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

WHS 2103. Thank you for your Saigon 0128.2 Please provide Thieu a copy of the other side’s substantive and procedural plans on Monday, August 14. In doing so, you should emphasize that we have no intention of accepting them. However, I would hope to discuss them with him in detail during my visit, with the view toward using some of their positive elements to develop counter proposals which will serve to retain the negotiating initiative for our side. This has the advantage that whatever we work out will seem to Thieu better than what we have before us.

When you see Thieu, please express again our concern about the deployments of ARVN forces in MR–3 and the general lack of ARVN initiative in that area. Briefings given here indicate that General Minh has now deployed essentially all three of his divisions along the Route 13 axis from An Loc to Lai Khe, with minimum forces protecting the Tay Ninh area or the Route 1 corridor to Saigon. Also, I personally continue to have doubts about the wisdom of accepting attrition of the elite Marines in an effort to reduce the Quang Tri citadel which the enemy has apparently decided to hold at any cost.3 Could you discuss this last point with General Weyand.

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; Exclusively Eyes Only.
  2. In backchannel message 128 to Kissinger, August 6, Bunker commented on the North Vietnamese August 1 proposals: “My first impression is that, despite some very tough problems, we may be on the road to seeing some viable compromise as possible between our own and the other side’s positions. Certainly it is important to continue the exploration. Development points up importance of your visit to Saigon.” (Ibid., Box 414, Backchannel, Backchannel Messages, To Amb. Bunker—Saigon 1972)
  3. On Kissinger’s behalf, Haig had earlier expressed the same concern to Moorer in a telephone conversation with him on August 3: “HAK’s concern is that we are, particularly with this picking off of the light units and putting them in a meat grinder which may or may not be so. Truthfully I don’t know but he wanted to again be absolutely sure that Weyand and Vogt and the SVN don’t have a problem here of rapid seizure of territory for a Ceasefire or something else and contributes to the attrition of a cream unit like that.” Haig also conveyed Kissinger’s concern about the faltering air campaign against the North. (Moorer Diary, August 3; National Archives, RG 218, Records of the Chairman)