28. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1

SUBJECT

  • Ambassador Bunker’s Cease-fire Assessment

Attached at Tab A is a generally up-beat assessment by Ambassador Bunker of the Vietnam cease-fire after the first 30 days.2 The report—summarized below—describes a spotty record of cease-fire implementation of the initial shake-down period but notes some grounds for hope (e.g., ICCS progress and improved GVN attitudes). Although reluctant, the GVN understands it must be loyal to the Agreement; however, there are strong reasons to doubt the Communists’ sincerity. The DRV/PRG, for example, is blatantly violating Article 7 of the Agreement (illegal infiltration of men and supplies). Most ominously, Ambassador Bunker notes that the other side clearly is holding open the option of resuming the war and is doing its best to render ineffective the inspection mechanisms—both ICCS and JMC—provided by the Agreement.

Concerning the military situation, the assessment notes the GVN activity has been limited to a largely successful counterattack to recover areas lost to the Communist cease-fire offensive and—with a few exceptions—has not attempted to capture traditionally VC controlled areas. Ambassador Bunker believes that the continuing level of violence will end and a supervisory mechanism can take hold once all military units receive clear-cut orders to halt offensive operations and an effective two-party commission is set up to determine areas of control. President Thieu, he states, realizes the need for strong action to enforce the cease-fire.

Politically, both sides apparently lack confidence in their ability to win an electoral struggle with the other. The GVN is engaged in intense political organization activity and the Communists are holding open the possibility of renewed warfare.

Concerning the cease-fire inspection mechanism, the Ambassador reports that the ICCS has made substantial progress—due mostly to [Page 144]Canadian leadership—in establishing its machinery, and he believes it is in a position to deter cease-fire violations once the fighting stops. GVN cooperation with the ICCS is markedly better and the Communist delegations—while slow to move—have not played an outright obstructionist role.

However, Ambassador Bunker states that the Four-Party Joint Military Commission has so far failed to develop into an effective enforcement mechanism. The Ambassador places primary blame on PRG/DRV obstructionism. President Thieu, he reports, has promised action to remedy GVN harassment of Communist delegates and has now assigned better personnel to the JMC. The Ambassador adds that Saigon’s attitude toward Communist delegates is partially explained by reliable intelligence reports indicating the DRV/PRG does not intend to honor the cease-fire agreement.

Ambassador Bunker concludes that the other side still intends to release our POWs by the end of the sixty day period but will continue to link this with political issues. However, the release of Vietnamese POWs has not been conducted by either side in the spirit of the Agreement and the question of civilian detainees remains wholly unresolved.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 163, Vietnam Country Files, Vietnam, January 1973–April 1973. Secret. Sent for information. A handwritten notation at the top of the memorandum reads: “Noted by Pres.”
  2. Bunker’s assessment is not attached. The Ambassador relayed the report to Kissinger in backchannel message 386 from Saigon, March 2. (Ibid., Box 415, Backchannel Messages, From Ambassador Bunker, Saigon Through April 1973)