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

WHS 2168. In consonance with White House 2165,2 I wish to emphasize the point made in paragraph six in which I indicated that there is a good possibility that the September 26 meeting could be carried over to a second day of meetings on September 27. You should bring this to Thieu’s attention since he might read the possible announcement of such an extension as an indication that a settlement is about to be concluded. It is important that he understand that there is great cosmetic value in a second consecutive day of meetings should the opportunity present itself.

It is also important that Thieu understand that in the sensitive period facing us, his discernible attitude on the negotiations could have a major influence on Hanoi’s strategy. If Thieu is genuinely worried that we might settle prematurely, he must understand that the appearance of differences between Washington and Saigon could have the practical consequence of influencing Hanoi toward a rapid settlement in the secret talks so as to exploit what they might perceive as a split between the U.S. and GVN and the resulting political disarray in Saigon.3 This would disrupt the carefully measured pace we are attempting to maintain. Our strategy at this point is to force further movement in Hanoi’s position and maintain the appearance of constructive activity in Paris while continuing to apply maximum military pressure. Therefore it is essential that Thieu stay close to us so that we demonstrate solidarity to Hanoi.

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 WHS 2165, September 18, Kissinger summarized his September 15 meeting with Le Duc Tho and directed Bunker to convey the information to Thieu. (Ibid.)
  3. In backchannel message WHS 2166, September 21, Kissinger expressed a similar anxiety: “We have become increasingly concerned about tenor of Thieu’s recent public remarks on negotiations. We, of course, recognize that his primary audience is different from ours, and that the other side has not been blameless in their public commentary. On the other hand, Thieu must recognize that his comments get global attention and can seriously complicate our position. We are engaged in a delicate process which is designed to further mutual US–GVN objectives. We cannot afford to have the strategy we have outlined to Thieu jeopardized by public comments which undercut our domestic posture or which the other side might cynically seize upon as a pretext.” Kissinger instructed Bunker to make these points to Thieu the next time he saw him. (Ibid.)