255. Memorandum for the President’s File by the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1
- Meeting with Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker, Secretary Rogers, and Dr. Kissinger
Ambassador Bunker had come to Hawaii to report to the President on our consultations with President Thieu over new peace proposals being readied for Dr. Kissinger’s September 15 private meeting in Paris. [Dr. Kissinger had discussed earlier drafts of the planned U.S. proposal with President Thieu in Saigon August 17–18,2 and in Hawaii had just given Ambassador Bunker a new U.S. draft to discuss with President Thieu.3]
Ambassador Bunker noted that President Thieu looked at this new proposal as a possible entering wedge for a coalition arrangement. Thieu was afraid that if this new proposal surfaced he would be vulnerable to charges at home that he had conceded too much. The Ambassador felt frankly that the GVN did not feel it was ready for a political contest with an opponent as disciplined and tough as the Communists.
The Ambassador himself was convinced, however, that our new political proposal was a very reasonable one. In any case we did not think the other side was likely to accept it. Thieu was by nature suspicious. The Ambassador recounted his experience in trying to meet with Thieu to get further GVN views on the proposal before leaving for Hawaii. He could not get an appointment with Thieu; he was promised a detailed memorandum of GVN views but then never received one.
The President emphasized that Thieu had to trust us. We could not have the process break down over a subsidiary issue. The President wanted the Ambassador to reassure Thieu that we were not going to abandon him. We were going to build up the South Vietnamese Air Force. We must not let Thieu himself become the issue in the negotiations. After November we would cooperate with him; for now Thieu must cooperate with us.[Page 941]
[Secretary Rogers joined the meeting at this point—at about 9:40 a.m.]
The conversation then turned to the military outlook. The Ambassador pointed out that the enemy would be trying to keep the pressures on during the election campaign.
Secretary Rogers asked, what if they offer a deal based on return of our prisoners in exchange for Thieu? Ambassador Bunker thought this unlikely.
Is there any breaking point?, The Secretary asked. If we do all-out bombing would they continue to fight indefinitely? The Ambassador thought not. The President did not see how they could continue suffering this attrition indefinitely. Secretary Rogers remarked that in the name of humanitarianism we had lost lots of lives by our restraint.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 855, For the President’s Files (Winston Lord)—China Trip/Vietnam, Sensitive Camp David, Vol. XVII. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting took place at the President’s Suite at the Kuilima Hotel. All brackets are in the original.↩
- Documents 243 and 245.↩
- See Document 254.↩