20. Memorandum From John H. Holdridge of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Paris Negotiating Tactics

On February 7, State sent Ambassador Porter a telegram (Tab B)2 instructing him to focus on the separability issue in order to get the other side to state specifically whether in their latest formulation point one (military) could be discussed and implemented separately from point two (political).3 The telegram suggested that Porter concentrate on military issues and let the GVN spokesman take the lead in addressing political issues.

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The telegram was intended to initiate a systematic probing of the other side’s new “two point” proposal—as opposed to attacking it at this time. This approach is consistent with that outlined in our February 5 memo to you.4

At the February 10 meeting, Ambassador Porter disregarded these instructions.5 He did not press the other side on the separability issue and, in fact, raised such political issues as elections and self determination. Apparently, Porter was convinced that a formulation in the PRG opening statement inseparably linked the two points; therefore, there was no point in pressing this issue. The PRG formulation in question does not seem to us to be that categorical on the separability issue, and we believe a probing of their positions in the Paris forum is still in order. We do not believe we should leave ourselves exposed to charges that we have failed to explore even the slightest ambiguity in the other side’s position at Kleber.

Ambassador Porter has been most skillful in exposing and denouncing the flaws in the other side’s arguments and proposals. We feel, however, that we should presently engage in a dispassionate probing exercise. This probing may well determine that the latest Communist elaboration is the most unreasonable one to date—then we can return to the attack.

Ambassador Porter might believe that White House approval of his excellent performance to date gives him a mandate to ignore the kind of State guidance sent to him last Monday with our concurrence.

It would, therefore, be useful for you to tell him that you personally concur in State’s latest instructions. A back-channel to this effect has been prepared for your review and approval.


That you send the telegram at Tab A to Ambassador Porter.6

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 191, Paris Talks/Meetings, Paris Talks, January–June 1972. Secret; Sensitive. Sent through Haig. Sent for action. Haig and Kissinger initialed the memorandum.
  2. Attached but not printed at Tab B is telegram 21826 to USDel Paris, February 8.
  3. Reference is to a proposal made by the North Vietnamese in the plenary talks on February 2. The first point required that the United States establish a definite date to withdraw from South Vietnam and to end its air war in both North and South Vietnam, on which date prisoners of war would also be released; the second demanded the resignation of President Thieu and a wholesale change of policy by the South Vietnamese Government. The Communist negotiators characterized the Two Point proposal as a concession because it did not demand, as had all previous proposals, the overthrow of the entire South Vietnamese Government. (Luu Van Loi and Nguyen Anh Vu, Le Duc ThoKissinger Negotiations in Paris, p. 209)
  4. In this memorandum, Holdridge recommended to Kissinger three approaches that Porter should follow at the February 10 meeting. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1330, Unfiled Material [2 of 8]) Haig initialed the memorandum and Kissinger wrote on it: “See me.” Despite a handwritten “OBE” on the first page of the memorandum, its recommendations were included in Porter’s instructions in message 21826, February 8.
  5. Porter’s presentation is in message 2595 from USDel Paris, February 10. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27–14 VIET)
  6. Although Kissinger did not initial either the approve or disapprove option, he wrote on the first page of the memorandum: “I am not disposed to do this.” Tab A is attached but not printed. There is no indication that the message was sent.