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

WHS 2100. Deliver immediately after Ambassador arises and before his August 4 appointment with President Thieu.

Thank you for Saigon 0126.2 Agree completely with the note of caution outlined in paragraph two and concur that we should not go beyond the general principles outlined in WHS 20963 in your next meeting with Thieu. I am working now to firm up an itinerary which would involve a two-day visit to Saigon, following the meeting on August 14, and an additional day’s stop in Switzerland. I will probably arrive in Saigon late in the evening of the 16th and spend 17 and 18 August in Saigon. Obviously, you and I will need prolonged sessions with Thieu and he should be alerted accordingly.

During meeting with Thieu, I hope you will raise the issue of ARVN operations in MR–1. We are concerned that Thieu may be pushing the Marine division to seize as much territory as possible in anticipation that GVN may be faced with sudden cease-fire situation. This would be self-defeating if it were to result in unnecessary casualties to elite South Vietnamese units at a time when the enemy is obviously building up for another offensive round in MR–1. For this reason, you should tell Thieu that the judgment here is that there is no immediate [Page 804] prospect for a cease-fire. Therefore, his battlefield strategy should not be influenced by this consideration but rather the need to prevent a sudden military setback with its obvious implications for U.S. domestic support. Even should negotiations progress at the most optimistic pace, I cannot visualize our being faced with a cease-fire situation for at least six weeks and probably well beyond that.

I look forward to receiving your views on the proposal submitted by WHS 2097.4

Hope you enjoy a well earned respite in Katmandu. Please convey my best wishes to Carol.

Warm regards.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 869, For the President’s Files (Winston Lord)—China Trip/Vietnam, Camp David Cables, August–September 1972. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only.
  2. In backchannel message 126, August 3, which Bunker sent to Kissinger after reading the North Vietnamese proposal, he commented: “There are many aspects of the other side’s proposal which Thieu will find most difficult. Thus my inclination would be not to engage him in depth at this time; in fact I question whether we should go beyond the general principles outlined in Ref A.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box TS 48, Geopolitical File, Vietnam, Peace Talks, Chronological File, 1–15 August 1972)
  3. In backchannel message WHS 2096, “Ref A” cited in footnote above, Kissinger made clear his desire to keep the details of the North Vietnamese proposal vague to Thieu for the moment. The general principles he referred to were as follows: “Gist [of the other side’s proposal] is readiness to talk to GVN, including Thieu, acceptance of principle that details of political solution be worked out by Vietnamese, but continued insistence on ultimate aim of Government of National Concord without Thieu.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 869, For the President’s Files (Winston Lord)—China Trip/Vietnam, Camp David Cables, August–September 1972)
  4. In backchannel message WHS 2097 to Bunker, August 2, Kissinger conveyed the two North Vietnamese proposals—one on the substance and the other on the conduct of the negotiations—to the Ambassador. (Ibid.)