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


  • First BruceXuan Thuy Private Talks

Ambassador Bruce’s report on his first private meeting with Xuan Thuy, which took place on November 16,2 indicates that the meeting was used to reiterate the known positions of both sides. Contrary to previous practice, Xuan Thuy did not produce a three-hour lecture. Instead, there was a good deal of give and take.3

Xuan Thuy made the following principal points:

  • —The modalities of a cease-fire can not be implemented until political and military problems have been settled and an agreement signed.
  • —The U.S. should set a date for its troop withdrawal. If it does not like the date of June 30, 1971, which the PRG had proposed, it should suggest another date.
  • —The PRG will not deal with the present government in Saigon; therefore, so long as the U.S. supports that government, there can be no settlement.
  • —We should discuss military and political problems together.
  • —The DRV is prepared to respect the outcome of a political process in South Vietnam. (This is the first time the Communists have specifically made that commitment.)
  • —Reconnaissance flights over North Vietnam are a violation of North Vietnamese sovereignty.
  • —Ambassador Bruce should also meet privately with the PRG.

Ambassador Bruce made the following main points:

  • —We are ready to negotiate a cease-fire.
  • —We believe there should be an immediate and unconditional release of all POW’s.
  • —We are not prepared to discuss political issues without the participation of the GVN, though we will listen to DRV proposals. The issues which the other side has raised regarding political settlement are primarily the business of the South Vietnamese people. They cannot be settled by the U.S. and the DRV themselves.
  • —The DRV had agreed to negotiate with the GVN and is now backing off from that agreement.
  • Bruce will certainly not meet separately with the PRG.
  • —We are prepared to consider any reasonable timetable for complete troop withdrawals, but such a timetable depends on the resolution of other issues involved in an overall settlement for Indochina. Among those issues is the disposition of North Vietnamese forces outside North Vietnam—including Laos and Cambodia.
  • —The reconnaissance flights over North Vietnam are necessary to assure the safety of our allied forces, and the DRV had understood that at the time of the bombing halt.

At the end of the meeting, Ambassador Bruce said he would like to review the record and to meet again next week. Xuan Thuy said he also wished to review the record but did not wish to fix a date for the meeting. He said his liaison officers would be in touch with ours.

Comment: The tone of the meeting was relatively restrained throughout, although there were some sharp exchanges. The substance was about as we expected, with the North Vietnamese restating their known positions and preconditions. There were no hints of any readiness to change, although it is noteworthy that Thuy for the first time said they would accept the results of the political process.

It is also noteworthy that Thuy asked for our proposed withdrawal deadline. The North Vietnamese may be hoping that they can push us [Page 188] into accepting the principle of a deadline by showing some flexibility on the date itself.

There have been some intelligence indicators, such as diplomatic message volume and VIP travel, which suggest that Hanoi may be planning some new diplomatic move in the near future. But we have no indications when that move might come or what kind of move it will be. It could be designed to move the talks forward. It could also merely be intended to increase the political pressures for settlement in the U.S. and South Vietnam. Or it could be related to a truce proposal for the Christmas-New Year season.

It is uncertain whether and when Thuy will ask for another meeting. The North Vietnamese have in the past not asked for private meetings, but have left the initiative to us. Thuy may decide to let us wait a while, particularly since he probably felt that Bruce had taken a hard line.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 189, Paris Talks/Meetings, Paris Talks Aug 70–. Secret; Nodis; Paris Meetings; Plus. Sent for information. A stamped notation on the memorandum reads, “The President has seen.” Holdridge sent the memorandum to Kissinger under a November 18 covering memorandum and recommended that he sign it.
  2. Bruce proposed having the meeting in telegram USDEL 14091 from Paris, October 15, to follow up on Nixon’s proposals in his October 7 speech. Smyser informed Kissinger about the proposed meeting in an October 15 memorandum and Kissinger approved it, but Kissinger wrote to Nixon in an October 22 memorandum that while Xuan Thuy had agreed to meet he could not commit to a specific date. Nixon wrote a note on the memorandum instructing Bruce to “delay—be hard to reach—don’t agree to a meeting too soon.” (All ibid.)
  3. Bruce met with Xuan Thuy at the DRV Delegation House in Paris. A report on the discussion was sent in telegram USDEL 15858 from Paris, November 16. (Ibid.)