85. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Tran Kim Phuong, Ambassador to 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: This is the last time I am going to get involved in negotiations on Vietnam.

Ambassador Phuong: It might be necessary to do this again—to negotiate again in the future.

Dr. Kissinger: No, I am washing my hands of this.

Ambassador Phuong: But will people let you?

Dr. Kissinger: I don’t think it is a good idea for us to negotiate anymore with North Vietnam. This is something you should do. We might have to just long enough to get the Cambodia matter settled.

Ambassador Phuong: Will Sihanouk get into power? This is probably the only solution.

Dr. Kissinger: We don’t really have a solution. The problem in Phnom Penh is they have never been able to form an adequate government.

Ambassador Phuong: How about the various factions on the other side? Couldn’t you get a deal with them without Sihanouk?

Dr. Kissinger: Which is really better the Khmer Rouge or Sihanouk? Is it better to have the faction controlled by Hanoi or Sihanouk? We simply haven’t made up our minds on this matter.

Ambassador Phuong: We are worried about the Church-Case Amendment.2 Maybe this will be changed in the House. If the House accepts this Amendment it will be bad.

Dr. Kissinger: We hope the House won’t accept it. So far the House has held it up in conference.

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Ambassador Phuong: How long will this be held up? One month, two months?

Dr. Kissinger: We are trying. You know the Communiqué is not doing you any damage.

Ambassador Phuong: They are worried in Saigon that the Communists will use the Communiqué to fulfill their strategy. I read the Le Duc Tho press conference which makes clear that the Communist side is emphasizing democratic liberties.

Dr. Kissinger: They would do this anyhow.

Ambassador Phuong: But it is strengthened by the Communiqué.

Dr. Kissinger: You could use the Communiqué. You are stronger. This time it seemed that the other side was more interested in a cease-fire than you. Le Duc Tho was less sure of himself and less confident. Incidentally, Saigon should not take it seriously when I am seen smiling with Le Duc Tho. I have no illusions about Le Duc Tho. He is a treacherous bastard!

Ambassador Phuong: I spent some anxious moments here after you left for Paris.

Dr. Kissinger: The risks you were running in Saigon were insane. You should not let kids like Nha run your policy.

Ambassador Phuong: Duc was mostly to blame. Nha was not much involved in this.

Dr. Kissinger: Tell them in Saigon we won’t negotiate again, for better or for worse.

Ambassador Phuong: I had the definite feeling that the problems were mostly caused by Duc. He concentrates on commas and periods.

Dr. Kissinger: Arguing about things the way the GVN did was ridiculous. There was nothing in the Communiqué about areas of control that wasn’t basically in the Agreement. How can one delineate areas of control without having adjoining areas of control?

Ambassador Phuong: I made clear to Saigon that in Article 12 [of the original Communiqué draft] we are in full control of everything. This was the chief substantive contribution that I made.

Dr. Kissinger: I was afraid that people would tell us that the Communiqué did not mean anything. Thieu told Ambassadors Bunker and Whitehouse that he wanted zones of control. We were also told the same by Quang. We said in our press conference that we supported your proposals in internal talks.

Ambassador Phuong: I wanted to thank you for your efforts with Congress which I appreciate very much. I phoned Saigon to tell them that you went from your plane to Congress, which shows your concern.

Dr. Kissinger: I was successful in the House.

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Ambassador Phuong: I am worried about the Senate.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, that is a disgrace.

Ambassador Phuong: I realize that you have little time now. There is something I would like particularly to raise with you. I understand Saigon’s misgivings. Saigon is not sure what the Russians and Chinese will do. I understand the extremely sensitive danger in respect to these negotiations and that you cannot tell us anything precise, but I do think that Thieu’s chief worry concerns continued Soviet and Chinese arms shipments to the Viet Cong which would enable them to start another offensive.

Dr. Kissinger: I am sure it is Hanoi’s intention to start another offensive.

Ambassador Phuong: There should be some way to tell Thieu more about this [the Chinese and Soviet role] in order to help eliminate his suspicions and misgivings.

Dr. Kissinger: When Martin comes out he will more fully brief him.

Ambassador Phuong: If you could only tell him more. It is not necessary to give him a paper on this, but if you could explain more clearly it would help in dispelling Thieu’s suspicisions, and therefore his whole approach to the Agreement and to Hanoi could be changed.

Dr. Kissinger: I will give Graham some facts in this regard. We are certainly not working with the Russians to reunite Vietnam under Hanoi, and China does not want a unified Indochina. Why should we play the stronger against the weaker? In any case, I will either give more information to Martin or to you.

  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. Brackets are in the original.
  2. The Case-Church Amendment to the defense authorization bill required congressional approval for any combat-related expenditures in Indochina. It was initially passed on June 14 but was subsequently modified to allow the continuation of bombing in Cambodia until August 15.