83. 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
  • Colonel Hoang Hoa
  • Pham Ngac
  • Tran Quang Co
  • Nguyen Dinh Phuong, Interpreter
  • Notetaker
  • 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-designate to the Philippines
  • Mr. George H. Aldrich, Deputy Legal Adviser, Department of State
  • Mr. Lawrence S. Eagleburger, Deputy to the Assistant to the President for National Security Operations
  • Mr. Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff
  • Mr. Richard S. Thompson, Department of State, Interpreter
  • Mrs. Bonnie Andrews, NSC Secretary

Dr. Kissinger: Would the Special Adviser like to speak first? I see he has a little speech prepared.

Le Duc Tho: I have prepared nothing. I am waiting for your answer you promised, because this is something that you owe to me.

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, we have exchanged views with Saigon very strenuously all night long, and I am happy to now inform you that the text of the communiqué is now complete. [Tab A]2 We can complete the initialing at this meeting and we can meet exactly the schedule on which we agreed yesterday. And a great deal of the credit is due to the big effort that was made yesterday by the Special Adviser, without which it would not have been possible.

So our work has after all, come to a successful conclusion. And I propose now that we discuss the remaining technical details, and review [Page 343] quickly the understandings, and exchange ideas on any other subject which we need. Then, if the Special Adviser agrees, we should initial here and follow the rest of the schedule as agreed.

If this meets with the Special Adviser’s approval, I propose we proceed with the schedule.

Le Duc Tho: So now since we have agreed on the text of the Joint Communiqué and the schedule, we should stick to those agreements, and I agree we can exchange views on the remaining technical questions, the questions you proposed, and then we will initial the document as you proposed.

Dr. Kissinger: First, there is one technical question connected with the work of the Joint Economic Commission. According to the Communiqué it should begin to work on Sunday. We propose it begin its work on Monday, and we will be prepared to resume on Monday.3

Le Duc Tho: I agree with you.

Dr. Kissinger: Should we review the understandings? And also the cease-fire order? [Tho nods yes.] Should I read it? Or how do you want me to do it.

Le Duc Tho: Please.

Dr. Kissinger: I will read first our understanding on the return of Vietnamese civilian personnel. It is in two paragraphs. [He reads aloud from Tab B.]4

Paragraph one is “The United States side reaffirms the statement of Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President of the United States, on October 17, 1972, that the United States will use its maximum influence to secure the return of captured Vietnamese personnel detained in South Vietnam. In the spirit of national reconciliation and concord between the two South Vietnamese parties, the US will exert this influence to promote the return of the greater part of such detainees within 30 days of the signing of the Joint Communiqué on June 13, 1973 and the return of all such detainees within forty-five days, in accordance with paragraph 9(b) of the Joint Communiqué.”

“Paragraph 2: The United States will use its maximum influence to ensure that the treatment of the above-mentioned detainees when they are in jail be immediately in conformity with Article 8 of the Protocol regarding the return of captured and detained personnel of the parties.” [Mr. Aldrich hands over copies of Tab B.]

That is now agreed.

[Page 344]

Le Duc Tho: Agreed.

Dr. Kissinger: All right. And I have given you some copies of the agreed English text. Shall I read the cease-fire order?

Le Duc Tho: Please.

Dr. Kissinger: Now may I ask one favor of the Special Adviser? When he gives his press conference tomorrow that he reads the correct statement? He had such an eloquent statement prepared for the case of a breakup. [Laughter] [Tho points to his papers.] I knew it!

All right, the cease-fire order. [He reads the text of cease-fire order at Tab C:]5

“Considering that, since the conclusion of the Paris Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam, armed hostilities have not ceased in South Vietnam, thus impeding implementation of other provisions of the Agreement, and,

“In order for the Agreement to be fully implemented and to ensure a lasting and stable peace, “The High Command of [blank in original] issues the following order to all regular and irregular armed forces and armed police under its command:

  • 1. Strictly observe a cease-fire beginning 1200 hours Saigon time, June 15, 1973.”

    We recognize that the PRG will put in Indochina time, but it is necessary for clarity for the commanders on our side. In the agreement it is 0400.

  • “2. Strictly observe the provisions of Articles 2 and 3 of the Agreement and Articles 2, 3, and 4 of the Protocol on the Cease-Fire in South Viet-nam; and
  • “3. Scrupulously implement all other provisions of the Agreement and its protocols.”

And we recognize that the PRG will say “Indochina time.” But then they will have to say 1100 Indochina time. Becuase we don’t want them to take Sa Huynh after the ceasefire. [Laughter]

You will get the colonel [Colonel Hoang Hoa] under control, Mr. Special Adviser?

Shall I read the understanding on Laos? Shall I do that? [He reads Tab D:]6

[Page 345]

“Paragraph 1. On the basis of respect for the principles of the 1962 Geneva Agreement on Laos and the Agreement on restoring peace and achieving national concord in Laos signed on February 21, 1973,7 the United States of America and the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam reaffirm their strong desire that the current negotiations between the two Lao parties will promptly come to a success.

“2. The United States of America and the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam have been informed by the Lao parties that:

  • (a)

    The formation of the Provisional Government of National Union would be achieved by July 1, 1973 at the latest.

    The U.S. and DRV will exert their best efforts in that direction.”

    And that last section is a new paragraph.

  • “(b) Within a period of no more than 60 days after the date of the establishment of the Provisional Government of National Union, the withdrawal from Laos of all foreign military personnel, regular and irregular troops, and the dismantling of military and paramilitary organizations of foreign countries, including the ‘special forces’ organized, trained and commanded by foreign countries, must be completed.
  • “(c) After the return of all persons, regardless of their nationality, who were captured, and those who were imprisoned for cooperating with the other side in wartime, each Lao party has the obligation of getting and supplying information to the other party about the missing in action in Laos.”

Le Duc Tho: I agree.

Aldrich: This one I don’t have a copy for. It is the draft from June 6.

Kissinger: All right. I shall read the understanding on Cambodia. And I am glad you agree to a ceasefire by June 15 which will coincide with the Vietnam cease-fire.

[Dr. Kissinger reads Tab E:]8

  • “1. On the basis of respect for the principles of the 1954 Geneva Agreement on Cambodia that recognizes the Cambodian people’s fundamental national rights, i.e. the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Cambodia, the USA and the DRV reaffirm that the settlement of the Cambodian problem falls under the sovereignty of the Cambodians.
  • “2. The USA and the DRV reaffirm the obligations of Article 20 of the Paris Agreement, which requires the withdrawal of all foreign troops, military advisers, and military personnel from Cambodia.”

Le Duc Tho: Please read again. [Mr. Thompson rereads paragraph 2 in Vietnamese.]

[Page 346]

Dr. Kissinger: I think it is your paragraph.

Le Duc Tho: Please go ahead. Because this is the understanding, the draft which you gave to us. It makes many big differences.

Kissinger: Paragraph 3. Here, we gave something to Minister Thach but in his usual obstructionist way he refused to commit himself. I will read you what we gave to Minister Thach.

“3. The USA and the DRV will exert their best efforts to bring about an end to the fighting in Cambodia and a peaceful settlement of the Cambodian problem.”

Le Duc Tho: Have you finished? I agree with you regarding the understanding on Cambodia. I agree with you on the first paragraph.

Regarding the second paragraph we propose the following amendments. “The United States and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam reaffirm the obligations under Article 20 of the Paris Agreement. The foreign troops, military advisers and military personnel shall be withdrawn as required by Article 20 (b) of the Agreement.” The reason is that the DRV reaffirms the obligation of Article 20 of the Paris Agreement, the whole Article 20. It is one obligation. And then, “all foreign troops, military advisers, and military personnel shall be withdrawn as required by Article 20 (b) of the Agreement.”

Dr. Kissinger: I accept.

Le Duc Tho: It is clearer.

Dr. Kissinger: I accept. You have been sufficiently concrete. Now, if I know the Special Adviser, he will think there is something wrong with it. I should have struggled for 1/2 hour for this. Now you are in trouble Mr. Minister. I should have struggled for 1/2 hour.

Le Duc Tho: For once you should have admitted that I have spoken concretely enough.

Kissinger: I will have it typed.

Le Duc Tho: We will have it typed.

Kissinger: In English?

Le Duc Tho: Yes.

Kissinger: All right.

Le Duc Tho: Now regarding the third paragraph, we propose to delete the words “an end to the fighting in Cambodia” before “a peaceful settlement.” Because that means that the fighting should be ended before reaching a peaceful settlement in Cambodia. Therefore, we propose the following: “The United States and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam will exert their best efforts to bring about a political settlement in Cambodia.” You can use the word “political” or “peaceful settlement” in Cambodia. As regarding Vietnam and Laos, there should be a political settlement before the fighting is ended. On this question I have expressed my views to you on many occasions. It is our last effort. [Page 347] So that we will exert our efforts in that direction. And we are always thinking that the settlement of the Cambodian problem falls under the sovereignty of the Cambodians. I have talked with you on that question very lengthily and on many occasions.

Kissinger: But never very concretely.

Le Duc Tho: Sometimes in saying so, the actions will be better than the words. But sometimes when we say concretely, the actions will be impeded.

Kissinger: But it would be better to have one clause in the agreement where the actions are better than the words. It would be a historic achievement.

Le Duc Tho: It depends on the document we have.

Kissinger: Well, Mr. Special Adviser, what we propose in paragraph 3 is exactly what we proposed in Vietnam and Laos—that there be a ceasefire before a political settlement. In both places the political solution was left to follow the ceasefire.

Le Duc Tho: Now it is not true. There should be settlement of the problem before a ceasefire can be observed. In Vietnam we had to talk, have an agreement, and then a ceasefire is observed.

Kissinger: But maybe the Special Adviser wants the fighting to continue after there is a settlement.

Le Duc Tho: The experience in Vietnam has been shown to you, and that is why both of us have to review the implementation of the Agreement.

Kissinger: Well, it seems that what we have said is consistent with what we had in Laos and Vietnam.

Le Duc Tho: Here it is contrary to the agreements in Vietnam and Laos. The settlement must be negotiated among the parties as in Laos and Vietnam and then there will be a ceasefire. I have talked to you on this question lengthily many times so you know my feelings. Now my views have dried up.

Kissinger: Now that is a modesty which is unwarranted of the Special Adviser. Especially on Cambodia. Because the Special Adviser always foresees everything and is always prepared for every contingency. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: So I have foreseen this contingency and have prepared the document in this way.

Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, did I understand you correctly that a peaceful settlement must be negotiated among the parties as in Laos and Vietnam?

Le Duc Tho: What I would like to say here is you and we will exert our efforts to bring about a peaceful settlement in Cambodia, but [Page 348] as to who will talk to which party—this is up to the Cambodians, just as in Laos.

Kissinger: But we agree that somebody needs to speak to somebody in Cambodia. [They confer.] Mr. Thach, you will be excluded from this discussion, with all due respect. We finally got Mr. Vien under control when you arrived. So, do you want to go ahead and reply?

Le Duc Tho: I have expressed all my views.

Kissinger: All right, let me then speak. What will settle the issue in Cambodia is not what we say in this understanding. And I pay close attention to what the Special Adviser has said, that if we say too much it may make it more difficult to settle. But it is a reality. So I accept the change. I accept the wording, using the word “peaceful” rather than “political.” But I do want to call the Special Adviser’s attention to something—to the fact that rapid implementation of paragraphs 2 and 3 of this understanding is extremely important to the normalization of our relations and the implementation of the other provisions of the Agreement.

Can Minister Thach get this retyped? Or we can. Either way. So we will exchange these.

So we have now completed the understandings.

Le Duc Tho: I have taken into consideration your views regarding the “political” solution. I would prefer a “political” solution.

Kissinger: How about “a peaceful settlement of the political and military problems in Cambodia?”

Le Duc Tho: There is another understanding that we ask for, to insure the activities of the Two-Party Joint Military Commission in Saigon and other places. Immunities and privileges have been mentioned in the Joint Communiqué but here we would like to have something additional. Because the Communiqué is not sufficient.

Kissinger: Let me hear what you have.

Le Duc Tho: It is an amendment of an agreement which Sullivan gave us. [Tab F].9 [He reads Tab G]:10 “In order to facilitate the working of the Two-Party Joint Military Commission, the United States will ensure that the Government of the Republic of Viet-Nam will provide adequate quarters and favorable means of operation for the PRG in Saigon proper and in other locations of the regional JMC’s and local teams, and that the PRG delegation will be able to operate from these quarters with the privileges and immunities specified in paragraph 12(b) of the Joint Communiqué.”

[Page 349]

Kissinger: Did you say “ensure” or “endeavor to ensure”?

Le Duc Tho: You can use whatever words you like. “Best efforts.”

Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, you were so insistent that we leave Vietnam that our influence in the provinces is not what it used to be. And, of course, if you wanted, we could return and then we could give you guarantees. I think we could do it at this time with 100,000? We don’t need 500,000 this time. It is a sign of our good will.

Le Duc Tho: Yes, you had to withdraw all your troops under the Agreement.

Kissinger: Except for the protection of the PRG.

Le Duc Tho: But you still have influence over Saigon. And it is your responsibility for the implementation of the Agreement.

Kissinger: We expended the last ounce of influence we had at 2:30 this morning. From now on it will be safer for Ambassador Sullivan and me to visit Hanoi than Saigon.

Mr. Adviser, let me propose the following. We can’t say “ensure” because we don’t have that capacity. We will say “endeavor to ensure.”

Le Duc Tho: I agree.

Kissinger: And instead of “favorable means of operation” we will say “means of operation” or “adequate means of operation.” We will say “adequate.” Otherwise we accept what you propose.

Le Duc Tho: I agree with you.

Kissinger: All right. And the rest is agreeable.

Le Duc Tho: Now we are finished with the understanding. Now there is an announcement to be made by Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach after this meeting. [Tab H]11

Kissinger: [reads it] All right. I agree with this text. But because of the time pressures we have I also wonder whether the most efficient procedure would be for me and the Special Adviser to step outside and say we have initialed a document and a formal press release will be issued at 2:30. We would say a formal press release would be made at 2:30, or 3:00, from our respective offices.

Le Duc Tho: I agree. We will go outside and tell the press.

Kissinger: And what we will say is that the Special Adviser and I have just initialed a communiqué which will be signed by the four parties at 4:00 p.m. at Avenue Kleber and by the two parties at 7:00 o’clock at Avenue Kleber.

Le Duc Tho: I agree.

[Page 350]

Dr. Kissinger: And a formal press release will be issued by the two delegations at 2:30 this afternoon.

Le Duc Tho: I will let you speak to the press.

Kissinger: But you will be there with me.

Le Duc Tho: Yes. Now I leave you to speak to the press today.

Kissinger: And you will reply tomorrow.12

And can I say there will be a one party signature at 8:00 o’clock? [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: And the text of the Joint Communiqué will be published at what time?

Kissinger: I propose at 1600, at the signing. Let’s say 1700. That way there isn’t too much commotion among the press. Don’t you think it is best to . . . [Discussion among the North Vietnamese] Can we change it in Washington?

Ambassador Sullivan: They have the same problem in Hanoi.

Kissinger: Well, let’s say 1600. We will hand it out right after the signing ceremony is finished. That way the press won’t run around. It takes only 15 minutes to sign. We will say 1600 but won’t hand it out until after the signing ceremony. Because if it is published in Hanoi it will take 1/2 hour before it reaches here. And in Washington too.

Le Duc Tho: So, 1600.

Kissinger: We will say 1600 and hand it out afterward. It only takes 15 minutes to sign. Unless I refuse to sign it at the last minute. [Laughter] That is a new one. We haven’t pulled that one on you. You haven’t foreseen that contingency.

Le Duc Tho: I have foreseen that contingency.

Kissinger: All right. I am planning to have a press conference at 5:30. Because I will be leaving right after the next signing. And I will do my utmost to have it in a very constructive spirit. Because I believe the most significant achievement of this communiqué is not only the implementation of the Agreement but that it opens up the way to the rapid normalization of relations between the United States and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

Le Duc Tho: So we put what time for the initialing in the announcement?

[Page 351]

Kissinger: 1300? Whenever you are ready. I am ready to initial now. We forgot to bring the documents but I am ready to initial! Have you foreseen that contingency?

Le Duc Tho: No, but we have foreseen every realistic contingency.

Kissinger: Shall we initial now?

Le Duc Tho: Do you have any other questions to raise?

Kissinger: Yes, Mr. Special Adviser. We have discussed the problem of normalization. We have agreed that we will make all efforts for the strict implementation of the Agreement and the understandings, in order to bring about the normalization. We will then get in touch with each other when either side thinks it appropriate, to establish permanent delegations in the capital of the other.

Le Duc Tho: I agree.

Dr. Kissinger: And when that is completed, the Speical Adviser will visit the United States, to give further impetus to the process of normalization. We believe for reasons we discussed yesterday, that this is an important objective.

Le Duc Tho: You are right, what you have just said. We have discussed the question of normalization of our relationship. And I think that on the basis of scrupulous implementation of the Agreement then we will propitiously advance toward normalization of relations. Whatever questions we have, we will exchange messages, and when permanent delegations are not yet established, you and I will get in touch through messages in habitual channels.

Kissinger: And after the permanent delegations are established we will still be in touch. I will miss the contact with the Special Adviser otherwise.

Le Duc Tho: And at the press conference I think that you and I should speak about the joint communiqué and not go outside it.

Kissinger: I agree.

Le Duc Tho: We should not speak about the understanding about Laos and Cambodia. Regarding the normalization of relationship, we should speak just a sentence about it, not about future developments.

Kissinger: I agree. And we will not refer to the plan for delegations.

Le Duc Tho: This is the future developments. We should not speak about it now.

So this time you and I have come to an agreement and we have achieved a joint communiqué. And this is our great effort. In the desire to see the Agreement strictly implemented and leading to normalization of relationship. But the main question is the implementation of the Agreement. Through the experience we have gotten over the past four months, we have reached an Agreement but very often the implementation is not consonant to the terms of the Agreement. Since now [Page 352] we have had a Joint Communiqué, I think all of us have to strictly abide by the Agreement and the Joint Communiqué.

Therefore, after we sign the agreement I still foresee the possibility of strict implementation of the Agreement but I also foresee the possibility that we will have to meet again to review the implementation of the Agreement. It is my wish that the second possibility will not occur. Because if one side does strict implementation of the Agreement, then the other should do the same. It would not do if one side does and the other does not. Therefore, all of us have to strictly implement the Agreement. And I wish, I hope, that the situation will not develop in a bad direction, and if we meet next time then we will not have to review the implementation of the Agreement. And next time we meet, we will give impetus to the normalization of relations.

I am finished.

Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, I share the sentiments you have expressed. We have had a difficult negotiation and we have brought it to a successful conclusion. But it is now important that we now not only sign the document but that the Agreement be strictly implemented. We will do our best efforts in that direction. And we hope that you will do the same thing. We all have a responsibility not only to carry out the Agreement but to avoid the impression that could be misunderstood. I refer specifically to the movement of wild animals in a southward direction. Specifically, elephants. This is a matter we take very seriously. I pay attention to what the Special Adviser said, that under conditions of peace certain necessities disappear.

I share the feeling of the Special Adviser that we should now move energetically towards normalization of relations. We will maintain our close contact. I hope when we meet next time it will be on the basis of having only positive matters to discuss. And that our next meeting will mark a breakthrough in the normalization of relations between the Democratic Republic and the United States. We shall do our best to move in that direction.

May I say it will always be a pleasure to deal with the Special Adviser.

Le Duc Tho: We, both of us, should implement Article 7 of the Agreement. As I told you the other day, we should do it in such a way that the war in South Vietnam will be ended, and then we should not have to speak about Article 7. It is important. But if the war continues, we cannot say anything else. That is important.

Kissinger: I think we understand each other. Shall we now initial?

Le Duc Tho: I propose a few minutes break, to prepare for the initialing.

[The meeting broke briefly at 1:15. The Official Photographers were admitted from both sides, and the initialing took place from 1:20–1:30 p.m.]

  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 meeting was held at 108 Avenue du General Leclerc, Gif-sur-Yvette. Brackets are in the original.
  2. Joint Communiqué, June 13, attached but not printed. For the published text, see Department of State Bulletin, July 9, 1973, pp. 50–53. It was also published in The New York Times, June 14, 1973.
  3. June 18.
  4. Understanding on the Return of Vietnamese Civilian Personnel Captured and Detained in South Viet-Nam, June 13, attached but not printed.
  5. Draft Text of the Cease-fire Order to be Issued by the High Commands of Each of the Two South Vietnamese Parties, June 14, attached but not printed.
  6. Understanding on Laos, June 13, attached but not printed.
  7. See Document 20.
  8. Untitled Cambodia agreement, June 8, attached but not printed.
  9. Untitled, undated U.S. draft attached but not printed.
  10. Untitled, undated draft announcement attached but not printed.
  11. Untitled, undated draft announcement attached but not printed.
  12. The transcript of Kissinger’s June 13 press conference, held in Paris, was published in The New York Times, June 14, 1973. Le Duc Tho spoke to the press and delivered a statement on the communiqué on June 14; see ibid., June 15, 1973.