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


  • The U.S. Position on Coalition in South Vietnam

There is reason for concern in the turn which the U.S. public discussion of a coalition government in South Vietnam appears to be taking. We may soon be faced with the following problems:

  • —We may find ourselves negotiating with ourselves and with the American press. This has never led to good results in past administrations. We have to take either softer or harder positions than we want, and we lose flexibility.
  • —We may have to deal with the almost absurd argument that the South Vietnamese Government is alone blocking peace and is compelling us to follow its lead.
  • —We may also be faced with harder Hanoi pressure on this point. The North Vietnamese feel we may be vulnerable on this issue and that we may have to make some concessions under public pressure. They have been pushing their line on a coalition hard in Paris.
  • —We may also generate adverse sentiment in Saigon if we give the impression that we are taking the lead on this topic, not just within the South Vietnamese Government but among many South Vietnamese political elements who oppose a coalition.

In order to overcome some of these problems, I believe we should do the following:

  • —Refuse from now on to talk about a coalition government, merely stating that our position on this point has been set forth in your statements and requires no elaboration.
  • —We should at some appropriate point emphasize the intransigence of the other side. The South Vietnamese position and ours is that the NLF can freely participate in free elections. This is much more forthcoming than the North Vietnamese demand that the present government in Saigon be renounced as a precondition to negotiations. The [Page 20] GVN has also said that it will accept the results of free elections, which Hanoi and the NLF have never pledged to do.

In line with this, I have informed the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff that there should be no further speculation or discussion of coalition government, cease-fire, or withdrawals. I have told them that our positions have been stated and do not require further elaboration.2

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 148, Vietnam Country Files, Vietnam 1 Aug 70. Secret; Sensitive. Sent for information. According to a routing slip, Nixon saw the memorandum on August 11. This memorandum is based on a memorandum from Smyser to Kissinger, July 31. Holdridge forwarded a revised version to Kissinger under an August 5 covering memorandum. (Ibid., Box 189, Paris Talks/Meetings, Paris Talks, 1 July 70–Sep 70)
  2. On August 4, Kissinger sent memoranda to Rogers, Laird, Helms, and Moorer, instructing them to this effect and asking them to forward copies to Bruce, Bunker, and Abrams. (Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–76–67, Box 88, Viet 092, Jan–Aug 1970)