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

WH31608. 1. Situation Room: Please repeat this entire message by Flash precedence to Charles Whitehouse in Saigon for immediate delivery so that he understands the full scope of the tactic in which we are engaged.

2. We want him to deliver the text of the enclosed letter to Thieu tonight in Saigon. It is a letter which is based on the first wireless file reporting of the Saigon spokesman, Mr. Truc, which indicated flatly that there would be no signature. We realize that subsequent wire reports modify this statement somewhat, but we have deliberately chosen to act on the worst possible version for shock effect.

3. Our moves in Paris will take into account three possible outcomes:

No communiqué at all,
A two-party communiqué omitting “with the concurrence of”, and accompanied by a public appeal. This text would make all actions mandatory by repeated use of the word “shall”.
A four-party communiqué in its current form.

4. Charlie should explain that there is no longer a question of textual changes or other modifications of the document. It is now merely a question of the course of action Thieu will take and on which he must decide Friday2 at the latest.

5. Following is text of Presidential letter, which should also be delivered in Washington to GVN Ambassador using same procedure as yesterday.

Begin text:

Dear Mr. President,

Before I actually received your letter of June 7,3 before I could even consider a response to the points you raised in it, and while my negotiators in Paris were preparing for a session with the North Vietnamese, I was dismayed to learn that your government had announced in Saigon that you would refuse to be a signatory to the document under discussion between Dr. Kissinger and Le Duc Tho.

[Page 307]

On reading your letter, I was further troubled that you should accuse me of “undue haste” in these negotiations. The facts are that we consulted with you in April concerning our intentions, we briefed your representatives daily in Paris during our talks in May, we sent Ambassador Sullivan to Saigon to consult with you while the talks were in suspense, and we have been in almost daily correspondence with you since their resumption. All your views were taken into account and we have achieved the best consideration of them which was possible in a document which any objective observer will readily recognize as being favorable to your interests.

However, by your action, you have left me no choice as to the manner in which we must now proceed. I have instructed Dr. Kissinger to propose to Le Duc Tho that the two of them should sign the text of the communiqué as it now stands and that we and the North Vietnamese should issue a public appeal to the two South Vietnamese parties to carry out its terms. If Le Duc Tho refuses to do this, we will of course end our Paris talks in failure. If we fail, we will be forced to make a public explanation of our failure, which will involve the issuance of the aborted document, the record of our negotiations, and the record of our consultations with you.

If Le Duc Tho agrees to our proposal (and I assume he will) this will mean that the entire world will look immediately to you to issue the cease-fire order and to take the other measures stipulated in the communiqué. It will mean that all your actions will be scrutinized, not as voluntary steps being taken because you wish peace, but rather as concessions which you appear to be making with reluctance. It is a totally unfavorable posture you have chosen for yourself and your government.

I regret also to inform you that your action has thwarted any realistic prospect we might have had for an agreement on Cambodia. The position you have chosen for yourself deprives the North Vietnamese of any possible motive to achieve an understanding with us on this key issue.

It is impossible for me to calculate the consequences which your action will have on public and congressional opinion in the United States. These consequences will certainly be negative for you and it is quite likely that they will be disastrous. That fact is a cause of most serious regret to me and it saddens me to contemplate that the enterprise in which we have shared so much should seem doomed to collapse in this manner.

Because of these considerations, I have instructed Dr. Kissinger to delay the signing ceremony in Paris until Saturday in order that you may have time to reexamine your position. He will continue to hold open to Le Duc Tho the possibility of a four-party signature at that [Page 308]time. However, if your position remains unchanged at that time, he will proceed in accordance with the instructions I have described in the preceding paragraphs.

Please let me have your answer to this letter by 0800 Paris time June 8, so that we can act in accordance with your decision.

Sincerely, Richard Nixon.

End text

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; Exclusively Eyes Only; Flash. Sent through the White House with the instruction: “Deliver immediately.”
  2. June 8.
  3. See Document 67.