174. Message From John D. Negroponte of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

WH 46. Subject: Hanoi’s behavior in the negotiations.

Summary: The purpose of this paper is to summarize Hanoi’s negotiating behavior both in substance and procedure since the reopening of the negotiations on November 20. It concludes that Hanoi has no intention to meet any of the basic requirements that we made clear to them at the end of October; and through a series of irritating dilatory tactics has pursued a course which can be interpreted as desire to achieve either no agreement at all or an agreement substantially worse than that achieved in late October. Hanoi’s tactics have been clumsy, blatant, and fundamentally contemptuous of the United States.

End summary.


We came back to Paris on November 20 on the assumption that some of our essential concerns about the October draft agreement could be met. Those concerns were made clear to Hanoi well before our first meeting.

When we entered into the new phase of negotiations with Hanoi in October we did so on the assumption that there had been a fundamental shift in their strategy and that they were willing to take some risks in the pursuit of a peaceful settlement. At that time we acknowledged that to drop their demand for the dismantlement of the GVN represented a significant departure from their previously enunciated policies. Both sides recognized that the pursuit of a settlement on this basis involved taking chances and it seemed, for a period at least, that U.S. and DRV interests had converged sufficiently to form the basis for a settlement. This is to say that we were prepared to disengage from South Vietnam in exchange for which Hanoi was willing to forego accomplishment of all its objectives in the South immediately.

Among the essential elements of this negotiating framework were Hanoi’s apparent willingness to leave the political process in the South [Page 632] to a reasonable period of evolution, to restrict its right to intervene militarily in the South by accepting a prohibition on further infiltration, and their agreement to withdraw forces from Laos and Cambodia.

As the latest series of negotiations have unfolded, however, it has become clear that Hanoi is either dissatisfied with or undecided about an arrangement that gives it a better than equal chance of ultimately achieving its objectives. Whether they have decided to scuttle the agreement or not, their present course seems devoted to the pursuit of every minor tactical advantage with little perspective for the longer term.

When we resumed the talks on the 20th of November we came with three basic objectives, none of which would have been that difficult to settle had Hanoi really wanted to do so. First, we wanted some modifications in language in the political chapter so as to make it absolutely clear that the National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord did not have governmental functions. Second, we wanted to obtain an inoffensive phrase somewhere in the agreement which established the principle, however indirectly, that the North Vietnamese did not have the unequivocal right to intervene militarily in South Vietnam. Lastly we wanted to insure that there was some effective international supervisory mechanism in place at the time of ceasefire.

What has been the record on these three issues?

We have achieved a very minor success in diluting the functions of the National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord and we have succeeded in obtaining the deletion of the description of the Council as an “administrative structure” which they have mistranslated from the very outset. But in exchange Hanoi has pressed for every conceivable political concession which, if accepted, would render the political provisions of the agreement even more onerous than had been before and would in fact call into question the very principle on which our willingness to proceed in October was actually based. First they agreed to drop the maintenance of the ceasefire and the preservation of peace as functions to be ascribed to the Council but now they have asked that among the functions to be added to the Council’s responsibilities is the promotion of the implementation of the agreement’s attached protocols. In military as well as political matters, it is clear that one of their primordial objectives is to deprive the 1954 Geneva Accords of any meaning whatsoever as a basis for a settlement.

Finally, on supervisory matters, Hanoi knew from the outset that we wanted to ensure that some international supervisory machinery be in place at the time of the ceasefire. Without going into all the substance of their supervisory protocol, suffice it to say that they only passed it over to us on December 12, roughly six weeks after you had made your public statement that this was one of the issues on which we would [Page 633] seek agreement before signing a settlement. This is not to mention the fact that the content of their protocol is such that our two drafts are irreconcilable over any short time span and agreement on the ICCS is likely only if we deprive it of any teeth whatsoever in exchange for which they may be willing to tone down the political demands contained in their protocol. Their ICCS and ceasefire protocols are truly political rather than technical documents.


Hanoi’s procedural negotiating tactics have been tawdry, petty and at times transparently childish.

To cite but a few examples of the kinds of tactics that Hanoi has pursued, one of their basic approaches has been to agree to phrases which they know are important to us in exchange for certain concessions and then subsequently they would reopen the matter in an attempt to extract further concessions, after we had already communicated these changes to our allies. The most blatant example of this was when in the first week of our resumed talks they agreed to a number of significant changes only to reopen every one of them during the following week’s negotiating session. Among the concrete examples of this tactic are the replacement provision which they first traded for reference to Article 21 (b) on prisoner matters in October, which they again agreed to in late November, and then on the final day of our meeting, without any forewarning whatsoever, reopened a substantive issue with respect to that provision. Another example, of course, is their agreement to DMZ language during our first week of meetings in November which they subsequently retracted.

Another tactic has been to delay on substantive issues which they know are important to us, particularly the protocols. We can be almost certain that their protocols were ready well in advance of this latest round or at least in sufficient time to table them in late November and they have had our protocols for almost three weeks. And yet they did not provide us any protocols whatsoever until the next to last day of our meetings, including on such matters as the ICCS. As for the prisoner protocol, which they well know is of vital importance to us, it was not tabled until the very same day of your departure.

Another tactic of theirs has been to make concessions and then try to recuperate them in some other form. One example is their attempt to introduce into protocol matters of substance which have not been agreed in the basic text itself and in fact were left out as explicit concessions to us. The role of the NCNRC is one example. The repeated naming of the PRG in the ceasefire protocols is another. Yet another example is the way they have tended to treat the Vietnamese and English versions of the agreement as two separate texts, often conceding to us a word in English but maintaining their language in Vietnamese which [Page 634] has different implications. To some extent one could say that they are attempting to take advantage of our less than total expertise in the Vietnamese language, although this is not something that we can complain to anyone else about.

Another good example of their dilatory tactics has been their claim that they work slowly because they do not have modern means and that they do not receive instructions quickly from Hanoi. As anyone familiar with the DRV knows they have close to a 100-man delegation in Paris capable of cranking out papers at whatever rate is desired; they have several times as many language officers as any U.S. delegation they have ever dealt with; and surely the SIGINT experts can confirm that Hanoi is in possession of modern Soviet communications equipment. If they can get instructions to COSVN in one or two days, they can certainly get them to Le Duc Tho in the same period of time.

Hanoi has also on occasion used experts meetings designed for the explicit purpose of conforming texts to introduce major issues of substance. This was particularly flagrant on the final day of our meetings when they reintroduced issues relating to the replacement provision and the chapter on Cambodia and Laos.

Hanoi also has a proclivity for using the past record of negotiations in a fashion that is completely out of context. To cite the most ludicrous example, when our first series of renewed meetings began, they reintroduced the question of Thieu’s resignation arguing that this was simply a matter on which even the U.S. had made a proposal in September. They have likewise, in preparing their understandings, pursued a tactic of quoting from the record out of context. Finally they have at times distorted your remarks beyond recognition such as on the issue of international supervision of Article 13 which they read to me at an experts meeting and raised again at the last meeting with you. It was absolutely obvious to anybody familiar with the record that you had meant to drop reference to international supervision in the article itself and that we fully intended to retain in it the international supervisory chapter.

In sum Hanoi’s tactics have been to unnecessarily prolong and delay the discussions, to distort the past record to their purposes and to renegotiate concessions several times over.

End of message.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box TS 43, Geopolitical File, Vietnam, Bombing, 1972–73. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. Sent via Guay and Haig.