242. Message From the Chief of the U.S. Delegation to the Paris Peace Talks (Porter) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

Although we proposed morning meeting January 2, DRV preferred 3 p.m. at Choisy-le-Roi.DRV side represented by Thach plus five others. U.S. side consisted of Sullivan, Isham, Aldrich, Engel and Thompson.2
DRV mood at outset was deeply somber. Social amenities minimal. Thach began by reading short prepared statement on U.S. bombing. Except for fact he characterized bombing as “criminal,” statement seemed perfunctory. Sullivan responded rather curtly by saying we refused to engage in propaganda exchanges or react to provocative words. We were in Paris strictly for business of negotiations.
Sullivan then spoke at some length, referring to exchanges of letters which provided basis for our return to table and laying out gist of his instructions. He said we would discuss protocols only, leaving agreement and understandings to Tho and Kissinger. On protocols, we stipulated following principles:
They were technical documents, neither adding to, subtracting from, nor contradicting basic terms of agreement;
They applied only to mutual or reciprocal undertakings and were not concerned with unilateral obligations; and
U.S.–DRV forum was not authorized conclude protocols covering two South Vietnamese parties. This could only be done by those two parties.
From this basis, Sullivan said U.S. would reject all material inconsistent with 3 (A) above, rejected proposed protocol on withdrawal, and would refuse to discuss two party features of cease-fire and joint military commissions. Instead, we were prepared to discuss (A) ICCS, (B) cease-fire and four party commission, (C) POW release, and (D) clearance of mines. He further proposed reaffirmation of previously agreed agenda system of alternate day consideration of ICCS and cease-fire protocols.
Thach replied by asking several questions and saying he wished study Sullivan comments before replying. He then asked about “protocol” concerning U.S. “obligation” to contribute to reconstruction of DRV. Sullivan denied this was subject of “protocol” and said it was subject Kissinger had informed Tho would be discussed in Hanoi. Thach then dropped subject and said he was prepared “listen to” U.S. presentation on cease-fire and four party military commission.
Sullivan said that was unsatisfactory answer, since it smacked of dilatory tactics of Xuan Thuy which had convinced U.S. that DRV not negotiating seriously. Thach immediately changed his statement to say he was prepared to have discussion on protocols and to negotiate them article by article once we had presented our views.
We then turned to business-like presentation on cease-fire, four party protocol during which there were genuine exchanges of substance and general appearance of serious purpose. After tea break Thach agreed to continue into evening until our presentation finished, and agreed to meet at our place morning January 3, to continue “for eight hour day.” There were no rpt no polemics and no further reference to bombing.
We adjourned at 7 p.m., agreed to meet January 3 at 10:30 a.m. at which time Thach will present his reaction to Sullivan’s opening statement, we will finish presentation on ICCS, and then turn to article by article negotiation of ICCS protocol.
Comment: DRV delegation did not rpt not comport itself like a victorious outfit which had just “defeated the U.S. strategic air force.” It was generally hang dog, although Thach thawed a bit as afternoon wore on. In general, he appears to be vast improvement over Xuan Thuy, with interest in details rather than rhetoric. Tomorrow afternoon should tell us whether this is deceptive, or whether we will really get down to brass Thachs.
Warm regards.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 865, For the President’s Files (Winston Lord)—China Trip/Vietnam, Camp David Memcons, December 1972 [1 of 3]. Secret; Critic; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Sent via Guay and Kennedy.
  2. Kissinger’s message WHP 272, January 1, 0500Z, to Porter, instructed him as follows regarding conduct in these negotiations: “Our approach in the technical meetings should be firm and business-like. The discussions should be non-polemical and there should be no debate on recent events. You should discuss only the protocols. The understandings will be discussed by Le Duc Tho and me as agreed in the exchange of messages with the North Vietnamese.” Kissinger added: “Above all, we cannot allow the language of the protocols to introduce new substantive issues not covered in the agreement nor reopen for discussion in any way matters already covered by the agreement itself.” (Ibid., Box 859, For the President’s Files (Winston Lord)—China Trip/Vietnam, Sensitive Camp David, Vol. XXIII)