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

WHS 2216. Deliver upon opening of business.

Thank you for last night’s message.2

As reported in my previous message,3 the four days of meetings with the other side were balanced between political and military discussions. While in the earlier meetings they put extraordinary emphasis on political issues, at the last meeting they displayed a far greater willingness to discuss military matters in some detail.

Several of our meetings were lengthy and time-consuming due to their plodding and detailed presentations, especially in the political area. On the military side they were insistent and unyielding in their demands that the U.S. end all supplies of military equipment to the South Vietnamese.

On balance, from the first day through the fourth, there was decided movement in their position from major emphasis on satisfying political demands to greater and greater emphasis on purely military conditions.

My judgement at this juncture would be that they appear ready to accept a ceasefire in place in the near future. This, of course is corroborated by field intelligence and it is for this reason that you cannot overemphasize upon Thieu:

the need to regain as much territory as possible and
the need for greater flexibility on the political side.

We, of course, intend to hold firm in the political area but for tactical reasons we may have to discuss some obligations in this area.

[Page 120]

I am sending you attached to this message a political plan tabled by the other side during the meetings.4 You can show this to Thieu as confirmation of Hanoi’s current thinking on the political issue.

F.Y.I.: In posturing him for my visit hopefully you can strike a balance which on one hand reassures him that we are not about to accept any political demands which would result in his overthrow and on the other hand keep sufficient heat on him so that he cannot adopt the frame of mind that he has faced us down and that he can afford to fend off successfully whatever solutions may emerge from our discussions with the other side. I recognize this is a difficult task but suspect that at this juncture Thieu may think that he alone can set the terms for a final settlement.

I look forward to seeing you next week.

  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. XX [2 of 2]. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only.
  2. Apparent reference to Bunker’s backchannel message 184 from Saigon, October 10, 0930Z, in which he informed Kissinger that he had met Thieu and emphasized the need for him to seize as much territory as possible in the immediate future because the North Vietnamese might surface a cease-fire proposal. Bunker further reported that Thieu speculated on what military and negotiating actions the other side might take. The White House Situation Room forwarded this message to Kissinger, via Guay and Haig, in Paris. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box TS 44, Geopolitical File, Vietnam, Cables, January 1970–November 1972)
  3. Backchannel message WHS 2215 from Kissinger to Bunker, October 12, 0500Z. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 857, For the President’s Files (Winston Lord)—China Trip/Vietnam, Sensitive Camp David, Vol. XX [2 of 2])
  4. The political plan is not attached. It was presumably the plan handed to Kissinger either on October 8 or on October 10, each entitled “Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam.” See, respectively, footnote 6, Document 1 and footnote 3, Document 5.