118. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • Call of GVN Foreign Minister Bac

PARTICIPANTS

  • The Secretary
  • Vuong Van Bac, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Viet-Nam
  • Tran Kim Phuong, Vietnamese Ambassador to the U.S.
  • Robert H. Wenzel, Director, Viet-Nam Working Group
[Page 469]

Foreign Minister Bac: Mr. Secretary, I would like to offer my congratulations on the public recognition you have received for your role in the Viet-Nam peace settlement.2

The Secretary: Mr. Minister, I appreciate your good wishes. I must say I would never want to negotiate again with the North Vietnamese. I may meet with them, but I wouldn’t want to negotiate with them again.

I am delighted with your new position. I remember our association in Paris. You were the “tamest” of the Vietnamese group there. What has happened to Ambassador Lam?

Foreign Minister Bac: He is in Paris, recovering from his illness, awaiting a new assignment.

I would like to have the benefit of your views on the current situation in South Viet-Nam. We are quite worried about it.

The Secretary: It is a difficult situation. But our Ambassador in Saigon does not think there will be a general offensive. As for your government’s request for additional military equipment, we are treating this matter very sympathetically.

Foreign Minister Bac: You mean the one-for-one replacement provision?

The Secretary: That’s right. We’re working it out.

(At this point the Secretary telephoned General Scowcroft of the NSC staff to assure that DOD was moving ahead in its review of the GVN military equipment list as quickly as possible and in a time frame relevant to the current dry season.)

Foreign Minister Bac: There is need for some equipment—anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, and F5E aircraft.

The Secretary: If you promise not to record this, I’ll tell you one of my secret wishes—that is to get President Thieu into negotiations with the Israeli Prime Minister. That would be a match. Your President is a real pro. The Israelis also want anti-tank weapons. So let the Israeli Prime Minister and President Thieu negotiate to see who would get our anti-tank weapons. No, seriously, I appreciate your need for anti-tank weapons.

Foreign Minister Bac: Would it be possible for the U.S. to deliver the initial increment of F5Es by air?

(The Secretary at this point telephoned General Scowcroft to ask him to check into this.)

[Page 470]

Foreign Minister Bac: You’ll recall that in Paris we discussed the need for restraint on the part of the Russians and Chinese.

The Secretary: We have sent notes to both of these parties. We believe the Chinese are exercising restraint. What the Russians are doing, I wouldn’t bet on.

Foreign Minister Bac: I noted your press comments yesterday that the war powers legislation does not supersede existing legislation.

The Secretary: We did this to keep them from making the situation worse. Our major problem is our domestic situation. But we will do what can be done. We will give you some capacity to mine North Viet-Nam’s harbors. We did not go through all this agony to have the cease-fire agreement broken. We will do what we need to do—reconnaissance over North Viet-Nam, the dispatch of a carrier to the Gulf of Tonkin—to keep Hanoi worried.

Foreign Minister Bac: The recent attacks by North Viet-Nam have renewed the heavy strain on our economy.

The Secretary: Your troops fought very well.

Foreign Minister Bac: Because of the continuing Communist attacks, we have been obliged to shelve our plans to demobilize in 100,000 increments. Thus our large military force continues to place a great burden on our economy, and the need remains for substantial foreign assistance.

Ambassador Phuong: We would be interested in knowing what portion of the authorized $504 million of FY-1974 economic assistance for Indochina will eventually be allocated to Viet-Nam. We would like to have $400 million.

The Secretary: (To Mr. Wenzel): Make sure this decision is discussed with me before it is made.

As Minister, I hope you will pursue an active foreign policy. You can count on our support.

Foreign Minister Bac: We will cooperate fully.

The Secretary: Ambassador Phuong and I have talked a great deal in the past. I feel strongly about our friendship.

Ambassador Phuong: It is true we have quarreled at times. But we know you are the one who is helping us.

The Secretary: I understand the differences that have arisen. This is natural. But let me say again we will do the maximum possible to preserve your independence and integrity.

Foreign Minister Bac: I will precede you to Saudi Arabia; I will be there on the 11th. I’m going there since we feel we must maintain the friendship of the Arabs.

The Secretary: I think you’re right. But be careful concerning American public opinion; don’t be too anti-Israel.

[Page 471]

Foreign Minister Bac: What is your advice on my making a public declaration supporting Resolution 242.3

The Secretary: That would be fine. I’ve declared that too.

Foreign Minister Bac: In Saudi Arabia I will also look into matters of oil.

The Secretary: Where do you get your oil now?

Foreign Minister Bac: Our civilian needs are met from Singapore; but we don’t know how long that will continue.

In the past we have neglected the Third World and have suffered as a result. How can we regain the sympathy of this group?

The Secretary: There’s a limit. You can’t separate from us too much. But I’m in favor of your approaches to Third World countries. You’ll need voting support in the UN.

Ambassador Phuong: We would be interested in hearing about your discussions of Indochina with the Chinese during your recent visit to Peking.

The Secretary: Yes. We talked about the necessity of not settling issues by force. They agreed they would discourage military action by Hanoi. I do not have the impression that the Chinese hope for North Viet-Nam’s domination of all of Indochina.4

Foreign Minister Bac: However, I note that NLF leader Nguyen Huu Tho received a warm reception during his recent visit to Peking.

The Secretary: The Chinese are playing the North Vietnamese against the VC. They have to keep their revolutionary credentials. They did not support North Viet-Nam’s point of view. They want to see a peaceful settlement.

Ambassador Phuong: Do you think the Communist arms supply into North Viet-Nam has diminished?

The Secretary: That is our impression.

Mr. Minister, I wish you the best. Let us stay in close touch. Again, I have enormous respect for Ambassador Phuong.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1027, Presidential/HAK Memcons, December 1973. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Wenzel.
  2. On December 10 Kissinger accepted the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating the January 1973 Vietnam peace accord. Le Duc Tho shared the Prize, but refused to accept the award.
  3. UN Security Council Resolution 242, November 22, 1967, expressed the international community’s interest in a durable Middle East peace arrangement.
  4. For the records of Kissinger’s November 10–14 meetings in Beijing, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XVIII, China, 1973–1976, Documents 55 61.