106. Message From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

Haigto 15. Ref: Tohaig 42.2

Your reference message presumably crossed my Haigto 143 where I was more concrete as to how I believe we should proceed.

You will recall that Thieu specifically asked for more assurances on timing of NVA withdrawal, its supervision and disposition of NVA weapons. In presenting major changes to Thieu, I held to our minimum positions, and, as you know did not convey to him any of the detailed changes which we intended to propose.

Thus, on the demobilization clause I gave him the language on the “one-for-one basis” and “return to their homes” but did not give him the new sentence about the South Vietnamese parties doing their utmost to accomplish this in three months; nor did I tell him that we intended to propose adding a clause to the top of page 17 to the effect that the ICCS would supervise the return of these forces to their homes. To that clause, we might consider adding language to the effect that the ICCS will insure appropriate disposition of weapons of those troops being domobilized.

Thus, we already have, within the context of the reasonable position which you are prepared to work for, the means by which we can make one more effort to meet Thieu’s concerns. This obviously something less than the demand he put into the letter to the President but does come a long way toward meeting it. In presenting these changes to Thieu, I would make a big deal of the concession that we have made [Page 394] and insist that this is as far as we can go but also making it clear that we may not even be able to get this. In Thieu’s letter, we also have the question of the ICCS composition and the conference. I would tell Thieu that we would not include Laos and Cambodia because of the representational problems that this would raise. In the President’s response, I would suggest that we will make an effort to get Japan included on the conference but again make it clear that we will not reject a settlement on this basis alone. You will recall that you considered doing this in any event. With respect to the ICCS, Thieu’s position is, of course, totally unjustified and I think we will have to reject it out of hand. However, in doing so, we should again make it clear that control commissions of any kind are of no value unless they are backed up by a firm resolve to enforce and here I would make it clear that we are including provisions for unilateral reporting with the reporting which could provide the basis for vigorous U.S. action.

In sum, when I presented to Thieu our position on the troop issue and, in fact, when we handed his agents the text of the changes we would seek, we gave him a minimum position so that we could hold the additional language for bargaining in the next round with Thieu and also because we wanted to preserve as much flexibility as possible for you at the table. Thus, in effect, what we would be doing on this next round with Thieu is to give up some of that flexibility, with the hope that it will be adequate to bring him on board.

In my judgement, our best bet is to provide Bunker with a new modified text. Concurrently, send a Presidential reply to Thieu’s letter thanking him for his letter, reiterating again our firm intention to proceed but stating that in the light of the concerns expressed to General Haig, we are making one final effort to arrive at language agreeable to him on the troop issue. Reiterate again that his failure to accept this final compromise will surface him as the obstacle to peace and deprive us of any future ability to support him. Tell him that Ambassador Bunker has been provided the other changes which we think we can reasonably hope to achieve and suggest that his task force and Bunker meet immediately to complete a final agreed upon version which would serve as the basis for the first round of negotiations in Paris.

I would recommend that we give most of the changes to Bunker that we think we can reasonably achieve, including the technical changes which we have not given to Thieu and which he specifically asked to see. I would definitely give him the most forthcoming versions that we think we can reasonably achieve, again caveating very carefully the fact that they may not all be attainable. In the letter I would also take the position outlined above on the ICCS and international conference. I would add his paragraph on the essentiality of launching an all-out, combined effort to complete all of the planning tasks associated [Page 395] with implementation of the agreement without further delay. I would add another paragraph formally acquiescing in the establishment of a system in which you will meet nightly in Paris with Ambassador Lam to keep him fully abreast of the development of the text and to permit his language expert to review the Vietnamese text. We will send you a separate message on some of the specifics which we visualize here.

For your information and ease of reference, Ambassador Bunker has available in Saigon all of the proposed technical as well as substantive changes as they stood before we departed Washington. He also holds a copy of the less forthcoming changes we provided to Thieu. In the last paragraph of the letter to Theiu, I would again lay it on the line that this is our final effort, summarizing some of the changes that we have made at Thieu’s behest and reemphasizing again the strongest Presidential assurances that he will do whatever is necessary to enforce the provisions of the agreement. We will make a try at a draft reply for Thieu which I will forward subsequently.

Warm regards.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 857, For the President’s Files (Winston Lord)—China Trip/Vietnam, Sensitive Camp David, Vol. XXI (1). Top Secret; Flash; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Haig was probably en route from Seoul to Washington.
  2. Document 104.
  3. In Haigto 14, November 13, 0500Z, Haig informed Kissinger: “We have until the 20th to work on Thieu. I cannot believe that there is any value to confronting him with an ultimatum today when it is evident that the python has only half digested the pig. If we proceed with patience and firmness, I am reasonably confident that we can enter the talks on the 20th in a unified position with Thieu—a position which will still preserve sufficient flexibility to enable us to claim that we fought hard for Thieu’s position but fell somewhat short. We can also carefully fill the gap between Thieu’s demands and what Hanoi has conceded through repeated assurances from President Nixon that he will enforce the agreement and that Thieu’s own flexibility and reasonableness will be the essential ingredient which will enable him to do so.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 857, For the President’s Files (Winston Lord)—China Trip/Vietnam, Sensitive Camp David, Vol. XXI (1))