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


  • Ambassador Porter Recommends that After Peking Visit We Consider Suspending Paris Talks Unless DRV Permits Access to our POW’s By Neutral Body and Agrees to Exchange of Sick and Wounded


Ambassador Porter has sent you a message [less than 1 line not declassified]recommending that after the Peking visit2 you consider sending a private message to the North Vietnamese to the effect that unless they permit access to prisoners by a neutral body and agree to an exchange of sick and wounded prisoners we will suspend the Paris Talks until further notice (Tab B).3

Ambassador Porter notes that he has already dealt with Xuan Thuy’s statement that access cannot be granted to our POW’s in Vietnam because it might trigger a U.S. commando raid. In a recent plenary session Porter pointed out that it would be a simple matter to bring the prisoners to a neutral medical body in Hanoi for inspection without revealing the locations of detention camps.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Porter’s Proposal


This course of action might actually have an impact on the DRV’s approach to the handling of our POW’s, if indeed they are sensitive about the prospect of losing the Paris Plenary forum.
The GVN would welcome this step as an indication of firmness in our position, particularly in the aftermath of all the fuss about “flexibility.”
We would in effect be temporarily closing down a forum which is widely considered to be sterile. It is also a forum which many judge [Page 108] as offering a better propaganda platform to the DRV than to the allied side.
It would demonstrate in yet another concrete way that we really care about our men held captive in North Vietnam.


The suspension suggested might not have the desired effect of gaining access to our POW’s and the exchange of sick and wounded.
This course might generate unnecessary criticism from those who would prefer to blame us rather than the DRV for lack of progress in Paris.
We would disrupt a channel which has been useful in minor ways (e.g. exchanging messages about POW packages, orchestrating our public stance with our private initiatives, and maintaining the talks as a symbol of our willingness to negotiate seriously with the other side whenever it is prepared to do so).
As a general proposition, we would simply be making more of a fuss about the Paris Talks than most people think it is worth.

Our Views

We think Ambassador Porter’s recommendation has some merit and, of course, is very much in keeping with his innovative style.

The key judgment would seem to boil down to weighing the advantage of showing our real concern for our POW’s versus the disadvantage of the adverse publicity we might get for in effect taking the initiative in suspending the talks.

We believe this is really a toss-up judgment which only you and the President can decide. We have, however, prepared a draft reply to Porter on the assumption that you will decide against the proposal, pointing out that this is an idea that we may wish to hold in reserve but we do not wish to rock the Paris boat quite so much at this time.


That you approve the message to Porter at Tab A.4

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1135, Jon Howe, Trip Files, John Negroponte Negotiations File, 1972–1973. Secret; Eyes Only. Sent for action.
  2. On February 21, Nixon was scheduled to embark on a state visit to the People’s Republic of China, the first ever by an American President. The Vietnam war was to be a major topic of discussion.
  3. Attached but not printed is backchannel message 570 from Paris, February 14.
  4. Negroponte’s draft for Kissinger’s signature at Tab A states: “We think your idea has merit although the President may wish to hold it in reserve for a while.” The backchannel message sent to Porter on February 16 concludes: “After we return from Peking we will consider your suggestion in 570 about suspending talks. There of course should be no movement in that direction in the interim.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 107, Country Files, Far East, Vietnam Negotiations, Paris Negotiations, January 25, 1972–January 1973)