67. Transcript of a Telephone Conversation Between the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) and the Ambassador to Vietnam (Bunker)1

K: Hello.

B: Hello, Henry.

K: Ellsworth, how are you?

B: Fine.

K: Ellsworth, I’m getting in touch with you by cable.

B: Right.

K: On that one matter you sent me which I just received about the misinterpretation. Now if that stuff is put out it is total suicide.2 This is what we are fighting in the press here. Now if they say that’s what it is, we’re dead.3

B: Yeh.

K: Then whether words are taken in or out is immaterial.

[Page 295]

B: Right.

K: They are giving this thing—first of all there is no talk whatever of the lower level stuff. I don’t know where they get that from.

B: Well, what they’re talking about is what was in the—what was in some of the previous proposals. That’s what Lam is talking about.

K: Yeh, but if he wants to be able to play in some achievements he ought to see that this is not the current thing and that they should stay a million miles away from that sort of an accusation. They’re committing total suicide here. I mean not with us, we’re trying to be helpful but in the way the public debate is going to be shaped here.

B: Yeh. Yeh.

K: The reason I call you so urgently is just if there is any chance of getting to them tonight to calm them down.

B: I doubt it very much Henry.

K: Well, at least first thing in the morning.

B: Yes, well I think of what is taking place here now. There are mass meetings being organized all around the country and people are getting stirred up against—all of the talk is against a coalition government and they are against a three-segment coalition government.

K: Well, it’s either—

B: They are given the impression that this is what’s trying to be forced on them.

K: This could either be very clever or very insane. It depends on how they then represent the outcome.

B: Yes, that’s right. That’s what I say. That’s what I said in that message.

K: Yeh. Ellsworth, you’ve been a tower of strength and we’ll be getting in touch with you by cable with details, of course.

B: Right. All right. Fine.

K: But it’s essentially here the way I told you it would be.

B: It is.

K: Yeh.

B: Well, I’ll probably get a cable from you in the morning, would I?

K: No doubt.

B: OK. All right, fine Henry.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Kissinger Telephone Conversations, Box 16, Chronological File. No classification marking. Kissinger was in Washington; Bunker was in Saigon.
  2. Kissinger was referring to Foreign Minister Lam’s plan to send a briefing paper to Vietnamese Embassies around the world spelling out the three major reasons for rejecting the negotiated agreement: (1) North Vietnam failed to recognize the DMZ as the line separating North from South and thus did not recognize the existence of a separate South Vietnam; (2) North Vietnam refused to withdraw its forces from the South; and (3) the agreement created a disguised coalition government to supplant the legal government in the South. (Telegram 15223 from Saigon, October 24, 0910Z; ibid., NSC Files, Box 857, For the President’s Files (Winston Lord)—China Trip/Vietnam, Sensitive Camp David, Vol. XXI (1))
  3. At Bunker’s direction, Whitehouse persuaded Lam to radically revise and moderate the briefing paper. (Telegram 15220 from Saigon, October 24, 0830Z; ibid.) The new version omitted all references to rejecting the agreement and instead stated that South Vietnam desired modification of the three essential points detailed in footnote 2 above. (Telegram 15224 from Saigon, October 24, 0911Z; ibid.)