255. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1

We held a four-and-a-half hour session with the North Vietnamese today which was totally inconclusive.2 The atmosphere at the outset was frosty but thawed as we went along. Tho opened with a condemnation of our bombing and a summary of where the negotiations stood in December. The condemnation was relatively mild and brief, much milder than his airport statement.3 In his review of the negotiations he implied that we had been very close to completing the agreement in December.
After my brief rebuttal, there followed a lengthy procedural wrangle concerning what issues remained to be settled. We finally got down to the two major questions in the agreement; i.e., the DMZ and the method of signing, and both sides restated their positions. Tho then asked for an adjournment until tomorrow so that both sides could study each other’s views. He said that he would take into account our requirements in replying tomorrow.
During the lunch break I had a half-hour private talk with Tho at his initiative during which little significant emerged; he repeated his theme of his having domestic difficulties with regard to his negotiating posture.
It is impossible to draw any meaningful conclusion from this meeting. Realistically, it would be impossible for them to cave on the issues on the first day at the conference table after intensive B–52 bombing. Thus, they could be following the essential procedure of the technical talks at which they didn’t give much ground the first day. On the other hand, it is equally possible that they are stonewalling us again as they did in December. Under this hypothesis, the progress this past week on technical talks would only be their way of removing the propaganda vulnerability of their position concerning international control machinery.
We meet again tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. and should have clearer indications of their intentions at that session. Tho also proposed that the experts should meet continuously on the Protocols. They are meeting now, and a time for their meeting tomorrow remains to be set. In addition to the Agreement, we agreed that our agenda this week would include the Understandings, the Protocols and a possible schedule. I made clear that I could not possibly stay for more than a few days and that this was the last opportunity for a comprehensive settlement along the lines of the October draft.4
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 28, HAK Trip Files, HAK Paris Trip Tohak 67–146, January 7–14, 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. A stamped notation on the first page reads: “The President has seen.”
  2. A memorandum of conversation of the meeting, January 8, 11:05 a.m.–3:30 p.m., is ibid., Box 866, For the President’s Files (Winston Lord)—China Trip/Vietnam, Camp David Memcons, January 8–13, 1973 [January 23, 1973].
  3. At the airport Tho characterized the bombing as “demented war acts.” See Henry Giniger, “Hanoi Negotiator, Arriving in Paris, Takes Rigid Stand,” The New York Times, January 7, 1973, p. 1.
  4. Sullivan briefed the three South Vietnamese officials—Pham Dang Lam, Nguyen Xuan Phong, and Vuong Van Bac—and a memorandum of conversation of the meeting, January 8, 5–5:35 p.m., is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 104, Country Files, Far East, Vietnam, South Vietnam, GVN Memcons, November 20, 1972–April 3, 1973 [1 of 3].