16. Memorandum of Conversation1
- Le Duc Tho, Special Adviser to the North Vietnamese Delegation at the Paris Peace Talks
- Xuan Thuy, Minister and Head of North Vietnamese Delegation to the Paris Peace Talks
- Phan Hien, Member of North Vietnamese Delegation to Paris Peace Talks
- Nguyen Dinh Phuong, Interpreter
- Two Notetakers
- Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
- Winston Lord, NSC Staff Member
- John D. Negroponte, NSC Staff Member
- Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff Member
- David A. Engel, NSC Staff Member, interpreter
- Miss Julienne L. Pineau, notetaker
[Page 324][There were welcoming handshakes and smiles. The greeting seemed perhaps somewhat less warm than at the previous meeting.]
Dr. Kissinger: [Introducing his staff members individually]: If you don’t agree when we bring our prettiest secretary, there’s no hope. [They laugh.] We’ve done everything.
[The group then sat down at the table.]
Dr. Kissinger: One technical problem, Mr. Special Adviser. We are planning to make the same announcement today at the same time as last time, simply stating that I am meeting with you today and returning to Washington tonight. We had agreed on that last time, but we will say nothing else.
Xuan Thuy: If we draw the experience we have got last time, I wonder whether we should do as we did the last time.
[Page 325]Dr. Kissinger: What happened last time?
Xuan Thuy: We made the announcement last time in order to avoid speculation. But we realized that after the announcement there had been a great deal of speculation, and thereafter it was at a press conference President Nixon said that we had put forward, or had raised, many military questions and political questions. Therefore, I think that perhaps we should decide that question after the meeting.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, we have two problems. First of all, it isn’t true that the President said we have put forward many military and political questions. Secondly, the President made no reference at all to the private meetings. He said he would not discuss them. It is true there is a great deal of speculation, but there will be speculation no matter whether we announce it or not. The speculation will begin the minute my absence is discovered.
Le Duc Tho: Last time, in order to show our good will, we agreed with Mr. Adviser that there should be announcement. But after the announcement was made there had been a great deal of speculation and most of the speculation was not correct. And after that at his press conference President Nixon referred to the private meetings and referred to the raising of military questions and political questions. President Nixon also referred to the question of troop withdrawal, the question of cease-fire, the question of release of prisoners of war. Therefore, your promise not to refer to the contents of the private meetings and not to refer to any private meetings is not kept. And that is why we think an announcement is not advantageous. I agree with Minister Xuan Thuy that after we achieve results, then we shall consider the announcement. This is due to you and not to us.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, Mr. Minister, Mr. Special Adviser, I should have thought that sometimes we can keep to an agreement without raising frivolous objections. You know very well that since our last meeting we have made no reference whatever to our private meetings. You know very well that the President, whenever he has a press conference, is asked about Vietnam and it is obvious that he expresses his views just as the Minister expresses his views when he emerges from Avenue Kleber. And just as the spokesman of your Foreign Ministry expresses his views, even on our elections, from Hanoi. The President specifically said that he would not talk about the details of the negotiations. And he certainly made no reference whatever to the private negotiations, except to the fact that they were going on, which had already been announced. But I will not argue with you. Because I will tell you what our procedure will be, and then if you do not want to continue the discussion that is your privilege.
We have two choices. We can either make a joint announcement which is the correct thing to do, or if my absence is discovered, which [Page 326]it certainly will be, we will confirm without a formal announcement that I am in Paris meeting with you, and nothing else will be discussed, but we will not make a formal announcement. I told you last time that the press checks my office now every day whether I am there, and it is no longer possible for me simply to disappear.
So this is the practical problem. We will take even more care after this meeting than after the last one not to refer to the content of the private talks, but we did not refer to them the last time either. I did not say anything and no one else knows anything.
Le Duc Tho: Regarding the private meetings, there were many occasions in the past that you revealed or divulged about the private meetings. As to us, we always show our good will and serious intent and we never refer to the private meetings. The last time we agreed with you to make an announcement, but after that you referred to the private meetings, and therefore this time we don’t agree to make such an announcement. But as to you, when asked you can make any confirmation you like, and we will do the same, but we will not agree with you to make an announcement and we will never refer to the contents.
Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Minister, Mr. Special Adviser, we agree that we should not refer to the contents of the private meetings, so there is no dispute here. We agree to this.
And as for the form in which it is made known, it is a matter of indifference to me. I . . . it would be helpful to the trust between us if for once we could stick to something we agreed upon and agreed upon last time, without raising what I consider frivolous objections. But what we will do if we are asked is to simply confirm that today I am meeting with you and not make it as a formal announcement. So if Mr. Ziegler is asked at his regular press briefing whether I am meeting with you he will say yes, I am meeting with you in Paris.
Xuan Thuy: I would like to point out that we always show our good will and we keep our promises. But on your side, you are not keeping your promise and you are not serious, and that is the reason why we raise this question now. If not we would have . . .
Dr. Kissinger: Well, Mr. Special Adviser and Mr. Minister, I will just not listen anymore to these constant accusations that we are not serious and we do not keep our promise, and you are serious and you keep your promise. It isn’t true and I will just not listen to it anymore.
[Thuy laughs. Tho smiles.]
Le Duc Tho: If you don’t want to listen to this it is up to you, but a fact is a fact.
Xuan Thuy: Let me read a sentence of a statement made by President Nixon. “We had private meetings roughly one week ago lasting about six hours. At this meeting we had put forward appropriate [Page 327]proposals regarding the troop withdrawal, the cease-fire, and a political settlement.” So you referred to the contents of the meeting. And that would be to your advantage because [it looks as if] you put forward a political solution and our side has not put anything forward. And as a matter of fact, we have nothing put forward by you regarding a political solution.
Dr. Kissinger: All right, here is what he said, here is the correct text [reads from transcript of President’s press conference of July 27]: “I will add one other thing.” This is in the whole context of the negotiation. “As far as the negotiations are concerned, we are negotiating. We have negotiated in public. We have had one private conference a week ago, lasting approximately six hours. We hope to continue to negotiate.” This refers to all the negotiations. “We have made fair offers on withdrawal, on a cease-fire, on political settlement. We have not made them on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. We have made fair offers on exchange of prisoners of war and unaccounted missing in action.”
This did not refer to the private meetings; this referred to the whole negotiating record. All of this has been done in public and all of this referred to our public positions. As you know very well, we didn’t make a proposal on a political settlement last time. The political settlement referred to our January 25 proposal; the others referred to our May 8 proposal. The other thing he said was what we agreed upon; we agreed that we could say there was a meeting and we agreed that we could say how long it lasted, and we never said anything else. So you are misquoting the President. He referred entirely to the public record, and that is all we are going to refer to as long as these negotiations last.
Le Duc Tho: I still remember that last time Mr. Adviser agreed with us not to refer to anything regarding the private meeting, even if you were asked whether you were optimistic or pessimistic, you would not express your views on that. But now the President is referring to the private meetings, how long they lasted and the content. So the public opinion is confused and you should not refer to the private meetings. As for us, we ourself and our spokesmen never referred to the private meetings with any American or the public.
Dr. Kissinger: Now, Mr. Special Adviser, when I tell you something and you just repeat what you said before, there is absolutely no hope for these negotiations. I have just told you that all the President referred to is what we agreed to; he mentioned the fact that there has been one private conference and how long it took. He did not refer to the proposals at that specific conference. Your spokesmen day after day refer to what proposals you have made.
Le Duc Tho: We refer to our public proposal, but never to the private meetings.
Dr. Kissinger: That is exactly what we did. In fact in the next question, which you have conveniently forgotten, the President said, [Page 328]“I think any of you here will agree that I . . .” He was asked about what proposals we had made. He said, “That is a good question, but it is one that I think any of you here would agree I should not comment upon for the reason that the negotiations are now under way. . . . I will only say that we are negotiating with the desire of ending this war as soon as possible. The fastest way to end the war and the best way to end it is through negotiation.” And you must have read innumerable press comments that I have refused to say anything, not whether we are optimistic or pessimistic.
But I am not really interested in debating with you. Last time we agreed to say that further meetings will be announced as they are happening. Now if you want to break that agreement, that is your privilege; we on our part will confirm that the meeting is taking place. We will not say anything else. And if we cannot keep an agreement for two meetings, how can we keep an agreement on something more complicated? I don’t consider your objections serious; you know very well we have said nothing about the private meetings.
Le Duc Tho: We have always kept our promise; we have never referred to the private meetings. But after the last meeting you have made such a statement. So we repeat again that we always show our good will and we keep our promise. So it is up to you to make an announcement, and the same for us. But we will not speak about the contents of this. But in our view, we think that when we have achieved good results, then the announcement would be made. It would be better doing it this way. We would avoid speculation by public opinion by doing so.
Dr. Kissinger: There is no way now to avoid speculation. The Special Adviser has made me too famous. [Laughter] So I would suggest the following: I understand the Special Adviser’s point with respect to referring to private meetings. We undertake that, except for the fact of confirming these meetings, we will make no further reference to private meetings at all. Secondly, we will not refer to the content of any private meeting. But we have no way of avoiding today confirming the existence of these meetings, and the easiest way of doing it is to follow precisely the procedure of last time, of simply stating one sentence and refusing any further comment. This will produce the minimum of speculation and this is what we have been prepared to do. But we promise, and I understand the Special Adviser’s point, we will make no further reference to this meeting in the interval between this meeting, and should there be another private meeting. [They nod.] Now is that agreeable? [They nod.]
Le Duc Tho: Yes.
Dr. Kissinger: All right, so then we proceed as we agreed?
Le Duc Tho: As to the confirmation, it is up to you to do that, but we shall not announce it.
[Page 329]Dr. Kissinger: But you will confirm it? If you are asked?
Le Duc Tho: If we are asked about that, we shall consider.
Dr. Kissinger: Shall consider?
Le Duc Tho: How to answer.
Dr. Kissinger: What choices do you have? Just for me . . . I don’t have that complicated a mind.
Le Duc Tho: We will not make any comment.
Dr. Kissinger: But that’s ridiculous. You have to confirm that the meeting took place.
Le Duc Tho: Because if we confirm then we refer to the past agreement, but since after the last meeting you have made such deeds therefore we will not make any comment. We have nothing more to add.
Dr. Kissinger: I must insist on two things. I will not tolerate another comment about alleged deeds we have made. I would rather break up this meeting than listen to any more charges of bad faith.
Le Duc Tho: We do not denounce anything of yours, but because you have done as you did last time therefore we have to raise the problem. And there have been many occasions you violated the agreement and we did not do that.
Dr. Kissinger: Let’s not speak about what agreements were violated by whom, because we will be here all day discussing the past.
Le Duc Tho: If you agree to that then we would agree too.
Dr. Kissinger: If we agree to what?
Le Duc Tho: If you agree we should not discuss this question, then we agree.
Dr. Kissinger: Not to discuss the past?
Le Duc Tho: If you agree no longer to discuss the past, I will agree with you.
Dr. Kissinger: In that case I will miss some of the Special Adviser’s best speeches. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: There are good things in the past, and there are good things in the present too.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, Mr. Special Adviser and Mr. Minister, I have come here with the intention of ending the war rapidly. I had thought we could spend most of our time today with the two sides discussing the new proposals they had promised they would make today. Here we are spending our time arguing about the implementation of a very simple agreement that was not broken by us, where at best there was a slight misunderstanding, which I have told you how we would deal with in the future.
Le Duc Tho: And you should not make us misunderstand. If we have misunderstood you you should not make us misunderstand.
[Page 330] Xuan Thuy: Now let us go into the substance.
Dr. Kissinger: No wait a minute, I have to . . . The Minister can hardly wait to attack me. [Laughter] If he will curb his aggressive impulses for five minutes, I must get this settled before you accuse me again of breaking an agreement.
Xuan Thuy: But I must make a denial. I have not denounced you.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, you have denounced the President, which is the same thing.
Xuan Thuy: I have not denounced you.
Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Minister, Mr. Special Adviser, I have told you that we have not knowingly acted against the agreement. I am telling you now that we will not refer to private meetings except in the announcement that we will make today. That is all that can be done today. So what we will be forced to do—since all our preparations today are made—is to confirm today as we did last time that I am meeting with you today and that I expect to return to Washington tonight. This is all we will say; this is the only reference we will make to private meetings and there will be no other references to private meetings even in official statements.
Le Duc Tho: Up to you. If you want to confirm the meeting it is up to you, but we will not refer to the private meeting.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, then let me make a second point. If you refuse to say anything when you are asked, the only result will be to attract public speculation to the difference in procedure between this time and the last time.
Le Duc Tho: Because of the circumstances, we will say that we will make no comment. But if you confirm there is a meeting, then the public will understand.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, Mr. Special Adviser and Mr. Minister, all I want to tell you is this. We can either talk seriously here and make real progress—and I must say I thought you came here to negotiate seriously from our last meeting—or else we can use, or you can use, these meetings to excite public opinion. I will tell you now as I told you last time, if you use these meetings or the others in order to excite our public opinion, it will lead to the end of these negotiations. If you want a referendum in the United States on Vietnam in our election, we are prepared for that and you will have to pay for the consequences. So you have two choices, either to negotiate seriously with us or to make propaganda. You cannot do both.
Le Duc Tho: You affirm that we are making propaganda and publicity, but it is you who has been engaged in doing this more than us. When President Nixon made such a statement, he was doing propaganda and publicity. As for us, we did no such thing. We would not want [Page 331]anything to excite public opinion during the election period because the election of the United States is the internal affair of the U.S. and we would not want to interfere in it. We are consistently of good will and serious in finding a solution to the problem. The rest is up to you. The statement I made the last time has shown to you our good will and serious intent to find a solution to the problem.
Dr. Kissinger: Your statement last time affirmed your good will and serious intent. You have not yet shown it.
Le Duc Tho: To confirm our good will and serious intent I invite you to read again my statement of last time. As to evidence of this good will and serious intent, let us go into our discussion and we will see. In fact we want to achieve practical results and we do not want to indulge in publicity and propaganda. Since we met the last time you should have realized that we have been very serious.
Dr. Kissinger: I have no complaint about our meeting last time—which is more than you have ever granted me. [Laughter] I think the spirit of your statement was constructive. Our attitude is constructive. We would like to see whether we can achieve an agreement rapidly.
So let us leave this futile debate for this moment. We will make the statement at 10:00 today that we made last time. We will say nothing else. At the end of today’s meeting we will decide what shall be said in the future and we will abide by that agreement. If these negotiations succeed, it won’t make any difference what was said in the interval. If these negotiations fail, it won’t do any . . . publicity won’t be able to hide that fact. So let us concentrate on substance. It is up to you what you say when we make our statement, but the less mystery you create the better it will be. I have every confidence that the Special Adviser and the Minister will find the right words to avoid any discrepancy between the facts and what may be said.
Le Duc Tho: We will say that we will make no comment. And I think this is good, because we will not complicate the facts while we are meeting here. So you have achieved your objective.
Dr. Kissinger: Unless our press then believes that I have gone to Outer Mongolia to see whether I can achieve their good offices to end the Vietnam war. [Laughter]
Xuan Thuy: So I think that we should now give up the discussions of the announcement and go into the substance.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but we now have to tell Colonel Guay what we will do. Just a minute. May Colonel Guay come in? [Mr. Lord goes out to call Colonel Guay. Dr. Kissinger gets up.] I must say, Mr. Special Adviser and Mr. Minister, if we ever come to an agreement in principle I can hardly wait to draft an agreement with you. I think 10 years is about the minimum it will take. [laughter]
[Page 332]Mr. Lord [returning]: Can someone open the gate?
Dr. Kissinger: Are you keeping us prisoner here? [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: With good will, we will settle in a couple of days!
Dr. Kissinger: We will be released side-by-side with withdrawals!
But my question is, will you separate point one from point two?
Xuan Thuy: Point one and point two should be linked to each other. If there is no point two there will be no point one!
[Colonel Guay entered at 10:55 a.m., and Dr. Kissinger went outside to instruct him on what to convey to General Haig. In the meantime Negroponte and Engel chatted with the other side in Vietnamese. Tho and Thuy complimented Engel on his Vietnamese. Dr. Kissinger returned and the meeting resumed at 10:58 a.m.]
Dr. Kissinger: We are making great progress today. Usually it takes us five hours to produce a stalemate. Today we have done it in one.
Xuan Thuy: The last time Mr. Adviser said that we should set up an agenda, then we should set out our fundamental objectives and set the timing and a concrete schedule. Probably we would expect you to express yourself on the subject, so that we will discuss.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, Mr. Special Adviser and Mr. Minister, I told you last time as a general procedural point, we cannot have a procedure where we make all the proposals and you do all the discussing. And I thought we had set up a procedure last time where we would both make proposals. Did I understand that correctly?
Xuan Thuy: It is correct that we agreed the last time that both sides should make proposals. But you had not finished your ideas last time, so please now finish it and be more concrete.
Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, Mr. Minister, I finished my ideas last time, what I had to say. I had the impression they were not totally satisfactory to you, but that does not make them unfinished. In fact, since I spoke first last time I should ask you to speak first this time.
Xuan Thuy: The last time you spoke about the timing and the concrete schedule, but you have not yet said more. So please finish.
Dr. Kissinger: To show my good will and my serious intent I will speak first.
Le Duc Tho: You have promised that.
Dr. Kissinger: I will make a rather lengthy statement which includes a specific proposal.
Le Duc Tho: The longer the better. The more concrete the better. Because when you speak at length then you express many of your views.
Dr. Kissinger: I always express my views. But when I express my views the Special Adviser has always found them wanting. It is only [Page 333]my overwhelming ego that keeps me from getting a sense of inadequacy when I meet with the Special Adviser and the Minister.
Le Duc Tho: But I think we are equal here. You put questions to us and we put questions to you.
Dr. Kissinger: But I don’t comment on your answers as stringently as you comment on mine. [Laughter] Let me proceed then.
Mr. Special Adviser, Mr. Minister—
When we adjourned on July 19 we agreed that both sides would study the record and formulate new concrete proposals. We agreed as well at that meeting that we should both make an effort to find a solution, meet each other part way, and put our proposals side-by-side, with the attitude of finding a solution.
We approach this session in this spirit. We have closely reviewed your remarks at our last meeting, as well as all your earlier statements and proposals. The President has authorized me to introduce a concrete new plan. I look forward to hearing the new proposals you have promised. We can then compare the two sides’ positions with a view to reconciling them.
The time has come to replace rhetoric with reasonableness, to move from debating points and propaganda to a joint search for a settlement. Two weeks ago, the Special Adviser said that in negotiations “you cannot win everything you put forward, as we cannot with everything we put forward.” If that approach can be translated into action, here, we can rapidly reach a settlement. It will be our approach.
As I said last time, I am here to meet in a spirit of conciliation and good will, prepared to forego unilateral demands, ready to look understandingly at your point of view. If you choose to negotiate in the same spirit you will find us both forthcoming and reliable. The Special Adviser asked last time whether you could be sure that we will keep the agreements that we may make. I want to tell you as solemnly as I am able that you can. We will maintain every agreement we make with you, not only in letter but also in spirit. We will abide by the consequences of whatever process we jointly start here.
Furthermore, we are prepared to give the same guarantee to your allies as to you. We are willing to link our important relations in Moscow and Peking to our good faith in Indochina. You would thus have as guarantee not only our word to you but the force of American interest in its global diplomacy. Let me explain, incidentally; we have not discussed this with your allies.
[Some apparent confusion on the North Vietnamese side.]
Do you understand? Let me explain in uncomplicated language. If you do not believe our word to you, we are prepared to give the same promises to your allies or any other country you trust. Therefore [Page 334]if we break our promise to you we will also be breaking our promise to them. It is an assurance to you; we do not insist on it. We have not discussed it with your allies. No other country has seen this text. This is a promise to you. It is up to you.
In addition, we are prepared to enter into specific understandings with you on how to interpret certain aspects of an agreement. These, too, will be meticulously observed and can be, if you wish, conveyed to your allies.
Xuan Thuy: Who would communicate?
Dr. Kissinger: We can agree on that. We can do it jointly. Jointly would be best. Or you can do it unilaterally. We don’t need it; we know we will keep our promise. We are prepared to look at other guarantees.
Now then, to our proposals. We have looked once again at everything you have said, especially regarding the political question. We agree, we are prepared, to recognize that military and political issues should be solved together. We have made a serious effort to bridge our differences. For this is the basic barrier to a settlement. We have, as well, added new elements to meet specific points you have raised on other issues. As a demonstration of our good will, we have accepted the basic structure of your Two-Point Elaboration and the Seven-Point Proposal. To speed agreement, we have even adopted much of your language.
The interpreter looks much more relaxed!
Now I shall read the plan, and then I shall explain what it means. You will be pleased to know it has twelve points, Mr. Minister.
Xuan Thuy: In the past, you made a five-point proposal. Now you add seven new ones.
Le Duc Tho: So in numbers you have made progress!
Dr. Kissinger: [begins reading]:
“Point One, regarding the withdrawal of U.S. and other foreign forces allied with the Government of South Vietnam:
“There will be a total withdrawal from South Vietnam of all U.S. troops, military advisers and military personnel and those of other forces allied with the Government of South Vietnam within four months of the signature of this general agreement. Weapons and war materials belonging to those forces will also be withdrawn and bases under U.S. control will be dismantled.”
We will give you a text when we are finished.
[He resumes reading.]
“Two, there will be a general cease-fire throughout Indochina, to begin when this general agreement is signed. The cease-fire will include cessation of United States acts of force against North Vietnam, the [Page 335]mining of North Vietnamese ports and harbors, and an end to all U.S. air and other military activities in South Vietnam. As part of the cease-fire, there will be no further infiltration of outside forces into any of the countries of Indochina, and the introduction into Indochina of reinforcements in the form of arms, munitions and other war material will be prohibited. It is understood, however, that war material, arms and munitions which have been destroyed, damaged, worn out or used up after the cessation of hostilities may be replaced on the basis of piece-for-piece of the same type and with similar characteristics.
“Three, the release of all military men and innocent civilians captured throughout Indochina will be carried out in parallel with the troop withdrawals mentioned in Point 1. Both sides will present a complete list of military men and innocent civilians held throughout Indochina on the day this general agreement is signed. The release will begin on the same day as troop withdrawals and will be completed when they are completed.
“Fourth, regarding the political problem in South Vietnam:
“The political future of South Vietnam will be left for the South Vietnamese people to decide for themselves, free from outside interference.
“For its part, the United States declares that it respects the South Vietnamese people’s right to self-determination; it will remain completely neutral with respect to the political process in South Vietnam; it will abide by the outcome of any political process shaped by the South Vietnamese people themselves; and it is prepared to define its military and economic assistance relationship with any government that exists in South Vietnam.
“There will be a free and democratic Presidential election in South Vietnam no later than six months from the date of final agreement on the details of a political solution. The election may be held earlier if that is agreed among the parties. This election will be organized and run by an independent body representing all political forces in South Vietnam which will assume its responsibilities on the date of final agreement on the details of a political solution. This body will, among other responsibilities, determine the qualification of candidates. All political forces in South Vietnam can participate in the election and present candidates. There will be international supervision of this election.
“Before the Presidential election takes place, the incumbent President and Vice President of South Vietnam will resign. The Chairman of the Senate, as caretaker head of the government, will assume administrative responsibilities except for those pertaining to the election, which will remain with the independent election body.
“The right of all political forces to participate freely and peacefully in every aspect of the political process will be guaranteed. In addition to the Presidential election, all political forces will be eligible for appointment or election to positions in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.
“In keeping with the provisions of Article 14(C) of the 1954 Geneva Accords the Vietnamese parties will undertake to refrain from any reprisals or discrimination against persons or organizations on account of their activities during the hostilities and to guarantee democratic liberties.
[Page 336]“Five, after the new President has been elected, the political forces in South Vietnam will meet with a view to revising the Constitution within one year and agreeing on steps to implement it. [The North Vietnamese take notes busily.]
“Point Six: The details of a political solution based on the principles of Points 4 and 5 above will be negotiated between the South Vietnamese parties within three months of the signature of this general agreement.”
[The North Vietnamese ask for Point Six to be repeated. Dr. Kissinger rereads it. The North Vietnamese confer.]
Dr. Kissinger: There is a dispute on the North Vietnamese delegation!
Xuan Thuy: Only for clarification.
Dr. Kissinger: I can tell you, when I get a dispute going between the Minister and the Special Adviser then we will get a settlement. [They laugh.] But I don’t think it will happen before the American election.
“Point Seven: Regarding the peaceful reunification of Vietnam: Reunification of Vietnam will be achieved step by step by peaceful means on the basis of discussions and agreements between North and South Vietnam without constraint and annexation from either party, and without foreign interference.”
This text should be somewhat familiar to you.
[He resumes reading.]
“Pending reunification, and in keeping with the provisions of the 1954 Geneva Agreements on Vietnam, North and South Vietnam will refrain from joining any military alliance with foreign countries, and from allowing any foreign country to have military bases, troops and military personnel on their soil.
“Pending reunification, North and South Vietnam will develop and maintain close relations in all fields.
“Eight, regarding the foreign policy of peace and neutrality of Indochina:
“The countries of Indochina shall pursue a foreign policy of peace, independence and neutrality, establish relations with all countries regardless of their political and social regime, maintain economic and cultural relations with all countries, and participate in programs of regional economic cooperation.
“Nine, both sides will respect the 1954 Geneva Agreements on Indochina and those of 1962 on Laos. There will be no foreign intervention in the Indochinese countries and the Indochinese peoples will be left to settle their own affairs by themselves.
“Ten, the problems existing among the Indochinese countries will be settled by the Indochinese parties on the basis of mutual respect for independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in each other’s affairs. Among the problems that will be settled is the implementation of the principle that all armed forces of the countries of Indochina must remain within their national frontiers.
[Page 337]“Eleven, there will be international supervision of the military aspects of this agreement, including the cease-fire and its provisions, the release of prisoners of war and innocent civilians, the withdrawal of outside forces from Indochina, and the implementation of the principle that all armed forces of the countries of Indochina must remain within their national frontiers.
“Twelve, there will be an international guarantee for the fundamental national rights of the Indochinese peoples, the status of all the countries of Indochina, and lasting peace in the region.
“Both sides express their willingness to participate in an international conference for this and other appropriate purposes.”
Now let me explain what we mean by this plan. Let us look seriously and in good faith at what we have done. We have cast our plan in terms of the Seven-Point Plan and Two-Point Elaboration. We have accepted the basic principles of your proposals, although there are differences with regard to timing and procedure. Let me go through these proposals, point by point.
With respect to Point One, on the military questions:
—Your side has asked for the complete withdrawal of allied forces and their equipment and the dismantling of U.S. bases. We have agreed that we will do this.
—You have asked for an early deadline. We have shortened the timetable for complete withdrawal of our forces to four months. Were we to agree by September 1st, the last American soldier will have left South Vietnam by the end of this year.
With respect to Point Two, on the political questions: You will notice that we have accepted many of its principles and that we have agreed to consider it together with the military questions.
First, on the overall process. Your position as expressed in the Seven Points and the Two-Point Elaboration is that the present government must change and then the new government should develop a new constitutional structure. We accept this general outline as to procedure, and also the two-stage approach it represents. We have made a conscientious effort to leave the decisions to the South Vietnamese people. We solemnly declare that we will abide by the results of the process we are proposing. The only thing we will not do is to prescribe that outcome in Paris. We will not insist on a particular government; but we will not impose it either.
—You have asked that we respect South Vietnamese self-determination and that the political process be free of American interference. We have agreed to this in our readiness to make a series of commitments about the political future of South Vietnam once an agreement is signed.
—We have proposed elections to choose a new President. And we have specified that this election be organized and run by an independ[Page 338]ent electoral commission made up of all political forces and that it be internationally supervised.
—You have asked that President Thieu resign. He has agreed to do so and we have reason to believe that the deadline for his resignation prior to new elections is flexible.
—You have asked that democratic liberties be guaranteed. We have agreed to your specific point that democratic liberties, as defined in the 1954 Geneva Accords, be assured in South Vietnam. In addition, we have proposed that all forces be eligible for election or appointment to all branches of government and that they participate in every aspect of the political process freely and securely.
—You have asked that a new government of South Vietnam bring about a new constitution. We have agreed that after the new elections the political forces in South Vietnam should meet to revise the Constitution within one year and agree on steps to implement it.
—In addition to the merit of these proposals individually, you will no doubt consider the impact of the publication of this agreement and principles on the political process and on the expectations of the people of South Vietnam.
We have thus addressed every aspect of your political proposals. We have agreed to your basic approach and many of its details. There are some remaining differences to which I will turn in a minute.
With respect to the other points in the [PRG] Seven-Point proposal: We have met every one in substance, and in many instances we have incorporated the specific language.
—Point Three, the disposition of Vietnamese armed forces, is subsumed under our Point Ten.
—Point Four, the reunification of Vietnam and the relations between North and South, is covered by our Point Seven.
—Point Five is covered by our Point Eight.
—Point Six on reparations we cannot accept, but we maintain our position of last summer regarding our willingness to consider a reconstruction program for all of Indochina.
Our other points (nine, ten, and eleven) represent areas of essential agreement last summer when they were based on your nine points.
Finally, we have met your concern that the intent of these proposals could be defeated through delaying tactics in the implementing process by placing a three-month time limit on the negotiation to work out the details of the political process. This time limit would enable us to help guarantee that the intent of these proposals is carried out because our withdrawals would not be completed until a month after these negotiations are completed also. At the same time we could not affect [Page 339]the political process with our forces since they would have left at least five months before the elections.
[The North Vietnamese ask him to repeat.]
This time limit would enable us to guarantee that the intent of these proposals is carried out because our withdrawals would not be completed until a month after the details are agreed to. I will explain this when I speak about understandings. At the same time we could not affect the political process with our forces since they would have left at least five months before the elections.
Let me explain. We agree on these principles; after these principles, it will take three months to work out the details of the process; it will take four months to withdraw all our forces. Our forces will be withdrawn one month after the details are worked out. The elections will be six months after the details are worked out, or five months after the forces are withdrawn. But the elections can be earlier.
Let me point out the new elements in our plan as compared to our January 27th and our May 8th proposals:
[Withdrawals] The deadline for total withdrawal of all U.S. and allied forces from South Vietnam is reduced to four months, instead of the six months in our Eight-Point proposal. Assuming the final details of a political settlement are worked out within three months of the general agreement and a new election held six months later, all U.S. and allied forces would be out of South Vietnam five months before the elections. This contrasts with our January 25th plan where U.S. withdrawals would be completed by the date of the election.
Prisoners. Unlike the President’s May 8th proposal, prisoner release would take place after the cessation of acts of force and mining against the DRV rather than making these conditional upon completion of prisoner release.
Political Issues. Our political proposals offer major new elements expressly designed to meet concerns that you have expressed in your message of May 18 and at our last meeting.
First, we have reaffirmed that President Thieu and Vice President Huong will resign before the holding of presidential elections. Our new plan deliberately does not specify the time limit. We are prepared to have an understanding with you that we will support an extension of the period beyond the one month provided in our proposal of January 25.
[The North Vietnamese confer.]
Second, the election will take place several months after the last American soldier has left Vietnam, in contrast to our earlier plans.
Third, we have specified that in addition to the Presidential election, all political forces would be eligible for appointment or election [Page 340]to positions in all branches of government—executive, legislative and judicial. No political force will be excluded from participation in any part of the political process, at any level.
Fourth, we have added an explicit statement about guarantees on the rights of all political forces to participate freely and peacefully in the political process. This clause meets your concern that forces aligned with your side, and others opposed to the present Saigon Administration, might be hindered or prevented from political activities.
Fifth, in response to your direct request at our last meeting, we have included a specific reference to Article 14(c) of the Geneva Accord and the guarantee of democratic liberties.
Finally, we have added the provision that after a new President has been elected, the political forces in South Vietnam will meet in order to revise the Constitution within one year and agree to implement it. This accepts the outline of this aspect of your side’s second point elaboration. Thus, your side will not only have the chance for power in the Presidential election; they will also have the opportunity to negotiate with the new government on revisions of the Constitution. The political process, in other words, is extended beyond one office or one event.
These would be formal agreements which we would be prepared to sign. The Special Adviser last time mentioned unsigned agreements as well. I am not sure to what he was referring. But we would be prepared to reach and observe certain private understandings in addition to formal agreements.
First, we would be prepared to use our influence, all our influence, with the Government of South Vietnam to implement the details of this agreement.
Second, as I have indicated, we have reason to believe that President Thieu—as his personal contribution to a guaranteed and lasting peace—might consider the deadline for his resignation negotiable. We envisage, for example, that he might agree to a two-month rather than one-month interval before new elections. In any event, we will support such an understanding with him and Vice President Huong. Let me remind you that last summer you said that President Thieu’s resignation was the only real requirement for a settlement, after which all other problems could be solved easily. If this was a serious proposal, the opportunity now exists.
Le Duc Tho: We proposed the immediate resignation, and now you advance it two months.
Dr. Kissinger: No, you proposed we reach a private understanding.
Mr. Special Adviser, there will undoubtedly be minor provisions that you will not agree with. Could you defer your comments until the end? [They nod yes.]
[Page 341]Third, in conjunction with an overall agreement, we are willing to make certain understandings with regard to the future levels of U.S. military and economic aid to South Vietnam.
Fourth, as I have pointed out, we will be prepared to reaffirm privately to your major allies every agreement and understanding we make with you. Thus if we were to violate any agreements, we would be breaking faith not only with you but also with countries whose relations are very important to us.
Fifth, we are prepared to listen seriously to any proposals you may wish to make with regard to further understandings.
Our proposals are a deliberate, conscientious attempt to give the people of South Vietnam an opportunity to shape their own future. We have structured them within the framework your side has put forward. But we have refused to impose a particular solution. We cannot so weaken the political forces opposed to the NLF that the resulting political process will be a sham. We will cooperate honestly in constructing a truly free political process. We will not participate in a thinly veiled subterfuge for imposing one particular solution.
I tell you solemnly that we will carry out these agreements without any afterthought to undo its unfolding. We are prepared to live with its consequences. We have proposed a plan that irrevocably removes the American military presence, stops the conflict and the suffering, and lays out a concrete political process to give the people of South Vietnam a free choice, and a deadline to achieve it. This plan would be guaranteed by our agreement with you; by our commitment to your major allies; by other international forces; and by the geopolitical realities of the 1970s.
The need on both sides for a peaceful resolution has never been clearer. Recent events have demonstrated that no one can “win everything” on the other fronts of this conflict either. We have no wish to impose a military solution and no illusion that it could be purchased cheaply. We have no intention of inflicting needless destruction. We do not want to humiliate you. We consider your independence an essential element of long-term Southeast Asian policy. We are ready to take risks to terminate the fighting now, end our involvement, and set the stage for political competition among the Vietnamese alone.
We have made our basic decision to settle this conflict if you will meet us part way.
You have a similar decision to make. You can join us now in a serious effort to reach a negotiated settlement that takes account of both sides’ concerns. This requires concrete proposals and movement from both sides, and a willingness to leave some matters to a political evolution.
[Page 342]Your other choice would be to wait upon events, listening to what we have to say without budging from your essential positions. You would thus be hoping for one of two things to happen: Either we accept all of your demands, which will not happen, or a new President is elected in November who will accept all of your demands.
The waiting course would be a serious mistake. You should not be misled by temporary Congressional votes—as you know, they do not address political questions at all.
As for looking towards our elections. You will make your own judgment about the prospects of the opposition. I will not discuss our domestic politics with you. It is clear, however, that if our election turns into a national referendum on Vietnam, you will be gambling for high stakes. This Administration’s position can only be greatly bolstered by such an outcome.
Over recent years, you often have decided to wait, and the objective result has been a worsening of your overall position. Even if the opposition were to win, could they really execute what they now promise as candidates, or if they attempt it will it make a decisive difference by January 20, 1973? Over time, the South Vietnamese government and military posture will continue to grow stronger, and our influence on any settlement will decrease.
You have often accused us of missing opportunities. But you too have often waited too long. The basic mistake in the summer of 1971 was not this or that agreement, but your basic decision to start the negotiations much too late to influence the election. By July 1971 when we first talked seriously it was much too late. Do not make that same mistake again.
I therefore hope you will give serious consideration to what has been presented. It is not presented on a take-it-or-leave-it basis; we are prepared to hear counterproposals. We have, however, included just about every element that we think can contribute to a fair and open political process for all forces. The only thing we have not done is to guarantee your side’s victory in advance.
I welcome your comments. And I look forward to hearing your own concrete proposals.
Mr. Special Adviser, Mr. Minister, at our last meeting you spoke eloquently about US-Vietnamese cooperation at Viet Bac at the end of World War II and about the prospect of a “new page” in our relations at the end of this war. We share these sentiments. I want to repeat again today that the United States has no greater goal than to end this conflict in a manner that will respect the interests of all parties and will heal the wounds that have been inflicted. Our two countries do not present any long term threat to one another. There is every reason to rekindle the cooperation that existed at the end of a previous war.
[Page 343]So let us now end this war. Let us both devote our energies today, and in the coming weeks, to find a just settlement that will allow us to turn a new page in relations between our two countries and our two peoples. That is our attitude.
[He hands over U.S. Twelve-Point proposal at Tab A.]
At least we have not been idle.
Xuan Thuy: We have been talking rather lengthily. I propose a little break. We have followed your views with great attention. After the break we will express our views.
[At 12:28 p.m., the meeting broke up. Tho and Thuy went upstairs to confer privately. The U.S. side and the remaining North Vietnamese moved to the next room for snacks ( cha gio , fruit, and cookies) and light conversation. The snacks were more lavish and the cha gio somewhat thicker than the previous meeting! The break lasted until 1:45 p.m., when Tho and Thuy came downstairs, and the group moved to the conference table again.]
Dr. Kissinger: You have an excellent chef, Mr. Minister. My colleagues and I appreciate it.
Xuan Thuy: Has everyone here had Vietnamese food before? [Most on U.S. side nod yes.]
Dr. Kissinger: I have one technical problem. We will tell our driver to come back at 3:00. We’ll be here at least until then. I’m prepared to stay longer. But it will be at least another hour. The Special Adviser has a rather lengthy speech to make. [laughter]
Have you had any time off, Mr. Minister?
Xuan Thuy: We have not had our vacation.
After listening to your views Mr. Le Duc Tho now will express ours.
Dr. Kissinger: Can we wait one minute for Mr. Lord?
Xuan Thuy: You have two-day weekends every week?
Dr. Kissinger: No.
Xuan Thuy: But you have a full Sunday rest?
Dr. Kissinger: No, I usually work part of Sunday. I do it at home often.
Le Duc Tho: Now after listening to your presentation I would like to make some preliminary remarks, I hope we shall have an opportunity to return to your presentation later again.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes.
Le Duc Tho: After listening to you, we realized that we have agreed to some principles already. But there is one very essential, very crucial question, that is the political question of South Vietnam, on which we have not yet come to agreement, particularly regarding the question of the Saigon Administration. Regarding the political question you [Page 344]have said something further in connection with Article 14(c) of the Geneva Agreement regarding the democratic liberties. Before expressing my views, I would like to ask you a few questions for clarifications and mainly on the political questions.
Besides the elections is it true that you said you have spoken about the participation of the National Liberation Front and the Provisional Revolutionary Government in the executive machinery, the juridical machinery and the legislative machinery? Do you mean by that that the PRG can take part in the caretaker government? And the last time you said that you have no objection to the formation of the three-segment government of national concord. What is your view on this question? This is my question.
Dr. Kissinger: I have said that the NLF cannot be barred—should not be barred from any position because of its political beliefs and that therefore it is not excluded that members of the NLF can receive some administrative appointments. And certainly after the election, that will be not too difficult. As for the government of national concord, if at the end of a process such as we have described the Vietnamese parties among themselves agree to set up such a government, we will not oppose it. What we will not do is to insist on our part that it must be the only outcome. So for a year or two. . . . So if after some time, say a year or two after a settlement, this should be a consequence, we are willing to make an understanding with you that we will not interfere.
Le Duc Tho: I have another question. There is still a difference between our views with respect to the timing of the cease-fire. Am I right to understand you like this, that between you and us, after we reach an agreement on the military questions and the political questions, but regarding the political questions we will agree on the main ideas as I have just described, then we should proceed to the cease-fire, and as to the details of the political question it will be referred to the Vietnamese to settle the details? Is that true?
As to the position, our point of view, we advocate that after the settlement of both military and political questions, after the signing of agreement on these questions, both in principle and in detail, then we proceed to the cease-fire. And when the cease-fire comes into force then all the agreements of the political questions would be put into practice.
Dr. Kissinger: The Special Adviser has correctly explained the difference between our positions, but we have tried to bridge the difference between our positions in two ways. By setting a three-month deadline on the negotiations, so that the other parties would not have an opportunity to protract them indefinitely, and by promising a private understanding that we would use our influence to bring those negotiations among the Vietnamese parties to a positive conclusion.
Le Duc Tho: I have only these two questions.
[Page 345]Now let me express my views. First of all I would like to return to the question of bombing of North Vietnam and mining of North Vietnamese seaports. Of late the bombings have been stepped up to very great violence. Moreover President Nixon has said, made a statement, on the bombing. Therefore, I feel I should express some views on that score. After that I shall present to you the overall solution of the Vietnam problem, of the political problems of Vietnam, to you, a political settlement of the Vietnam problem, in a constructive spirit.
At the last private meetings on July 19 I emphasized that if the United States wanted to show good will and serious intent in order to bring these negotiations to a fruitful result, then the U.S. should stop bombing and mining of North Vietnam. These are actions in violation of the October 1968 engagement of the United States. But since the last private meetings with you, the United States has stepped up with great violence its bombardment throughout North Vietnam, particularly the bombing against the dikes and heavily populated areas. U.S. aircraft have stepped up attacks on Hanoi and Haiphong, killing a great number of civilians. And of late President Nixon affirmed that the bombings are not aimed at the civilian population. And on July 27, too, President Nixon compared North Vietnam to Hitlerite Germany and slandered that North Vietnam was making aggression in South Vietnam and was making a policy of massacre of the civilian population in order to impose a communist government in South Vietnam. Therefore, [the President said] the U.S. has to bombard North Vietnam in order to defend the 17 million South Vietnamese just like the United States attacked the Germany of Hitler, and if the United States failed to do so it would be the greatest immorality.
These words and deeds of the U.S. side show that the United States still wants to pursue a most cruel war of aggression against our country, and this is in fact the greatest immorality. You thought that we were weakened now and could not cope with your military pressure, and that is the reason why you have stepped up your attacks, to force us to accept your terms. Your assessment of the situation is, it is something up to you to do. But in the course of our resistence war, and over the past four years of negotiations, we have repeatedly stated that your bombs and shells cannot subdue our people. You have been overconfident in the power of a bomb and shells. Therefore, you have wrongly assessed the situation, the consequences of which are known to you. But in the present circumstances once again you wrongly assess the situation.
Many American personalities, many American journalists, including your own friends, visited our country . . .
Dr. Kissinger: Who’s that?
Le Duc Tho: Many of your friends.
[Page 346]Dr. Kissinger: Jane Fonda? No, I know who you mean.
Le Duc Tho: And they admitted that in spite of certain sacrifices and losses, you have had, they cannot deny the cohesion and determination of our people in the struggle against U.S. aggression. But Jane Fonda is an American.
Dr. Kissinger: She’s prettier than Joseph Kraft.
Le Duc Tho: It is up to you to assess that. I have not met her so I cannot evaluate her beauty.
The United States can use all its might to destroy our country in one afternoon, as President Nixon said. But there is one thing that the United States can never do—that is to smash the determination of our people. Therefore, if you fail to show good will in finding a fair solution to the Vietnam problem and instead if you continue the bombing and the blockade of North Vietnam and the fierce military activities in South Vietnam, this will only increase the hatred and the determination of every Vietnamese in fighting against U.S. aggression to secure their national fundamental right. And if so, the war cannot be ended and more obstacles will be created to these negotiations.
And while you are indulging in so furious a bombardment, you said that if we took advantage of these negotiations to influence the elections in the United States you would halt these negotiations until after the elections. It is obvious then that when you are threatening us and you give yourself the right to take actions at will to freely bombard our country, to freely take advantage of these negotiations for the purposes of election campaigns, and on the other hand you want to tie down our hands, that will not do.
In our view, in order to bring about good results to these negotiations and to rapidly end the war, both sides should create a propitious atmosphere for the talks. You should not indulge in maneuvers and threats; instead you should show good faith and mutual trust, as you said the last time. At the same time, you should put an immediate end to the bombardment of North Vietnam and blockades of North Vietnamese ports. You should respect your October 1968 engagement. If you continue the bombing of North Vietnamese cities, densely populated areas, irrigation facilities, dikes and dams, to bring about floods in Vietnam, then we will not be able to continue to sit with you and talk with you as we are doing now. We shall have to reconsider the continuation of this forum of private meetings and you will be entirely responsible for this.
As for us, as I have said, we are consistently of good will and seriously desiring to find a fair and reasonable solution to the Vietnam problem, beneficial to both sides.
Now let me speak about our political solution to the Vietnam problem.
[Page 347]We have carefully studied the views you expressed at the last private meeting. Today I would like to state that we take note of certain basic principles that you raised at the last private meeting on July 19.
First, you said that the United States can coexist with Hanoi. Once the war is over, the U.S. has every interest in an independent, autonomous, and prosperous Vietnam.
Second, the U.S. genuinely wants to negotiate a solution which respects the independence of Vietnam and which meets the reasonable concerns of Vietnam.
Third, there is no incentive for the United States to maintain troops, bases and political predominance in Vietnam. The U.S. does not seek an excuse to return to Vietnam. You said the United States has no difficulty in accepting a very strict definition of nonintervention in the political life of South Vietnam. The U.S. is not tied up with any particular politicians or any particular political orientation in South Vietnam. The U.S. does not require a pro-American government in South Vietnam.
Fourth, the U.S. is interested in the political independence and neutrality of the Southeast Asian region and not in any bases or alliances with the United States. The United States has no intention to keep military personnel and bases in Indochina once the war is over.
Fifth, the U.S. will respect not only the spirit but also the letter, not only the formulas but also every nuance of the agreements that will be reached.
Sixth, if the problem is to be resolved, both sides must create mutual confidence and show good faith.
These basic principles are consonant with the views expressed on this subject by our side on July 19, 1972. We do wish that the United States will respect and fully implement these basic principles. Then we shall have an appropriate basis for the finding of a satisfactory solution to the discussion and settlement of the Vietnam problem.
But what is the question crucial to the implementation of these basic principles? If we don’t find a solution to this crucial question then a settlement to the Vietnam problem cannot be found. Besides the total withdrawal of U.S. forces and those of the other foreign countries in the U.S. camp out of Vietnam, then the crucial question is that South Vietnam should absolutely have an administration that really insures the independence, neutrality and democracy of South Vietnam. At the same time, such an administration would insure the restoration of lasting peace in Vietnam and contribute an important part to the preservation of peace, independence and neutrality in Indochina and in Southeast Asia.
So far, you wanted to separate the military question from the political question, but today you have agreed to link the settlement of [Page 348]the military question and the political question. We take note of this statement. But in the political field there still is a very basic question, that is, the political system of South Vietnam. According to you, the political questions of South Vietnam should be settled in this way: You want to let political events of South Vietnam take their natural evolution and you affirm you respect the South Vietnamese people’s right to self-determination. But in fact you want to maintain in power the U.S.-puppet administration in South Vietnam, and you are unwilling to accept the formation of a three-segment government of national concord in South Vietnam. We are of the view that the United States is responsible for the present political situation of South Vietnam. This is something undeniable. Because over the past 20 years the United States has been forming, nurturing, an administration in South Vietnam completely controlled by the United States. And that is why the U.S. should now discuss together with us and settle the question of consequences of the political situation in a reasonable and logical way in order to insure lasting peace in South Vietnam.
It is incorrect, in fact, to say that you wanted to let the political situation of South Vietnam take its natural evolution. Because over the past 20 years, through the experience we have seen, there was no moment that the political situation of South Vietnam could take its natural evolution. For in accordance with your statement to let the political situation in South Vietnam take its natural evolution, then the situation will develop in accordance with your Vietnamization program. This is something unacceptable. That is why the United States should together with us resolve the political consequences the United States has caused in South Vietnam.
We have many times pointed out that the maintenance of the Saigon administration under U.S. orders prevents the cessation of the war, prevents the end of U.S. involvement. It cannot end the U.S. involvement in the internal affairs of South Vietnam. It cannot insure independence and democracy in South Vietnam. And when you are still maintaining the Saigon administration, how can you say that you don’t require a pro-American government in Saigon? How can you say that you are prepared to respect an independent Vietnam, and how can you put in practice the basic principles I have just mentioned?
Only when the genuinely democratic tri-segment government of national concord is formed, then the politically really progressive and democratic development of South Vietnam may be ensured. The people of South Vietnam who have fought for scores of years demand not only the total withdrawal of U.S. forces from South Vietnam and those of other foreign countries of the U.S. camp from South Vietnam, but they also require a political system really democratic and progressive in South Vietnam. And only in this way can we have genuine peace [Page 349]and independence in South Vietnam. Therefore, in our view, in order to find a peaceful settlement to the problem, this question is the crucial one.
The political solution you have just presented today—we feel that there is no difference between this new proposal and the proposal on the political question in your former Eight-Point proposal. Therefore, due to this way of appraising the problem, we feel that the United States and us, we should settle all the military questions and political questions before we proceed to a cease-fire. As for you, you hold that you and we, we shall make steps in the settlement of the military questions and the political questions, particularly to make only one step in the settlement of the military question and then proceed to a cease-fire, and the second step in the settlement of the Vietnam problem will be left to the Vietnamese parties.
Although you have proposed a certain limit for the settlement between the Vietnamese, but after the cease-fire there is a possibility that the settlement will drag on. And when the settlement drags on and no solution is found, then there is a possibility of the resumption of hostilities. Therefore, our approach is the one aimed at achieving real peace, independence and democracy, and durable peace, independence, and democracy in South Vietnam. Not only peace in Vietnam but also peace throughout Southeast Asia. As to your approach, as I have just said, it may present the possibility of the resumption of the war, and, if so, it is not at all beneficial to both sides. Therefore, in our negotiations between you and us regarding the timing of the cease-fire there still remains great difference.
If you are really desiring to settle the problem we are prepared to do so with you and to find with you the means and full guarantees for the implementation of the basic principles I have just recalled here. In this spirit today I would like to present in a comprehensive way an overall solution to the Vietnam problem. I am making a new initiative, in order to bring these talks to good results.
First, I would like to speak about the military questions. You have agreed with us now that the United States would completely withdraw from South Vietnam all U.S. troops and those of other foreign countries in the U.S. camp in South Vietnam, without leaving behind any advisers, any military personnel or other foreigners, and the United States will dismantle all military bases in South Vietnam.
Regarding the timing, the period, for the total withdrawal of U.S. troops and troops of other foreign countries in the U.S. camp, we have examined your proposal to withdraw completely all U.S. forces within four months after the agreement is reached. Now we don’t ask for a terminal date for the total withdrawal of the U.S. forces and those of other foreign countries. But we move that the U.S. troop withdrawal [Page 350]should be completed within one month after the signing of the final agreement. Now there are only about 30,000 American troops left. From now until we reach agreement then you will continue to withdraw your forces, and when we reach agreement when there is a cease-fire then there will be very few left.
Dr. Kissinger: Your colleague, the Minister, relapses every once in a while and asks for a date. [laughs] At the last plenary session. That’s just to confuse poor Ambassador Porter. [laughter] No, I understand you.
Le Duc Tho: So our proposal in comparing it with the past is now flexible.
Dr. Kissinger: I understand.
Le Duc Tho: And if you withdraw your forces in one month, then a number of captured military men will be released very quickly. If you adopt the four-month period for withdrawing, then the release of prisoners will be prolonged.
Dr. Kissinger: Do I understand that the Special Adviser is saying the prisoners will be released side by side with the withdrawal?
Le Duc Tho: I am coming to that. Therefore, the release of captured military men and civilians on both sides captured in Vietnam will be carried out side by side with the withdrawal and will be completed on the same day as mentioned for the troop withdrawal. So our proposal in this connection is more positive than yours, although there is a difference in the number of months for withdrawal.
Dr. Kissinger: No, I understand. The concept is the same. That means the Minister can’t make his joke anymore about a free meal tomorrow. [laughter]
Le Duc Tho: Last time you also mentioned, expressed the desire to end all U.S. involvement in Vietnam and not to return again to Vietnam.
Dr. Kissinger: Right.
Le Duc Tho: Therefore, the United States should make a solemn pledge that after the cessation of military activities in the two zones of Vietnam and after the withdrawal of U.S. forces as agreed, the United States would refrain from introducing again U.S. forces and other foreign troops to Vietnam again, refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of Vietnam, and refrain from using military bases no matter where they are, far from Vietnam or close to Vietnam, including the Seventh Fleet in the South China Sea, to carry out hostile actions against the Vietnamese peoples in the two zones.
If you agree to the views I have just expressed, then we shall go into the discussion of the modalities of the withdrawal of troops and the modalities for the release of captured military men and civilians.
Regarding your military aid to the Saigon administration, immediately after the coming into force of the cease-fire this military aid should [Page 351]end. Only in doing so can we really put an end to the U.S. involvement in South Vietnam, and at the same time can we reduce the tension between the two opponent forces. Last time when I expressed my views, probably you have not really understood me. The last time when I said that after the overall settlement of all the questions, including both military questions and political questions, then a cease-fire will take place. And when the negotiations are still going on, and when the cease-fire has not come into force, then the U.S. will have the right to give military aid to the Saigon administration. But after the cease-fire, in our envisaging, we feel that there will be another administration; then the U.S. should cease this military aid.
I have expressed my views on the military question; now let me speak about the political questions.
I think this is the hardest question, on which we should concentrate our effort to discuss and to come to a good settlement. Regarding the political situation and regarding the reason why a government, a provisional three-segment government of national concord should be formed, as well as regarding the political character of this government of national concord, the last time I have explained to you and I have just explained this time today. I will not repeat the reasons again. Let me now go into more concrete details as follows:
The provisional government of national concord will include the three following segments: The segment belonging to the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam will be designated by the Provisional Revolutionary Government. The segment belonging to the Saigon administration will be designated by the Saigon administration without Nguyen Van Thieu. Now the third segment is composed of persons of various political and religious tendencies in South Vietnam including those who have to live in exile abroad for political reasons, belonging neither to the PRG nor to the Saigon administration. These people stand for a peaceful, independent, neutral and democratic South Vietnam that is neither socialist like North Vietnam nor a neocolony of the United States, but these people stand for a progressive democratic regime in South Vietnam. They stand for South Vietnam pursuing a foreign policy of peace, independence, and neutrality. This segment will be proposed in common agreement by the PRG and the Saigon administration. These three segments are equal in right to each other and are in the same proportions.
The provisional three-segment government of national concord will carry out the tasks of the period from the restoration of peace to the holding of general elections in South Vietnam. This government will have full power in dealing with domestic affairs as well as in dealing with foreign affairs. Its tasks are:
—first, to implement the agreement signed by the parties.
[Page 352]—second, to realize a peaceful, independent, neutral and democratic South Vietnam.
Now I speak of the internal tasks of this government. First, this government should:
—insure the democratic liberties, particularly the provisions of Article 14(c) of the 1954 Geneva Agreements on Vietnam;
—to realize national concord;
—to organize free and democratic general elections in South Vietnam;
—to elect a constituent national assembly and to form a definitive government;
—to take care of the stabilization of the people’s life after the war.
As to the general elections, the parties will agree on the timing, the date, of the holding of general elections.
Externally this government will pursue a foreign policy of peace, independence, and neutrality as has been described in the Seven-Point solution. Such a three-segment government of national concord is conforming to the real political situation of South Vietnam and responds to the aspirations of the South Vietnamese people. And such a government, parenthetically, is even qualified by the French government as a reasonable proposal.
Dr. Kissinger: The French government having proved its knowledge of Vietnamese affairs through 150 years. [laughter]
Xuan Thuy: They have realized the real situation.
Dr. Kissinger: As long as it doesn’t cost them anything they are very good at giving advice.
Xuan Thuy: They gave their views as a bystander and they have got their own experience too.
Dr. Kissinger: The Argentine government agrees with us. [laughter] All right, I understand.
Le Duc Tho: So this demand reflects the just demands of the South Vietnamese people in accordance with the real situation. We can demand no less.
The aforesaid is the principles and the main contents of the political solution of the South Vietnam problem. If at this forum you and we come to an agreement on the principles and the main contents I have just mentioned, then a new forum will be opened between the PRG and the Saigon administration. This is very important.
Dr. Kissinger: A new forum between the PRG and the Saigon administration with Thieu or without Thieu?
Le Duc Tho: I shall come to that later. At this new forum I have just mentioned, the PRG and the Saigon administration will:
[Page 353]—First, they will discuss and implement the principles and the main contents of the political questions that we have agreed at this channel.
—They will continue the discussion and the resolution of specific questions regarding the organization, the composition, the procedure of work of the provisional three-segment government of national concord.
—They will settle the question of Vietnamese armed forces in South Vietnam in a spirit of national concord, equality and mutual respect without foreign interference, in accordance with the post-war situation and with a view toward lessening the contributions [sacrifices] of the people.
This above-mentioned initiative of ours is a new effort of ours and an evidence of good will to realize a breakthrough to these negotiations. But the important thought is that Nguyen Van Thieu should resign and the present Saigon administration should change its present policy. If the United States still wants to maintain Nguyen Van Thieu and support the Saigon administration in carrying out a policy of terror and fascism against the people of South Vietnam, then the problem cannot be solved. At the present situation, in order to make this private-meeting channel progress in finding a solution to the Vietnam problem, in order to allow this channel to progress, we are prepared to show our flexibility and to agree with you that immediately after an agreement, after a settlement is reached, after the signing of an overall agreement, then Nguyen Van Thieu will resign—and not immediately. It is a great concession of ours because we no longer demand the immediate resignation of Nguyen Van Thieu.
Dr. Kissinger: I don’t quite follow the concession; what’s the concession?
Le Duc Tho: Previously we demanded the immediate resignation of Nguyen Van Thieu prior to the starting of talks between the PRG and the Saigon administration. And now we agree after the signing of an overall agreement, then Thieu will resign.
Dr. Kissinger: I just wanted to understand it correctly. After the overall agreement between you and us or after the agreement between everybody?
Le Duc Tho: After agreement is reached between the United States and the DRV on the principles and the main contents of the political questions, and then the PRG will start discussions with the Saigon administration to settle the specific aspects of these principles—in the meantime Thieu does not resign yet.
Dr. Kissinger: Okay. That is a concession.
Le Duc Tho: A great concession indeed.
Dr. Kissinger: I will do something you have never done; I will admit you have made a concession. [laughter]
[Page 354] Le Duc Tho: So after the agreement is reached between you and us, after the agreement and outcome of the talks between the PRG and the Saigon administration, Thieu will resign.
Dr. Kissinger: I understand.
Le Duc Tho: So this will create favorable conditions for the negotiations between the PRG and the Saigon administration, after the settlement, the results, have been achieved in this channel between you and us. But we demand one thing. We make concession on the timing of the resignation of Nguyen Van Thieu after the settlement. But we demand that the Saigon administration change its policy, namely to put in practice the democratic liberties, freedom of speech, freedom of organization, freedom of meeting, freedom of press, and they should put an end to all acts of terror, persecution, and reprisal, and that they free all people imprisoned for political reasons. Only in this way can they create propitious atmosphere for the negotiations and get results. Also it will create conditions for the materialization of national concord, to wipe out all hatred, to realize the reconciliation of the people of Vietnam.
In this way we have shown our good will and serious intent in solving the problem—it is evident. But as to comparing your proposal, you only make a small step.
The next time you should respond to our proposal. Now, besides these two military and political questions, a solution should be found to a series of other questions.
First, the question of reunification of Vietnam and the question of relationship between the two zones. I have nothing to add—the proposals we have made in our Nine and Seven Points are still valuable [valid] and in this case you have said also that you agreed to them. But on the question of timing for the reunification of Vietnam, we move that the Vietnamese parties will discuss on that question.
Dr. Kissinger: But when?
Le Duc Tho: The Vietnamese parties should discuss the timing of it. We don’t propose any specific time. This will come up at the negotiation.
Now, regarding the healing of the wounds of war. I feel that the United States has a responsibility in this question of healing the wounds of war. You previously, Mr. Adviser, raised the question of aid to the whole of Indochina with a sum of $7.5 billion. In our view this amount is no longer satisfactory. Because you have resumed the bombing against Vietnam, you have mined our ports, causing great losses to us. Now we propose $8 billion for the two zones of Vietnam—$4.5 billion for North Vietnam and $3.5 billion for South Vietnam. This sum is not to be reimbursed. For you this sum is not considerable. You have spent [Page 355]hundreds of billions of dollars in the Vietnam war; we have suffered great losses over the past decades—there are two wars of destruction waged by the United States against us. We had been building our country for 10 years when you launched the air war. We had no sooner rehabilitated when you resumed the bombing. Let alone the question of material losses, but the human losses are very great. No sum can redeem human lives. For you this sum is not great.
Five, we both sides have agreed on the principle that there will be international control and supervision as well as international guarantees. We shall go into discussions of the details about the composition of the body, the tasks and organization of the body.
Six, now regarding the cease-fire in Vietnam. After the agreement and the signing of the final agreement on all military and political questions in Vietnam, a standstill cease-fire will take place under international control and supervision.
Seventh, the 1954 Geneva Agreement on Indochina and those of 1962 on Laos should be respected. The people of each Indochinese country will settle themselves their own internal affairs without foreign interference. The problems existing among the Indochinese countries will be settled by the Indochinese parties on the basis of mutual respect for the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity of each other and without interference in each other’s internal affairs.
Regarding the question of prisoners of war throughout Indochina, regarding the question of cease-fire throughout Indochina, we are only competent to settle the question concerning Vietnam. As to the question concerning Cambodia and Laos, this will be settled by the competent parties of Cambodia and Laos. We cannot speak for them. However, we are of the view that the settlement of the Vietnam problem will create a favorable condition for the settlement of problems of your interest. As we have already said, the problems among the Indochinese countries should be settled by the Indochinese themselves. But we firmly believe after the solving of the Vietnam problem the problems in other countries can be easily settled. This is the overall solution I propose.
In reviewing the negotiations we have had here, I feel that we have come to agree with each other in principle on a number of questions, although the details still need further discussion. These are the questions on which we have agreed in principle:
First, the U.S. undertakes to withdraw completely all U.S. forces and those of the other countries in the U.S. camp from South Vietnam, to put an end to the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, and the U.S. undertakes not to return to Vietnam again.
Dr. Kissinger: I think he’s had some coaching from Joseph Kraft.
[Page 356] Le Duc Tho: Actually, I told him that.
Dr. Kissinger: He didn’t tell you?
Le Duc Tho: I am telling you of our demand that the United States should withdraw all U.S. . . .
Dr. Kissinger: I know, he told me.
Le Duc Tho: The reunification of Vietnam will be discussed and agreed upon by the two zones, North and South Vietnam, without coercion or annexation from either side, without foreign interference.
The second question we have agreed upon is to respect the basic principles of the 1954 Geneva Agreements on Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, and the 1962 Geneva Agreements on Laos, to agree that South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia will pursue a foreign policy of peace and neutrality.
Dr. Kissinger: And North Vietnam too.
Le Duc Tho: Last time I had spoken about North Vietnam. Here I would like to recall that our view is to have a foreign policy of neutrality for South Vietnam. As for Cambodia and Laos, I repeat that we stand for the respect of the Geneva Agreements on Cambodia and Laos. As to the statement made by Cambodia and Laos to pursue a foreign policy of neutrality, we approve that and respect that foreign policy. [Thirdly] we approve of a policy of a peaceful, independent, and neutral Southeast Asia.
Four, the two sides agree on the principle of standstill cease-fire including international control and supervision for South Vietnam.
Five, the two sides approved and agree to the principle that there will be respect and international guarantees of the Vietnamese people’s fundamental national rights and independence, for the neutrality of South Vietnam and for the preservation of lasting peace in this region. These are the questions of principles on which we have agreed with each other.
Now a number of outstanding questions that we have not solved. We raise these questions for immediate discussion to come to an agreement. First, military questions:
—The question of period of time for the total withdrawal of U.S. forces and other foreign forces from South Vietnam. You propose four months: I propose one month.
—Second, the question of military aid to the Saigon administration.
—Third, the question of timing of the cease-fire.
They are three questions on the military field.
Second, regarding the political question of South Vietnam:
—First, the formation of a three-segment provisional government of national concord.
[Page 357]—Second, the question of resignation of Nguyen Van Thieu and the question of the change of policy by the Saigon administration.
—Now the third question on which we have not yet agreed is the United States’ responsibility in the healing of the wounds of war in the two zones of Vietnam. In this regard there is the question of the amount contributed by the U.S., and the formalities.
These are the outstanding questions that need discussion.
As to the questions of principle I have just mentioned, we should go into detailed discussion. We have agreed in principle, but we have to go into the details.
Now, in a spirit of good will, in order to clear out the path for negotiation, I make now a flexible proposal on the conduct of negotiations taking into account the views of both sides. Now at this forum between the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the United States will be discussed all the military questions, all the principles and main contents of the political questions, with the contents as I have just described to you in the above-mentioned part. We should discuss and settle the questions one by one. If in the course of discussions difficulties arise for one question, then we may shift the discussion to another question and then we return to the outstanding question later. The principles on which we have agreed upon, we should record them for the detailed discussions later. Secondly, after agreement is reached at this forum between the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the United States on the military questions and on the principles and main contents of the political questions, the following forums will be opened:
A. The forum of bilateral private meetings between the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam and the Saigon administration, to discuss and implement the agreements on the military questions and the principles and main content of the political questions that this forum between the United States and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam has agreed upon. This forum will also discuss and settle in detail the political questions and the military questions of South Vietnam that the forum between the United States and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam has not yet settled, agreed upon. Now in order to create favorable conditions to bring this channel to fruitful results . . .
Dr. Kissinger: Which channel, the Special-Adviser channel?
Le Duc Tho: In order to bring the forum between the PRG and the Saigon administration to fruitful work, the Saigon administration should change its policy. In addition, there should be necessary changes in the delegation of the Saigon administration to the Paris conference so that it becomes more representative.
B. The forum of tripartite private meetings between the DRV, the PRG of the Republic of South Vietnam, and the Saigon administration [Page 358]for the continued settlement of specific questions concerning the two zones of North and South Vietnam.
C. The four-party forum between the DRV, the PRG of the Republic of South Vietnam, the U.S. and the Saigon administration for the continued settlement of a number of specific questions concerning the four parties.
Now point three, in the course of negotiating, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the United States have the responsibility to settle together the hindrances and the difficulties arising among the parties. After the agreement in all the above-mentioned forums on the overall settlement, including military questions and political questions, an overall agreement will be signed. Besides the overall agreement there may be bilateral agreement or tripartite agreements. Immediately after the signing of the overall agreement the cease-fire will immediately come into force and the provisions of the agreement will come into force.
Among the forums of negotiation I have just mentioned, the forum between you and us is very important. Because only a settlement at this forum between you and us then we open the way for negotiation among other forums.
I have presented to you in a comprehensive way our overall proposal and a way to conduct negotiations, a very practical way. This shows our serious attitude and good will. And we will expect from you the same attitude of good will and serious intent. And as you say, there should be good faith and mutual trust to come to good results. So at this private meeting I have raised the question of principles and specific questions. We have shown good will, flexibility, and forthcomingness in both military questions and political questions. In the military questions we have shown flexibility in the question of timing. Regarding the political questions we have shown great flexibility.
Dr. Kissinger: Did the Minister agree to this timing or did he have to be forced?
Xuan Thuy: We have agreed between us!
Le Duc Tho: In the political field we have agreed that Nguyen Van Thieu will resign only after the solution but there should be a change of policy. And besides that we have proposed a good way to conduct negotiations and then to open a forum between the Saigon administration and the PRG. And along with the contents of our proposal, this proposal on the forums removes the roadblock on negotiating to come to a settlement of the problem and rapidly to come to an end of the war, to peacefully settle the Vietnam problem in the interest of both sides for the Vietnamese people, for the American people and for peace in general.
[Page 359]I would like to repeat once again, in order to show your good will and a serious attitude, you should end the bombing of North Vietnam, the bombing against cities, densely populated areas, irrigational facilities that might cause floods and great losses to our people. The continuation of such actions will create obstacles to these negotiations. This is what I would like to repeat very seriously.
We expect that you will carefully study and seriously respond to our views with a positive and constructive attitude. We are prepared to listen to you and discuss your proposals. What you have said today we shall further study. But I should say that in the political questions you have not brought anything new. Next time I would like to hear from you the positive and constructive views of yours.
We can say that our demand in these political questions regarding the three-segment provisional government of national concord is very responsive to the real situation of South Vietnam, responding not only to the people of South Vietnam in general—but also the forces in opposition to the present Saigon administration are also demanding a government of national concord. So it does not mean that we want to impose a communist government on South Vietnam, which you keep on repeating, sir. How can such a government impose a communist government? So I wish that you will seriously respond to our views. But I should repeat that your proposal does not contain anything very encouraging. I hope next time you will come with more positive and more constructive proposals.
Xuan Thuy: So the view that Special Adviser Le Duc Tho has just expressed embodies comprehensive proposals in ten points. So you have two points more than our proposal. This is the Vietnamese text and the English translation, an unofficial translation. [He hands over the texts at Tabs B and C.]
Dr. Kissinger: All right.
Xuan Thuy: The ten points of the solution [Tab B] and the proposal of the way to conduct negotiations [Tab C].
Dr. Kissinger: Are you finished?
Le Duc Tho: I have finished.
Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Minister and Mr. Special Adviser, I will not follow your procedure of saying that you have not presented anything of significance. We believe that we have made a significant proposal, but we believe also that you have made a significant proposal. I am assuming that your proposal is not put forward as an ultimatum any more than our proposal is put forward as an ultimatum. We must, of course, study it with great care and then will make a serious effort to find ways of reconciling it with our proposal. And I am assuming you will make a serious effort to find means of reconciling the two proposals, because only on this basis will we come to a settlement.
[Page 360]For now, I would like to propose that I want to make a very brief comment on your initial statement, then with your agreement I would like to ask for a brief break. Then I would like to ask you for explanation of certain points that are not clear to me, so when the President studies it we can save time by my not having to come back to you. And then with your approval I propose that the meeting adjourn.
With respect to the first point, about the bombing and military activity. I understand why your official propaganda emphasizes so much the bombardment of the dikes. I think we both know that this is not our policy. We have no intention of producing floods in North Vietnam. And any bombing of dikes is accidental.
With respect to the bombing in general, it is . . . we are prepared, as I have pointed out to you last week, to agree to a ceasefire of a temporary nature to create the best atmosphere for these negotiations. Another possibility is that as we make progress in these negotiations and approach the possibility of a final settlement that we agree on a significant mutual reduction of military activity without a formal ceasefire. As we make progress in these negotiations we are prepared to show our good will.
As for the particular comments that may be made, it is of course very difficult, when there is an electoral campaign and one party attempts to make Vietnam an issue, to avoid statements that may be very strong. But we have noted what you have said and we will take it very seriously into account.
As for us, we will not use these negotiations for political purposes. We are meeting with you here because we seriously want to end the war as rapidly as possible. History will last much longer than this political campaign. And as the Special Adviser said last time, if we can end this war this will be our greatest reward, and not a headline in a newspaper. And now, if the Special Adviser and Minister would agree to maybe fifteen minutes’ interruption, and then I would like to ask some questions so I can give the President the best possible explanation of your plan.
Xuan Thuy: Please let me speak a few sentences and then we shall have the break. Today, Dr. Kissinger has put forward a twelve-point proposal. We, we put forward a ten-point proposal. Of course, we should give a careful study to these proposals. So that after each meeting some progress is recorded to our talks. But I would like to refer to a word of Special Adviser Le Duc Tho, saying that in your proposal there is not a great step forward. He means by that your proposals regarding the political question. On this question, you have spoken about the political question now, you have made some changes to the political question in comparison with your former Eight Points—but in the main, you still want the Saigon administration, the Saigon regime. [Page 361]And precisely it is this point which prevents the progress of our talks. I would like to point out this point so that in the study of each other’s proposal we should pay attention to that point.
The second point, regarding the bombing of North Vietnam. In our view you have violated or acted against the engagement you made in October 1968. That is why Special Adviser Le Duc Tho has stressed on that point. As to the bombing and the destruction of many portions of dikes, this is a fact. Whether they are accidental or they are intentional, they are facts and we have figures, statistics on that.
As to the elections in the United States, it is always our view that this is an internal affair of the Americans. It is up to the American people. We don’t take advantage of your election.
Dr. Kissinger: But the spokesman of your foreign office hasn’t understood that yet.
Xuan Thuy: They just make a statement, not in an intention to influence your elections. Just like the press in Vietnam, the press in France, they are talking about the election in the United States. Let the American people decide their own affairs.
Dr. Kissinger: Let your spokesman say what he wants; he is actually helping us by making these statements. So it is a matter of indifference to me.
Le Duc Tho: Let me add a word about the bombing of the dikes. Why we have stressed the bombing of the dikes. You should bear in mind it is now the rainy season, the flood season. At present the level of water is high enough. Now please imagine that while we are talking here, if the floods happen and create the death and starvation of tens of thousands of people, how can we continue to talk with you? Everyone has a conscience or common sense. And we are Vietnamese. We are the victims of such floods. Yesterday the bombing of yours against Haiphong destroyed 400 houses, and how many people have been killed by this bombing—the bombing against such a city without any military significance or targets there? And I am not alone in telling you this; the whole world is speaking of it. So it is inadmissible that you continue such actions. And I wonder whether you want that after the time of the war, the settlement of the war, do you want that relationship between our country and you will be good relations? It is our wish that after the restoration of peace the relationship between the Vietnamese people and your people will be a good relationship. But if you continue to perpetrate such actions against our people this is not beneficial, [not only] for the present, but for the long-time period to come. This is one thing I would like to frankly tell you.
Dr. Kissinger: We repeat the offer we have made for either a temporary cessation of military actions or a significant reduction of military [Page 362]actions by both sides. As for the dikes, I have noted what you have said and we will pay special attention to the avoidance of floods.
Le Duc Tho: Mr. Nixon himself affirmed that he did not target cities or densely populated areas. But the bombings happen there, with great human losses of the civilians.
Dr. Kissinger: Shall we take a brief break for fifteen minutes?
[The meeting was interrupted for a break at 4:08 p.m. and resumed at 4:27 p.m.]
Dr. Kissinger: You spoke longer than I, but I will admit you spoke constructively. To use a phrase I had heard before, not yet concrete enough. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: You demand too much.
Dr. Kissinger: After what I have learned from the Special Adviser, no other country can possibly negotiate with me. I know now how to wear down people. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: You have talked too much, but you are strong, sturdy.
Dr. Kissinger: When we were in Moscow, the Russians had three teams of negotiators to take me on. First a group of very tough men, then they brought in a gentle group, and then it depended how I behaved myself. But we were up every morning, really, until 3, 4, and 5 o’clock.
No, Mr. Special Adviser and Mr. Minister, before I comment on your proposal I would like to make a comment on my proposal, so that you can truly understand it. You have said that it is our intention in our proposals to maintain the existing Saigon administration. We will discuss this in greater detail next time when we meet. But as you study our proposals, and as you consider modifications of your own proposals, you should understand what we are trying to do even if we don’t succeed in bringing it about exactly. We will not object to a change in the Saigon administration if it results from Vietnamese conditions or Vietnamese decisions. We cannot impose it as an American decision. Both as a point of honor and as a country on whose attitude other countries outside of Indochina rely.
The Special Adviser correctly pointed out last time that we have special considerations of a global nature while you do not necessarily have these considerations. And this is one of our difficulties. I am not debating this now; I am simply pointing it out as a fact.
Now second, it is for this reason that we have attempted in our proposal to create certain objective realities which would reduce the predominance of the Saigon administration about which you are so concerned. You recognize as well as we do that a standstill ceasefire, by creating areas of recognized PRG control, creates a new political reality in South Vietnam and therefore has the objective consequence of affecting the political process.
[Page 363]Second, our affirmation of certain principles which we have put into our proposal inevitably affects the expectations of the population of South Vietnam, and the degree to which the existing administration can represent itself as carrying out American preferences.
Third, the announced willingness of President Thieu to resign, again, has a major influence on the loyalties of the armed forces and on the political process resulting from the agreements.
Fourth, the constitutional change that we are proposing has the same general consequence.
Leaving aside any of these specific points, it would be a grave mistake if any of your colleagues were to believe that when we speak of natural evolution we were speaking of the guaranteed success of Vietnamization. What we want to arrange is a solution so that whatever changes may occur in South Vietnam will result from Vietnamese decisions and not from American impositions. If you can help us settle this problem, if we can solve this problem together, everything else will be easy. And I speak to you very seriously. And when you consider possible modifications of your proposals—I am not ready yet to make specific proposals—but when you consider them, please keep this in mind. Remember this is our paramount concern. If we solve this, everything else will be easy. So the method, procedure, is as crucial, more crucial in many respects than the outcome.
Now, let me make a few comments on your paper and then let me ask you some questions. First, I believe that the Democratic Republic of Vietnam document correctly sums up the principles I put forward at the last meeting. Secondly, from hearing the record—it is not in the document—I think the Special Adviser correctly summed up the issues on which we agree and the issues on which we disagree at the end of his presentation. But I would like to study the record to be sure. Thirdly, among these points there are two that the Special Adviser raised which I know are unacceptable in their present form and therefore there’s no sense in pretending that there’s any possibility of getting them accepted.
First, there is no possibility whatsoever that we will leave Indochina or will agree to any of these proposals while any American prisoners are left behind anywhere in Indochina. How you solve this is your problem. But I have every confidence that you have enough influence with your allies . . . Your point three is ambiguous in this respect. But at any rate, it is a problem that must be solved, and on which no compromise is possible.
Le Duc Tho: Prisoners?
Dr. Kissinger: Prisoners.
The second issue concerns the issue of indemnity. As I have told you before, we cannot accept any reference to any indemnity in any [Page 364]agreement that we sign with you. We are prepared to make, to have, an understanding with you that we will contribute to the rehabilitation of all of Indochina. But this depends in part on Congressional action. And it would be a mistake for us to commit ourselves to a precise sum at this point. We can give you an order of magnitude, but we are not completely free in these matters. As you must have learned from the many Congressmen who have visited you, they do not all follow our direction. [laughter] But before the end of these negotiations we will try to find a figure which we can realistically indicate and give it to you.
Then I have a few stylistic objections to your paper. I am sure the Special Adviser and the Minister will not insist that we put into an agreement that we are putting an end to our “war of aggression” [laughter]. I trust we can find some more neutral language. What do you think, Mr. Special Adviser?
Le Duc Tho: There is a difference between the fact and the words to us.
Dr. Kissinger: Of course, Mr. Special Adviser, I have to tell you we might agree to this formulation and end what we consider our war of aggression and continue all other acts of war that we do not consider a war of aggression. So I think it’s in your interest to find a more neutral formulation.
But now, more seriously, let me ask you—to understand, just for clarification not for argument—on your points. And because I have a bureaucratic mind, do you mind if I raise the procedural points first? [laughter]
The first forum here settles the issues in principle. I just want to make sure I understand it. The second forum, the South Vietnamese forum, settles Vietnamese questions in detail that have been agreed to here in terms of implementation. The Vietnamese forum settles questions that concern both North and South Vietnam but that have been settled in principle here. And the Minister and our Ambassador settle those issues that have been agreed to in principle here that concern the four parties. Is that correct; did I understand your proposal correctly? I just want to understand the four forums.
Le Duc Tho: You have to some extent correctly understood, but let me clarify.
Dr. Kissinger: Please. That’s what I would like.
Le Duc Tho: First, the forum between you and us here. We shall deal here with the military questions, the specific questions we have raised in our proposals.
Dr. Kissinger: Just the military questions?
Le Duc Tho: And we shall solve here the political questions, too.
Dr. Kissinger: I thought for a minute he had given up on the link. [laughter]
[Page 365] Xuan Thuy: You have a dream to separate these questions. You are always dreaming about the separation! [laughter]
Le Duc Tho: Then we shall discuss here and settle the military questions and the political questions. But I think in connection with military questions we and you will discuss only the great questions. As to detail there should be commissions to discuss.
Dr. Kissinger: In the Avenue Kleber?
Le Duc Tho: We shall discuss how to organize the commissions. It will not do that we and you discuss how the troops will be regrouped, when it will be withdrawn, and so on.
Dr. Kissinger: That’s right.
Le Duc Tho: In connection with the political questions, we shall discuss the principles and the main contents I have described in the document. But as to how the forthcoming government will be organized, how it will be composed, these discussions must be between the PRG and the Saigon administration.
Xuan Thuy: For instance, the three segments, who will be in them . . .
Dr. Kissinger: But I thought each side could nominate its own segment.
Le Duc Tho: At this forum between you and us we shall discuss only the principles and the main contents I have raised in my proposals. As to the specific questions, they shall be discussed between the PRG and the Saigon administration. But in case you and we want to exchange views on these specific questions, we can do that.
Dr. Kissinger: I understand that and I also understand the point, on which you and we incidentally agree, point three of your procedural [proposal], that you and we have an obligation to remove hindrances and difficulties. We agree with this.
Le Duc Tho: In the course of discussions between the parties if there arise some difficulties, then we shall meet and solve.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree. Do you and we have to agree on every point here before the other forums start working, or can we pass on to the other forums those agreements we have reached and ask them to start working on the implementation?
Le Duc Tho: Let me finish my answer about the forums. After the discussion between you and us are finished, then the forum between the PRG and Saigon administration will be opened. First will be the forum between the Vietnamese parties, to discuss questions concerning the three parties. But there are questions concerning all the four parties. Then we shall make up an agenda of questions to be discussed. And if some difficulty arises in these forums then we shall meet and solve.
[Page 366][Dr. Kissinger to Mr. Engel: All right, now will you ask my question?]
[Mr. Engel translates Dr. Kissinger’s question.]
Le Duc Tho: I think that we should discuss and settle all the questions. Then after the settlement then we will open the other forums. After discussions and settlement of all the questions put in the proposal, then we shall open the other forums.
Dr. Kissinger: Another possibility of course is if we agree upon the Special Adviser’s proposition that at the end of each meeting we record what we have agreed upon and then pass it on to the other forums.
Le Duc Tho: I think we should discuss your twelve points, our ten points, and after discussion and settlement is reached then we will open the other forums.
Dr. Kissinger: On all points?
Le Duc Tho: On all the questions. And the questions we have raised in our proposals are the principles and the main content. We would not yet go into details.
Dr. Kissinger: I understand. For example I understand why your side will not want to open negotiations between the PRG and the Saigon administration until we have settled in principle all political questions. But it is conceivable to me that after we have agreed in principle on the military questions they could be discussed at Avenue Kleber without prejudice to the political questions, and conditional upon the settlement of the political questions.
Well, think about it and we will consider it next time.
Le Duc Tho: We have presented our proposal; you have expressed your views. Next time we will discuss.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, I am just clarifying. Now can I ask you some substantive questions? With respect to still the procedural point, when you say the Saigon administration with Thieu, when you are talking to it, must change its policies and must change its delegation here, is this a recommendation or a condition?
Le Duc Tho: In our view, the change of the policy by the Saigon administration delegation at the Paris conference is in response to our concession regarding the resignation of Nguyen Van Thieu. And those two actions will create the good atmosphere for the talks.
Dr. Kissinger: I understand. All right. Now, let me see whether I have understood your political proposal correctly. You are always so complex I always have to repeat it to make sure I understood it. [laughter]
Le Duc Tho: I have answered.
[Page 367]Dr. Kissinger: Yes I know, but I would like to summarize it and see whether I understand.
First, you want the formation of a provisional government of national concord.
Le Duc Tho: Of three segments.
Dr. Kissinger: Of three segments, of which one segment is the Saigon administration, nominated by the Saigon administration; of which one is PRG-nominated and the third is jointly nominated.
Le Duc Tho: The Saigon administration is nominated by the Saigon administration without Thieu.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, I understand. He can designate them but he can’t designate himself.
Le Duc Tho: The third segment would be proposed in common agreement by the PRG and Saigon administration.
Dr. Kissinger: Exactly, I understand. Then this three-part government of national concord proposes elections for a constituent assembly. This constituent assembly will then lay down rules for general elections for a definitive government. I understand that correctly. How long is this period supposed to last between the formation of the national concord government and the general election? Approximately?
Le Duc Tho: After the ceasefire the three-segment government is only a provisional government.
Dr. Kissinger: I understand that.
Le Duc Tho: As to the timing of the general elections which will lead to the formation of a coalition government, this timing will be decided by the PRG and the Saigon administration. But if you want to discuss with us on this, we will discuss next time.
Dr. Kissinger: Give us some idea. The details will not be discussed with us but I would like to get some idea of the evolution.
Le Duc Tho: Next time if you want to discuss on the timing we shall discuss it.
Dr. Kissinger: All right. Now what sort of agreement do you visualize between you and us? Do you visualize that we and you should agree on what the outcome should be in a signed document? Do you think there should be an understanding between us which gives content to a neutral formulation or what? There are three possibilities—I am speaking now as a professor, don’t draw any conclusions from this.
Le Duc Tho: Now in the capacity of professor, then in the capacity of journalist, then as a diplomat!
Dr. Kissinger: You are the expert with journalists; you have more influence with Kraft and Anthony Lewis and Salisbury than I do! Well, the first possibility is that we don’t agree at all. The second possibility [Page 368]is that we agree to a formal statement. The third possibility is that we agree to some neutral formulation which does not specify this content but that you and we would have a private understanding that we would encourage this outcome in the negotiations.
Le Duc Tho: We shall discuss this question later. But on our proposal of the four forums, what are your views?
Dr. Kissinger: I think it has constructive possibilities. I think it’s a constructive proposal. I don’t want to make the Special Advisor overconfident! If I praise him too much . . . I think it has good possibilities.
Le Duc Tho: We are always prompted by revolutionary optimism. [laughter]
The period from the formation of the three-segment provisional government until the election of the definitive government, you spoke about the timing. What timing do you have in mind?
Dr. Kissinger: I haven’t thought about it. From our point of view, and for the reasons I gave you before, the longer the interval between our withdrawal and the definitive political settlement the better it is, and I am speaking very honestly with you.
Le Duc Tho: What is the reason for that position?
Dr. Kissinger: The reason is what I gave you before. We would like the final outcome to be seen as resulting from Vietnamese decisions and not from anything we did ourselves. We would like our attentions nationally to be turned away from Vietnam before. So our intention is quite the opposite of what you suspect.
Your concern, Mr. Special Adviser, is that after a settlement we will want to continue to intervene in Vietnam. Our intention is that after a settlement we want to reduce the national concentration on Vietnam and turn it to other matters. If you don’t understand this you will really be making great mistakes. In this, this has to be our national policy.
Le Duc Tho: This is what I wanted to believe, that you will give up interfering in Vietnam.
Dr. Kissinger: This is our firm intention, not because of any agreement we sign but because of the history of the last 20 years. And this is why it is in your interest to be patient. I think you can ask friends of yours who have negotiated with us. I may be a difficult negotiator but I have never misled anyone who has negotiated with us.
In the provinces, what happens when this government is formed? Do they also have a three-part government? Or what happens there?
Le Duc Tho: In the localities, those localities controlled by the PRG, they will have an administration controlled by the PRG. Those controlled by the Saigon administration, they will be an administration [Page 369]of the Saigon administration, but in the contested areas there will be established a three-segment local administration. But all these various administrations have to obey the three-segment government, the central three-segment government.
Dr. Kissinger: I understand. Now, I have understood your points and we will study them with the greatest care. I hope that the Special Adviser and the Minister will study our proposals, what I have said in answer to his clarifying questions earlier, and what I have said in explanation of our general attitude just now. These are important statements. They are not made to score points; they are made to help your understanding, because we want to make rapid progress.
Now I have a number of technical questions. First, what should they be talking about at Avenue Kleber?
Xuan Thuy: Make recommendations!
Dr. Kissinger: Well, we can continue the exploration of the May 8th proposal and of the Seven Points and their Two Elaborations. [laughter] But perhaps after the next meeting we can switch these items on which we have agreed to the Avenue Kleber forum, with the understanding that anything that will be decided there will be provisional depending on the solution of the political questions.
Xuan Thuy: When we have agreed on the substantial questions, then we shall discuss that.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, we can of course skip a meeting at Avenue Kleber without history suffering irreparable damage. [laughter] What do you think?
Le Duc Tho: I think we should have the regular meetings.
Dr. Kissinger: For what purpose?
Le Duc Tho: We should continue our habitual talks, but provided that the contents of our private talks here will not be brought over there.
Dr. Kissinger: You can be absolutely certain.
Le Duc Tho: But if now we interrupt the meetings at Avenue Kleber there will be speculations.
Dr. Kissinger: It’s all right with us. But can I propose that both our Ambassador there and the Minister lower the decibel count by one octave? [laughter] Shall we try for that?
Xuan Thuy: A shorter step! At the previous talks—the bilateral talks between the U.S. and us, between me and Mr. Harriman—we had come to agreement at the private meetings, but the public meetings at Avenue Kleber went on.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, they can go on, but perhaps if there could be a slight amelioration of the atmosphere. We will instruct Ambassador Porter to take a more conciliatory tone, and I would just like to com[Page 370]mend it to the consideration of the Minister. I recognize that Madame Binh is an entity to herself. [Thuy chuckles; Tho smiles] If that can be done I think it would help the atmosphere. I am assuming that neither side will make its proposals public. [They nod yes.] We will not. You can be certain of our side. And I am assuming also that Madame Binh will not make any proposals public.
Le Duc Tho: The contents of what we have been talking about here will not be made public. But if you will make them public you will be responsible for that.
Dr. Kissinger: We will not make them public. The only condition in which anything could be made public is if we face the same dilemma as last July, if while we are negotiating a secret plan with you, you make a public plan and then attack us for not responding to your public plan, to create domestic pressure on us.
Le Duc Tho: If at each meeting we have here we will be making progress then nothing will be made public until final settlement.
Dr. Kissinger: Right, by anybody. We agree; we will make nothing public.
Le Duc Tho: If we are making steady progress to settle the problem. Have you finished?
Dr. Kissinger: We’re not afraid of your making it public. We just want to understand what the rules are. If you want to make something public, we’ll make it public.
Le Duc Tho: If we are making steady progress at this channel to settle the problem then we will make nothing public and you should do the same.
Dr. Kissinger: We agree.
Could I propose the next meeting for August 14th? Could I propose 9:30 in the morning rather than 10:00?
Le Duc Tho: We should start earlier.
Dr. Kissinger: Good, 9:00?
Le Duc Tho: 9:00, all right.
Dr. Kissinger: No, 9:30. [They agree.] And then we will do it in slow stages; if we are awake we will then do it at 9:00 the next time.
Now, so that there are no further misunderstandings about these private meetings. We will make no public statements referring to private meetings between now and August 14th. We will not refer to the content of the meeting in any way whatsoever. We will express neither optimism nor pessimism.
Le Duc Tho: The last time you made the same statement but it turned out otherwise.
Dr. Kissinger: But we didn’t. Now, Mr. Special Adviser, you are going to make me angry again. All the President did was to refer to [Page 371]the fact a meeting had taken place. He did not describe the content. However, because of your extraordinary sensitivity, we will avoid even such references.
It would be helpful if we could reply to a question, simply because we gave it last time, to respond to a question about the length of the meeting, without any comments.
Le Duc Tho: I think that you should not mention the length of the meeting. You can say only the existence of the meetings. The reason is until we reach the full settlement and then we shall discuss how we shall make them public, it is better.
Dr. Kissinger: All right, all this is fine, I agree. Now if the President gives a press conference and somebody asks him, “Are there private meetings?” he will have to say yes. But we will not volunteer any other comments.
Le Duc Tho: No further comment and no mention of the content.
Dr. Kissinger: That is agreed.
Le Duc Tho: No mention of the length of the meeting.
Dr. Kissinger: No mention of the length of the meeting.
Le Duc Tho: May I add a few words before we part?
Dr. Kissinger: Please.
Le Duc Tho: Today we have shown our good will and we have made constructive proposals. We think you should pay attention to our proposals, particularly the political questions. Particularly in the political questions including the formation of the three-segment government of national concord. In our view this is a very reasonable and logical proposal and it meets the aspirations, the real situation in South Vietnam. Because if we fail to settle this question it will be difficult to make progress.
We have shown our good will in regard to the resignation of Nguyen Van Thieu. And please pay attention to our demand of a change of policy by the Saigon administration so as to create favorable conditions for the talks between the PRG and the Saigon administration.
And another thing I would like to particularly draw your attention to is the bombing of North Vietnam, the mining of North Vietnam, the bombing of North Vietnamese densely populated areas. This is a legitimate demand of ours. As to a number of specific questions about the wording, for instance, “the war of aggression,” when we come to the agreement, then we shall discuss the wording.
Regarding the prisoners of war in Indochina, in the settlement of the problem we think we should respect the right of the Indochinese parties. But we are firmly convinced that the settlement of the Vietnam problem will create favorable conditions for the settlement of all these [Page 372]questions. I don’t see any difficulties. I don’t know about the details but I think that in Cambodia or in Laos the number of American prisoners is very small. There are basically none at all. There is no reason when we settle with you much greater questions, why we can’t settle much smaller questions, a very small number of prisoners. What is the purpose of that?
Now another question, about the damages. We should discuss later how this question should be solved. This is one of the great questions. Because great destructions have been caused by the war. Since the conclusion of the Geneva Conference nearly 20 years have passed and the war is going all the time. The destruction, the damages, are very great—losses are very great. And this is one of the conditions we have to discuss together. This is one of our demands, but also the demand of our entire people. And I believe that is also the thinking of the American people too—the American people think that you should assume the responsibility to heal the wounds of war. So I would propose you to give particular attention to that.
We have achieved some progress at this meeting. And I hope that if there is a positive and constructive spirit from your side, then we shall make steady progress.
Dr. Kissinger: Our attitude will be to come to a rapid conclusion. We will approach these discussions constructively and with good will. As I have said before, we would consider it the most significant achievement of this Administration if we could conclude a just settlement of the war in Indochina.
Le Duc Tho: Let us break.
Dr. Kissinger: All right, until August 14th at 9:30. And we will follow the same procedure on the 14th, so that there is no misunderstanding, just a very brief announcement that I am here, no time and no further comment.
Le Duc Tho: But you said you will make an announcement this time, but the next time you will not.
Dr. Kissinger: The difficulty is that the newspapers call my office every day. It gives us two choices, to lie or confirm it. If we say, “No comment,” they will assume that I am here. If we lie, we are involved in an election campaign where we are accused of this all the time. So the easiest thing is to simply confirm that I am here, give no time and make no comment. We really have no practical alternative.
Xuan Thuy: We agreed this morning that this time since you had prepared an announcement it would be made for that time, but not for the next time.
Dr. Kissinger: No, we said we will discuss it.
Le Duc Tho: My strong view is that it is better, you had better wait until we reach full settlement, then we shall make them public. Then [Page 373]we would be able to avoid speculation and would avoid complications. The reason for our proposals is that we want to respect the essence of the problem.
Dr. Kissinger: We respect the essence of the problem, but we want to make commitments on things we are certain we can keep. We are certain we can keep our commitments on the content of the meetings. But we are not certain we can keep secret my coming here when it involves my absence from Washington for two days, particularly with an election campaign and all my secret trips.
Le Duc Tho: But if you wanted to keep your departure a secret, it is easy.
Dr. Kissinger: It is not easy any more, because they check my office every day now. It used to be. I have not had any secret meetings since my trip to Moscow in April, which we had with major difficulties. And at that time we were accused in the press of deliberate deception.
This is the problem we face under these particular circumstances. We have no great . . . We get no advantage out of announcing these meetings. What is the advantage to us?
Le Duc Tho: But the journalists may say anything; we shouldn’t base ourself on what they write.
Dr. Kissinger: It is our belief that announcing them will create the minimum confusion, the minimum speculation. Especially since at the first time we said that further meetings will be announced as they are held.
Le Duc Tho: But there are more speculations with the announcement than if there is no announcement.
Dr. Kissinger: I don’t believe so. Because from now on with anything being said at all there will be less speculation. Actually we have no practical alternative.
Le Duc Tho: I think that speculation on your absence is something that is very trivial, so very habitual. Let us work well here and get good results, and then make them public; probably the public opinion will appreciate it.
Dr. Kissinger: I don’t care about public opinion; I care about the practical position in which our side finds itself. The practical situation is that secret trips by me are a practical impossibility. Under these circumstances, if we agreed with you that we would not say anything and then you saw in the newspaper that it was confirmed by our spokesman, then the same results would come about. If our spokesman is asked, “Did he meet with the North Vietnamese in Paris?”, and the spokesman says, “No comment,” that’s the same as making an announcement.
Le Duc Tho: If your spokesman says that, “no comment,” it would be good.
[Page 374]Dr. Kissinger: Well, I will have to consider whether this is possible. I will have to discuss it with our spokesman. This I cannot promise. We can promise no advance notice, and we can promise no comment about the content, and we can promise to say nothing about the length of the meeting. This is in our control.
But I will send you a note within three days of this and tell you what is possible. We get no benefit out of the announcement of these meetings. I will make a serious inquiry and I will let you know, and I will send you word and we have no interest in making publicity with this.
These negotiations will either succeed or they will fail. If they fail, either we announce these meetings or not, but it will become obvious. Between the Minister, Madame Binh and the Special Adviser, that fact will dribble out to the press. If the negotiations succeed, that will also be obvious. In the meantime, neither of us should make any claims. Neither of us should make any comment about the content or anything surrounding the meetings. This we can promise and this we can maintain. As for the rest, I will send you a message.
Le Duc Tho: Please send a note to us.
Dr. Kissinger: I will send a note to you within three days. So we will meet on August 14th. I must point out incidentally that between August 14th and early September I will not be able to meet because of the Republican Convention. I just want to point it out, so you don’t think whatever happens at the next meeting affects this. Unless there’s some spectacular progress that makes it necessary for me to make a very quick trip over here.
But we will examine each other’s positions then, for the next two weeks.
[The meeting concluded at 6:04 p.m.]
Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 864, For the President’s Files (Winston Lord)—China/Vietnam Negotiations, Sensitive, Camp David Memcons, May–October 1972 [4 of 5]. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting took place at the North Vietnamese Residence at 11 Rue Darthé, Choisy-le-Roi. All brackets are in the original. The tabs are attached but not printed.
On August 3, Kissinger analyzed the August 1 meeting for Nixon, noting that it “was the longest private meeting ever, and the most interesting session we have ever had.” However, he observed: “The significance of our meeting remains to be clarified, and we cannot be sure of its meaning at this stage.”
Regarding what the North Vietnamese had offered, his analysis continued:
“—Their proposal injects a number of new elements hitherto lacking in their position, as I have enumerated above. They no longer seek Thieu’s resignation as a precondition for PRG/GVN talks, although his resignation would be part of a final settlement. They have sought to identify areas of similarity in our respective positions and proposed a multiplicity of negotiating forums for resolving differences between us and between the Vietnamese parties themselves.
“—On the other hand, they seem to be insisting on our acceptance of the principle of a three segment Government of National Concord as the key to progress on other issues.
“Two possible interpretations of Hanoi’s tactics suggest themselves at this stage:
“—The first is that all the new elements in their proposal are essentially ornamental and that no real progress is possible until we accept their National Concord principle which would in effect predetermine the political outcome in Saigon. If this interpretation is correct, they are essentially holding to a hard line but establishing a record which would appear more flexible in the event of a breakdown in the talks.
“—The second is that the variety of new elements advanced are designed to veil real movement toward a dual track approach where we settle the military issues with them and the Vietnamese sort out their political differences themselves. The explicit suggestion of negotiating forums between the Vietnamese themselves could be interpreted to support this thesis. If this hypothesis proves correct, what Hanoi would expect from us is a rejection of the National Concord concept but nonetheless a vague political counterproposal which would not prejudge the political outcome. Under this approach we would provide them a face-saving formulation whereby they could claim military and political issues were being resolved concurrently, although in fact the military issues would be solved first and the political negotiations would be more prolonged and more of a Vietnamese responsibility.”
Kissinger’s last point to the President was: “Our two main objectives are:
“—(1) to see whether a reasonable settlement is possible by probing their positions on key issues such as Government of National Concord, the timing of a ceasefire, and de facto separation of political and military issues; and
“—(2) in any event, to keep the private negotiating process going into the fall, to give them a chance to settle as the certainty of your re-election looms ever larger, and to further bolster our negotiating record.” (
Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. VIII, Vietnam, January–October 1972, Document 225)
Le Duc Tho’s August 1 report on the meeting to Hanoi noted: “This time Kissinger presented a twelve-point proposal and agreed to discuss both military and political issues with us. With regard to the political issue, this proposal is softer than was their earlier eight-point proposal. Their desire to reach a settlement is clearer. However, although the Americans have pulled back and made concessions on a number of points, they still are holding on to their high card.” (Message from Le Duc Tho and Xuan Thuy to Nguyen Duy Trinh, 1 August 1972, in Doan Duc, et al., compilers, Major Events: The Diplomatic Struggle and International Activities during the Resistance War Against the Americans to Save the Nation, 1954–1975, volume 4, p. 330)
Ten days later, the Politburo sent Le Duc Tho and his subordinate Xuan Thuy the following analysis and instructions:
“The Politburo has the following thoughts about the contents of the 1 August 1972 private meeting:
“—The American Scheme:
“The U.S. wants to achieve a ceasefire, the withdrawal of most of the U.S.’s troops, and the return of most of the American POWs before the U.S. elections, but they still want to be able to keep the puppets in power and they do not yet want a resolution of the political problem in South Vietnam. The U.S. has proposed a ceasefire in place but demands the withdrawal of North Vietnamese troops from South Vietnam, and it views the Provisional Revolutionary Government as merely a local government that falls under the framework of the Saigon regime.
“Therefore, on the political problem in South Vietnam the U.S. position is still directly opposed to our position.
“Intensify our struggle on all three fronts—military, political, and diplomatic—to try to reach a settlement by the end of 1972.
“We will demonstrate a good faith effort to reach a settlement with Nixon, but at the same time we will oppose his scheme to make it past the elections.” (Ibid., pp. 331–332)↩