241. Backchannel Message From the Ambassador to Vietnam (Bunker) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

314. Ref: WHS 2298.2

Thank you for your message.
Thieu’s reaction to news of resumption of meetings was typically inexpressive as so often is the case with him. After transmitting message verbally I gave him memorandum covering information and text of proposed announcement. He read memorandum, underlining parts of it and thanked me but made no further comment.
In brief subsequent conversation I remarked on greatly improved posture of GVN forces compared to situation in October and the relatively weaker condition of the enemy. He agreed this was true but said enemy was conserving his forces for another major effort before a cease-fire. I replied that enemy intentions were one thing but [Page 880] capability was another and our estimate is that he does not have the ability to mount a major undertaking at this time. Thieu was relaxed and friendly throughout our meeting.
I understand necessity of avoiding any comment or appearance of gloating over getting negotiations started and have issued strict instructions accordingly to all elements of the Mission, civilian and military, and have asked Weyand and Whitehouse to follow up in my absence.
Carol and I wish you could be here with us and send warmest regards. Some day you must make it.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 413, Backchannel Messages, From Amb. Bunker, Saigon, Sept. thru Dec.1972. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Bunker was in Kathmandu to visit his wife, Carol C. Laise, Ambassador to Nepal.
  2. In backchannel message WHS 2298, December 30, 1721Z, Kissinger asked Bunker to assess Thieu’s reaction to the resumption of peace talks in Paris, and added: “For the reasons you will understand, I cannot emphasize too strongly the importance of avoiding any implication of gloating over our success at getting the other side back to talks or the implication that our strong actions forced this result on them. The effect of such gloating on the upcoming negotiations could undo much of what we have accomplished. I hope you will impress this on all there.” (Ibid., Box 859, For the President’s Files (Winston Lord)—China Trip/Vietnam, Sensitive Camp David, Vol. XXIII)