92. Minutes of Washington Special Actions Group Meeting1

SUBJECT

  • Vietnam

PARTICIPANTS

  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
  • John N. Irwin
  • William Sullivan
  • Defense
  • Kenneth Rush
  • Warren Nutter
  • Maj. Gen. Fred Karhos
  • JCS
  • Maj. Gen. Louis Seith
  • CIA
  • Richard Helms
  • [name not declassified] (only for Mr. Helms’ briefing)
  • NSC
  • Maj. Gen. Alexander Haig
  • Richard Kennedy
  • John Negroponte
  • Mark Wandler

[Omitted here is a summary of conclusions from the meeting.]

Mr. Kissinger: (to Mr. Helms) What do you have today?2

Mr. Helms: There’s not much to report on since the last sitrep. You are familiar with the Communist effort to reinforce in the DMZ and the A Shau Valley. The weather is lousy in most of South Vietnam. The Chinese have also issued a statement.3

[Page 292]

Mr. Kissinger: My experts claim the Chinese statement is mild. What do you think?

Mr. Helms: It is mild. They made one charge of aggression, but they didn’t say anything about aiding Hanoi. And they didn’t threaten to intervene. Our Consulate in Hong Kong also sent in a report,4 saying the statement was mild.

Mr. Kissinger: As long as they claim North Vietnam is winning, there is no need for them to do anything.

Mr. Irwin: I agree with Dick’s [Helms]5 assessment. There is one small point, though. The Chinese claimed the right to go across the DMZ, but this conflicts with earlier statements which in effect recognized four states within three nations in Indochina and thus totally accepted South Vietnam. On the whole, their statement is mild.

Mr. Helms: It’s very reserved, compared to previous statements. I think they were about as mild as they could be—and still stand up.

Mr. Kissinger: What about the Soviets?

Mr. Sullivan: I take it you saw the BrezhnevHonecker statement?6

Mr. Kissinger: Yes.

Mr. Irwin: There was a radio commentary in the Soviet Union yesterday which tried to make it appear the President’s trip was still on. The commentary took a positive approach, and it didn’t mention the war.

Mr. Kissinger: (to Mr. Helms) Dick, the Soviets surely must have known the offensive was coming. How do you explain their behavior?

Mr. Helms: I think it’s their way of telling you not to pay that much attention to Vietnam. They are saying the war has been going on a long time—and they are not agitating it. We have much bigger matters to discuss, and Vietnam shouldn’t get in the way. That’s the real reason [Page 293]for their restraint and the radio commentary. It’s their way of keeping you from getting agitated at them.

Mr. Sullivan: Bui Diem told us that he thought the Soviets provided the equipment to the North Vietnamese with the hope that the offensive would be launched in February—to spoil the China trip. He said he thought the North Vietnamese delayed the offensive until now because they wanted to embarrass the Russians. I want to emphasize that this is strictly Bui Diem’s view.

Mr. Helms: The timing of the offensive slipped because of military factors, not political factors.

Mr. Kissinger: From the Russian point of view, the worst thing that could happen would be for the offensive to succeed. If we are run out of Vietnam, the Moscow trip would be called off, or we would go there as tough as nails. We couldn’t possibly make any concessions.

Mr. Rush: It would also have a bad effect on the ratification of the German treaties and CSCE.

Mr. Irwin: The Soviets are caught in a dilemma, unless they cut off the flow of supplies to North Vietnam.

Mr. Kissinger: Butz [Secretary of Agriculture]7 is in Moscow now. Can we send him a message, telling him not to offer any exalted toasts to eternal U.S.–Soviet friendship? He should be polite, of course. If need be, he can say something in one sentence, similar to the sentence the President used yesterday at the CBW treaty signing.8

Mr. Irwin: We can tell Butz not to propose any toasts, but he will have to drink in response to the Soviet toasts.

Mr. Kissinger: It’s just that we don’t want him to give the impression that everything is fine.

Mr. Irwin: We will send him a message.9

[Omitted here is a detailed discussion of the military situation in Vietnam.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H–Files), Box H–115, WSAG Minutes, Originals. Top Secret; Sensitive. No drafting information appears on the minutes. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room. According to Kissinger’s Record of Schedule, the meeting lasted from 10:12 to 10:41 a.m. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–1976)
  2. Attached to the minutes but not printed is a copy of Helms’ briefing on the situation in South Vietnam.
  3. Reference is to the Chinese statement of April 10, which expressed confidence that North Vietnam, and its allies in Laos and Cambodia, would “win complete victory in the war against U.S. imperialism and for national salvation.” An April 13 memorandum from Kissinger to Nixon, assessing this and a similar statement of April 12, is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 525, Country Files, Far East, PRC, Vol. IV.
  4. Telegram 2447 from Hong Kong, April 11. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27 VIET S)
  5. Brackets in the source text.
  6. Reference is to the communiqué issued at the conclusion of Honecker’s visit to the Soviet Union, April 4–10, which stated: “Comrades L.I. Brezhnev and E. Honecker affirmed the fraternal solidarity of the Soviet Union and the G.D.R. with the heroic Vietnamese people and with the patriots of Laos and Cambodia. They expressed concern in connection with the recent expansion of U.S. aggression in Indochina. Following the boycott of the Paris talks, the U.S.A. embarked on a path of new bombings of D.R.V. territory. The peoples of the Soviet Union and the G.D.R. decisively condemn these aggressive actions of the U.S.A.” (Current Digest of the Soviet Press, vol. XXIV, No. 15, May 10, 1972, pp. 16–17)
  7. Brackets in the source text.
  8. See Document 89.
  9. In telegram 61093 to Moscow, April 11, Irwin informed Butz that the administration had decided that in any public statements he should “exercise restraint in referring to prospects for US–Soviet cooperation.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 US/Butz) Also see footnote 4, Document 91.