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

WH32506. Refs: Saigon 0549, Saigon 0550.2

Thank you for timely advice and draft in reftels. I have sent it to Le Duc Tho as you drafted it, with one sentence added near end to further strengthen point. See attachment.
Warm regards.

Attachment: Message from Dr. Henry A. Kissinger to Mr. Le Duc Tho, Oct. 16, 1973

To: Mr. Le Duc Tho, Representative of the Government of the DRVN

From: Henry A. Kissinger

I have received your communication of October 13, 1973.3 If you will refer to my note of August 10,4 you will find a dispassionate and sincere effort on my part to record specific instances where a serious effort on your side to work with the RVN and with us to implement the provisions of the Paris Agreement and the June Communiqué might have allowed all of us to achieve some progress.

Yet in reviewing the current status, we find that the “PRG” delegation to the Two-Party Joint Military Commission has still not deployed to the agreed sites outside Saigon. This makes it impossible for the ceasefire machinery provided for in the Paris Agreement to function effectively. Furthermore, your representatives have not designated points of entry as required by the Paris Agreement and the Joint Communiqué. In the Four-Party Joint Military Team, representatives of your side have so far refused to account for those missing in action and to [Page 451] permit the repatriation of the remains of the known dead. By refusing to assure that the exchange sites will be free of disturbance, your side has prevented the completion of the exchange of Vietnamese civilian prisoners.

What saddens me the most is the conviction that your note of October 13 is intended only to make a propaganda record to attempt to justify further violations on your part. We are, of course, well aware of the continued infiltration of your forces and your present evident intentions to mount extensive operations in the area around Tay Ninh. How can you complain if, in face of such continued assaults, the RVN takes reasonable measures to defend itself, which it most certainly will do? As far back as July 23,5 I responded honestly to your question on the activities around Kontum, warning you that, in my opinion, the GVN would never allow you to keep the bridgehead across the Krong Poko River and the villages of Polei Krong and Trung Nghia which you seized on June 7. Were the casualties you took in unsuccessfully continuing to try to hold them worth the effort? True, you overran the Ranger camp at Plei Djering in revenge for that defeat. But again I ask whether it was worth it?

And now there is another incident, where an American working under contract for the ICCS, traveling in a clearly marked ICCS vehicle, was abducted by the Viet Cong on October 6 and is now being held by your friends in the hamlet of Phuoc An in An Xuyen Province. We have asked the GVN not to use force to try to release him. Instead, I wonder if, as evidence of the good will and serious intent you claim you bring to the question of the proper implementation of the Accords, you will prevail on your friends to release him.

In my message of August 10, I expressed my sincere hope that you and your colleagues would not mistake the complete seriousness of our commitment to the proper implementation of the Accords. I added that those who moved under the assumption that it would be safe to do so when my government seemed to be preoccupied elsewhere were almost always wrong. In your reply you interpreted this as a threat. It was not so intended. Rather, it was meant to convey a serious expression of a simple historical fact. As I said in the closing sentence of that message, the U.S. side is totally commited to scrupulous and effective implementation of all parts of the Paris Agreement. And I am sure that you never expected the U.S. side to idly stand by if it becomes clear that your side intends to totally ignore them. Time and again the DRV has misunderstood the American reaction, and we hope it will not do so again.

[Page 452]

It may appear that I am totally absorbed in Mideast affairs, but I can assure you, Mr. Special Adviser, that you are always very much on my mind. End text.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 416, Backchannel Messages, Martin, July 19–December 1973. Secret; Eyes Only.
  2. In backchannel message 549, October 16, Martin told Kissinger: “It is increasingly evident that the DRVN is planning a major assault in the Tay Ninh area.” The Ambassador concluded that a note to the North Vietnamese “might just cause Le Duc Tho to have second thoughts.” (Ibid.) In backchannel message 550 from Saigon, October 16, Martin sent Kissinger suggestions for the content of that note. (Ibid.)
  3. Le Duc Tho’s message, October 13, protested “the repeated, massive and very barbarous air bombardments carried out recently by the Saigon administration,” and called upon Washington and Saigon to “correctly implement all provisions” of the Paris Agreement and Joint Communiqué. Kissinger relayed the text of the DRV message to Martin in backchannel message WH32501, October 15. (Ibid.)
  4. The text of Kissinger’s August 10 message to Le Duc Tho, drafted by Martin, is contained in backchannel message WH31902 to Saigon, August 10. (Ibid.)
  5. The text of Kissinger’s July 23 message to Le Duc Tho, drafted by Martin, is contained in backchannel message 532 from Saigon. (Ibid.)