258. Message From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1

Hakto 14. Please pass the following message immediately to the President:

Begin text:

Today’s four-hour session2 continued the momentum of yesterday. I think we can now say with some assurance that the agreement, understandings and protocols should all be completed by Saturday or Sunday, except perhaps for some technical conforming of the protocol texts. It is always possible, of course, that Hanoi will reverse course, but the atmosphere and approach is totally different from December. [Page 931] Whatever the press and other observers may say about our military actions, they certainly seem to have contributed to this result.
In today’s meeting with Le Duc Tho we achieved essential agreement on all the understandings and discussed a possible schedule, while the separate experts’ meeting made further progress on the protocols. I delayed the issue of the method for signing the agreement until tomorrow to give us more time to sound out Bunker’s views. In addition to that there now remains a couple of hours work on the understandings and then at least two days work on the protocols where progress is necessarily somewhat more complex. We meet again tomorrow at 10 a.m.
In our discussion of a possible schedule, I put forward the idea, without much hope of success, that the US–DRV initialing of the agreement occur in Paris. I did this in order to avoid a hiatus between Haig’s return from Saigon and my possible visit to Hanoi. To my great surprise Tho was prepared at least to entertain the idea and in that case they would want me to visit Hanoi within a week of the signing of the agreement, or about 10 to 14 days after the initialing. Unless you have objections I believe that this scenario is preferable to the alternative one I sketched in yesterday’s message3 for the following reasons:
  • —It would enable us to make clear before your inauguration the practical conclusion of the agreement.
  • —It would compress the time period and thus the uncertainty in America between the conclusion of our work here and public confirmation of success.
  • —Saigon would prefer the initialing to take place in Paris rather than Hanoi. The somewhat briefer time span would seem at this point to make little difference in Saigon’s reaction.
  • —It would place my visit to Hanoi in the context of post-war relations.

A possible schedule would therefore look as follows:

  • —Saturday, January 13. Kissinger returns to Washington.
  • —Sunday, January 14, Haig leaves for Saigon.
  • —Monday, January 13, announcement of bombing halt due to progress in Paris.
  • —Wednesday, January 17 or Thursday, January 18, Haig returns to Washington.
  • —Friday, January 19, White House announces Kissinger return to Paris on Monday January 22 to conclude the negotiations. (We might [Page 932] perhaps add that the agreement will be initialed, or imply that by saying that Kissinger would remain in Paris only one day.)
  • —Monday, January 22 or Tuesday, January 23, initialing in Paris and Presidential speech in the evening.
  • —Friday, January 26, four party signature of the agreement in Paris.
  • —Circa February 1, trip to Hanoi.

If you agree with the above scenario I will push hard for it tomorrow. It is always possible, of course, that Hanoi might change its mind and we might have to revert to the original plan.

The need for the strictest security on the status of the talks, not to mention possible scenarios, remains as imperative as ever. Finally, of course, the problem in Saigon remains formidable. This fact plus the constant caveat about Hanoi’s course of action mean that even private celebrations will be premature for many days to come.4

End text.

Warm regards.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 28, HAK Trip Files, HAK Paris Trip Hakto 1–48, January 7–14, 1973. Top Secret; Flash; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Sent via Kennedy.
  2. A memorandum of conversation of the meeting, January 10, 3–6:48 p.m. is ibid., Box 866, For the President’s Files (Winston Lord)—China Trip/Vietnam, Camp David Memcons, January 8–13, 1973 [January 23, 1973].
  3. Kissinger’s reference to “yesterday’s message” is not clear. In that message (Document 256), there is no discussion of post-signing travel scheduling.
  4. Later that evening Sullivan briefed the senior South Vietnamese officials. A memorandum of conversation of the meeting, 8:30–9:15 p.m., is ibid., Kissinger Office Files, Box 104, Country Files, Far East, Vietnam, South Vietnam, GVN Memcons, November 20, 1972–April 3, 1973 [1 of 3].