160. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig) to President Nixon1


  • Vietnam Negotiations

President Thieu presented a one hour address before the National Assembly on December 12 which reaffirmed his position regarding the Indochina peace settlement. He repeated standard GVN arguments that:

  • —There must be a complete withdrawal of NVA troops.
  • —The NCNRC is, in fact, a disguised coalition.
  • —Hanoi must accept the principle that there are four separate Indochinese states and commit itself not to launch aggression against any of these, and
  • —The GVN cannot accept any demand for a general election which would aim at replacing the GVN constitution and government structure.

Thieu repeated his offer to permit a U.N. supervised referendum. He suggested a truce to begin before Christmas and end after New Years, during which U.S. POWs could be released in time for Christmas while the GVN would release all North Vietnamese POWs during the truce. During the truce, all Vietnamese parties, namely the NVN, GVN and NLF, would hold consultations to discuss every problem of mutual concern.

Thieu’s speech undoubtedly will be interpreted as a firm rejection of the United States–Hanoi draft peace settlement. A more detailed assessment is at Tab A.2 We have asked for a more refined personal assessment from Ambassador Bunker but there is little doubt that Thieu has now taken a position which may force him to reject the agreement we are in the process of negotiating. We must, therefore, consider that our signing the agreement, should we achieve one, may produce a public confrontation with Thieu and possibly his overthrow.

It now appears that the mission to Saigon will have two purposes: (1) to utilize the off chance of getting Thieu’s acceptance, and (2) to put [Page 580] us in the best possible posture for a confrontation. Henry advises that he tends to believe that the Vice President should still be our emissary since we now must resort to the biggest gun available. Certainly, after Thieu’s speech, regard on our side for Thieu’s sensitivities should no longer be a factor. Henry also believes that if we get a decent agreement we cannot now turn back and the Vice President would be best able to protect our right flank in a confrontation with Thieu.3

Henry also believes that the decision on whether or not to proceed with the Vice President’s mission, assuming a satisfactory agreement, should be delayed until he returns and until we have an opportunity to consider most carefully what we are doing. I share this view since Thieu has obviously upped the ante dramatically and to a degree that it may now be impossible for him to cave. Therefore, we have to consider the implications of driving ahead, regardless of Thieu, in the context of our overall objectives in Southeast Asia.

Henry has confirmed in a message this morning that he is in full agreement and will comply totally with the advice you provided yesterday. He will do his best today and, if necessary, stay on tomorrow and beyond in an effort to get an agreement. He will return only if Le Duc Tho takes an absolutely unacceptably negative stance at today’s meeting. If this in fact occurs, he will recess quietly and not under any circumstances break off the talks.4

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 27, HAK Trip Files, HAK Paris Trip Hakto and Memos to Pres., etc., December 3–13, 1972. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. A stamped notation on the first page reads: “The President has seen.”
  2. Tab A, undated and unsigned, is attached but not printed.
  3. In a message to Haig, Kissinger concluded: “What Thieu’s speech makes clear beyond any doubt is that he is almost surely to reject the agreement we are in the process of negotiating. We must therefore consider that signing the agreement will produce a public confrontation with Thieu and very likely his overthrow.” (Hakto 40, December 12, 1314Z; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 858, For the President’s Files (Winston Lord)—China Trip/Vietnam, Sensitive Camp David, Vol. XXII (2))
  4. Haig was referring to message Hakto 38 from Kissinger to Haig, December 12, 1051Z. (Ibid.)