Saturday, November 18, 1972 - 12:15pm - 12:20pm
Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger
White House Telephone

President Nixon: Yeah.

White House Operator: Dr. [Henry] Kissinger, sir.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Henry Kissinger: Mr. President?

President Nixon: It seems to me you ought to inform [Ellsworth] Bunker that I have directed that we go ahead so that Bunker knows we’re taking a hard line on the thing. We’re going to—

Kissinger: Absolutely.

President Nixon: And inform him, and so that [South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van] Thieu knows there’s no fooling around here and that this bargaining time is over. I mean, that fellow has got to be out of his mind to think that after the letter that I wrote him—if after that we don’t get anything, why, it just may be one of those breaking of relations.

Kissinger: They want to send an emissary to see you personally, too.

President Nixon: That what they said?

Kissinger: Yeah.

President Nixon: No.

Kissinger: They can’t do that while we’re negotiating in Paris. [Unclear]—

President Nixon: No, no, no. There’s not going to be any emissary. I’ve got everything—Anything they have to say, Bunker’s to say, is to be transmitted through Bunker. That’s the way it’s to be done. Right?

Kissinger: Right.

President Nixon: And that we’ve had enough emissaries and that sort of thing. So we just say that we’re ready to—that we—if they have any . . . I just think Bunker has got to get to him a message from me to the effect that you’re going ahead, and we’ve, as I pointed out in my letter, we’re going to negotiate as hard as we can, get the best position that we can, and that we’re on this course, and that he must realize that we will not be subjected to pressure or harassment on this thing.

Kissinger: Right, and I think that is essential.

President Nixon: This is a negotiation. It isn’t any—there’s no ultimatums to be coming from them under any circumstances.

Kissinger: Right.

President Nixon: Fine.

Kissinger: Right.

President Nixon: But you don’t have the substance of what they’re beefing about?

Kissinger: Yes, now I have the substance. It just came in. And again, the trouble with them is, we have—You see, every draft, we give back to them already incorporates 70 percent of their changes.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: This has now been going on for three weeks.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: Now they’ve sent us another batch of changes.

President Nixon: Mm-hmm.

Kissinger: I would say again we could accept 50 percent of them. The trouble is that if we accept all of these on top of all of the others, we have an entirely new document, and [lead North Vietnamese negotiator] Le Duc Tho is going to walk out.

President Nixon: That’s right. No, no, no. Just say that we—

Kissinger: So it isn’t—

President Nixon: Just say that the document that we already have is the basic framework and that that’s that. And that we’re going to do the best that we can, and he’s to know that that’s the situation.

Kissinger: Well, after [Deputy National Security Adviser Alexander M.] Haig went out there—

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: When Haig went out there, we already incorporated all the changes they made to me when I was there.

President Nixon: Right.

Kissinger: Since then we have made two more revisions.

President Nixon: Right.

Kissinger: Based on comments they gave to him and comments they sent us afterward.

President Nixon: Right, right, right.

Kissinger: Now they have given us yet another, oh, ten pages of comments, and the end result of that is to kill the agreement.

President Nixon: How does it kill it?

Kissinger: Well, because they’re changing everything. For example, wherever they talk about the United States . . .

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: Say the United States will withdraw its forces, they want to say the North Vietnamese will withdraw their forces.

President Nixon: No. No, no, no, no, no. The withdrawal has got to be handled on the basis that we’ve already suggested.

Kissinger: And so they keep putting in needles in practically—

President Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: Where it says, “Replace”—there’s a phrase that says, “U.S. forces and those allied with the United States—”

President Nixon: You really now that Bunker can handle this? We don’t need to send an emissary there. I don’t mean Haig, but the [former Treasury Secretary John B.] Connally ploy.

Kissinger: No. I think we should wait until we see what we get. If Hanoi kicks us in the teeth, then we don’t have a problem. But if Hanoi accepts the changes which we’re bringing—

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: —then an already good agreement becomes excellent.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: And then we might consider sending somebody.

President Nixon: Yeah. All right, that’s the way it’s to be. But be sure Bunker tells them we’re going to go forward and the document that we already have will be the basis for it. We’ll do the best we can, but we—that a negotiation involves give and take on both sides. [Unclear.]

Kissinger: Incidentally, I talked to [Peter] Peterson this morning, and I think he will almost certainly accept it.

President Nixon: Oh, you do, huh?

Kissinger: Yeah.

President Nixon: Well, it’s the best thing. It’s a better job for him.

Kissinger: It’s a better job for him, and his [unclear interjection by President Nixon] strength is really is in foreign policy.

President Nixon: That’s right, and it gives him a chance then to move—in Commerce, he’ll simply be a second man to [Treasury Secretary George P.] Shultz and all the others.

Kissinger: That’s right, and I told him he’d have access to the White House and—

President Nixon: Right.

Kissinger: —which is what you—

President Nixon: Good.

Kissinger: —had already discussed with him.

President Nixon: Good. OK.

Kissinger: All right.

Original tape courtesy of the Nixon Library. This transcript is a working draft. Please let us know if you find important errors.