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

507. 1. Latest Thieu letter was delivered at 1659 local time.

2. Begin text.

June 11, 1973

Dear Mr. President,

I have received your letter of June 10,2 and thank you for the further efforts you instructed your negotiators to make in Paris.

Last month, when the GVN requested the 4 party signature procedure, it was with the clear understanding that the contents of the communiqué should be agreeable to us (reference: GVN memorandum of May 29).

The communiqué establishes clauses for the GVN to carry out. Therefore it is difficult for us to accept a text which had been previously “agreed” without our consent, and that the choice before us is only to go along with it as such, without modifications, or to bear the responsibility for the failure of the talks.

This draft communiqué, in my opinion, should be viewed in the context of the negotiations between our side and the Communist side since last year. The GVN signed the Paris Agreement last January even though it was to our disadvantage. It was to our disadvantage because, in comparison with the 1954 Geneva Agreement, it established unilateral obligations for the RVN in the rapport between NVN and SVN.

The military as well as the political clauses on SVN have no parallel application in NVN, and there is no ICCS supervision in NVN of the application of Article 15d. Furthermore, and most importantly, the Paris Agreement did not deal adequately with the question of the NVA which invaded and remained in SVN in violation of the Geneva Agreement.

However, the GVN signed the Paris Agreement to display our utmost cooperation with you, to make possible the release of U.S. prisoners [Page 319]of war and to enable the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Viet-Nam at the formal conclusion of a cease-fire. The GVN did so on the basis of your formal assurances that, in case of violations of the Agreement by NVN, there will be “extremely violent reactions” of the United States against NVN.

Afterwards, Hanoi did violate the Agreement. It continued large infiltrations of troops and war material into SVN after the cease-fire. On the other hand, it has not withdrawn its troops from Laos and Cambodia, as it has pledged unequivocally to do, under Article 20 of the Paris Agreement. At San Clemente recently, you confirmed to me the unconditional character of that pledge under Article 20.

In the face of these blatant violations, the United States had some reactions in the form of the suspension of the demining operations in NVN, and suspension of the talks on economic assistance to NVN. However, these rather mild reactions to Communist violations in SVN are to be ended under the present draft communiqué. This will be interpreted as an implicit acceptance by the United States of infiltrations from NVN into SVN without further reactions. These infiltrations will disrupt the balance of force in SVN after some period of time.

On Laos and Cambodia, the present difficult negotiations indicate that Article 20 is no longer considered as unconditional, and political concessions are likely to be made in exchange for unreliable Communist promises of withdrawal at a later stage.

You mentioned in your letter of June 9 that the signing of the draft communiqué on South Viet-Nam would buy time to forestall some of the shortsighted steps which the U.S. Congress is prepared to take with respect to Cambodia.3

In my evaluation, in the present situation, the Communist violations of the agreements in SVN and in Cambodia should be brought more to public attention in order to draw the attention of the U.S. Congress on the necessity not to bind your hands in the face of that danger.

If, on the contrary, we make too many concessions to the Communists to obtain the signing of the communiqué, I think that this appearance of the amelioration of the situation would produce effects contrary to what could be expected of it by inciting the Congress to formalize the termination of all U.S. involvement, in the belief that it has become less necessary than before.

With respect to SVN, we have accepted the drawbacks of the Paris Agreement as mentioned above because we see in that Agreement the [Page 320]prospect for a general settlement through prompt democratic and free elections, while the territory of the RVN will remain undivided.

With these major considerations, we would accept to sign the draft communiqué, as another manifestation of our utmost cooperation with you, in spite of the fact that it is very unbalanced and disadvantageous to us, if only the question of elections is mentioned in a more appropriate fashion in the communiqué, and there is no indication or implication in the communiqué that there are two territories under two governments in SVN.

In that spirit, and in order to reflect strictly your view that the communiqué “neither adds to nor detracts from arrangements under the January 27 Agreement”, I propose that Articles 10 and 11 of the June 5 English draft on political problems in SVN be replaced by this short article:

“The two South Vietnamese parties shall strictly and expeditiously implement Chapter IV of the Paris Agreement on the exercise of the South Vietnamese people’s right to self-determination”.

As for our preoccupation that the Communist side will exploit the present wording of the draft communiqué to claim that there are two territories under two governments in SVN, I am glad to have a clarification from Ambassador Whitehouse who indicates in his talking paper today that the reference in paragraph 8 c of the communiqué to “the territory controlled by that party” “merely describes the location of the points in terms of military control”.

In conformity with that concept, and to avoid possible misinterpretations, I propose this small modification to the wording of that part of paragraph 8 c, which should read: “the area under military control of that party”.

Also, the wording of Article 12b of the present draft should read: “where an area under the military control of one of them adjoins an area under the military control of the other”, instead of “where an area controlled by one of them adjoins an area controlled by the other”.

If the small modifications proposed above are adopted, we shall accept to sign the communiqué.

Sincerely, Nguyen Van Thieu

End text.

3. 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. A copy was sent to Ambassador Sullivan in Paris.
  2. Nixon’s letter to Thieu was transmitted in backchannel message WH31675 to Saigon, June 9. Nixon informed Thieu that the DRV had rejected GVN suggestions for changes in the communiqué. Nixon then urged Thieu to instruct the GVN delegate in Paris to sign the communiqué. (Ibid.)
  3. Thieu was referring to the oral message in Document 71.