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

Hakto 33. Please deliver following letter from the President to President Thieu immediately. We cannot accept any excuse for a delay.

Begin text.

Dear Mr. President:

In our correspondence before the Paris Agreement, and when we met in San Clemente, I emphasized my determination to stand by your country and to see the Agreement enforced. This is the effort in which we are now engaged.

[Page 282]

I am writing to you with some concern because I am afraid that the reactions of some of your subordinates to the negotiations being conducted in Paris may produce a dangerous situation. As you know, I sent Dr. Kissinger to Paris in order to negotiate with the North Vietnamese an improved implementation of the ceasefire agreement. I need hardly emphasize the importance of this enterprise in the present climate of American opinion. As you know, I have publicly pressed for the strict implementation of the Agreement and have both American prestige and American willingness to engage itself behind me. It would never be understood in America if the negotiation failed as a result of avoidable obstacles.

In this context, I am frank to say that your subordinates’ procedural objections seem belated and obstructive. It has been known in Saigon since the middle of April that Dr. Kissinger would meet with Le Duc Tho. It is hard to understand why it was left for the last minute to raise procedural objections which make it impossible to sign a two-party document. It is absolutely impossible for us to bring about a four-party conference, as has been suggested. This has been repeatedly rejected by the other side. It would also have the practical consequence of forcing us to recognize the so-called PRG.

As for the substantive objections, some strike me as so frivolous that I am certain they were sent to Paris by subordinates and not sufficiently read by higher officials. For example, I do not see how the GVN can seriously object to an end of U.S. reconnaissance flights over North Vietnam when this was always part of the Agreement and when these reconnaissance flights were reinstituted only after major DRV violations. This kind of objection cannot be taken seriously by my negotiators.

Let me now turn to a more serious issue. I have asked Dr. Kissinger to send you immediately the latest document which is in the process of being discussed.2 As you will see, it has these essential elements:

A new order for a ceasefire simultaneously but separately issued by the two South Vietnamese parties.
The effective coming into being of the Two-Party Joint Military Commission at points which effectively remove them from the populated areas of South Vietnam.
The implementation of Article 7 of the Agreement.
The reaffirmation of certain political provisions which leave the negotiations entirely to the South Vietnamese as provided for in Article 9 of the ceasefire agreement.
[Page 283]

The document now being negotiated has the practical consequence of putting the establishment of the National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord into the indefinite future, of leaving the settlement of the internal questions entirely to the South Vietnamese, and of removing the NLF element of the Two-Party Commission from your populated areas. In this context, the objection to placing the Two-Party Commission teams along the demarcation lines existing in South Vietnam is quite literally incomprehensible to me. Are you better off with NLF officials in provincial capitals? We will not insist on this provision, but we fail to understand your staff’s objections.

The most important concern we have now is that your side in fact carry out the agreed-to joint ceasefire announcement, which, if present plans materialize, should occur on Saturday, May 26, for implementation on Sunday, May 27. According to present plans, a joint communiqué may be issued on May 25 between our side and the DRV.

I want to reiterate that our only desire is to strengthen the Agreement and to reaffirm our solidarity with you. I cannot believe you will put me into the position of having to explain to the American people a reason for the breakdown of negotiations, which would lead to an immediate cut-off of funds for Laos and Cambodia and ultimately for Vietnam.

When we talked together at San Clemente, I told you of the growing difficulties in obtaining adequate aid levels from the Congress. Nevertheless, I told you I would exert every effort to secure not only an aid level adequate for your immediate needs, but also enough additional aid to give an added momentum to the economic growth your just-announced program should put in motion. This effort to secure additional economic aid for Vietnam has been going well. It has clearly been given first priority. But I must frankly warn you that I can think of nothing that would so surely wreck this effort as to have even the appearance of disagrement between us just at this moment in time. I am certain you will keep this consideration very much in mind as you reflect on the contents of this message.

Sincerely yours.

End text.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 35, HAK Trip Files, Paris Trip, May 1973, HAKTO 1–46. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only; Flash. Sent through Scowcroft with the instruction: “For immediate transmission as a Presidential letter to President Thieu. Should go via Whitehouse.”
  2. The revised joint communiqué was sent to Saigon in message WH31391, May 22. (Ibid.)