75. Memorandum From William Smyser of the National Security Council Staff to Secretary of State Kissinger, Washington, June 9, 1975.1 2


June 9, 1975

FROM: W.R. SMYSER [WS initialed]
SUBJECT: Message to the DRV

We have received, through the Russians, the message from the DRV at Tab B.

The DRV message contains three points:

  • — First, that the DRV is “in favor of good relations with the United States based on mutual respect,”
  • — Second, that North Vietnamese troops deliberately slowed their offensive to give us more time to evacuate Saigon;
  • — Third, that the DRV has “strived to make (sic) everything necessary for not worsening the relations with the United States in the future” and that “there is no enmity toward the United States in Vietnam and they would like to see the same from the American side as well.”

As you know from our earlier discussions, I regard the claim of North Vietnam’s delay in the move on Saigon to be at least somewhat self-serving for both Hanoi and Moscow. Considering the number of South Vietnamese forces still in the vicinity of Saigon, the NVA moved pretty quickly. But I have always been reluctant to ask our military for an appraisal of this since it would mainly produce speculation.

Of greater interest is the material indicating that the DRV now wishes to improve relations. I regard that as genuine. The North Vietnamese have always appreciated the greater freedom of maneuver that they could gain from being associated with a number of major powers, and they probably believe that they could benefit politically as well as financially by some sort of association with us.

While they want this association, the background noises are still very tough. I am convinced that Hanoi is directing most of what is [Page 2] happening in Laos, and probably all of it. Hanoi is also putting on the public record (which we have briefed for you) all kinds of conditions for US-DRV relations. We again, as so often in the past, have two tracks; the private one for the real message, and the public one that complicates our response and puts us under pressure.

You should also know that the Indochina Resources Center is going around the refugee camps telling the refugees to propagandize in the United States for American aid to PRG areas, and there are some hints that the PRG may be using leverage against the refugees in order to try to develop them into lobbying instruments for aid. It is too early to be certain of the latter, but we should be aware of the pressures we will be getting.

I understand you favor a positive response. I agree that our reply should make some positive noises, though we would have domestic difficulties in proceeding very far very fast and though I do not get the impression that the type of response we give would have any effect on the types of policies the North Vietnamese might pursue in Southeast Asia. Our principal benefit is that we would at least be conducting a dialogue and we might be able to get out some Americans as well as perhaps some data on MIA’s.

I do not, however, see any hope that we could really improve relations unless the North Vietnamese drop the pre-conditions that they have voiced publicly, and I doubt that they are prepared to drop those soon. DRV statements suggest that the DRV leadership believes American public opinion favors aid to North Vietnam, or can be persuaded to favor it (they even appear to believe that the Administration, rather than Hill opposition, sabotaged the earlier aid agreement). While Hanoi may have enough political interest in relations with us to drop the aid demand at some point, I do not see that happening soon if at all. Hanoi also has an interest in having our return to Indochina come on North Vietnamese terms if it comes at all (this is one of the secondary arguments for hanging on in Laos, but also a reason why we may not be able to do it).

With this in mind, I suggest a positive message that contains a hint of a relationship but on a new basis, in order to try to deflect in advance whatever requests for “reparations” Hanoi may envisage.

From Hanoi s response we can judge our next step, if any.

That you approve the attached message (Tab A) for dispatch to the DRV.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Kissinger-Scowcroft West Wing Office Files, General Subject Files, Box 34, Vietnam, Camp David File (2), 3/24/75–12/11/75. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only; Outside the System. The DRV message, May 28, and draft U.S. response, June 11, are attached at Tabs A and B but not published. Text of the messages are in Document 76.
  2. Smyser summarized and analyzed the DRV’s May 28 message to the United States and recommended that the United States respond positively.