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

247. Refs: A) WHS 2309; B) WHS 2310; C) State 199904.2

I took up with Thieu today substance of refs B and C. I have reported concerning Tran Van Lam’s statements (ref C) in my message to the Department (Saigon 15724)3 and will not repeat here.
I said that the President was astonished and found it incomprehensible that within twenty-four hours after having received his letter4 [Page 350] and giving his views concerning the nature of the draft agreement and pointing out that he considered the comments of Foreign Minister Lam that the U.S. is negotiating a surrender to be as damaging as they are unfair that Thieu should have referred to the agreement as a surrender document. I had been asked to bring this to Thieu’s attention because of the seriousness with which these statements are viewed in the United States and by my government, especially at this sensitive time. It is our view that whatever domestic gain he may believe such statements achieve here is more than offset by the sharp loss of the confidence and support which he and his government suffer in the United States. We fear that this process is nearing the point of no return. In that case, there is certainly no future for the GVN or the South Vietnamese people. I repeated, as I had in referring to Tran Van Lam’s statements, that it is imperative to put a moratorium on statements of this kind. As mentioned in Saigon 15724 I am hopeful that Thieu will react accordingly.
I reported that we had not yet heard from Hanoi on the next meeting. However, the broadcast from Hanoi two days ago seems to indicate that they will ultimately agree to another round of meetings, although we do not think it probable that this will take place until the end of next week, probably November 9. I repeated that we would welcome Mr. Nha’s presence at the time of the next meeting so that he could report on developments at the end of each session. While Thieu did not give me a definite reply, he indicated that he would probably take up our suggestion.
I informed Thieu of the matters that we will take up and ask for at the next round of meetings (as outlined para 2, Ref B [A]).5
I impressed on him again that it is essential to drop attacks against the United States and against you; that he does not need these for his domestic situation and they can do him only irreparable harm in the United States. I shall continue to follow guidelines stated para 4, Ref B [A].6
This afternoon Nha delivered to me memorandum on changes GVN proposes in draft agreement, which is being forwarded immediately following message.7
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; Immediate; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only.
  2. In backchannel message WHS 2309, November 1, 0003Z, Kissinger told Bunker to get Thieu to change instructions to Ambassador Phong, his representative at the plenary sessions in Paris, and also directed him to let Thieu know the changes Kissinger would work for in private sessions with Le Duc Tho. In backchannel message WHS 2310, November 1, 2348Z, Kissinger additionally told Bunker to express to Thieu Nixon’s unhappiness over Thieu’s continued public criticism of the agreement. In telegram 199904 to Saigon, November 2, 2339Z, the Department instructed Bunker to tell Thieu and Lam separately to stop saying in public that Kissinger and Nixon had a different view of the situation in Vietnam from that of the South Vietnamese Government. (All ibid.)
  3. In telegram 15724, November 3, 1157Z, Bunker reported he had told Thieu that Lam’s statements constituted a criticism of the President, were intolerable and divisive, and should be stopped immediately. (Ibid.)
  4. Document 79.
  5. Matters included “improved language” describing the National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord; no reference to the three countries of Indochina; the “de facto removal of some North Vietnamese troops from the South”; and “some reference to Article 24” of the 1954 Geneva Agreement which called for respect of the demilitarized zone and the territory under the military control of each side.
  6. Kissinger encouraged Bunker to “work on Thieu, allowing him to stay tough in his general posture but, above all, trying to get him to drop attacks against the United States and me” and “stop scoring debating points.” The ultimate objective was to obtain Thieu’s concurrence to the agreement after the next Paris round.
  7. In backchannel message 246 to Kissinger, November 3, 1205Z, Bunker forwarded the “Memorandum of November 3, 72, Outlining the Points Raised by the Government of the Republic of Viet Nam on the Draft Agreement Dated October 17, 72.” (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))