8. Memorandum From Richard Kennedy and John Holdridge of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Analytical Summary of Response to NSSM 167: Preparation for the International Conference on Indochina

Conference Organization

The International Conference on Vietnam (ICV) will convene on February 26 in Paris. The 13 participants will be: The 4 parties to the Peace Agreement (the U.S., GVN, DRV, and the PRG); the 4 members of the ICCS (Canada, Indonesia, Poland, Hungary); the PRC; the USSR; England; France and the Secretary General of the UN. The level of representation will be that of Foreign Minister.

SVN Attitude Toward the PRG as an Equal Participant:

  • • We face a potentially serious problem with the GVN who may balk at attending the ICV with the PRG as an equal participant.
  • • We must approach the GVN early on about this matter, prepared to use whatever persuasive pressure necessary.

[ NSC Comment: State foresees a potential serious problem in the GVN’s willingness to attend on an equal basis with the PRG. We believe this may be unduly pessimistic. Since the PRG’s attendance is already fixed in the Agreement, it is unlikely that the GVN will balk at attending, but they may wish to make a unilateral statement of non-recognition or raise other procedural points. In any event, it would be good to nail this down with Saigon as soon as possible.]

Conference Chairman:

  • • Our preference for Chairman is UN Secretary General Waldheim.
  • • The Vietnamese Communists may resist our choice of Waldheim and propose that France chair the ICV, which would not be in our interest.
  • • We should refuse a French Chairman.

[ NSC Comment: State may be exaggerating the DRV’s unwillingness to accept Waldheim as Chairman, as long as his role is to be limited to that of presiding officer. If the DRV does refuse to accept him, we should be prepared with an alternative—such as a rotating chairmanship.]

Conference Duration

  • —Since we view the primary purpose of the ICV as endorsing agreements already reached, we wish to limit the number of substantive additions to the agenda.
  • —If we can agree ahead of time on agenda items and expected results with the DRV, the USSR, the PRC—as well as a consensus among others—the ICV may be limited to 5–7 days.

• While we believe Hanoi will want a short conference, we should plan for one lasting 2–3 weeks if agreement on ICV issues cannot be reached.

[ NSC Comment: The paper states that Hanoi will probably want a short meeting due to its disinclination to have the UN or other international bodies become involved in Indochinese affairs. However, we also need to bear in mind that the Conference will provide a favorable sounding board for DRV and PRG propaganda. It will also give the PRG maximum international exposure. Therefore it is possible that Hanoi would not be averse to a conference lasting longer than 5–7 days.]

Conference Objectives

  • —Article 19 of the Agreement sets forth the objectives of the ICV as:
    • • to acknowledge the signed agreement;
    • • to guarantee the ending of the war, the maintenance of peace in Vietnam, the respect of the people’s fundamental rights, and the South Vietnamese people’s right to self determination;
    • • to contribute to and guarantee peace in Indochina.
  • —Barring unforeseen developments, we expect Hanoi and its supporters to contend the ICV need only issue a simple endorsement of the Agreement.
  • —However, we should seek ICV action—beyond a simple endorsement—on the following three additional points:
    • (1) Relationship Between the Conference and The ICCS
      • • We wish to establish a direct, continuing relationship between the ICV, or its participants, and the ICCS. We also wish, if possible, agreement to share expenses of the ICCS among ICV participants. Our purpose is to provide the ICCS with an external political authority to which [Page 26]it can report on ceasefire violations—and other matters—related to the Agreement in place of the Agreement scheme which creates the closed mechanisms of the ICCS reporting to the parties it is supervising.
      • • We would also like the ICV to agree to a continuing role for Waldheim as a permanent authority of the ICV.
      • • The main disadvantage of this proposal is that Hanoi will probably resist it. We could compromise, if necessary, by letting the ICCS report directly to the ICV participants.
    • (2) Relationship of the Conference to the Issues of Laos and Cambodia
      • • We would like ICV action to pledge to respect the sovereignty, integrity and neutrality of Laos and Cambodia and to endorse any internal political settlements that may have been concluded by those countries—notably Laos—by the time the Conference is held.
      • • Our most immediate interest is to utilize the ICCs established by the 1954 and 1962 Geneva Accords on Cambodia and Laos. However, in the absence of Laos and Cambodia, we should not seek ICV action on the ICC issue.
    • (3) Cooperative Action in Rehabilitation and Reconstruction
      • • The ICV should seek participants to pledge cooperative action to assist in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of all Indochina and to establish an appropriate framework within which assistance programs can be effectively developed, and in which Japan, the UN or others can participate.

[ NSC Comment: One important factor left out in State’s paper is the lineup of the Conference, which puts six parties definitely against us, not including France, five on our side, also not including France, and Waldheim, this highlighting the potentially critical nature of the French role in any majority vote situation. Can we, to any extent, expect support from France, given its past performance?]

Treaty of Paris

—Our tactical objective should be to incorporate these points in a single ICV document accepted by all participants. A draft document, entitled The 1973 Act of Paris is at Tab D.2

[ NSC Comment: We agree that our tactical objectives should be the adoption of a single document, similar to the draft State has appended, which not only endorses the basic Agreement but also encompasses our other objectives, especially the establishment of a direct, continuing relationship between the ICCS and the Conference.

[Page 27]

In Article II, should the 1954 and 1962 Geneva Agreements be specifically mentioned (they are not now)?

Article IV specifically mentions an International Consultative Group. Is it wise to bind the parties so soon to any particular organization?]

Relationship of the ICV to Other Proposed Conferences

—The ASEAN foreign ministers will hold a meeting on February 15 to discuss, inter alia, a possible 10 nation Southeast Asian Conference—including the 5 ASEAN nations plus North and South Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Burma.

  • • This February 15 meeting poses no particular problem for us, and we should not oppose it,
  • • However, we should take necessary actions to see that any larger SEA Conference not be convened until well after the conclusion of the ICV.

Game Plan

  • —In trying to reach agreement before the ICV on issues to be dealt with, our major efforts should be directed at Hanoi and Saigon.
    • • The matter of the ICCS/ICV relationship will probably be the most difficult item to agree on with Hanoi so we should submit our proposals to Hanoi as early as possible.
    • • Next we should consult our allies participating in the Conference, starting soon with the GVN where the principal stumbling block will probably concern the status of the PRG.
  • —Then we should consult other “friendly” ICV participants, notably the UK and Canada, on the ICCS/ICV relationship.
  • —We should keep Waldheim advised in a general way of ICV preparations.
  • —During the preparatory stage we should consult closely with Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.
  • —At an appropriate time before the ICV we should brief selected other governments on our objectives and expectations, first priority going to Japan to encourage its post-ICV involvement in Indochina reconstruction.
  • —We should consult ASEAN states to assure the February 15 meeting does not take action that could damage ICV preparations or objectives.
  • —At an appropriate time during the ICV we should consider how friendly non-participating states or groups (e.g., ASEAN) can most effectively associate themselves with ICV results.

Further discussion of our game plan—including instructions to our delegation—will develop from our pre-conference consultations.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 112, Country Files, Far East, Vietnam Negotiations, Hanoi Trip, February 1973. Secret; Sensitive. Sent for action. Brackets are in the original. The memorandum summarizes the interdepartmental group paper prepared in response to NSSM 167, Document 4. The paper, February 2, is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H–Files), Box H–195, NSSM Files, NSSM 167. A covering memorandum to the paper, February 3, from Jeanne Davis, states: “This paper will serve as the basis for discussion at the Senior Review Group meeting on Tuesday, February 6, at 3:00 p.m.” No record of that SRG meeting has been found.
  2. Draft document, undated, attached but not printed.