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

318. Nha has transmitted to me a letter from President Thieu to President Nixon which he has asked me to forward promptly. Text follows:

Begin text:

Saigon, January 7, 1973.

Dear Mr. President,

I have received your letter dated January 5, 1973 which Ambassador Bunker has transmitted to me.2

After reading it very carefully, I am aware of the difficulties in the negotiations, but I do not think that we should be resigned to accept that the question of the withdrawal of North Vietnamese troops cannot be solved satisfactorily just because the North Vietnamese side used to oppose this reasonable demand from our side.

As I pointed out in my letter of December 20, 1972 the question of North Vietnamese troops, the implication that there are two parallel governments coexisting in South Viet Nam, and the competence of the National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord are three vital problems for us. However, in displaying maximum goodwill for peace we are willing to make a great concession and accept the provisions for the political outcome in South Viet Nam provided for in the draft agreement as of December 12, 1972.

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After that major concession, we still insist on the remaining questions of North Vietnamese troops withdrawal, and the non-recognition of the PRG as a parallel government in South Viet Nam. As you recall from my letter these two problems are life or death issues for all the South Vietnamese people.

I would like you to understand that when we make the great concession on the political questions we are taking the risks for peace through our acceptance of a fair and open confrontation with the other side in the political contest.

We consider that we should not take the risks of a new aggression if we sign this agreement. Consequently, we believe that to avoid the occurrence of a new aggression by the Communists the agreement should at least create minimum conditions for the peaceful exercise of the political solution in South Viet Nam, that is the question of the North Vietnamese troops should be resolved satisfactorily.

Therefore, as the GVN does not participate directly in the negotiations, I urge you to direct Dr. Kissinger to press on the North Vietnamese to be reasonable on those two issues in order to bring about a just and honorable settlement of this war.

Hanoi has not abandoned its objectives over South Viet Nam, and makes no secret about it. It pretends to have jurisdiction over South Viet Nam, and considers that the principle of unity of Viet Nam in the text of the agreement already consecrates that right to their benefit. Hanoi therefore will certainly claim that the continued presence of the NVA after the cease-fire is the implementation of that principle.

On the other hand, the Communist side repeatedly pretends that there are in South Viet Nam, in the transitional stage, “two governments, two armies, two territories”. Therefore, I strongly believe that the text of the agreement should not give them any reason to clamor that it consecrates their absurd pretensions. Otherwise, after the cease-fire we shall be seriously handicapped in entering the political contest, because both the domestic and international positions of the GVN will have been gravely weakened.

I value very highly your assurance of continued assistance in the post-settlement period and that you will respond with full force should the settlement be violated by North Viet Nam. For this however, I believe that the settlement should be based on sound principles. Any concessions we shall make to the Communists will be theirs forever, while they consider any compromises they would make as only temporary.

With my genuine desire and maximum goodwill to end the war and restore peace in Viet Nam and to bring about an honorable settlement for everyone I sincerely hope that the current rounds of negotiations will lead to a just and honorable peace.

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I have also directed Ambassador Lam to maintain contacts with Dr. Kissinger in Paris so as to be informed on time on the development of the talks, on the text of the agreement as well as the protocols.

The people of South Viet Nam have suffered for too long from this war, and the GVN wishes above everything else to have a prompt restoration of peace, peace with honor and with justice, a peace which could justify all the sacrifices we have made in this long struggle for freedom.



His Excellency Richard M. Nixon

President of the United States of America

The White House, Washington D.C.

End text.

Warm regards.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 415, Backchannel Messages, From Amb. Bunker, Saigon thru April 1973. Top Secret; Immediate; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only.
  2. See Documents 248 and 252.