257. Message From the Ambassador to Vietnam (Bunker) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) in Paris1

Tohak 54/319. Ref: Hakto 8.2

Thank you for your message which provides most welcome news.
Concerning paragraph 4, I think the proposed procedure for signing will cause problems with the GVN, but I am inclined not repeat not to discuss them with Thieu at this stage. I fear that he might see it as another opportunity to engage in delaying tactics through a new round of negotiations with us, a procedure which he considers has been highly successful so far, as I mentioned in Saigon 0313.3 I think only when we make it clear that we are definitely prepared to move ahead will Thieu take the decision to go with us.
Thieu’s problem with the signing procedure, I think, will be that it publicly assigns the major roles to the U.S. and the DRV, leaving the Republic of Viet-Nam in a subsidiary position. Consequently, I believe the GVN would prefer one document in which the preamble did not list the titles of the “governments”, but would refer simply to “the parties participating in the Paris Conference on Viet-Nam” with the four Foreign Ministers signing, using their official titles.
The fact of the U.S. and the DRV jointly signing in a public ceremony with the four parties signing in a private ceremony would also cause the GVN to feel that this procedure derogates from its sovereignty and makes it appear subservient to us. Offsetting this is the fact that the GVN would sign a document which would not contain anywhere the title of the PRG and I believe that this can carry weight with them.
I think Thieu’s major problem will be not so much with the signing procedure as with the question of signing the agreement itself even though he has come a very considerable distance in the past weeks. In my message of December 18, (Saigon 0300)4 I mentioned several alternatives to which I thought Thieu might resort in an effort to go along with us without doing too severe damage to his own position. With some slight modifications, I would re-state these as follows:
Submit the agreement to the National Assembly and request its approval and concurrence in signing (Article 39 of the Constitution provides that the National Assembly has authority to ratify treaties and international agreements);
To sign the agreement, adding a demurrer indicating the points in the agreement on which the GVN has reservations, i.e., that it does not accept the principle that NVN troops have a right to remain in South Viet-Nam; that the NCRC has any governmental functions; or that Viet-Nam is one in the absence of agreement between the two sides;
To refrain from signing, but to agree formally in writing to abide by the conditions stipulated in the agreement (similar to the procedure the U.S. followed in the case of the 1954 Geneva Agreements);
To resign, together with the Vice President, permitting the President of the Senate to sign.
As you know, I consider alternatives B) or C) are the likeliest, but I am hesitant at this stage to guess what Thieu will decide. You may want to consider whether any of these alternatives might be acceptable as an alternative to the signing as now envisaged. Given the degree to which Thieu has boxed himself in even the signature on a separate piece of paper may become a very large hurdle.
I note our agreement to delete the reference in Article 3 A) to the “Republic of Viet-Nam”. It seems to me this could be made more palatable to the GVN if also we eliminated “allied with the United States”. The sentence would then read, “The United States forces and those of the other foreign countries shall remain in place pending the implementation of the plan of troop withdrawal.” If we leave in the words “allied with the United States” it tends to give the impression that the U.S. is the major factor and the GVN an appendage.
Warm regards.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 28, HAK Trip Files, HAK Paris Trip Tohak 1–66, January 7–14, 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Sent via the White House Situation Room, Guay, and Lord.
  2. See footnote 4, Document 256.
  3. Document 239.
  4. Document 191.