3. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Le Duc Tho, Special Advisor to the DRV Delegation to the Paris Peace Talks
  • Xuan Thuy, Minister, Chief DRV Delegate to the Paris Peace Talks
  • Phan Hien, Advisor to the DRV Delegation
  • Nguyen Dinh Phuong, Interpreter
  • Mr. Thai, Notetaker
  • Second Notetaker
  • Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Major General Alexander M. Haig, Jr., Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Winston Lord, NSC Staff
  • John D. Negroponte, NSC Staff
  • David A. Engel, NSC Staff—Interpreter
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff
  • Irene G. Derus, Notetaker

[When being greeted by Xuan Thuy, Dr. Kissinger gave the Minister a regimental necktie, as he had promised the day before. The Minister thanked him.]

Dr. Kissinger: I apologize for the delay. But you gave us a great deal to think about. First of all, Mr. Special Advisor and Mr. Minister, I [Page 27] would like to apologize for having kept you waiting, but we have been working a good part of the night and today to analyze your proposal.

First let me say, Mr. Special Advisor and Mr. Minister, you have given us a very important document, which I believe will bring us to an agreement. We still differ on some points, but if we work the next days in the spirit of mutual comprehension we should be able to complete our work here. In fact I would say that my most important work now is in Washington and in Saigon, and therefore, I should try to return as quickly as I can and we should work as rapidly as we can.

I also want to say that if we come to a satisfactory agreement here we will do our utmost, our maximum, to influence Saigon to accept it. Especially if you show understanding with respect to some of the necessities we described to you yesterday.

Now let me tell you the tentative schedule on which we propose to operate.

We should finish our work here hopefully tomorrow, certainly early Wednesday.

Le Duc Tho: In the morning?

Dr. Kissinger: I would then return to Washington and I could let you know within 48 hours whether there are any technical objections in Washington and what they are. They will not be of a major character, I believe. I would then propose to leave for Saigon on Saturday the 14th arriving in Saigon the evening of the 15th. I would work in Saigon the 16th, 17th and 18th. On the evening of the 18th we would stop the bombing of the North. On the morning of the 19th, if your proposal is still in force, I would go to Hanoi. On the morning of the 21st I would leave Hanoi to return to Washington. I would arrive in Washington the evening of the 21st. We would announce the agreement jointly on the evening of the 22nd or the evening of the 23rd, Washington time. You would announce it in Hanoi and we would announce it in Washington at the same time. We would sign the agreement on the 25th or 26th. We would be prepared to have the Secretary of State sign the agreement. A ceasefire would go into effect within 24 hours of the signature of the agreement.

We believe that we can meet this schedule. Does the Special Advisor have any comment on this proposal?

Le Duc Tho: I feel that the schedule you have proposed is reasonable and if we can do our work here, the sooner the better. We still maintain our intention on your visit to Hanoi. So the conditions we have proposed—First, we agree here, second you stop the bombing, and then your visit to Hanoi. So the circumstances are propitious. And now we, both you and us, should make an effort to reach an agreement expeditiously, rapidly and with good results. Therefore if each of us [Page 28] have some issue to raise for settlement we should do that with an open heart, frankly and to come to a quick settlement. What we can record in the agreement we shall do that. What we can’t record in the agreement, we shall make an understanding with each other.

Dr. Kissinger: That is agreeable to us. And I would like to say that while the United States and the DRV have made agreements in the past, we have always remained adversaries afterwards. But we are making an agreement with you with the intention of moving from an adversary to normalcy, and from normalcy to friendship, and therefore we must seek the guarantees not only in the provisions of the agreement but also in our mutual desire of preserving a long-term relationship.

Le Duc Tho: I share Mr. Special Advisor’s view that we have been keeping a hostile relationship for a long time. It is high time now to put an end to this era and to shift to a new era of new relationships between our two peoples, and to shift it from adversary relationship to normalcy and to a long-term friendly relationship. As you know, we have been in very harsh hostile relationship so far, but we are prepared to accept a visit by you in Hanoi. This shows our firm intention to put an end to this era of hostility and to open up a new era of relationship, of peace.

Dr. Kissinger: We will meet you also with an open heart. And with the intention of looking to the future and to draw a line under the past.

Now, Mr. Special Advisor and Mr. Minister, we have worked on your plan. We accept its basic approach and we accept many of its provisions, and many of those which we have reformulated are not so far from yours that we cannot come to an agreement. We have rearranged the order of some of the paragraphs and I will explain to you the reasons for that. We must now gain very rapidly the widest possible support in the United States, because if we shall make a real peace we want to start it with the broadest possible basis. And our opposition will come from the right, not from the left. Therefore, we have moved some paragraphs which seem to single us out for special criticism, and which you have had a tendency to put at the beginning of each section, into the middle of each section while accepting the paragraph. Your cooperation in this would be very helpful.

And also if we could cooperate with respect to some of the points I raised with the Special Advisor yesterday to speed up the deliberations in Saigon, this would be very helpful. We have not put it in the agreement yet because we have not found a way of expressing it but, for example, I want to speak specifically to the Special Advisor. I have spoken to him yesterday, sometimes jokingly, sometimes seriously, about inspection on the infiltration trails. Now I know, speaking frankly, and the Special Advisor knows, that if you are determined to [Page 29] move supplies through Laos you will find a way of doing so. You always have. Or am I wrong? [Le Duc Tho laughs.] On the other hand, we rely on the fact that you will consider this inconsistent with our long-term relationship and that therefore you will look at problems henceforth in a different way.

Yet to increase the acceptability of the agreement in the United States and to speed up the deliberations in Saigon, if we in the next day or two could find some formula to make this possible, it would be very important.

Now I will give you our redraft of your proposal and you will, of course, want to study it. I suggest that after I review it for you, perhaps we might adjourn and meet early in the morning and then work intensively all day tomorrow—unless you have some proposal. But I would like to review it first.

Le Duc Tho: It is possible. I propose that you give us the text now, because I can translate it.

Dr. Kissinger: We would like to reserve the right to review it again tonight because we had to work very rapidly and we may want to make a few more minor changes. [Hands over U.S. draft agreement, Tab A.] We have one more unilateral statement, which is the same one we gave you yesterday, about replacements. [Hands over U.S. “Unilateral Statement of Replacement of Armaments”, Tab B.]And here is another you saw. [Hands over “DRV Unilateral Statement on Prisoners”, Tab C.]

Now may I review your document point by point? May I? Should I begin, Mr. Special Advisor?

Le Duc Tho: Please.

Dr. Kissinger: The preamble. We fully accept the language of your preamble. We recommend, however, that in our document we list the United States first and in your document you list yourself first. It is the normal practice.

In connection with the preamble I wanted to ask the Special Advisor the following: This document is drafted for signature for the United States and the Democratic Republic. Is it conceivable that all four parties sign it?

Le Duc Tho: We may think about it. Tomorrow we shall answer you on that.

Dr. Kissinger: I don’t know which is better, frankly. We should do whatever way is easier to get the approval of Saigon. If we could have this flexibility for my trip to Saigon, it would be useful to know. You think about it.

Minister Xuan Thuy: You mean that the question of the agreement being signed by the DRV and the United States, there is no question about it. The question arises that it be signed by the four parties.

[Page 30]

Dr. Kissinger: No question that the United States and the DRV will sign it.

Le Duc Tho: But if the agreement were to be signed by the four parties, the contents would be the same?

Dr. Kissinger: Oh yes, it doesn’t affect the content.

Le Duc Tho: We shall answer you tomorrow.

Dr. Kissinger: Probably we should maintain this. It is easier. I just wanted to …

Le Duc Tho: Primarily we shall sign by both parties.

Dr. Kissinger: No question.

Le Duc Tho: We shall answer you the question on the agreement being signed by the four parties.

Dr. Kissinger: But it is not a principle, because it may be easier to do it this way.

Le Duc Tho: The question of the agreement being signed by the two parties.

Dr. Kissinger: That is settled.

Le Duc Tho: But the question to be settled now is to know whether the agreement could be signed by the four parties. Tomorrow we shall answer that.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, I want to be frank with the Special Advisor. The easier would be if the Special Advisor would leave it to our discretion, because then we could do it in Saigon whichever solves the problem the most easily. And then we will tell you when I come to Hanoi. General Haig and I will both go.

Le Duc Tho: Tomorrow we shall have time to talk about this.

Dr. Kissinger: Article 1. We accept Article 1 with a few changes, but they are not major changes. You are making it a directive, “the United States shall respect.” We are making it a statement of fact, “the United States respects.”

Le Duc Tho: All right.

Dr. Kissinger: And you say “consecrate” which is a rather complicated word in English. We would like to say “established by the 1954 Geneva Agreements.” There is no big difference. We also would like to move one of the paragraphs, but I will discuss what we would like to move later, but without changing the wording in Article 2. [Dr. Kissinger looks for the document.] My staff thinks that if I don’t have a document I can’t do any damage.

Article 2, your Article 2. We accept it with minor changes in language. We are saying “upon completion of its withdrawal” first. “The United States will not continue its military involvement or intervene in the internal affairs of Vietnam.” “South Vietnam” it actually should be. [Page 31] That is taken from your text with minor changes. You don’t have to comment now, I just want to give you … but if you have any criticisms let me know.

On our copy we left out “South,” but it is in your text. It is accepting your own text. The copy we gave you maybe we can show that. It is from your text. All right.

Articles 3 and 4. Your Article 2 is another we are moving—just two articles further down. It is in the same section, but I will explain that to you in a minute.

Your Articles 3 and 4 we have put together, but we have essentially accepted them. When the language is changed it is not intended to change the substance. You will look it over.

Article 5. We have essentially accepted that, except I see there is another typing mistake. We say “the Vietnamese parties.” We should say “the South Vietnamese parties.” This is your language. I am correcting our document, not yours.

We have made a few suggestions in it, such as when we say “they should remain in-place,” that will be physically impossible. They must have some freedom of movement. Let us say 1 kilometer, 2 kilometers, etc. And we say that the Joint Commission should work out the modalities of what should be determined as staying in place.

Article 6. We agree that United States and allied withdrawal should be completed within 60 days.

Le Duc Tho: You don’t have to divide the period!

Dr. Kissinger: No, we don’t have to divide the period. We ask your understanding if at the end there is some problem, if there are some technical difficulties, but it will not extend 7 days. But we don’t think it will be necessary. It won’t be necessary, but …

Le Duc Tho: Six days more.

Dr. Kissinger: In 60 days.

Le Duc Tho: Six days more—66.

Dr. Kissinger: It won’t be necessary. It is a question of understanding. Maybe conceivably one or two days. But we are not making this agreement to break it.

We have not accepted the phrase that the air and naval forces should be withdrawn first. I think in such a short period we should move on the basis of logistic considerations and not on the basis of unit.

We have not completely accepted your language about the withdrawal of all advisers because some of them have solely economic functions and the Special Advisor and I agreed once that those could stay—some economic advisers, some civilian advisers, I should say. You remember?

[Page 32]

Le Duc Tho: [Nods his head “yes.”]

Dr. Kissinger: But we have added a phrase, to show our good will, that advisers to paramilitary organizations such as the police shall be withdrawn. Or any other paramilitary organization. We have also left in the phrase that normal military attaché functions will be maintained. But we are willing to have an understanding with you or make a commitment to you that the number will in no circumstances exceed 50, and if you want to, they can be located only in Saigon.

Le Duc Tho: But this military attaché belongs to the United States Embassy.

Dr. Kissinger: The Embassy. There is no military command that will be maintained.

Le Duc Tho: So the military attaché to the United States Embassy?

Dr. Kissinger: The Embassy. There is no military command that will be maintained.

Le Duc Tho: So the military attaché to the United States Embassy?

Dr. Kissinger: To the United States Embassy. Well, he is technically accredited to the Government but he belongs to the United States Embassy. Fifty is the average number for a country of the size of South Vietnam. We have checked in Washington. It is not an unusual number.

Article 7 we accept without change.

Article 8. We cannot accept this as a formal obligation but we will give you a verbal assurance that on the day that withdrawals are completed American carriers will be moved a distance of 300 miles from the shores of Vietnam.

Article 9. We have accepted most of the features of this Article. We do not agree with the fact that the two South Vietnamese parties shall agree with each other on the replacement, because they will never agree. But we can assure you that it is not our intention to modernize the South Vietnamese forces or to abuse this provision unless there should be a massive change in the military situation. But you want to study this Article because I think on this one we are not yet agreed. And I suggest we discuss it. I think that the Special Advisor will probably have some comments to make on our draft with respect to this tomorrow, though I don’t want to discourage him from accepting!

With Article 10, we have accepted this substantially, but we have retained our language with respect to innocent civilians. If we ask for the release of all civilians in South Vietnam, then it will be an unmanageable problem next week. We think this should be left to discussion among the South Vietnamese parties, and we will use our influence in a positive sense.

Le Duc Tho: You go on.

[Page 33]

Dr. Kissinger: Article 11. We accept the preamble. Then we have reorganized it a little bit. We accept 11 (a), but you will see we have broken it into two parts. But it doesn’t change the wording, except we have taken out again, as in the preamble, as in Article 1, we have taken out the directive and made it a statement of fact. We are trying to curb the Special Advisor’s pedagogical tendencies.

11 (b), we accept your language.

11 (c), we accept your language.

The rest we have slightly reorganized, so that Point 11 (g) precedes the other points. We have put in Commission of National Reconciliation rather than Administration of National Concord.

11 (e) we accept verbatim, except we have substituted “reconciliation” for “concord.”

11 (f) we have accepted verbatim, except we define what we mean by neutrality, namely the military provisions of the 1954 Geneva Agreements.

11 (g): We have inserted your own idea that this central institution operate by the principle of unanimity and consultation, and we have put in four months, simply to give the South Vietnamese more time and a more realistic period. As I told you we have moved our 11 (g) to precede yours. It now is (d) on ours but it is otherwise unchanged.

Le Duc Tho: Precede paragraph (d)?

Dr. Kissinger: It precedes paragraph (d).

Article 12. We accept the concept of your first paragraph but have put it into our language. It is less poetic but has the same meaning.

Paragraph 2, I mean the second paragraph, we accept. We have added the phrase which we had agreed on previously, that “the time for reunification will be agreed upon by North and South Vietnam.”

In the third paragraph of Article 12 we have added the phrase which we have given you previously, “shall promptly start negotiations toward reestablishing normal relations in various fields.”

In the fourth paragraph we have tightened the first sentence somewhat and we have deleted the sentence, “shall not recognize the protection of any countries.” Because we think it’s already covered by the clause with respect to neutrality.

Article 13. We cannot accept this in a signed document but we can give you a unilateral assurance. We will consider tonight whether we can make a reference to it in Article 19 when we speak of future relationships, but in any event we will give you a unilateral statement.

Article 14. We accept this almost completely. We accept your description of Article 4 (a) and we think it is better than what we have put into our document. Your description of what this Joint Commission will do with respect to Article 4 (a) is better than ours.

[Page 34]

Let me point out—needless to say, Mr. Special Advisor, in this section about commissions and so forth, this is where we will probably get most of our comments in Washington from our legal people, and this is where you will have to be prepared to receive some comments from me within 48 hours of my departure here. In Washington we have many fanatics of international commissions. But it is not an insoluble problem, in my view.

Article 15. We accept this almost verbatim except we believe that the Joint Commission of the two South Vietnamese parties should deal with the problem of Vietnamese armed forces in the South.

Article 16. We have tried to avoid the dispute to whom this International Commission of Control and Supervision should be responsible by putting in the phrase “until the international guarantee conference makes definitive arrangements it should be responsible to the four parties.” And we have added that this Commission can supervise the free and democratic elections and also the disposition of the forces mentioned in Article 15.

As for the membership, we maintain our view that the fifth member should be nominated by the Secretary General2 and approved by the other four members. But we are prepared to make clear that he is not a representative of the Secretary General. He is simply another member of the Commission, and we therefore do not say there is a United Nations role in the Commission. But we are willing to listen to a counter-proposal on this. We believe that if the Joint Commissions work by unanimity and the Control Commission also works by unanimity, nothing will ever be done, and therefore we maintain our view of majority vote. We believe that each side should be free to nominate two members without veto by the other, but we accept that they cannot be countries who have participated in the Vietnam war with their forces. We will be prepared to give you our nominations.

Article 17. We accept this verbatim, except that we also put in a guarantee with respect to the ceasefire, or at least we would like a formulation that makes this possible.

Article 18 we accept verbatim except that we use the word “establish” rather than “consecrated.” And we have added—it is the poetic language that we are trying to limit, but it means the same thing. We are adding a unilateral statement which recalls, as the Special Advisor pointed out to me, that for purposes of this clause every country … I recalled the Special Advisor’s statement to me that the troops of any Indochinese countries would be considered foreign with relation to any other countries, and that the provisions of Article 15 apply to the relations [Page 35] of the Indochinese countries among each other. You have said this to me. We have slightly edited your article, and I think that with our editing—it’s minor—together with our unilateral statement, it meets most of our concerns about Laos and Cambodia. Except this one problem of inspection, which the Special Advisor and I are going to think over tonight, of the trails. [Hands over U.S. Unilateral Statement on Withdrawal of Foreign Troops from the Indochinese Countries, Tab D.]

Article 19 we accept completely.

Article 20 we accept completely.

If I could just indicate to you, so that you don’t look for these articles in vain: Your Article 1 is Article 9 of our document. Your Article 2 is Article 3 of our document. Your Article 4 is Article 1 of our document. You understand why I do this? It is just to help you.

Le Duc Tho: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: Your Article 5 is Article 2 of our document. Your Article 6 is our Article 4. Your Article 7 is our Article 5. Your Article 9 is our Article 6. And after that we have moved … Your Article 1 is our Article 9. I told you that. And I think I have given you, your Article 12 is our Article 10. I think the rest follows fairly clearly and we have transposed—you will find the other paragraphs.

So I think there are maybe two or three points of principle; the rest is mostly drafting that is still to be discussed.

[Dr. Kissinger hands over second copy of US draft agreement.]

Would you make your translation from this document? It is the same except there are a few handwritten changes. The handwritten changes are your language, not our language. We will stick to your language in order to speed things up.

In addition I have a number of concrete questions having to do with the trip to Hanoi, on which we should have an answer fairly soon, but perhaps we can discuss this after the Special Advisor makes whatever comments he wishes to make.

One point about the bombing. We would, of course, not resume the bombing between the time of my visit and the signature of the agreement, even after I have left Hanoi. It is not just for the period of my visit. It is from the evening of the 18th onward. Until the ceasefire goes into effect, and then of course it is automatic. Our formal obligation will not begin until the ceasefire begins, but we will not resume it after.

Le Duc Tho: Have you any other questions?

Dr. Kissinger: Well, I have some practical questions about the trip to Hanoi, if the Special Advisor wants to discuss that.

Le Duc Tho: Please go ahead with your questions.

[Page 36]

Dr. Kissinger: They are, some of them, very boring but since we will have difficulty communicating with each other. We will fly a Boeing Presidential aircraft and you will have to tell us which airfield to use and how to communicate with it. And you have to tell your anti-aircraft crews to observe the ceasefire or our plane would be spotted.

We find it very difficult to come secretly. I think we should announce on the day that I am going there that I am going. We should work out a simple joint announcement and the time that it will be made. Our plan would be to fly up along the coast and to enter the airspace from the southeast over the Gulf of Tonkin or any other direction you tell us. When we were in China we used our aircraft to communicate with Washington and it would be our only means of communication. But that means that you will have to supply the power for the aircraft at the Air Force [airport]. I just give you all these technical questions. In that case … also I am using the example of our visits both to the Soviet Union and to Peking. There was a car which was stationed at the airport, and a driver, so that the crew could bring messages to us where we were staying. It would be useful for us to know about how long it would take for a message to reach us from the airplane.

Le Duc Tho: They will have to cross a pontoon bridge so it will take a longer time. [Laughter] I tell you this, but it will take a short time.

Dr. Kissinger: Oh yes, I just give you the questions. These are not questions of principle. Also our aircraft crew has to stay with the aircraft. We don’t want you to learn our codes. [Laughter] We will give you a list of the crew which is … [To Haig]: About how many?

General Haig: About 30.

Dr. Kissinger: It can’t be 30. It is about 19 and there will be probably this group—certainly this group—plus two security people who are there to guard documents, not to guard me. Also I am assuming—these are questions that came up on previous trips—that you have a ramp for the right size of a Boeing plane. [Laughter] Are there many Boeing planes visiting you?

Le Duc Tho: Probably your planes are too high and we have no stairs, so you will have to parachute. [Laughter] But frankly speaking, probably our ramp is not so high as your plane, so I advise you to bring some stairs of your own, because all we have is for Ilyushin–18.

Dr. Kissinger: [Aside to Haig]: We can’t bring stairs, can we? We will have to check.

Le Duc Tho: Could you please give us the document with the technical questions and we will cable Hanoi to get the exact answers?

Dr. Kissinger: Can I give you them tomorrow? Because then I can give you the exact height of the door. Or do you want this now? I will give it to you. You want it now?

[Page 37]

You know how I deal with secret documents? I take off the word “secret,” then it no longer is secret. [Aside to Lord]: Here, write them out before the end of the meeting and give them to them. [To Le Duc Tho:] He will write them out and before the end of the meeting he will give them to you.

Now I am assuming that when we are in Hanoi we will not be exposed to any public spectacle. I mean that there will be no propaganda made of our visit. We don’t object to a picture but we would object to films that would be shown that we could not mutually agree upon.

Le Duc Tho: So you don’t want it to be filmed?

[Dr. Kissinger and General Haig confer.]

Dr. Kissinger: Well, if we can have a mutual agreement that you will release only those things we can mutually agree on, I have no objections. So that it is not a unilateral thing. If we can do that, then you can film it. [Tho nods yes.]

And we would like to have some ideas of the schedule you propose—whom I should see, and so on.

Le Duc Tho: We shall discuss the program of work with you. We propose also that you give us your intention on the subjects you want to discuss when you are there.

Dr. Kissinger: I think we should discuss first any issues that we have not settled here, though I hope we settle everything here. But we should not leave too much for Hanoi, because quite frankly if we take such an important step as a visit to Hanoi, which is difficult for both of us, it must succeed; it cannot fail. So what I might discuss in Hanoi would be those issues that come up in Saigon and then perhaps how we envision our future long-term relationship between the DRV and the U.S. Then we will complete the agreement in Hanoi, and the text with which I will leave Hanoi will not be changed any more or be subject to any negotiations. That is the text that will be signed the following week Thursday or Friday here.

Now when the Special Advisor leaves here for Hanoi, this will be quite a sensation for the press. And he is so skillful at handling the press that I do not wish to make any suggestions to him. But I would like to suggest …

Le Duc Tho: When I return to Hanoi the press will ask?

Dr. Kissinger: They will ask whether this means our negotiations have broken off, so if I may suggest …

Le Duc Tho: Of course I will not speak about that. I think when we reach basic agreement here I will never say this to the press.

Dr. Kissinger: And similarly you should not show any indication that I am coming to Hanoi, because this will make my task in Saigon much harder. I will tell Saigon, but only after I have their agreement to [Page 38] our document. Also it would be very useful if we could avoid any indications of progress—which is the opposite of what I said before—any indication of progress before I leave from Saigon. So we will endure one more week of the Minister’s assaults.

Xuan Thuy: At the next session I will not be present at Kleber Avenue, then I will not attack you.

Dr. Kissinger: But there should be no hints of this new approach, because we will not send it to Saigon until General Haig and I arrive there. [Dr. Kissinger hands over the technical questions regarding going to Hanoi.]

Le Duc Tho: Yes, we will not do that.

Dr. Kissinger: This is all I have for today. What we would like to do is to settle the rest of it as rapidly as possible so that I can return to Washington, where we will have to enforce some discipline. We are prepared to meet tomorrow morning and we are prepared to stay through Wednesday, but the earlier the better for the schedule.

Le Duc Tho: Have you finished, Mr. Special Advisor?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.

Le Duc Tho: We have held many private meetings, but only today we, our side, can say that we have realized that we might reach agreement in two or three days more. This is the result of our efforts and your efforts too. So it is clear that once we wanted a settlement both sides make an effort and we come to results. We shall endeavor to realize the schedule we have agreed to. As to your trip to Hanoi, on the technical points, we shall give you the answer on your questions. If not during your stay here, we shall answer you through the liaison officer of the United States Embassy.

Dr. Kissinger: The Colonel?

Le Duc Tho: Colonel Guay. As to whether your trip will be an open trip or a secret trip, we shall answer through Colonel Guay too.

Dr. Kissinger: We examined the question yesterday. It is almost impossible for me to disappear for two days now. When I leave Saigon the press will expect me in Washington. So our proposal is to just announce it just as I am leaving Saigon, or just after I have left Saigon and I am on the way to Hanoi. But we should agree on the text of the announcement, which should be very simple, and the time, so that we can make it jointly here.

Le Duc Tho: But you intend to stop the bombing in the evening of the 18th, but you will reach Hanoi at what time?

Dr. Kissinger: The morning. We can agree on this—what is the time difference between Hanoi and Saigon?

Le Duc Tho: One hour.

[Page 39]

Dr. Kissinger: You are further ahead one hour?

Mr. Phuong: One hour later.

Dr. Kissinger: So when it is 8 o’clock in Saigon it is 9 o’clock in Hanoi.

Mr. Phuong: 7 hours in Hanoi; 8 in Saigon.

Dr. Kissinger: And 7 in Hanoi. You tell us—so I would think we would leave—it takes two hours from Saigon?

Xuan Thuy: It depends on the speed of the plane.

Dr. Kissinger: That is a point.

Mr. Negroponte: Two and a half hours. That’s a guess.

Mr. Phuong: That is roughly.

Dr. Kissinger: So if we leave at 8 o’clock, we can be in Hanoi by 9:30 or 10? You tell us.

Le Duc Tho: On the 19th.

Dr. Kissinger: On the 19th.

Le Duc Tho: So in my view if you reach Hanoi on the 19th in the morning, then the announcement should be made on the 19th in the morning.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree.

Le Duc Tho: The cessation of the bombing I think you should stop in the morning of the 18th. Because if so, when we announce your trip then public opinion will be more favorable. And the difference between the morning and the evening …

Dr. Kissinger: To us it is a public relations problem. As soon as the bombing stops there will be unbelievable speculation in America, and we would like to avoid this for as long as possible. We can stop from the 20th parallel in the morning, reduce it in the rest of the country, and stop it completely in the evening. Our concern is our press, and we do not want to create a general atmosphere of hysteria in Washington and Saigon before we have completed our work there. So we will stop north of the 20th parallel in the morning of the 18th.

Le Duc Tho: And reduce south of the 20th during?

Dr. Kissinger: And reduce south of the 20th parallel late in the day, and stop completely late in the evening.

Le Duc Tho: What time would you stop?

Dr. Kissinger: About 5.

Le Duc Tho: And in the morning?

Dr. Kissinger: There will be no bombing in the morning. We will stop north of the 20th the preceding evening. Or let us say 7 in the morning north of the 20th.

[Page 40]

Le Duc Tho: As to the announcements on the trip, I suggest that when you arrive in Hanoi then we announce as soon as you arrive.

Dr. Kissinger: Well, it has to be simultaneously in Washington. It may be better just after I leave Saigon, because they will know in Saigon and they will leak it. But at any rate it will be exactly the same hour that we announce it.

Le Duc Tho: It will be more convenient for us if you arrive in Hanoi and we announce, and when you leave Hanoi we announce again.

Dr. Kissinger: That is all right with us. [Aside to General Haig:] Is there any reason why we can’t?

General Haig: No.

Le Duc Tho: Only a few hours later as you intended.

Dr. Kissinger: It will not hold because it will also be known in Saigon.

Le Duc Tho: I think that there would be no problem for you because the announcement is made only two hours later.

Dr. Kissinger: We will agree on the time as you proposed, the arrival. We will agree on the time. It is all right with you. We can control what we must in Washington. We will not announce in Washington until the time you and we agree on.

Le Duc Tho: Because if the announcement is made before you arrive, then there may be some movement in the public opinion.

Dr. Kissinger: I am very popular in Hanoi, I understand. [Laughter] But we will propose a text to you tomorrow. It will be very simple.

Le Duc Tho: As to our resumption of our work I propose, because we shall need some time to study your proposal, therefore I propose that we shall meet again at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. We shall then complete the work tomorrow afternoon, otherwise we shall meet again on Wednesday. We should endeavor to complete our work, to settle everything, before you go to Hanoi.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree.

Le Duc Tho: Because if so, we shall have more time in Hanoi to discuss more important problems.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree.

Le Duc Tho: But if there is something left then we shall continue to discuss it in Hanoi.

Dr. Kissinger: Except it should not be an issue of principle, because we should not have the risk of failure.

Le Duc Tho: Certainly.

Dr. Kissinger: Also you will let us have some idea of which of your leaders we will meet, because our press will watch very carefully and ascribe particular significance to that.

[Page 41]

Le Duc Tho: I think that when you arrive we shall discuss our working program and whom you will meet. I think there will be no problem. Who you wish to meet, we shall arrange and we shall exchange views with you.

Dr. Kissinger: I would like to find out from General Giap how he got his tanks to An Loc, so that I know where to put the inspection teams on the Trail. [Laughter]

Xuan Thuy: Probably General Giap himself doesn’t know how to infiltrate the Trail with tanks.

Le Duc Tho: But it is also military secrecy.

Dr. Kissinger: Oh, yes.

Le Duc Tho: Now I would like to hand to you the Agreement on the Exercise of the South Vietnam People’s Fundamental National Right to Self-Determination. This is regarding the political questions, so that we can have acknowledgment of the agreement we have reached and we may sign this document too. This document will be referred to the two South Vietnamese for their discussion, and the completion of their discussion within three months. It is the document which will be put into the two-party forum to quickly get results. The contents of this document is what has appeared in the agreement but in more details. [Tho hands over DRV draft agreement (Tab E).]3 So we shall meet again tomorrow.

Dr. Kissinger: But this is not an integral part of the agreement. It is a record of discussion.

Le Duc Tho: It is not an integrated part of the agreement. It may be a document that you and I will sign and refer to the two parties. If we can agree, we can do this. We can give it to the two South Vietnamese parties and we can agree further that they will use it as a basis for discussion on implementation.

Dr. Kissinger: We shall study it carefully tonight. On our fundamental document I propose … well, I will have our plane come back tomorrow. If we finish and reach agreement then I shall leave tomorrow night. If we do not finish I will stay Wednesday. I must leave Wednesday because the President is leaving Washington on Thursday and I must see him to go over this. It would be better if I could, in fact, leave tomorrow night so that I can spend Wednesday with him before he leaves. There will be directives that have to be issued. If we agree on the basic document, then perhaps I will keep on one or two of my associates here on Wednesday so that when the text is retyped they can [Page 42] compare it with your version, so that we can be sure we have exactly the same version. That is agreeable?

Le Duc Tho: Agreed. We shall endeavor to finish up tomorrow, but if there is something left we should foresee another day, Wednesday.

Dr. Kissinger: I will be prepared to stay Wednesday.

Le Duc Tho: So you will leave behind one or two of your experts and we shall have one or two of our experts.

Dr. Kissinger: If it is not finished I will stay behind. If it is finished then I will leave one or two of my associates behind, simply to compare the texts to make sure there is no misunderstanding. But if we meet the schedule, we have an urgent requirement in Washington to make the preparations that are necessary and to issue the directives. And to be frank, I don’t want to lose the day that the President will be in Washington. If I don’t see the President on Wednesday night, I cannot see him until Friday morning and then the whole schedule will slip behind. This is a practical problem.

Le Duc Tho: We shall make the utmost to complete our work tomorrow, but if not, we will complete it on Wednesday.

Dr. Kissinger: And when the Special Advisor goes to bed tonight and he is thinking about Ho Chi Minh Trail, maybe some ideas will come to him. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: After the restoration of peace I will show you the Ho Chi Minh Trail. But I don’t know if you are strong enough to climb mountains!

[The meeting adjourned at 6:08 p.m.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 856, For the President’s Files (Winston Lord)—China Trip/Vietnam, Sensitive Camp David, Vol. XX [1 of 3]. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting took place at 108 Avenue du General Leclerc in Gif sur Yvette. All brackets, except those that contain italicized corrections, are in the original. Tabs A–D are attached but not printed.
  2. Of the United Nations.
  3. Tab E, “Agreements on the Exercise of the South Viet Nam People’s Right to Self-Determination,” undated, is attached but not printed.