52. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Dr. Nguyen Luu Vien, RVN, Deputy Prime Minister, Chief Delegate to Paris Two-Party Talks
  • Dr. Tran Van Do
  • Nguyen Xuan Phong, Minister
  • Lt. General Dang Van Quang, Presidential Assistant for Military and Security Affairs
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Ambassador William Sullivan, Ambassador Designate to the Philippines, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
  • Ambassador Graham Martin, Ambassador Designate to South Vietnam
  • George Aldrich, Deputy Legal Adviser, Department of State
  • Heyward Isham
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff
  • William L. Stearman, NSC Staff

[Before Dr. Kissinger’s arrival, Ambassador Sullivan briefed the Vietnamese on the DRV’s ceasefire proposal.2 He remarked that we had cabled our draft to Saigon for Foreign Minister Lam and that the Foreign Minister had been pleased. Dr. Kissinger then entered.]

Sullivan: I was just telling them that Foreign Minister Lam was pleased with our draft. Lam was pleased.

Kissinger: I understand there are no other problems in Saigon—but I have had that idea before.

Quang: The draft has been changed many times, so I don’t know what the reaction is now. In Saigon I saw an earlier one.

Kissinger: The major point we would like to make to you is this: first, there is nothing in any of the drafts in our conception that is different from the basic Agreement. We are trying to get a document to get the Agreement implemented. Second, if we can get such a document, it will ease the pressures enormously in America, because it will retroactively justify everything we have done in the last four months. Whereas if we don’t, there will be a series of Congressional restrictions.

[Page 244]

I see no major objections to this draft in substance. Saigon’s objection was to the form, that we and the DRV were settling everything. But we have taken care of that.

Vien: We agree the Agreement should be implemented, but in the original draft there were certain things that could be misinterpreted.

Kissinger: We have given you the text of the new draft, and also in Saigon.

Sullivan: We received a telegram from Saigon: Charles Whitehouse showed the new draft to Lam, who expressed pleasure with the editing we had done.

Kissinger: We are waiting for any further comments from Saigon.

Vien: We are waiting for instructions from Saigon.

Kissinger: Mr. Phong knows this is an old experience we have.

Vien: Lam told us to ask you about the part of your proposal that concerns South Vietnam.

Kissinger: We obviously agree with our own proposal; we thought it was reasonable.

Vien: What do you think will be the chances?

Kissinger: They will probably insist on putting them together. We don’t know whether Le Duc Tho wants an agreement or wants a breakup. We will know today. But I think he will accept this approach. What do you think, Bill?

Sullivan: I think he will accept the basic approach but he will want considerable changes in substance.

Vien: If Le Duc Tho wants them together, will you accept?

Kissinger: No, under no circumstances.

Vien: What do you want to achieve in South Vietnam?

Kissinger: I think the Two Party Joint Military Commission should be activated, the political talks should continue, and orders for a cease-fire should be issued. Our view is that the cease-fire should be ordered by the two sides separately but using the same text.

Sullivan: That is your view, General?

Quan: A common text.

Sullivan: Can you fix a time for the cease-fire?

Vien: I do not want to go back to where the stationing was on January 27.

Kissinger: That is impossible. If we can’t agree on where the stationing is now, how could we do it for where it was January 27? We won’t even propose it to you.

Sullivan: They proposed that the Two-Party teams be located on the frontiers of the two zones.

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Kissinger: Did we propose that to Saigon?

Sullivan: No.

Kissinger: We should. It might be better. We need an answer from Saigon soon. Is it better to have them at the points in the protocols, or at points between the zones?

Quang: We have to determine the zones first.

Sullivan: Yes, but if we determine the zones, which would you prefer?

Kissinger: Le Duc Tho proposed that the Two-Party teams be moved. Which is better from Saigon’s point of view? If they are on the borders, I can conceive that the issue of their privileges and immunities in the provincial capitals and other towns won’t arise.

Vien: The fundamental issue is to delimit the zones.

Kissinger: Yes, that we understand. If we can’t delimit the zones, the question doesn’t arise. One can argue that this creates an incentive to delimit zones if you agree to put them at the borders.

We will accept whatever, but our instinct is that it is better to have them at the zonal borders so that they can’t raise the issue of the cities, and second, it gives them an incentive to delimit the zones as soon as possible.

Sullivan: We gave Saigon this proposal and asked for a counterproposal.

Kissinger: We should get a specific answer on this.

Vien: I think it is more logical to have them at the demarcation lines.

Kissinger: I think it is better to have them at the demarcation lines, except at the points of entry.

Quang: Do you see any hooks? [laughter]

Sullivan: I am sure the maps of Saigon won’t be the same as Hanoi’s.

Kissinger: But that problem exists anyway. I look forward to seeing Mr. Le Duc Tho this afternoon.

Vien: How do you think our negotiators at La Celle St. Cloud will receive the recommendations?

Kissinger: There aren’t that many recommendations. One is that elections be held in a certain number of months—which is your recommendation. There is a recommendation that the National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord be formed. There may have to be a time limit attached to that, say 45 days, but that would be linked to the elections.

They have one other proposal: that the Two-Party Joint Military Commission headquarters be at the borders too, not in Saigon. That may be better too.

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Aldrich: They put it in an alternative: either Saigon or the borders.

Kissinger: But wouldn’t we be better off having them at the border? They don’t want it in Tan Son Nhut—they either want it in the city or on the borders.

Quan: You asked Saigon about this?

Kissinger: But not specifically. We should.

Quan: It is important that Saigon understands the issue.

Sullivan: We will send another detail.

Vien: How do you imagine the prisoner issue will be handled?

Kissinger: That both sides have to agree first on identification and only after that do the releases happen. We frankly don’t think this will happen quickly. There has to be an agreement.

Vien: There are people who are the real Communist cadre, and who would be released only to conduct agitation—but whom they don’t want back.

Kissinger: Then you don’t have to release them if they don’t want them back.

[Mr. Do arrives.]

Vien: How are we to insure that reprisals and discrimination will not occur?

Kissinger: I will leave that to the two South Vietnamese parties. I am sure Mr. Duc and Nha can find a formula that even they don’t understand. I am not aware that there are acts of reprisal going on now.

Aldrich: The Agreement already says they should insure it.

Kissinger: This adds nothing; it just says they should inform each other what they are doing to enforce it. I am sure Mr. Duc will do a good job with that article.

Vien: “The National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord should be established as soon as possible.” Is it necessary to fix a date for this?

Kissinger: I hope not, but that is something that may become necessary. But we will agree to it only if they agree to a date for the elections.

Vien: You said 45 days.

Kissinger: 45 days for the Council and maybe 120 days for elections.

Phong: Because we have already proposed August 26 elections.

Vien: The Communists don’t want to take their prisoners back.

Kissinger: In your zone. But they will take them back in their zone. They tell me they object to your releasing them in your zone. You released 5,000 civilians prisoners this way. If you want to release civilian [Page 247]prisoners in the PRG zone, they will agree to that! I will get you that agreement this afternoon.

Vien: There are two problems—the problem of numbers and location. We don’t accept their list as definitive. There are people we judge as underground.

Kissinger: We have to get a clear answer on this. I know there is a problem of numbers—this is why we ask for lists. The second problem is the problem of the place of return. This has to be cleared up. I thought you didn’t want to release them. Now you tell me you want to release them in their zone. That is what they want. If you are willing, I can get a lot of other things.

Tell me: if Le Duc Tho asks me if you will release them in their zone, can I say yes? Can I agree to a clause: Within 30 days or 60 days all political prisoners will be released in the PRG zone? You will accept that?

Do: Yes.

Kissinger: Can I go to Le Duc Tho this afternoon and say within 60 days all your political prisoners will be introduced into your zone?

Vien: With the presence of the ICCS.

Kissinger: With the band playing the national anthem of both sides.

Vien: The difficulty is of numbers. We are ready to release them in their zones but their list is too small.

Kissinger: I will make a big concession this afternoon! On the place of return we will give them what they asked for. You will release them as soon as you both agree on identification.

[The meeting ends.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 105, Country Files, Far East, Vietnam, GVN Memcons, May–June 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting was held in the library of the American Ambassador’s residence. Brackets are in the original.
  2. See Document 49.