5. Telephone Conversation Between President Nixon and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

[Omitted here is discussion related to the scheduling of Nixon’s forthcoming summit in the Soviet Union.]

Nixon: What about—oh, I see some leak to the effect that—that Thieu and I will meet in Hawaii.

Kissinger: Well, that must have been—

Nixon: [unclear]—

Kissinger: —from the Vietnamese—

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: —or from the Agnew party.

Nixon: Yeah. Well, I’ll simply say that I, I hope at some time to meet with him.2 Don’t you think so?

Kissinger: That’s right.

Nixon: Say it publicly. One other point: with regard to the resupply of North Vietnamese and VC in South Vietnam, how, how do they do it? I mean, if Cambodia is closed, and Laos is closed, and the DMZ

Kissinger: They will—

Nixon: —allows only civilian modalities—

[Page 16]

Kissinger: Well—

Nixon: What—what’s the deal?

Kissinger: They will get—this is something: the legal entry points have yet to be determined, but—

Nixon: Right.

Kissinger: —there will probably be two seaports and one point at the DMZ.

Nixon: And, as I understand it then, that, on the basis of the agreement, that they can supply people over those seaports. Is that right?

Kissinger: Well, all they can do is to re—is to re—is to—

Nixon: I know.

Kissinger: —replace weapons.

Nixon: But, replace weapons that are—

Kissinger: They cannot—

Nixon: —worn out, used, et cetera, et cetera. Right—

Kissinger: They have no legal right to bring in anything else.

Nixon: Anything new. I know, I know. I know. [Laughs]

Kissinger: Nor—nor, for that matter, have they got a right to bring in uniforms and things like that, technically speaking.

Nixon: Yeah. I know, I know. The—we all know that if the agreement is kept—and there’s nothing, nothing wrong with the agreement; it’s just a question of whether they keep it.

Kissinger: That’s right.

Nixon: You could add 15,000 clauses; it wouldn’t mean a thing.

Kissinger: Exactly.

Nixon: This agreement is just—is, is a totally airtight agreement if it’s kept.

Kissinger: Exactly—

Nixon: No question about it.

Kissinger: Exactly—

Nixon: No question. I just wanted to know that. These are questions Ron [Ziegler] thought might come up, and I, I want to—

Kissinger: Right. I wouldn’t, incidentally—I sent you a note yesterday—volunteer anything about their murdering activities there, in the context of their—of attacking Hanoi, if it’s done in the context of replying to people who are accusing us of m—of carpet-bombing.

Nixon: Well, that’s, that’s the only way I was going to use it.

Kissinger: Right.

Nixon: Big no—

Kissinger: Because they’ll—

[Page 17]

Nixon: —because if they say that we’re—if they say we’re killing civilians, we’ll say, “Well, now, there are a lot of civilians killed in the South.”

Kissinger: That’s right.

Nixon: Which we’ve got to do. We can’t be—

Kissinger: So, in that context, it can be done. And, I think if one volunteers too harsh an attack on them, it—

Nixon: I don’t intend to, but I’ve got to answer that in case they—

Kissinger: Oh, yes.

Nixon: —say that we’ve killed people in the North.

Kissinger: Absolutely.

Nixon: Because, we’ve been—I mean, we have to realize here that, shit, we have to be rather gingerly, but they haven’t been too [laughs]—I mean, they’ve, they’ve gone from—

Kissinger: They’ve been pretty restrained in their public comments about us—

Nixon: Restrained—restrained. Right, right. But, I mean, on the—in terms of the—I’ve been very restrained in terms of the—what is achieved, and all that sort of thing. But, be that as it may, we shall see. Well, those are the only things I have. You have anything else on that? Anything else you think—?

Kissinger: On, on the military activities, now—

Nixon: They’ve receded, I see.

Kissinger: They’ve receded. The biggest fight is now going on in an area where the South Vietnamese tried to grab some territory3 right after the cease—right at the cease-fire. They tried to seize a naval base—

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: —along the shore—along the coast, north of the Cua Viet River. And the North Vietnamese are trying to re—retake that. That’s the only big fight that’s now going on.

Nixon: But, it’s really going quite well, isn’t it?

Kissinger: Well, the South Vietnamese—

Nixon: Even—

Kissinger: —have fought extremely well.

Nixon: Even—but what—no, not on that. But, I meant—I meant the cease-fire is going quite well.

Kissinger: That’s right.

Nixon: I mean, the very thing—

[Page 18]

Kissinger: It’s the activity inside of—

Nixon: —the very thing that we said, that it would recede—

Kissinger: Yes.

Nixon: —even the press—

Kissinger: Everyday is getting—

Nixon: —reluctantly [laughs] concludes that it’s going down.

Kissinger: Exactly right.

Nixon: They’re going to have one hell of a time with this thing. They’re going to have one hell of a time. I mean, you know, assuming that some of this does recede.

[Omitted here is discussion of the Soviet Union.]

Nixon: Now, with regard to the Cambodian unilateral cease-fire, is that in force and still in force? And we, according to the—looking at the news—the summary this morning from the, the intelligence, we are not bombing in Cambodia because of that. Is that correct?

Kissinger: That is correct.

Nixon: And, that’s 72 hours, and the enemy is respecting it up to this point?

Kissinger: Up to this point, yeah.

Nixon: In Cambodia. But—so, it might be extended another 72. I just have—

Kissinger: Oh, no. This will, this will be extended indefinitely. Lon Nol’s is indefinite. We just stood down for 72 hours, to see—

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: —how it would work.

Nixon: No. And if it’s—

Kissinger: And, as long as it holds, we will observe it.

Nixon: Um-hmm. And, as far as Lao—Laos is concerned, we can just say, “We have reason to believe there will be a negotiated ceasefire on a—”

Kissinger: “In—in a reasonable time—in a reasonably short time.”

Nixon: Yeah, that’s right. Ok.

Kissinger: Right.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Conversation No. 43–6. No classification marking. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon spoke to Kissinger on the telephone from 10:10 to 10:18 a.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files) The editor transcribed the portion of the tape recording printed here specifically for this volume.
  2. The President was referring to the news conference he held later that morning; see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Richard Nixon, 1973, p. 53–63.
  3. Sa Huynh, Binh Dinh Province, Republic of Vietnam.