320. Letter From South Vietnamese President Thieu to President Nixon1

Dear Mr. President,

Ambassador Bunker transmitted to me earlier today your letter of January 21,2 in which you requested me to let you know by 12:00 noon, January 21, Washington time, whether the GVN will join you in the paraphing and signing of the Agreement on January 23 and January 27.

I must say however that I cannot accept your accusations on our supposed delay in communicating to your government our comments on these protocols, since we received the latest version of the protocols only on January 11, and the points the GVN objected to in my previous letters related precisely to the innovations contained in that latest version. As for the Vietnamese text of the protocols, we received them from the US Embassy only today. In this regard I refer you again to the GVN Memorandum transmitted to Ambassador Bunker on January 19 and my letter of January 20.3

At this stage, there is little that I can add to all the explanations I have given you with regard to our principal reservations, because I have developed them in detail in my previous letters.

In view of your statements that US aid to the RVN will be cut off if I do not join you and your observations that the situation in the United States makes it imperative to put our relationship on a new basis, I have reached the following decisions.

Concerning the refusal by Hanoi to withdraw its troops from SVN at the conclusion of the cease-fire, I must say very frankly that I do not find that the collateral clauses you mentioned constitute an adequate remedy to this situation. However, for the sake of unity between our two Governments, and on the basis of your strong assurances for the continuation of aid and support to the GVN after the cease-fire, I would [Page 1130] accept your schedule for the paraphing of the principal Agreement on January 23, subject to the ironing out of the discrepancies between the English and Vietnamese texts I mentioned to you in my previous letters.

With respect to the USG draft note to the GVN regarding the NVA in SVN, which Ambassador Bunker transmitted to us today,4 I consider that many quotations of Le Duc Tho will be disadvantageous to us because they tend to consecrate and justify Hanoi’s pretensions on this subject. In our view the only useful part in this draft contains the following statements of Le Duc Tho and the positions of the US Government regarding these statements:

  • “—The PRG will no longer accept the introduction of troops, war materials and weapons into South Viet-Nam. This is the greatest respect of the DMZ. (December 7, 1972)
  • —We put down a provision saying that the way to reunify the country is through peaceful means and step by step restoration, through agreement between the two sides. Then how can there be a use of military means by one side against the other side? (September 27, 1972)

The United States considers these statements by the DRV to have the following consequences:

  • First, the DRV’s claim that all communist forces in South Viet-Nam are southerners or volunteers and are under the command of the so-called PRG confirms that all communist forces in South Viet-Nam are subject to the obligations of the Agreement: For example, the cease-fire in place (Article 3), the prohibition of reinforcement and resupply (Article 7), and the requirement that their reduction and demobilization be negotiated as soon as possible (Article 13).
  • Secondly, the DRV’s assertion that there are no North Vietnamese forces in South Viet-Nam confirms that the DRV is claiming no right to maintain armed forces of its own in the territory of South Viet-Nam. The United States has made clear to the DRV in the course of the private negotiations that no provision of the Agreement confers or implies any such right. The United States, in any event, does not recognize any such right derived from any source.”

These positions of the USG will be more useful if they are made known in public statements.

With regard to the Protocols, we shall wait for the results of the forthcoming negotiations in Paris on the restrictions imposed on our police force after the cease-fire. It is for these important negotiations that I am sending today Foreign Minister Tran Van Lam, after the arrival [Page 1131] there of General Vinh Loc a few days ago, to work closely with Dr. Kissinger in seeking necessary changes in the Protocols.

In case no satisfactory solution is found our considered position is that the paraphing and signing of the Protocols could not be done on the same dates as those scheduled for the principal Agreement, and should wait until a reasonable solution could be reached.


  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1041, For the President’s Files—China/Vietnam Negotiations, Original letters from Thieu to RN, November 1972–January 1973. No classification marking. Bunker sent the letter to Nixon through Kissinger in backchannel message 348 from Saigon, January 21. (Ibid., Box 1020, Alexander M. Haig Special File, Gen. Haig’s Vietnam Trip, Tohaig 1–105, January 14–21, 1973 [1 of 2]) Kissinger retransmitted it to Haig, en route to Washington from his Asian mission, in Tohaig 103, January 21, 1727Z. (Ibid.) Shortly thereafter, he also sent it to Sullivan in Paris. (Message WHP 379, January 21, 1955Z; ibid., Kissinger Office Files, Box 104, Country Files, Far East, Vietnam, South Vietnam, GVN Memcons, November 20, 1972–April 3, 1973 [1 of 3])
  2. Contained in Document 313.
  3. See Documents 305 and 310.
  4. See Document 313.