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

WH31581. It is imperative that you deliver the following letter from the President to President Thieu immediately. By way of emphasis Generals Haig and Scowcroft will meet with the South Vietnamese Ambassador in Washington this afternoon and this will be followed by a brief meeting with the President. The original of the letter will be given to the Ambassador.

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June 6, 1973

Dear Mr. President:

I was astounded to receive your letter of June 62 which seems to suggest that you will refuse to instruct your representative in Paris to sign the joint communiqué which Dr. Kissinger has negotiated with Le Duc Tho. As I made clear to you in my letter of June 5,3 the text of the communiqué is final and is not subject to further detailed revision.

It is therefore absolutely unrealistic to suggest, as you do in your letter, that a great number of paragraphs in the text be reopened and that further efforts be made to change the language. I would like to remind you that every change you have previously requested has been included in one form or another. Moreover, the suggestions which you have made do not reflect certain fundamental facts which have been explained to members of your staff.

For example, you complain that the question of democratic liberties, which arises from Article 11 of the Agreement, appears in the communiqué prior to the paragraph on the political process, which arises from Article 12 of the agreement. It is impossible for me to comprehend the basis for this complaint, when it is clearly stipulated in the preamble of the communiqué that the subject matter it contains appears in the sequence of the relevant articles of the Agreement. And in the Agreement which you signed Article 11 precedes the discussions of the political process in Article 12.

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Moreover, the language which the communiqué employs is drawn from the language which your own representatives insisted should be inserted into the Agreement last winter. It is, therefore, doubly difficult for me to comprehend your current objections to it.

There are many other points of this nature. The last sentence of paragraph 8(c) to which you object is drawn from Article 7(b) of the ceasefire protocol which the GVN has signed.

Similarly, your expressed preference for Le Duc Tho’s wording on the prohibition of introduction of military personnel and war material into South Vietnam ignores the fact that this wording makes no provision for the legitimate replacement of war material in accordance with Article 7 of the Agreement. Had we accepted it you would have been cut off from any U.S. military assistance.

I feel I must tell you, Mr. President, that we are now at a point where the text must be viewed as final. The decision you must make is to instruct your representatives in Paris to join with Dr. Kissinger in signing the communiqué as it currently exists, despite the minor misgivings which you express, or else to refuse to sign, to scuttle the Agreement, and to face the inevitably disastrous consequences. In the latter case I will have no choice but to make a public explanation of the reason for the failure of the talks with obvious consequences for congressional support. Phrased in these stark terms, which are my honest appraisal of the situation, the choice seems obvious to me. We have been through too much together to have our whole common enterprise collapse in this way on these points. I count on your broad understanding of your own interests and of ours to give me your urgent positive answer no later than noon Saigon time on June 7.


His Excellency Nguyen Van Thieu

President of the Republic of Vietnam


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Warm regards.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 415, Backchannel Messages, Bunker/Whitehouse, April–July 18, 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Sent through the White House with the instruction: “Deliver immediately.”
  2. See footnote 4, Document 64.
  3. See Document 64.