46. Memorandum from William Stearman of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1
- Bunker Assessment of Vietnam Cease-fire at X plus 90
Ambassador Bunker has cabled the President his assessment of the situation in Vietnam 90 days after the cease-fire (Tab A).2 The Ambassador reported that there is still no cease-fire and no visible movement toward a political settlement. The situation, nevertheless, is far better today than before the signing of the Paris Agreement. The Ambassador, however, warns that the cease-fire is at a critical point and that we must now take steps to maintain momentum in search of a stable cease-fire. This may require continued pressure on both the DRV and the GVN. Otherwise, the situation could gradually deteriorate into large-scale fighting. Bunker scores both the North Vietnamese and the GVN for [Page 210]cease-fire violations but lays heavier emphasis on Hanoi’s open disregard of many of the Agreement’s provisions. He notes that the NVA will not mount a major offensive in the next few months. The current NVA buildup, he believes, may only represent Hanoi’s own version of “Project Enhance” and could lead to the slow working out of a balance of forces and eventually to a more stable cease-fire.
Summarized below are the highlights of Bunker’s report:
- —Concerning the GVN/PRG political talks, the GVN’s approach shows a new buoyance following Thieu’s trip and its April 25 proposal gave it a clear edge in the talks.3 However, Saigon should drop its demand for an NVA pull-out before the proposed elections and should offer concessions on the PRG’s privileges and immunities.
- —The Polish and Hungarian ICCS delegations persist in protecting the PRG/DRV. PRG harassment has limited ICCS movement, aborted investigations and prevented some deployments.
- —The Two Party Joint Military Commission and the Four-Party Joint Military Team have made scant progress.
- —There has been some progress on the civilian detainees issue. Agreement was reached on exchanging 750 GVN detainees for 637 civilians held by the PRG. The GVN has offered to return any of the 21,007 “common criminals” if the PRG proves they are Communist cadre. The Ambassador has urged Thieu to perform on his offer to allow inspections of prison facilities, and also to release non-Communist oppositionists.
- —The enemy’s military objectives for the near future are limited and local, but he may resume large-scale fighting at some future point if he fails to achieve his political goals.
- —The level of violence dropped in April, casualties on both sides are down, and artillery and air activities are greatly reduced.
- —The rural security/population control situation has not changed since the cease-fire. The GVN has held its own in MR–3 and in most areas of MR–1 and 2. There has been a general decline in the Delta but no major losses have occurred.
- —ARVN has improved its effectiveness and is capable of defending the country from all but a massive attack supported by a major power. Vietnamization has succeeded, and Hanoi has been forced to reassess its reliance on force as its primary measure to political ends. Continued GVN progress depends on ARVN efforts to maintain discipline, [Page 211]develop leadership and raise morale; and on the GVN’s success in attacking corruption and maintaining popular and international support.
- —The GVN is capable of defending itself against any foreseeable threat from Cambodia unless Hanoi regains the use of Kompong Som port.
- —Thieu’s political position is in some respects stronger than ever, and the Communists have made no political headway since January 28.
- —The GVN’s economic recovery from the offensive appears to be moving ahead with a stable financial situation, effective policy management and less-than-expected inflation. San Clemente relieved GVN officials of many of their anxieties but they are considerably concerned over decreased dollar earnings and Congress’ failure to appropriate increased aid for FY’73. Much depends on the FY ‘74 appropriations.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Material, NSC Files, Box 164, Vietnam Country Files, Vietnam, May–September 1973. Secret; Nodis. Sent for information. Kissinger initialed the memorandum.↩
- Telegram 7880 from Saigon, May 5, attached but not printed. The telegram is printed in Douglas Pike, ed., The Bunker Papers: Reports to the President from Vietnam, 1967–1973, pp. 852–862.↩
- For a discussion of the proposal, see “Saigon and Vietcong Offer Proposals for Settlement,” The New York Times, April 26, 1973, p. 89.↩