115. Message From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1

WH 29732. Deliver in a sealed envelope marked eyes only to H.R. Haldeman. Mr. Kissinger has submitted the following situation report for the President:

Memorandum for: The President

From: Henry A. Kissinger

Today’s meeting started at 10:30 a.m. at regular secret location.2 We found press at location prior to our arrival, so venue is no longer secret.

After an exchange of pleasantries which were essentially cordial, Le Duc Tho spoke first, delivering a long opening statement which was tough and reasoned though devoid of vitriolics and polemic. The essential thrust of his opening statement was North Vietnamese dismay at our failure to accept the earlier agreement and its accompanying schedule. I responded in kind, listing the reasons for delays but emphasizing the need to concentrate on the future.

  • —Following these initial exchanges there was a break during which some substantive exchanges between Le Duc Tho and me occurred. During this exchange I made it clear that the most important remaining obstacle was the issue of North Vietnamese troops in the South. Although he did not reject some give on this issue he was essentially noncommittal in expressing any degree of flexibility.
  • —Upon resumption of the discussions I painstakingly covered all of the proposed changes which we have received from the South Vietnamese and our own review. This was a lengthy process in that there are some 67 specific changes3 involved in the draft text. Le Duc Tho was obviously somewhat taken aback by the extent of our proposed modifications [Page 426] and indicated that they may have some changes of their own.4 Following the presentation of the US/GVN changes I discussed the importance of achieving greater simultaneity between the ceasefire in South Vietnam and those in Laos and Cambodia as well as discussing measures for bringing the ICCS into play at the time of the ceasefire. I warned strongly against intensifying North Vietnamese military activity not only in South Vietnam but in Laos and Cambodia as well.
  • —On the positive side, Le Duc Tho demonstrated a distinct eagerness to arrive at an agreement this week and to have it implemented at an early date and in conformance with a fixed schedule which we should jointly agree to during this session. This eagerness was combined with demands for assurances from us that there would be no more changes in the agreement once the week’s activities have been concluded. This we had already given prior to the meeting to Hanoi as well as to Moscow and Peking.
  • —Finally, he warned that if we were to present the numerous changes which I had given them today in an inflexible way or as an ultimatum, there could be no agreement and the war would continue for four more years.
  • —At his request we agreed to meet again tomorrow at 3:00 pm local time, due to his stated need to study our proposals. He promised to have detailed comments on these proposals at tomorrow afternoon’s session.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 26, HAK Trip Files, HAK Paris Trip Hakto, November 18–25, 1972. Top Secret; Codeword; Sensitive. Sent via Kennedy and Haldeman. A stamped notation on the message reads: “The President has seen.”
  2. The meeting ended at 4:45 p.m. A 37-page memorandum of conversation (which this message summarizes) with attachments is ibid., Box 858, For the President’s Files (Winston Lord)—China Trip/Vietnam, Sensitive Camp David, Vol. XXI, Minutes of Meetings.
  3. Actually, it turned out to be 69 changes, as Kissinger pointed out that evening when he briefed 3 senior South Vietnamese diplomats—led by Pham Dang Lam, Chief of Delegation to the Talks—about his afternoon meeting with Le Duc Tho. (Ibid., Vol. XXI, Briefing of South Vietnamese)
  4. Kissinger later admitted that the presentation of all of the proposed changes at one time was a tactical error, writing in his memoirs: “The list was so preposterous, it went so far beyond what we had indicated both publicly and privately, that it must have strengthened Hanoi’s already strong temptation to dig in its heels and push us against our Congressional deadlines. I put them forward in order to avoid the charge that we were less than meticulous in guarding Saigon’s concerns—and to ease the task of obtaining Thieu’s approval.” (White House Years, p. 1417)