108. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Nguyen Phu Duc
  • Acting Foreign Minister of the Government of Vietnam
  • Tran Kim Phuong
  • Ambassador of the Government of Vietnam
  • Henry A. Kissinger
  • Secretary of State
  • Graham Martin
  • Ambassador to the Republic of Vietnam
  • Arthur W. Hummel
  • Acting Assistant Secretary of State
  • Robert J. McCloskey
  • Ambassador to Cyprus
  • William L. Stearman
  • Staff Member, National Security Council
[Page 433]

Mr. Duc: Let me congratulate you on becoming Secretary of State.

Sec. Kissinger: There was nothing else I could do once you were appointed Foreign Minister.

Mr. Duc: Have you made any plans yet to go to Peking?

Sec. Kissinger: We have set no definite date, but I plan to go sometime the last two weeks of October—perhaps the last 10 days in October. In any case, I will let Ambassador Phuong and Ambassador Martin know when the date is firm.

Mr. Duc: When I spoke with Cambodian Foreign Minister Long Boret he referred to an interview with Sihanouk in which Sihanouk said nasty things about Peking and Hanoi. Will you be seeing Sihanouk in Peking?

Sec. Kissinger: Sihanouk has said he does not want to see me. I won’t see him. I would only see him if he gives me an exact commitment to the outcome of any talks we would have. I am not going to be Sihanouk’s straightman for a press conference in which he would tell the world how he told me off. Basically the outcome depends on the Cambodian situation. If the military balance is established, then there can be negotiations. If not, there will be no negotiations. In either case, it is possible that Sihanouk will have become irrelevant. If, on the other hand, he can act as a balance wheel (in a coalition) and if China would support him, maybe it would be possible (for him to play a role). In talking to the Chinese Permanent Representative, he seemed to be more eager to discuss Cambodia than I. The U.S. must not show too much anxiety (about Cambodia).

Mr. Duc: As you remember, the Communists were putting a great deal of pressure on Phnom Penh prior to August 15. Why did the situation change?

Sec. Kissinger: Partly because it is the rainy season. The Communists also suffered heavy losses, and the Cambodians are doing better. Ambassador Martin, in whom we have a great deal of confidence, was one of the few who told us that the situation would not be lost after August 15. We now have a few months of time to strengthen Cambodia.

Mr. Duc: Until November?

Sec. Kissinger: Until the end of November or December. It is in our interest to prolong the Cambodian situation as long as possible.

Mr. Duc: It is also in our interest that Cambodia has as long a respite as possible and has political stability. The main problem is the North Vietnamese presence.

Sec. Kissinger: I agree. With our Congress, we are in great difficulty at present. In any case, North Vietnam will get no economic aid (from the U.S.) as long as North Vietnamese troops are in Cambodia.

Mr. Duc: Do you have more leverage than that?

[Page 434]

Sec. Kissinger: No, we can’t do much more.

Mr. Duc: We will have to deal with that (situation).

Sec. Kissinger: Our best efforts must be in South Vietnam. You must get as many military supplies as possible, and we need not pay excessive attention to restrictions (under the Vietnam Agreement).

Mr. Duc: What are the chances (of getting more military assistance)?

Sec. Kissinger: We are at a low point now. We will become more active once we have organized our efforts in the Department.

Mr. Duc: Is there a danger of shifting from MASF to MAP?

Sec. Kissinger: We will resist this attempt. I will talk to (Senator) Stennis about this tomorrow. We have no interest in having your military aid in the Foreign Relations Committee. There will be a lot of noise about it, but you will get the greater part of the aid you need.

Amb. Phuong: Congressman Passman has been very helpful.

Mr. Duc: What do the Russians intend to do in respect to Vietnam?

Sec. Kissinger: We are exerting maximum pressure on the Russians and the Chinese to stay out of (the) Vietnam (situation). Not much heavy equipment has been coming into North Vietnam.

Mr. Duc: How much less?

Sec. Kissinger: About 10–20% (of what came in before). Photos show next to nothing new coming into North Vietnam from China and the Soviet Union. (Jokingly to Duc) Should we try another negotiation with Le Duc Tho? Never again! Unless you beg me to do it on bended knee. I would like to see Duc and Xuan Thuy in one room negotiating.

Mr. Duc: In view of the latest Communist activities in Vietnam, what do you think they intend to do?

Sec. Kissinger: They are trying to bring airplanes into South Vietnam. If they do, you should bomb them.

Mr. Duc: Ambassador Sullivan just said in Manila that there may be another Communist offensive in Vietnam this year.

Sec. Kissinger: As much as I like Sullivan, I must say that he has no information that would justify coming to this conclusion. I don’t see any possibility of an offensive until next March or April. We see no evidence of a massive infiltration effort.

Mr. Duc: They have infiltrated 70,000 since January and 400 tanks.

Sec. Kissinger: That is not enough to start an offensive.

Mr. Duc: There have been continuing violations by the other side, and there has been no withdrawal from Laos or Cambodia. What can be done about this?

Sec. Kissinger: If it were not for domestic difficulties, we would have bombed them. This is now impossible. Your brothers in the North [Page 435] only understand brutality. The situation depends on the balance of forces. The Communists have not gotten strong enough for an offensive. The Soviets and the Chinese have been strongly opposed (to an offensive). There is no evidence that they (the Communists) can defeat you. They are exhausted and in difficulty. If there is a massive offensive, we will do our best to overcome Congressional difficulties and do something. Our Congress has acted most irresponsibly, and I consider the bombing cut-off disastrous. This clearly changes the attitude of the North Vietnamese. On the other hand, the Vietnamese suspiciousness is playing into our hands. They don’t completely understand the restrictions placed on us by Congress. President Nixon has fooled them so often that they are probably more concerned then you believe. It is important that you show confidence and behave strongly. (Jokingly) Treat them like you treat me.

Amb. Martin: The Foreign Minister has almost doubled his budget.

Mr. Duc: (to Sec. Kissinger) I learned my lessons in negotiations from you.

Sec. Kissinger: Duc automatically says no. During the recent Paris talks, the North Vietnamese made a proposal so outrageous that I wanted Duc’s support in turning it down. As it turned out, however, Duc liked the proposal. Seriously, I realize that your problems were different from our problems, and the three months you gained (October–January) were important.

Mr. Duc: I appreciate your saying that. Do you see any significant differences between the Chinese and the Soviets?

Sec. Kissinger: I came away from the January negotiations with the feeling that we would have to bomb the North Vietnamese again in early April or May. On the other hand, I came away from the June negotiations convinced that they had given up on a military victory and were set for a long pull. They didn’t have the same self-confidence. On the Chinese and Soviets, I talked to the French Foreign Minister and what struck him was that they (the Chinese) complained about Cambodia, but they never said that South Vietnam had to be united. The Chinese are probably not unhappy that there are four states in Indochina. The Soviets are interested in bases in Indochina and are not interested in a divided Indochina. On the other hand, they are also not interested in jeopardizing their interests with us in order to defeat you. In recent photography we saw no major supplies coming in (to North Vietnam) from any other countries.

Amb. Martin: It seems the North Vietnamese trip to Moscow and Eastern European countries was not productive.

Mr. Duc: After the Laos Agreement are the North Vietnamese going to withdraw?

[Page 436]

Sec. Kissinger: You know how meticulous they are about observing agreements, although there are some signs of withdrawal of North Vietnamese forces.

Mr. Stearman: We have a recent report that there is a new North Vietnamese infiltration group headed for northern Laos.

Mr. Duc: The rule of unanimity in the new Laotian Government will certainly paralyze it.

Sec. Kissinger: I think the country is going to be divided vertically with the Pathet Lao controlling most of the territory, and the government side controlling most of the people. You will be able to take care of the military situation in South Vietnam.

Mr. Duc: They are building a new Ho Chi Minh trail inside North Vietnam.

Sec. Kissinger: Despite the development of the new trail in the South, you will be able to take care of the military situation.

Mr. Duc: This, however, means the Communists will enjoy greater freedom of movement in moving supplies.

Amb. Martin: (to Mr. Duc) What do you consider to be the future of the ICCS?

Mr. Duc: It cannot do very much. I talked to the Polish Foreign Minister, and he insisted that it must comply with the rule of unanimity.

Sec. Kissinger: I think they (the Poles) are embarrassed about this. Are you considering attacking the North Vietnamese bases in Cambodia?

Mr. Duc: I am not a military man.

Amb. Martin: We will have to see how this situation develops. What is our interest in respect to the ICCS? Should we keep pressure on for full implementation (of ICCS obligations)?

Mr. Duc: We should keep the pressure on to prevent minimizing the role of the ICCS by reducing the budget and personnel. And we should have an understanding on the structure so it is not paralyzed. What would happen if the PRG applied for aid from the IBRD consortium?

Sec. Kissinger: We would totally oppose this.

Amb. Martin: In any case, there would be no way of getting aid to the area (under PRG control). You have said that you would have no objection to this (assistance to the PRG area) if this did not involve recognition.

Mr. Duc: Some governments now consider that the PRG is a government because it had signed (the Agreement and the Act of Paris).

Sec. Kissinger: McNamara would certainly not approve (of IBRD aid to the PRG). All of my talks with McNamara have been in the context [Page 437] of aid to Saigon. I will get McNamara’s views when he returns from Nairobi and pass them on to Ambassador Phuong.

Mr. Duc: What chance is there of admitting two Vietnams into the UN?

Sec. Kissinger: The Communists will ask for the admission of three Vietnams. You don’t want that. We won’t even get the two Koreas in. North Vietnam would reject such a proposal or insist on PRG admission.

(Mr. Kissinger noted that the Iranian Foreign Minister was waiting to see him and the meeting ended.)

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 105, Country Files, Far East, Vietnam, GVN Memcons, June 1973–August 1974. Secret. The meeting was held at the Waldorf Towers. Kissinger was attending the UN General Assembly session.