12. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • 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
  • Dinh Nho Liem, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Nguyen Dinh Phuong, Interpreter
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • William H. Sullivan, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs
  • Richard T. Kennedy, Senior NSC Staff
  • Winston Lord, NSC Staff
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff
  • David Engel, NSC Staff, Interpreter
  • Miss Irene G. Derus, Notetaker

Pham Van Dong: How shall we work today, Mr. Adviser?

Dr. Kissinger: I thought, Mr. Prime Minister, we would finish our discussion on the implementation of the Agreement, then turn to Laos and Cambodia, and then turn to economic reconstruction. And then today or tomorrow morning on the International Conference, then tomorrow normalization.

Pham Van Dong: I would like to suggest that regarding the International Conference, Mr. Thach and Ambassador Sullivan should work out beforehand to save time for us. This is what we should do.

Dr. Kissinger: I think the Prime Minister has more confidence in his Foreign Ministry than we do. [Laughter]

I have great confidence in Ambassador Sullivan. I agree. I think it is a good idea. I think perhaps they can meet today.2

Pham Van Dong: Now, regarding the implementation of the Agreement. Before the Special Adviser Le Duc Tho presents the cases of violations happening in South Vietnam, I would like to speak a few words.

[Page 61]

Yesterday I listened very attentively to what Dr. Kissinger told us and we considered the questions you raised yesterday. And today we think it necessary to express some remarks on these points—particularly in the face of the very serious cases of violations by your side.

Regarding North Vietnam, yesterday Dr. Kissinger mentioned the question of the delay in the removal of the mines in North Vietnam. Actually this is a delay that we cannot understand, and this is what we urge the United States mainly, together with us, to solve this question as soon as possible. Mr. Special Adviser said that this is a technical question. [Laughing] I think that techniques should serve the implementation of the Agreement! There is no reason that delays should happen because of the technical questions, and I think that this can be done very rapidly and this should be done very rapidly now.

Moreover, Dr. Kissinger raised two questions on which I would like to express a few remarks. First, you said that after January 28—that is the day when the ceasefire comes into force—there would be no U.S. air activities over North Vietnam. But actually there has been air activity, reconnaissance activity, over North Vietnam.

Dr. Kissinger: What?

Pham Van Dong: Air reconnaissance in the air space of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

Dr. Kissinger: I don’t want to interrupt you, Mr. Prime Minister, but can you give me the dates and places and times?

Pham Van Dong: Yes, I will furnish you with details.

Dr. Kissinger: We will look into this very seriously. And every time if there is such an event, if you notify me. There shouldn’t be. And I will investigate each event and I will give you a report as we receive it, through our channel in Paris. This will be an official communication, but a confidential one. I will send you a report as soon as I return.

Pham Van Dong: I agree this way of doing. Regarding the U.S. warships moving far from our coasts, this is a question we still suspect. [Laughing] I say so because we have no means to ascertain, to locate, the position of your ships. Moreover, in the sea the ships are moving all the time. But I suggest these questions to draw your attention.

Dr. Kissinger: You can be sure we are carrying this out. Except for the one carrier about which we notified you, with your agreement. I also want to tell the Prime Minister while we are talking about aircraft carriers, that as a sign of good will we are reducing the number of aircraft carriers in this area by April 15 by half. I told this to the Special Adviser many months ago, that we would do this. This is not an understanding.

Pham Van Dong: Mr. Adviser, let me speak about the violations in South Vietnam. It is known to everyone that in South Vietnam there [Page 62] have been very serious violations and general violations being committed by Saigon rulers. And I think that this is also known to the U.S. too. Because the Saigon authorities actually do not want peace. They do not want such Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace, and reluctantly they did sign the Agreement. And as I told you yesterday, Mr. Adviser, that before the signing the Agreement and when the Agreement was signed, and after the signature of the Agreement, the Saigon authorities made a statement, and after the statement they come to actions that violate the Agreement very seriously and very violently.

On this subject, Mr. Le Duc Tho will express our views and give evidences. And we will adopt an official attitude regarding these violations.

But here I would like to point out the bad treatment given by the Saigon authorities to our people and to the people of the PRG participating in the Four-Party Joint Military Commission. There has been now a shock in the world public opinion regarding this action. What can justify such actions on their part? Who can justify such actions? And these violations, these actions, evidenced that the Saigon authorities do not want to implement the Agreement. And so in order to prevent the activities of the Four Party Joint Commission the best way is to commit violations as they like. They went so far as to use hooligans to mishandle our people and the people of the PRG.

I would like here to ask you one question, Mr. Adviser. Such actions carried out by the Saigon authorities, have they any relation to Washington or not? To my view, Saigon is closely related to Washington. This you know better than I do. No one can think that without the green light given by Washington the Saigon authorities can commit these actions. Who can deny this fact?

The Saigon authorities even stated that if this state of violations—the so-called violations of the Agreement—increased, then it might lead to the return of American troops. And there are some supporting statements from Washington too. What does it mean? We wonder whether you want to return to the situations of the 1960s. I think that those are questions that need some answers. We are honest people and we will remain honest people. Therefore, we would like to know these facts, to be honest with you.

Here I should say a very simple statement. That statement is reflected in one saying of the Vietnamese language and also in other foreign languages too: That is, to shout for help while you put fire to houses; a thief crying stop thief.

I think I have briefly but rather fully expressed my views regarding the great seriousness of the violations committed by the Saigon authorities.

[Page 63]

As for us, we will definitely implement the Agreement, and we think that this is a correct course of action beneficial to you too. Therefore, I think we should discuss this question, and by any means to redress the situation.

Dr. Kissinger: Should I make a few comments, Mr. Prime Minister?

Pham Van Dong: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: Before the Special Adviser overwhelms me. [Laughter] I see he has a long list. I don’t know how the Special Adviser behaves in the Politburo but with me he is always on the attack. [Vietnamese laugh]

The Special Adviser [the Premier] has raised really three questions: One, the alleged violations in South Vietnam; secondly, the American relationship to these violations; and third, the long-term intentions of the U.S. with respect to the Agreement.

First, with respect to the violations which the Prime Minister has mentioned. As I have quite candidly pointed out to the Prime Minister yesterday, has reporting officer [Colonel Loi] may both produce persecutions and suffer from an exaggerated impression of being persecuted. But leaving aside the fact that we are both dependent on reports—perhaps you get too many and in the absence of our advisers we get too few . . .

Pham Van Dong: [Laughs] It is a very dangerous statement.

Dr. Kissinger: [Laughs] It is a subjective statement.

Le Duc Tho: And you also lack means of communication.

Dr. Kissinger: And it is difficult for us to get full reports.

Because one of the penalties we pay for the withdrawal of our advisers, first from the districts and soon from the provinces, is that we no longer have firsthand information.

But still, leaving this aside, let me state our position. We cannot approve actions of hooligans against members of commissions that are created by the Agreement to End the War and Restore the Peace in Vietnam. I can tell the Prime Minister that we have already made an official inquiry at the Foreign Ministry in Saigon about this incident. I have also asked Ambassador Sullivan, when he goes to Saigon after we leave here to investigate personally the charges of inadequate accommodations by the DRV delegation and to use our maximum influence to see to it that you are treated in a manner that is consistent with the spirit of the Agreement. We shall communicate our actions and the results of this through our confidential channel.

This then is also an answer with respect to the American attitude about the Agreement.

We made the Agreement very seriously, and we have made a fundamental decision to do our utmost to bring about peaceful conditions [Page 64] in Vietnam and in Indochina. I think that your side has consistently overestimated the detailed influence we have over every action by Saigon. If you listened to the Saigon radio and read the Saigon newspapers about me, you would realize that our influence is not complete! We in any event will use our influence that the Agreement is seriously implemented. We shall investigate your complaints and give you our honest judgment, because we want to deal with you on the basis of complete honesty.

Now the Prime Minister also asked indirectly about our future intentions. And one difficulty in communicating is that the people who talk most in America know least. Especially the journalists whom the Special Adviser confused so successfully for four years. [Le Duc Tho laughs]

But let me therefore tell you authoritatively what we intend. And I think you have some experience with us in this respect. We seriously want to implement the Agreement. We seriously want to improve our relationship with the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and we want to put our relationship with your government on an entirely new basis. And for this reason, we shall handle the most important part of our relationship directly from the White House—something we do with very few countries.

On the other hand, it is also important that there is a condition of tranquility now in Indochina. For example, if these military actions in South Vietnam continue—of which I gave you a list yesterday—then obviously the replacement of arms will be greater than if they do not continue. And we will be drawn into military support which otherwise would not occur. I speak now of equipment. If this movement of tanks and this movement across the Demilitarized Zone which I pointed out yesterday—and for which I would very much appreciate an answer—continue, then our ability to implement Article 7 at all is going to be drawn into question. If there is a massive attack, we face the danger of a repetition of the events of 1972—as I told the Special Adviser for many years before 1972.

But our fundamental intention is to normalize our relations with you. What we would like to see is a condition where in a year it would be unthinkable that we two speak to each other about military threats against each other. History will not stop with this Agreement. There will be an evolution in Indochina. If the evolution proceeds by peaceful means, the United States will never use force to interrupt it. The U.S. will not oppose the normal political forces. I think frankly that if we establish a relationship of confidence, this evolution can occur in a direction that is beneficial to all of the people and that is not inconsistent with your principles.

This is the perspective as we see it now. We shall work with great energy on the improvement of our relations. We shall not look for excuses to resume a military contest. [The Premier nods]

[Page 65]

I don’t know whether this answers your question, Mr. Prime Minister.

Pham Van Dong: I should like to wait. [He laughs, and turns to Tho.]

Le Duc Tho: So I have negotiated with you, Dr. Kissinger, and since my return here I have been following the implementation of the Agreement. When we terminated our negotiations in Paris, I told you that all the parties signatory to the Agreement must strictly implement the Agreement. That is the requirement to insure the relationship between our two countries not only in the immediate but for long-term period to come. And also this is the way to insure lasting peace to Indochina and in this region.

Then I added that we had had many experiences in this connection in the past. When we were working on the Agreement, Mr. Special Adviser repeatedly told me that you had no complete authority over the Saigon Administration. So I answered that in fact to some extent there is some contradiction between the Saigon Administration and the United States but the final decision is made by the United States. Therefore, in spite of the objection of the Saigon Administration, finally they will have to sign the agreement.

Now regarding the implementation of the Agreement. In fact, Saigon has some actions to oppose the Agreement, but the ultimate responsibility lies with U.S. As far as we are concerned, since the signature of the Agreement our Government and the Central Committee of our Party issued a statement and made many statements, verbal statements, which are known to you, of what course we are now taking, what policy, what direction we are going forward. Our policy now is to hold aloft the banner of peace and the banner of national concord and reconciliation; to achieve independence and democracy for South Vietnam and then gradually to advance toward the peaceful reunification of the country, so as to maintain lasting peace. That is why in connection with specific questions—for instance, the question of the prisoners—since the signature of the Agreement we have implemented all the provisions of the Agreement. Including the understandings we made with you regarding the prisoners question, we have implemented all the provisions. But there are many violations on the part of your side, particularly on the part of the Saigon Administration.

Dr. Kissinger: Are there any by the U.S.?

Le Duc Tho: I would like to speak about the U.S. responsibility only. As to the troops withdrawal, the ceasefire, I acknowledge that the U.S. has faithfully implemented the Agreement. But I would like to emphasize on the main responsibility of the U.S. But it is not my intention here to come here and to exchange lists of cases of violations by the other side. My intention is to present this so that we realize the [Page 66] problem and so we can take necessary measures to prevent the recurrence of such violations.

As our Prime Minister has just said, what the question is here is the policy followed by the Saigon authorities. Their policy is to oppose the Agreement, but once the Agreement is signed they are opposed to the implementation of the Agreement. This policy is reflected in the statements made by the Saigon authorities on many occasions. They even issued orders and directives for the repression of our people and they launched nibbling attacks against the areas under the control of the PRG.

Dr. Kissinger: Why is it they lost 332 hamlets in the first few days of the ceasefire? They nibbled backwards.

Le Duc Tho: The question is that when the war was still going on, the ceasefire wasn’t effective yet, then both sides were free to carry out activities. But once the ceasefire became effective, then if one side launches attacks against the other then the war will gradually develop and return to this.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree.

Le Duc Tho: But once the ceasefire became effective, neither side has the right to launch attack against the other side. That would be a violation of the Agreement. But here the Saigon authorities launched military operations with the size of one battalion or four battalions; even in some cases they mobilized even a brigade, for instance in the case of Cua Viet, with the incorporation of armored vehicles and aircraft, or in the case of Tay Ninh Province they mobilized air operations to bring into the battle.

Dr. Kissinger: No, I think that one use of my being here is so we can talk honestly with each other. In Cua Viet I think you have a point. In Tay Ninh you tried to take the city just before the ceasefire, and after the ceasefire, and of course they had to react. You tried to do in Tay Ninh what they tried to do in Cua Viet. Both were wrong. This is my honest opinion.

Le Duc Tho: No, but regarding Tay Ninh the PRG forces launched attacks against Tay Ninh before the ceasefire became effective. But when the ceasefire became effective Saigon should have stopped their attack but the Saigon forces tried to recapture Tay Ninh.

Dr. Kissinger: Exactly the same as Cua Viet. The Saigon forces took Cua Viet before the ceasefire and then you attacked afterwards and knocked out 27 tanks, which is a violation, and you pushed them back. I think it is exactly the same situation and frankly this is why we haven’t said so much about Cua Viet, because we recognize the problem. As long as I am here, I think . . . when the diplomats talk to each other in Paris they can speak in a very complicated way, but I think while I am here we should be very honest with each other.

[Page 67]

Le Duc Tho: No, besides the major violations, the significant cases of violations, there was continuous artillery shelling by the Saigon side, and some places up to 2,000 rounds of shells, 3,000 shells daily on the areas of the positions of the PRG forces, particularly in Quang Tri, and the plain of the 5th zone, and the Mekong River. Moreover, there are cases of repression of people who went to a meeting to maintain the peace, in spite of the provisions of the Agreement that prohibit reprisals and terrorism against the people after the ceasefire became effective. Moreover, there were many police operations around Hue city, hundreds of police operations to terrorize and to arrest, to round up the population. Then the harsh control of the population within camps of concentration continues, that prevents the free movement of the population. There is no insurance for the democratic liberties of the people and the prohibition of terrorization against the people, in spite of the provisions of the Agreement. And I have just pointed out some cases, important cases, of violations, but there are many, many cases of violations. The point is, what measures are to be taken to prevent such violations? This is more important.

Dr. Kissinger: What does the Special Adviser suggest?

Le Duc Tho: I think that now either side must now strictly implement the provisions of the Agreement—regarding the ceasefire, to put an end to all military actions, to put an end to all terror operations, and arrestations among the people. So either side should immediately issue orders to immediately put an end to such actions. And then each side should facilitate the deployment of the men of the ICCS, of the Four Party Joint Commission and the Two Party Joint Commission to the various localities, to facilitate the work of the various Commissions. This is also very important.

But now the activities of the ICCS and particularly the activities of the Four Party Joint Commission are meeting with tremendous difficulties.

First, regarding the procedures of work, they are creating difficulty regarding the activities of these commissions. The procedures create a difficulty for the activities of the Commissions. They are located in military camps, and the military camps have regulations that outsiders cannot enter the camp and insiders cannot go out of the camps. So these delegations of these commissions are not in a position to carry out their activities. They have not enough means of transport for their movement. And particularly the means of living are not sufficient for them. Their rations are not sufficient.

Dr. Kissinger: Their food?

Le Duc Tho: Their food. Even the American press is speaking about their lack of food. They are also prevented to go out and to buy food. I was in prison. I have now the impression that they are also in prison [Page 68] now. I read to you a dispatch from our Commission: “One of the Americans, a UPI journalist, who supplied food to our delegation in Hue, says this. This American complained to other journalists. He came to the camp and saw it. No means at all. There were mats on the floor but even he does not want to lay his skin to sit on these mats. Food is not sufficient. He expressed his views, that suppose now he and the other Vietnamese were fighting and now the fighting ends and the other Vietnamese came to his house, he would not put the Vietnamese in a pigsty.” So he concluded that the DRV military delegations are meeting with real difficulties and their living conditions are very bad. They are prevented to move freely and they are prevented to get in contact with other people, with journalists. Some journalists had contacted them and then their press cards were withdrawn.

There was even the case of a major violation, such as at Ban Me Thuot. The delegation and eight persons were wounded; the chief of the delegation was wounded too. The Central Four-Party Joint Commission wanted to send a team to investigate but the team could not go to the place because of the prevention of the military police. So those actions have paralyzed the Four-Party Joint Military Commission, particularly the delegation of the DRV and the delegation of the PRG.

It is unimaginable that the Joint Military Commission is meeting with such difficulties and has received such treatment. You will see when American delegations come into North Vietnam to deal with the question of prisoners, you will see what treatment we will reserve to them. And therefore we think that you are responsible to some extent for such actions by the Saigon authorities.

So, in a word, to strictly implement the ceasefire and to prevent such violations, I think that both sides should issue orders for a complete end to military actions and create favorable conditions for the activities of the Four-Party Joint Commission and the International Commission, and promptly set up the Two-Party Commission, so that these Commissions can carry out their activities. And moreover, to arrange more convenient accommodations for the Four-Party Joint Military Commission, and not to leave them in military posts or military camps. It is not convenient for their activities.

Now, regarding the troop withdrawal, the dismantlement of the military bases and the removal of obstacles on the road.

Regarding the withdrawal of U.S. forces and the dismantlement of American military bases: Under the protocol, the withdrawal of U.S. forces and the removal of U.S. military bases should be carried out under the control of the Four Party Joint Commission and the International Commission too. But such control is impeded now. They cannot carry out that control.

[Page 69]

Regarding the removal of obstacles on the roads, it is in keeping with the protocol that such obstacles should be removed, but to be removed to allow the movement of the civilian population, not for the recapture of territory. But the Saigon Administration availed themselves of the removal of obstacles to enlarge their role, to capture ground, and then the PRG forces have to oppose them and then there are clashes.

Dr. Kissinger: Even places where they never were before? We are under the impression that the PRG is putting up obstacles where they never had obstacles before. My complaint yesterday wasn’t about old obstacles—which they are also removing—but I am now concerned about new obstacles.

Le Duc Tho: But the obstacles are put because of the Saigon authorities trying to enlarge their area of control; therefore the PRG has to put up obstacles to prevent them. This is the actual situation. But if there is respect of the Agreement by both sides, then this will not happen.

The fourth question is about the introduction of armaments into South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. When the war was going on, the question does not arise at all. But after the ceasefire became effective we respected the Agreement. So we respect the provisions of the Agreement regarding the prohibition of introducing of troops, armaments, war material into these countries. [Thach corrects him] Into South Vietnam. But here it is civilian supply to these troops.

Dr. Kissinger: Are you bringing that in in tanks now?

Nguyen Co Thach: To the local population, to the civilian population.

Dr. Kissinger: Are you bringing your supplies in tanks now? I wondered whether you discovered a new way. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: Since the ceasefire we will implement the provisions of the Agreement. But on February 5th the spokesman of the U.S. State Department declared that the U.S. would continue to give military supplies to Laos and to Cambodia under Article 20 of the Agreement.3 Article 20 of the Agreement prohibited such supplies; it prohibited the introduction of troops and war materials into these countries. But if now the U.S. does that, then it would be a violation of the Agreement. Moreover, then we will have to do the same toward our friends, and the Agreement will be violated. So we both should respect the Agreement.

[Page 70]

Now regarding the return of captured military personnel and Vietnamese civilian detainees.

Regarding the question of prisoners, we know your concern about American prisoners and civilians, not only in Vietnam but also in Laos and Cambodia. I have explained to Mr. Adviser at length regarding the question during our negotiations and in our private talks. So it is definite question that we will implement the Agreement regarding the American prisoners, military personnel and the civilians, captured in Vietnam, and we have agreed with our ally in Laos that all American prisoners, military and civilian, will be released. Mr. Adviser said that we correctly implement the Agreement but the Pathet Lao seems to hold back some prisoners. But I can tell you that we have discussed the questions with our ally and we have agreed with them that all of the prisoners will be released. You should understand that definitely all the prisoners will be released and the list we gave you is complete. But there are prisoners who died or who escaped from prison and after so many years of war they are living in jungle areas. So the investigations will be continued, and we will supply.

Regarding the prisoners of war of the two South Vietnamese parties, the Saigon Administration published the number of prisoners of war as 40,000, but now the list they give was 28,000 only. Now they gave the list of prisoners to be released in the first stage: they will release only 2,000. So it is not in keeping with the protocol that [which requires that] one-quarter of the total number of prisoners should be released within the first 15 days.

Dr. Kissinger: Are you sure? They told us they would release 7,000.

Nguyen Co Thach: They gave us the number, 2,000 prisoners of war. Even if they release 7,000 it is not correct, because the total number is 40,000.

Le Duc Tho: But 10,000 prisoners they said will not be returned, under the pretext that these 10,000 people have rallied to the Saigon side. It is not correct. It is contrary to the Agreement, because all those people should be returned.

Regarding the civilian detainees, they say that they are holding only 2,000 civilian detainees. It is too small a figure they gave, in comparison to the total number they are holding.

Dr. Kissinger: Where do you get all these figures? They told us they were releasing 5,000, so they must have told you more.

Nguyen Co Thach: This is the figure they gave during the meeting of the two South Vietnamese parties.

Le Duc Tho: They told us within the Joint Military Commission that they are holding only 2,000. They say that they did release a number of them, just release and not return them. You said that they would release 5,000 but so far we have no information on that. Under the [Page 71] Agreement those civilian detainees should be returned, and not just to set them free.

Regarding the removal of mines. In this connection, when I was still in Paris the discussion of this question dragged on. There are some technical difficulties in this, but the main reason is that they dragged on the discussion, moving very slowly, so it would need 70 days for the removal of mines in Haiphong.

Dr. Kissinger: Forty, I am told.

Le Duc Tho: It will take thirty days to bring their equipment, ships, means for removal, and it will take forty more days for the removal so it is 70 days.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand.

Le Duc Tho: But for all other places it will need six months for the removal. As to the mobilization of means for the removal, they will proceed from one area to another. For instance, after the removal in Haiphong they will move to another area instead of carrying out the removal simultaneously in all areas.

So this is what we have to raise, the specific cases to raise regarding the implementation of the Agreement that is not strict implementation.

By the way, I would like to raise another question related also to the Agreement; that is the two-party talks in Paris. Now they are discussing the procedures.

Dr. Kissinger: You mean the two Vietnamese parties?

Le Duc Tho: Yes, the two South Vietnamese parties. They are discussing the procedures. They have agreed on some questions. But we should draw the experience we have got regarding the Four-Party Joint Commission. Now the Saigon side also proposes to shift the two-party talks to the Tan Son Nhut base.

Dr. Kissinger: Wherever you want them. I thought yesterday you wanted them there.

Nguyen Co Thach: In Saigon, at Tan Son Nhut base.

Le Duc Tho: They wanted them in the concentration camp.

Dr. Kissinger: President Thieu lived in a concentration camp and Vice President Ky. I think he wants Madame Binh close to him.

Le Duc Tho: I pointed out this question to show the difficulties. Regarding the procedures only, they have met with difficulty already, let alone the substance they have to discuss. So our Prime Minister has expressed the general views and I myself have pointed out specific cases. We have no intention to debate them here, but we would like to point them out so that both sides pay attention to the situation to insure correct implementation of the Agreement. Because since the signing of the Agreement and the coming into force of the ceasefire, there have been many cases of violations on the Saigon side. But I think that [Page 72] in the coming period we both will endeavor to stop all violations. Maybe they will not be completely ended, therefore when some cases happen I will inform you. And if some cases come to your knowledge you will inform us so that we both pay attention to this. So I have finished now. Regarding the specific cases of violation I will give you also a list of them for your information. [In a subsequent private meeting, Tho gave Dr. Kissinger the list at Tab A.]4

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, let me make a few comments on what you have said. I would like also to ask some questions. First, I want to repeat that we will investigate very seriously every violation you report to us, and if the reports are accurate we will do our utmost to remedy them.

Now, with respect to military actions I agree with the Special Adviser that we should issue orders that they should cease. Of course, our forces have stopped their military action. So we will use our influence with the Saigon Government and we will use the lists you give us. But we would also like you to see to it that both the PRG and the “so-called North Vietnamese forces” stop their actions. So we agree with your proposal.

Le Duc Tho: I agree, Mr. Special Adviser, but I make the following concrete proposal. The order should be issued by the Four-Party Joint Military Commission; it will discuss and will issue the order. No, each party in the Commission will issue the order. I repeat, the Four-Party Joint Commission will discuss the question and the various parties will issue the order.

Dr. Kissinger: We agree. Are you sure that Colonel Loi agrees? Will Colonel Loi agree? [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: Yes, he will agree. Have you any other questions?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, I have some more points. They will discuss this on Tuesday, the 13th, or Wednesday the 14th, because we have to communicate with Washington and then Washington with Saigon. We cannot communicate directly from here to Saigon.

Le Duc Tho: The 14th then.

Dr. Kissinger: The 14th then. Let me recommend the 15th, because Sullivan will get there on the 14th and he can supervise it for us.

Le Duc Tho: That is all right.

Dr. Kissinger: [Confers with Sullivan]: No, he gets there the 13th. So the 14th.

[Page 73]

Le Duc Tho: Yes. But I would like to recall to you that, besides that, favorable conditions should be created for the activities of the Four-Party Joint Military Commission and the ICCS.

Dr. Kissinger: I come to this next. With respect to the conditions of the ICCS and the Four-Party Commission, we strongly favor that their working and living conditions are adequate to their position and in conformity with their dignity. I will charge Ambassador Sullivan with making a personal investigation when he comes to Saigon. We have no interest in impeding the work of either Commission, and we strongly favor, as you remember from our talks in Paris, adequate facilities to make them able to perform their regular mission. Now where they should live we will have to consider, but they should have freedom of movement to perform their tasks. They must have decent living conditions and decent working conditions, and this we promise you we will look into and bring about if it does not exist. And if this UPI reporter reported correctly we will see to it that it is remedied immediately.

Le Duc Tho: Now regarding the wounded people, our people. Now Saigon authorities acknowledge it and express their regret. These people should be well treated because some of them are seriously wounded.

Dr. Kissinger: There is no excuse and this should not happen again. We will give no encouragement whatever to acts of hooliganism.

Le Duc Tho: And if this continues it will arouse deep indignation among our population.

Dr. Kissinger: I think, well, it should not continue. Now introduction of military equipment with respect to Laos and Cambodia. We will strictly observe the 1954 and 1962 Agreements and the Agreement to Restore Peace in Vietnam. But I would like to point out, if I may, that of the tanks that I mentioned to you yesterday, twenty-seven are going to Cambodia—yours. And we still have no explanation where the other 229 are going to go, but wherever they are going they are in violation of the Agreement.

Le Duc Tho: If there are tanks they are old tanks, which started before the ceasefire within this area. Before the ceasefire, not newly introduced tanks.

Dr. Kissinger: But they can’t be introduced into either Vietnam or Cambodia after the ceasefire.

Le Duc Tho: No, those tanks had been in the area before the ceasefire.

Dr. Kissinger: We have diverted some ships that were heading for Vietnam in observance of the Agreement, so it cannot be . . . I must tell you in all seriousness that if these movements continue the whole Article 7 will be destroyed.

[Page 74]

Pham Van Dong: I think that what Dr. Kissinger said yesterday and he insists today has no ground at all. Maybe it is based on incorrect information or purposefully made incorrect.

Dr. Kissinger: It is based on our information. We are not getting it from others.

Pham Van Dong: For instance your statement yesterday that there was war material transported on the shore over Duc Pho. I can now answer you definitely now there is no such action, therefore there are some facts here which are not sufficiently grounded. After the ceasefire becomes effective we have no military transport at all.

Dr. Kissinger: How about the 175 trucks enroute over Route 1068?

Le Duc Tho: We can assure you that we strictly implemented Article 7 prohibiting all introductions of troops, armaments and war materials into South Vietnam. But regarding civilian supply—rice, foodstuffs—to the population of the liberated areas in South Vietnam, we shall continue. There is no reason we leave this population in hunger, so it is something very normal.

Dr. Kissinger: That is a lot of rice, 175 trucks. But one way of solving the trouble—and in fact an essential way of solving the problem—is to designate rapidly the legal points of entry.

Le Duc Tho: I agree with you.

Dr. Kissinger: We have proposed three, the GVN was proposed three, and I have not received a report from Saigon whether they have been accepted or not.

Le Duc Tho: When the protocols were under discussion it was decided that 15 days after the entry into force of the ceasefire the two parties would discuss the question of points of entry. But two or three days ago we reminded the PRG about this question, and they did discuss this at the Two-Party Joint Commission.

Dr. Kissinger: Because we have to send some replacement equipment in and we want to do it under international supervision. But if they cannot agree we will just have to designate a point and invite the International Commission to come there.

Le Duc Tho: The two South Vietnamese should agree on that point and they will have the same number of points of entry. Moreover, this question has been provided for by the protocol already, and in our view this is not a difficult question.

Ambassador Sullivan: If those trucks come through a legitimate point of entry, a designated point of entry, then we will know it is civilian goods on board and we won’t be suspicious that there are military goods on board.

Le Duc Tho: So the two South Vietnamese parties should discuss and decide on the points of entry.

[Page 75]

Pham Van Dong: And at the same time a series of important problems should be settled regarding the liberated regions under the control of the PRG.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but if there are no legitimate points of entry then all of the provisions become ridiculous. Because you can simply say it’s civilian, not send it through a legitimate point of entry, and the whole Agreement becomes ridiculous.

Le Duc Tho: That is the reason why the points of entry should be immediately decided upon. And therefore we recently reminded the Two-Party Joint Commission to discuss immediately this question, because under the protocol this question should be decided within 15 days after the ceasefire.

Dr. Kissinger: Exactly.

Le Duc Tho: And I think you, too, should tell the Saigon Government.

Dr. Kissinger: We told them. They only want three places, and they have already given them.

Le Duc Tho: Now this is before the ceasefire. Now after the ceasefire the other side should forward proposed points of entry.

Dr. Kissinger: But our side has put forth points of entry and your side has not put forth points of entry. Because this would remove . . .

Pham Van Dong: This will be discussed within the Four-Party Joint Commission.

Dr. Kissinger: Let us settle it on the 14th when Sullivan is in Saigon.

Pham Van Dong: Regarding this question I would like to add a few words, regarding the implementation of the Agreement. The questions we have discussed here, if they are implemented, they will have practical significance. But I would like to speak in a more comprehensive way, regarding the respect of and the implementation of all the provisions of the Agreement. Definitely all the provisions of the Agreement and of the protocols must be implemented and within the time frame provided for in the Agreement. And also the bodies provided for in the Agreement should be also respected. Yesterday, I have addressed this question. Today I would like only to lay emphasis on it.

First, all the parties should voice or should evidence their desire to implement and to respect the Agreement, for the reason that they have signed the Agreement, but also for the reason that they are concerned with this implementation. Because this involves the whole interest of the implementation. It is a very basic point. Without such a desire to implement the Agreement it would be very difficult. As far as we are concerned, we say that we have such a desire. We also say that we doubt the desire on the other side, on the side of the Saigon [Page 76] authorities, and I also say that Saigon is related to Washington. So this is a correct theory about that.

Secondly, the whole Agreement must be implemented, all military provisions and all political provisions. In other words, all Chapters of the Agreement. Chapter II, Chapter III, Chapter IV, Chapter V, and the other chapters. And all these chapters are related to Chapter I. There are provisions that must be implemented within 60 days, other provisions must be implemented within 90 days. So if now within 60 days or 90 days all the provisions in the Agreement and in the protocols have been implemented, then it would be a very big step that would insure the continued implementation of the Agreement.

Therefore we both should make very big effort in this. So the third point is that to insure the implementation of the Agreement, all the parties concerned—that is to say, the four parties and we here, the two parties—should be determined and take appropriate measures to insure the implementation of the Agreement within the framework of our responsibilities.

And after presenting your views, Dr. Kissinger, you asked me what is our view. I could not give a definite answer yet. Just like your statement after the presentation of Mr. Le Duc Tho. So I said you should have to wait; actually you should wait and see. For instance, you say that you have some influence over the Saigon Administration, so far I understand you, to some extent only. I don’t know whether I have correctly understood you. If so, it would be an open door for violations. Is it correct or not?

Dr. Kissinger: It is not an open door for violations.

Pham Van Dong: Or half open and half closed door?

Dr. Kissinger: Neither half open nor half closed. But it means we cannot assume full responsibility for the actions of another government, any more than you have been willing to assume responsibility for the actions of your allies. But we will exercise our influence.

Pham Van Dong: Theoretically it is so.

Dr. Kissinger: No, practically it is so; theoretically it is not so important. But this does not mean that the Saigon Government has the right to violate the Agreement. It has full responsibility to carry out the Agreement.

Le Duc Tho: And of course I think that Washington should bear all responsibility regarding all of what we are talking about here. It is easy to understand, because you and I have worked out the Agreement. Therefore the implementation is the responsibility of all four parties but the major responsibility lies on you and I.

Dr. Kissinger: We have a major responsibility in carrying out the Agreement. But there is a major contradiction in your assessment. You cannot both want us out of Vietnam and expect us to exercise unlimited [Page 77] influence in Vietnam. We had more influence in Vietnam in 1966 when we had 500,000 troops there. But I was under the impression that the Prime Minister made a big effort to change that situation. [Laughter] So I think we have to face the realities of the situation. We will assume a major responsibility but you will also have to deal with Saigon directly on some issues.

Pham Van Dong: It is correct. I agree that Washington has a great responsibility, the main responsibility. How big it is, it is up to you to conceive it, but I will remind it to you.

Dr. Kissinger: But may I make one point, just so that you see what your colleague had to put up with for three years. I am speaking very frankly. I have not yet made up my mind about your strategy. In my judgment you have two possibilities. Being Vietnamese you can probably think of five, but I am less complex so I can only think of two.

The two possibilities are these: You can use the Agreement as an offensive weapon, constantly pressing again the margin, maybe beyond the margin, and trying to maneuver us into the position of being constantly on the defensive. Or—I am talking as a professor, because I don’t know whether the Special Adviser has told you, he has promised me I could give some lectures at Hanoi University after he has visited America. It is an unwritten understanding. Or, you can carry out this Agreement in a spirit of conciliation, and rely on historical evolution to achieve your objective.

If you choose the first alternative, we will be—you and we—in some position of confrontation, and it will be like after our previous settlement. If you choose the second alternative, you and we can become cooperative and we can go to normalization and even—unbelievable as this may seem—to friendship. And then we can talk honestly to each other, inform each other of our major concerns, and take them seriously into account. And many of these questions will be taken care of by the real forces that may be at work in Indochina. And then we don’t have to talk to each other like lawyers, trying to find out who is responsible for this or that. We can deal with each other as statesmen, with a big objective.

Because, as I said to you yesterday, Mr. Prime Minister, the independence, sovereignty, strength and security of the DRV is absolutely consistent with our national policy, and one on which we can cooperate. Two years ago we had to communicate with Peking with handwritten messages passed through a third entity, and we were even more suspicious of each other than you and we. Now, except when the Special Adviser passes through Peking, we have a serious dialogue. He always agitates them against us! [Tho smiles; the Premier does not react.] But seriously, I think that you and we can establish a relationship of equality and confidence, and we will treat you seriously and with great respect, which you have earned.

[Page 78]

And I say this only as a digression, to indicate that in my view this is the most important result that could emerge from this trip. We will do what we can with respect to everything the Special Adviser has mentioned, and we will use our influence. But the most important thing is to understand what each of us can and cannot do, and what we can do together. And this is our serious attitude.

Pham Van Dong: This is what I wanted to speak about, leading to the implementation of the Agreement. Because I think that the strict implementation of the Agreement is of very great importance; it will have great importance, decisive importance, in the establishment of our relationship and the consummation of relations between our two countries. And it will help settle many other questions. It is the spirit we are having. We will resolutely stick to the Agreement and use the Agreement or urge all the other parties to observe the Agreement. This is how I understand your first view. And thence I go to the second view, that is to say the good relationship between our countries. I see no contradiction in our view. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: Mr. Special Adviser said that there are two possibilities. Actually we say that there are two possibilities but in our conception the two possibilities are slightly different from your two possibilities. Our first possibility is that the Agreement is violated, is sabotaged, and the second possibility is that the Agreement is strictly implemented. As far as we are concerned, we adopt the second possibility and maintain the Agreement. But the maintenance of the Agreement is offensive against what is sabotage or undermines the Agreement, to maintain the Agreement. It is not, as you think, the kind of using the Agreement to launch an offensive, to create some dangers or put someone in danger or other. In a word, it is to maintain the Agreement, to correctly implement the Agreement; it is our aim, our objective.

As to the contradiction you put regarding our desire that you withdraw from South Vietnam and our desire that you have great responsibility over Saigon, actually it is true. It is some practical reason that you withdraw from Vietnam but you still have influence and responsibility with the Saigon authorities.

Dr. Kissinger: When I said offensive, I did not mean only military offensive; I meant political and psychological. I meant we both must show restraint. We should not constantly try to push and outmaneuver each other for little advantages, because we are no longer at war.

There is no point answering every detail of the Special Adviser’s presentation. We will look into every case he raised.

With respect to mine sweeping we will see whether some speedup is possible. And again we will communicate with you.

With respect to the civilian prisoners, I just don’t understand it, because we were told that 5,000 would be released and we had used our [Page 79] influence to bring this about. I will have to check this. I don’t understand the comment that the Special Adviser made. Also I understand . . .

Le Duc Tho: Please ask them again.

Dr. Kissinger: We will ask. Also I understand that your side has not turned over a list of civilian detainees or where they are held, and this is necessary to get the talks started.

Le Duc Tho: Regarding the question there is some practical difficulty because they are scattered all over the country and now they have to find out where the people have been arrested, where they are being held. So the PRG is . . .

Dr. Kissinger: We are not complaining. We are simply pointing out that we cannot use our influence until the conditions have been met that are provided for in the protocol. But even without this we are under the impression that 5,000 detainees will be released in the very near future and that this was a result of our intervention.

We will look into the two-party talks problem.

So we take seriously every comment you make to us. What I wanted to convey to the Prime Minister is not that we don’t take it seriously but we have to have understanding with each other now.

Pham Van Dong: [Laughs] I agree—and a few practical deeds.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree.

Pham Van Dong: We should continue to make efforts.

Dr. Kissinger: And show good will towards each other. We were not required to reduce our aircraft carriers but we have done that, pulled them out altogether.

There is one last point, which concerns our prisoners. Some of our concerns would be eased if you could obtain for us from your friends in Laos and if you could give us from your own information some account of what you know about those who died, who crashed, who escaped, or whatever else you know, and the sooner the better.

Pham Van Dong: Mr. Le Duc Tho has explained this question to Mr. Special Adviser on many occasions. In this connection we have a very serious and frank attitude. You can be confident in us. There are no other ideas at all—what do they say, no back-ideas in the mind. We are thinking of helping you when we deal with this question. But I agree with you that we will continue to find out about this question and to have some information about it and help you.

Dr. Kissinger: It will help very much to create the climate for the economic question. [The Premier laughs] We will talk about this later, today or tomorrow. But we have a very serious problem on domestic opinion and Congressional opinion. And our newspapers are not as responsive to government, or as politically alert—“politically conscious” is the phrase—as yours.

[Page 80]

Pham Van Dong: Here I should say immediately—and we will come to it later too—I disagree with you to the way you are posing the problem. I think that this question is a question of the obligation of the U.S. This question should be dealt with as one article, one provision of the Agreement. We should not make it dependent on anything else. This will be good and correct.

Dr. Kissinger: Let us discuss it separately, because it is a very complicated issue and it must be handled on a very practical basis. Because there are two levels: the relations between you and us as governments—and there we can approach it within the framework of the Agreement. And the second problem is our relationship with our Congress, and there we have to discuss with you how to do this. This is not a governmental matter but a realistic question of management. But I will frankly discuss with you about the situation when we turn to economic reconstruction.

I have a whole book on the subject, which I will read from cover to cover. [Laughter]

Pham Van Dong: I don’t think that we should do that. I told you yesterday that we don’t understand what is the legal aspect or customary aspects of the Government of the U.S. I always think it is the internal affair of the United States.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but you have to understand it.

Pham Van Dong: If it is a necessity that we have to understand it, then you should explain to us so we can understand, but it is always an internal affair of the United States.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.

Pham Van Dong: Because what is important and what we have to solve now is a matter between our two governments.

Dr. Kissinger: But you see, we cannot tell you to install a capitalist system and tell you it’s a domestic problem how you do it. There are some domestic realities that have to be understood as a practical matter, and we just want to explain them to you. They are not governmental problems—but we will have a full discussion on the subject.

Pham Van Dong: I think that here we should go forward to bring about a definite solution to a number of points.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree.

Pham Van Dong: Otherwise we don’t know whether you are fully prepared to settle this question.

Dr. Kissinger: Which question are we talking about now?

Pham Van Dong: The U.S. contribution to the healing of the war wounds.

Dr. Kissinger: We will discuss it concretely.

Pham Van Dong: And this question will be settled basically, simply, and positively.

[Page 81]

Dr. Kissinger: Positively, but it requires complicated management. Certainly positively.

Le Duc Tho: I have spoken to Mr. Adviser on this question very lengthily in the negotiations.

Dr. Kissinger: Oh yes.

Pham Van Dong: Therefore I would like to emphasize only one point: This question should be settled fairly, without conditions attached—not make it dependent on other questions, not to use it to attain anything else. And this question also should not be settled in a manner like the manner in which the U.S. has solved the question of aid to many other countries. So far as we understand, the U.S. has granted aid to many countries, particularly after the end of World War II, and we also understand that in the legal juridical field, the U.S. has some particular legal aspects. But here what we are dealing with now is U.S. obligations in view of the destructions caused by the war. It is a completely different question. In our view it is a matter of U.S. obligation. Of course we should discuss it. But no conditions should be put in settling this question.

What conditions I have in mind I have already told you, but let me now recall it. First, we would like to have the free use of the amount that the U.S. reserves for this purpose. But the free use I have in mind is to buy whatever we want but of course to buy this material and equipment from the U.S. I think that to pose this problem is a simple way of posing the problem. There is no complexity in it. As to the details, they will be discussed at the Joint Economic Commission. If so is our understanding, we will be able to settle this question during this visit of yours.

Dr. Kissinger: Let me suggest that after we discuss Laos and Cambodia this afternoon we have a full and frank discussion, and we can certainly settle it in principle during my visit here. This is our intention. Or do you want to continue now? On my schedule it said 10:00 to 1:00.

Pham Van Dong: Let us adjourn now.

Dr. Kissinger: See, I follow the Special Adviser’s instructions. I was trying to be polite. When he comes to America he will follow mine.

Le Duc Tho: We will resume our discussion at 4:00, then at 3:00 we will have sightseeing tour for one hour.

Dr. Kissinger: Good, I look forward to it.

Le Duc Tho: If the tour will take more than an hour, then we can resume at 4:30.

Dr. Kissinger: It is up to you. [Laughter]

[The Meeting adjourned at 1:00 p.m.]

  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.
  2. Sullivan and Thach discussed the conference at the DRV President’s House on February 12, 11 a.m.–1 p.m. A memorandum of that conversation is ibid., Other Hanoi Memcons, Sullivan.
  3. The statement was made at the February 5 Department of State daily press briefing that the provision in the Agreement referred to the withdrawal of foreign troops from Laos and Cambodia, not military aid. See The New York Times, February 6, 1973.
  4. “Violations of the Cease-Fire by the Army of the Republic of Vietnam From January 28 to February 9, 1973,” undated, attached but not printed.