259. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig) to President Nixon 1

SUBJECT

  • Issue Between US and GVN in New US Peace Proposal

Since Henry’s last Paris meeting, we and the GVN have been consulting closely and in detail—on Henry’s stopover in Saigon, through your and Henry’s talks with Ambassador Bunker in Hawaii, and in extensive cable traffic to Saigon—on new proposals which Henry plans to table in Paris this Friday.2 We have reduced our differences to minor ones on the procedural proposal, and have reached agreement with them on all points except one in the substantive proposal.

This last substantive issue is troublesome, and we need your decision.

We and Thieu are in accord in proposing to the other side the creation of a “Committee of National Reconciliation,” which would then run the elections. The difference now remaining between us and Thieu is how the composition of Committee is to be described:

—The US would stipulate that the Committee would be composed of representatives of the GVN, the NLF, and third forces. We would not say that the parts are equal; however, our formulation does imply tripartite composition, which the GVN believes might set a precedent for a subsequent three-segment coalition government.

Thieu is insisting on a vague formulation which says only that all political forces will be represented and that the NLF is considered as one of these.

Henry wants your authorization to go forward in Paris with the US formulation in spite of President Thieu’s reluctance.3 He believes Thieu’s concerns are misplaced:

—We are only talking about the commission to run the elections, and we specify in our proposal that the eventual government must proportionately reflect the votes received in the free election.

[Page 952]

—If the other side accepts the US political proposal—which is very unlikely—the details would still have to be negotiated between the GVN and NLF bilaterally. In that forum, the GVN will be in a strong position to protect itself, either by mobilizing an effective majority in the Committee of National Reconciliation together with third forces, or by producing a stalemate.

—The US plan explicitly preserves the integrity of the GVN constitution and governmental machinery through and even beyond the electoral phase.

It is probably crucial to our strategy to include our formulation in Friday’s proposal:

—We have already drastically watered down our new political proposal in response to Thieu’s concerns. If we accept this further dilution there is little left that is significant on the political issue that goes beyond our public plan of last January 25. Without our new language the Committee is no more than the “mixed electoral commission” of our past proposals.

—We have already told both Peking and Moscow that we would be making significant new political proposals. To come forward essentially empty-handed now would cost us in those capitals as well as with our domestic opinion.

—The other side may be already edging toward public disclosure of their August 1 offer, as indicated in its statement of September 11.4 We should move decisively to be able to preempt it. Their offer has cosmetic aspects which look attractive. Our position should appear equally or more forthcoming—which it will—if we are to carry out our strategy.

In sum, Henry feels the difference with Saigon is over a legalistic subtlety of phraseology, which is dwarfed in importance by (1) the substantial insurance which our political plan in fact gives the GVN, (2) the unlikelihood that the other wide will accept it anyway, and (3) the strategic benefit of the forthcoming and comprehensive new peace offer we are making. Henry feels that we should now move ahead over Thieu’s objection.

[Page 953]

—In the likely event that Hanoi rejects the U.S. proposal the issue becomes academic and Thieu has no incentive to make our differences public.

—In the unlikely event that Hanoi accepts the U.S. proposal we will be in a whole new ballgame and this language difference will be a relatively minor aspect in the wake of a dramatic breakthrough. It would be very difficult to scuttle the breakthrough in these circumstances and given his continuing dependence on our support.

Recommendation

That you authorize Dr. Kissinger to proceed in accordance with the current U.S. draft as it pertains to the composition of the Committee of National Reconciliation.5

  1. 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; Exclusively Eyes Only. Attached but not printed are copies of the United States and the South Vietnamese proposals.
  2. September 15.
  3. Kissinger made the request in message Hakto 24, September 13; see Document 258.
  4. On September 11, the Provisional Revolutionary Govement released a statement in Saigon that called for an end to U.S. support for the current South Vietnamese Government and proposed a three part coalition government of national concord “to take charge of affairs in the period of transition and to organize truly free and democratic general elections.” (“Vietcong Restate Peace Terms,” The New York Times, September 12, 1972, p. 12)
  5. The President checked the approve option.