108. Transcript of a Telephone Conversation Between President Nixon and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

K: Mr. President.

P: Did you get the letter2 down there?

[Page 399]

K: Yes, I got it last night. I thought it was tremendously improved.3

P: I thought we ought to put a few subtleties in there.

K: It has already in fact been delivered.

P: I put in tough—but I also put in some soft—see you in San Clemente.

K: I got it about 5:30 and got it off at 6:30 and it already has been delivered.4 That goddamn Thieu—he’s going through his stalling act. Thieu wouldn’t receive Bunker for 24 hours and now he asks for another 24 hours to study the letter. He just won’t meet. We have to go ahead on Monday5—if we don’t get his reply, without him.

P: I don’t see—maybe—I don’t see how he can continue to stall. What in the hell is he going to do? The way that letter is written—it’s put in a context that we have to go another way if he doesn’t go.

K: I think we should get the best agreement we can next week and if he doesn’t accept it, go bilaterally with North Vietnam.6

P: We don’t want to do that because in effect it will—they will say, “hell you could have done that all along.” Although, we will do it!

K: The only thing—I don’t know if we can make the Laotian and Cambodian—make them stick. Thieu—he can’t be mad [enough] to drive it to that point—he just wants to hold to the last possible moment.

P: We just don’t have any real communication between him and Bunker. Bunker used to go and talk with him.

K: Yes, as long as we did what he wanted.

P: Abrams is not there and he apparently doesn’t talk to Weyand.

K: It is premature to draw any conclusions.

P: I suppose—I was looking over his letter to us7—it’s just another song and dance.

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K: We have given him 15 changes which we are willing to press for and that’s what they are now discussing. It is not unreasonable for him to study that. What is unreasonable is when Bunker wants to see him that he can’t get an appointment.

P: He asked to deliver the letter and got put off?

K: No, he asked to deliver the changes and was put off and then when he had your letter he got in. He didn’t even know the letter was coming when he gave him the appointment. He almost always keeps Bunker waiting for 24 hours when he wants an appointment.

P: We are going along on our course of action and we are asking him to come along.

K: We may have the North Vietnamese in a very tough frame of mind. We have no reason to believe that they will take all these changes. How many they take still remains to be seen. But I think at this moment they are less of a problem than Thieu.

P: Right. Okay, Henry.

K: I will come up on Friday morning, Mr. President.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Kissinger Telephone Conversations, Box 17, Chronological File. No classification marking. Nixon was at Camp David; Kissinger was in Washington. (Ibid., White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary)
  2. Document 107.
  3. A draft with Nixon’s extensive handwritten changes is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 413, Backchannel Messages, To Amb. Bunker, Saigon, Sept. thru Dec. 1972 [Part 2].
  4. According to Bunker’s backchannel message 271 to Kissinger, November 15, 1130Z: “I finally saw Thieu at 1800 today and delivered the President’s letter to him. He read the letter carefully, made notes as he went along, but offered no comment.” (Ibid., From Amb. Bunker, Saigon, Sept. thru Dec. 1972) See Document 100.
  5. November 20, the day Kissinger would meet with Le Duc Tho.
  6. On the same morning Kissinger directed Negroponte to draft an alternate proposal for a bilateral United States-North Vietnam agreement. When Negroponte sent the draft to Kissinger, he commented in his covering memorandum: “The principal usefulness of such a document, as I see it, would be to show it to President Thieu as the course we intend to pursue if he does not join us in signing the Four Party Agreement.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1135, Jon Howe Trip Files, Negroponte Negotiations File)
  7. See Document 100.