268. Message From the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army (Haig) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) in Paris1

Tohak 95. Deliver opening of business.

I had interesting meeting with former GVN Ambassador to Washington Bui Diem this afternoon.2 Diem called me and stated he was visiting Washington and would like to make a protocol visit. When he got to my office, he stated that President Thieu had asked him to talk to me and make an assessment of attitudes in Washington.

I gave Bui Diem a complete rationale similar to that given to Thieu during my last visit.3 I then pointed out that it was my judgment that if current Paris discussions resulted in an agreement in which the minimum requirements that I outlined to Thieu were met by Hanoi, the President would beyond any question sign such an agreement. I pointed out that I had no reason for knowing whether or not the talks in Paris were making progress and emphasized that it would be several days before we would know. On the other hand, if they did, there was absolutely no question about the President’s intention to proceed.4

Diem said that he agreed completely with the rationale which I had given him and stated that the problem was how we could extract Thieu from the difficult position in which he had placed himself. I told Diem that were I Thieu I would take whatever language resulted from the post-October negotiations and state to the people of South Vietnam that sufficient improvements had been made to enable him to accept the risks associated with the final draft and to proceed to sign the agreement. I stated that Thieu could also make the point that while he was not completely happy with the agreement, that in order to make every [Page 950] effort to settle the conflict and to assure South Vietnam of continued U.S. support, he was joining with the U.S. in accepting the proposal.

Diem stated that he believed the problem now was not so much Thieu’s understanding that he would have to accept an agreement but rather Thieu’s own fear that he was in a corner from which he could not gracefully extract himself. I told Diem that he should made every effort to convince Thieu that the statesmanlike course would be to proceed, assuming we get an agreement. I also told him, and he agreed, that the rationale I had outlined to Thieu would be both credible and acceptable to the people of South Vietnam.

Diem said that he would return tonight to Saigon via Paris and inform Thieu personally of the personal assessment which I had given him. He stated that the task at hand now is to help Thieu to help himself. Diem departed with no indication of whether or not progress was being made in Paris.

All of our discussions were in the context of my last discussion with Thieu. I was quite encouraged since it was obvious that Thieu was taking our temperature and this particular thermometer will undoubtedly confirm the need for Thieu’s joining with us.

Warm regards.

End of message.

  1. Source: 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. Top Secret; Operational Immediate; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Sent via Guay. Written on January 11.
  2. Bui Diem also met with Kissinger on January 5; see Document 249.
  3. For Haig’s accounts of his meetings with Thieu on December 19 and 20, 1972, see Documents 197, 198, and 206.
  4. According to Bui Diem, based on verbatim notes he transcribed immediately after the meeting, Haig also said: “President Nixon has no flexibility. If the Communists agree to the DMZ language, to the modalities for controlling the cease-fire, and to the modalities for signing the agreement, President Nixon will proceed. I have no doubt about the determination of the president to proceed. President Nixon will call publicly on President Thieu to join him, and if Thieu rejects it, then that will mean the abandonment of Vietnam. I myself will be going to Vietnam soon, and at that point there will be a moment of truth.” (Bui Diem, In the Jaws of History, p. 313)