298. Message From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Sullivan) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

U.S. and DRV delegations met at golf course January 18 from 1430 to 1830. Language experts met same location 1030 to 1830.
We have now reached agreement on all four protocols with exception of points of entry to be authorized under Article 7 of agreement. In separate message, you have asked me, at Bunker’s behest, to reopen an article in this prisoner protocol.2 It is clear that this request is based on Bunker’s misunderstanding of foundation for this article as well as its ultimate effect. I am sending you separate message explaining why I feel strongly this article must rpt must remain in [Page 1077] protocol and why GVN reps, with whom I have discussed it, feel the same way.3 They also feel Bunker misunderstands it.
Therefore, there is only one rpt one obstacle to agreement, and that concerns points of entry. I intend to discuss problem at some length in this message because it has complex overtones and I will need your instruction prior to 0900 Paris time January 19 (tomorrow).
DRV originally proposed that there should be twenty points on land and sea frontiers (including DMZ) for purposes of implementing Article 7. Ten of these should be in territory controlled by GVN and ten in territory controlled by PRG. They submitted list of proposed points, with which I will not bore you, and about which we have been arguing the past three days. They wished all rpt all of these to be available for legitimate entry of replacement supplies.
They have grudgingly backed off this latter position to propose that only seven of the ten be legitimate points. One would be land route across DMZ, two would be airfields, three would be seaports, and the seventh (at the border crossing near Chup) is still vaguely stated. I have naturally rejected this proposal.
However, in a very frank interchange, Thach admitted that their purpose is to use up stockpiles currently in Laos and Cambodia, while fervently asserting that they will introduce no new rpt new supplies into Laos and Cambodia. Re seaports, he insists this has always been one of their most important logistics means in clandestine form, and they wish it legitimized for cease-fire purposes.
At same time, Thach declines to give me an actual list of seaports which he wishes to use. In fact, his whole method of negotiating this point is unusual, and he seems to have very little flexibility. Today, he stopped at the proposal cited in para 5 and said he would have to consult Le Duc Tho.
It seems to me that our dilemma rests on fact that DRV fully intends to supply its forces during standstill in its traditional fashion. If we give them entry points which permit that to happen, they seem perfectly willing to subject their supplies to control and supervision. This would be an unusual, but refreshing, evidence of their willingness to abide by provisions of the agreement. If we refuse to give them usable entry points, they will then violate the agreement rather than starve their troops.
My advisers, including the military, suggest I should agree to a compromise which would give DRV five points of entry. One of these [Page 1078] would be across DMZ, two would be airfields they control (Lao Bao and Ben Het) and two would be seaports.

Aldrich suggests still another approach, which he has written up as follows:

“Following factors strike me as important:

it seems certain that supplies DRV has cached in Cambodia will at some time be sent into SVN, not taken all the way back up Ho Chi Minh Trail to NVN,
PRG areas around Xa Mat and Loch Ninh will be very difficult to supply except by land through Cambodia or air,
if possible, we want to discourage continued dependence on Cambodian land routes for DRV supply requirements.

Conclusion I reach is that our interests would be served by accepting Xa Mat as legitimate entry point, subject to explicit limitation that land entry would be permissible for a fixed time (e.g., 60 days only, and thereafter only air entry would be permissible).”

It is clear that points of entry on the Lao/Cambodia border make an apparent mockery of Article 20, unless they are clearly specified as airports, which the DRV chooses to use to avoid seeking air corridors over GVN territory. (They will overfly Laos and Cambodian territory with the approval of the Lao and Cambodian party in administrative control of the territory, just as we will fly reconnaissance missions with the approval of the RLG and GKR.)
Agreement to seaports would raise predictable anguish in Saigon, although Communists clearly control great stretches of Binh Dinh, Ca Mau, and U Minh forest littoral.
Despite fact I have been seeking GVN guidance on this for four days now, we have no rpt no inkling of Saigon’s attitude. If they accept basic premise of agreement, they should logically accept its implications. If we honestly intend to permit Communist forces to be resupplied during standstill, we must also be prepared write realistic provisions in this protocol. Guidance I need rests on decision concerning how much political traffic will bear the weight of realism. A “mock tough” instruction will be useless, because Thach has already threatened to leave this one completely unresolved until you and Le Duc Tho can handle it. He points out that it merely requires brief list on one blank page of otherwise agreed protocol.
I can not rpt not predict method in which Thach will approach this problem tomorrow, since I have no rpt no feel for his latitude. However, I will need some flexible instructions in order to meet whatever tactics he devises.
Your 181831Z just arrived.4 I succeeded in getting a provision on inspection of civilian detention facilities which not only preserves GVN veto, but also, in separate article, requires PRG to provide list of detention camps. This is precisely what Phuong has been seeking and should make him happy.
Warm regards.

End message.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 860, For the President’s Files (Winston Lord)—China Trip/Vietnam, Sensitive Camp David, Vol. XXIV. Secret; Operational Immediate; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Sent via Guay and Scowcroft.
  2. In message WHP 366, January 18, 1724Z, Kissinger forwarded to Sullivan Bunker’s message, in which the Ambassador explained why he believed the South Vietnamese would not accept the prisoner protocol: “The protocol provides that the detaining parties shall not cause the return of civilian personnel detained in South Viet-Nam to be denied or delayed for any reason including the fact that captured persons may, on any grounds, have been prosecuted or sentenced. As you know, the GVN is detaining some VC terrorists and assassins on criminal charges and they have been prosecuted and sentenced. Thieu will object strenuously to any requirement that detainees in this category be released.” (Ibid.)
  3. Sullivan’s position, as expressed in a message to Kissinger sent January 18, 2238Z, was that those incarcerated because of involvement in the political and/or armed struggle against the South Vietnamese Government could be released but those who had been arrested for a common crime could not be. (Ibid.)
  4. Regarding the inspection of civilian detention facilities, Kissinger wrote in the message, January 18, 1831Z: “I do not believe we can agree to the right of visitation over which the GVN does not have a veto. Assurance of reciprocity is not adequate. This has always been my understanding and I believe that the DRV will acquiesce.” (Ibid.)