18. Message From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Sullivan) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) in Beijing1
369/Tohak 161. 1. Following is summary report of my first twenty-four hours in Saigon. It is written prior to dinner which Foreign Minister Lam is giving this evening, at which there will be several senior officials concerned with problems of negotiations between GVN and PRG. I will report separately anything significant which develops from that session.
2. My first comment should be upon appearances of Saigon. City is festooned with flags and banners. Banners generally exhort people to vigilance and insist upon scrupulous cease-fire observance by Communists.
3. Second observation concerns general attitudes displayed by GVN officials I have met and to large measure shared by U.S. military. They all display considerable skepticism about Communist intentions and are inclined to treat Communist representatives as well as Communist statements with enormous reserve. Ambassador Bunker is valiantly attempting to induce more forthcoming attitudes into both these sectors of his constituency.
4. My first meetings here were with senior U.S. officials at Ambassador Bunker’s residence last evening. Discussions generally concerned military situation, performance of Four-Party Joint Military Commission and ICCS. Essentially military situation appears most satisfactory from GVN perspective. Both JMC and ICCS making halting progress, with prospects that they will eventually move more effectively.
5. Next meeting was morning February 14 with U.S. officials responsible for liaison with ICCS. It is clear that U.S. military and civilian agencies have been the primary crutch on which ICCS and JMC have leaned in order to begin their activities. Performance of U.S. officials, particularly military, in this field has been absolutely first class.[Page 122]
6. Next meeting was with Foreign Minister Lam, accompanied by Bunker. Discussion concerned two primary subjects: a) negotiations with the PRG, and b) international conference. On former Lam laid out logical scheme of action which GVN intends to pursue. Their principal negotiator with the PRG will probably be Vice Prime Minister Vien. They have suggested Rangoon as preferable locus of negotiations, although PRG prefers Paris. Lam himself is prepared to arrive in Paris a few days early for international conference in order to resume preliminary contacts with Madame Binh. They have in mind a National Council of Reconciliation composed of about thirty members. They understand and intend to keep the initiative in pressing for rapid political settlement, recognizing that the PRG is unprepared for serious move toward elections.
7. Concerning international conference, Lam seems relatively well prepared but had no particularly helpful suggestions concerning chairmanship. I floated both US-DRV co-chairmanship and rotating chairmanship among ICCS members without getting any particular response. He seems prepared to accept PRG presence, name plate and title. However, he talked in terms of refusing to sign final act of the conference. Instead he proposed issuing a statement supporting the act. Bunker and I both took violent exception to this suggestion, thereby extracting Lam’s proposal for a compromise action in which signatures would be on separate sheets of paper. We told him this seemed feasible and that we would be prepared to support it.
8. My next session was lunch with Generals Woodward and Wickham, with John Vogt present. They reported on morning meeting of JMC, in which Communists did table cease-fire proposal, but failed to introduce points of entry. I encouraged Woodward to make arrangements for JMC and ICCS to observe U.S. and ROK departures, in accordance with Protocol provisions. He agreed. I alerted Vogt to possibility of cease-fire in Laos and he raised number of questions concerning U.S. air reaction if cease-fire is violated. I advised him that answer to that problem would have to come from the President.
9. I then paid surprise visit to DRV/PRG concentration camp, accompanied by Engel and U.S. Liaison Officer. GVN Military Police refused to permit my vehicle to enter camp. They even attempted (unsuccessfully) to prevent Engel and me from walking in on foot, which we did after waiting five minutes for vehicle clearance. In camp we met Generals Hoa and Tra, plus your friend Blinky. I gave them all greetings from Le Duc Tho. They then poured out list of complaints, most of which centered upon their isolation at Tan Son Nhut. I told them that this was natural result of GVN suspicion concerning their intentions. So long as cease-fire not complete and points of entry not established, suspicion would continue. I advised them to clear up those [Page 123]two points and examine whether GVN attitudes would improve. Immediately after my visit, which lasted fifteen minutes, PRG telephoned U.S. news media informing them of my visit and saying that I “realized that the offices of the PRG delegation are not appropriately arranged.” I have since had Embassy press spokesman correct the record and have also explained my visit to President Thieu. As a matter of fact I feel the accommodations at Tan Son Nhut are quite adequate. The only genuine grounds for complaint is the rigidly enforced isolation.
10. My next visit was with Ambassador Gauvin of the Canadian delegation. I encouraged him to deploy ICCS teams into secure locations in addition to the seven regional points. He agreed to discuss this with Woodward and take action soonest. He seems energetic, somewhat garulous, but well regarded by our people. His military officer, Maj. Gen. McAlpine, gets high marks on all sides.
11. Ambassador Bunker and I, accompanied by Engel, then spent one hour and a half with President Thieu.2 He seemed in very good spirits, much more relaxed and confident than I have seen him in the last year. He listened with considerable attention to my report on Hanoi. He took no exceptions to any steps we had taken nor to the communiqué, of which I handed him an advance copy. He made following observations of interest.
- He considers there are three assurances against renewed DRV attacks: 1) Sino-Soviet restraint; 2) U.S. economic aid; 3) U.S. air presence in Thailand.
- He intends to maintain initiative on the political front and understands need for good press and good image with U.S. Congress.
- He felt genuine settlement in Laos and withdrawal of DRV troops from Laos was real possibility. However he doubts prospect for settlement in Cambodia and believes DRV forces will remain there.
- He expects critical points concerning DRV intentions to appear at the end of three months after cease-fire and at the end of six months after cease-fire. If both those points pass successfully, he believes prospects for peaceful continuation are solid.
- He is in process of releasing 5,000 civilian detainees.
- He is also in process of releasing 7,000 POW’s.
- He is convinced Communists hold far more GVN prisoners than they have admitted.
12. I then raised with Thieu need for early action on cease-fire and control of equipment and supplies being infiltrated into South Viet-Nam. I gave him text cease-fire resolution from JMC and urged him to support it parallel with demand that legitimate points of entry be established by PRG. He made note of both items and said he would consult with General Dong. I also encouraged Thieu to permit Communist delegations on JMC to have more mobility and to be less isolated. I suggested that their exposure to obvious prosperity of Saigon could be very healthy and perhaps even subversive influence. Although he did not commit himself to take these steps he agreed in principle with suggestion that such exposure could improve his public relations with press and with U.S. Congress.
12. Overall impression I gained is one in rather marked contrast to Hanoi. GVN officials are proceeding with cockiness albeit too heavy handed in their dealings with Communists. They have made no complaints whatsoever concerning agreement, actions we have taken, or even actions Communists have taken. In general fears and worries they expressed in October seem to have evaporated completely.
13. Warm regards.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 30, HAK Trip Files, February 7–20, 1973, TOHAK 141–200. Top Secret; Sensitive; Immediate. The message was sent to the White House for transmittal exclusively to Kissinger who arrived in Beijing on February 15. Sullivan sent a second report on his final meetings in Saigon and visit to Phnom Penh in message 704/Tohak 184, February 15. (Ibid.) Message 711/Tohak 206, February 16, contains a summary of Sullivan’s conference in Vientiane. (Ibid., TOHAK 201–250)↩
- Telegram 2295 from Saigon, February 14, contains Bunker’s detailed report on the meeting with Thieu. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27–14 VIET)↩