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

WH31202. 1. When we undertake a serious and important effort to resolve a common problem, we do not expect an answer from our ally which is insolent and patronizing. While there were some positive aspects to the memorandum which Fon Min Lam gave you on 12 May2—such as on delineation of zones of control, points of entry, and liaison flights—you should see President Thieu immediately and inform him that we cannot repeat not proceed in our next round of negotiations on the basis of the position set out in that memorandum.

2. You should explain to him forcefully the considerable risks President Nixon is undertaking, both in terms of his confrontations with the U.S. Congress and in terms of the international position of the [Page 212]United States, by his continuing effort to enforce the Paris Agreements in a manner consistent with the interests of South Vietnam and President Thieu’s government. You should state that the very least we expect, in consideration of these risks, is that President Thieu should instruct his staff to cooperate with us, especially in matters which merely involve a scrupulous implementation of agreements already reached and obligations already undertaken.

3. We cannot repeat not accept instruction or interpretation of the meaning of various articles in the Agreement or its protocols from the GVN, which consistently refused to cooperate with us in their negotiation and which therefore has no repeat no knowledge or experience of their negotiating history. Consequently, we must insist that we are in a better position than the GVN to interpret these articles.

4. If the GVN has nothing more constructive to offer than this memorandum, we have no repeat no alternative but to go ahead on an independent basis to negotiate with the DRV, taking into account our own interests, those legitimately expressed by the GVN, and the larger interests of peace in Indochina. We have developed the draft of a “Memorandum of Understanding” which we will send you by separate cable.3 This will constitute our negotiating position. You will see from this draft that it incorporates all GVN interests which have been legitimately expressed in the Palace memorandum and ignores the specious elements of that paper.

5. We accept the designation of Dr. Vien’s delegation as the appropriate liaison with our group in Paris. We realize that Phong has recently been in Saigon and therefore may be considered current with the President’s thinking. However, we are also acutely aware that there are no repeat no members of that delegation who have an intimate knowledge of GVN actions on the military commissions or other such details. We trust the Vien delegation will be provided with rapid and effective Saigon decisions on the items under discussion so that we can avoid the sort of uncoordinated negotiations which were forced upon us by GVN behavior last fall and winter. However, you should make it clear to Thieu that, in the absence of such decisions and such cooperation, we must go ahead in any event with the DRV and achieve the best arrangements we can in the circumstances.

6. Warm regards.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 415, Backchannel Messages, Bunker/Whitehouse, April–July 18, 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. The message carries the instruction: “Deliver opening of business.”
  2. Whitehouse sent a detailed South Vietnamese memorandum on the forthcoming Paris talks to Kissinger in backchannel message 419 from Saigon, May 12. It conveyed Lam’s severe misgivings about the Kissinger-Le Duc Tho meetings. (Ibid.)
  3. See footnotes 2 and 3, Document 50, for discussion of the memorandum.