17. Memorandum of Conversation1

PARTICIPANTS

  • Le Duc Tho, Special Adviser to the North Vietnamese Delegation to the Paris Peace Talks
  • Xuan Thuy, Minister and Head of the North Vietnamese Delegation to the Paris Peace Talks
  • Phan Hien, Member of the North Vietnamese Delegation to the Paris Peace Talks
  • Nguyen Dinh Phuong, Interpreter
  • Two Notetakers
  • Dr. 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 Irene G. Derus, Notetaker

Le Due Tho: This year there is no summer in Paris.

Dr. Kissinger: Terrible. It is the rainy season. [Laughter]

Mr. Special Adviser, Mr. Minister, if we could settle one of the issues on which we exchanged correspondence—and if we could do [Page 376] it without spending as much time on it as last time. I think you will have noticed that since our last meeting there has been absolutely no comment of any kind about the substance of our last meeting. We have used every influence we have to avoid speculation. You notice that last week neither Time nor Newsweek mentioned the fact of the meeting.

But the fact of the matter is that it is absolutely impossible to hide my movements.

[Thuy asks aide for newspaper clipping. Kissinger laughs.]

I think he is going to read me his press clippings. I think he is complaining that the American press spelled his name wrong.

Xuan Thuy: You are very sensitive.

Dr. Kissinger: This week we have a special problem, Mr. Special Adviser, which I will discuss with you in greater detail but which I want to mention now. We want to deal seriously with you on Point 4. In order to do this I am going to Saigon from here. I am spending one night in Switzerland because of the 50th wedding anniversary of my parents, which is not a political event. But tomorrow afternoon I will leave for Saigon. And we will announce that tomorrow morning.

For all these reasons we really have no choice today except to make a very brief announcement along the lines of last time, giving no time, no subject and refusing to answer any other questions. I obviously [Page 377] would not be going to Saigon unless we would be seriously exploring a response to your proposal. So this is the first point I wanted to mention. And of course we do not request that you join in this. You can take the same position as last time, making no comment.

[Le Duc Tho nods]

Xuan Thuy: So what do you mean to settle now?

Dr. Kissinger: What I mean to settle is to tell you that we have to settle as we discussed last time; that we will simply say we met with you, without substance, and nothing else. We will simply confirm it.

I know you think we want to make propaganda, but there is no great propaganda advantage to this. We will either settle or we won’t settle, and either way it will become obvious.

Le Duc Tho: Let me express my views on your proposal. Hitherto we have said that we did not object to the information of the meeting. But Mr. Special Adviser proposed to keep the meeting secret, therefore there had not been no information. But recently Mr. Adviser proposed to announce the meeting. Last time I told you that in our view we would announce the meetings when we have achieved good results in the negotiations. If now we speak about the private meetings while we have not achieved any result, then the public opinion would misunderstand. Therefore our position is not to announce the meetings. But if you want to announce meetings you can confirm the meetings as you did the last time. As for us, we will say what we want.

Dr. Kissinger: Within limits! But Mr. Special Adviser, I agree with you.

Le Duc Tho: Limit or no limits, it depends on the fact. If you refrain from using the meetings for propaganda purposes, if you keep secret the substance of the meetings, then we will adopt the same attitude. But on the contrary, if you divulge the substance of the meetings, if you use the private meetings for propaganda purposes, then we reserve the right to express our views.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree with the Special Adviser.

Le Duc Tho: But Mr. Adviser said that the press has not spoken anything about the private meetings. But this morning we learned that the Baltimore Sun has spoken a great deal about that.

Dr. Kissinger: The Baltimore Sun? Do you have the article?

Le Duc Tho: The article speaks a great deal about the meetings. It also said that President Nixon has informed his Senate friends about the meetings. And he obviously has been hinting to the private meetings and the questions discussed at the private meetings. You should have realized since the last meeting we have never said anything about the private meeting. This is the one point I would like to raise with you, because if you continue this way then we reserve the right to take appropriate action because you have not kept your promise.

[Page 378]

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, we are engaged in an important enterprise. It is absolutely essential that we are serious with each other. We have told nothing about these meetings to anybody. We have not even told our highest officials that you have made any proposals, in order to prevent any leak from occurring. We have not talked to the press. I have personally called the leading newspapers—among which I do not include the Baltimore Sun—to ask them to reduce the speculation and to tell them no speculation has any basis in fact. The President has not held a press conference after your complaint last time, in order to avoid saying anything by inadvertence. The President has not spoken to any Senators or any Members of Congress about it.

Now a newspaperman has to write an article, and Senators will never admit that they do not know anything. So when a newspaperman calls up a Senator it is quite possible he pretends to know something that he does not know.

We have no interest to put out anything about these talks. We have not done so. I repeat, nobody knows that you made a proposal except the people in this room, my Deputy, and the President. And now I want to tell the Special Adviser and the Minister that I agree with the procedure he has outlined. The only thing that is permissible to talk about is one sentence confirming the fact of a meeting. It is not permissible—I speak of ourselves—to make any hint or reference or description to the substance of the meeting. The Baltimore Sun is a paper which is influential only in Baltimore. It is not a national newspaper. We would never, if we wanted to put something out, talk to the Baltimore Sun.

But I want to assure the Special Adviser and the Minister, because it is important as we get into more and more complex issues, that we will not talk about the substance of these meetings, as long as these talks are going on. I want to be honest with you, Mr. Special Adviser. The difficulty arises when the newspapermen go to high officials in the State Department who do not know what is going on and ask them. They do not want to admit that they do not know, so they tell them things that they imagine are going on in Avenue Kléber. But we will be absolutely scrupulous. And now that we are entering into the serious phase of the talks it is essential that we both not say anything. And we will not say anything.

But this is just a Harvard way of saying, Mr. Special Adviser, that I agree with you. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: This is what you are saying here but practically it is just the contrary. You can read what your press has been saying about this meeting. Please read the press when you are back in the United States. The Baltimore Sun, the New York Times.

Dr. Kissinger: The Times has said nothing. The Times I have read. The Times I have read and the Times is one of the newspapers that I [Page 379] called personally to ask to stop speculating. But I can only tell you what our policy is. It is up to you whether you want to believe it or not.

Le Duc Tho: Let us see what will happen in the future, because we have been meeting here twice. Let us see what will happen the third time. Let us see what will happen after this meeting.

Dr. Kissinger: I can tell you what will happen. I can tell you now. They are going to speculate. See, after all Madame Binh has made a lengthy interview, and she also repeated some things you said here. But I don’t accuse you of revealing, because I understand there are only two or three issues and when you write about them you are apt to say something similar. But I am not accusing you, because I understand that.

Le Duc Tho: What Madame Binh has said is in connection with the Kléber sessions, but here I would like to refer to the subject of the private meetings.

Dr. Kissinger: I cannot keep the press from speculating. Though I will use my influence. If we tell them nothing they will have to stop speculating.

Le Duc Tho: I would like to draw your attention to what I have to say. We have experienced this twice and the third time will not do. Please keep your promise. Now let us just . . .

Dr. Kissinger: All I have to say is, Mr. Special Adviser, I have never accused you of not keeping a promise.

Le Duc Tho: Because we have kept our promise.

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, we have kept our promise. I have told you last time; I will tell you again. If you don’t understand the American press I regret it, but I cannot help it.

We have settled honorably and fairly with many countries. We have never been exposed to these constant charges of bad faith that seem to be the regular negotiating method of your side. We have meticulously kept every promise which it is in our power to keep.

Le Duc Tho: But as we told you the last time, your negotiations with the Soviet Union and China are different from those we are having here.

Dr. Kissinger: I didn’t mention any countries. I know they are different, now that you have mentioned them. The conditions are different, and some of the points that the Special Adviser made are extremely well taken. But what is not different is that promises should be kept.

Le Duc Tho: I agree that we should keep our promise. But if we review the past, you have broken your promise many times.

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, it is senseless. We haven’t even started negotiating yet and you have already repeated all the charges, which I will not accept. We have not broken our promise since the last [Page 380] meeting. We have made an extraordinary effort to keep our promise. I don’t doubt that you can find a paragraph in some newspaper which you can twist as a leak from the secret meeting, but we have kept our promise. And I suggest that we go on to something more useful.

Le Duc Tho: I agree that we stop discussion on that point now, if you like it, and we have just another question, but I still maintain our view that in connection with promises we have kept our promise as you didn’t.

Dr. Kissinger: Well, Mr. Special Adviser, I think that without inward generosity it is not easy to come to an agreement, and that is what seems to be lacking on your side.

Le Duc Tho: I mean there is a responsibility on which we have discussed and agreed to, and this is aimed to avoid the happenings in the future when we meet here in negotiations. You said last time that we should have a mutual understanding. We should have a mutual trust. This is in a constructive spirit that I raise this point.

Dr. Kissinger: Well, if I reply, the Special Adviser will just repeat what he has said five times. [Laughter]

Xuan Thuy: Let us go into the matter now.

Dr. Kissinger: All right. I take it you want me to speak first again. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: You are welcome to.

Dr. Kissinger: No, I think actually it is your turn to speak first. I have spoken first at the last two meetings.

Le Duc Tho: But now you have just said that you will speak first, so I agree to that, because you wanted to finish your presentation and then you will go to Saigon.

Dr. Kissinger: Well, Mr. Special Adviser, I am not playing games. I assume if you have anything to tell me I will hear it before this meeting is over.

Le Duc Tho: We shall express our views.

Dr. Kissinger: I consider it a sign of traditional North Vietnamese hospitality that you ask me to speak first.

Xuan Thuy: North Vietnamese hospitality is always warm and we are always courteous.

Dr. Kissinger: I have to say, Mr. Special Adviser and Mr. Minister that while I have many complaints, I do not complain about your courtesy and hospitality. I think it has been impeccable. We have had many tense and difficult meetings but they have always been on the basis of personal respect and good manners. And I am glad to have the opportunity to say this.

[Page 381]

I have a fairly lengthy statement because I want to respond to every point you raised last time. So if the Special Adviser and the Minister are patient with me I shall read my statement.

Xuan Thuy: We are patient. You have seen we are always patient.

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, Mr. Minister—

At our last meeting, on August 1, both sides presented concrete new proposals for a comprehensive settlement of the war. We agreed to study each other’s plans with a view to making further progress at today’s meeting.

We have carefully reviewed both your substantive and procedural plan. As I indicated last time we believe your plan has many constructive elements. If you continue to approach the negotiating problems in this spirit, you will find us a willing partner, and together we can move rapidly toward a settlement.

In preparing for this meeting, we have once again adopted the basic outline of your recent plans. We have gone through both your proposals, point by point, and recast each of them into language we believe is mutually acceptable. We have left Point 4, the political issue, for later discussion.

We realize that the political issue remains the heart of the problem. Our joint task is to remove this obstacle to a settlement by shaping a solution that is consistent with the deep principles of both sides. I want to assure you that we are making a serious effort to find a formulation that closes the gap between us. And whatever agreement we do reach we will observe—in spirit, in letter, and in nuance.

Our consistent policy is to promise only what we can deliver. We must be confident that whatever we can agree to can and will be implemented speedily. It serves nobody’s purpose to repeat the experiences of 1968, when an agreement only produced an immediate new stalemate.

Le Duc Tho: Now this engagement of 1968 is violated.

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Le Duc Tho, the engagement of 1968 was violated by you in many respects. You are trying to turn it into a unilateral American violation. You have violated it with regard to the demilitarized zones and shelling cities and other matters. But I would prefer not to debate it at this time.

I would just like the Special Adviser to ask himself one question. I know he will repeat to me what he has said 100 times. But since we have come into office we have made more agreements with more countries than any previous Administration. Not just your allies. We have a reputation as tough negotiators, but no country has ever accused us of breaking our word to them. Every country is seeking to deal with us in the White House. Now why is it with you that only on Vietnam [Page 382] we are unreliable? Is it conceiveable that Hanoi suffers from the affliction that seems to come to no other part of mankind since the beginning of creation, namely infallibility?

Le Duc Tho: Here I would like to reaffirm that we many times and Minister Xuan Thuy has expressed at Kléber Street regarding the violation of the DMZ and the 17th parallel. These violations stem from the United States aggression against Vietnam, from the United States violation of the Geneva Agreement. The Pentagon Papers have also thrown enough light on this score. So we have been expressing these views in the last four years. Therefore, I don’t think it necessary to repeat it again. Now you save time and please go directly into the matter you have raised, so to save time. Let history judge on this question.

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, you raised the point. I was going through my statement. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: But since you bring up the cessation of the bombing . . .

Dr. Kissinger: I refer to the fact that we will keep our promises. There is a French saying that says “Cet animal est très méchant; quand on l’attaque il se défend.” So if the Special Adviser attacks me, then I reply, then he accuses me of interrupting my presentation. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: I raise facts.

Dr. Kissinger: I am glad to see that my colleagues are in fine form today.

Xuan Thuy: If you raise these subjects I have many things to tell you about that.

Dr. Kissinger: And you have already said them 150 times. I think he should go to the next meeting [at Kléber], because when he doesn’t he is really too well rested for our meeting. [Xuan Thuy laughs.]

Dr. Kissinger: May I continue?

Le Duc Tho: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: This is why I want to tell you how we plan to proceed. We seriously want to end the war rapidly. We will make a major effort to meet your reasonable concerns. I am going on to Saigon this week—this is for your information, as the visit will not be announced until tomorrow, and we will appreciate your not talking about it. There I will talk with American and local officials to discuss the entire situation. Among my principal subjects, of course, will be to explore the political issue in depth.

Xuan Thuy: Tomorrow we will be able to speak about that.

Dr. Kissinger: I’m sure you will. Although I think it would be best if some restraint would be exercised. But this is entirely up to you.

Xuan Thuy: Please go on.

[Page 383]

Dr. Kissinger: At the end of this month, the President will go to Hawaii to meet with the Japanese Prime Minister. Just before this meeting, the President and I plan to meet with our Ambassador to Saigon to review the negotiations once again and to develop a comprehensive political position.

Accordingly, during the interval before our next meeting, we will search intensively for a new political proposal that could help erase the last major barrier to a negotiated settlement. We will build on those elements of your plans that we consider constructive. We will do our utmost to meet your reasonable concerns, consistent with our own principles. I hope you, too, will make a positive effort.

When we next see you, in early September, we will thus be prepared to make a detailed and comprehensive response to your political proposals. And we will make it with confidence that our suggestions can be carried out rapidly and decisively.

Incidentally, the announcement of my trip will be made at noon tomorrow Washington time, or 5:00 p.m. Paris time. So if you could restrain any comment you feel like making until then.

Le Duc Tho: We will have no comments on your trip to Saigon.

Dr. Kissinger: Now, against this background let me turn to your plan of August 1.

First of all, your peace proposal lists your agreement with certain principles which I outlined on July 19 as our attitude towards a settlement. Your version is basically acceptable. We have redrafted it with some minor adjustments, primarily to indicate where there could be mutual agreement as well as a statement of the US attitude.

Let me read this to you: [Reads text, “Agreed Principles Guiding a Settlement,” at Tab A.]

Agreed Principles Guiding a Settlement

“The following general principles guiding a settlement have been agreed between the United States and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam:

“1. The United States and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam pose no long-term threat to each other and can peacefully co-exist. For its part, the United States has an interest in the independence, autonomy and economic progress of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in the post-war period.

“2. Both sides agree that the time has come genuinely to negotiate a settlement which respects the independence of Vietnam and meets each other’s reasonable concerns.

“3. Both sides respect the right of South Vietnam to decide its political future free from outside interference. For its part, the United States is not committed to any particular political orientation or personalities in South Vietnam. It is willing to let the people of South Vietnam [Page 384] freely decide their natural evolution, without a permanent United States presence. It will accept the outcome of any free political process and define non-interference scrupulously.

“4. Both sides are interested in the independence, neutrality, and territorial integrity of the Indochinese countries. For its part, the United States does not seek to maintain any troops, bases or alliances in Indochina after the war is over.

“5. Both sides will respect the agreements reached, in letter and in spirit, in every particular. This will contribute to the establishment of good relations between the two sides in the longer term.

“6. In order to reach a settlement, both sides must create mutual confidence, show good faith, and manifest a realistic outlook in a spirit of compromise.”

You will note that we have used most of your language. The primary change we have made is, you have stated them as American assertions and we have stated them as agreed. We are prepared to record these principles as understandings reached between us. [The interpreter asks that this be repeated.] We are prepared to record these principles as having been agreed between us. Now let me turn to the Ten Points.

We have followed the same procedure. I have replied to each of the points, except Point 4. I will read our version, and then explain them point-by-point. I would like to point out that in some places we have shifted your language elsewhere where it fit more logically. So please reserve your comment until you have heard it all.

I would like to read our version of your ten points. Then with your permission I would like to explain each one of them so that you know what we are attempting to do:

[He begins reading text at Tab B. The North Vietnamese serve tea.]

“1. The United States respects the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Vietnam, as recognized by the 1954 Geneva Agreements on Vietnam.

“The total withdrawal from South Vietnam of all troops, military advisers, and military personnel, armaments and war material belonging to the United States, and those of other foreign countries allied with the Government of the Republic of Vietnam, and the dismantlement of all U.S. military bases in South Vietnam, will be completed with months after the signing of the overall agreement.”

Le Duc Tho [laughs]: What is the question of months?

Dr. Kissinger: I will explain this, Mr. Special Adviser. The Special Adviser will not be content until I come in here one day and say, “We have withdrawn all our forces,” and then he will say, “You are not yet concrete!”

Le Duc Tho: Are you sure?

Dr. Kissinger: I will explain why we left it free in a minute. I don’t believe it is our most difficult problem. [Resumes reading.]

[Page 385]

“After overall agreement is reached, the U.S. is prepared to define its level of military aid with any government that exists in South Vietnam in direct relation to other external military aid introduced into Indochina.

“3. The release of all military men and innocent civilians captured throughout Indochina will be carried out simultaneously with and completed on the same day as the aforesaid troop withdrawal. The parties will exchange complete lists of the military men and innocent civilians captured throughout Indochina on the day of the signing of the overall agreement.”

Point 4 we will leave open until the next meeting.

“5. The question of Vietnamese armed forces in South Vietnam will be settled by the Vietnamese parties themselves in a spirit of national reconciliation, equality, and mutual respect, without foreign interference and with a view to lessening the burdens of the people.

“6. The re-unification of Vietnam will be achieved step by step, through peaceful means, on the basis of discussions and agreements between North and South Vietnam, without coercion or annexation from either side and without foreign interference. The time for re-unification will be agreed upon after a suitable interval following the signing of an overall agreement.

“Pending re-unification, North and South Vietnam will reestablish normal relations in all fields on the basis of mutual respect.

“In keeping with the provisions of the 1954 Geneva Agreements on Vietnam, while Vietnam is still temporarily divided, North and South Vietnam will refrain from joining any military alliance with foreign countries, and from allowing foreign countries to maintain military bases, troops, and military personnel on their respective territories.

“7. The Geneva Agreements of 1954 on Indochina and those of 1962 on Laos will be respected by all parties. The people of each Indochinese country will settle their own internal affairs, without foreign interference.

“The problems existing between the Indochinese countries will be settled by the Indochinese parties on the basis of respect for each other’s independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in each other’s internal 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.

“8. 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 regimes, maintain economic and cultural relations with all countries, and participate in programs of regional economic cooperation.

“9. At a time mutually agreed upon, a standstill ceasefire will be observed throughout Indochina under international control and supervision.

“As part of the ceasefire the U.S. will stop all its acts of force throughout Indochina by ground, air, and naval forces, wherever they may be based, and end the mining of North Vietnamese ports and harbors.

[Page 386]

“As part of the ceasefire, 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.

“10. (a) There will be international control and supervision of the provisions under points 2, 3, 5, 7 and 9 of this agreement. The composition, tasks, and organization of the international control and supervision commission and the subjects to be controlled and supervised will be agreed upon by the parties.

“(b) There will be an international guarantee for the respect of the Indochinese people’s fundamental national rights, for the status of Indochina and for the preservation of lasting peace in this region. The countries participating in the international guarantee and the form of guarantee will be agreed upon by the parties.”

[Dr. Kissinger hands over the text, at Tab B.]

You will have noticed that we have followed the structure of your proposal and used much of its language.

Now let us review it point by point, so if you perhaps disagree with some of its formulations where we have a common intent we can discuss it.

Point 1: We agree that the United States should undertake to respect the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Vietnam, as recognized by the 1954 Geneva Agreements.

I am explaining the points now. I am explaining them point by point and to explain where, if we have dropped a sentence, why we have done it. Sometimes our formulation does not explain our meaning adequately and perhaps when I explain what we are doing you can find a happier phrase. This is why I tell you again in informal language what we agree with and how we are handling the rest of it. It is time consuming but it is also important.

We also agree that as part of an overall agreement, the U.S. will refrain from acts of force throughout Indochina by ground, air and naval forces wherever they may be based, but we suggest this as part of our Point 9, the ceasefire point. In other words, we have moved it from Point 1 to Point 9.

We agree to non-interference in Vietnamese internal affairs. We have recorded this as Points 1 and 3 of the agreed principles. If you prefer a rearrangement of these undertakings to correspond to your headings I am sure we can work this out.

Finally, with respect to your request that we end all our involvement in Vietnam, we have provided in our withdrawal and ceasefire provisions in Points 2 and 9—committing ourselves (in Point 2) to [Page 387] defining the level of military aid with any government that exists in South Vietnam and (with Point 9) agreeing to cessation of importation of all military equipment in Indochina.

There are two provisions. Point 2 says we are prepared to define bilaterally the level of our military aid to any government that emerges in South Vietnam. In Point 9, the ceasefire point, we have pointed out that we are prepared to accept a ban on the importation of any outside military equipment into Indochina, as part of the agreement with you.

Finally, in our statement of principles (Point 3), we have made it quite clear we are prepared to accept the natural evolution in South Vietnam without U.S. interference, without U.S. presence or interference.

Thus we believe we have taken care of all your provisions, and aside from your objectionable adjectives, which I have already alluded to, Point 1 should be soluble.

May I go on? The Special Adviser looked puzzled.

Le Duc Tho: I understand. But I am wondering what is meant by that. The nuances.

Dr. Kissinger: Remember, Mr. Special Adviser, our minds are not as complex as Vietnamese minds, so you may find nuances that have not been deliberately put in there. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: But sometimes you have the intention to put in the nuances but you don’t realize that. [More laughter]

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, after you complete this you have a great career ahead of you in psychoanalysis. And if you end up in practice I will be your first patient, because it will give me a chance to talk to you for an hour without your talking back to me.

Le Duc Tho: You are well versed in psychological warfare and not we.

Dr. Kissinger: Well, I hate to see you do something in things you are well versed at, if you do this with something you don’t know anything about. May I go on to the next point? I feel the Special Adviser continues to reflect about my nuances. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: I am always thinking about your nuances.

Dr. Kissinger: You may think so much about the nuances that we may never get to the main point.

Point 2: We agree that there will be a total withdrawal from South Vietnam of all U.S. and allied troops, military advisers and military personnel, as well as weapons and war material belonging to these forces, and that bases under U.S. control will be dismantled.

The time period for these actions should not be an insoluble problem. You have dropped the idea of a fixed date, and we are willing to [Page 388] reconsider our four-month period. We will have a concrete suggestion next time. At the risk of robbing our next meeting of some suspense, I will indicate to you now that our proposal is apt to be somewhat briefer than four months and somewhat longer than one month. We have to find a compromise between your optimism and our pessimism. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: The time seems not so long. As you told me last time, that this question is not a bargaining question.

Dr. Kissinger: I didn’t say it in reference to this . . .

Xuan Thuy: Previously it was four months and now three months and 29 days? [Laughter]

Dr. Kissinger: I will make a specific proposal next time—which you will reject—but seriously, I believe that this will not be the most difficult issue we have. The most difficult issue is the political issue, as the Special Adviser has repeated. Did I understand him correctly?

Le Duc Tho: The most thorny question. You are right.

Dr. Kissinger: You see I have learned something from the Special Adviser in my three years of tutorial. [Laughter]

On military aid, we agree with the Special Adviser’s formulation of July 19, that this should be decided by the South Vietnamese government that emerges from the political process to be agreed to under Point 4. On this point, moreover, we are prepared to have a private understanding with you indicating the levels of our aid after a settlement, given ceasefire conditions. We would also like to call your attention to our formulation under Point 9, regarding importation of all military equipment into Indochina.

Point 3: We agree that the release of all military men and innocent civilians of the parties will be carried out simultaneously with and completed the same day as the troop withdrawal, and that the parties will exchange complete lists on the day of signature.

As I said last time, however, we must be assured of the release of all prisoners throughout Indochina and the accounting for all missing. There is no possibility whatsoever that we will leave Indochina or will agree to any proposal while any American prisoners are left anywhere in Indochina or unaccounted for. Your proposal specifically includes only Vietnam, but you have indicated that Laos and Cambodia should present no difficulty. This is your problem to solve, but it must be solved, and in a concrete manner. I await your proposal.

Point 4: I have told you our intentions. At our next meeting we will present a comprehensive and concrete plan that makes a serious effort to take account of your principles as well as ours. We would appreciate it very much if you could give us your reactions to our twelve-point plan of last time, so that the process can be speeded up.

[Page 389]

Point 5: We agree that the question of Vietnamese armed forces in South Vietnam should be resolved among the Vietnamese parties. We are assuming that the details of this will be discussed either in the second or third forum outlined in your procedural document.

Incidentally, all these points are keyed to your points, not our points. This is an explanation of our reactions to your points. Our points have slightly different formulations.

Point 6: We agree that the reunification of Vietnam and its timing will be discussed and agreed upon by North and South Vietnam without coercion or annexation from either side, and without foreign interference.

We agree that pending reunification, North and South Vietnam will establish normal relations in all fields.

We agree that the two zones will maintain the various military provisions of the 1954 Geneva Agreements.

Point 7: We have told you that we cannot accept responsibility for reparations in a formal negotiating document. As we have said, we are prepared to make an understanding that we will contribute to a program for the reconstruction of all of Indochina, as a unilateral American decision.

Point 8: We agree that there will be a standstill ceasefire under international control and supervision. We are willing to consider different modalities for achieving this, to prevent reentry by outside forces. I will express our views as to timing in conjunction with our political proposals next time.

We agree, under this point, to stop all acts of force throughout Indochina.

We have added a provision barring the introduction of new military material into Indochina, which represents one approach to your demand that military aid end when a ceasefire is reached.

We still have differences over the timing and extent of the ceasefire.

Point 9: We agree that there will be international control and supervision and that the composition, tasks and organization of a commission or commissions, as well as the subjects to be controlled and supervised, will be agreed upon by the parties.

We also agree that there will be international guarantees for the respect of fundamental national rights, for national status, and for lasting peace in the region. And we agree that the participating countries and form of guarantee should be decided by the parties. We believe the international guarantees should extend to all of Indochina.

Point 10: We agree that both sides must respect the 1954 Geneva Agreements on Indochina and those of 1962 on Laos. And we agree [Page 390] also that the people of each Indochina country should settle their internal affairs without outside interference.

Finally, we agree that the problems existing among the Indochinese countries will be settled by the Indochinese people on the basis of mutual respect for the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in each other’s affairs.

To sum up, we believe that our positions on nine out of your ten points are essentially reconcilable.

On the central political question, our positions have moved somewhat closer this summer. Let me make some general remarks before discussing your procedural proposal.

Our paramount concern—our bedrock principle—is that the political future of South Vietnam results from the decisions of the South Vietnamese people and not by imposition of the United States Government. If you will recognize this principle, and reflect it in your proposals, all other problems can be solved easily.

Within this framework we will bend every effort to shape an agreement that meets the concerns of both sides and brings not only peace, but reconciliation and justice, to the scarred land and people of South Vietnam.

Now let me turn to your proposal on the conduct of negotiations. We have redrafted your document, accepting most of your substance while improving the English.

Am I going on too long?

Le Duc Tho: Please go on. It’s long but if it is good, it is acceptable that it be good.

Dr. Kissinger: Let me read the document. Even the Special Adviser and the Minister must agree that we have not been idle. We may not be concrete but we have not been idle.

Le Duc Tho: You are right. You have brought a lot with you but not yet concrete substance, because you have not said anything on Point 4. If at every session we speak about general problems like this, then I don’t know how long it will take.

Dr. Kissinger: If I understand the Special Adviser, last time he said if we cannot reach agreement on one point we should go on to another point. So we have gone on to another point. Moreover, I have explained to the Special Adviser why we have not responded to the Point 4: because we want to make a comprehensive and concrete proposal and for this we have to discuss elsewhere. So what we are trying to do is settle everything else if we can, so that only that point is left. I want to assure the Special Adviser and the Minister that in the course of our discussion it had penetrated to me that you attach some importance to Point 4.

[Page 391]

Now may I deal with the procedural points? [Tho nods yes. Dr. Kissinger begins to read “Procedures regarding the Conduct of Negotiations,” text at Tab C.]

Procedures Regarding the Conduct of Negotiations

“1. The parties agree that there will be the following forums:

“(a) First, a forum of private meetings between representatives of the United States and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. This forum will discuss and resolve military issues such as the withdrawal of United States forces, ceasefire, the return of prisoners of war and such other military issues as may be agreed between the parties. In addition, the two parties will discuss and resolve the principles and general content of the political questions affecting the settlement of the Vietnam problem.

“The two parties will discuss and resolve questions one by one. If, in the course of negotiations, there remain disagreements on one question, the parties will agree to move to the discussion of another question, returning to outstanding points of disagreement at a subsequent time.

“As these bilateral negotiations proceed, principles agreed upon between the two parties will be recorded for subsequent discussion in detail in the forums enumerated below. When one question is resolved in this forum, the parties may, by mutual agreement, refer it immediately for detailed discussion to one of the forums listed below.

“(b) Second, a forum of private meetings between representatives of the Government of the Republic of Vietnam and the PRG: This forum will discuss and implement the agreements on the military questions, as well as the principles and general contents of the political questions, already reached in the forum between the United States and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. This forum will also discuss and resolve in detail such other political and military questions which may have not been resolved in the forum between the United States and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. This forum will also deal with any other matters mutually agreed for discussion between the Republic of Vietnam and the PRG.”

I’ve always had the theory that one day we will accept the North Vietnamese proposal and they will be so busy looking for the nuances that they will miss this point and not accept our proposal. I think we’re reaching this. [Laughter]

“(c) Third, a forum of tripartite private meetings between the Republic of Vietnam, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the PRG: This forum will discuss the settlement of specific questions concerning North and South Vietnam, such as the problem of the Vietnamese armed forces, and any other matters mutually agreed between the three parties.

“(d) A four-party forum between the United States, the Republic of Vietnam, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the PRG: This forum will discuss the settlement of a number of specific questions concerning the four parties, such as an Indochina-wide ceasefire.

“2. It shall be the right of any of the four forums enumerated above to refer a matter to another forum if, after discussion and mutual [Page 392] agreement, this is considered appropriate and helpful to facilitating solution of the matter in question.

“3. In the course of negotiation the United States and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam assume the joint responsibility to overcome obstacles and difficulties which may arise among the parties.

“4. When agreement is reached at the above-mentioned forums, an overall agreement will be signed. Besides the overall agreement, the parties may also reach bilateral or tripartite agreements.

“5. The parties may also agree on the establishment of a wider international forum to deal with those aspects of a settlement which also pertain to all of Indochina.”

[Dr. Kissinger finishes reading and hands to Le Duc Tho a copy of the text at Tab C. He continues:]

I think these points are self-explanatory. But we would like to call special attention to the point about the joint US–DRV responsibility to help overcome together hindrances and difficulties arising among the parties. I wish to emphasize the seriousness with which we shall implement this.

Le Duc Tho: [interjects re Point 5] Like in the type of the Geneva Conference . . .

Dr. Kissinger: In the type of Geneva, but also on provisions that affect Laos and Cambodia, that they be included in the provisions of the settlement.

Le Duc Tho: Of the type of Geneva conference.

Dr. Kissinger: We have indicated there are two separate things. The Geneva-type discussion will only supply the international guarantee, not the solution. But you have proposed in Point 9 (b) of your proposal that there will be international guarantees, and we have used your language in ours, so this is an implementation of it. Is that clear?

The other thing is that they have some provisions that concern all of Indochina. In Point 7 of our proposal we have pointed out that “the problems existing between the Indochinese countries will be settled by the Indochinese parties.” These have no forum in your proposal, and we are referring to that. Our Point 7 is drawn from one of the points of your Nine Points last year. It is Point 6 of your Nine-Point proposal. We are just providing a forum for this point. But we are not saying this is obligatory. We are saying this can be set up. I think these points are self-explanatory.

We want to call particular attention to our Point 3, the joint US–DRV responsibility to help overcome together hindrances and difficulties arising among the parties. I wish to emphasize the seriousness with which we shall implement this. For reasons I will explain later, we believe this point can be very significant.

We are prepared to record today those agreements we have reached regarding principles, procedures and substance, following the Special Adviser’s suggestion of last time.

[Page 393]

At our last meeting you listed areas of essential agreement between us. These included:

—Total U.S. and Allied withdrawal.

—Reunification to be decided by North and South Vietnam.

—Respect for the 1954 and 1962 Geneva Agreements.

—A peaceful, independent and neutral Indochina.

—A standstill ceasefire with international control and supervision.

—International guarantees for the region.

Today I have presented our own list of areas of agreement, which is essentially consistent with yours. The Special Adviser also listed areas of continuing disagreement. Our reply to these has narrowed a number of these and deferred the remainder to the next meeting. These are:

The Time Limit for U.S. and Allied Withdrawal. As I have said, we do not believe this is an insoluble problem, and I will have a specific suggestion next time.

Military Aid to the South Vietnamese Government. This is covered in Point 2 and Point 9 of our proposal. In addition, I have told you that we are prepared to give you a private indication about the levels of our aid after a settlement, given ceasefire conditions.

Political Issues. As I have told you, we shall make a detailed and comprehensive response at our next meeting.

Post-war Reconstruction. We have made clear that while we will not include a formal commitment to reparations, we are prepared to make an understanding for a program for reconstruction of all of Indochina.

How then should we proceed? We believe that we have made sufficient progress on some issues so that some of these questions could now be shifted to other forums. We are prepared to open all forums, though the opening of the GVNPRG forum should probably wait until we have responded to your Point 4. However, we believe that the Avenue Kléber forum could begin addressing certain agreed issues, such as the conditions and modalities of a ceasefire. We agree basically that there should be a standstill ceasefire at some point. This requires that many technicalities be discussed. We could assign ceasefire questions to a four-party working group of the Avenue Kléber forum, with a clear understanding that both sides reserve their positions regarding the timing of a ceasefire and the relationship to political issues. The negotiators could thus usefully work on technical details which you yourself said should not concern us here.

I recognize it would be a loss to humanity if the speeches that the Minister and Ambassador Porter have rehearsed for the last few years were not heard. [Laughter] And we should consider that carefully.

[Page 394]

Xuan Thuy: I repeat that what you have said publicly.

Dr. Kissinger: What I have said publicly are what he has said.

Interpreter: You Americans.

Le Duc Tho: The other day I said that once we have reached agreement on all military and political questions, then these questions will be referred to the forums I have mentioned. And only when it is necessary then we shall set up working commissions.

Dr. Kissinger: I am prepared. It doesn’t have to be a working commission. I am prepared to put it in the forum of Avenue Kléber. It doesn’t have to be a working commission. We are quite prepared to have it at the regular plenary session.

Le Duc Tho: We shall discuss this question later.

Dr. Kissinger: All right. Let me finish. Only two more hours! [They laugh.] He understands English [re Xuan Thuy]. I have known it all along.

Xuan Thuy: I have told you, without question, if what you are saying meets the aspirations of the Vietnamese people then I can wait as long as necessary to listen to you.

Dr. Kissinger: He has fully recovered. He is in very good shape. I am glad to know it.

Xuan Thuy: I was not very well. I have some inflammation of the throat.

Dr. Kissinger: If I might make a personal comment, I thought you were a little tired at the previous meeting. We were getting concerned about the Minister.

Xuan Thuy: Thank you.

Dr. Kissinger: Can I finish? It will be only two hours. No, seriously, we are practically finished, but I have one more important point to make.

Now it is clear from what you have said here that you are treating negotiations on two planes. Publicly you are working to create the impression of a complete stalemate. This is designed to magnify domestic pressures against us. At the same time, privately, you hope to obtain the maximum concessions from us which, however, you are not prepared to make public. Thus, you have refused to let the considerable progress that has already been made become public. You hope that you can combine the appearance of stalemate with the reality of progress.

This attempt to combine the benefit of every possible course jeopardizes our effort here.

You should have learned by now that this Administration will not shape its conception of the U.S. national interest to your assessment of its domestic necessities.

[Page 395]

The Minister last time referred to the negotiations in 1968 when you conducted secret talks with Mr. Harriman and the public sessions continued at Kléber. At that time there was some progress made in private but you maintained the appearance of a stalemate in public. It would be a serious miscalculation [to believe] that this process can be repeated. Such tactics risk once more missing the strategic moment to make a decisive move toward a settlement. I have told you how we think your prospects would have been much stronger if you had been willing to conclude an agreement with us last summer, on the basis of our May 31st proposal.

We believe the timing factor once again is crucial. Being realists, we both know that once we sign an agreement in principle there will be many obstacles to overcome with respect to their details and their implementation. As I have said, we accept your procedural point 3 that addresses this problem—that you and we have a joint responsibility to do all we can to ensure rapid progress in the other negotiating forums. We are willing to undertake that responsibility in good faith and with great seriousness.

It is up to you to choose whether to use this opportunity over the coming months. If you believe that our electoral campaign does generate pressures, you must decide whether these are not better used with respect to the implementing talks in the other forums than on our bilateral discussions in this one. If we can promptly record preliminary agreements here, we can launch the other forums and we can constructively and jointly help to guide their negotiations during this fall. We would do so earnestly and energetically.

This opportunity will be lost if you choose to perpetuate a stalemate until late in our electoral campaign by delaying any preliminary agreements and negotiations in other forums. You would be wrongly applying the tactics of 1968 to 1972. You would risk turning our elections into a national referendum on Vietnam—which as I have told you, will only serve to create a new situation on November 8th. And the many preoccupations of our government in the post-election period may mean that once again a great opportunity has been missed.

You must decide. You can join with us now to reach prompt preliminary agreements and in the coming months work in various forums on the details. Or you can postpone any negotiations in other forums, continue the public stalemate and let events take their course.

We believe it is in our mutual interest, in the interest of the peoples of Indochina, and in the interest of world peace to take the first course. This will be our attitude. Let us at last join in a determined search for peace.

I have finished, Mr. Special Adviser and Mr. Minister. And if this will teach you anything, it is not to ask me to speak first next time.

[Page 396]

Thank you. I am sorry to have been so long but I wanted to respond to every one of your points.

Xuan Thuy: I thank you for having spoken not so long as two hours. Less than an hour, so we have a quick break. Now I propose a little break.

Dr. Kissinger: We have worked very seriously on this.

Xuan Thuy: But not yet concrete.

Le Duc Tho: Even the documents if we publish it, it would not settle the problem yet. It is only the details.

Dr. Kissinger: We have settled part of it.

Le Duc Tho: But what is important, what is essential, is to be concrete, because these sentences written in very general terms they can be understood in any way.

Dr. Kissinger: But we took your sentences, Mr. Special Adviser. Have we reached the point where you are now attacking your own proposals?

Le Duc Tho: But our proposal is concrete. Indeed the political question is concrete.

Dr. Kissinger: On the political question we will respond next time.

Le Duc Tho: We will be waiting for that.

[The meeting then broke for lunch, at 12:01 p.m. Tho and Thuy went upstairs, and Dr. Kissinger’s party went to the next room where snacks were served—fruit, cakes of glutinous rice, and wine.]

[At 12:35 p.m., Le Duc Tho came down and joined the group. After light banter, Tho and Dr. Kissinger discussed the question of the date for the next meeting. Dr. Kissinger suggested September 8, explaining that the week of the 21st was occupied by the Republican Convention and the following week by the President’s scheduled meeting in Hawaii with Japanese Prime Minister Tanaka. Tho replied, “We will discuss it.”]

[Tho then raised the subject of Dr. Kissinger’s suggestion at the July 19 meeting of a secret session in some location other than Paris. He asked a number of questions about what we had in mind. Dr. Kissinger explained that if substantial progress was made and it was considered useful for him to meet with other members of the Politburo in conditions of total secrecy, the U.S. side was willing. The conversation continued:]

[Dr. Kissinger: The Special Adviser is so tough a negotiator, if he is joined by a few of his colleagues, I don’t know if I can handle it.]

[Le Duc Tho (laughing): That is a subjective appreciation.]

[Dr. Kissinger: But there are objective facts too. It will require two things—first, to get away from the atmosphere of suspicion. The Special [Page 397] Adviser’s approach is that our motives are evil, our proposals are incompetent, and our execution dishonorable.]

[Le Duc Tho: No, we discuss your Twelve Points, and our Ten Points.]

[Dr. Kissinger: The other thing is to match up our points to find areas of agreement.]

[Le Duc Tho: You have to respond to the political points.]

[Dr. Kissinger: We could settle the nine points.]

[Le Duc Tho: Point 4 is the key.]

[Minister Xuan Thuy then came down and joined the group at 12:55, and the meeting then resumed formally at the table at 12:58 p.m.]

Dr. Kissinger: We have again a practical problem about transportation.

I have the impression that my Vietnamese colleagues will present something now. Is that impression correct?

Xuan Thuy: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: The Special Adviser has that determined look.

Xuan Thuy: We will thrust our remarks on what you have just said.

Dr. Kissinger: And hopefully on what we said last time. We are in no hurry. We just wanted to know when the driver should come back. Are we locked in here again?

Xuan Thuy: We have no purpose to keep you here. [Laughter]

Dr. Kissinger: Do these protocols go back to Hanoi word for word, or just a summary?

Xuan Thuy: We send it verbatim. He is informed of all that.

Dr. Kissinger: I am not informed.

Mr. Phuong: Hanoi.

Dr. Kissinger: Oh, Hanoi is informed.

Le Duc Tho: I have one question. As you said, you will go to Saigon to discuss with the people there about the political questions in order to give a response to point 4. But what is your views on point 4 before going to Saigon? Because you will have some idea in mind before going there.

Dr. Kissinger: How do you know?

Le Duc Tho: Because our stand regarding point 4 has been expounded.

Dr. Kissinger: I think, speaking in a very general way, your plan has positive elements and has elements of great difficulty for us.

[Xuan Thuy corrects Mr. Engel’s Vietnamese.]

Dr. Kissinger: [to Engel] Is the Minister correcting you?

Xuan Thuy: Mutual help. Cultural exchange.

[Page 398]

Dr. Kissinger: I have always suspected it. In other words, when we had General Walters here the Minister had three cracks at it—first my English, then in French, then the Vietnamese.

Xuan Thuy: The better I will understand your views.

Dr. Kissinger: The positive elements include a recognition that some of the preconditions which you have made in the past are not possible. The elements that give us difficulty are those in which you prescribe in very precise detail the outcome of the political process. As I said in my presentation, we cannot be party to imposing a particular solution. But we are prepared to work with you in order to remove some of the concerns that you have expressed. And therefore I have some ideas of how we can accept certain elements of your proposal and perhaps combine them with certain elements of our proposal. But before we can do this we want to form a realistic assessment of where we would go, once an agreement is made, from here to there.

We have studied your proposal with the greatest care and we will make a serious effort. I hope you, too, will look at some of our considerations. In fact, after I have heard the Special Adviser I have a number of questions to ask him about his point 4. I would also appreciate any additional considerations which the Special Adviser and you may give me to help my thinking, so that we can speed up the process. I am going with the attitude of making some modifications in our 12-point proposal, in the direction of what the Special Adviser calls concreteness.

Xuan Thuy: At present there is not any word yet on point 4. Point 4 is left blank.

Dr. Kissinger: The Special Adviser said if we have an obstacle on one point we should go on to the others. Why don’t I listen to the Special Adviser now; or to the Minister, whoever it is.

Xuan Thuy: I have one question in this connection. Recently President Nguyen Van Thieu made a statement referring to the continuation of the bombing of North Vietnam, not only on military targets but also on economic targets and to destroy completely the political basis of Vietnam. And for South Vietnam, Nguyen Van Thieu calls for the complete elimination of the Communists up to the roots. What is American views on that score? Therefore the question of Special Adviser Le Duc Tho is relating to these.

Dr. Kissinger: I will answer that question. Of course it is inevitable that President Thieu has somewhat strong feelings on the subject, because you are asking for his elimination by the roots. This does not produce dispassionate reactions.

Now let me answer the question. Our bombing policy is not determined or approved by President Thieu. Our objective is not to uproot [Page 399] the Communist system in the North. We have no quarrel with the governmental structure of the North—except when it engages in activities outside its territory.

As I have told you many times, looking at it as an historian, we want North Vietnam to be strong and autonomous, and we will not fight this war one day in order to destroy you or to undermine your economic viability. So if we could settle the basic issues, the war would not continue one hour in order to do damage to your country. And indeed, as I look ahead over the years I am convinced that we will move eventually from our present enmity to a relation of cooperation, while a Communist government exists in Hanoi. This may sound unbelievable today, but we have brought about many dramatic changes in relations to other countries. So we have no quarrel with the Communist system in the North, and we have every intention to coexist with it creatively and constructively. The day may even come when we will be a support for your independence, rather than a threat to it, though this is a fantastic idea today.

Xuan Thuy: Now my question is that in our view South Vietnam should have a provisional—only a provisional—government of national concord with three components, so as to organize really free and democratic general elections. Since you are now going to Saigon to discuss with those people there, what is your view in connection with this three-segment government of national concord?

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser and Mr. Minister, I told you I will give a definitive view after I have been there. If I express a detailed view now I don’t have to go there. We agree with you that there should be genuinely free elections. We have told you that we did not oppose the outcome of these elections. We are trying to find a means for the political forces in South Vietnam to participate in this process, and we have even indicated in our 12-point proposal that we are prepared to agree to a process of constitutional revision. I would like to study the conditions and see how these objectives can be combined with some of your ideas and some of our ideas.

Le Duc Tho: When I ask you questions you always respond in general terms. Now let me put you a very concrete question. Now in South Vietnam there are in reality two governments, two armies, and three political forces. Do you recognize the existence of this reality of the situation of South Vietnam?

Dr. Kissinger: I recognize the reality that there are two armies—most of one of which happens to be yours—and two governments. As far as the political forces are concerned, there are two.

Mr. Phuong: There are three, three political forces.

Dr. Kissinger: I know three political forces. I agree that there are at least two forces, and then some amorphous political ground which [Page 400] I don’t put on the same level nor do you. I recognize there are two armies, two political structures, and then a third which is amorphous.

Le Duc Tho: Since you recognize the existence of these three political forces—

Dr. Kissinger: Two and a half.

Le Duc Tho: Then how can you realize the national concord, without any party making annexation or coercion of the other party, and without domination by any party and all parties have equal rights?

Dr. Kissinger: That is what I would like to work out over the next week.

Mr. Special Adviser, Mr. Minister, maybe we can’t come to an agreement, but I cannot fail to understand what your concern is and I believe you cannot fail to understand what our concern is. Let me explain what I believe the difference is.

You believe that we really, by some trick, are trying to maintain the existing political structure. We believe that you are really trying to disintegrate the existing structure at the very beginning of the process. And having disintegrated it there won’t be three forces left in Vietnam. The only real force that will be left is yours.

Le Duc Tho: But according to your proposal, your proposal is aimed at eliminating the forces of the Provisional Revolutionary Government.

Dr. Kissinger: Let me finish. This is the difference. And contrary to you I don’t accuse you of bad faith. It is a difficult problem. Last year the Special Adviser made a point to me which I have thought about a great deal. He said, “We did not fight 25 years just to have peace. We fought 25 years to have a specific political objective.” So the Special Adviser sees I think about him even though he punishes me all the time. [They laugh.]

Now what I am trying to find is a middle position that meets your concern that we are trying to eliminate the PRG forces and that meets our concern that you are trying to eliminate the other forces. There can’t be any trickery. You understand the political problem much better than we do.

So if you work with us in this direction we will make a very serious effort.

Le Duc Tho: Now I have another question on another subject. Do you agree with me that after our two sides, the U.S. and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, have reached agreement on all military and political questions, only after that we open other forums? Then let the PRG and the Saigon government discuss and settle the principles and main contents of the political questions, and only when an overall agreement is reached, then a ceasefire takes place? What is your view on that subject?

[Page 401]

Dr. Kissinger: With respect to the forums, of course the second and third forum—that is to say the forum between the PRG and GVN and the forum between the PRGGVN and Democratic Republic—those two cannot be opened until a general agreement takes place. As regards the fourth forum, the Avenue Kléber forum, that already exists. How can I fail to know it, since I have to read the Minister’s speech every Thursday! So my proposal with respect to the fourth forum is to give it some of the topics on which we have already agreed in principle to work out the technical modalities. And without prejudice to the other forums or the other discussions.

As for the ceasefire, we have a difference in perspective. Your side holds the ceasefire only at the end of all the agreements among all the parties—if I understand this correctly.

Le Duc Tho: Right.

Dr. Kissinger: We recommend that there be a ceasefire after we have settled the principal questions in the first forum. But that is a subject that we can discuss further.

Le Duc Tho: Regarding the timing of the ceasefire: There still is a difference between me and you. We shall have further discussion.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but the issue cannot arise until we have reached an agreement on point 4 anyway. But of course we have offered a separate ceasefire, as you know. But for this moment we understand your position. We are prepared—just so that we are not confused—to discuss it separately whenever you want to. We don’t insist on it though.

Le Duc Tho: What we are demanding is this: a ceasefire after an overall agreement.

Dr. Kissinger: The question is: a ceasefire after you and we have agreed, or a ceasefire after everyone has agreed in every forum?

Le Duc Tho: We recognize the ceasefire after agreement is reached in all forums on all questions.

Dr. Kissinger: But this would still not exclude that we discuss the nature of a standstill ceasefire, so that when we reach it we know what we are implementing.

Le Duc Tho: Our view is different. We would like to see the settlement of the whole questions—military, political and others—and then proceed to a ceasefire.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand.

Le Duc Tho: Now let me express my views. First of all I would like to speak about the negotiations we are continuing with you. Then I would like to speak about the principles you have formulated here, in comparison with the 12 points you have put forward, and to compare [Page 402] them with our own 10 points, to see what are the outstanding questions, what are the questions that remain to be solved.

Of late you spent too much time about the question of announcing the private meetings. Then you sent us a message putting a condition for the private meeting of today, August 14, that the two parties have agreed upon, and you threatened to cancel this meeting. Thus simply for the reason of information on the private meetings you intended to give up the negotiations; the negotiations had been agreed to be without the conditions. Therefore we wonder whether you are really serious to be genuine in negotiations. The reason you mention that explains that, we easily have distrust for each other. But this is the reason. Last time you said that if we used the private meetings to stir up American public opinion during an election year you would end the negotiations. And this time you have imposed preconditions saying that if we disagreed to the announcement of the private meetings you would also halt the private meetings.

Dr. Kissinger: Nothing of the kind. Mr. Special Adviser, we are really wasting a lot of time on these special points of yours.

Le Duc Tho: But this is important.

Dr. Kissinger: With all due respect, if you look over the records of my meetings with you, you will find that I never begin a discussion with an attack on your good faith and you have always started with an attack on us. That just has to stop. Now at the end of our last meeting you asked me to let you know whether we felt it was necessary to announce the meeting. I told you I would let you know within three days. This was the context within which my message was drafted. Now you happen to construe it as a condition, which is as much a reflection on you as it is on us.

Now as for the rest, Mr. Special Adviser, it is not unknown that you have been trying to have an influence on our domestic opinion. And all we are telling you is as long as you negotiate with us, that is one situation; if simultaneously you conduct negotiations with a lot of private persons that is another situation.

Le Duc Tho: I agree that you have sent a message to us as agreed. But the content of the message is objectionable. In the message you say unless you agreed to the announcement of the private meetings we will cancel them.

Dr. Kissinger: We said no such thing. We said it is up to the North Vietnamese side to assess whether you have meetings under these conditions, which was an invitation to your comment. But it is very strange to me, Mr. Special Adviser, I have made three lengthy statements to you in which I have told you that we are serious, why we are serious, and what we plan to do. You never quote those. You quote [Page 403] half a sentence out of context which as soon as we focussed on it here was settled in a spirit of mutual consultation.

Le Duc Tho: In your message you said that it is up to the Vietnamese side to decide whether to want the August 14 meeting on the basis of the announcements of the private meetings. So you put preconditions for today’s meeting. I raise this much just for better comprehension and mutual understanding, to avoid.

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, I will even grant you we have an unequal relationship, because you never grant me that anything I say has any merit—which is statistically impossible. In 16 meetings I am bound to have said something that has merit, if only by accident.

So it is even possible to construe that message to you in this very specialized way. However as soon as we understood how you interpreted it, we immediately informed you we are coming to this meeting, even though you never agreed to this proposition. So our actions are clearer, are more significant.

Le Duc Tho: No, this is proof of our good will, because we have answered you that “Let us have the meeting and we shall discuss this question here.” I would like to raise these questions for the future, to avoid such things for the future, because these threats of military pressure have no effect on us. So through the last two private meetings we have come here with a serious intent to negotiate so as to rapidly end the war, to restore peace on the basis of respect for our people’s fundamental national rights.

Even for Kléber Street sessions, it is not true that we wanted to use the Kléber Street sessions to create the impression that the negotiations are deadlocked while actually in the private meetings there has been progress. In fact our last two meetings have not brought about any basic settlement. In these two meetings both sides have just shown their good will. We have expressed our views of good will; you too. We have put forward our proposal of good will, you too. But we have not reached any basic settlement. If we achieved great progress, for good reasons it is natural that Kléber Street forum should be changed in atmosphere.

And for this forum, the private meetings, we don’t use them to stir American public opinion in the year of election. We don’t wait for the outcome of the American elections as you say, because it is America’s internal affair. But instead you have used these private meetings for propaganda purposes during the American Presidential campaign, sowing confusion in world public opinion.

In a spirit of good will and serious intent, we have advanced constructive proposals in order to achieve a peaceful solution of the Vietnam problem. If you also come here and negotiate these in the [Page 404] same spirit of good will and serious intent and, as you said, if there is mutual understanding, good faith and mutual trust, then the problem can be settled by both parties.

Dr. Kissinger: [to Mr. Phuong] Excuse me. Is that an English text? Could we get that afterwards?

Mr. Phuong: This is the only one we have.

Le Duc Tho: If on the one hand you continue to use the threats and to make military pressure and on the other to use this forum for propaganda purposes for the election campaign, if you refuse to negotiate seriously, if you drag the negotiations on to deceive us and public opinion, then we have to take measures to counter your actions. And if you continue these actions it would be a great mistake, and the war will be prolonged, the negotiations will be deadlocked, and you will have to bear full responsibility for such a situation.

We believe that there are now two paths for you to choose. Either you will engage in really serious negotiations to reach a peaceful solution to the Vietnam problem, or you will continue using threats and military pressure and at the same time using these negotiations for propaganda in your election campaign to deceive us and public opinion.

Dr. Kissinger: I object. I won’t accept this. We are not using these negotiations in an election campaign. We are not using the negotiations to deceive you.

Le Duc Tho: If you negotiate on the one hand to continue with the path I have just mentioned on the negotiations, then this is a contradiction that you will not be able to solve. We never yield to threats or to military pressure, just like we never let ourselves be fooled by others. Over the past 20 years in fighting as well as in negotiations you have realized this attitude of ours. Now you suspect that we are using these negotiations to stir up public opinion in the U.S. during an election year. And for us we suspect that you are using this forum of negotiations for propaganda purposes during an election campaign and to drag out the negotiations. Therefore we should remove this mutual distrust and to promote mutual understanding if you want to reach a peaceful settlement.

Dr. Kissinger: I will tell you a good way to remove this mutual distrust—just to remove these accusations from the beginning of each of your statements.

Le Duc Tho: It is my wish that this is the last time I have to adopt this way of making statement, because I am forced to do that. Because we have received your message and the happenings after our two last private meetings . . .

Dr. Kissinger: There were no happenings that could even be remotely construed in this sense after the last meeting. There weren’t [Page 405] after the first meeting either, but after the last meeting we took extraordinary pains not to have it done. I think these accusations are a reflection not on us but on you.

Le Duc Tho: The reason that we have these statements is originated by your attitude.

Dr. Kissinger: Well, we have gone over this at the beginning of the session and I won’t repeat what I have said. So just know that I reject what you are saying.

Le Duc Tho: It is up to you to reject my statement but it is my right to express my views on your action.

Dr. Kissinger: Certainly. The fact that there aren’t any actions shouldn’t deter you from making your statement.

Le Duc Tho: It is precisely due to your actions that make me make this statement. Therefore it is my view that the best way to settle the problem is to engage in serious negotiation. We should have good will and mutual understanding, then settlement is possible. If it is your desire to have a rapid progress, more rapid progress, there is no other way.

Now let me make some remarks on your statement. We have carefully studied the “Guiding Principles” you have expressed for a settlement.

Dr. Kissinger: Today?

Le Duc Tho: The other time. The last meeting. For today’s statement I only make preliminary remarks. We shall continue to study the document you have given us. The next time we shall continue to express remarks. Now let me express my views on a number of main questions in your 12 points.

Now, comparing the Principles Guiding a Settlement and the 12 points given us, comparing them with our solution in 10 points and comparing them with our proposal on the conduct of negotiations, and with our general views we have expressed, we realize that you have rearranged your proposals to meet our proposals and our views. You have rearranged your 12 points and our 10 points. After comparison, we realize that your views and our views are still far apart.

Dr. Kissinger: You gave me confidence there for a minute. I thought there might be a historic breakthrough, with you indicating agreement with one point.

Le Duc Tho: No, your hope comes very easy. You blew hot and cold. Your optimism and pessimism very easily change.

We have raised a number of major questions, particularly the key questions of the political problem of South Vietnam between you and us. And our views are still very different in that subject. In the main you still want to maintain the Saigon Administration to implement [Page 406] U.S. neocolonialism in South Vietnam. You don’t recognize the reality of the situation of South Vietnam—that is, two governments in South Vietnam, two armies, and three political forces. You want to leave aside the PRG. Therefore your proposal on the political question in South Vietnam are opposed to the basic principle you expressed on July 19—such as, “The U.S. seeks a settlement which respects the independence of Vietnam and the right to self-determination of the South Vietnam people;” “the United States does not demand a pro-American government in Saigon.” So when you merge your principles with our principles, then your formulation is similar to our general views only in some sentences, but they are far different in substance. Your proposal on the political question is just the contrary of the principle you have formulated on the political question.

As regards the military questions, last time you put point 3 of the PRG’s 7 points in point 10 of your 12 points. Today you say that the question of Vietnamese armed forces will be settled at the 3-party forum.

Dr. Kissinger: Or at the two-party.

Le Duc Tho: It is clear that you imply a demand for the withdrawal of North Vietnamese troops from South Vietnam, which is morally, politically and legally wrong, and that is a demand that we cannot accept.

Besides, the two sides views there are also completely different regarding the timing and the implementation of the solution.

Those are the major outstanding problems. We may come to an agreement on a certain number of questions of principles, but if you go into specific questions there are still differences.

You asked me the question of release of all captured servicemen throughout Indochina, the question of ceasefire throughout Indochina, the question of U.S. military aid to the Saigon Administration, the question of replacement of war material, the question of U.S. responsibility for the healing of the wounds of war in the two zones of Vietnam, and also the way to conduct our negotiations. In these matters there are still differences of view. Therefore after studying the principles and the 12 points that you put forward at the last meeting, we see that there are still many questions that remain to be discussed and solved.

Now I would like to speak about some main questions.

Just let me say a few words about the question of power in South Vietnam, of the differences there between us.

As we have just pointed out, in the main you wanted to maintain the Saigon Administration, while we advocate the formation of the new administration in South Vietnam reflecting the actual political situation of South Vietnam. You only bring about formal changes to [Page 407] the present Saigon Administration, but essentially you keep it intact although it is dictatorial and fascistic regime which does not correspond to the present reality of South Vietnam. As we said last time, the reality of South Vietnam is that there are two governments, two armies and three political forces in South Vietnam. You should acknowledge this reality. In a settlement, if this objective reality is ignored and a government of national concord with the components as we have described is not set up, then the political question of South Vietnam cannot be resolved. The independence, the neutrality, the democratic and lasting peace in South Vietnam cannot be insured.

You proposed a two-stage political process in South Vietnam, but your two stages are different from our two stages. In the first stage of our proposal, a three-segment provisional government of national concord would be formed, as we described to you last time. The three-segment provisional government of national concord will manage the external and internal affairs of South Vietnam from the period between the restoration of peace and the general elections, and will organize the general elections by universal suffrage. In the second stage the general elections by universal suffrage will elect a constituent assembly. The assembly will work out the constitution and set up the definitive government of South Vietnam.

Our two-stage political process will insure genuine equality and democracy. There will be no coercion and annexation from either party. The parties will together find a peaceful solution to their disputes. The process will reflect all political forces of South Vietnam; all forces from right to left will freely participate in the government, thus reflecting the deep aspirations of the South Vietnam people.

On the contrary, according to your proposal, in the first stage only Nguyen Van Thieu will be replaced and the Saigon administration will remain intact with no change at all. A so-called electoral commission will be organized including the representatives of all political forces. You said such a commission would be an independent body. You did accept that Article 14(c) of the Geneva Agreements would be enforced before the elections, yet an electoral commission functioning in the framework of such an administration which controls a huge machinery of repression and has every means of propaganda will have but an appearance of independence, while in practice there cannot be independence and democracy under such an administration.

In the second stage you propose a Presidential election and thereafter the political forces may be appointed or elected by the Saigon Administration to various positions in the Saigon Administration. Within one year after the Presidential election the political forces will meet to amend the constitution and agree on measures to implement the amended constitution. How the constitution will be amended is [Page 408] not clear. So you maintain not only the Saigon Administration but also its constitution. You simply amend the constitution, you don’t change it—although it is a constitution illegally worked out on U.S. wants and not one drafted by an assembly of the people.

Such is your whole process from the first stage to the second stage. It is clear that you deliberately deny the role and position of the PRG of the Republic of South Vietnam, which is the leader and the organizer of the struggle of the South Vietnam people for a peaceful, independent and neutral South Vietnam. It is clear that your aim is to maintain the present Saigon Administration. If there is any change, the change is made in the framework of the Saigon institutions and constitution. It is but a small formal change.

Thus, how can the South Vietnam people be guaranteed of the right to decide themselves their own future, as you affirm at the July 19 meeting? How can credit be given to your statement of principles that the U.S. will not ask for a pro-American government in Saigon? Therefore your proposal on the political process in South Vietnam is at variance with the principles you have formulated. In our view, in order to achieve lasting peace and an independent, neutral and democratic South Vietnam, it is essential that a three-segment government be formed reflecting the actual political situation of South Vietnam. Only in this way could war be ended and the Vietnam problem be settled in a fair and reasonable way. If the United States really wants to settle the problem it should proceed from the real situation that there are in South Vietnam two administrations and two armies. If the United States wants to liquidate one side and maintain the other, the question will remain unsolved. The United States cannot use maneuvers and negotiations to achieve what its military forces failed to achieve during the past 10 years. Therefore, so long as the question of forming a three-segment administration is not settled, the war cannot be peacefully settled.

Now I will deal with the second question of the timing and the implementation of the political questions. Regarding the timing and the implementation of the political questions, our views and yours are utterly different. We hold that we and you should agree on all military questions and the principles and main contents of the political questions, after which we open the forums with the Saigon Administration, the three-party forum. When an overall settlement is reached and the overall agreement is signed, the ceasefire will begin.

As for you, you want that the military questions and the principles of the political questions will be resolved between we and you, that we sign a general agreement and then a ceasefire will take place, and thereafter the Vietnamese parties will start discussing the political questions, the principles of which will have been agreed upon by you [Page 409] and we. Although you said you don’t want to separate the political questions from the military questions, you insisted on the ceasefire before the settlement of the political questions, so practically you separate the basic parts of the political question. And the United States proposal on the political process in South Vietnam—basically your aim is to maintain the present Saigon Administration.

You said that the political questions should be settled by the Vietnamese themselves, that if we could help you to do so, all other questions would be easily resolved. We have taken into account this concern of yours and we have agreed to drop the demand of Thieu’s immediate resignation before the PRG starts its conversation with the Saigon Administration. Instead we have put off Thieu’s resignation until after the overall settlement has been reached. Thus, we have created favorable conditions for an agreement to be reached before a ceasefire takes place. Therefore you have now no reason to delay the discussions and the agreement between you and we on all the military questions and political questions we have raised, so that the forums between the Vietnamese parties may be rapidly opened for the settlement of the problems we have agreed upon. You have no reason now to delay the discussion of the political questions by the Vietnamese parties until after the ceasefire. That is the reason why we advocate that after you and we agree on the principles and main contents of the political questions the Vietnamese parties will discuss, and a ceasefire will come only after agreement is reached. This is the most logical solution.

And now there is another question. The resignation of Nguyen Van Thieu and the change of policy by the Saigon Administration. We have made a great concession to agree to Thieu’s resignation after agreement, and not to demand his immediate resignation. However we demand a change of policy by the present Saigon Administration. This demand not only meets the deep aspirations of the South Vietnamese people, who cannot live indefinitely in this dictatorial and fascist regime, and also creates conditions for a settlement and the realization of national concord. Therefore it is very necessary that the Saigon Administration should change its policy.

At present the Thieu Administration is pursuing a very dictatorial and fascist policy. Even the arbitrarily-elected Saigon assembly is not allowed to have any part. The Saigon press is being held by very harsh lines and not allowed to be open. Therefore the change of policy by the Saigon Administration and the democratic liberties provided for by the 1954 Geneva Agreements are a condition for the beginning of direct talks by the PRG and the Saigon Administration.

Now let me speak about the military questions. First of all we would like to state that we still maintain our view regarding the question of the Vietnamese armed forces in South Vietnam. This question should [Page 410] be resolved by the Vietnamese parties, as point 3 of the PRG 7 points has proposed. More specifically, this question will be settled by the two-party forum, by the PRG and the Saigon Administration among themselves as point 5 of our 10 points of August 1 indicated. It will not do to merge point 3 of the 7 points with point 10 of your 12 points or to refer this question for discussion at the three-party forum as you say.

Putting this question as you have it means dividing Vietnam into two states. You hold that North Vietnam has made aggression against South Vietnam and you imply a demand that North Vietnamese troops pull out from South Vietnam. We definitely say that you will never be able to put in practice this scheme. Through the four years of negotiations we have consistently refused this. We have maintained this position. It is because you have waged aggression against our people, and you have scrapped the 1954 Geneva Agreements, that our entire people are on the same front line to fight against this aggression. To put the problem as you would is legally, morally and politically contrary to the substance of the matter. At one of our private meetings in 1971 you yourself acknowledged that legally, morally and politically this question cannot be approached that way. This is the correct way of posing the question of Vietnamese forces in South Vietnam, as in point 3 of the 7 points.

Now, regarding the question of ceasefire throughout Indochina and the release of servicemen of the parties captured all over Indochina: As we told you at the July 19 private meeting, your intensification of the war in Laos and your expansion of the war in Cambodia has strengthened the solidarity of the Indochinese peoples and their determination to struggle together for their individual rights. This is the historic necessity of the three Indochinese peoples. However, once we have solved the Vietnam problem with you and have come to a ceasefire, once peace is restored in Vietnam, there is no reason that [with] the Western frontiers of the two zones in Vietnam in peace we want to have Laos and Cambodia where the war goes on and where the captured servicemen are not released and no ceasefire.

However, there is the political and legal question of the ceasefire in Laos and Cambodia, as well as the release of civilians and servicemen of the parties captured in Laos and Cambodia, come under the competence of the Laos and Cambodian parties. In consequence, in the scope of the negotiations with you we cannot resolve these questions for the Laos and Cambodian parties. We want negotiations between the concerned parties of Laos and Cambodia to settle these questions. At all of our private meetings in 1971, you yourself said that the settlement of the problems of Laos and Cambodia did not come under the competence of this forum.

[Page 411]

We clearly told you that the progress of the peaceful settlement of the Vietnam problem will positively contribute to the restoration of peace in all Indochina. We can assure you that this will certainly be so.

Another military question, the period for the total withdrawal of U.S. forces and those of other forces in the U.S. camp. We have proposed a period of one month. So we have shown some flexibility. As for you, in January 1972, you proposed a 6-month period. Over half a year has now elapsed and you still ask for 4 months. If this is agreed, the period is much longer than before, and even so, even though we have made a proposal today, you have not responded on the question of the period of troop withdrawal.

Another question, the question of military aid, the question of replacement of armament and replacement of war material. We already expressed our views on the question of military aid to the Saigon Administration at our last meeting. This question is dealt with in point 2 of our 10 points. Regarding this question there still is differences between us. Regarding the question of replacement of armaments and war material, we are of the view that since you complete the withdrawal of your forces from our country in such a short period there is no need for such replacement, since you have pointed out this replacement is not necessary.

Regarding now the question of standstill ceasefire. We have agreed that there will be a stand-still ceasefire, under international control and supervision, in South Vietnam. However our stand is still different with regard to the timing of the ceasefire, as I pointed out today. That question is still to be discussed and solved.

After expressing my views on the military and political questions, let me now address the responsibility of the Americans to repair the damage of the South Vietnamese so as to heal the wounds of war. We think, after so many years of war in both zones of North and South Vietnam you have caused a great deal of losses. Therefore the U.S. has responsibility on this question. We agree not to use the word “war reparations.” You can propose another appropriate wording, providing you assume that responsibility in this question. This question should be written in the agreement signed by the parties, and not, as you said, before the conclusion of the negotiations you would put forward a specific amount for consideration. This method is unfair. This question, if not appropriately solved, will also constitute a serious roadblock between you and we.

I have above expressed my views on the differences we have in the question of principles and I have expressed my view on the great questions of a solution. The comparison of your 12 points and our 10 points shows there are specific questions on which our views still differ. We should therefore discuss these questions and in the first place the [Page 412] political questions. And there remains also some specific questions, some details. When we discuss these items we shall make known our opinions.

We have made a proposal on the way to conduct negotiations. But through what you have just said today I see we still have a difference of view on that score. Our understanding is that after the settlement of all military and political questions at this forum between the U.S. and DRV, then we shall refer the questions we have agreed upon to the two-party forum and the three-party forum. And the work of the four-party forum will develop to conclude an overall agreement. We don’t agree that after agreement on one question is reached here we should refer the question for discussion at Kléber Street.

Moreover, the contents of the forums, the four forums, we still have some differences of view too. For instance, the question of Vietnamese armed forces in South Vietnam you proposed will be discussed at the third forum. I think that this question should not be discussed at this forum, at the third forum.

As to the signing of the agreements, we can have many kinds of agreements to be signed—bilateral, tripartite, four-party agreements. But the contents of the agreement on which questions will be signed at which forum is a question to be discussed. For instance, the military question: if they were only signed between the DRVN and the U.S., this will not be appropriate. Because the military questions concern not only the North Vietnamese and the United States but also South Vietnam and the United States, and sometime four parties, three parties. As for your proposal on an international forum including Laos and Cambodia to discuss and settle the Indochinese problem, we shall consider this proposal.

So I have pointed out the difference between our views and your views. It is my wish that these questions should be rapidly settled between you and us so that we can rapidly open the other forums for settlement of other questions, to rapidly end the war and rapidly to restore peace in Vietnam, in the interest of the Vietnamese and the American people and in the interest of peace.

I have now finished my presentation. Please now put your questions. Now I hope that the next time we meet we shall go directly into discussions of main problems. And I also wish that the next time when we meet I shall not have to repeat the beginning, the words I have begun my presentation with. But this depends not only on us but on you too.

Dr. Kissinger: It depends entirely on you and I have now presented my view [on this subject of press handling]. I am not going to say anything further.

[Page 413]

Le Duc Tho: If you want to discuss the subject on that point, then Minister Xuan Thuy has a few words.

Dr. Kissinger: Let us have a 5-minute break. After the Minister is finished then I will ask a few questions.

Xuan Thuy: Regarding the negotiations with the DRV and the U.S. in 1968 that Mr. Adviser Kissinger has just referred to. At the last meeting I told you that in 1968 while public sessions were held at Kléber Street there were actually private meetings between me and Ambassador Harriman. There is another fact, that it is not we who are using the Kléber Street sessions for propaganda purposes, because speaking of propaganda, it is the United States which has more means for propaganda. In fact, at the negotiations between the DRV and U.S. in 1968 our demand was the U.S. complete cessation and unconditional cessation of the bombing of North Vietnam before we begin to discuss other questions. As for the U.S. side it demanded that we discuss other questions that we considered unreasonable. For instance, the U.S. side at that time had the view that North Vietnam was violating the 1954 Geneva Agreements and was making aggression against the South Vietnamese, and in consequence the U.S. side demanded a mutual troop withdrawal. As for us, we maintain the view that it was the U.S. which violated the 1954 Geneva Agreements, which has set up a puppet government in South Vietnam, which has brought U.S. forces to South Vietnam for aggression. Therefore the U.S. should put an end to this aggression. By the end of October 1968 the United States agreed to put a complete and unconditional end to all bombing and all acts of war against the DRV. And thereafter the Paris four-party conference was open for the peaceful settlement of the Vietnam problem.

So the agreement was reached between the DRV and the U.S. at the private, the secret negotiations, before it was made public.

I would like to speak about another question, the question of Vietnam toward the elections in the United States. It is not true that we want to make the U.S. election a referendum on the Vietnam question in the United States as you claim. It is not a question liked by us or unliked by us, we wish for or we don’t wish for. It is a question raised by the U.S. Presidential candidates opposed to the present Administration in the U.S., particularly by the American people. If you had settled the Vietnam problem with us in 1969 or 1970 or 1971 this question would not become an issue now. It is our persistent view that the Presidential election in the U.S. is an internal affair of the American people. It is up to them to decide. If you want that the Vietnam problem not become an issue during the election campaign though, we should rapidly discuss and settle the problems.

Dr. Kissinger: We don’t care. We are relaxed about it.

Xuan Thuy: Then the other forums will be open.

[Page 414]

Dr. Kissinger: We don’t care. We will handle the election. Just don’t overestimate what we will do because of the election. It would be a major mistake.

Xuan Thuy: Usually we have never mentioned about the American election at this private meeting. You raised the question of elections; then I have to speak.

Dr. Kissinger: No, I have told you first of all I will not discuss the election. Second, we will do nothing because of the election. You have made many mistakes, on what I have told you, in regard to the offensive and other matters. You did not believe me. I will tell you now we will do nothing because of the elections. We will talk to you seriously. We will do nothing about removing Vietnam as an issue unless we can find a just solution to both sides. But we will talk to you seriously and we will attempt to find a solution.

Xuan Thuy: You see, in our presentation in the course of the past two private meetings we have made no mention at all about American elections. But you have raised the question of American elections.

Dr. Kissinger: I understood what you said and I shall answer it. Are you finished Mr. Minister?

Xuan Thuy: This is a summary of the views we have expressed. [Hands over text at Tab D]

Dr. Kissinger: Thank you. Now may I ask for a very brief interruption? Say 10 minutes? Then I will give my response to the Special Adviser and ask a few questions. Then perhaps we should adjourn.

[There was a break from 3:10–3:27 p.m., with light conversation including Dr. Kissinger’s asking Le Duc Tho whether he had been offered the Democratic Vice Presidential nomination.]

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser and Mr. Minister, I have listened to your presentation with great attention, and you can be certain that we will study your remarks with great attention. For now, I want to make a few very general observations. Then I will ask a few questions to help us in our consideration of your remarks.

I agree with the Special Adviser that the biggest difficulty we confront is the great distrust that exists between both sides. If we could settle this, it might be possible to solve the other issues. Because no negotiation is going to be able to deal with every conceivable question, and some amount of confidence must be imperative if we are to complete our work successfully. But in this spirit I may make a general remark about your presentation, Mr. Special Adviser and Mr. Minister, I do it in a spirit to have our future discussions as constructive as possible. I must be frank to say that I was somewhat disappointed at the Special Adviser’s presentation, not because he didn’t agree with every point we made—he has not exactly spoiled us in that respect [Page 415] [laughter]—but because of the method that is being pursued. When you study our response to your 10 points I think you will find that we made a major effort to find the positive elements on which we could agree. We thought that if we could settle all the issues except the political one we could then be able to work with special energy and dedication on the political one. But now, as the Special Adviser has gone through his presentation, he has been at pains to point out that we have not really agreed on anything. So instead of going to Saigon with the attitude that if we can only settle the political issue everything else will be solved, I am now going with the complexity that we are really in a situation where whatever concession we make, or whatever modification of our proposal, will just open the way to yet additional demands. While the political issue is the essential one, we haven’t agreed on any of the others either. It is of course your privilege to do this. But it makes progress somewhat more complex.

[Mr. Phuong helps with the translation and explains the point. He and Thuy confer.]

Mr. Minister, have you been studying English, or have you known it all along? [laughter]

So I take note of this, and we will continue to work on our effort to find the positive elements. But I would like to point out that it is important that both sides approach this negotiation not just with abstract assertions of good will, but with concrete serious effort to find the positive elements and not only the negative ones.

With respect to the opening of the various forums, your overwhelming fear seems to be that to discuss anything concrete in Avenue Kléber may give an impression of hope, and therefore you refuse to discuss there even the technical modalities of a ceasefire, even though we have agreed there will be a standstill ceasefire and even though we have agreed that it is necessary that it be discussed. But the result of this is only that the implementation of the agreement will be delayed.

I can understand not opening the new forums; I find it difficult to understand why the existing forum to which we already agreed in 1968 cannot be used for constructive negotiations. It is not that we have not heard each other’s speeches already. But it is your decision, and we abide by it. We have no interest in speeding this up any faster than you are prepared to move.

Now, if I might, I would like to ask some questions, first about the presentation that the Special Adviser made, and then about your specific proposal.

First, at the end, as I understand the Minister when he was discussing the 1968 negotiation, his point was that the agreement we made was for an end of the bombing in return for the opening of the Kléber [Page 416] forum, and that such other considerations as mutual withdrawal and other matters bore no relationship to that. Did I understand that correctly?

Xuan Thuy: It was agreed to cease completely and unconditionally all bombing and other acts of war against North Vietnam, and thereafter the Paris four-party conference would be opened for the peaceful settlement of the Vietnam problem.

Dr. Kissinger: But there were no other relationships, for mutual withdrawal?

Xuan Thuy: We firmly expressed our stand that there were not. We rejected all demands on mutual withdrawal.

Dr. Kissinger: I thought I understood you to say this. Now let me ask another question. And I have to do this on the basis of my memory, so please be patient. Did I understand the Special Adviser correctly that he is saying that the sum of $8 billion has to be written into the agreement but that we can use another phrase except “reparations?” [They nod yes] But it has to be stated as one of the articles of our agreement, as an obligation of the U.S.?

Le Duc Tho: In our view, what is important is the substance of the question, the responsibility of the U.S. in rebuilding, in healing the wounds of war in our country. As to the wording, we can use other words than “war reparations.” It can be other.

Dr. Kissinger: I am trying to understand. It must be part of the agreement. It cannot be an understanding?

Le Duc Tho: We feel that it should be written in the agreement.

Dr. Kissinger: I am just asking, I am not debating it now. Your concession is that we do not have to use the word “reparation” but some formulation that expresses our obligation to pay $8 billion to Vietnam, of which $4.5 billion goes to North Vietnam? That obligation remains.

Le Duc Tho: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: Over what period of time, do you think?

Le Duc Tho: As to that specific point, detail, we should discuss it later.

Dr. Kissinger: All right.

Le Duc Tho: I think you raised a period of 5 years.

Dr. Kissinger: All right. I understand now. Then, under point 2, I am a little bit confused. You say, “U.S. military aid for the Saigon Administration when the ceasefire comes into force in South Vietnam”—that is from point 2—but you also say that “the ceasefire comes into force only when the overall agreement is signed.” And when the overall agreement is signed, according to your proposal, a government of [Page 417] national concord comes into being. Do you visualize that the Saigon Administration continues in being after the government of national concord is formed?

Le Duc Tho: As we understand, we should now discuss all the military questions and political questions and settle all these questions before we proceed to a ceasefire. And once the ceasefire begins, then the U.S. military aid should stop. Because if the military aid continues after the ceasefire, then this would increase the danger of the resumption of hostilities in South Vietnam.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but what I don’t understand is: Is there a time interval between the ceasefire and the establishment of the government of national concord?

Le Duc Tho: As we understand, after the U.S. and DRV come to an agreement in principle on all military and political questions, then a second forum will be open between the PRG and the Saigon Administration to discuss and settle the details of the principles and the specific questions which have been agreed on. And when agreement is reached at the second forum, then there will be a ceasefire and when the ceasefire begins, since all agreement was reached at the second forum, then after this the government of national concord will assume its responsibilities. When the government of national concord assumes its obligations, then the PRG and the Saigon Administration have no reason to exist.

Dr. Kissinger: Then why do we have to stop supporting the Saigon Administration at that point, since it no longer exists?

Le Duc Tho: We think that after the formation of the government of national concord, then military aid should be stopped to any government in South Vietnam.

Dr. Kissinger: Including the PRG?

Le Duc Tho: Because the inception of the government of national concord then there will be a new situation. So the diplomatic relations with the other governments will be decided by the government of national concord including the question you raise.

Dr. Kissinger: What if it asks us for aid?

Le Duc Tho: We shall discuss this later. This is the discussion of specific questions. Since you have not yet agreed to the formation of a three-segment government, how can we discuss it?

Dr. Kissinger: Of course, our experience has been once we agree on something you raise a new demand. But this may be a misunderstanding of your actions. [laughter] I don’t want to do you an injustice because I recognize your good will. Now let me ask another question.

At the last meeting I asked you what happens to the provincial administration. You replied then that the provincial administration there would be three types: one which would continue to be governed [Page 418] by the Saigon Administration, a second which would be governed by the PRG, and the contested areas would have national concord administration. Did I understand that correctly?

Le Duc Tho: We said local administrations.

Dr. Kissinger: I am talking about local administrations.

Le Duc Tho: Let me reply to this question. Last time, sir, I told you that [in] those localities controlled by the Saigon Administration there will be formed a local administration directed by the Saigon Administration. In those localities controlled by the PRG there will be an administration by the PRG, but in those contested areas where there are people’s, popular, revolutionary movements, then there will be formed a three-segment local administration. But practically speaking, in fact in South Vietnam there is a popular movement everywhere in South Vietnam. Therefore you can see that in most places there will be three-segment administrations.

Dr. Kissinger: Except in those controlled by the PRG.

Le Duc Tho: I think that once the three-segment government of national concord is formed at the central level, then it is advisable that in any locality there should be also a three-segment government.

Dr. Kissinger: So every province will have a three-segment government?

Le Duc Tho: Then only this way can we realize the national concord. There will be no opposition. Because at present in many provinces there are armed forces by the PRG and Saigon administration. Without the national concord these opposing forces will be in constant dispute. Therefore we think it necessary that from the central level to the local level there should be three-segment administration. The actual situation in South Vietnam is that there are forces from both sides in every province. If there is no three-segment administration of national concord then the conflict will continue indefinitely. If you agree on the formation of the three-segment government, we and you will discuss measures to be taken to assure that this administration of three components will exist for a long-term existence. Once the three-segment government of national concord is formed, we and you will discuss measures to assure that national concord will be realized throughout the South of Vietnam, to avoid any resumption of hostilities, and for the preservation of lasting peace in South Vietnam, in the interest of the Vietnamese people and in the interest of the relations of the U.S. and . . .

Dr. Kissinger: We can’t send any more arms to South Vietnam but you can?

Le Duc Tho: I think that if you continue to give aid to South Vietnam then we will do the same, then the conflict will continue. I [Page 419] think that in speaking in a just way, then neither party should give aid any more. We think that with the formation of the government of national concord we can preserve lasting peace. It is our desire to achieve lasting peace in South Vietnam, to rebuild our country in the interest of the Vietnamese nation and in the interest of the U.S.

Dr. Kissinger: What happens to the other institutions in South Vietnam, the National Assembly, the judiciary, and so forth?

Le Duc Tho: I think that when the three-segment government of national concord is formed, then [for] the present National Assembly in South Vietnam there is no reason to exist. But it will take some time before general elections are held to elect a new assembly. I think once the three-segment government of national concord is formed, there is no reason for the present Assembly of South Vietnam to continue to exist, but it will take some time to organize a general election to elect a new assembly—on agreement between the parties.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand. Now may I ask another question? You are a practical man. Indeed you are a revolutionary leader. There are two armies in South Vietnam today. Now you are going to tell me they are going to be controlled by the government of national concord but the government of national concord is composed in turn of two elements that have been killing each other for 20 years. So the question is: Who is going to give orders to what army?

Le Duc Tho: As you know we have experienced long years of war, and between two belligerent forces, and there are long-standing contradictions between the people of Vietnam and the forces of the Saigon administration. The opposing forces have also long-standing hatred caused by the war. Therefore in the 7 points of the PRG there is a provision saying that after the end of the war both parties should refrain from reprisals and terrors and carry out the national concord. Therefore after the restoration of peace there should be created a propitious atmosphere to realize genuine national concord.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree on all of this, but who gives orders to the army?

Le Duc Tho: Regarding the armed forces in South Vietnam, since the three-segment government of national concord has been formed—unit government in South Vietnam—it is natural that this government should command the armies. After we agree on the formation of the three-segment government of national concord, then the parties will discuss how to organize the armies, how to command the armies, paying due attention to the concerns of both.

Dr. Kissinger: And if they can’t agree?

Le Duc Tho: They should make an effort and come to an agreement. If not the three-segment government will not be formed.

[Page 420]

Dr. Kissinger: What happens to your army while all of this is going on?

Le Duc Tho: The South Vietnam army?

Dr. Kissinger: The North Vietnam army in South Vietnam. The army that you told me before . . .

Le Duc Tho: These forces are now under the supreme command of the armed forces of South Vietnam.

Dr. Kissinger: In other words they will be treated as part of the PRG forces?

Le Duc Tho: Actually they are under the high command, the supreme command of the armed forces of the PRG. I think we should not go into the details now, but we should discuss to see whether it is possible to form a three-segment government.

Dr. Kissinger: But I have a very bureaucratic mind, and my mind is slower than that of the Vietnamese, so if I could just pursue it. I am just trying to understand; we won’t go into the details.

The reason you would like the future of South Vietnam forces to be discussed in the second forum rather than the third forum is because you consider the North Vietnam forces that are in South Vietnam are a part of the PRG force structure. I am trying to understand your thinking. I am not arguing with you.

Le Duc Tho: Now all the fighting forces in South Vietnam are presently put under the same command of the supreme command of the Liberation Armed Forces of South Vietnam. They have the same organization. They have the matriculation numbers under the high command. That is the reason why we refer the question of Vietnamese Armed Forces to the second forum.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand that. Let me sum up my understanding of what you just said. After the ceasefire, military aid by the U.S. has to stop. Did I understand that correctly?

Le Duc Tho: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: Then after that the government of national concord is formed, and in the government of national concord the forces controlled by the PRG and the forces controlled by the Saigon administration get amalgamated.

Le Duc Tho: And both under the command of the national concord government.

Dr. Kissinger: Under the national concord government. And all the forces under the command of the Liberation Forces are treated as a unit, and that is why you want it in the second forum.

Le Duc Tho: Right.

Dr. Kissinger: I understood it correctly. All right, that is all I wanted to know. Let me ask you another question. What is the third forum [Page 421] going to discuss? Just as an example. You don’t have to give me the whole thing.

Le Duc Tho: [Picks up a paper to read from]: This is some of the problems to be discussed by the third forum.

Dr. Kissinger: I know, but give me an example. Have you been holding out a paper on me, Mr. Special Adviser? I see you got another paper. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: The third forum will discuss three questions: the status of the demilitarized zone and the provision of military demarcation lines; second, the reestablishment of normal relations between the two zones; and third, the timing and the way to reunify Vietnam. This is the subject of discussion by the three-party forum.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand. Now as long as you got that paper, do you mind telling me what the second forum is going to discuss? [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: Briefly speaking, after agreement is reached by the DRV and the U.S. on all military and political questions and other questions, then these agreed questions in general terms will be referred to the second forum for discussion of the specific questions. Regarding the political questions, after this forum, the DRV and the US, have agreed on the principles and main contents of the principles, then the second forum will discuss the specific questions. For the military questions the second forum will discuss the questions of armed forces.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand. Now let me summarize one thing so I understand. I may not be a good negotiator but I am a good student, I am trying to be a good student. As I understand the Special Adviser . . .

Le Duc Tho: Yes, you are a student of giving us too much concern to detail and too much concrete things.

Dr. Kissinger: You see the trouble is, Mr. Special Adviser, when I’m being difficult he doesn’t want me to be concrete, but when I make concessions I can’t be concrete enough.

Forty-eight hours from now when I am in Saigon they are going to ask me all of these things—at least our Ambassador is; I am not going into detail with the South Vietnamese on these other things. Now let me understand. My understanding of the second forum is as follows: You and we agree on the proposals and general content of both military and military questions. One of the things that has to be agreed to here, however, is that a government of national concord is formed and President Thieu resigns. Then you are prepared to discuss with the Government in Saigon the concrete, specific implementation of what we have agreed to in our forum. But before you do that they have to change their policy. Is that correct? [They nod yes.]

[Page 422]

In other words, the second forum cannot be opened until they change their policy. Even if you and we agree, they still have not enough to start the second negotiation unless they change their policy. Is that right?

Le Duc Tho: We would like to say that when we and you agree here on the principles and the main contents of the problem I raised last time, in the meantime the Saigon Administration changes its policy and then the second forum will be open.

Dr. Kissinger: But they must change their policy.

Le Duc Tho: They should, but what is important is that you and we should come to an agreement on the three-segment government.

Dr. Kissinger: But what do they have to do to change their policy?

Le Duc Tho: We have expressed our views in the documents given you last time.

Dr. Kissinger: [Finds a copy and examines it.] Now what is an act of terror?

Le Duc Tho: This is arrestations, jailing, imprisonment.

Xuan Thuy: Because of hatred, because of differing ideas.

Dr. Kissinger: One last question. I think it is my last question. You say the three-segment government is formed a third from the Saigon Administration, a third from the PRG, and another third which they each jointly appoint. Now does that mean, assuming there are 15 people in the government—well, it’s got to be an even number—18 people, that means six Saigon, six PRG, then the other six are jointly appointed. Does that mean each side can appoint three, or each individual man has to be agreed to by both sides?

Le Duc Tho: Suppose now the government of national concord included 18 members; six members belong to PRG, six members belong to Saigon administration, then the six remaining members belong to the neutralist force. Then the PRG and the Saigon administration will jointly approve them.

Dr. Kissinger: One by one, or can they each nominate which ones they want?

Le Duc Tho: I think that we will agree on what is neutralist and then the two parties should agree on each member of these six.

Dr. Kissinger: Jointly.

Le Duc Tho: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: I get the picture. So those are all the questions I have. We shall now study them carefully.

Le Duc Tho: Your questions are concrete, but your answers are in general terms. Let me now speak a few words about your views. The fact our views differ from yours in connection with the way to pose [Page 423] the problem for discussion. We wanted to remove, to get out the most difficult question, that is the political question, and thereafter it will be easy to settle all other problems.

Dr. Kissinger: Not the way you were talking earlier.

Le Duc Tho: As for you, it is just the contrary. You want to settle all the other questions and leave the political question aside. For instance, today you have not said any word on the problem of politics. Therefore, I think that the next time we should grasp the main problem to settle it, the main problem, the political problem, and the settlement of the political problem will open the way for the settlement of other problems. And in so doing we can also rapidly open the second forum. And after discussion and agreement on all military questions and political questions, then when they are referred to the Kléber Avenue conference, then the settlement will be more rapid. The way we have proposed allows rapid settlement. This is a serious proposal we mean.

Now, before breaking I would like to speak a few words more.

Today you have handed us three documents under Principles of Guiding a Solution, your 12 points now rearranged into 10 points, and the way to conduct negotiations. We shall carefully study these documents to find out the points on which we can agree and the points on which we disagree, and to discuss them. At this meeting you have not approached the political question that is the key question for the solution of the Vietnam problem. But you promised that the next meeting you will express your views on that subject, to respond to our Point 4 of our Ten Points. In posing the question to you and your answer to my question, you acknowledged that there are in reality two governments and two armies in South Vietnam, and you also acknowledged that in South Vietnam there is a third political force.

Dr. Kissinger: The Special Adviser gets carried away with his own enthusiasm. There are amorphous forces. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: They are concrete forces.

You said you will make an effort to find out a neutral solution to this point to meet our concern, or suspicion, that you want to eliminate the PRG, and to eliminate your suspicion that we want to eliminate the Saigon Administration. I hope that the next time you will express concrete views on our Point 4, and we shall express our remarks on the documents you have given us today and on the political question of South Vietnam.

Our view that if a just and logical settlement of the Vietnam problem is to be found, apart from the cessation of U.S. military activities in Vietnam and the withdrawal of U.S. forces and other forces in South Vietnam, the key question is the formation of a government which can really restore the independence, the neutrality, the democracy and the [Page 424] national concord of South Vietnam. A solution that reflects the reality of South Vietnam that there are two governments, two armies, three political forces there—in the spirit of mutual respect, equality and no annexation from either party.

I think we and you are advancing into genuine negotiations now. We are really serious and in good will in serious negotiation with you now and I do hope that you will show the same attitude. And you and we should avoid anything that can cause suspicion or distrust.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree.

Le Duc Tho: There is no other way if you want to go into genuine negotiation.

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, I reciprocate those sentiments. History will forget who got this or that advantage in the headlines but it will not forget if we manage to make peace. So the important thing is to remove distrust and to move seriously to a solution. If you could find it possible and we can find it possible to approach each other in this open spirit, then we should be able to settle this war very rapidly.

I do not want to mislead you. I certainly will not come back here accepting your Point 4. But I will make a very serious effort to find, as you said, a neutral ground between your position and our position, and to take very seriously the points you have made in the document you have handed me and in your presentation. And if you make the same effort then perhaps next time we can make a big advance.

Le Duc Tho: As you said, we shall make an effort. In the settlement of the Vietnam problem with you, we think of not only the immediate, the present, but we think of the long-term future. And only from this angle or point of view the settlement will be a solid one. It is in the long-term interest of the people of the two countries. Before the last private meetings I have told you about that.

Dr. Kissinger: Now we have two problems—to fix a time for our next meeting and to see how we can keep the Minister and our Ambassador occupied without making too many headlines.

First of all, let me make one other observation. We are not dragging out negotiations. We have no incentive in dragging out negotiations. If we have any incentive it is to settle. The longer there is a stalemate, the longer our opposition will have something to talk about, even without encouragement from you.

But as a practical matter, next week I have to go to the Republican Convention; the week after I should go to the meeting with Japanese Prime Minister. So the most convenient date for me would be September 8. But after that I would be willing to come back the following week to make up for that long interval so that we can work faster.

Le Duc Tho: The more frequent you return here the better.

[Page 425]

Dr. Kissinger: Well, we could tentatively say September 8 and then if there is any progress, September 15. But I don’t insist on it. I am just expressing my willingness. Or we can put two weeks in between. We don’t have to settle this now.

Le Duc Tho: Now we have only to settle the date for the next meeting. I intend to return to Vietnam after this meeting. Therefore I would propose, if possible, that the next meeting should be September 11. Because the 10th will be a Sunday.

Dr. Kissinger: The 11th is impossible for me. Should we say September 15?

Le Duc Tho: It is up to you.

Dr. Kissinger: The 11th happens to be impossible, but if we can’t do it on the 8th, then the next day is the 15th. [To Thuy]: The 14th is one of your days or I would propose the 14th, but I don’t want to deprive Ambassador Porter of your company.

Le Duc Tho: The 15th.

Dr. Kissinger: September 15th at 9:30. All right, I suggest and then we can settle subsequent meetings, but you will be back here?

Le Duc Tho: Yes, I will be back then.

Dr. Kissinger: I would like to express what I said before. It is entirely up to you and I do not do this with any particular intention. If our negotiations should reach a point where a meeting between me and other members of your Politburo would be desirable, I would be prepared to see whether we could find a mutual, convenient place. I have no complaint about this forum, and it is satisfactory to me. It is simply an expression of our serious desire to come to a rapid conclusion.

Le Duc Tho: What is your actual view, concrete view?

Dr. Kissinger: Well, I have not thought about where we could meet, for example. Concretely I would have to move somewhere visibly and then take a day off or two days off to meet quietly. I don’t know whether this is possible in Laos or some other place. But we would have to have made somewhat more progress before. Not at this stage; it would be premature.

Le Duc Tho: We shall examine your proposal.

Dr. Kissinger: Examine it. It is really up to you and we are drawing no conclusions from your decision.

Now, the last point concerns the two contestants, the Minister and the Ambassador. You are not taking him to Hanoi with you?

Xuan Thuy: I will not [go].

Dr. Kissinger: Well, how shall we conduct the meetings until the 15th?

Xuan Thuy: As we usually do.

[Page 426]

Dr. Kissinger: What I am trying to avoid is—I understand that we should not give the impression of progress. We should not give a misleading impression of progress. I understand that. But on the other hand we should not give the impression of totally irreconcileable hostility.

Xuan Thuy: Both sides will repeat each position.

Dr. Kissinger: Could the Minister perhaps eliminate the adjectives and just use the nouns? [Laughter] You can lend your adjectives to Madame Binh. [Laughter] I think you know, what I am talking about. Attacks on the President present particular difficulty.

Xuan Thuy: I should explain to you about that. Because President Nixon held his press conference, because of his press conference which was reported throughout the world, and at the press conference President Nixon said the just struggle of the Vietnamese people are compared to fascist Hitler and the people’s struggle was “the most barbaric invasion in history.” This has been reported throughout the world and known to the whole world. I have no other way but to repeat the words used by President Nixon.

Dr. Kissinger: But there has been no other.

Xuan Thuy: Since there is no repetition I have no need to repeat it further.

Dr. Kissinger: Can I offer the Special Adviser a ride part way to Southeast Asia? We have a very comfortable plane.

Le Duc Tho: Thank you very much.

Dr. Kissinger: Are you leaving soon?

Le Duc Tho: In a few days. I would like to visit Saigon. [Laughter]

Dr. Kissinger: I tell you, you would get your name in the papers if you arrived with me!

Le Duc Tho: After settlement I will make use of your plane too, and it will be reported that we were discussing on the plane.

Dr. Kissinger: Well, I am counting on having a reunion with all my colleagues when this is all over.

Now I must go to Switzerland where my brother has arranged a meeting with relatives I haven’t seen for 15 years. So after being attacked by you all day, I will now be criticized all evening by my family for lack of communication.

Good journey, Mr. Special Adviser.

[The meeting thereupon ended.]

  1. 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.

    As directed by Kissinger, Haig reported to President Nixon that the 7½-hour “meeting was a holding action pending review in the capitals by both sides, especially on the political issue.” Haig continued: “Kissinger informed the other side that he was proceeding to Saigon to discuss the negotiations. Le Duc Tho, in turn, told Dr. Kissinger that he was returning to Hanoi in a few days to review the North Vietnamese position and it was then clear that he was not about to give anything away prior to that review. Kissinger emphasized that the PR effect of the nearly simultaneous visit of Kissinger to Saigon and Le Duc Tho to Hanoi should be significant.”

    A stamped notation on Haig’s memorandum indicates the President saw it, and Nixon wrote on the last page as follows:

    “I. Al—It is obvious that no progress was made & that none can be expected—Henry must be discouraged—as I have always been on this front until after the election.

    “We have reached the stage where the mere fact of private talks helps us very little—if at all. We can soon expect the opposition to begin to make that point.

    “II. Disillusionment about K’s talks could be harmful psychologically—particularly in view of the fact that the Saigon trip, regardless of how we downplay it—may raise expectations.

    “What we need most now is a P.R. game plan to either stop talks or if we continue them to give some hope of progress.” ( Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. VIII, Vietnam, January–October 1972, Document 237)

    In an August 19 memorandum to President Nixon, Kissinger provided further details about this meeting:

    “As the meeting headed toward a close I registered my disillusionment with their generally negative performance. They could hardly expect me to work hard in Saigon on political issues when they were underscoring differences on other issues as well. This had a salutary effect; their tone changed markedly:

    “—They emphasized that both sides had been showing good will and that we were engaged in serious negotiations.

    “—They emphasized that neutral ground must be found on the tough questions, like the political issues.

    “—They opined that if the political problem could be solved, the other issues would fall into place.

    “—They underlined their desire for rapid progress toward a settlement.

    “—And Tho informed me that he was returning shortly to Hanoi; this was the first time he had accounted for his travels to me. (Ibid., Document 246. A stamped notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.)

    Le Duc Tho and Xuan Thuy, looking beyond this meeting, assessed for the Politburo a way forward for the next stage of the Paris talks:

    “[A]fter the three last private meetings, we decided

    “—gradually to lead the US into real negotiations, and

    “—step by step to try to understand the US scheme.

    “Watching how much they show their cards, we should open our hands as wide as they do. Generally speaking, we should see what they put forward to follow suit and then play a similar card. However, we must be flexible, it was not necessary that they always made the first step and we always followed them, at times we should take the initiative to show our card first for sounding purposes and to direct them to our aim.

    “We should firmly hold principles and be flexible in tactics.” (Luu and Nguyen, Le Duc Tho-Kissinger Negotiations in Paris, p. 273)