211. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1
Washington, July 20, 1972.
- My Meeting July 19 with the North Vietnamese
[Omitted here are an overview and highlights of the meeting.]
I see the major implications of this meeting2 as follows:
- —It was useful to us on several counts. We offered a bombing halt as part of a temporary ceasefire and were turned down. They elaborated their political position in a way that, if there is no further progress, will be tantamount to the destruction of the Saigon Government as a precondition to the negotiations with the PRG. We thus once again have bolstered our position if we ever have to go public with the record again.
- —On the other hand, their non-polemical approach and ambiguous positions in this initial meeting are compatible with serious negotiations. They gave themselves the option to move in the direction of our January 25 proposal. The channel is reopened to explore this possibility, which should be enhanced by the military and diplomatic realities facing Hanoi.
- —Their strategy may well be to see whether we will cave in on the political issue, and they could lead us on until the military situation and our Presidential election clarify their options. Thus they could continue to speak in terms which provide enough momentum to keep discussions going but avoid irrevocable decisions until September.
- —However, the next two months is likely to bring them bad news on both the military and political fronts: the South Vietnamese should be able to regain some territorial and pacification losses and our electoral realities should become more clear to Hanoi.
- —While they have said nothing which precludes their returning strictly to their old positions, they were about as positive in this first session as we could expect if they do want to settle, especially since [Page 753] we must have thrown them offstride by withholding the total package discussed in the USSR.3
- —If they do move, it could be in the direction of a ceasefire coupled with political principles along the lines of our January 25 proposal, but this would not surface before several more meetings at the earliest. The other possibility is their using the talks to elaborate a position which makes Thieu alone the obstacle to a comprehensive settlement—especially if McGovern makes major gains.
- —In any event, we lose nothing and give up no options by playing this string out. The minimum we achieve is building a reasonable negotiating record. The maximum we could gain is either a fair settlement or a temporary ceasefire; while these goals are still distant, we are in a good position to explore the chances.
[Omitted here is a narrative of the meeting.]
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 867, For the President’s Files (Winston Lord)—China Trip/Vietnam, Camp David—HAK II—1972, May 2–October 7, 1972 [5 of 5]. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Sent for information. A stamped notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.↩
- See Document 207.↩
- See Document 178.↩