305. Backchannel Message From the Ambassador to Vietnam (Bunker) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

344. Deliver OBB. Subject: Protocols.


I have just received from Nha a memorandum of the GVN concerning the most recent texts of the protocols and questions they raise in connection with them.

Begin text:

Memorandum of the Republic of Viet Nam on the Question of the Protocols Raised by the United States Government.

In his letter dated January 18, 73 answering President Thieu’s letter of January 17, 73 and which Ambassador Bunker transmitted to President Thieu on January 18, President Nixon said the concerns of the Government of the Republic of Viet Nam about the protocols “come extremely late considering the fact that for two and a half months we have been asking for your government’s joint participation in the drafting of these documents and your comments upon them. As late as January 16 your representatives in Paris refused to give any comments to Ambassador Sullivan”.

The South Vietnamese National Security Council has read carefully the part of President Nixon’s letter with regard to the protocols, as mentioned above, and was briefed by Prime Minister Khiem who concurrently is the Minister for Defense and General Vien, Chief of JGS who are charged with the specific task of working on the protocols with MACV. Consequently, in order not to be accused of bad faith and with the purpose to dissipate any bad impression President Nixon might [Page 1089] have about the GVN on this particular matter, President Thieu and the National Security Council deem it necessary to point out the following:

—The GVN first got copies of the protocol on the ICCS and Four-Party Joint Military Commission on November 10, 72 when General Haig was in Saigon.

After receiving those protocols, the South Vietnamese NSC had entrusted Prime Minister Khiem, also Minister for Defense and General Vien to work on those protocols with MACV in Saigon, before submitting their ideas to the NSC. The NSC deals with the peace agreement and sends instructions to the task force headed by Ambassador Lam in Paris.

  • —On December 12, 72, the GVN received copies of the protocols on the ICCS and the Four-Party Joint Commission. These protocols differ somewhat from the ones we received in November. However, and most importantly, they did not take into consideration the points raised by our military staff with MACV. Prime Minister Khiem and General Vien once again instructed their staff to work on these new protocols with MACV. However, they found that MACV was then not in a position to offer or take comments. Meanwhile the meetings between the US and DRV experts continued in Paris.
  • —The GVN then instructed its task force in Paris to seek copies of the protocols as the meetings proceeded so as to be informed on all the details of the discussions.
  • —It was not until January 10, 1973 that our task force in Paris received copies of the protocols revised as of January 7. The South Vietnamese National Security Council received them on January 11 in Saigon.
  • —The new protocols not only differ from the previous ones but include many points of substance, such as the notion of a zone under the “control” of the Communist authorities and the fact that the GVN’s police force be hampered in its responsibility to maintain law and order.
  • —Most importantly, the protocols we received are in English, and to this date there are no Vietnamese texts. The GVN wants to work on the Vietnamese texts of the protocols so as to avoid misuse and misinterpretation of English and Vietnamese vocabulary.

The following [preceding] chronology points out that the GVN did not lack cooperation in the discussions of the protocols, rather it had found it difficult to discuss when MACV in Saigon could not make comments and when the points of substance in the basic agreement have not been solved.

January 19, 1973

End text.

As mentioned yesterday (paragraph 2, Saigon 0339)2 I called Thieu’s attention to fact that when we proposed to start discussions on the protocols he had prohibited his people from meeting with us because he considered the draft agreement unsatisfactory and considered it pointless, therefore, to discuss the protocols.
Warm regards.
  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. Top Secret; Operational Immediate; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only.
  2. Document 292.