216. Memorandum for the President’s File by the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1
- Meeting with British Prime Minister Heath and Sir Burke Trend, Thursday, February 1, 1973, 10:43 a.m.–12:25 p.m., The Oval Office, The White House
- Prime Minister Heath
- Sir Burke Trend
- President Nixon
- Dr. Henry Kissinger
The President opened the meeting by suggesting that they schedule a follow-up meeting for that afternoon at 4:00 o’clock. After some discussion of the Northern Ireland question and Senator Kennedy’s desire to get involved in it, Prime Minister Heath congratulated the President on the tremendous achievement of the settlement in Vietnam. President Nixon thanked the Prime Minister for his words and said that we are very much aware that when we were under tremendous pressure, the British stuck with us. “What you did, did not go unnoticed, and what others did, did not go unnoticed either. It is hard to understand when allies turn on you.” The President mentioned that he had said the same thing to former Prime Minister Sato. If the United States was not a dependable ally to a small country, how could the United States be a dependable ally to others? If we had bugged out of Vietnam we would not have been worth talking to. The President expressed his confidence that all would work out right. The Prime Minister agreed. He felt that the mining of Haiphong had been decisive, and that whole episode showed that the judgement of critics was always wrong. Dr. Kissinger remarked that North Vietnamese behavior was a standing assault on liberal ideology.[Typeset Page 708]
President Nixon expressed his confidence that it was basically a good agreement. It was the best attainable. Its provisions enabled the United States to withdraw honorably and also left the destiny of South Vietnam in the hands of the South Vietnamese government. The President foresaw a period of peace. Basically, of course, it depended on the will of the North Vietnamese to keep the peace. The economic assistance to North Vietnam could be used as a carrot in addition to the stick. Dr. Kissinger was going to Hanoi and address the Politboro directly so that they knew the risk they would run in breaking the agreement. The Soviet Union and the Chinese could also play an important part in this. Both China and the Soviet Union reacted less than the Canadians and the Australians to what we did in December, and we had received extremely cordial messages from both since the Agreement was reached.
Prime Minister Heath then asked the President what we would like to see come out of the International Conference on Vietnam. Dr. Kissinger explained that the Conference basically had five objectives: first, to endorse the agreement; secondly, to establish some kind of reporting machinery; third, to endorse a peaceful settlement of the Laos and Cambodia question; fourth, to set up some international machinery for reconstruction; and fifth, to encourage restraint on the supply of arms. Prime Minister Heath then asked about the prospects for the future. The President replied that he was optimistic about the prospects of success. The weakness of Hanoi was the best guarantee of this. Dr. Kissinger explained that if the North Vietnamese comply with the agreement, their forces in the South were in an extremely weak position. They were obligated to respect the DMZ, to abandon their base areas in Laos and Cambodia, and not resupply their forces in the South.
Prime Minister Heath mentioned in that part of the world we both had trouble with the Australians. The Australians had gone back into Fortress Australia. President Nixon said that he too found it hard to understand the Australian position. They should have an interest in keeping us there. He wondered whether Whitlam was an isolationist. Prime Minister Heath thought that Whitlam never even thought about this question; he just wanted to stay out of unpleasant situations. The Prime Minister asked the President about India. President Nixon said that we had to subordinate it to the Chinese game. He asked the Prime Minister’s view. Prime Minister Heath replied that India seemed to be in a more reasonable frame of mind these days. Buttho recognized that recognition of Bangladesh was inevitable. Mujib would not meet him without recognition. There was a great danger that Bangladesh might disintegrate into chaos. Mujib was losing his grip on the civilian population.
The Prime Minister then referred to a related problem, the trouble in Britain over the influx of Asian immigrants. There were 1½ million [Typeset Page 709] Asians in Britain now. But Britain could only take them now on regular quotas. The President asked if the Prime Minister needed Parliamentary action for this. The Prime Minister said yes, but he had much public support. Over 70 percent of the public was for this.
Prime Minister Heath then asked the President about the Soviet relationship. President Nixon said it was fragile. The surface was very good but he thought it was very brittle. The United States was highly skeptical about the European security conference. We would work for our self-interest. We would work very hard in the coming year to strengthen our relationships with our allies.
Summary: Kissinger recorded a meeting among Heath, Trend, Nixon, and himself.
Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 62, Country Files, Europe, General, UK Memcons (Originals), January–April 1973 (2 of 2). Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Kissinger did not initial the memorandum. Heath made an official visit to the United States from February 1 to 2.↩