264. Message From Richard T. Kennedy of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) in Paris1
Tohak 83. Deliver immediately upon receipt.
After reading your message this morning,2 the President dictated the attached cable in substance. He was concerned that there might be some misunderstanding about the possibility of further negotiations with Thieu. He did not intend to imply this and is absolutely firm in his intention not to negotiate further with him. He was only looking to the contingency that Thieu was prepared to come along but might possibly need a little time to do it. If we had a clear signal that this was his intention, he thought that it might be desirable if the North Vietnamese were willing to wait a few days for this result. He also recognized that Hanoi may have a schedule which it will not change. In that case, we would proceed as his message yesterday indicated.3 He affirmed also that he intended that Haig leave only after you had returned. There is no intention that Haig should depart before a meeting with you.
The President also wanted me to tell you that we must inform the key legislative leaders immediately after your return. He said that he wanted you to call them on Sunday night4 with a message in substance as follows:
- —Because there has been significant progress in our talks in Paris, the President has directed General Haig to go to Saigon to inform President Thieu of this progress.
- —Because of the progress that has been made in the negotiations, the United States is suspending its bombing of North Vietnam and this suspension will continue so long as these negotiations continue to show this progress.
- —Our three goals in the negotiations have been a ceasefire, return of POWs, and a political process in which all South Vietnamese people can determine their own future. By agreement of both sides, there will be no discussion at this time of the substance of the negotiations—a violation of this understanding could jeopardize a possible agreement.
The President emphasized that no one has been informed at all up to now. The pressures from the Hill are already enormous and your return will make it absolutely necessary to inform them along the foregoing lines. This would be essentially the same announcement which Ziegler would make the following day.
The President also has asked me to get together a list of all the heads of state who have attacked us over the bombing. He intends that if any of them communicate felicitations after an announcement, they will receive no response. Moreover, he wants to be absolutely certain that no communication with any of the states involved invoke the President in any way; i.e., there should be no Presidential responses nor any third-person reference to the President in communications with those governments. None of the Ambassadors of the governments involved should be seen in the White House area, and the level at which they are to be received in State should be kept low. He makes an exception for the Italians because of the political realities there. I will have such a list but will not take any action to inform State of these rules until the appropriate point in the scenario. To do so now could raise considerable speculation. I pointed out to the President that the Australians, New Zealanders, Japanese, Swedes and Canadians already have been informed of our displeasure in clear terms.
January 11, 1973
To: Henry A. Kissinger
From: The President
Thank you for your message giving further thoughts on the schedule and the way in which we should proceed. I fully agree and have planned that Haig would depart only after your return here and an opportunity for me to meet with you and Haig. Depending upon the timing of your return, we could plan, however, to meet immediately after your arrival with Haig departing shortly after our meeting.
I also totally agree that we must go ahead with the agreement with Hanoi regardless of whether Thieu goes along or not. If we cannot deliver [Page 945] Thieu, we then obviously will have the problem of Hanoi’s reaction. In that event, there would be no Presidential announcement made on Thursday, January 18. Instead, we would have Haig delay his return so that there would be no pressure for an announcement until after January 20. Then, on January 22, I would make an announcement that we had reached an agreement in principle with the North Vietnamese and call on Thieu to adhere to it. I have already told Haig that he is to tell Thieu that we are not going to negotiate with him but rather that we will proceed and we are presenting this, in effect, on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.
As I indicated in my message yesterday, I have a strong preference for initialing in Paris rather than Hanoi.
Warmest personal regards.
End of message.