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


  • A Longer Look at the New Communist Peace Proposal on Vietnam

Further study of the full text of the new Communist peace proposal (Tab A)2 confirms the initial impressions which I reported to you yesterday and adds some others.3

Essentially, the proposal does the following things:

  • —It gives the Communists not just a negotiating platform, but a better vehicle for political and propaganda operations against us and [Page 114] against the South Vietnamese Government. In fact, it could be designed to serve the Communist cause even more if there were no negotiations than if there were some.
  • —It was obviously timed to impact on our elections.
  • —It focuses great pressure against the GVN.
  • —It toughens the Communist position on several issues, largely by making it more specific.
  • —It appears intended to tempt us to state a deadline for our pullout and to deal with the NLF, particularly on prisoner matters.
  • —It also offers some room for exploration, but it contains no real breakthrough on any issue.

General Strategic Purpose. Mme. Binh’s proposal may be regarded as part of Hanoi’s effort to counter the Vietnamization policy.

  • —It gives the Communists a long-range political platform with which they can hope to maximize political pressures in the U.S. and South Vietnam and thus counter the effects of our current policies in both places.
  • —We doubt that Hanoi expects a favorable response from us on its new proposal. But it may hope for a favorable response from U.S. public opinion or from South Vietnamese anti-government politicians. In that case, Hanoi may hope that our side will eventually be forced to accept its terms even though the new program does not point to any opening for a rapid settlement.
  • —Our impression that the new program envisages the possibility of no general negotiated settlement is strengthened by its failure to mention the Geneva Accords, which had been cited frequently in the ten points.

Some Hardening. The new program hardens the Communist position in several ways, sometimes simply by making it more specific:

  • —It categorically excludes dealing with Thieu-Ky-Khiem and it attacks them sharply, which the earlier ten points had not done.4
  • —It states that the formation of a “provisional coalition government” is “indispensable” to organizing truly free elections.
  • —It is more specific on the possible composition of such a “provisional coalition,” arranging it in a “troika” which would emasculate the organized anti-Communist forces.
  • —It states clearly that “implementing the modalities” of a cease-fire must await complete settlement. There is some ambiguity here, [Page 115] since the program implies a cease-fire toward U.S. forces as soon as they begin withdrawing or even announce their intention to withdraw, but it is clear that the Communists would then focus their fire on the ARVN.
  • —It gives a deadline for U.S. withdrawal, which the ten points had not done, but the deadline provides for nine months and is thus more generous than Mme. Binh’s earlier six-months proposal (which was not part of the ten points).

Easier on U.S. in Some Ways. On the other hand, the proposal is less assertive than the earlier ten points in some matters regarding the United States. It conveys the impression that we could get out easily if we were not concerned about what happened later:

  • —It specifically concentrates its demands regarding the U.S. in the first clause, thus telling us that we can quickly and painlessly extricate ourselves from Vietnam if we will only do the thing listed in the clause, i.e., set a withdrawal date.
  • —The POW issue, which the ten points had relegated to the “aftermath” of the war, is related directly to our announcement of a withdrawal date.5
  • —There is no demand for reparations (though these could, as in the case of the ten points, be brought up in negotiations on POW’s).
  • —There is no assertion in the new program that we must “renounce” Thieu-Ky-Khiem, as the Communists have frequently demanded (although unilateral withdrawal would amount to the same thing).
  • —There is no demand like the one in the ten points for international supervision of U.S. withdrawals.

Possibilities for Exploration. There are also some possibilities for exploration, although they may not offer us very much:

  • —Lengthening the withdrawal period further.
  • —The new program speaks of an agreement on “implementation,” which could leave room for placing our own demands about Communist reciprocity.
  • —The new program still calls for talks on the matter of “Vietnamese forces in South Vietnam” (a euphemism for Northern forces in [Page 116] the South), though it still remains unclear with whom Hanoi would be prepared to discuss this.

Appeal to South Vietnamese. The new program also appears designed to appeal to South Vietnamese politicians who are against the GVN, as well as to the discontented urban and rural elements in South Vietnam:

  • —It takes a somewhat softer line on unification than the ten points.
  • —It lists the evils of the Thieu-Ky-Khiem administration at greater length than the ten points, and promises to rectify them.
  • —It shows more clearly than earlier Communist statements that the “provisional coalition government” would have lots of openings for persons opposed to the GVN, and also has more material on the “freedom” of elections run by the coalition.
  • —Like earlier proposals, it promises that there will be no reprisals.
  • —It thus conveys the impression that South Vietnam’s politicians could get along with the Communists if they would just get rid of three men.

“Fight-Talk” Possibility. It remains to be seen whether the Communists will be prepared to engage us in any dialogue on the new program, and also whether they will attempt to back it up with any military action in the field.6

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 189, Paris Talks/Meetings, Paris Talks, 1 July 70–Sep 70. Secret; Nodis; Paris Meetings. Sent for information. Holdridge forwarded this memorandum to Kissinger under a September 18 covering memorandum and recommended that he sign it. A stamped notation on the memorandum reads, “The President has seen.”
  2. Tab A, “Binh’s Eight Point Proposal of September 17,” is attached but not printed. See Document 41.
  3. Kissinger’s September 17 memorandum to Nixon, with his initial analysis of the proposal, is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 189, Paris Talks/Meetings, Paris Talks, 1 July 70–Sep 70.
  4. See footnote 2, Document 35.
  5. Secretary Laird sent a September 18 memorandum to Kissinger and Rogers noting this change in the North Vietnamese position on U.S. POWs and recommended having Bruce request an amplification of the proposal in a private discussion, at which he would stress that the United States would consider North Vietnamese willingness to settle the issue a sign of their good intentions. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 189, Paris Talks/Meetings, Paris Talks, 1 July 70–Sep 70)
  6. In an October 13 memorandum to Nixon, Kissinger wrote that the PRG would likely use Binh’s proposal to launch a political and diplomatic offensive aimed at toppling the GVN leadership. (Ibid., Box 149, Vietnam Country Files, Vietnam 1 Oct. 70)