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

[Omitted here is discussion of the President’s post-election correspondence.]

[HK:] What I wanted to mention to you and check with you is this—now we had a phone call from Bunker—we’ve not had the actual message yet, saying that now apparently the South Vietnamese are beginning to kick over the traces again—

RN: Oh Christ.

HK: And I believe that we just have to continue now and get the best agreement we can and then face them with it afterwards.

RN: How are they kicking it over?

HK: Well, they have apparently submitted a memorandum2 to him—but see he just said the news is not good, and their Ambassador here has also raised some questions—with Sullivan.

It’s their old pattern—what they always do is first read what you give them and then they raise a few technical objections and then they just keep escalating it.

RN: Well, shall I send them another letter?

HK: No, I think we now have to wait Mr. President until we—until we see at least what will happen in Paris and once we have a text of an agreement in Paris, we’ll have a new situation.

[Page 420]

RN: Bunker says that they are taking over the crazes [kicking over the traces] and just being unreasonable as hell—is that it?

HK: That seems to be the case. And we can’t delay the negotiations and we can’t tell Hanoi that we are having trouble. Or they’re going to play it [us?] like an accordian.

RN: I just can’t see how Thieu’s got any other choice, goddamn it, we’ve told him, we are doing everything we can and that’s going to be it—but on the other hand the idea of just making a bilateral thing Henry is—

HK: Is repugnant—

RN: Is repugnant because we lose everything we’ve done—we could have done that years ago.

HK: Well, if we can get a ceasefire in Laos and Cambodia and we can of course say we have put them in a position where they can defend themselves.

RN: Ah huh.

HK: Well it’s going to be a miserable exercise.

RN: Well it may not be.

HK: Well, we’ll do it bilaterally—

RN: This may be bargaining on their part, knowing that you are going to Paris.

HK: Basically, I really don’t know where the hell they are going to go. And they are still making all the preparations as if there will be a ceasefire—and I just wanted to check with you if in accord with your views we proceed [with] negotiations—we can’t wait any longer for coordinating.

RN: Well what would be the choice otherwise?

HK: Well that we ask for another delay but I think that is almost impossible.

RN: Well you couldn’t do that—

HK: No, not after we’ve announced it—

RN: Don’t you really think they are trying [to] strengthen their bargaining position before you go to Paris?

HK: I think that is one possibility but they’re just trying to prove that if they are going to cave, they are going to do it afterwards, not before, and probably since they figure since they will get less than what they agreed to they better ask for more.

RN: Well, I think we tell Bunker to play it damn tough—he is—

HK: Oh yes. On the other hand [less than 1 line not declassified] Sihanouk says that his interests were completely sold out by the North Vietnamese [less than 1 line not declassified]—it was one of the most shocking [Page 421] examples and it is an example of US/Soviet pressure and it’s the Soviets who pressed the NVN into yielding.

RN: Yeh, yeh. Well go right ahead on the same track. Do the very best that you can—Haig has no doubts about going ahead now does he?

HK: Oh no, he is completely with us—

RN: And feels we have to do it.

HK: Haig is against an open break with them before the negotiation as I am.

RN: Oh absolutely. Go negotiate now, butthey are making public statements?

HK: No, no, this is a private communication.

RN: All right, just go ahead, do the very best you can. Get the very best agreement you can.

HK: Right.

RN: Fine, Henry.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Kissinger Telephone Conversations, Box 17, Chronological File. No classification marking. All blank underscores are omissions in the original.
  2. The memorandum, “Changes Proposed by the Government of the Republic of Vietnam in the Draft Agreement Revised by the Government of the United States on November 14, 1972,” undated, is ibid., NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 104, Country Files, Far East, Vietnam, South Vietnam, GVN Memcons, November 20, 1972–April 3, 1973 [1 of 3].