251. Backchannel Message From the Ambassador to Laos (Godley) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

638. 1. Prime Minister asked me to call this morning. He was in a relaxed mood but said he had “received word from Paris” that we had modified our position re the withdrawal of foreign forces from Laos and would accept NVA forces remaining in this country. Prime Minister said this was most distressing and the continued presence of NVA forces in the Kingdom would be intolerable for the RLG. He asked if I could confirm this report.

2. I told the Prime Minister I had no repeat no information that might confirm the foregoing, which sounded incredible to me. Certainly it was contrary to what Bill Sullivan and Al Haig told us and our latest information, i.e. from Al, was that not only were we maintaining our position on the withdrawal of foreign troops but also we were trying to reduce the time between the cease fire in South Vietnam and in Laos. I said, however, that I would seek telegraphic confirmation.2

3. He then went on to discuss the Lao negotiations, and he reaffirmed that notwithstanding the insulting nature of the LPF’s presentation last Tuesday,3 conversations would continue here.

4. I told him that yesterday I had received a visit from the new Polish Deputy ICC Commissioner, who had inquired re the ICC. I told the Pole that I understood the RLG was for maintaining the current ICC structure but that it would seek more precise terms of reference which would enable the ICC to be truly effective. The Prime Minister said my views were correct and that he would be seeking strong Indian support for an effective ICC during his discussions January 27 and 28 in New Delhi with Mme. Gandhi. He hopes to convice Mme. Gandhi not only to obtain Soviet concurrence in effective ICC but also to furnish two Indian battalions to supervise the Lao ceasefire. I suggested that rather [Page 919] than mentioning two battalions, which had a connotation of combat military units, he refer rather to sufficient supervisory or investigatory personnel. Prime Minister concurred and then asked if we would support an effective ICC logistically.

5. I inquired precisely what he meant by this, and he said jeeps, helicopters and radios etc. to be available to ICC personnel here. He was not repeat not thinking of US personnel in any role. I said I could not answer this officially for all I knew was that Bill Sullivan had implied we would be prepared to assist and that Al Haig had also so implied.

The Prime Minister said he recalled these conversations very clearly and it was for this reason that he would like some official word from Washington prior to his discussion with Mme. Gandhi. I said that I would transmit his inquiry to you.

6. I then asked the Prime Minister if he has had any discussions with the LPF on the terms of reference of the ICC. When he responded in the negative, I suggested he have this matter raised with the LPF and I recalled to him the difficulties you experienced in Paris with the GVN on the role and size of the supervisory body in South Vietnam. He said he thought my point was well taken and he would instruct the RLG delegation to raise this matter with the LPF either in their formal or informal discussions.

7. New subject: Please instruct how you wish to communicate with you once you are in Paris [2½ lines not declassified].4

All the best.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 859, For the President’s Files (Winston Lord)—China Trip/Vietnam, Sensitive Camp David, Vol. XXIII. Secret; Priority; Eyes Only.
  2. Kissinger’s reply came later that day in a backchannel message sent at 1500Z, in which he wrote: “The thought that we would accept NVA forces remaining in Laos is utter nonsense and you should make this very clear. You were absolutely right in your reply to the Prime Minister. Whatever you may hear from other sources, you should ignore. There are no reliable sources of information except what you hear directly from us.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box TS 50, Geopolitical File, Vietnam, Peace Talks, Chronological File, 16 Dec. 1972–13 Feb. 1973 [2 of 11])
  3. January 2.
  4. Kissinger instructed Godley: “You should send messages to me directly to the White House where they will be forwarded.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box TS 50, Geopolitical File, Vietnam, Peace Talks, Chronological File, 16 Dec. 1972–13 Feb. 1973 [2 of 11])