in the wrong as far as public opinion is concerned.” Lodge suggested instead that he absent himself—perhaps return for consultations to Washington—and have Habib attend the plenary sessions in his place. Lodge admitted: “that this remark was made solely in your presence and mine, and that it did not represent at all a settled opinion, but merely an idea which was tossed up.” Still, Lodge considered that he had to present his views opposing the idea. (Massachusetts Historical Society, Henry Cabot Lodge II Papers, Reel 9)↩
- On June 19 Le Duc Tho told journalists in Paris that no settlement in Vietnam was possible as long as the Thieu–Ky–Houng administration is in power because the Provisional Revolutionary Government would never accept them. (Keesing’s Contemporary Archives, 1969–1970, p. 236657)↩