260. Message From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to Richard T. Kennedy of the National Security Council Staff1

Hakto 15. Please consult Haig with respect to the following two understandings. I need views by 9:00 a.m. Thursday, Paris time, since we meet at 10 a.m.

With respect to the aircraft carriers, Haig should give me his political judgment in addition to the considerations he already sent me in the previous message.2 He will in any event recall that he was with me here when the issue was discussed in October and pointed out that the carriers could always move forward easily on a contingency basis. Tho [Page 935] continues to press this issue, and I therefore would like Haig to consult Moorer who will be responsible for implementation, specifically:
  • —To what extent can we handle the problem of the 300 mile distance from South as well as North Vietnam through loose interpretations of our right to transit, which is explicitly reaffirmed in the understanding.3
  • —Secondly, what would our carriers be doing in the event we did not repeat not agree to move them out a certain distance?4
  • —My present thinking is to offer the written understanding concerning the 300 mile distance as it applies to North Vietnam and to give an oral assurance of some lesser distance with respect to South Vietnam. In addition we would try to use language that says that these are our intentions rather than any phrasing which would imply legal obligations, thus easing the precedent problem.
With respect to the understanding on withdrawal of U.S. civilians from South Vietnam, Tho went from 6 months to 8 months and finally to 10 months today, while I held firm on 15 months. We may have to go down to 12 months. My clear recollection is that Haig believed we could handle this if necessary. Please confirm.5

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.
  2. Not found.
  3. In Tohak 69, January 11, 0316Z, Haig, after consulting with Moorer, informed Kissinger that they agreed that the United States could handle the 300-mile distance from North Vietnam as well as from South Vietnam through a loose interpretation of the understanding that Kissinger mentioned. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 28, HAK Trip Files, HAK Paris Trip Tohak 67–146, January 7–14, 1973)
  4. Haig’s answer was that Moorer had assured him that absent the conflict in Indochina United States aircraft carriers would not normally operate near Vietnam but around China, the Philippines, and Japan. The Navy’s post-settlement focus would be to conduct aerial reconnaissance and surface-trailing activities primarily against Soviet naval vessels.
  5. Haig responded: “Your recollection is correct. I believe we can manage the 12-month provision. You will recall that Mr. Laird personally accepted this provision providing it was a pivotal issue in achieving a settlement and with the recognition that we are accepting some risks since no official estimate would confirm this possibility.” He concluded: “I also draw some comfort from the fact that subsequent developments may make the issue moot in any event.”