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

236. Ref: WHS 2299.2

I have just seen Thieu about Hanoi’s publication of draft agreement3 and I found him calm and relaxed about it. He said that this is what one has to expect of the Communists, they are tricky and lack scruples; they already had tried to pressure the USG by giving an interview to Newsweek in which they leaked some details and now have followed up by leaking the whole proposal.
Thieu said that as far as the South Vietnamese situation is concerned, he did not attach too much importance to it. Everyone here understands that there have been lengthy discussions here with you. It is a normal procedure that you should have negotiated with the DRV, then had come to Saigon for discussions with the GVN, subsequently returned to Washington for discussions with President Nixon and will talk again with the other side. People understand also that while the negotiations have not yet been completed we want to arrive at a settlement of the war. Thieu said that as a result of his speech on October 24, everyone here now understands that there will be a cease-fire in a matter of weeks or months at the most.4

I asked him to hold up on any public comment until we have had an opportunity to concert with him and he agreed to do so. Something along the following line, which I had suggested, would be satisfactory to him.

Begin text.

Any agreement obviously had to be ad referendum to the GVN as a party to the agreement.

[Page 305]

The provisions of the proposal including the time of signing an agreement necessarily had to depend on the outcome of discussions between the GVN and the U.S. Some problems needed further consideration and clarification.

This was the purpose of Dr. Kissinger’s visit to Saigon. Major progress has been made, but we want a sound agreement and want to be sure that as far as possible we have provided against foreseeable contingencies. Some provisions still remain to be worked out. In others, there are technical details which need to be resolved. On further examination, some provisions seem to be too ambiguous and need to be stated more definitively.

We have proposed to the other side to meet with them in Paris at any time and are ready to try to work out with them the remaining problems. The GVN and ourselves are as ready for a constructive, peaceful settlement as the DRV. End text.

I told Thieu I would Flash this to you and would get in touch with Nha this evening when I had a reply. He thought we did not need to issue identical statements as long as we were on the same wave length.
Warm regards.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 857, For the President’s Files (Winston Lord)—China Trip/Vietnam, Sensitive Camp David, Vol. XXI (1). Top Secret; Flash; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only.
  2. In backchannel message WHS 2299, October 25, 0720Z, Kissinger told Bunker: “If, as it now appears, Hanoi moves into major propaganda campaign designed to either isolate Thieu or affect U.S. domestic situation or both, it will be essential that Thieu understand the importance of complete coordination between the U.S. and GVN in concerting to speak with one voice.” (Ibid.)
  3. In an official government statement of October 26, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam revealed the outline of the plan negotiated in Paris October 8–12. (“Hanoi Says U.S. Backs Off After an Accord in Paris,” The New York Times, October 26, 1972, p. 1)
  4. In a major television and radio speech to the South Vietnamese people on October 24, Thieu stated that although the proposals negotiated in Paris by Kissinger and Le Duc Tho were in their present form unacceptable, he expected a cease-fire soon. (“Speech in Saigon,” ibid., October 25, 1972, p. 1)