59. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Results of Negotiations with the North Vietnamese, May 17–23, 1973
Summary of Results: Yesterday I concluded six days of negotiations in Paris with Le Duc Tho.2 We have agreed to meet again in Paris [Page 287] on June 6 to conclude a signed communiqué, the text of which is now agreed, as well as several private understandings. Ambassador Sullivan has gone to Saigon to explain the draft communiqué to President Thieu and obtain his concurrence, either to signing it as a four-party communiqué, or to our signing it with the DRV and stating in the communiqué that we are doing so with the concurrence of the GVN. The single, outstanding issue between us is Cambodia. I made it clear to Tho that we would not be prepared to sign the communiqué unless we receive a satisfactory understanding on this subject. The time between now and June 6 should permit us to exert pressure on North Vietnam concerning Cambodia through the Soviets and Chinese. The prospect of a final meeting on June 6 should also help us deter rash Congressional action with respect to Cambodia in the interim.
Our Objectives: We proposed these negotiations in order to achieve a variety of objectives. In brief, these were:
Concerning Vietnam—To bring pressure to bear—hopefully effectively—against continuing, serious North Vietnamese cease-fire violations, massive infiltration of arms and, to a lesser degree, of troops, the blatant disregard of the demilitarized character of the DMZ, and restraints on ICCS operations, including attacks on ICCS aircraft.
Concerning Laos—(i) To obtain a commitment from the DRV that the Pathet Lao will stop their stalling tactics and form the new government in Laos within a relatively brief period of time; (ii) to obtain a commitment from the DRV to withdraw their troops from Laos by a fixed date in the reasonably near future; and (iii) to obtain a commitment from the DRV to assist us in obtaining information concerning the fate of all Americans missing in action in Laos.
Concerning Cambodia—(i) To obtain a cease-fire at the earliest possible date; (ii) to bring about negotiations among the Cambodian parties for a political settlement along Laotian lines; (iii) to obtain a commitment from the DRV to withdraw their troops from Cambodia by a fixed date in the reasonably near future; and (iv) to be able to cease U.S. bombing in Cambodia at an early date as part of this understanding.
Our Accomplishments:

VietnamTho and I have agreed on the text of a communiqué which constitutes a clear net gain for our side. It reiterates the obligations of the Agreement not to introduce troops into South Vietnam and not to introduce arms except as replacements through designated points of entry and subject to inspection. It reaffirms the DMZ and states that arms and war material may transit it only enroute to a designated point of entry. It contains a reiteration of the right of movement of the ICCS, as set forth in the Paris Agreement, and an obligation on the two South Vietnamese parties to ensure the safety of ICCS [Page 288] movement. It requires the PRG and GVN to issue identical cease-fire orders effective June 9. Perhaps most important, it contains several provisions (including a requirement that the teams of the Two-Party Joint Military Commission move out of provincial capitals, where the PRG obviously hoped to proselytize, to places where the two areas of control adjoin) which indicates a decision by the Communists to deemphasize the political struggle in GVN-controlled areas and concentrate instead on stabilizing the cease-fire and consolidating their own areas of control. In this connection, Tho agreed, in effect, to bury indefinitely the National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord, thus ending any further claims to coalition government.

In order to obtain the commitments, we had to agree to resume compliance with the Paris Agreement in those areas where at the end of April we had cut off compliance to put pressure on North Vietnam—i.e., stop aerial reconnaissance over the North, resume mine clearance, and resume the meetings of the Joint Economic Commission. In other words, we gave up nothing of substance. We also had to refer to a number of provisions from the Agreement on the internal political process in South Vietnam, but we managed to write those in such a way that they should be of minimal propaganda value to the Vietcong, and acceptable to President Thieu. We also had to agree to repeat our private undertaking of January,3 with a new time limit, to use “maximum influence” to promote the release of South Vietnamese civilian prisoners within 45 days. This commitment will in all likelihood be as difficult to fulfill now as it was earlier.


Laos—With respect to Laos, the draft communiqué says only that Article 20 of the Paris Agreement (which requires the withdrawal of all foreign troops) shall be scrupulously implemented. However, we have also agreed on the text of a private understanding that would: (i) reaffirm the “strong desire” of the U.S. and the DRV that the current negotiations in Laos will succeed promptly; (ii) state that the Lao parties inform us the new government will be formed by July 1 at the latest; (iii) commit the United States and the DRV to exert their best efforts in that direction; and (iv) in conformity with the February Laotian cease-fire agreement, require withdrawal of all foreign troops within 60 days after the new government is formed. We thus are operating again with a fixed deadline.

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With respect to Americans missing in Laos, the draft communiqué repeats a provision from the Paris Agreement in which the parties agree to help each other get information on the missing in action and the dead. That provision contains no geographical limitation, and Tho agreed that he would not contradict us if we state publicly that it obligates the DRV to assist us in these matters with the Pathet Lao. He said the DRV, in fact, would help us but that they couldn’t say anything publicly about it.

CambodiaTho maintained that the DRV wanted to see the war end quickly in Cambodia but that it could not do more to bring this about than it had already promised. I told him I would not be authorized to sign the communiqué unless we obtained a satisfactory understanding on Cambodia. I gave him a draft understanding that calls for a temporary cease-fire, withdrawal of foreign troops within 60 days, and best efforts by the United States and North Vietnam to promote a permanent cease-fire and an early political settlement among the Cambodians. Realistically, I do not expect to get that much. The key to success lies in pressures we can exert between now and June 6 through the Russians and Chinese. Fortunately, your forthcoming meeting with Brezhnev and the Chinese concerns about it give us some leverage. In any event, the prospect of a conclusive meeting beginning on June 6 should make it possible to defer, at least until after that meeting, any unfortunate legislation aimed at further restricting our actions in Southeast Asia.
  1. 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 President circled Kissinger’s name at the top of the first page and wrote: “Excellent job against great odds.”
  2. Kissinger and Le Duc Tho’s final session occurred at La Fontaine au Blanc, St. Nom la Breteche, Paris, May 22, 10:30 a.m.–5:05 p.m. Minutes of that meeting are ibid.
  3. Reference is to one of the four protocols annexed to the Paris Agreements, specifically to the “Protocol concerning the return of captured military personnel and foreign civilians and captured and detained Vietnamese civilian personnel.”