78. Transcript of a Telephone Conversation Between the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Sullivan)1

K: Bill, do you think these fellows could declare a unilateral ceasefire on Tuesday?

S: I know John Negroponte has been worrying about this. I don’t think they would. This statement that Madame Binh made the other day sounds to me as though they are definitely negative on that idea.

K: Right. What do you think they’re going to do?

S: I think they’re probably going to sit tight until after the—maybe until after the election but I don’t think they will do anything vis-à-vis us until October 31 comes and goes.2

K: That is, they won’t accept the talk?

S: That’s right. Whether they will accept it—whether they will give us a note on November 1 or whether they will give us a note on November 8, I don’t know.

K: Do you think they’ll break off the talks?

S: No, I doubt it.

K: I consider them probable to.

S: Pardon? You consider it probable?

K: No, I do not consider it probable because I think the factors that brought them to this point—

S: Are still prevailing.

K: Unless they think they can keep us from bombing again.

S: Well, I think the factors are still prevailing and I think that the longer-range factors, particularly the problem of feeding (?) themselves next spring is still staring them in the face.

K: Right. Now let me ask you one other thing, I had never—Unfortunately, I didn’t make much of it at my press conference, the [Page 318] negotiating record stands like this: I had asked for a provision in the agreement with respect to their troops.

S: Right.

K: That fell out. Then I told them I want a unilateral action on their part, you know, just withdrawing some troops along the alleged model of ’68 with Harriman.

S: Right.

K: That one we never withdrew.

S: That’s correct.

K: I didn’t want to resurrect it at the press conference because I was afraid of making a demand which then would really put the fat in the fire.

S: Right.

K: If we didn’t get it. What do you think of resurrecting that?

S: I think—my own checklist reads like this: You should resurrect that and it should have performance on it. I would nominate 3 divisions, the 325th, the 224B and the 305, all of which are in the western reaches of the northern part of Military Region I—

K: But the point is, should I do some public preparation of that?

S: No, I don’t think you should do public preparation. My feeling is that you do it privately; if you get them to agree, then it can be announced by our intelligence—

K: And I could say that we have not made a public issue of it to save their position.

S: Yes, but I think Thieu is going to have to make a public issue of it to save his face.

K: That’s right. But now the point I’m going to—

S: The planning on that I think would be only after we’ve finished in Paris the next time.

K: Right. But the public position I will take is, if this thing blows up, is to say that this has always been our position, I just didn’t want to make it public in order not to create a face issue.

S: I think that’s safe but I don’t think—You know, that’s proceeding from an assumption that it would blow up, which I don’t think is going to happen.

K: No, actually the biggest favor they could do me is not to meet until after the election.

S: I think they’re going to have a tight squeeze. My guess is that they’ll give some sort of note about November 1 and start the meeting about 4 or 5. That’s too near the—

K: Yeah, but then I’ll move it to the 8th.

[Page 319]

S: Well, maybe somebody to start the talks before. We don’t have to do any initialing until after.

K: I won’t do any initialing until I’ve been back in Saigon.

S: That’s what I mean.

K: No, but I’ve already told them that I’m not available between the 4th and 9th.3

S: Oh, you did.

K: Yeah.

S: I see. Well, then I guess the 9th would be the time. Well, I think that’s one point you ought to raise with them. I think the other point is the starting from the accusation that Pham Van Dong’s interview with Arnaud de Borchgrave was deliberately misleading,4 that we now need some clarification on the Council and we could either have it by … or by dropping out the three people [party?] segments or else by having another sentence that explains how those segments are formed so that it becomes quite clear it’s a bilateral affair.

K: Yeah. Well, that we will do and I’ll also put in that sentence from their own broadcast—“That until the completion of the political process, the existing authorities will exercise all their internal and external functions.”

S: Yeah. Well, that’s got a double edge on it of course as far as Saigon is concerned.

K: Yeah, but Saigon can claim it is the only existing authority.

[Omitted here is brief discussion of simultaneous cease-fires in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, and longer discussion of the International Commission of Control and Supervision, Canada’s role on the Commission, whether the UN should have a role in the process, the need to begin planning for the Four Party Military Commission. Also omitted is additional brief discussion about Hanoi resuming negotiations.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Kissinger Telephone Conversations, Box 16, Chronological File. No classification marking.
  2. Hanoi held the position that the United States had agreed to sign the agreement on Tuesday, October 31 and should. On at least three occasions—October 23, 24, and 26—Hanoi sent messages to the United States to this effect. For the October 23 message, see footnote 3, Document 51; the October 24 message was conveyed to Haig by the North Vietnamese in Paris via Guay at 1921Z, and the similar October 26 message at 1939Z. (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))
  3. See footnote 3, Document 82.
  4. See footnote 8, Document 36. In the interview, Pham Van Dong indicated that the Council would be some sort of government structure rather than the powerless administrative structure Kissinger and Le Duc Tho had agreed to.