55. Memorandum of Conversation1
- Le Duc Tho, Representative of the Government of the DRV
- Nguyen Co Thach, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs
- Phan Hien, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Col. Hoang Hoa
- Dang Nghiem Bai, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Pham Ngac
- Nguyen Dinh Phuong, Interpreter
- Two Notetakers
- Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
- Ambassador William H. Sullivan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
- Ambassador Graham Martin, Ambassador-Designate to the RVN
- George Aldrich, Deputy Legal Adviser, Department of State
- William L. Stearman, NSC Staff
- Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff
- Richard P. Campbell, NSC Staff
- David A. Engel, Interpreter
- Mrs. Bonnie Andrews, Notetaker
Kissinger: Did you bring us the four signed copies of the draft? [laughter][Page 254]
Le Duc Tho: First of all, I would like to raise the question of the continuation of the reconnaissance flights over North Vietnam. I think you should put an end to this. You and I are talking here and if your reconnaissance flights go over North Vietnam, then our anti-aircraft will shoot down the planes, and if we get the pilots there will be more prisoners and more difficulties. I think this should be stopped.
There was a statement by our foreign minister. I wish you would pay attention to this.
Kissinger: Well, in keeping with our understanding the other day we have given the strictest orders that there should be no reconnaissance flights while we are here, and I think that is being taken care of. But I will reaffirm this as soon as we break up this meeting.
Le Duc Tho: I would just like to bring this fact to you because if this happens while we are talking it is not a good thing.
Kissinger: I agree.
Le Duc Tho: And now yesterday Minister Thach and Ambassador Sullivan met. Before he went to the meeting I told Minister Thach everything I had to talk about. So all the easy questions have been solved by Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach so they have left behind the hard core and give us the trouble.
Kissinger: That is the usual procedure.
Le Duc Tho: I am not so talented in solving these things, so I leave to the Special Advisor these difficult things we are facing now.
Kissinger: Well, Mr. Special Advisor, I agree we should go through the Agreement point by point. Although I have seen the Special Advisor when he wanted to go rapidly and I know he could do it.
Le Duc Tho: Before we go into the specific questions, please let me express my ideas. And afterwards we will examine the specific questions to see what solutions you will be bringing about.
We can say that both of us are making a tremendous effort in general, so we could reach the Agreement and its protocols. The structure of the Paris Agreement and its Protocol took a great deal of time and effort on our part to achieve. Now, considering the structure of your draft memorandum of understanding I feel that you are trying to change the structure of the Agreement. You divide the two categories of responsibilities, for those questions regarding the U.S. and North Vietnam and those regarding South Vietnam. These questions are divided. Regarding the questions regarding South Vietnam you propose only recommendations to them and if so it is up to them to reach agreement on more. And in the future if our agreement will not be implemented then you may say it is on account of the non-implementation of South Vietnam. And we can say the same and we can say it is on account of non-implementation by the PRG. Therefore, we can say there [Page 255]is no responsibility for the implementation at all. Because you can always say that if our agreement is not implemented that it is because South Vietnam does not implement, and we can always say it is because the PRG does not implement.
But, in fact, you and I are the main responsible [sic], even in the talks in October last year and January this year. And I think this is our own, our common responsibility. These are the reasons we have proposed the format, the structure of our document.
Now the second question I would like to raise is, since now we have an Agreement and protocols, we will review the implementation of the Agreement and see which articles have been well implemented and which have not, and regarding those articles which are not well implemented, we should see how we can get implementation of these articles. Therefore, we should not change the principles of the articles of the Agreement, the basic articles and the protocols.. We should only point out the means, the measures, and the specific time periods regarding the number of questions on which we want better implementation.
The third question I would like to raise is that you should not link the question of the healing of the war wounds with other questions. The U.S. contribution to the healing of the war wounds is an obligation of the U.S. to our people, and it is beneficial to both parties which would lead to the normalization of relations between our two countries and lead to friendly relations between our two countries.
I propose that on the basis of these remarks we will follow chapter by chapter which questions we can agree with each other and which we cannot. These are my general remarks before we begin specific questions.
Kissinger: Mr. Special Advisor, first let me make a comment about the format. Of course, there were two formats of the final Agreement—one in the form of a two-party agreement and the other in the form of a four-party document, and if I remember correctly an enormous amount of time was spent on devising the formula for the four-party document as well as for the two-party document.
Now, also, the Agreement contains Article 9 in which the Government of the DRV and the Government of the U.S. agree to undertake the following principles for the exercise of the South Vietnamese people’s right to self-determination. It is for all these reasons that it seems to us appropriate for us to distinguish between those matters in our responsibility to implement and those which according to the principles of the Agreement should be for the two South Vietnamese parties. Now I believe that there are only two ways around this difficulty. One is to convene a four party conference—to call Minister Xuan Thuy back and we will call back Ambassador Porter, and we will resume the discussions at Avenue Kleber. In fact, I have to make an aside here to you, Mr. Special Advisor, that Ambassador Porter has been so well [Page 256]trained by Xuan Thuy that now when he attends meetings at the White House he walks out of them.
I haven’t given the second solution yet. The Special Advisor can’t turn it down until I have given it. [laughter] One of the rules of our negotiation is that no proposal can be refused until it is stated. The second procedure is to follow the outline we have here but to have a signal of what we have agreed to, and to take that obligation towards each other.
As for the work of the Joint Economic Committee, it is obvious that the dates of many of the required activities will tend to coincide and we do not state a formal linkage. Secondly, Article 21 of the Agreement states the intention of the United States, not an obligation, and certainly not the amount. As I said, we are prepared to proceed on both of these.
Le Duc Tho: Have you finished?
Le Duc Tho: First of all, you said you proposed to divide into two categories of problems—I don’t agree to that—depending on the responsibility of the parties, on the responsibility toward North Vietnam and responsibility toward South Vietnam. Actually the Agreement has been signed and negotiated by you and I, and actually the settlement of the war in South Vietnam was done between the U.S. and North Vietnam. Now, we have to solve the question of violations of provisions of the Agreement. I think that responsibility toward North Vietnam and toward South Vietnam—it is illogical. For instance, regarding the military questions, you still continue to replace the armaments for South Vietnam; you still have military personnel disguised as civilian personnel in South Vietnam. You still have civilian people serving in military branches in SVN. Therefore you have some responsibility towards the military questions in South Vietnam.
Kissinger: It is a lucky thing that you don’t have that problem.
Le Duc Tho: But we also have the problem of replacing arms for the PRG.
Kissinger: But you have no military personnel in South Vietnam!
Le Duc Tho: So your responsibilities are greater than ours. [laughter]
Kissinger: Your problem is that you have civilian personnel disguised as military. That is why you are sending them so many civilian supplies.
Le Duc Tho: No, we have civilians there and we are sending civilian supplies and we have to send them continuously.
Kissinger: So what you are undertaking is to stop doing what you are not doing. So after we sign this communiqué you will continue not doing what you are not doing.[Page 257]
Le Duc Tho: It is not true what you said, because it is stipulated in the Agreement that the introduction of troops and armaments are prohibited by the agreement. We abide by the provisions. Even another example, the ICCS, it is the responsibility for all the four parties and not just the South Vietnamese.
So your division of responsibility is not logical. Moreover, it is not in agreement with the Agreement that we have agreed to, that we have signed, that we have implemented. The responsibility for implementing the Agreement is the responsibility for all four parties—not that such and such a party has such and such responsibility and such and such parties have other responsibilities. And, in fact, the U.S. and DRV have the main responsibility. As to your second solution, that we will have an understanding that both sides use their utmost influence over the South Vietnamese parties—we have experience with such a solution. We have experience with 8 (c)—a promise to use utmost influence, but it had no effect at all.
Therefore, the purpose of our meeting is to review the implementation of the Agreement. We base ourselves on the spirit of the Agreement, the principles of the Agreement. And we will work for measures for insuring better implementation of the Agreement. In fact, there are only now the questions of time periods which are over now and we have to set new time periods. Therefore, your approach is contrary to the Agreement. So you want to divide responsibility and you don’t realize the common responsibility of all the four parties. If you divide in such a way the responsibility, suppose now that something happens in South Vietnam—you will say it is because of the responsibility of Saigon. We would say it is because of the PRG. And we would feel free to take our action. Therefore, we maintain our stand. The reason is that we stick to the principles of the Agreement. There is no other way.
Kissinger: In that case, the answer is to convene a four-party conference, and then they can follow the old outline of the Agreement.
Le Duc Tho: But when we discussed the Agreement and protocols, the biggest difficulties we had to face. And these negotiations were conducted between you and I and without the four parties. And now to compare the other questions, there are only minor questions compared to that. We have only to look at the time limits.
Kissinger: But the Agreement in Article 9 says the political future of South Vietnam should be left to the South Vietnamese parties. And that is what we want to do.
Le Duc Tho: Yes, you are right. But it explicitly said in the Agreement already, that these questions must be settled by the South Vietnamese by themselves and the South Vietnamese parties will do their utmost to solve these by ninety days.[Page 258]
Kissinger: And they will be inspired by our work and recommendations and by our understanding to use our maximum influence.
Le Duc Tho: The use of our influence is another matter. But regarding the political questions of South Vietnam I have never thought about solving those political questions on behalf of the South Vietnamese with you. Even regarding the question of civilian personnel captured by the other party, I think that this question comes under the competence of the two South Vietnamese.
Kissinger: But how can we express that thought? If we can express that thought, I think we can probably find a solution.
Le Duc Tho: So I think that for Chapter III of the Agreement, Article 8 (c), Chapter IV, Article 11, Article 12, we will leave to the South Vietnamese for a solution. It is explicitly agreed already in the Agreement.
Kissinger: Can we just sign a communiqué and leave those articles to them? And that they should be strictly implemented?
Le Duc Tho: It is in the Agreement, and they are doing that job. Now, regarding the cease-fire. There should have been a cease-fire on January 28 but now the hostilities are still going on and we have to set a date to put an end to the fighting.
Kissinger: I agree to that.
Le Duc Tho: Regarding the replacement of armaments, it is the responsibility of the four parties.
Kissinger: I agree with that, particularly since it comes from the other two sides. As long as you transport civilian goods in tanks, this will be the case.
Le Duc Tho: But as long as the war goes on in South Vietnam, the other side by this fact will have torn the Agreement. So there will be difficulties to get another party to strictly abide by the Agreement. Therefore, the other day I told you, once the hostilities are ended we can say there are no longer problems about Article 7.
Kissinger: You’ve also told me there are no problems now about Article 7.
Le Duc Tho: At present, there are no problems yet, but if the war continues, then Article 7 will be torn then.
Kissinger: I hate to think what will happen when you really tear it.
Le Duc Tho: If the war is ended, and if South Vietnam has real peace, then no problems will arise about Article 7.
Kissinger: I understand the point. But that doesn’t change the basic problem.
We agree to the cease-fire. [To Sullivan:] You put the cease-fire under B. [to Tho:] You see, Mr. Special Advisor, we have been meeting for only 45 minutes and already you have totally confused us.[Page 259]
Le Duc Tho: No, you are not confused yourself. You make the problem confused.
Kissinger: If I understand the Special Advisor . . . here we are debating the real meaning of the Special Advisor’s subtle approach. Did I understand the Special Advisor correctly when he said that the clauses that should be obligatory included the cease-fire because they involve—he had some convoluted reasoning about American forces in South Vietnam which don’t exist—but he wanted the cease-fire obligatory? After that he said certain other things would happen automatically, like Article 7. Now what has confused my colleagues is whether the other articles—those dealing with the political future of South Vietnam and dealing with prisoners—can then be left to the other parties.
Le Duc Tho: It is very clear in the Agreement already on those subjects. It is said in the Agreement very clearly, and when we settled the problem with you, the Agreements are the responsibilities of both of us. Regarding the military provisions we are completely responsible for those. But regarding the political questions of South Vietnam, we are responsible for the general principles but how the specific questions are to be solved is left to the South Vietnamese parties. We will not interfere in the solution of the political problems of the South Vietnamese. This stand of ours remains unchanged. And actually the two South Vietnamese parties are negotiating now. And regarding the political questions of South Vietnam, you and I, the U.S. and the DRV, have also the responsibility of push forward the implementation, to promote the implementation of those provisions.
Kissinger: Don doc? Quick kick?
Le Duc Tho: So, generally speaking, it is a common responsibility. But those responsibilities have some limits.
Kissinger: Well, can we express that in our communiqué? That is what we are trying to accomplish.
Le Duc Tho: What is your view then, Mr. Advisor?
Kissinger: Well, I think we can probably find some solution to the problem of a cease-fire if we are not put in a position that we are prescribing to our South Vietnamese friends what their future should be.
Le Duc Tho: The provisions of Article 12 are very clear, and of Article 11 are very clear. Article 9 is very clear too.
Kissinger: Then we don’t have to repeat them necessarily. We can drop them and just refer to them. Let’s just say Articles 9, 11, and 12 should be strictly implemented.
Le Duc Tho: No, for example, the question of the National Council, in the Agreement it says it should be formed within three months.[Page 260]
Now the period is over; we have to set some sort of time limit for its formation.
Kissinger: Actually if we want to be very precise, it doesn’t say anything about when it should be formed. It says they should do their utmost within ninety days. It doesn’t say the Council shall be formed within any specific time period.
Le Duc Tho: Article 11 has never been implemented; we have to repeat it to have it implemented. Secondly, the National Council for National Reconciliation and Concord has not been achieved. We have to describe it to have it implemented. The democratic liberties have not been implemented anywhere in South Vietnam. We have to repeat them. There are points of Article 12 that have not been implemented—the National Council, the signing of an agreement on internal matters—and we repeat them. And we will review the implementation of the Agreement and those points which are violated we must remind, repeat them.
Kissinger: When the Special Advisor teaches philosophy at Harvard—which I hope will be soon because we are looking forward to seeing him there—he will have to explain to us why repeating something contributes to its implementation. But, I will leave this to his lectures, to give myself an excuse to visit him there. If we can express the idea that the implementation of these political provisions is to be left to the parties, then I think we can probably find a solution.
Le Duc Tho: One has to repeat then those because human beings are often forgetful.
Kissinger: That is our attitude toward Article 15.
Le Duc Tho: And when I teach the students at Harvard, I have to repeat the lessons to refresh their memory. [laughter]
Kissinger: What about the second part of my statement?
Le Duc Tho: The spirit of Article 12 is very clear. Regarding the political problems of South Vietnam, those problems will be solved by the two parties. But they have not solved these questions in the past. We have to repeat it because they often forget things. And the spirit of Chapter IV coincides with what you just said but they have not been implemented.
When we come here our mind is very simple. We think we will have to review the implementation of the Agreement, those articles which have not been implemented, we think we will have to review the articles and find measures to improve the implementation.
Kissinger: We agree.
Le Duc Tho: I think you have a very complicated mind. We will not do anything contrary to the Agreement or the protocols.[Page 261]
Kissinger: Well, Mr. Special Advisor, we are perfectly prepared to go through the provisions of the Agreement to see how that could be better implemented. You seem to me to have agreed that some of the implementation is more in the hands of the South Vietnamese parties than others, particularly the political provisions. It seems to me it should not be an insuperable difficulty to find a way of doing that.
Le Duc Tho: Chapter IV reflects the idea of letting the two South Vietnamese parties settle the political problems. The Agreement is very clear, and when we negotiated the Agreement we had these principles in mind. And, actually, the two South Vietnamese parties now are negotiating on these questions. But when reviewing the implementation of the Agreement, I don’t want to change what we have agreed to. What changes we have to do now is only to fix new time periods. Such a time period that is over now and we have to extend, and those provisions that are violated, we will repeat those provisions of the Agreement. For instance, Article 7, regarding the transport of armaments; you wanted to repeat this article because you have been introducing a great quantity of armaments into South Vietnam. [laughter]
Kissinger: The Special Advisor reminds me of the person who murders both his parents and then throws himself on the mercy of the court as an orphan.
Le Duc Tho: I have not understood your idea. [laughter]
Kissinger: Well, Mr. Special Advisor, I think we have explained to each other our respective points of view on the format. I think perhaps we should defer that and see what our views are on the specific provisions. And then if we can arrive at an agreed text, we can discuss again the format. I want the Special Advisor to remember that under our format the Special Advisor’s name will be mentioned three times in the text. [laughter]
Le Duc Tho: But my name is linked to yours. My name is there as many times as yours.
Kissinger: That is why I do it. I was too modest. My father likes to read my name three times in every document.
Le Duc Tho: Unfortunately, my father is dead now and he would have read my name twice. Because I am associated to you. Whatever you are, I am.
Kissinger: That’s a threat!
Le Duc Tho: If your father reads your name five times my father would have read it too.
Kissinger: So as a sign of good will I propose we have both our names written several times. Both our names written together.
Le Duc Tho: So please go through the articles now.[Page 262]
Kissinger: All right. Well, we have agreed on Article 1. Is that right? [Working draft is at Tab A.]2
Le Duc Tho: I agree with the wording in the understanding: “Immediately, completely and indefinitely.”
Kissinger: Article 2, on mine-clearance, our navy tells us 5 and 30 is realistic and indeed the only possible commitment they can make.
Le Duc Tho: I agree that the mine-clearance should be gathered within 5 days after we reach an agreement. As to the time period for completion of mine-clearance you should reduce your number and I will increase my number. [Laughter]
Kissinger: It is like the old days. I feel almost sentimental.
Le Duc Tho: 25 days.
Kissinger: I will have to check it in Washington. There is no sense in promising something I might not be able to deliver. I will let you know tomorrow when we sign the document.
Le Duc Tho: Because the mine-clearing has been prolonged too much. So it should be completed the sooner the better.
Kissinger: I agree. It is really only a technical question. I will get an answer tonight.
Now, our article 3, we simply wanted, as a sign of goodwill and serious attitude, to point out to you that since you have a point of entry at the DMZ and no right to cross it, you will be under a handicap without this article.
Le Duc Tho: Do you follow your order and not the order of items in our draft?
Kissinger: We will follow the order that Minister Thach and Ambassador Sullivan used yesterday. Oh I see, you followed your order but our text. Well, since you don’t have that article anyhow in yours, it doesn’t matter where we put it.
Le Duc Tho: When Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach discussed yesterday we follow the order in our draft but we based it on the two documents. But we think it would be better to follow the order in our draft because this follows strictly the order of the Agreement, which is easier to have in mind.
Kissinger: All right. The next one is the cease-fire. OK, we will reserve on that point until we get to it.
Le Duc Tho: Yes.
Kissinger: You will agree to your proposal?[Page 263]
Le Duc Tho: We will discuss item by item.
Kissinger: [laughs] Yes, but item by item of your draft, and our language. OK, but we are reserving on how to organize it later.
OK, on the ceasefire, I understand that we are agreed. Except for the difference produced by whether it is a recommendation or an instruction. Is that correct?
Le Duc Tho: And the date. And the level of who will issue the order.
Kissinger: I thought it was the high commands of the two parties. What level do you want it?
Le Duc Tho: To be more effective, we prefer that it be issued at a more governmental level.
Kissinger: But the high command is the language we used in the Protocol, and I would hate to see the Minister repudiate his own work.
Le Duc Tho: I agree with you. [laughter]
Kissinger: Is it true that Mr. Aldrich is also legal advisor to your organization?
Le Duc Tho: I am the man who solved problems and you are also my legal advisor.
Phan Hien: Do you have a document we can see?
Kissinger: Well, this is one, with all the disagreements in brackets. [He hands over copy of US working draft at Tab A.]
Le Duc Tho: What is your view about the level who should issue the date?
Kissinger: The date? I think midnight Sunday, Indochina time.
Sullivan: This is a SVN operation. It must be in South Vietnamese time.
Kissinger: Oh yes. It must be in South Vietnamese time. Well, we used Greenwich Mean Time in January so why don’t we use it now too?
Le Duc Tho: What time is that, what date?
Kissinger: Sunday, the 27th—my birthday. But I don’t get a present.
Le Duc Tho: So you will be delaying by 5 days or one week?
Kissinger: No. Let me explain the reality. I don’t have the impression that we are going to finish this document tonight.
Le Duc Tho: To be sure.
Kissinger: Assuming we are going to finish it tomorrow, we have to compare texts Wednesday. I have to go back to America. I can not announce it until I return to America. So we thought we would announce it at 10:00 a.m. Friday morning in America,3 and let it be effective [Page 264]48 hours afterward. Or have the orders go out 24 hours after we announce it, and go into effect 24 hours after that. Do you think your units can hold out in Sa Huynh that long?
Le Duc Tho: 24 hours after the announcement, then the order will be issued?
Kissinger: And 24 hours after that it will be effective.
Le Duc Tho: So the order will be issued Saturday.
Kissinger: Yes. To be effective 24 hours later.
Le Duc Tho: I agree.
Kissinger: He is becoming mellower.
Le Duc Tho: Your argument has logic.
Kissinger: So we will put it in Greenwich Mean Time. And we will let Sullivan and Thach work it out. I think it is 7:00 Greenwich Mean Time. Or whatever it is. Whatever is midnight Sunday in South Vietnam. It is in that area.
Le Duc Tho: It is not Saturday, then it is Sunday.
Kissinger: The order will be given Saturday and it will be effective Sunday.
Le Duc Tho: The order will be given the 26th of May.
Kissinger: Right, and become effective the 27th.
Le Duc Tho: At what time will the order be issued Saturday?
Kissinger: Twenty-four hours after we make our announcement. I propose 10:00 a.m. Washington time. We can do it at 11:00 a.m. on Friday for the communiqué if you prefer.
Le Duc Tho: It should be at 10:00 because in our country there are no more broadcasts.
Kissinger: That is why I proposed 10:00.
Le Duc Tho: The order of ceasefire should be identical.
Kissinger: How are we going to get that done?
Le Duc Tho: We have given you a draft of the order [Tab B].4
Kissinger: That is too concrete. [laughter]
Le Duc Tho: So please consider our draft.
Kissinger: Well, we will . . . I think Thach and Sullivan can work it out. It is a practical problem. The simpler the better.
Le Duc Tho: I heard Ambassador Sullivan sigh. [laughter]
Kissinger: All right. What is next? The military commissions? I understand that we are essentially agreed on that.[Page 265]
Le Duc Tho: Regarding the delimitation of areas of control, you propose 30 days.
Le Duc Tho: You propose 30 days for the delimitation.
Kissinger: That is right.
Le Duc Tho: We find the following difficulties in this connection. First, after the ceasefire, the two South Vietnamese parties must discuss the return of the armed forces to the positions they occupied January 28.
And then they have to determine the corridors and routes, and then the delimitations of their areas of control. I am afraid that this work can not be completed in one month.
Kissinger: So what do you propose?
Le Duc Tho: I propose that they do this “as soon as possible.” I have no objection to 30 days, but I am afraid they will not be able to complete their work within 30 days. This is some practical situation.
Kissinger: Well, I understand the Special Advisor’s point. And I only wonder where they are going to put the Two-Party teams under this arrangement.
Le Duc Tho: Now they have a provisional delimitation of zones of control. Therefore, they have to send their teams there as the Four-Party Military Commission decided before. Because where conflicts of offense happen, they are known to the two parties.
Kissinger: Now let me understand this.
Le Duc Tho: On this basis the Two-Party Joint Military teams should be located.
Kissinger: Are you saying that the Two-Party Teams should be located where the Four-Party Teams were located provisionally, until the areas are delimited? And after that they should move from there to the borders of the zones? I just want to be sure I understand. I am not disagreeing.
Le Duc Tho: In a word, now the two parties will agree on the points of conjunction of the two areas of control and the points where conflicts happen very frequently, and they will locate the Two-Party Joint Military Commission and the teams there.
Kissinger: I think we should get our two saboteurs together to work out how to express it.
Sullivan: It is impossible.
Kissinger: It has almost no concrete meaning, but we can express it. As I understand the Special Advisor, he says the teams must move provisionally to a border that is not demarcated and stay until it is demarcated. All right. I think that can be done.[Page 266]
Le Duc Tho: But there are zones where the border . . .
Kissinger: That is OK. And we accept “as soon as possible.”
Le Duc Tho: There are places where it is already clear. Quang Tri.
Kissinger: Sa Huynh.
Le Duc Tho: The Saigon people will have to return to us Sa Huynh. [laughter]
Kissinger: All right. “As soon as possible.” On the rest, we are agreed.
Le Duc Tho: Agreed.
Kissinger: Where is that draft? Eight?
Le Duc Tho: Article 8 of the Agreement, our point 5.
Kissinger: What happened to your point 4?
Le Duc Tho: We have agreed on point 4.
Sullivan: We are agreed.
Kissinger: That means you have also agreed about Article 7. Article 7 is agreed?
Le Duc Tho: We agree with Article 1, but are you putting Article 15 in with Article 7?
Kissinger: Well, eventually we have to put Article 15 with Article 7 so that all the roads that you are building across the demilitarized zone won’t be wasted. [They confer]
Le Duc Tho: I agree to your proposal regarding Article 15 but you should agree to mine on another article later. [laughter]
Kissinger: Each will be discussed on its merits! I will agree to every reasonable proposal. All right. Article 15 will then be listed in association with Article 7.
Minister Thach: But with the reservation of our Special Advisor.
Kissinger: No, he suddenly realized he couldn’t move anything across the demilitarized zone, unless we made it possible with this agreement. So it is a great concession we made to you.
Just for clarification, could we read what we have on Article 7?
Aldrich: In the paper we handed you, it is paragraphs 4, 5, and 6 of Section B: “In conformity with Article 7, the two South Vietnamese parties [should] [shall] not accept the introduction of armaments, munitions and war material into South Viet-nam. However, the two South Vietnamese parties are permitted to make periodic replacements, as authorized by Article 7, through designated points of entry and subject to supervision by the Two-Party Joint Military Commission and the International Commission of Control and Supervision.”
At this point we would insert the language concerning Article 15: “In conformity with Article 15, military equipment may transit the [Page 267]demilitarized zone only if permitted to be introduced into South Viet-Nam as replacements pursuant to Article 7 and then only by direct route to a designated point of entry.”
And finally, a new paragraph, “24 hours after the entry into force of the ceasefire, the Two-Party Joint Military Commission [should] [shall] discuss the modalities for the supervision of the replacement of armaments, munitions and war material permitted by Article 7 at the three points of entry already agreed upon for each party. Within 15 days of the entry into force of the ceasefire, the two South Vietnamese parties [should] [shall] also designate by agreement three additional points of entry for each party in the territory controlled by that party.”
Le Duc Tho: I agree. But regarding Article 15 of the Agreement I agree to the spirit, but there are some minor changes to be discussed by Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach. No major changes, no changes in substance.
Kissinger: Minister Thach has no minor problems. He has a special obsession about the demilitarized zone. It was his native place originally.
Le Duc Tho: I solved this question very easily.
Kissinger: The next question is regarding Article 8.
Le Duc Tho: Regarding Article 8, we have agreed on the military personnel and now only remains civilian personnel.
Le Duc Tho: Regarding Article 8, I propose only to delete the word, “identified” and write the same word as in the Agreement.
Kissinger: Which is what?
Le Duc Tho: As in the Agreement. There is no word “identified.” Because if we should wait for the identification, it will take tens of years before they are identified and then the Vietnamese detainees will remain forever in prisons. I propose also that we delete the words “do their utmost” and I propose “as soon as possible,” and I propose 45 days. Because they have been doing their utmost for too long and their work is not completed yet. And we should say the two parties should do it “as soon as possible” and they should say within 45 days. So, I agree with you—45 days.
Kissinger: Could you read the whole text to me so I know exactly what you have accepted? Whatever he is giving to you, you are tough enough without it. [Referring to drink being given Le Duc Tho] So, don’t drink too much of it.
Le Duc Tho: It is mineral water. So in the draft you have just given us, point 7 (a): “Any captured personnel covered by 8 (a) who have not yet been returned [should] [shall] be returned without delay and in any event within no more than 45 days.” Point (b): “All Vietnamese [Page 268]civilian personnel covered by 8(c) [should] [shall] be returned as soon as possible. The two South Vietnamese parties [should] [shall] accomplish this within 45 days.”
Kissinger: First, let me say we discussed yesterday the draft that the Minister and Ambassador Sullivan worked out. We can drop the word “identified” if you accept the sentence worked out by Sullivan and Thach. “All Vietnamese civilian personnel covered by Article 8 (c) [should] [shall] be identified immediately and returned as soon as possible. The two South Vietnamese parties [should] [shall] do their utmost to accomplish this within forty-five days.”
(b) “All the provisions of the Agreement and the Protocol regarding the return of captured and detained Vietnamese civilian personnel should be scrupulously implemented.” So if we take that sentence, we will drop “identified.”
Le Duc Tho: But within how many days?
Kissinger: Wait a minute, I haven’t finished. I think we should not change the original Agreement and therefore we cannot go beyond the phrase “do their utmost.” I know the Special Advisor would not want to amend the Agreement.
Le Duc Tho: But it is not a change of the Agreement to delete these words “do their utmost.”
Kissinger: But why not?
Le Duc Tho: “To do their utmost to accomplish this” and “to accomplish this” are the same.
Kissinger: Within forty-five days. We are prepared to return to the original text of the Agreement.
Le Duc Tho: There is no mention of Article 15 in the Agreement.
Kissinger: Yes, Article 15 is in the Agreement!
Le Duc Tho: This wording, “to do their utmost,” is a vague phrase.
We should get rid of it.
Kissinger: But it gives a sense of enormous energy. Because since we know that Vietnamese always observe an agreement scrupulously, to say “they do their utmost” on top of it adds something more.
Le Duc Tho: I think that the two South Vietnamese parties will discuss this question. Therefore, if we should delete this statement, “do their utmost,” it is to be more positive, more active.
Kissinger: Nothing is more positive than “do their utmost.”
Le Duc Tho: But your phrase “do their utmost,” in your conception is the weakest.
Kissinger: That just shows the skeptical turn of mind of the Special Advisor.
Le Duc Tho: Because through experience we must be suspicious.[Page 269]
Kissinger: Well, we can stop just after “as soon as possible.” That is a positive statement.
Le Duc Tho: “And the two South Vietnamese parties should accomplish this within forty-five days.” We agree to that. [laughter]
Kissinger: Well, why don’t the Minister and the Special Advisor sign the document then?
Le Duc Tho: What is your view now?
Kissinger: Well, my view is that we should stick to the text of the Agreement.
Le Duc Tho: So you have really stuck to the wording of the Agreement regarding Article 15! As you added a very long sentence to it.
Kissinger: But it has no practical significance since you’re not doing anything in the demilitarized zone anyway. [laughter] This has a practical significance.
Le Duc Tho: If the practical meaning is so, but the text of the Agreement is important to us.
Kissinger: Yes, but this is an article that really belongs to the two South Vietnamese parties and it is really difficult for us to go further than the Agreement.
Le Duc Tho: So, I propose to leave it aside for the time being.
Kissinger: Shall we take a ten minute break? We have been talking for two hours. We have the films [of the initialling ceremony and Hanoi trip] set up. It will only take fifteen minutes.
Le Duc Tho: If you will give it to us I will screen it at home.
Kissinger: But I have never seen it.
Le Duc Tho: Okay, then I agree.
Kissinger: Okay. We may show you a few elephants on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
[The meeting recessed at 5:10 p.m.—The films were shown in the living room.]
[Dr. Kissinger and Le Duc Tho then conferred privately on Cambodia, along the following lines:]
Kissinger: We believe that there could be a political settlement as there was in Laos with initially two zones of control. Then we could examine the possibilities of Sihanouk as Chief of State.
Le Duc Tho: Sihanouk should be Chief of State of a unified country. There should not be a division into zones of control.
Kissinger: But we believe there must be a political settlement.
Le Duc Tho: Naturally. We have solved the Vietnamese problem and have contributed to the solution of the Laos problem. Therefore, concerning the Cambodian problem there must be a political solution. [Page 270]There is no other way. But the decision has to be taken by the Cambodian parties themselves.
Kissinger: We both have some influence with those parties.
Le Duc Tho: Some influence. Maybe you have a great deal of influence, but we have just some influence. Our allies are very independent.
Kissinger: But they still depend on you for their supplies.
Le Duc Tho: That is not quite true now. It was true previously while the war was still going on in Vietnam, before the Paris Agreement. But now they can do most of their own supplying themselves. Most of the weapons they have they have captured from the Lon Nol people.
Kissinger: We have solved many problems together. It seems to us that in Cambodia we must bring about a situation in which a political evolution can take place. Then we can stop the bombing, and all U.S. military activities in Indochina would be ended.
Le Duc Tho: We also earnestly want a settlement. For our part we have talked with our Cambodian allies about a peaceful settlement in Cambodia but they are sovereign. This is their decision to make. So as I have told you, we have settled the Vietnam problem and seen a settlement of the Laotian problem. There is no reason for us to want a continuing war in Cambodia.
Kissinger: You said that in January and nothing has happened.
Le Duc Tho: Those are the difficulties we have to face. I have explained them many times. We have no interest in the present situation in Cambodia continuing. Your assessment of the situation in Cambodia coincides with certain points in Sihanouk’s statements. You have made some progress.
Kissinger: I wouldn’t go that far. If the war in Cambodia is not ended it is going to present insurmountable difficulties for us in doing what we want to do regarding normalization of relations. There will be sharp debates and we will have to accuse you of many things.
Le Duc Tho: It would not be correct for you to accuse me. On the contrary, I should accuse you.
Kissinger: We shouldn’t accuse each other and we should move towards normalization.
Le Duc Tho: And we should go to a peaceful solution of the Cambodia problem.
Kissinger: I agree but we have to do this with some sort of schedule in mind. We should give ourselves an objective.
Le Duc Tho: I understand.
Kissinger: If the Special Advisor speaks to his students they will listen.[Page 271]
Le Duc Tho: They are not my students; they are allies.
Kissinger: We and you will speak to the Chinese and between the two of us we can meet a schedule.
Le Duc Tho: I have always explained to you that we should take measures to bring about a stabilization of the situation in the whole area and bring about a new era of DRV–U.S. relations.
Kissinger: That is why we should give ourselves a schedule.
Le Duc Tho: Sometimes schedules do not depend on us.
Kissinger: We had a schedule on Laos but it wasn’t kept very well.
Le Duc Tho: But the situation is different. Each problem is separate. Laos and Cambodia and Vietnam. As I told you, we realize you have difficulties; you know about these. But we also have our difficulties.
Kissinger: And you know yours and you can solve them.
Le Duc Tho: It is very difficult; it is not easy to solve.
Kissinger: I understand.
Le Duc Tho: Regarding Laos we could come to an agreement with our allies very easily.
[The formal meeting then resumed at 6:00 p.m.]
Le Duc Tho: Shall we resume, Mr. Special Advisor.
Le Duc Tho: As to the visit of the National Red Cross Societies to the places of detention, we propose that they visit immediately. But, if you think later, then we propose ten days after we reach agreement here. Your proposal is thirty days. I think it is too long. Because in the Protocol it is provided for fifteen days.
Kissinger: First, there are two differences. The first thing is to designate them according to the terms of the Protocol.
Le Duc Tho: They have decided this question—the Canadians and the Polish.
Kissinger: Oh? We think the Polish will never find the camp. I have never heard of that.
Le Duc Tho: They have decided that, the Canadians and Poles. The obstacle now is that we propose that the two South Vietnamese parties go along with the National Red Cross Societies but the Saigon people disagree to that. Therefore, we propose that we put here “the visit of the National Red Cross Societies.” As to whether the South Vietnamese parties go along with them, we leave this question to the South Vietnamese parties to decide.
Kissinger: I don’t understand.
Le Duc Tho: We proposed that in within fifteen days they will visit places of detention.[Page 272]
Kissinger: But then he said if each of the parties don’t go along . . . I don’t go along . . . I don’t understand that.
Le Duc Tho: Because during the discussion of the two South Vietnamese parties it was proposed that the two South Vietnamese parties would go along with the National Red Cross Societies, but the Saigon people did not agree. So I want to say here that the Red Cross Societies will visit within ten days. As to the other questions, we will leave that to the two South Vietnamese parties to decide.
Kissinger: Well, why don’t we say fifteen days?
Le Duc Tho: I agree.
Kissinger: I have given you 15 days. You now owe me ten days on something. [laughter] We will use your language and instead of “immediately” we will say fifteen days. All right?
Le Duc Tho: [nods yes] Now point 6, Article 11. This question should have been carried out three months ago, immediately after the signing. But now this time period has lapsed and no democratic liberties have been applied in South Vietnam. Therefore, we want to repeat Article 11, so that they can be applied by the two South Vietnamese parties. We will repeat the words of the Agreement without any change.
Kissinger: Yes, but the words of the Agreement are very clear. I can’t see why we just can’t refer to Article 11?
Le Duc Tho: If we have to repeat this, it will take only a few lines more. We have enough papers to do this. You are too parsimonious. [laughter]
Kissinger: Yes, but if we repeat it as in your draft, it seems like something new, and it shakes people’s faith in the inviolability of the Agreement.
Le Duc Tho: All right. I agree. We will go with the specific wording of the Agreement.
Kissinger: That’s your original proposal! There are three stages in negotiating with the Special Advisor. First, he makes a proposal. Second, he agrees with Minister Thach’s formulation. Third, he agrees with his own reformulation of Minister Thach’s formulation.
Le Duc Tho: So I propose to stick to the words of the Agreement here, to avoid any dispute.
Kissinger: Well, I think people will be so fascinated by what we issue that when we refer to Article 11 they will run to every bookstore in Saigon to look up Article 11. [laughter]
Le Duc Tho: So, we maintain our proposal. On Article 15, you wanted to have it very concrete, and it is something very new. Article 11 is in the Agreement, and you are unwilling.
Kissinger: Well, let’s leave it for the time being and come back to it.[Page 273]
Le Duc Tho: I wonder what is the reason you have to put it aside? Because it is just the same words as in the Agreement.
Kissinger: Well, for one thing, it should make clear that we are just quoting the Agreement. We should say “in implementation of Article 11, which reads as follows.” But this is just for consideration. [laughter] I provisionally consider it. I have written it down but I have not accepted it.
Le Duc Tho: Now, let us come to Article 12. And your suggestion here is the time period. Previously it was said in the Agreement that the South Vietnamese parties should do their utmost to form the National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord within three months. Now we propose that they form the National Council as soon as possible but within thirty days.
Kissinger: Now wait a minute. You accept our phrase? Let me understand it. You say “establish it as soon as possible.” You mean within thirty days? Is this your proposal?
Le Duc Tho: So our original proposal is that: “In implementation of Article 12 of the Agreement, the National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord consisting of three equal segments should be formed as soon as possible, no later than thirty days after the entry into force of the strict ceasefire and the enforcement of democratic liberties, with a view to promoting the two South Vietnamese parties’ implementation of the Agreement, achievement of national reconciliation and concord, ensurance of democratic liberties, and with a view to organizing genuinely free and democratic general elections under international supervision. The general elections will be held no later than six months after the entry into force of the strict ceasefire referred to in paragraph B.1, the full ensurance of democratic liberties, and the formation of the National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord. The two South Vietnamese parties will sign an agreement on the internal matters of South Vietnam as soon as possible, and within two months at most after the publication of this communiqué.”
Kissinger: This is a different formulation than what we have and that is simply much too specific on the political questions. First, on the National Council, if you read Article 12 (b) there is no exact deadline for its coming into being. Because it refers to the political settlement, not to the Council. Secondly, this is adding many clauses. I think the Minister got carried away with himself, because all the articles we got rid of in October he has managed to put in this communiqué. I think that they just initialed another Agreement.
Le Duc Tho: So our proposal is as follows: “After the ceasefire comes into effect, the two South Vietnamese parties will discuss and agree on the formation of the National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord as soon as possible.” And, then, the other point is [Page 274]just like Article 12, and only for the time limit for the settlement of internal matters we propose 30 days. But you propose 15 days. We propose 30 days.
Kissinger: Who will take 38 days?
Le Duc Tho: We proposed 60 days. Now we agree 45 days.
Kissinger: OK. I understand 45 days. Now let me say what I think you are saying. Let me sum up my understanding of what you have just said. I have honestly the impression that if Minister Thach would go out to dinner we would settle this thing very quickly. My understanding is as follows: that after the ceasefire the two SVN parties will meet “as soon as possible” to set up the National Council.
Le Duc Tho: They are meeting now!
Kissinger: Well, OK, they will set up the Council as soon as possible, and they will also do their utmost to settle the internal problems within 45 days. Did I understand correctly?
Le Duc Tho: “After the ceasefire the two SVN parties will set up the National Council for National Reconciliation and Concord composed of three equal segments as soon as possible.” There is no word “do their utmost” in this sentence.
Kissinger: I understand.
Le Duc Tho: Then “they will do their utmost to settle on internal matters within 45 days.”
Kissinger: That is OK. We accept that.
Sullivan: But on the other . . .
Kissinger: Don’t argue with me. I am going to teach him negotiating. We accept the two sentences that Mr. Phuong has just announced.
Le Duc Tho: Regarding the general elections, I agree with the time period of six months on the condition that first, after the ceasefire and the democratic liberties are insured, then the National Council should have been formed, and then six months after the carrying out of these things, then there will be general elections. Because it is our view that without a ceasefire, without the insurance of democratic liberties there cannot be free and democratic general elections. After the ceasefire the democratic liberties should be assured so that everyone can express their views, and then the Council can be set up, and six months afterward there could be elections.
Kissinger: I had asked the Special Advisor if that was based on his experience in Hanoi with elections. But our view, Mr. Special Advisor, is the following: when we say six months, the establishment of the Council is a fixed date; that one can understand. The assurance of democratic liberties is a process, that is even being argued about in our country. And, therefore, we think the six months should date from the time of the formation of the National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord.[Page 275]
Le Duc Tho: Here I should mention about the democratic liberties. In the Agreement it is mentioned that “immediately after the ceasefire the democratic liberties should be insured,” and the formation of the National Council and then the organization of the elections.
Kissinger: Well, we are willing to refer to the paragraph on insurance of democratic liberties in a separate paragraph. But the date should have a specific thing to date from. We are willing to say within six months of the formation of the National Council. But these won’t be the same dates anyway.
Le Duc Tho: What we want is that after the ceasefire then the National Council should be formed and the democratic liberties should be insured. And after carrying out all these things, then six months afterward the general elections will be organized.
Kissinger: Yes. We understand. We have a separate paragraph about democratic liberties. We are not arguing about that. But we are saying that when you talk about elections it should be from some specific date. First you have the ceasefire and then formation of the National Council, and then six months after that you should have the elections. And since it is in any event the duty of the National Council to provide free elections, then they can decide when the democratic liberties have been fulfilled and when the elections should be organized.
Le Duc Tho: This is what I have in mind. After the ceasefire—it will be on a fixed date.
Le Duc Tho: Then on Article 11, immediately after the ceasefire all democratic liberties must be insured. Then there will be the formation of the National Council, and then six months later there will be the elections. This is the order of provisions I have in mind.
Kissinger: I agree but it is two separate things. This is already in the Agreement like that. What we are saying in this paragraph, we should only talk about the ceasefire and the National Council, which are fixed dates, and the National Council has the responsibility to see to that the elections are free.
Le Duc Tho: Although the democratic liberties are dealt with under Article 11, here we would like to say that one condition for the organization of the general elections is that the democratic liberties should be insured.
Kissinger: It doesn’t say that in the Agreement.
Le Duc Tho: It is not said in the Agreement, but what we want is that the insurance of the democratic liberties set in Article 11 be applied before the organization of the general elections.
Kissinger: I understand, but the National Council already has the responsibility to do that. They themselves will know what to apply. It is implicit in the term “free and democratic elections.”[Page 276]
Le Duc Tho: But here we should state that the insurance of the free and democratic liberties should precede the democratic elections. And this is in conformity with the Agreement.
Kissinger: In the Agreement it only says the Council should organize free and democratic general elections, and we are prepared to say that.
Le Duc Tho: But the democratic liberties must precede general elections, so that all the citizens, the electors, can freely express their own views. And only after the application of democratic liberties can free elections be held. And moreover, the democratic liberties must be insured immediately after the ceasefire.
Kissinger: But that is already part of the Agreement. After all, it is the duty of the National Council to organize free and democratic elections; that presupposes democratic liberties.
Le Duc Tho: But what we want is immediately after the ceasefire the democratic liberties should be applied.
Kissinger: But we have already put this into the text, provisionally.
Le Duc Tho: But we would like to add that before the organization of general elections then the democratic liberties should be implemented.
Kissinger: But that is the job of the National Council, and I wouldn’t want to interfere in the job of the National Council, which will proceed in a spirit of concord.
Le Duc Tho: So I propose the following then: Immediately after the ceasefire, under Article 11 the democratic liberties should be implemented immediately. Then the formation of the National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord; the two SVN parties will set up this Council as soon as possible. We have proposed within 30 days but you have not yet agreed to it. Then regarding the general elections, we will leave that to the two SVN parties to decide when the organization of the general elections will take place. [The two sides confer.]
Kissinger: What we are debating here is that what you are trying to get us to do is to support the PRG position at St. Cloud. Did I misunderstand? Did I misunderstand the intention here? [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: You are right.
Kissinger: And, of course, we have the opposite intention.
Le Duc Tho: It is two different intentions.
Kissinger: That has slowly dawned on us. Our minds are not as fast as Vietnamese minds! So we now have to find a more neutral formulation, or else leave it up to the parties at St. Cloud. I have met the Chief of the South Vietnamese delegation, and he is a man of great brilliance. He has a very complex mind. So, really, Special Advisor, this is our problem here. And now that we understand each other here, should we try to solve the problem?[Page 277]
Le Duc Tho: Let me express our views. So our intentions are different now. So we should try to find a solution.
Dr. Kissinger: Exactly.
Le Duc Tho: So “In conformity with Article 12, the two SVN parties shall set up the National Council as soon as possible.” We propose 30 days and you disagree, so we propose “as soon as possible.” Then “the National Council should be composed of three equal segments”—just as in the Agreement. As to the internal matters of the South Vietnamese, we will leave those to the people of SVN to settle among themselves, within 45 days.
Kissinger: “Do their utmost, and no democratic liberties and no elections.”
Le Duc Tho: As to the democratic liberties, we write it as Article 11. As to the elections it comes under the rubric of the internal matters of SVN, and we will leave it to the SVN parties.
Kissinger: I think the Special Adviser has understood us but I don’t think Mr. Thach has sufficiently understood the problem. The problem is that the South Vietnamese want a date for elections, and the PRG want a date for democratic liberties. We agree to what you said on the National Council. This we accept. And then we could say “the South Vietnamese parties will discuss the internal matters including democratic liberties under Article 11 and free elections under Article 12 as soon as possible and within 45 days.”
Le Duc Tho: Article 11 is explicitly written before that and immediately applied. As to the internal matters of SVN, we will stick to the words of the Agreement. Now the two SVN parties will settle their own matters. In other words, we maintain Article 11 and 12 of the Agreement; the only change is to change 90 days into a 45 day period.
Kissinger: Then why don’t we just say Article 11 and 12 should be strictly implemented?
Le Duc Tho: No, we have to write it in more detail. A number of points should be repeated because a number of points have been violated. It is not contrary to the Agreement. It is the best solution possible considering the two different intentions. [Both sides confer.]
Kissinger: Do you still have a deadline on the internal matters?
Le Duc Tho: 45 days. Originally it was 90 days. Now the 90 days are over. It is your proposal.
Kissinger: The 45 days?
Le Duc Tho: Your proposal.
Kissinger: Otherwise nothing is our proposal.
Le Duc Tho: You proposed 60 days. We disagreed and proposed 45 days.
Kissinger: You proposed 60 days. No, we accepted your proposal.[Page 278]
Le Duc Tho: You reduced it to 45 days.
Kissinger: That was a mistake. We meant 45 days.
Le Duc Tho: Anyhow, you want to increase the time period?
Kissinger: We would like to put all the political provisions on the same level of urgency.
Le Duc Tho: What do you mean?
Kissinger: What I mean is that we should put all the political provisions into one article of our communiqué. That would facilitate . . . Then we could even consider following your format.
Le Duc Tho: But what is your draft?
Kissinger: We don’t have it here. [A cable from Saigon is brought in. Tab B]5 Can I see the message since it is addressed to me? We have to take a few minutes break to study this.
Le Duc Tho: What is about your message?
Sullivan: We will ask you to compose the answer!
[The meeting broke briefly from 7:10–7:25.]
Le Duc Tho: I think the time is over now, and I am a little tired. I will express my views and we will resume tomorrow morning. The details can be worked out by Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach and there are only one or two problems left.
Kissinger: [Laughs] One of them is called Cambodia.
Le Duc Tho: I would like to clarify my views regarding Articles 11 and 12. In brief, we maintain Article 11 as it is written in the Agreement. We maintain it as it is written in the Agreement except where it says that the two SVN parties will do their utmost to sign an agreement on matters of internal matters in SVN in 45 days.
Kissinger: All right.
Le Duc Tho: Now, regarding Article 17, the two parties have agreed to the Two-Party Joint Military Commission. Regarding Article 20, we write . . . I agree to your writing in the document.
Kissinger: Now wait a minute, you are going too fast for me. What is it you are writing on Article 20?
Le Duc Tho: What you had in your document.[Page 279]
Dr. Kissinger: This is what we took from your document.
Le Duc Tho: As to the understanding it is another matter.
Kissinger: OK. I understand now.
Le Duc Tho: Regarding Article 21, I agree that the work of the Joint Economic Commission should be completed by June 15. Regarding Article 18 . . .
Kissinger: I know he would leave the most important for last.
Tho: Regarding the ICCS I will write it as it is written in the Agreement, and we agree to the sentence you have added.
Dr. Kissinger: OK.
Le Duc Tho: That “the two SVN parties should/shall issue necessary instructions to their personnel and take all such other measures to insure their safe movement.” It is as to the spirit of the sentence; as to the wording, Minister Thach and Ambassador Sullivan will discuss.
Kissinger: All right.
Le Duc Tho: So I have expressed my views regarding all the points of the joint communiqué. In my view, we are issuing a joint communiqué signed by you and I. We have three understandings: One, regarding Laos, we will write the understanding as I have presented it to you the other day. We will achieve the political problems of Laos: “The DRVN and the U.S. have been informed by the Lao parties that the formation of the Provisional Government of National Union will be achieved at the latest at 30 days after May 1973, in conformity with the Agreement on Laos.” But we will do our utmost.
Regarding Cambodia, I have explained to you lengthily on this question, and I maintain what I have said.
We have another understanding, regarding the civilian personnel. We maintain your commitment before we signed the Paris Agreement. It is nothing different. [He hands over three DRV draft understandings: on Laos, Tab C; on Cambodia, Tab D; and on Vietnamese civilian detainees, Tab E.]6
Kissinger: And what is the third.
Le Duc Tho: Laos and the captured civilian personnel. I propose now to adjourn and after dinner whatever should be discussed will be discussed by Minister Thach and Ambassador Sullivan.
Kissinger: I suggest that they have dinner here together.
Le Duc Tho: All right.[Page 280]
Kissinger: Mr. Special Advisor, Mr. Sullivan and I have just voted to send Mr. Thach home and keep you here. Because you are easier to work with.
Le Duc Tho: I will discuss with you tomorrow.
Kissinger: May I make two quick observations? I know you are in a hurry to get away. First, it is important for us to get part (c) of our draft in the communiqué [about MIA] because of the emotional concerns of our population regarding this question. If necessary, we can make it as a separate document between us.
Secondly, on the political matters, I think we understand each other’s problems, and maybe Mr. Thach and Ambassador Sullivan should have another talk before we come back to it. I think we have narrowed our differences but there are still important differences.
Le Duc Tho: Regarding the political questions?
Kissinger: Yes, regarding the political questions, Article 11 and Article 12. I recognize that you have made an effort and we will take it into account. But there are still important problems to discuss. Now, on Laos, 30 days is too long, as I have told you on a number of occasions. And on Cambodia we have had an opportunity to discuss it privately in the other room and I would like to lay very great stress on the central importance of the considerations we put forward to you. We have to maintain our position with respect to it. But we can leave that to tomorrow.
Now, in planning our work, Mr. Special Advisor, I can probably prolong my stay until Wednesday,7 but it is absolutely the last day for me. I must be back Wednesday night. So we should keep that in mind. And we need to come to the understandings tomorrow, and we would need a day to compare texts also.
And now I should let you go. Unless you wish to reply.
Le Duc Tho: Let me speak a few words. Regarding the missing. I have told my views to Minister Thach and he will discuss them with Ambassador Sullivan. Regarding the political questions, I maintain my views, but if you want to discuss anything further, Minister Thach and Ambassador Sullivan can discuss them. I think it is the only possible solution to the difficulties I have told you.
Regarding Laos, tomorrow I will further express my views regarding our difficulties in this—why there must be such a time period because it is necessary because a shorter time period will not be so sure and we may have to prolong it later. I have to return and to agree with [Page 281]our allies and, therefore, it will take some time. But it is not my intention to prolong a few days more if our allies agreed to that.
As to the Cambodian question, we know it is a matter of interest to you, but we have difficulties. And I can say that in the course of the negotiations it has been the problem which has taken the greatest amount of time. And I don’t think there is another solution possible other than what we have written to you in our messages. We have made a great effort and we will continue to make an effort in this direction.
And, I propose that tomorrow morning we will meet at Gif at 10:30.8
Kissinger: 10:30 is good. All right. If there is a problem we will call each other.
[The meeting adjourned for the evening at 7:40 p.m.]
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 114, Country Files, Far East, Vietnam, Paris Memcons, May 17–23, 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting was held at La Fontaine au Blanc, St. Nom la Breteche. Brackets are in the original.↩
- Draft memorandum of understanding attached but not printed. Article 1 dealt with the cessation of U.S. aerial reconnaissance over the Democratic Republic of Vietnam; article 2 addressed the resumption of U.S. minesweeping; article 3 concerned the points of entry of military supplies.↩
- May 25.↩
- Draft cease-fire order at Tab B is not attached.↩
- Two South Vietnamese memoranda are at Tab B. Ambassador Whitehouse sent the memoranda, which rejected the U.S.-DRV formula under discussion in Paris, to Kissinger in messages 437/Tohak 128, May 21, and 438/Tohak 129, May 21. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 36, HAK Trip Files, Paris Trip, May 1973, TOHAK 126–210) In message 440/Tohak 134, May 21, Whitehouse reported to Kissinger: “We are facing all the suspicion and stubbornness with which you are only too familiar and it is obvious the GVN finds it hard to believe that the DRV is sincerely seeking an early, effective and enduring cease-fire.” (Ibid.)↩
- Draft Understanding on Laos, May 21; Draft Understanding on Cambodia, May 21; and Draft Understanding on Vietnamese Civilian Personnel Captured and Detained in South Viet Nam, May 21, are attached but not printed.↩
- May 23.↩
- Kissinger and Le Duc Tho met at 108 Avenue du General Leclerc, Gif-sur-Yvette, Paris, May 22, 10:30 a.m.–4:40 p.m. Minutes of that session are in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 114, Country Files, Far East, Vietnam, Paris Memcons, May 17–23, 1973.↩