97. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Your Meeting with Sainteny, Tuesday, July 15, 1969 10:30 a.m.2
[Page 303]

You will recall that during your last meeting with Mr. Sainteny you:

  • —asked Sainteny to go to Hanoi to deliver a letter to Ho Chi Minh which reiterated that a just peace is achievable;
  • —subsequently, Sainteny spoke to Hanoi’s representatives in Paris and they advised him to transmit the communication in Paris which we declined to do.3

We then decided to bring Sainteny to Washington to get his assessment of the situation and to suggest that he help arrange a meeting between me and Le Duc Tho.

  • —I now think I should deliver the letter to Ho Chi Minh via Le Duc Tho (letter at Tab A).4

    In addition, you should inform Sainteny:

  • —You are determined to:
    • (1) achieve an honorable settlement;
    • (2) not be pushed beyond a certain point (just in case Sainteny leaks your conversation to the other side).
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 106, Kissinger Office Files, Country Files, Far East, Vietnam. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. A stamped note on the first page reads: “The President has seen.” Attached as Tabs B and C were brief talking points for Kissinger and the President.
  2. The meeting was a secret one and is not included in the President’s Daily Diary. From the diary it is possible to conclude that Kissinger and Nixon met with Sainteny from 10:32 to 11:10 a.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files) Kissinger recalls that he was forced to act as interpreter even though his French was “shaky.” No record of this discussion has been found. Kissinger describes the meeting in White House Years, pp. 277–278, and Nixon in RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon, pp. 393–394. Nixon recalls that they told Sainteny that unless some breakthrough occurred in the negotiations, he would be obliged to have recourse “to measures of greater consequence and force.”
  3. Kissinger reported to the President in a June 24 memorandum that Sainteny was unable to convince Mai Van Bo to allow him to go to Hanoi to deliver a letter from Nixon to Ho Chi Minh. Sainteny described the letter as “of great importance” but did not say it came from Nixon, only that it was not “from the French Government.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 106, Country Files, Far East, Vietnam, “S” Mister, Vol. 1)
  4. Tab A was not attached; for text of Nixon’s July 15 letter and Ho Chi Minh’s reply of August 25, both released to the public on November 3, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1969, pp. 910–911.