82. Transcript of a Telephone Conversation Between the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) and the Assistant to the President (Haldeman)1

K: Hello.

H: Hi. Have you heard from the North.

K: Yes. Very enigmatic.2 They are studying our message3 and will reply later. They are preparing some sort of a play this week.

H: Think so?

K: Yes.

H: Okay. But not tomorrow.

K: No, any time from tomorrow on.

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H: How do you read that as what they’ll do.

K: I think they’ll do one of two things. They may not show up at the meeting on Thursday4 saying the negotiations are completed. And that anytime we want to sign this, it is fine. But they are not going to talk anymore. Then, we’ll take the position, fine, we’ll stick by our position and we are sure they’ll reconsider. Or, they’ll agree to meet, which is unlikely; or they’ll take the position that we’ve cheated them and the agreement is no longer valid and they’re breaking off all the talks.

H: That’s unlikely, isn’t it.

K: Well, it would be insane. But you see one problem they’re in is that they have stuck their infrastructure way out there, and they are getting murdered right now. And a ceasefire a month from now just leaves them in a very weak position.

H: Well, if they sit down and talk to you, they could get one in less than a month.

K: Well, I think myself, unfortunately we sent some messages from the President to Dong5 in which we said the text of the agreement can now be considered complete. And we’ll just have to brazen that one out, and say that’s right, but then they went to Pham Van Dong and put out all these ambiguities, they put out instructions which we we have to take advantage of hiatus between initialing the agreement and signing it, and thirdly, I’ll put out the records from the meetings in which I made clear that all these dates are hypothetical. I think we ought to go on the offensive and not defend it. Then the next time they publish some secret exchanges, we should just blast them. The public is more inclined to believe the President than they are likely to believe anybody else.

H: That’s right.

K: Don’t you think?

H: That’s right. So you just gotta stay in a strong position.

K: So, that’s where we are.

H: Like where we gotta be. Have we told him [Nixon].

K: Yes.

H: What was his attitude?

K: Well, he’s a little flakey about you know destroying hopes.

H: Yeah. Is this a fact whether or not the VP should hit them. Hit McGovern?

K: I think he ought to hit McGovern, anyway.

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H: Okay, we’re pushing ahead on that.

K: Yeah. Well the only risk is if they blow it up tomorrow, you have to assess what the PR effect is, so the Vice President saying we’ve already negotiated the President’s agreement.

H: I think it’s okay because I think if they blow it tomorrow, that we’ve got to move in some way to say that McGovern is the one that blew it.

K: Okay, fine, well then he should do it.

H: I think it’s an incredible thing that he would now announce that he would re-negotiate the treaty.6

K: Yes. I think we should do it.

H: We got to lay the ground work for that.

K: Yes, I think we should definitely do it.

H: They’ll come back and say he didn’t. That is the point, if we hit it hard enough, we can make that one stick maybe.

K: Okay, I think we should do it.

H: All right.

K: Good.

H: Well, have fun.

K: Thank you.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Kissinger Telephone Conversations, Box 16, Chronological File. No classification marking.
  2. In its entirety the October 30 message reads: “The Democratic Republic of Viet Nam side has received the message of the U.S. side dated October 27, 1972. The DRVN side is studying this message very carefully and will reply at a later date.” It was transmitted to Haig via Guay on October 30 at 1851Z. (Ibid., NSC Files, Box 857, For the President’s Files (Winston Lord)—China Trip/Vietnam, Sensitive Camp David, Vol. XXI (1))
  3. The U.S. message, October 27, 1630Z, proposed that Kissinger and Le Duc Tho meet in Paris on November 1 or any other mutually convenient date, and informed the North Vietnamese that Kissinger would be unavailable November 4–9. (Ibid.)
  4. The previously scheduled November 2 plenary session at Avenue Kléber in Paris.
  5. See Documents 23 and 26.
  6. See “McGovern Would Halt Aid to Thieu,” The Washington Post, October 30, 1972, p. A1.