249. Backchannel Message From the Ambassador to Vietnam (Bunker) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

583. Ref WHS 1077.2

I had long and explicit talk with Thieu whom I was not able to reach until 1800 August 19.3 This was followed by two hour conversation with General Minh.
I went over with Thieu my talking paper, which I had sharpened up, point by point, emphasizing the absolute necessity of immediate and decisive action on his part to keep Minh in the race. Thieu was highly critical of Minh’s tactics and ultimate purposes. He indicated, however, willingness to take measures I had suggested. This is clearly now too late in view of Minh’s withdrawal this morning.
My conversation with Minh was long and inconclusive although when I left I felt I had his assurance that he would give the matter of his continued candidacy further review today. My impression, however, was that he had little stomach for the contest. Information I have received now is that his decision was made at midnight following my conversation with him.
I have just received text of President’s letter to Thieu4 which I intend to use promptly and is most helpful.
I intend to say to Thieu that he can win an uncontested election and lose the support of the United States. It will be up to him now to see that Ky’s candidacy is validated.
I regret to have to give this highly unsatisfactory report. I will be sending full account of talks with Thieu and Minh.5
Best regards.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 872, For the President’s Files, Winston Lord, China Trip, Vietnam, Vietnam Elections. Top Secret; Flash; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only.
  2. Not found.
  3. See Document 250.
  4. Not printed. (National Archives, Nixon President Materials, NSC Files, Box 766, Presidential Correspondence, Viet-Nam, President Thieu Corres)
  5. Bunker reported on his meeting with Minh in telegram 13418 from Saigon, August 20. He pressed Minh to reconsider withdrawing because of the destabilizing effects it could have on the country and U.S. public support, adding that he had asked Tran Van Linh, Chief Justice of South Vietnam’s Supreme Court, to delay a decision on Ky’s appeal until August 23 so that he, Bunker, could convince Ky to stay in the race. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 872, For the President’s Files, Lord, China Trip, Vietnam, Vietnam Elections)