18. Message From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) in Paris1

Tohak 2/WH 29613. I have just had urgent call from Alex Johnson, who has been trying to reach me since he left here this morning, stating that the Secretary has asked to read the document given to Sullivan,2 together with the changes that Sullivan has recommended that we are going to attempt to negotiate. Alex said the Secretary is insistent and may well call the President. I have three options:

Let Johnson read a copy here.
Furnish him a copy which he could show Rogers but with the promise that they would return it here immediately and have a man standing by, or
Ask Haldeman to call Rogers and tell him that the President insists that the paper not leave here in which case Rogers will certainly come to your office and read it.3

Please advise.

Reference the overall package4 which we have been wrestling with, George Carver is sending a very detailed analysis in which he expresses extreme skepticism that Thieu will in any way be able to accept the time frame that you visualize.5 His concern, and mine too, which has been growing with my assessment of the III Corps situation, is that Thieu will be reluctant to agree to accept a standstill cease-fire in place with NVA main forces units all in a position to threaten Saigon from three sides. This is not because they will assault the capital but because they can in the short term isolate it and cut off all main arteries leading to the capital, thereby exercising a strong influence on communications, [Page 159] commerce, tax collection and the whole range of government business on the hub emanating from the capital. We cannot overlook this strategy as being the key aspect of the so-called Hanoi work schedule. The uncertainties of this situation, combined with a lack of prompt in-place supervisory effort in specific areas, will probably influence Thieu to reject the proposal initially. My strong recommendation is that you posture yourself in Paris in such a way as to highlight the likelihood of real opposition in Saigon which would prevent our proceeding with the schedule outlined and which could only be alleviated by additional security assurances, either with respect to North Vietnamese forces or, as a less desirable option, through a more precise delineation of cease-fire supervision and the simultaneous emplacement of supervisory teams prior to the initiation of a cease-fire itself. I recognize that this is a troublesome development at this late stage. However, as you yourself have stated, the only overriding factor is to be right in the long term.

I have just received Hakto 16 and agree completely. I had the private talk with Haldeman. He is violently opposed to the Midway option and states that he will do nothing but if the President raises it with him, he will definitely oppose it strongly. Because of the danger of compromise, I will do nothing further in the way of planning.

You should have Carver’s detailed and very competent assessment in about one hour.7 Be assured of our complete, sympathetic and unwavering support.

Warm regards.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 25, HAK Trip Files, HAK Paris/Saigon Trip Tohak, October 16–23, 1972 (2 of 2). Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Sent via Lord.
  2. Haig was referring to the draft agreement Kissinger negotiated in Paris.
  3. In Hakto 2, October 16, 2135Z, Kissinger replied: “Go with Option 3, repeat Option 3. Haldeman should handle it. You should tell him he must be absolutely firm. If that paper leaves the building, or if Rogers gets into the act at this stage, I foresee only disaster.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 25, HAK Trip Files, HAK Paris/Saigon Trip Hakto, October 16–23, 1972)
  4. The draft agreement, as it emerged in various iterations from the October 8–12 talks and the October 13 meeting between Winston Lord and Xuan Thuy, is ibid., Box 107, Country Files, Far East, Vietnam Negotiations, Successive Negotiating Drafts of Vietnam Peace Agreement, October 8–13, 1972 (2 of 2).
  5. See Document 19.
  6. In Hakto 1, October 16, 1925Z, Kissinger told Haig: “The more I think about it the less I like the prospect of a Presidential meeting at Midway. Please do your best to kill this idea. It would be unwise to let planning proceed.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box TS 59, Geopolitical File, Vietnam, Trips, Kissinger, Henry, 1972, October, Chronological File)
  7. Document 19.