11. Memorandum of Conversation1

PARTICIPANTS

  • Pham Van Dong, Premier
  • Nguyen Duy Trinh, Deputy Premier and Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Le Duc Tho, Special Adviser to DRV Delegation to Paris Conference on Vietnam
  • Nguyen Co Thach, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Phan Hien, Member of DRV Delegation to Paris Conference on Vietnam
  • Tran Quang Co, Member of DRV Delegation to Paris Conference on Vietnam
  • Nguyen Dinh Phuong, Interpreter
  • Notetaker
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Ambassador William H. Sullivan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Far East Asia and Pacific Affairs
  • Richard T. Kennedy, Senior NSC Staff
  • Winston Lord, NSC Staff
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff
  • David A. Engel, NSC Staff, Interpreter
  • Mrs. Bonnie D. Andrews, Notetaker

[The Premier, Deputy Premier, and Le Duc Tho greeted Dr. Kissinger and his party at the entrance to the President’s House. The group took seats in the reception room. Photographs were taken, and Dr. Kissinger and the Premier began their conversation.]

Dr. Kissinger: I read an interview you gave in 1965 with Harrison Salisbury.2 It was a profound analysis of the situation.

Pham Van Dong: Now we have other subjects to talk about.

Dr. Kissinger: We have come here to start a new relationship. We have had too many armistices in the past, never a peace.

Pham Van Dong: I fully agree with Dr. Kissinger’s views, and I hope Dr. Kissinger’s visit will bring about an initial important contribution to this.

Dr. Kissinger: That is our firm intention.

[Page 41]

Pham Van Dong: I hope this happens. Of course, very great efforts are required, and perseverance.

Dr. Kissinger: It requires patience, too, for each side’s difficulties because it requires a big change for each side.

Pham Van Dong: So we understand, this question, and this time we will also talk about these questions. We should make an effort to arrive at some solution, and then continue to solve the problems.

Dr. Kissinger: We should set ourselves a goal and then decide what steps have to be taken over a period of time.

Pham Van Dong: Quite right.

Dr. Kissinger: Our goal is the normalization of our relations. I don’t want to have to negotiate with the Special Adviser again in difficult circumstances. He’s very difficult. [Laughter]

Pham Van Dong: He told me there were some difficult moments, and also some moments that were not difficult.

Dr. Kissinger: I was asked about your colleague on television the other day, and I said “in difficult periods, he was one of the most difficult men I have ever met, but when he wanted to settle he was one of the easiest to settle with that I have ever met.”

Pham Van Dong: So we understand Comrade Le Duc Tho. But all of us are the same. [Laughter]

Dr. Kissinger: That’s what I was afraid of.

Pham Van Dong: We have a saying: “Better discontent first than to lose affection later.” And in European languages also there is a similar saying.

So we should bring a new relationship.

Dr. Kissinger: Exactly, and we should concentrate on establishing a really new relationship.

Pham Van Dong: Yes, on the basis that we make joint action on a number of questions, and accomplish our obligations to implement everything we have pledged to do. With long-sight and broad vision.

Dr. Kissinger: That is most important, that we have broad vision.

Pham Van Dong: There have been changes in the world, and also changes in the situation of this region. It is our earnest desire to have such a relationship with the United States as Dr. Kissinger just mentioned.

Dr. Kissinger: I told the Special Adviser many years ago, when we were still at war, that one day the DRV could see in the U.S. a country that was interested in its development and its independence, rather than an enemy. Because we have no interest in military activity here. I think the time has now come to implement this.

Pham Van Dong: And this is also our thinking, that some day will come when the U.S. will adopt an appropriate attitude to this region [Page 42]of the world. And we will have an opportunity to talk about this question.

Dr. Kissinger: We are prepared to do that.

Pham Van Dong: Because we shall envisage on what basis now the relationship of our countries should be founded. It should be a solid basis, a reasonable basis, and a mutually interested basis. Otherwise it is not possible. Otherwise, what we have achieved until now—the Agreement we have signed—would be only a temporary stabilization of the situation, a temporary respite. That is not our intention.

Dr. Kissinger: It has happened too often.

Pham Van Dong: [Laughs] But I think we shall not do that this time.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree.

Pham Van Dong: A great price has been paid for that. We should draw correct conclusions from that.

Dr. Kissinger: And we shall also draw correct conclusions from the historical evolution, and look correctly at the long term interests of ours and other countries in this region.

Pham Van Dong: In this connection, this is also what we are realizing. And we will exchange views on that, to see whether we have the same vision of the situation and the prospects. It is very important.

Dr. Kissinger: And if not, whether nevertheless we can adopt policies that are parallel.

Pham Van Dong: It should be parallel policies, but it would be better if the policies can meet!

Dr. Kissinger: [Laughs] The only reason I said we should have the same policies is that the Special Adviser has been trying to teach me Leninism for four years, and keeps telling me I am a poor student. [Laughter]

Pham Van Dong: Never mind!

Dr. Kissinger has stressed in his books on foreign policy that geographical conditions should be taken into account, and historical conditions, too. And everyone should have clear views of their own possibilities.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree with you. [Laughter]

Pham Van Dong: We Vietnamese living in this area will remain here forever. But you are from the other side of the ocean. Should we take account of this fact too?

Dr. Kissinger: Very much. It is a very important fact.

Pham Van Dong: I think we can talk about this.

Dr. Kissinger: That is why we are no long-term threat—despite recent events—to your independence.

[Page 43]

Pham Van Dong: But we should think this over. And first of all we should consider the implementation of the Agreement. It is very important.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree. It is the first item of business.

Pham Van Dong: So we have an agenda.

[At 3:15 p.m., the group moved to the conference room to begin the formal meeting. Additional photographs were taken. The conversation then resumed.]

Pham Van Dong: Dr. Kissinger, today on behalf of the Government of the Democratic Republic and on my personal behalf, I welcome you as the representative of the President of the United States, and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, and all the members of your party.

I welcome Dr. Kissinger and your party to Hanoi to continue the discussions with us on the very important questions of mutual concern. It is the first official meeting and talks between us after the signing of the Paris Agreement. And it is our hope that this meeting and these talks will bring about initial fine results, which will open up other new things and other talks which we will continue to do in the future. Because we are facing very important, very difficult, and very complicated questions that need efforts on both sides to solve.

Once again, welcome to Dr. Kissinger and his party.

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. Special Adviser, and Mr. Foreign Minister. On behalf of my colleagues, on behalf of my Government, I would like to thank you for the very gracious reception we have received, and for all the arrangements that have been made for us. We consider this meeting of historical importance. It is the first time a senior American delegation has been received in Hanoi in the existence of the DRV. [The Premier nods yes.] We have both undertaken this step after overcoming great difficulty. We have come to respect you as tenacious and courageous adversaries.

[Mr. Phuong corrects Mr. Engel’s translation.] I understand his accent is not that of Hanoi. [Laughter]

And we have come here now because we have come to the conclusion that if we look at an historical period it is not natural for the DRV and the United States to be enemies.

We clearly endorse different ideologies, and it would be idle to pretend otherwise, but we have proved in our relationship with other countries that this need not be an obstacle to good relations and cooperative action. In the long term, from an historical perspective, a strong and independent self-reliant Vietnam is in no way inconsistent with American national interests. We slid into war against each other partly through misconceptions on each side. We thought the war was directed from one central office that was not in Indochina. And [Page 44]perhaps you drew certain lessons from your history that were not exactly accurate. But whatever the conditions under which we are acting, our interest in Indochina is the maintenance of the independence and sovereignty of the countries of Indochina, and that, we understand, is not opposed to your interests.

We are prepared to make a major and serious effort to normalize our relationship with the Democratic Republic and deal with you each on a basis of strict equality and without special benefit for either side. This means that we must implement the Agreement correctly and carefully. Beyond the Agreement, it means we should increase our contacts and keep each other informed about our intentions. We will deal with you honestly and fairly. It is inevitable that there may be occasional disagreements. But if we understand our long term objectives, and if we remain committed to this aim, we can overcome these disagreements. And then this meeting can be recorded as the start of an historic period of a new and better relationship between our countries. That is the attitude with which the President has asked me to come here.

Pham Van Dong: I highly appreciate the views which Dr. Kissinger has just expressed. But allow me to return to one point. I think it is necessary to make some comment.

I think that what has just happened between us—and Dr. Kissinger referred to it as a misunderstanding—in this connection we have repeatedly expressed our views. And on our part I think what we have done, we ought to have done that. That is, to wage a war to defend our national fundamental rights. However, I agree with you, Doctor, on that point, that this war was not something necessary, something necessary to happen. If the U.S. had not had the policy which it had in the past—but it is something past, something bygone, and we should draw some conclusions about that for the present and the future. And we should, in the spirit we have just mentioned outside and we continue in this room, shift from war to peace, to shift from confrontation to reconciliation as stipulated in the Agreement, and to bring a new relationship, a solid relationship, on a basis agreed upon by the two parties and aiming at the long-term goals as Dr. Kissinger has just mentioned. As far as we are concerned, we will firmly follow this direction—that is to say to implement the signed Agreement, to implement all the provisions of the Agreement. And we should remember that our two countries are those which have made very great effort to bring about the Agreement. And I think that in order to have firm and strict implementation of the Agreement our two governments should make an important contribution; also all the signatory parties have the obligation to respect and implement the Agreement. I think that the implementation of the Agreement is a decisive factor in the change of relationship between our two countries.

[Page 45]

As far as we are concerned, as far as the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam is concerned, as far as the Vietnamese people are concerned, we shall respect and strictly implement the Agreement which has been signed. And we will do our utmost to demand that the U.S. and the other parties implement strictly the Agreement too. And I fully agree with Dr. Kissinger about the importance he has attached to the implementation of the Agreement. And I think it is a good thing if we begin our talk here today with this point of view in mind.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree, Mr. Prime Minister, that we should begin with the implementation of the Agreement and then move on to our bilateral relationships. We have prepared an analysis of the implementation of the Agreement, which in your terminology may be somewhat subjective, [Laughter] because it leads us to the conclusion that we have implemented the Agreement somewhat more strictly than has your side.

Pham Van Dong: [Laughs] I disagree with you on that point.

Dr. Kissinger: I thought we would have an initial disagreement. But I thought we would have a frank exchange of views. We are prepared to consider what comments you have, and if you are prepared to do the same thing . . . Now how should we proceed, Mr. Prime Minister? Who should listen to whose complaints first? [Laughter]

Pham Van Dong: Our politeness calls for the guest to speak first. [Laughter]

Dr. Kissinger: I have prepared my statement according to the chapters of the Agreement. I can make my comments on one chapter first and then perhaps the Prime Minister can make his comments. Or else I can make all of mine first.

Pham Van Dong: Please speak first, Doctor, and express your views on all the chapters.

Dr. Kissinger: [Laughs] Well, on Chapter I, I think there have been no violations that we can record.

Pham Van Dong: [Laughs] It is a good beginning. But on our part we have many remarks on that.

Dr. Kissinger: On Chapter I? [The Premier nods.]

On Chapter II, which deals with ceasefire, withdrawals, and replacements, I would like to make the following comments: The U.S. has strictly observed the ceasefire and has conducted no military operations in North Vietnam since January 15 and in South Vietnam from January 28. We have ceased all reconnaissance activities against the territory of the DRV, and as we have promised, we have moved our aircraft carriers a considerable distance away from the Democratic Republic. I understand one aircraft carrier has been moved, by common agreement, to support the mine sweeping operation.

[Page 46]

We are concerned, however, about the number of ceasefire violations which are occurring within South Vietnam. We know that your side made an effort prior to the ceasefire to seize as much territory as possible and that this effort in fact continued after the ceasefire. Our reports indicate that there have been over 200 major violations and about 1900 minor violations. There is no point in reading to you a long list of violations which has been given to me. I have a whole book here of reports, and we would be glad to discuss them with your experts.

Le Duc Tho: We have also a book ready!

Mr. Kissinger: The Special Adviser always operates on the basis of strict reciprocity! But what I have prepared is a summary of the military reports which we have received, and I thought it might be of interest to you. It is the same as what we have received in Washington, except that the classification has been removed so I am not committing any illegal act by giving them to you. [Laughter] If your interpreter needs help with the bureaucratic English we will be happy to help. [Laughter] I have trouble understanding it myself. [Dr. Kissinger hands over three copies of compilation of major ceasefire violations, Tab A.]3 During the trip will you please tell me if the Special Adviser really understands English? I have always suspected it but never had it confirmed.

We recognize that it is difficult to end a war which has taken this particular form and we also recognize that some of the situations are ambiguous. Also, because we have withdrawn our advisers from the districts it is not easy for us to get independent reporting. But still, making all these allowances, it seems to us that there is a persistent pattern of attacks—indirect attacks, artillery attacks—which must threaten the ceasefire if they are continued.

In this connection, another problem that concerns us is that the parties are obligated under Article 5 of the Ceasefire Protocol to do their utmost to remove obstacles to civilian movement within fifteen days of the signing of the Agreement. Instead, since the ceasefire, many roads have been blocked and the road blocks have not been removed. For instance, Route 1 in several places—near the border of Quang Ngai and Binh Dinh Provinces, in Phu Yen Province, for example, and elsewhere. Routes 14 and 19 to Pleiku. Route 20 near the border of Lam Dong and Long Khanh Provinces. So we believe that out of these meetings removal of these road blocks should emerge.

Now let me turn to Article 2, mineclearing. We take our obligation in this respect very seriously. We regret the delay occasioned by the need to assemble the necessary equipment. Our experts tell us that they [Page 47]will begin clearing the Haiphong Channel on February 26 and will then complete that within 40 days. Our experts tell us that they have received very good cooperation from your experts.

So what I want you, Mr. Prime Minister, to understand is that we take our obligation very seriously. If you are satisfied with the work of Admiral McCauley, then the experts should continue to meet, and if you have any difficulty you should communicate directly with me through our established channels and I will make an effort to remove any obstacles.

But I would find it helpful if you communicate with us, Mr. Prime Minister, if you would be very concrete in your comments because I frankly do not understand much about mine clearing. [Tho laughs] So I would like specific comments so we can issue appropriate orders. I know even less about mine sweeping than I know about Leninism. [The Premier laughs.] So it really would help to get your concrete proposals.

With respect to Article 5, the withdrawal of forces, we have given you the numbers we will withdraw every 15 days, which will roughly be a quarter of the total forces. We have, in fact, withdrawn 10% more than we needed to in the first 15-day period. But that is not a major issue.

The Republic of Korea forces are also withdrawing at the rate that we have agreed to in the Protocol. One difficulty, as you know, is the fact that your side is harassing the roads over which they are withdrawing. And therefore, strict observance of the ceasefire would ease this problem.

I have also told you, Mr. Prime Minister, about our aircraft carriers, with respect to which we will strictly carry out our understanding.

Now we come to Article 7, the reintroduction of troops and war matériel. I understand that the issue of legitimate ports of entry has been resolved as far as the Saigon side is concerned. But there are a number of matters which quite frankly concern us very much.

According to Article 7 of the Agreement, after the ceasefire military equipment can be reintroduced only on a replacement basis, periodically, under the supervision of the ICCS and the Two-Party Commission. Now we have received indisputable evidence that, for example, on February 6 large supplies were introduced over the beach into Duc Pho Province; and that 175 trucks crossed the DMZ over Route 1068 on February 6. Also we have indications that over 200 tanks are heading in the direction of South Vietnam through Laos and Cambodia, and some across the DMZ. And this, of course, raises serious questions in our minds. There is no way that these can be legally brought into South Vietnam from Laos and Cambodia at all, since the Agreement says those countries cannot be used as bases. And there is no way [Page 48]they can be introduced into South Vietnam at all after the ceasefire, because the only way is replacements and there have not been that many losses.

Again, I have a whole list of day by day infiltrations. But I do not think any purpose would be served, since you must know what is being done. We are prepared to observe strictly the requirements of Article 7. But it would be difficult to maintain this if the provisions with respect to replacement are not strictly observed by your side as well.

Here are the figures on the tanks. [He hands over a map given to him by Ambassador Bunker which listed estimates of current tank infiltration: 223 tanks heading for South Vietnam, plus 25–30 in Southern Laos and 27 in Cambodia.]4

Le Duc Tho: You are always obsessed with the tanks at An Loc.

Dr. Kissinger: Because our experts told us it was impossible that you had tanks across Laos. Now our experts are agreeing with you.

Pham Van Dong: Now your experts want to be relieved.

Dr. Kissinger: I am using only information which we can document. And we have not made a formal protest because we wanted to have an open discussion with you.

Now these are the comments I have on Chapter II. Should I proceed to Chapter III?

Pham Van Dong: Please.

Dr. Kissinger: With respect to the prisoners and civilian detainees: First let me turn to U.S. Prisoners of War. I have explained to Special Adviser Le Duc Tho on many occasions our extreme concern with respect to prisoners and, therefore, the fact that the American people will not have any ambiguity with respect to this. As we go over the lists of prisoners, the list from the DRV was reasonably consistent with our own records. But the list from the PRG and above all, the Pathet Lao list, have raised very serious questions. There are 80–100 cases of men lost in South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos on whom we have clear evidence of survival on the ground. This evidence includes voice communications in advance of capture, or publication of names or photographs by your side after capture. We are prepared to provide information on these cases, including information about dates and locations and indications of survival. We brought 19 of these cases with us, including a number from Laos, in which we even have pictures of their capture that were published by the Pathet Lao, and some are pictures published by you. And for this reason we cannot consider the lists satisfactory.

[Page 49]

Now let me turn specifically to the Laos list. There are approximately 350 military and civilians listed as captured or missing in Laos. Of these we believe that 215 were lost under circumstances in which we believe some information should be available. The LPF list of ten personnel lost in Laos, which you provided to us on February 1, cannot be considered complete. If I can be frank, Mr. Prime Minister, I believe that all of them were Americans captured in Laos by your forces, not by Pathet Lao forces. We have brought you our records of the people of whom we have evidence that they were captured in Laos, together with the evidence—and in two cases there are photographs—of their capture. [Dr. Kissinger hands over Laos compilation, Tab B, to the Prime Minister.]5

We have a similar list, which we will hand you this evening, of South Vietnam and North Vietnam.

Now in addition, we have other evidence; on 3 October 1967, the Pathet Lao Radio announced that between 17 May and 16 September 1967 they had “captured about a dozen U.S. pilots”. On February 2, 1972, Soth Phetrasy stated that “some tens of prisoners” were being held by the Pathet Lao. The French phrase used was “quelques dixaines”. Also, the LPF acknowledged only nine Americans on the list of February 1. This represents 2.5% of the prisoners and missing personnel in Laos. In contrast, the DRV list represents 45% and the PRG list represents 20% of the total we have listed as [POW’s or] missing.

For all these reasons, we must ask you urgently to reexamine the Laos list, or give us an accounting, or explain the discrepancies.

There are other aspects of the American prisoner problem. We were unhappy about the fact that delivery of mail to our prisoners—discussions did not start about it until February 5.

We would like to ask you—it is not a complaint but for humanitarian reasons—for the DRV and the PRG to provide information on the cause of death and the place of burial of those who died, both for those who died after capture and are on the list, and those who died before capture and are not on any list.

We would also appreciate if it graves registration teams could operate in North Vietnam and PRG areas of South Vietnam, and in Laos, to search for dead and missing and to examine aircraft crash sites.

With respect to Vietnamese civilian detainees, Article 8(c), we are very much aware of your special concern for this problem. One difficulty is that the PRG has not yet given a list of its civilian detainees or places of detention. But nevertheless we have made a major effort in [Page 50]Saigon to begin the release of civilian personnel. We have been told that President Thieu either has announced or will soon announce the release of 5,000 civilian detainees in the very near future.

On Chapter IV, the political settlement in South Vietnam, we think it is too early to make a judgment. We have no special complaint.

I think the two parties have begun to talk. I hope the Special Adviser has noticed that Ambassador Lam is in the hospital. [Tho laughs.] We take you very seriously.

Le Duc Tho: But at the same time there has been a proposal that the two parties should resume talks in Saigon, Tan Son Nhut. They have not agreed.

Dr. Kissinger: I am not saying there is no difficulty, but I am saying the process has begun. But maybe you have comments. I am making a list of our complaints.

On Chapter V, of course, my comment with respect to your truck movement across the DMZ would be a clear violation of Chapter V.

With respect to Chapter VI, we have made a major effort to move your delegations and to provide necessary equipment for them. I understand that you have some difficulties to report with respect to Chapter VI and the treatment of your personnel, and we will take your views very seriously and I will listen to it very attentatively. But if I can be very frank, having had some personal experience, I think that the Deputy Chairman of your delegation [Luu Van Loi] does not have a personality that eases conflicts. [Laughter]

Pham Van Dong: I think that it is a very tenacious prejudice on your part. [Laughter]

Mr. Kissinger: Based on experience! And if he writes the reports on which you base your judgments, I am a little uneasy.

Pham Van Dong: [Laughs] Be calm, be assured.

Mr. Kissinger: I am listing all our complaints. Chapter VII, on Laos and Cambodia, I propose we discuss it separately.

Pham Van Dong: I agree.

Mr. Kissinger: Chapter VIII, on postwar relations. We shall also discuss separately the problem of reconstruction. But I will say that I believe in our public pronouncements you have behaved correctly, and will do the same thing.

Chapter IX, we have no criticism or complaint. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: There are no violations.

Mr. Kissinger: There are no violations. Your Foreign Minister signed the Agreement properly!

I have put forward these comments in a constructive spirit, because we must try to solve them. And I am prepared to listen in a similar spirit to your comments and criticism.

[Page 51]

Pham Van Dong: I propose a short break and then we resume. We have a great deal of work.

[The meeting broke at 4:40 p.m. The Premier and Dr. Kissinger continued their conversation informally in the reception hall, along the following lines:]

Mr. Kissinger: We have experience with your tenacity, and now we will go in a positive direction.

Pham Van Dong: It is necessary to have peace. It is our hope. Our whole meeting proves it. We will be constructive in this meeting and we will prove that fact.

Mr. Kissinger: We are also making a very major effort. And we must discuss such matters as our communications. We can have really confidential exchanges. If we get in better contact we can keep each other better informed.

You have made the Special Adviser a great T.V. star. In Paris.

Pham Van Dong: It is true? [Laughter]

Mr. Kissinger: But actually when you were smiling we were not making much progress.

Pham Van Dong: So the journalists were wrong. Without any bad intention. But you see what was written about the negotiation. They were suspicious.

Mr. Kissinger: Yes.

Pham Van Dong: Even after signing they were suspicious.

Mr. Kissinger: I think we should make the Agreement successful. It is important to be concrete but I agree that we should have a relationship that will take them by surprise.

Pham Van Dong: It is my wish.

Mr. Kissinger: And we should look at the future seriously.

Pham Van Dong: Any problems should be realistically solved.

Mr. Kissinger: And we will be judged by our ability to solve them. We must be honest with each other. Then we can analyze each problem.

Pham Van Dong: In our language we have a saying, “We should see the trees but we should also see the forest.” Do you agree with me?

This is the one question.

Mr. Kissinger: I think it is important that we find a way of promoting the Agreement about Laos.

Le Duc Tho: How is the climate here to you?

Mr. Kissinger: Very pleasant.

Pham Van Dong: This is a good season here.

[The group reconvened in the conference room at 5:10 p.m., minus Mr. Co and the other North Vietnamese notetaker.]

[Page 52]

Mr. Kissinger: [pointing to his briefing book] I am going to read this whole book to you, cover to cover.

Pham Van Dong: It will take us one month.

Le Duc Tho: So we have printed the Agreement. [He shows Dr. Kissinger a printed booklet of the Agreement.]

Mr. Kissinger: In Vietnamese? All the Protocols.

Pham Van Dong: Mr. Special Adviser and gentlemen, today allow me to present to you our general views. Of course, we attach particular importance to implementation of the Agreement. But at the same time I will raise a number of other questions, for the information of Mr. Special Adviser and gentlemen, of questions of our concern. To see whether we have the same vision of these, and to see how we can solve the problems we have to solve. In this spirit, sir, I would like to speak to you about five points.

First, regarding how to maintain and to consolidate the peace, a durable and lasting peace. This is a very fundamental point, in which all the parties are concerned and all the parties should attach importance to it, and to do their utmost to contribute to that, to contribute to and maintain a durable and lasting peace. The Paris Agreement is actually an agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace. So the respect of and the implementation of the Agreement will consist in fulfilling and implementing this important provision of the Agreement. On our part we will make tremendous efforts, great efforts, to carry it out. And today I would like to reaffirm this official stand of our Government and you can be assured of our determination in doing so.

Our Vietnamese people, we have been struggling for scores of years to achieve freedom, independence, and peace. Now we have obtained fundamentally this aim. We will be determined to maintain and consolidate peace and independence in South Vietnam and eventually to peacefully reunify our country.

Secondly, all of the provisions, the whole of the Agreement, must be implemented. That is to say, to implement all the provisions regarding the national fundamental right of the Vietnamese people, the right to self-determination of the South Vietnamese people, and the reunification of the country. These are very important provisions in Chapters IV and V of the Agreement. We know that all parties should exert a great deal of effort to implement these provisions.

We are greatly concerned about what is happening now in South Vietnam. Those are violations of all provisions of the Agreement, particularly the aforesaid provisions. There is all the more reason for the parties to respect and implement all provisions of the Agreement. On our part, the Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam solemnly declare that we will have full goodwill and seriousness [Page 53]to implement the Agreement. But it involves here the deep aspirations of the entire Vietnamese people, and the South Vietnamese people in particular, and we also urge the United States Government and the Government of the Republic of Vietnam to also have goodwill and seriousness to implement the Agreement. Otherwise the maintenance and the consolidation of peace will be greatly endangered. This is what the world public opinion is concerned about, and this concern is well-grounded. We should remember the historical lesson of the violation of the 1954 Geneva Agreement between the then Saigon Administration, and the then Saigon Administration was supported and pushed forward by the U.S.

Why do we think it necessary to stress on this point to you? Because all of these points are related to the policy of Washington towards Vietnam, particularly toward South Vietnam. Is it true that the signing of the Agreement has put an end to a period of war and intervention and introduced a period of peace? In our talks we have been referring to a turning point in the relations between our two countries. And this turning point calls for a very important change of direction of our policy.

Today I would like to frankly tell you, Dr. Kissinger and gentlemen, we wonder whether the policy of vietnamization of the war still continues in South Vietnam. If so, what change have we witnessed and what will the situation lead to? We think that the situation has undergone basic changes; it is an irreversible situation. It is completely different from the situation after the signing of the 1954 Geneva Agreement. It is also completely different from the situation in 1960, and completely different from the situation in 1969. It is now a new situation in South Vietnam, in Vietnam as a whole, in Indochina, and in the world as a whole. The general trend of all countries in this region, the general trend of the world as a whole, is to stand for peace, national independence, and the full respect and implementation of the Paris Agreement.

I say this to show that we, the Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam, we have great determination to see that the Agreement be strictly implemented, to see all the provisions of the Agreement be implemented, to see all the chapters come true. And here I emphasize Chapters III, IV, V, and Chapter VIII.

Mr. Special Adviser has just listed a number of so-called violations by our side. We will give consideration to this. We will inform each other in this connection. Because it is our desire to see the Agreement strictly implemented. There are points raised by Dr. Kissinger that astonished me myself. Let me consider these points, and return to them and tell you why I should be astonished.

[Page 54]

Here I would like to place emphasis on measures to be taken to implement the Agreement. The military provisions as well as the political provisions, because all the provisions form a complete whole that cannot be dissociated from each other. And speaking of the general spirit of the Agreement, the political provisions have particular importance. These are the provisions of Chapter IV regarding the formation of the National Council for National Reconciliation and Concord, and to advance to the organization of free and democratic general elections, so as to create an organ of power to stabilize the situation in South Vietnam and to consolidate a durable and lasting peace.

However, we have one question to raise: Do the rulers in Saigon want the same thing? It is a very basic question, a very complete question indeed. We are aware of the statements made by the Saigon leaders when the Agreement was not yet signed, and when the Agreement was signed, and until now. These statements prove what is contrary to the provisions of the Agreement.

So I raise this question to you gentlemen, and I hope to know your answer to this question. In a word, the Paris Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam calls for an end to the policies that started the war and to adopt policies that will insure peace. And we do not think the Agreement is only a temporary respite. Therefore, on our part we will do our utmost to implement the Agreement, to have a durable and lasting peace, responding to the interests and aspirations of the Vietnamese people and the peoples of this region of the world.

Thirdly, the third point, regarding the U.S. contribution to healing the war wounds and the reconstruction of the damaged economy of Vietnam. This is provided for by Chapter VIII of the Agreement, and acknowledged in the note President Nixon addressed to me.6

In our mind, we think this is an obligation of the U.S. in view of the destruction caused to our country by the U.S. I think this is an obligation including many aspects. Today I would like to lay stress on the moral and honor aspect. How should we evaluate the destruction caused to our country? It is known to everyone that heavy damage has [Page 55]been caused by bombs and shells to the system of communication in our country, to our seaways, highways, airways, many villages, railways; to the industrial system—including manufacturing, power stations, metallurgical factories, and many other installations; in broad large rural areas with many numerous hydraulic constructions, many public utilities; and other works serving our culture, such as hospitals, schools, museums. I think these destructions cannot be counted in money by these installations.

It is known now that many countries are asking us what they can do now to help heal the wounds of war. We will strongly develop economic relations with other countries on the basis of mutual respect and confidence.

Therefore, today I would like to emphasize on the free disposal of the amount of money to be actually spent, so that we can partly rebuild the destroyed works. Of course, the greater part of the equipment and installations will be bought from your country. And we can agree on other uses and amounts.

This is a very significant question between our two countries. We should solve this so as to wipe out the past and open a new period in the relationship between us. It is not here a pretext to seek what has been obsolete and no longer appropriate. That we will never accept. We would like to build up, to establish, long-term economic and commercial relations with the U.S. on this basis, on the basis of mutual respect. We seek a solution to this point.

Fourth, there remains another question not less important, the question of normalization of relations between the DRV and the U.S. This is the necessary logic of the new situation. Many close allies of the U.S. have adopted an appropriate attitude, and that is to establish normal relations with the DRV.

The normalization of relations between us involves two aspects. First, this is the natural result of the implementation of points which the two parties will jointly implement. At the same time, this will create favorable conditions for the two parties to go forward to fulfill their respective obligations. This consolidates and develops the new relationship, a normal relationship, between our two countries. Therefore we are prepared to discuss this question and to find a specific solution to this question too.

Fifth, there still are some very important questions that arise now. Now on what basis should we envisage the change of direction to the positive prospect I have just described regarding the relationship between our two countries? There should be a practical and solid basis for such efforts and positive prospects. Then, what is this basis? In our view we think this basis should be a realistic and correct assessment of the present situation and the situation in the foreseeable future. This is the formation of independent, peaceful, sovereign and neutral states [Page 56]in the spirit of the 1954 Geneva Agreement, stable states sufficiently strong to defend themselves and to cope with invasion from outside. So this is some necessary irreversible and irresistible historical trend.

The DRV government fully historically realizes this trend. It supports this trend. It is in our practical and long term interest. And I think that after this war, the U.S. is also concerned about such a trend. Anyone should take into account geographical and historical conditions, taking into account our own abilities and the abilities of other people so as to establish most appropriate conditions for peace and to support the natural independence of other peoples. And the policies and views not appropriate for the present situation should be given up and be avoided.

So I have presented to you five points.

  • —The first point, the maintenance and consolidation of peace in keeping with the Paris Agreement.
  • —The second point is the implementation of all the provisions of the Agreement.
  • —Third, the U.S. obligation to contribute to healing the war wounds and reconstruction in North Vietnam.
  • —The fourth point is new and normalized relations between our two countries.
  • —Fifth is our vision of the situation in this region.

So I have raised with you very important questions regarding our two countries. The new conditions created by the signing of the Paris Agreement call for solutions of very important questions. We would like to have a positive solution to these questions. And it is our wish that we can together with the U.S. solve these questions. I have presented rather clearly and frankly these problems to you. I think that this is necessary, for your comprehension and mutual confidence.

Thank you for your attention, Mr. Special Adviser and gentlemen.

We will discuss later the questions of Laos and Cambodia.

Mr. Kissinger: Mr. Prime Minister, I have listened with great attention to your exposition, which gave a very frank and comprehensive statement of your views. We will study it with the greatest care. But let me make a few preliminary comments.

First, there is no difference between us in the formal statements of your principles. We agree completely that the peace should be maintained and consolidated. We agree that all the provisions of the Agreement should be implemented. We have agreed in the Agreement and also in the note which the President has sent to you that we will help in the reconstruction of North Vietnam. We agree that our relations should be normalized, and we agree that Indochina should be composed of sovereign, neutral, independent states with the capacity of defending themselves. And with no foreign troops on their territory.

[Page 57]

So we agree on the principles. But I am sure the Prime Minister will agree with me when I say that it is the application of the principles that often causes problems—a fact which my colleagues in the universities do not always understand. [Laughter] I will take the Special Adviser to Harvard with me when he visits America—for my protection. [laughter]

Le Duc Tho: Maybe the American universities have not understood that, but Mr. Special Adviser has.

Mr. Kissinger: I am sure that the Prime Minister knows that many wars have been fought in the name of consolidating peace. As Clausewitz said, “the aggressor is always peaceful; he would like to enter a territory unopposed.” [laughter] Therefore, we should when we seriously discuss these principles see if we can also agree on what we understand by the structure of peace. And in fact the Prime Minister came to that point when he discussed his fifth proposition.

Secondly, with respect to the second point, that all the provisions of the Agreement must be respected. We will do our utmost to observe the obligation of the Agreement. But it is also important that all the parties understand, especially with respect to the political provisions, that we are talking about a political process which needs time for maturing. If the Agreement is used offensively, as a constant means of pressure, it will draw all the parties in—because we too have our principles involved. So we have to act as statesmen, with a long view, and have some patience.

With respect to your third point, about the American contribution. We will discuss this problem in detail, I suppose tomorrow. After our discussion of Laos and Cambodia. But I would like to make a general observation today, Mr. Prime Minister. I have the impression from my conversations with the Special Adviser that the Politburo of the Lao Dong party may be highly experienced in political warfare but not with the American political system. I would put it differently but I cannot.

Pham Van Dong: Of course, we cannot be expert in this field. [laughter]

Mr. Kissinger: I do not say this as a criticism. But it is therefore important that you have some confidence in us as to how to manage this particular contribution question, I mean how to obtain it from our Congress. I know that trust in others is not the most developed Vietnamese characteristic! [The Premier smiles and nods a denial.] And I must say, looking at your history, it is even understandable.

But we must spend some time tomorrow discussing what we can do immediately and what we must have some time to arrange. You will have noticed that in every public statement I made I have emphasized the importance of the American contribution to reconstruction. The American President called attention to it. But you have also noticed we have had enormous domestic opposition, and you have to [Page 58]let us manage our domestic opposition. If you press us too hard you will jeopardize what we want to do and what we will do.

The Prime Minister said to me when we were speaking outside that, whatever happens, you will stay here and we will be 10,000 miles away. We know this is a fact. So you should not think of this with the attitude that we are trying to trick you. We have a common problem. You should therefore approach it with the attitude that it will happen, that we will carry it out, but that we should work together. We will talk to you about how it should be handled. We have put some booklets together for you that explain the background. And we will even suggest to you when you should mobilize your less precise-minded but very emotional friends in the U.S.—but not yet, it is too early. [laughter] Don’t inflict Cora Weiss on us prematurely. [laughter]

But, seriously, when we discuss tomorrow we can give you advice too on which groups will be of help and which groups can do you damage. You can ignore our advice.

The problem of economic reconstruction is a very concrete one and we have to work it out. There is no disagreement in principle. We will present to you our analysis of the situation and then we will suggest how together we can deal with it. We stand by everything that has been said before.

With respect to the Prime Minister’s fourth point, the normalization of relations, we will discuss with you concrete stages through which the process should go. And we have specific suggestions on how to accomplish this. We agree with the Prime Minister’s sentiment, that this should be our objective, and that we should set up and elaborate our means of communication. First at the highest levels, so that we can be sure that we act with full realization of each other’s policies, and then even at the technical levels. So we accept the Prime Minister’s ideas, and our conversations here will be primarily a technical discussion on how to accomplish it.

With respect to your fifth point, the future of Indochina—that Indochina should be composed of independent, neutral and sovereign states. This is our policy. And it will be our basic policy. We would only say that each of the states should also recognize its fallibility and no state should claim that it alone knows the content of sovereignty, independence, and neutrality.

So we have achieved theoretical agreement on these fives points, and we have pointed out some of the ambiguities and difficulties. And we are prepared to discuss them in whatever order the Prime Minister proposes to discuss them, or to move on to other topics.

Pham Van Dong: Yes, we will probably return tomorrow to the questions of implementing the Agreement, and after that the question of Laos and the question of Cambodia, and then the U.S. contribution to the healing of the war wounds, and then the normalization of relations [Page 59]between the two countries and the methods of communications. As to the views regarding the countries of this region, we can discuss this whenever we wish.

Mr. Kissinger: This will emerge from the practice of how we act with respect to the countries of the region. May I say one thing with respect to, especially Laos, but Laos and Cambodia: We have the firm intention of using our visit here as an opportunity in America to make clear that a new phase has begun in our relationship. This cannot be very convincing if clear understandings and clear provisions of the Agreement are not being implemented. And therefore there is some urgency to meeting the deadlines we have agreed to.

Pham Van Dong: I agree with you on that point.

Mr. Kissinger: We will be prepared to discuss it with you tomorrow if that is the Prime Minister’s preference.

Pham Van Dong: Tomorrow then.

Mr. Kissinger: All right then. My Laotian expert points out correctly that if we don’t do it in the morning, it will be the 12th before we know it. For all we know they may have signed a ceasefire this afternoon.

Le Duc Tho: And so since we have had an understanding with you previously, we will discuss this question with you tomorrow and there will be a rapid settlement. The other understandings will be quickly settled as quickly as we have today. [laughter]

Mr. Kissinger: The Special Adviser must remember that his powers of persuasion are greater than mine. [laughter]

Le Duc Tho: It is not necessarily true.

Pham Van Dong: So we adjourn now, and I hope Mr. Special Adviser and your party that you should have a good first night in Hanoi and a good sleep. Tomorrow we will meet at 10:00.

Ambassador Sullivan: Hanoi time.

Vice-Minister Thach: Indochina time.

Mr. Kissinger: The Special Adviser, knowing my tendencies, put 9:00 on my schedule so I would be here at 10:00. Let me express our appreciation for the manner in which we have been received for the seriousness of our discussions, and for the spirit in which they have been carried out.

[The meeting adjourned at 6:22 p.m.]

[After the reception and dinner that evening, the U.S. sample compilation of known POWs not on the DRV and PRG lists was handed over, Tab C]7

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 113, Country Files, Far East, Vietnam Negotiations, Hanoi Memcons, February 10–13, 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting was held at the DRV President’s House. Brackets are in the original. Kissinger’s party arrived at Noi Bai airfield at 10:30 a.m. Le Duc Tho then escorted Kissinger to the Government Guest House in Hanoi, where the two men discussed procedural matters. A memorandum of that conversation, February 10, 11:10 a.m.–12 p.m., is ibid.
  2. New York Times Assistant Managing Editor Harrison E. Salisbury’s series appeared in January 1967.
  3. RVN Major Cease-Fire Violations,” undated, attached but not printed.
  4. Attached but not printed.
  5. “Information Pertaining to POW/MIA Situation in Laos,” undated, attached but not printed.
  6. Reference here is to the note Kissinger read aloud to Le Duc Tho when the two met in Paris on January 13. Focused on American aid to North Vietnam, Kissinger committed to formal delivery of the note on January 30. (See Foreign Relations, volume IX, Vietnam, October 1972–January 1973, Document 274) Kissinger later wrote that he and Le Duc Tho agreed to the January 30 date “to underline the fact that it [the commitment of the United States to supply over $3 billion to heal the wounds of war] was voluntary and distinct from the formal obligations of the [January 27] Agreement.” In return North Vietnam promised to hand over a list of American prisoners in Laos. When the North Vietnamese failed to deliver the list on January 30, the United States refused to give up the note. When the North Vietnamese handed over the list on February 1, the United States gave the message to the North Vietnamese. (Kissinger, Years of Upheaval, p. 33)
  7. Attached but not printed.