228. Memorandum From John D. Negroponte of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • DRV Negotiating Proposal and Where We Go from Here

Attached at Tab A is a brief analysis of what I believe to be some of the salient elements of their August 1 proposal.2

I am particularly intrigued by their procedural document which states that the two parties will “discuss and resolve issues one by one.” I was also struck by Tho’s invitation to discuss the modalities of troop withdrawals and prisoner releases if we agreed to the military principles he enunciated.

My own calculation is that they continue to expect us to stonewall them on the political issue. If they feel an overriding compulsion to settle they will agree on military issues alone but, as can be seen from point 2 of their negotiating document, they have thrown in an end to [Page 811] our military aid to the Saigon Administration for good measure and this would be a sticking point.

The procedural document’s invitation to “discuss and resolve issues one by one” provides us a good opening for our next meeting to propose a concrete agenda. One way to structure the meeting might be as follows:

Begin with a set of general remarks about their proposal, laying out in broad terms areas of agreement and disagreement.
Propose an agenda of issues for that and following meetings. For example:
  • Modalities of troop withdrawals

    (At the August 1 meeting Tho himself proposed our withdrawals, followed by the question of aid to Saigon, followed by the timing of ceasefire as issues for first and “immediate” discussion.)

  • —Modalities of prisoner releases
  • —Modalities of a ceasefire
  • —The political question.
If they agreed we might even get into the POW or withdrawal question in somewhat more detail; or perhaps ceasefire modalities.
On the political question you could explain that you are not in any position to negotiate in detail because you must first consult President Thieu. This could have the doubly-beneficial effect of demonstrating that we won’t go behind the GVN’s back and, the fact itself that you are consulting Thieu would discourage them from expecting any major breakthrough on the political front. It may also have the beneficial effect of prompting them to consider showing even more of their hand at the following meeting or two.

One brief comment on the current situation on the ground as it affects our talks. I think Hanoi is engaged in a final supreme effort; their manpower priorities are stretched to the utmost; and everything is now keyed to November 7. I find it inconceivable that Hanoi will do anything but revert back to protracted warfare after that. Meanwhile we will be in for some rocky times in Quang Tri/Thua Thien and parts of the Delta where their strategy is to disrupt lines of communication, hurt the economy and generally make inroads into the population. They may enjoy some temporary successes; but if we hold to the broad lines of our current negotiating position for the next 90 days, I think we stand a good chance of seeing the talks break our way just before the election or, in my view more likely, a reversion to protracted warfare after the election which is likely to prove within the GVN’s capability to contain with minimal direct U.S. military involvement—and assuming the few necessary structural improvements in RVNAF, no direct military role on our part within a couple of years.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 862, For the President’s Files (Winston Lord)—China Trip/Vietnam, Camp David Memos, January–August 1972. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Sent for information. Haig initialed the memorandum.
  2. Attached but not printed at Tab A is the undated “The Communist Proposal of August 1, 1972.” For the August 1 proposal, see Document 225.