79. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Tran Kim Phuong, Ambassador of the Government of the Republic of Vietnam
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Mr. William L. Stearman, National Security Council Staff

Dr. Kissinger: I think Nha and Duc are the ones that have been causing us problems.

Ambassador Phuong: Nha is not the problem. The problem is that the North Vietnamese are trying to negate this Agreement.

Dr. Kissinger: It is our view that there is nothing in the Communiqué that makes any difference one way or the other. It only reaffirms clauses of the original Agreement. When we proposed meeting with Le Duc Tho, we intended to take strong military action. We were prevented from doing this by the Watergate business. If your government refuses to sign the Communiqué, you will be blamed for everything that goes wrong afterward. The Congress will vote restrictions on any military aid in Indochina. We are gaining time until we can turn the present situation around. It is a different situation from that which existed last fall. This gives us a diplomatic basis to work with. It is important to get Peking and Moscow to cut off military supplies to North Vietnam. We recognize your situation, and I won’t get involved in any more negotiations in the future.

[Page 329]

Ambassador Phuong: Thieu objects to Article 12 (of the original Communiqué draft).

Dr. Kissinger: On delineation of territory, I think Duc and Nha are misleading Thieu. You proposed a delineation of territory (in the Joint Military Commission) last April, and Thieu proposed it to us on May 4 and 14. On May 9, I discussed this with General Quang and he wanted it too. Where does this go beyond the Agreement? It mentions only in two places that the stationing of the Two Party Joint Military Commission teams can be at one of three places. Either those specified in the Agreement, or where an area of control joins another area—that is area—or any other place. You do not have to agree with the other side where teams should be stationed because the Communiqué does not say where they should be stationed.

Ambassador Phuong: But does it have to be published in the Communiqué. In Saigon it looks like a de facto partition. Thieu was thinking in terms of only military control.

Dr. Kissinger: We agree. We have not changed our position on this. Ambassador Phuong: Why did you refuse to include a timetable for elections in the Communiqué?

Dr. Kissinger: Last September we asked for a timetable on elections, and it was thrown out at your request. Last November and December Le Duc Tho proposed elections in six months, and we rejected this at your request. How can we put this in now that we have refused it? It would be a change in the Agreement.

Ambassador Phuong: Our objections in this respect are because of the references of a National Council.

Dr. Kissinger: I think this kills the National Council. You can insist on elections.

Ambassador Phuong: The Communiqué first mentions democratic liberties then the National Council which is to agree to this and that, and then we have to do our best to implement this.

Dr. Kissinger: But the Communiqué says “as soon as possible.”

Ambassador Phuong: We would have to agree to democratic liberties in the National Council.

Dr. Kissinger: If you formed a National Council without agreeing on elections, you would be crazy. Then there is nothing in the Communiqué that says you can’t. This could stress that agreement on internal affairs as referred to in paragraph 10 (b) includes both agreement on elections and the National Council.

Ambassador Phuong: “Democratic liberties” create problems for us as we are more vulnerable on this respect.

Dr. Kissinger: We are just quoting from the Agreement.

[Page 330]

Ambassador Phuong: Thieu wants to include all of Article IV of the Agreement.

Dr. Kissinger: It is too late for this as we are down to final issues now; although I understand the point.

Ambassador Phuong: We still have no definite word from Saigon.

Dr. Kissinger: I talked to Whitehouse. We have no idea what happened. Something must have gone wrong in communications, since initially we thought you were satisfied. We were planning to have a final session in which you would participate.

Ambassador Phuong: I don’t know what happened either. It seemed that we were getting closer and closer.

Dr. Kissinger: I think the people in the Palace were deliberately making trouble. In respect to the May 24 draft2 reference to the location of teams, we weakened and changed it. Although it is really to your advantage to have clearly delineated zones of control since if they attack under these circumstances, we are in a much better position vis-à-vis our opposition here. We thought there were only minor things to be faced in regard to the Communiqué. I wouldn’t have started these negotiations if I had known what was going to happen. You know what will happen if you don’t sign. That is all Congress will need to vote against you.

Ambassador Phuong: Yes, I understand and I reported to Saigon about the situation here.

Dr. Kissinger: It certainly makes no sense for us to have quarreled this time since we have so many difficulties. However, I sympathize with Thieu, and we would have done more if it hadn’t been for the Watergate. Now either you are going to sign with us, or if you don’t, they won’t sign. We will have to explain why you didn’t.

Ambassador Phuong: I am still waiting for a reply from Saigon.

Dr. Kissinger: Thieu initially welcomed our not asking for elections in six months. I have just heard from Sullivan that the other side agreed to substitute the word “area” for “territory” in the English version of the Communiqué. No one is going to read the Communiqué as meaning that we intend to divide South Vietnam unless you say so. Most people are going to wonder what all the excitement is about.

Ambassador Phuong: The Vietnamese are very worried about anything which implies the division of South Vietnam.

Dr. Kissinger: You know what the consequences are going to be if Thieu turns us down in Paris. We must prevent this in any case. I will never negotiate on this issue again. Let’s let Nha and Duc do the negotiating.

[Page 331]

Ambassador Phuong: Did you have good communication with our people in Paris?

Dr. Kissinger: Vien apparently hadn’t even read the Agreement. And only Phuong really seemed to have understood everything. The only objection Lam initially has raised was in connection with the Communiqué’s containing “recommendations.” Lam wanted a Four Party Communiqué and at your request we agreed. You seemed to initially have only minor objections, and we did not see any problems when Sullivan came back from Saigon. When the text came back from Saigon, we were astonished. Suddenly everything was open again. You must urge them on our behalf to sign. If not, it is going to be disastrous. When Brezhnev comes here we will raise the question on cutting off military supplies (from the Soviets), and we have already discussed this with the Chinese. If we split over the Communiqué, they (the Soviets and Chinese) will have no reason to limit their supplies to North Vietnam. We should work out some system of communication to work out the differences we have been having. If you attack the Communiqué, we will be forced to support Hanoi and not your unilateral position on the substance of the Communiqué. The President is very upset about your government’s accusation that we produced a “disaster.” Our main problem right now is to see that things go well tomorrow. Right now we are faced with a possibility of a Congressional Amendment to cut off all aid to Indochina. This has been held up until after the negotiations. If we can get through July, then comes our August recess. By September we should be in a better position. I grant that our domestic problems are none of your doing, but you should appreciate our present position. You know what we have gone through this time.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 105, Country Files, Far East, Vietnam, GVN Memcons, May–June 1973. Secret; Sensitive. The meeting was held in Kissinger’s office.
  2. See Document 60.