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

WHS 2307. Deliver immediately upon opening of business.

We have just received an ominous message from the North Vietnamese in response to our October 27 note2 which suggested a November 1 [Page 332] meeting in Paris. Their note today simply says that they have received our message, are studying it very carefully, and will reply at a later date.3 We think all signs point to the likelihood of their launching a major attack tomorrow, October 31, for our not meeting the deadline and using the verbatim messages we sent them from Saigon which you have seen.
If this happens, obviously one of our major problems will be with Thieu and GVN, as already foreshadowed in their October 28 memorandum4 and the President’s message sent to you in WHS 2304.5 Therefore it is essential that when you see Thieu you do your best to head off this problem. You should reemphasize that all exchanges concerning the text and schedule were on an ad referendum basis and contingent upon GVN agreement. If the North Vietnamese reveal the record, they will undoubtedly use selective quotations and statements out of context to make the most damaging case. That our undertakings were ad referendum has been clearly proved by the fact that we have agreed to seek changes in the text and the illustrative deadlines have not been met.
Certainly one of Hanoi’s major objectives will be to further divide the GVN and US. Thieu has got to understand that it is in our overriding mutual interest to stand together and not let the Communists divide us. You must therefore seek to make him understand the nature of our exchanges with the DRV and you must impress upon him the absolute requirement for US–GVN unity. If Hanoi does go public, the GVN must concentrate its fire on the enemy and not on an ally that has done and will do so much to support South Vietnam.
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; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only.
  2. See footnotes 2 and 3, Document 82.
  3. According to a Vietnamese official history, co-authored by a member of the North Vietnamese delegation to the Paris Peace Talks, Luu Van Loi: “We replied to this note only on 4 November, to show that we were not in a hurry, and that we did not pin our hope on the [November 7]election in the US. The chosen timing was also significant in holding the initiative, no matter whether McGovern or Nixon would win the election. In our note, we proposed that the meeting would start on 14 November.” (Luu Van Loi and Nguyen Anh Vu, Le Duc Tho-Kissinger Negotiations in Paris, p. 343)
  4. See Document 79 and footnote 2 thereto.
  5. Backchannel message WHS 2304 from Kissinger to Bunker, October 29, 2021Z, transmitted the President’s October 29 letter to Thieu, Document 79.