68. Backchannel Message From the Acting Ambassador to Vietnam (Whitehouse) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) in Paris1

493. Ref: Saigon 0492.2

1.
I met with Thieu for over two hours. Duc and Nha were present. The tone of the meeting was one more of sorrow than of anger although Thieu seemed very determined to stick to his guns regardless of the consequences.
2.
As I had earlier with Lam, I discussed the situation under four basic headings. First, the fundamental problem facing South Viet-Nam created by the PRG’s apparent intention to establish another state in the south and the obvious unwillingness of the Communists to participate in elections which they were sure to lose. Second, the problems the GVN had with the communiqué which I tried to dissociate from the foregoing fundamentals, pointing out that the objections in President Thieu’s latest letter3 would not have bearing on future Communist policies or the manner in which the GVN went about resolving its differences with the PRG. Third, I explained once again the political problem in the U.S., stressing the urgency of our obtaining the GVN’s concurrence with the communiqué and the critical effect this could have on our future ability to assist them. Finally I noted the stated intent [Page 305]of COSVN to comply with the new ceasefire notwithstanding the localized military conflicts which were likely in the next few days.
3.
President Thieu talked at great length about the risks he had been willing to assume in January with the continued NVA presence. He reviewed developments in South Viet-Nam since that time stressing Communist infiltration and continuing cease-fire violations. He took the line that the communiqué is highly advantageous to the Communists and does not give the GVN the assurances it requires on the cessation of infiltration or on the early implementation of the political provisions. All of the things demanded of the U.S. and the GVN are precise and those demanded of the Communists are fuzzy. He protested against the rapidity with which his government was required to make decisions and objected to the tight deadlines which were imposed on him. He discussed at great length his fear that the Communists would establish a second South Viet-Nam while rejecting elections and would subsequently demand a coalition government or a “super government” to reunify the country. He kept reiterating that the text of the communiqué was unbalanced and unjust.
4.
In the discussion which followed, I defended the communiqué virtually paragraph by paragraph and also commented on the details raised in his letter to President Nixon. This discussion boiled down to his belief that the Vietnamese see things in this language differently than we do, being closer to the problem and vitally affected by it. President Thieu made clear at the end that no decision would be made until he had received a reply to the suggestions he has made.
5.
After leaving the President’s office, I was intercepted by Bennett with your 31598.4 Together we passed this information to Duc who undertook to see the President immediately. I made it crystal clear that if no reply was forthcoming by 2100 local time, you would break off the talks and place the blame on Saigon.
6.
At this stage and following the long conversation with the President and subsequently with Duc, I cannot forecast what action the GVN will take, but I am convinced that Thieu and his advisers are vividly aware of the consequences of their coming actions.
7.
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; Flash. Sent through the White House.
  2. The Ambassador relayed his plan to meet Thieu in backchannel message 492 from Saigon, June 7. (Ibid.)
  3. See Document 67.
  4. In backchannel message WH31598 to Saigon, June 7, Kissinger wrote Whitehouse: “Our meeting with DRV has been postponed until 1500 Paris time, at which point we must either initial the document in order to have a four-party signing ceremony, or else break off the talks, return to Washington and announce that Saigon scuttled an accord which we considered satisfactory.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Files, NSC Files, Box 415, Backchannel Messages, Bunker/Whitehouse, April–July 18, 1973)