18. Memorandum of Conversation1
- Le Duc Tho, Special Adviser to the North Vietnamese Delegation
- Xuan Thuy, Minister, Chief North Vietnamese Delegate to the Paris Peace Talks
- Mr. Phan Hien, Adviser to the North Vietnamese Delegation
- Mr. Nguyen Dinh Phuong, Interpreter
- Mr. Thai, Notetaker
- Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
- Mr. Winston Lord, NSC Staff Member
- Mr. John Negroponte, NSC Staff Member
- Cdr. Jonathan Howe, NSC Staff Member
- Mr. David Engel, Interpreter
- Miss Irene G. Derus, Notetaker
Dr. Kissinger (to Xuan Thuy): Have you been following the Special Adviser’s travels?
Minister Xuan Thuy: I have also been following yours.
Dr. Kissinger: I thought we might meet at some airport.
Dr. Kissinger: I have three technical things if I may raise them so that we can start our meeting without additional controversy.
One, we are announcing today at 11:00 o’clock—just as we have last time—just in one sentence that we are meeting with you, which you have practically announced at the airport, and with my seeing Pompidou there was just no way in avoiding it.
Secondly, I have noted that the Provisional Revolutionary Government has put out the political points of our discussions. My understanding was that we would not reveal these discussions and no public proposal should be made. So I think we have again the same situation [Page 428] as last year—that while you are negotiating with us you are making proposals public. I thought we had an absolutely clear understanding on that subject. We can handle it but it is just useful to know that the understanding will be maintained.
The third point has to do with the release of prisoners. We appreciate of course that you are releasing those three prisoners and if you had released them to us or to some neutral country it would have produced some obligation of reciprocity, but you released them to a group of people who are better known in Hanoi than the United States and who are using it now to make propaganda and you have the opposite effect from the one you expect and it will frankly not make a very positive contribution and in my view will not help your position. But that is your problem. But I hope you can stop using the prisoners in order to influence our domestic situation because this way it will just produce bad feeling.
Finally so that we can plan our work, I should leave here around 4:15 in order to make my appointment with President Pompidou but if we are not finished I would be glad to meet this evening or tomorrow morning if we are not finished. But of course we may have everything agreed to by 3:00 o’clock already so I don’t want the Special Adviser or the Minister to delay agreeing until 4:15. Those are the general things I wanted to say.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: I think I would like to speak about the timing of our talks here. I think we should not use too much time about the information and that in the future we should not engage in [Page 429] lengthy discussions about the announcements of the meeting. I have stated on this score many times already.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: Dr. Kissinger has asked three questions. Let me speak about these three questions. First the question regarding the statement made by the PRG on September . . .
Dr. Kissinger: 11th.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: 11th last. I remember that at the recent Congress of the Republican Party President Nixon made a speech stating his position regarding the Vietnam problem. Therefore I think it is natural that the PRG speak about its position, to reaffirm its position and to answer to what President Nixon said. It is something natural. And I remark that the PRG’s statement made no mention at all about the private meeting between the DRV and the United States.
Regarding the second question about the release of American pilots. On the occasion of the National Day of the DRV we released three American pilots. This action evidences the humanitarian policies of the Vietnamese people and government while atrocious air attacks are being carried out against North Vietnam by the United States Air Forces. This action shows all the more clearly the good will of the DRV government and people and President Nixon himself made a statement to welcome this action.
Dr. Kissinger: I know it. I wrote it.
Minister Xuan Thuy: Therefore I think that we should raise this question again. There are many other Americans in the capacity as an individual or as an organization who requested us to release the American pilots, but we need not do that. As to the handing over of the pilots to the organization Committee for Liaison with American Families, this is an organization for humanitarian efforts and for social affairs with which we have had relations long ago. As to the whole question of the prisoners, it remains always in the proposals made at these negotiations.
As to the third question about your proposal to end our meeting before 4:15 and if we have not ended our work we shall resume tonight or tomorrow morning, I think we can agree to that. There is no objection. But as you said we also do hope that we can sign the agreement before 3:00 o’clock. And I think it is easy if today Dr. Kissinger will speak more concretely and more clearly.
Dr. Kissinger: Let me say one more word about the prisoners. It is entirely up to you whether you violate understandings or whether you release them with respect to our meeting or whether you release them to an organization like the one you are giving them to. You will [Page 430] see it will actually do you damage to release them to this group. You will see it. But if you had released them to us or brought them to Vientiane or to the Swedish Government it would have done you a great deal more good but I have trouble enough advising my own government. I don’t want to waste valuable time advising the Government of Hanoi. I don’t want to waste time.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: Let me add a few sentences to end this part. Regarding the statement of the PRG I feel we have kept what we have told you. Moreover this is an affair of the PRG itself. Moreover it does not mention anything about these private meetings. It only repeats what it has said previously, the PRG.
Regarding the question of prisoners—it is one question which will be negotiated between us and you. And this, the release, this time is not the first one. I am two years negotiating with Ambassador Harriman and President Lyndon Johnson. We had released two prisoners and at these times the prisoners were handed to social organizations too. This is only a manifestation of our good will.
As to our work here I would propose that if in case we do not terminate our work today, I propose we shall meet again tomorrow morning and let us have some rest in the evening. You are tired; we are too.
Dr. Kissinger: It is dangerous of course to let my colleagues alone in Paris for the evening.
Minister Xuan Thuy: They have been a long time in Paris previously. They are aware of all small streets and corners of Paris.
Dr. Kissinger: So am I but I am too well known.
Minister Xuan Thuy: Please, now you said the previous time that after your trip to Saigon you would express on point 4.
Dr. Kissinger: Well I don’t know whether I should impose on Vietnamese hospitality at this point. For three successive meetings I spoke first. I don’t know if that is the courteous approach.
Minister Xuan Thuy: You said previously that after your trip to Saigon you would speak about point 4 so, in respect, we request you to speak first.
Dr. Kissinger: But I didn’t say I would speak before or after you and I see that both of you gentlemen have papers in front of you and your impatience may get too great and you may interrupt and read them before I am through.
(Laughter) I think I will talk first.[Page 431]
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: So now you are paying your debt to me.
Dr. Kissinger: I will make some general observations and make a few introductory remarks before I get to the paper itself.
I wanted to tell the Special Adviser, and the Minister, that at the end of our previous meeting, he said that we are now entering serious negotiations. I want him to know that this is our view as well.
The Special Adviser also said that the two sides must find a middle ground between our positions in order to reach a settlement. That, too, is our view.
That is why for the last month we have reviewed each other’s proposals and our own positions with great seriousness and purposefulness and why I went to South Vietnam officially to discuss the negotiations.
In your propaganda you have pictured all this activity as a meaningless charade. But you should know that these actions represent a major effort by the United States to move toward an early settlement of the war. And I hope you have enough sources in Saigon to confirm that fact. Since you must know the real situation, we find it inconsistent with your protestations of good will that your spokesmen continue to distort our efforts and attack our negotiators.
So the first step that must be taken here is that each of us show a serious awareness of the other’s real problems and that there is a mutual search for the “middle ground” between our two positions. The time is ripe for an overall solution. But I must also tell you that the time is short.
We have a new proposal today and I would like to give you its background.
I presented your plan of August 1 in Saigon. You will not be astonished to hear that these plans were not greeted with complete enthusiasm and that we were criticized even for presenting them. We had some extremely difficult exchanges.
Clearly the political issue is the basic problem we face in these negotiations. Saigon sees in your plans a device for installing a Communist government. Even if we do not agree with every point of Saigon’s criticism, we do believe that its objective consequence would be to guarantee the predominance of your supporters.
Your side, on the other hand, rejects an automatic reconfirmation of the present government in Saigon.
Faced with this problem, we have sought to find a middle ground, to shape a solution that is just to both sides. Our new plan seeks to remove any unfair advantage for the incumbents without at the same time guaranteeing a victory for any other force.[Page 432]
In order to speed agreed positions with Saigon we have in certain instances used neutral formulations. We want you to know that we will interpret them in the sense of our discussions here and use all our influence in other forums which may open after we agree in principle. I will indicate these interpretations to you after I have presented the plan. We will stand by all that we have told you previously as well as the new elements we now introduce formally and those we give you as informal interpretations. But I must repeat—no progress is possible unless we grant each other’s good faith and recognize that this is an objectively difficult problem.
Here then is our new proposal. It presents great difficulties for our friends—but we are confident that if you and we agree, it can be implemented.
Now let me ask the Special Adviser and the Minister how I should proceed. I can either read the entire plan including the portion unchanged from the last time or just the new portion. Which do you prefer?
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: I propose that you read the whole proposal.
Dr. Kissinger: All right. I just said it in the interest of time. If we can meet again that is no problem.
1. The United States respects the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Vietnam, as recognized by the 1954 Geneva Agreements on Vietnam.
2. 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 within three months after the signing of the overall agreement.
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.
Dr. Kissinger (aside to Mr. Lord): He understands every word.
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.
4. The South Vietnamese people’s right to self-determination, free from any outside interference, will be respected.[Page 433]
a) The South Vietnamese people will decide the political future of South Vietnam through genuinely free and democratic Presidential elections, review of the Constitution, and any other political processes they agree upon which will reflect the aspirations and will for peace, independence, democracy, and national reconciliation of the entire people.
Electoral procedures will guarantee freedom and equality during the campaign and balloting for all citizens, irrespective of their political tendencies or place of residence.
A Presidential election will be held within five months of an overall agreement.
The Presidential election will be organized and supervised by a Committee of National Reconciliation which will assume its responsibilities on the date of overall agreement. This body will decide electoral procedures, determine the qualification of candidates, ensure the fairness of voting and verify the election results.
The composition of the Committee will be as follows:
—Representatives of the Republic of Vietnam to be designated by the Government of the Republic of Vietnam;
—Representatives of the NLF to be designated by the NLF;
—Representatives of other political and religious tendencies in South Vietnam designated by mutual agreement between the Government of the Republic of Vietnam and the NLF.
There will be international supervision of this election.
b) Before the Presidential election, the incumbent President and Vice President of South Vietnam will resign. The Chairman of the Senate will assume the responsibilities of a caretaker head of government except for those responsibilities pertaining to the Presidential elections, which will remain with the Committee of National Reconciliation.
c) When he assumes office, the new President will form a new government in which all political forces will be represented in proportion to the number of popular votes they received in the Presidential election.
(Aside to Mr. Engel: All political forces. You explain that.)
d) After the Presidential election, the Constitution will be reviewed for its consistency with the conditions of peace, with a view to restoring a spirit of national reconciliation throughout the country.
e) The right of all political forces to participate freely and peacefully in every aspect of the political process will be guaranteed. In addition to the Presidential election, all political forces will be eligible for appointment or election to positions in various branches of government.[Page 434]
f) In keeping with the provisions of Article 14(C) of the 1954 Geneva Accords, the Vietnamese parties will undertake to refrain from any reprisals or discrimination against persons or organizations on account of their activities during the hostilities and to guarantee democratic liberties.
g) For its part, the United States declares that it respects the South Vietnamese right to self-determination; it will remain completely neutral with respect to the political process in South Vietnam; and it will abide by the outcome of any political process shaped by the South Vietnamese people themselves.
I will add some unilateral American interpretations after we have finished reading this document so that you will know how we will interpret these provisions in the various forums.
5. The question of Vietnamese armed forces in South Vietnam will be settled by the Vietnamese parties themselves in a spirit of national reconciliation, fairness, and mutual respect; without foreign interference and with a view to lessening the burdens of the people.
6. The reunification 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 reunification will be agreed upon after a suitable interval following the signing of an overall agreement.
Pending reunification, North and South Vietnam will promptly start negotiations toward the reestablishment of normal relations in various fields on the basis of mutual respect.
(Mr. Hien asked if this was 6 and Dr. Kissinger replied “yes.”)
Dr. Kissinger (continuing): This is still part of point 6.
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.[Page 435]
8. The countries of Indochina shall pursue a foreign policy of peace and independence. They will observe the military provisions of the Geneva Agreements of 1954 and 1962, 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 general 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.
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, 4, 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 belligerent parties prior to the ceasefire.
b) There will be an international guarantee for the respect of the ceasefire, 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 belligerent parties.
[2 lines of text in the original are cut off.]
Let me comment on this plan in relation to our August 14 proposals.
Now let me review these points and give you additional comments and interpretations.
In point 2 you will notice we have reduced the time for our withdrawal from four months to three months. I know the Special Adviser is very difficult to please. If I come here some day and say we have withdrawn our forces yesterday, he will say it should have been done the day before yesterday.
In point 5 we have substituted the word “fairness” for “equality” for the sake of agreement of our associates. However, if in order to obtain agreement that the word “equality” should be a decisive one, [Page 436] I will tell you now that we are prepared to return to it. If we can settle everything else, I think we can settle that point.
Now let me come to two important sets of interpretation. One concerns point 9, ceasefire. The other concerns point 4, the political plan. First, with respect to point 9, ceasefire.
At our last session the Special Adviser said that the relation of a ceasefire to a political settlement is one of the two major remaining differences. You asserted that a ceasefire before resolution of the political questions effectively separates political from military issues. Thus, your position has been that a ceasefire should come only after all problems have been settled and after an overall agreement is signed.
Your approach to this issue is a good example of your constant attempt to have the best of both worlds. You want to keep on fighting and extend your military influence. On the other hand, you claim in advance that a settlement should yield you political dominance of areas where your forces have not extended their control.
You demand our total withdrawal from Vietnam. However, when we offer to do it, you insist that our forces stay on until we have first helped to bring about your preferred political structure.
You complained, for example, in the August 31 article of the Nhan Dan Commentator about the failure to recognize the PRG. But you reject a ceasefire which would lead to a de facto recognition of the PRG. The article claimed that a ceasefire now would leave the large South Vietnamese army in the field to control elections. But there was no mention of the large North Vietnamese army that would also be in the field and—according to you at our last meeting—under PRG command. In a ceasefire-in-place the two standing forces would balance out and would help ensure an equitable political process.
In May, July, and August of this year we have made a range of proposals on ceasefire. We offered an immediate ceasefire. We offered a temporary ceasefire. Failing that, we offered a mutual reduction of hostilities. You have rejected all these initiatives.
We have also proposed that a ceasefire could take place after agreement in principle and while the details were being worked out. This, too, you have rejected.
We still believe that our approach is practical and just. An early ceasefire would do the following:
—Create a political reality and thus is the best means of linking political and military issues—just the opposite of what you maintain.
—Produce a de facto control situation in the country, reflecting the real balance of forces.
—Serve humanitarian ends.
However, in order to speed a comprehensive agreement the President has decided to accept your position on this issue. I am authorized [Page 437] to tell you that we are now prepared to agree—if a settlement depends on it—that a ceasefire should take place after an overall agreement is signed. We shall interpret point 9 to mean that a ceasefire shall occur only at the end of the negotiating process. We have thus fully met your point that a comprehensive solution should precede cessation of hostilities.
Now let me turn to point 4, the political issue. We agree that this has emerged as the key element.
We can agree to a solution that leaves the political evolution of South Vietnam to the free decision of its people. We specifically address your assertion that any political process within the present framework is bound to be controlled by the incumbents and will reconfirm the present power structure. Thus we have proposed a solution that removes any inequitable advantages for the current government, excludes no political force, and assures an equal chance for all forces.
Specifically, the test of popular opinion will be run by a committee composed of the elements you proposed. We have thus accepted your tripartite principle even though there is no popular mandate for such representation. And we will apply it as well to the body that will review the Constitution. In the government formed after the election we envisage a tripartite representation as well—but in proportion to the votes achieved rather than arbitrarily fixing equal shares in advance of such a vote. The distinction we make is that we are prepared to give you a veto over the control arrangements on which the fairness of the electoral outcome depends, but we will not in advance determine the outcome of the popular will.
To make this approach more concrete we are willing to give you our interpretation of some of the provisions of our proposal.
We will interpret the composition of the Committee of National Reconciliation in the tripartite sense of equal proportions that you have advanced. In other words, our formulation is composed of the formula you gave us.
These are unilateral interpretations.
Two, with respect to the Constitution, we believe that revisions will be needed after peace is made. We believe that the Committee of National Reconciliation should play a major role in the revision and we are prepared to interpret paragraph 4 in that sense and to use our influence in that direction so the Committee will not end its work with the election.
Dr. Kissinger (to Xuan Thuy): Did you understand this?
Minister Xuan Thuy: Yes.
Dr. Kissinger: Do you think your associate understands?[Page 438]
Minister Xuan Thuy: I understand that the election commission is now called the National Reconciliation Committee and it is composed of three elements.
Dr. Kissinger: As you described it and that it will continue after the election to work on the revisions of the Constitution. But this last point is our interpretation and will have to be an understanding between you and us.
The various branches of government referred to in point 4(e) refer to the executive, legislative and judicial branches, all three.
We believe that the date for the resignation of the incumbents—specified as one month before the election in our January plan—is negotiable. If this question proves important for overall agreement, we will use our influence in this direction.
We believe that these plans and these interpretations would shape a political process that is fair to all parties.
We have sought the middle ground with a concrete and reasonable proposal:
Let me summarize.
We have provided that the political structure in South Vietnam be tested by the popular will. The incumbent President would resign. There would be new popular elections. The Constitution would be subject to revision. And the South Vietnamese would also be free to decide on any other political process to form a new government.
We have accepted the principle of three main political forces and tripartite organizations for all control bodies. Thus the Committee of National Reconciliation, which would have the crucial functions of running the elections and helping in the review of the Constitution, would be composed of representatives of the GVN, NLF and other independent political tendencies. This prevents the government from dominating the political process and guarantees all forces equality in the control and supervisory forums.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: You mean besides the election commission there is another body for the control and supervision of the election?
Dr. Kissinger: No. But there is international supervision.
We have assured representation for your side and other forces in the future government. The various forces would gain seats in proportion to the number of votes they received in the Presidential election. Thus this government, too, would have representatives of the three forces you specify. The only thing we have not done is to guarantee the number of seats for any of the forces. That we leave to the people of South Vietnam.[Page 439]
We have provided for a process of several stages. Rather than freezing the political structure after one event, there would be a continuing evolution with all forces having an effective voice.
We agree that the details of this political settlement be resolved before there is a ceasefire.
We accept your position on the implementation of various aspects of an agreement. As you know, our view has been that certain aspects of a settlement, such as withdrawals and the release of prisoners, could be carried out while other details were still being worked on. While we continue to object strongly to your holding our prisoners as hostage, we are prepared to change our position on the sequence issue as well. To show our good will and to remove your fear that we might renege on an agreement in principle, we now agree that implementation of the withdrawal and prisoner provisions would not begin until all negotiations are completed and overall agreement is reached.
In addition to these new elements, we have retained our previous offers, such as U.S. neutrality toward the political process; eligibility for all political forces in all branches of government; and guarantees under Article 14(C) of the 1954 Geneva Agreements on which you have specifically insisted.
Furthermore, we have moved up the Presidential election to five, rather than six, months after the agreement.
Mr. Minister and Mr. Special Adviser, I mentioned earlier the recent editorial in your press and also the speech by your Prime Minister. I have read both with the greatest care.
The article asks rhetorically whether the incumbent’s resignation and an election would ever take place. You have our ironclad assurances on this point which we are willing to reaffirm to whatever countries you wish.
It asks whether elections could possibly be fair. We have specified that they will be controlled by a tripartite body.
It challenges the present Constitution. We have provided for its review and revision to bring it into harmony with the conditions of peace.
It points out the presence of the South Vietnamese army. But your own forces would exert their influence as well, and a ceasefire would bring about a de facto division of jurisdictions.
It argues for recognition of the PRG. This is assured de facto in a ceasefire and de jure in the key organizations and the future government.
It complains about our using the designation “NLF” instead of “PRG.” This is not a real issue. A standstill ceasefire would gain more acceptance for the “PRG” than any words we employ here. If we are [Page 440] serious, we should not waste our time on legal quibbles. The solution is that our side use the terminology we prefer, that your side use the terminology you prefer, and that both sides sign both documents.
We have made a genuine and maximum effort to take account of your concerns. This does not mean that we are making our proposals as a take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum. If you are prepared to consider our plan, we are ready to explore modifications within its framework. But for you to wait for new major concessions will cause you once again to miss the opportune time for a settlement. And for us to suggest that such major concessions were possible would be to mislead you both on what we are willing to do and even more on what we are able to deliver.
We are vividly aware of the difficulties we have gone through in order to table this proposal today. We are also conscious of what is required of us to give you these additional interpretations. Against this background, it would be extremely unfortunate if you subjected us once again to your standard charge that we have offered nothing new. You must choose between making debating points and making real progress. You must decide whether to waste the next two months haggling over legal fine print or to use this period to agree on a course and to implement it, energetically in the other forums. And time is getting short.
At our last meeting and in communications since then, we have discussed the suggestion that we meet in another location if the negotiating situation warranted.
The President has authorized me to reiterate today his offer to send me to Hanoi or any other mutually agreeable place if we make significant progress here. This is a sign of our good faith and our willingness to explore every avenue toward a settlement. You will surely appreciate the political significance and the inherent status conveyed by such a move, and the guarantee that it would provide for our undertakings.
We want to end this war rapidly. Not only to stop the suffering, but to provide justice for both sides. Not only to cease hostilities, but to turn energies to the tasks of peace and reconciliation. Clearly our two countries and our two peoples share an overriding interest in a peace that comes soon and a peace that will last.
If you see things the same way, you will find us dedicated partners in the quest for peace.
I now look forward to hearing the new proposals you promised us last time.
Minister Xuan Thuy: Let us have a little break and when we resume we shall express our views.[Page 441]
Dr. Kissinger: That is what I am afraid of. We can give you a document to sign upstairs if you want.
Minister Xuan Thuy: Would you propose that we sign the document you have just presented?
Dr. Kissinger: Yes. As a matter of fact then we can all have dinner together tonight.
Minister Xuan Thuy: The document should be agreed first.
Dr. Kissinger: He’s always raising unnecessary details.
(At 11:26 a.m. the meeting broke for a short recess.)
(During the break, the Special Adviser and Dr. Kissinger met in the sitting room and the following conversation took place.)
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: So you have been traveling a lot?
Dr. Kissinger: Yes and I can tell you that . . .
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: There is a big difference between the North Vietnamese and the South Vietnamese because the South Vietnamese are under your control.
Dr. Kissinger: That is not completely true. That has not been my experience in the last month. It is not helpful if I get attacked personally.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: I have taken note of your message.
Dr. Kissinger: I appreciate it. Did you stay in Moscow Sunday night? I was really hoping you might be at the airport to greet me.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: We should meet in Paris.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree with you completely. We shouldn’t negotiate with others. I completely agree and we have not proposed to Moscow that we should meet there. We have talked in general terms about their ideas but we have not come to any decisions. That is up to you.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: I, too, directly negotiate with you.
Dr. Kissinger: We have not given this plan to anybody yet, including within our own government.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: You should have given it to them.
Dr. Kissinger: We don’t want to make publicity. We will give it to Ambassador Porter eventually. For his information but not to present it. He will not present it unless we agree on something.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: If we should agree, when will you meet our other leaders?
Dr. Kissinger: It is up to you if you think it would help the process.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: Providing we should make basic progress here.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, otherwise it is senseless; otherwise it creates wrong impressions.[Page 442]
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: And it might be that we can’t reach any settlement.
Dr. Kissinger: If we can’t reach agreement here it is senseless to meet your other leaders. If we reach agreement here and there is some lateral issue to discuss, then we can do it but we thought of this as a guarantee for you. We are satislied to negotiate with you and it is more convenient for me to do it here than to do it there.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: But what is your idea about your schedule of our negotiations here. We should settle by what date?
Dr. Kissinger: The quicker the better. In practice it is not—our election now makes no difference any more and we don’t need a settlement for the election. I can show you some polls. We are so far ahead that it makes no difference. So we are not talking about the election.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: But is it better that we should settle before the election or is it better to settle it after the election?
Dr. Kissinger: I think it’s better that we settle before the election but not for the election.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: Then we should make an effort.
Dr. Kissinger: But not for the election. Actually our experts tell us that settling it now would be a slight liability the way things have developed because McGovern has so few votes that his supporters will not join us no matter what we do and so we will lose some people on our right, but still we should settle it. It would be good to have it settled in this Administration. Then we can start the new Administration without Vietnam as an issue. So we are prepared to make a big effort.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: If you make an effort we will do the same to find out a solution.
Dr. Kissinger: It would be a good thing.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: But you should make an effort. As I told you, we should create some mutual comprehension and mutual trust.
Dr. Kissinger: I know your concerns. We have been making a big effort. It has been a very difficult month for us. We had a great deal of opposition among some of my colleagues and even more opposition in Saigon.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: Yes, it is more complicated in Saigon—too many voters, too many factions, probably you can’t grasp them all.
Dr. Kissinger: It is sometimes true that in very nationalistic countries they have a very strong government. That is the only way they can survive.[Page 443]
I have spent more hours with the Special Adviser than with almost anyone else in the last four years.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: But without settlement yet.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but we will try to do that.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: But this time there is an opportunity, so I agree with you that the situation is ripe now. Please have a rest.
(11:45—The Special Adviser left the sitting room.)
(12:02 p.m.—The meeting reconvened.)
Dr. Kissinger: Did the Minister have any vacation this summer?
Minister Xuan Thuy: Some days vacation. The vacation was prescribed by the physician. I from time to time have some inflammation of the throat.
Dr. Kissinger: Where did you go? To the South?
Minister Xuan Thuy: I went to a vacation in the mountains of southern France.
Dr. Kissinger: And it was a cool summer or did you have good weather?
Minister Xuan Thuy: Fine weather there.
Dr. Kissinger: Oh good. I guess the Special Adviser was very busy when he was in Hanoi?
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: The trip was very tiring because it took me a few days to come here.
Dr. Kissinger: How long does it take?
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: Two days, not counting the time spent avoiding air raids.
Dr. Kissinger: In Hanoi?
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: In Hanoi.
Minister Xuan Thuy: The Special Adviser will speak.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: I have listened to your presentation, to your proposal. Now let me make some questions. Chiefly I would like to ask questions on point 4.
You speak about the National Reconciliation Commission with the three segments. I would like to know whether this is a body organized at the various levels from the central level, provincial levels and downward?
Dr. Kissinger: That is a very good question, Mr. Special Adviser, and we have not really given that formal consideration. I want to be honest with you. But I do think that if this Commission is to work effectively it must have subordinate organizations in the provinces or at least in the regions; but it cannot all be done in Saigon.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: And as you said according to the task given to this National Reconciliation Commission, while this Commis[Page 444]sion is carrying out its task, what is the role played by the Saigon Administration and the PRG there?
Dr. Kissinger: Of course it depends when we have the ceasefire. If the ceasefire is as you proposed, at the end of the process—at any rate there will be a ceasefire at that point. If there is a ceasefire, I would think that each of the organizations would have de facto control of its territory. But the Commission would work throughout the country. Now probably what will happen is that both the PRG and Saigon Government will claim that they have control of the whole country but we don’t have to address that issue here. I mean there will have to be lines drawn for the ceasefire.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: Now let me express our views.
As you said recently, the situation now is ripe for political settlement of the Vietnam problem. And as you said we should rapidly come to a settlement of the Vietnam problem. If you mean what you say, then we will move in the same direction. The last three meetings have shown clearly our good will and serious intent. And in meetings in the future we shall adopt the same attitude. If the United States adopted the same constructive attitude of good will and serious intent, we are firmly convinced that the war can be ended and peace can be restored to Vietnam, thus creating favorable conditions for the restoration of peace in Indochina. And, as I repeatedly said, if we can reach a peaceful settlement in Indochina this will be to the benefit of the Vietnamese people, the American people and the Indochina people. Therefore today with a constructive spirit, with a view to bring these negotiations to progress, I will express my views on three questions.
First, I would speak on our statement of our policies and our principles. Second, I will speak about the content of the solution to the Vietnam problem. Third, I will speak about the way to conduct negotiations.
We have carefully studied the document you handed us on August the 14th and on the basis of the documents we handed to you on August the 1st and on August the 14th, today I will put forward new contents—concrete contents—with a view to achieve a big step forward to total peace.
First about our statement on our general principles and policies. The other day you gave us a document called “Agreed Principles Guiding a Settlement.” We think that in order to correctly pose the problem we should start from the fact that the cause of the war in Vietnam is the invasion of Vietnam by U.S. forces and that the Vietnamese people are the victims of U.S. aggression. Therefore it is clear that the principles mentioned in your document are not consonant with the objective realities of these historical circumstances and they cannot guide, they cannot serve as the general principles common to both [Page 445] sides. Therefore I think that regarding the principles—the statement of principles—the policy statement—each side can issue its own policy statement and each side can take note of the statements made by the other side. The other day we took note of a number of principles raised by you on August the 14th. But we remark that in the document you gave us and the document was called “Agreed Principles Guiding a Settlement” you have dropped two points and I would like to draw your attention on this fact. The first one you have dropped is the statement that the United States does not ask for a pro-U.S. government in South Vietnam and that the United States undertakes to put an end to all U.S. involvement in Vietnam and undertakes not to return to Vietnam.
Dr. Kissinger: On your first point, I have a statement on that in point 3 (of our agreed statement of principles). Where is the other one?
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: Two points. You have dropped two points. Now the second point you have dropped. You have dropped the point that the United States wants a peaceful, independent, neutral Southeast Asian region and does not want any bases or military alliances for the United States in this region. I don’t know for what reason you have dropped these two points.
Dr. Kissinger: Now wait a minute. We operated on the basis of the paper you gave us. Now I have found that one sentence about the pro-American government. We are talking about the paper you gave us on August 1. Oh yes, point 4. I have found it. Now the two points are—I just want to get it straight—one about the pro-American government and the other one is the neutrality of Southeast Asia. Is that correct? Those are the two points?
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: Right.
Dr. Kissinger: I will answer the Special Adviser later. There is no point in my answering now.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: I don’t know for what reason you have dropped these two points. We wonder whether you still want a pro-American government in Saigon. Do you want to continue the U.S. involvement in South Vietnam or do you want to return to Vietnam in the future? Or do you want to maintain military bases in this area for more aggression against this area?
For our part, on July 19 I have clearly expressed my general point of view on the objective of the Vietnamese people’s struggle, about our policies toward the two zones, North and South Vietnam, our policies toward Laos, Cambodia and the Southeast Asia region and our policies toward the United States. Today I will hand to you a document writing down these statements of ours. (Hands Dr. Kissinger a document entitled “Statement by the DRVN side on a number of principles and general principles” at Tab E.)[Page 446]
Now the second part of my question is about the content of the solution of the Vietnam problem I present today. This solution contains 10 points. I will hand to you the different documents.
Dr. Kissinger: Could I just interrupt the Special Adviser for one minute. What is this document? Is this a statement of principles that the DRV side represents? That is, the program of the DRV side?
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: This is a statement of the views I have expressed the other day and reflecting the general principles and policies of the DRV.
Dr. Kissinger: Right.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: Now let me speak about the contents of the solution to the Vietnam problem. I will give you the written document of this 10 point solution. I have compared our stand with the 10 points you gave us the last time. Today you have elaborated on these 10 points, particularly on point 4. Today before presenting our own proposal I would like to make some preliminary remarks on your presentation today.
In your statement today you have agreed to settle both the military questions and the political questions at the same time. Today you have also agreed that after the settlement of all military and political questions then we proceed to the signing of an overall agreement and then a ceasefire will take place and only thereafter the process of troop withdrawal and the release of prisoners would be made. And on concrete points, I will express my own views in comparison with your views and then I shall make some remarks so as to put in perspective the points on which we are still disagreed so that we concentrate our attention to solving them in future meetings.
Dr. Kissinger: Right.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: In the 10 point solution I shall present to you today there are four important questions on which I shall express my views first and then I shall express my views on the remaining questions.
The first important question is the United States undertaking to respect the independence, the sovereignty, the unity and territorial integrity of Vietnam as recognized by the 1954 Geneva Agreements on Vietnam. It is the first important question.
The second important question is the total withdrawal of United States forces, and those of other foreign countries from South Vietnam.
The third important question is the political problem of South Vietnam.
The fourth important question is the United States responsibility to shoulder the healing of the war wounds and economic rehabilitation in the two zones of Vietnam. These are the four questions we think [Page 447] are necessary and they are closely linked to each other. To settle the one question cannot be disassociated from the settlement of other questions. If one of these questions remain unsolved it will create difficulty for the settlement of other questions.
First let me speak about the first question. According to us the United States should undertake to respect the independence, the sovereignty, the unity and territorial integrity of Vietnam. In the United States document you speak of the United States wish to respect the independence and the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Vietnam but you keep silent on the respect of the unity of Vietnam and in our view Vietnam is one. The Vietnamese people is one. The Geneva Agreements on Vietnam—the 1954 Geneva Agreements have recognized the unity of Vietnam and stipulate that the 17th parallel has a temporary character—not a political boundary. It is not a boundary dividing Vietnam forever. Therefore we would move that the United States should undertake to respect not only the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Vietnam but also the unity of Vietnam. This is one question of principle. You have put the question of reunification of Vietnam in your point 6.
Dr. Kissinger: Right.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: It is not appropriate because in that point you speak that there is a question that will be discussed by the two parties—the question of reunification. When you don’t quote the whole sentence of respect for the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Vietnam and you drop the word “unity” is it your intention to perpetuate the division of our country? Because practically it would mean that there is a division of Vietnam into two Vietnams and therefore we cannot accept this point of view and therefore we maintain our stand as mentioned in point 1. And in order to guarantee the respect for independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, our wording in point 1 is very accurate and strong to insure this principle of ours.
Dr. Kissinger: This is the new plan.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: Now regarding the military questions. First I would like to speak about the period for the troop withdrawal. For this period of troop withdrawal you proposed first 4 months, now you propose 3 months. I think it is a fairly long period because in our view it is quite enough if we give 1 month for the troop withdrawal of U.S. forces including all ground troops from South Vietnam. One month is enough. The quicker you withdraw from Vietnam then the quicker American pilots captured will be returned to their country. But as a sign of good will we propose that now this period be 45 days. It is a reasonable period. It does not take more time for the troop withdrawal. And the troop withdrawal will be carried out in parallel [Page 448] with the release of military men and civilians of two parties. Therefore the wording we would propose to say is: The total release of people of the parties, military men and civilians captured during the Vietnam war (including American pilots captured in North Vietnam). It is a more accurate wording than what you call “innocent civilians.”
Now I speak about the military aid to the Saigon administration. We think that after the war is ended—when the war ends, when the ceasefire takes place, then U.S. military aid to the Saigon administration should stop. Because you yourself said that you would withdraw all U.S. forces from South Vietnam and undertake to end all U.S. involvement in the situation in Vietnam. If so, how can you end U.S. involvement in South Vietnam if you continue to give military aid to the Saigon administration? And how can you put an end to the fighting between the two military forces in South Vietnam; that is the military force of the PRG and that of the Saigon administration if you continue to give military aid to the Saigon administration? The other day I told you that we think that the PRG and Saigon administration will both refrain from accepting military aid from anyplace.
I think that this way of settling the problems is very fair and reasonable and only in so doing can we preserve lasting peace in South Vietnam. I think that if, as you said, you wanted to put an end to all involvement in South Vietnam once and for all, then this desire should be manifested in concrete facts. This desire should be exteriorated by the total withdrawal of U.S. forces in South Vietnam and those of other countries in the camp of South Vietnam and also by the end of all military activities in Vietnam and also to end military aid to the Saigon administration. So not only you should put an end to present involvement in South Vietnam but the United States should undertake not to interfere in the internal affairs of Vietnam, not to return, not to encroach on the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of the two zones, South and North Vietnam. So we have materialized in detail our view, our stand in point 1 of our document. You yourself have stated that the United States would be prepared to accept a very strict definition of non-interference in the political life of South Vietnam. So I have finished on the first question and the second question.
Now I begin to speak about the third question—the political problem of South Vietnam. This is one question of utmost importance which we have made a great deal of discussions here. But this time you have put forward a number of concrete points particularly on the National Reconciliation Commission. But on other points it is similar to what you have previously proposed. Fundamentally, there is no change yet and for our side we have made our remarks during previous meetings. So I would invite you to read again the minutes of the views we have expressed. Today I do not want to repeat our views. We have made [Page 449] known our views; we have expressed them in previous meetings; we don’t think we should repeat our views again.
Now expressing my views on the political problems in South Vietnam we always proceed from the idea of respecting the right of self-determination of the South Vietnamese people. We also start from the recognition that actually in South Vietnam there exist two administrations, two armies and three political forces. And we start also from the premise of the need to establish in South Vietnam an administration of National Concord including three elements. These are the basic principles to settle the political problem of South Vietnam. If this basic principle is denied, it would be difficult to settle any question.
In the point 4 of our 10 point proposal tabled on August the 1st, 1972, we have put in a very concrete proposal regarding the political problems and particularly regarding the formation of a Provisional Government of National Concord with the three components. Today I will make a new proposal, a flexible proposal on this question aimed at reaching a solution acceptable to both sides. Here are the new elements of our new proposal. I will only point out the new elements.
Dr. Kissinger: The new elements.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: In our previous proposal we proposed the formation of a three segment Provisional Government of National Concord which led to the removal of both the PRG and Saigon administration immediately after the coming into office of the Government of National Concord and this time we propose the formation of a Provisional Government of National Concord above while the Saigon administration and the PRG remain in existence. This is a new element.
The second new element is that in our August the 1st proposal we proposed that the Provisional Government of National Concord would have full powers to deal with internal as well as external affairs. But since the present proposal plans for the remaining in existence of the PRG and Saigon administration so the powers of the 3 segment Provisional Government of National Concord would have some limitation in its power internally. And in the meantime the PRG and the Saigon administration will temporarily assume the administration of the regions under their respective control. But of course they have to implement the decisions of the Provisional Government of National Concord in the framework of the latter’s tasks and prerogatives. So the task of the Government of National Concord externally in foreign affairs will be to apply a foreign policy of peace and neutrality. And this government will unify the management of external affairs of South Vietnam because it represents the PRG as well as the Saigon administration and their own foreign relations and therefore the Government of National Concord will unify these external affairs. So the managing of external affairs now is concentrated in the 3 segment Provisional Government [Page 450] of National Concord. And the PRG and the Saigon administration will play its role in internal affairs in the regions under their respective control. Regarding the internal affairs this Government of National Concord will do the following things:
This Government will implement the signed agreement, will stimulate and supervise the implementation of the signed agreement by the two South Vietnam parties.
Second, to enforce the democratic liberties for the people, to stimulate and to supervise the enforcement of democratic liberties by the two South Vietnamese parties.
Third, to materialize national concord, to stimulate and supervise the materialization of the spirit of national concord by the two South Vietnamese parties.
Fourth, to organize consultation between the PRG and Saigon administration in order to settle matters concerning these two parties.
Fifth, to prepare the parties for free and democratic general elections in South Vietnam and then to organize free and democratic elections in South Vietnam.
Now at the inferior levels—provinces, cities, towns, districts, villages—there will be established National Concord Committees including 3 segments of the same proportion with equal rights like at the central level. The task of these National Concord Committees at various levels roughly are similar to the task of the Provisional Government of National Concord regarding internal affairs. Of course the task of the Committee of National Concord is limited to their respective locality.
These proposals of ours today are very important and reasonable and logical. We are of the view that now in South Vietnam there are two different administrations, two armies, and three political forces. In such circumstances if there is not one organization above doing the task regarding external foreign affairs and also internal affairs then the two different forces at the inferior level will continue to carry out hostilities. The essential task done by this National Government of National Concord is to implement the signed agreements, the task of this Government of National Concord I have just mentioned above. Without such a government above the two existing administrations, the PRG and Saigon administration, neither side can control the other side.
As for the regions under the respective control of the PRG and Saigon administration, they will remain in their respective control. So our proposal conforms to the real situation. It is also to insure lasting peace. Moreover we agree to have international supervision of the free and democratic elections in South Vietnam and we agree to the previous proposals that the general elections will take place 6 months after the signing of the agreement and the ceasefire. Now you propose 5 months—this is too fast.[Page 451]
Dr. Kissinger: Too fast. I can’t do anything right. (Laughter)
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: The elections in our proposals is to elect the constitutional assembly and this constitutional assembly will choose the government or will elect the President. Because in our view an election to choose the President is not democratic because all the powers will be concentrated in the hands of the President. It is easy to lead to a personal dictatorship. The elections should choose the constitutional assembly to set up a definitive government for some time. These are some new elements we have brought in to our new proposal. As to the other points, they remain as before. (Hands Dr. Kissinger a document entitled “DRVN Proposals, September 15, 1972,” Tab C.)
Now let me speak about the fourth question. That is the question of United States responsibility to shoulder the war wounds and the economic rehabilitation of Vietnam. I remark that during the last 3 or 4 meetings Mr. Special Adviser did not hint at this question. For us we have repeatedly raised this question during the past 3 meetings because this question is very important for us. We can say that the war waged by the United States in Vietnam for over 10 years now and particularly the military activities of an exterminative character carried out by U.S. military forces in both North and South Vietnam have caused an indescribable amount of damage. They have destroyed the economic and cultural establishments and a great deal of material resources even the ecology of Vietnam causing serious consequences in the immediate as well as for a long time to come for the material and moral life of the Vietnamese nation. Therefore the responsibility of the United States government for the above situation is something undeniable. Last time I said that as a sign of good will the DRV side will no longer use the word “war reparations” providing that in practice the United States Government accept to shoulder its responsibility. And in our view they should solve this question in concrete form for the overall solution of the Vietnam problem in a serious way. Because I think that if this question remains unsolved it will create hindrances for the settlement of our relations. Last time we suggested an amount of $4.5 billion for North Vietnam for the healing of the war wounds and economic rehabilitation and $3.5 billion for South Vietnam but now after consultation with the PRG the PRG demands this should be the same for North and for South Vietnam.
Dr. Kissinger: If these negotiations last too much longer it is going to be too expensive for us—a billion dollars every 4 weeks.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: Therefore you should immediately put an end to the bombing, to the mining, to the shelling and so forth. The damage is caused by that. When peace is restored you will go to our country and you will see what you have caused. It is indescribable. [Page 452] The damages and the war wounds cannot be healed in 4 years or 5 years and there are unthinkable consequences particularly about the health of the people, the moral influence on the life of the people, and the natural resources of the people. (Hands Dr. Kissinger a document entitled “On the U.S. responsibility to heal the war wounds and to rehabililate the economy of Vietnam”, Tab D.)
Now there are the 4 questions I have spoken about. Now I speak of other questions.
Regarding the question of Vietnamese armed forces in South Vietnam, where we differ from you is that it is our view this question should be settled by the PRG and the Saigon administration. It is common knowledge that after the Geneva Agreements of 1954 hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese were regrouped to North Vietnam and when the United States started the war of aggression against the South Vietnamese these hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese who had been regrouped to North Vietnam returned to South Vietnam together with a number of North Vietnamese who voluntarily were going to South Vietnam to fight aggression and they are organized in fighting units in South Vietnam. These forces serve under the banner of the National Front for Liberation of South Vietnam and under the command of the National Liberation Front and they have become the units of South Vietnam Liberation armed forces. Therefore this question of Vietnamese armed forces in South Vietnam should be settled through discussions between the PRG and the Saigon administration.
Now regarding the question of reunification of Vietnam. We maintain our words as we have done in our 6th point. We put into that point that Vietnam is one and the Vietnamese people is one. This not only reflects the deep aspiration of the Vietnamese who want to see their country unified, it reflects also the provision of the 1954 Geneva Agreements stipulating that the 17th parallel demarcation line is only a provisional demarcation line. It is not a national boundary. We don’t know why you wanted to drop one point of the 1954 Geneva Agreements on Vietnam. We wonder whether you still wanted to divide Vietnam into different Vietnams. And we wonder whether you wanted to make a provisional military demarcation line into international boundaries, perpetual boundaries between two Vietnams. As to the matter of carrying out unification, the time for unification will be settled through discussions by the two zones to come to agreement. From your proposal—you propose after the ceasefire it will take some time before the two parties start to discuss the question of reunification. In our view it is up to the discussion of the two parties as to how to work it out. Regarding the question of ceasefire we agree with you and you agree with us.[Page 453]
Now let me speak about international control and supervision. This time we have brought in many details to this question of international control and supervision. I think the international commission of the control and supervision should include 5 countries. Besides India, Poland and Canada, each party would propose another country agreeable to the other side. The task of the international control and supervision is to control and supervise the questions mentioned in points 1, 2 and 3, to control and to supervise the enforcement of democratic liberties and to supervise the general elections in South Vietnam, to control and to supervise the standstill ceasefire in South Vietnam. The parties will discuss and agree on the ramifications regarding the task of the international commission and this commission will be responsible to the 4 parties to the Paris Conference on Vietnam and to the Provisional Government of National Concord.
Regarding the international guarantees. Our concrete proposal includes for Laos, Cambodia, the Soviet Union, China, France, Great Britain, the 5 countries in the International Commission of Control and Supervision and the Secretary General of the UN together with the four parties to the Paris Conference on Vietnam. These parties will hold an international conference to work out a joint declaration on the international guarantee, the content of which is mentioned in our point 9(b).
Regarding the questions concerning the 3 Indochinese countries we remark that the United States August 14, 1972, 10 point proposal raises many questions concerning Indochina: ceasefire throughout Indochina, troop withdrawal and release of military men and civilians captured throughout Indochina; international control of the ceasefire and of the release of the servicemen; all civilians captured in the whole of Indochina; international guarantees for the 3 Indochinese countries and foreign policy for the 3 Indochinese countries. Last time we have expressed our remarks to you. We, in our view, because of the United States aggression against the 3 Indochinese countries, the 3 Indochinese countries are determined to fight against the United States aggression therefore the three peoples of Indochina have the same objective but besides the common objective they have their own objectives too. We can’t settle the questions concerning these countries on their behalf. They must solve them themselves. Moreover the Paris Conference is to deal with the Vietnam problem. It cannot deal with the problem of Laos and Cambodia. But as I said we are prepared to discuss, to consult with our friends in Indochina to convene a conference afterwards to settle problems concerning the Indochinese countries. But we abide by the principle of respect for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of each individual country, of non-interference in the affairs of each country. These affairs should be settled by them. But we think [Page 454] that the settlement of the Vietnam problem will create favorable conditions for the settlement of the Laos and Cambodia questions and we are firmly convinced that peaceful settlement can be brought to the Laos and Cambodia questions. Of course the war is concerning now the three Indochinese countries. When the war has been settled in Vietnam for our part there is no reason for us to let the war continue in Laos and Cambodia. But the peaceful settlement of the war in these countries concerns these countries. We have to discuss with them, to consult them to settle the questions concerning these countries. So the questions you raised about the whole of Indochina presents some difficulty because they involve the sovereignty of these countries. Last time I have expressed our views at length on this subject. These are the things I have said.
Finally about the way to continue negotiations. There is in this connection, a difference between we and you. In our view all questions should be settled between you and we before the opening of the other forums, the second forum, the third forum and the fourth forum. As for you, you want that any agreed question should be referred to the other forums for discussion. I think that we should rapidly come to an agreement here so that all the questions should be referred to other forums and it will take a short time. This time I present here the content of the subjects to be discussed at each forum. I will give you the written document because it will take a long time to present the document. (Hands document to Dr. Kissinger entitled “On the Conduct of Negotiations”; Tab E.) But I can sum up by saying that between our 10 points and your 10 points it will take a lot of discussions. And then subjects concerning the second forum or the third forum, we will refer the questions. So as I told you this time we have made a lot of effort. We have shown a serious and constructive attitude. We have put forward new proposals to bring these negotiations to a result. And if the negotiations will remain in a deadlock, if the war continues, the responsibility is on your side. Therefore I think you should carefully study our proposals to respond in a positive and constructive spirit. Only then can we settle the war in Vietnam and rapidly restore peace to the benefit of both parties.
Regarding your proposal to go to Hanoi or to another place, I think when we have got basic results of these talks, then we shall take up this question.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: Previously you mentioned about a schedule, a calendar of negotiations. What are your views now? Because this question is related to the way to conduct the negotiations and the subjects to be discussed at the various forums and this is related to the relationship between the different forums and the signing of the agreements, I would like to know the views of Mr. Special Adviser.[Page 455]
Dr. Kissinger: My view has always been that we should open as many of the other forums that we can and especially that we should use the one forum that is already open, namely at Avenue Kleber and use it for something concrete because, even with good will on both sides, the Special Adviser has raised many problems where he pointed out differences. It will take as many months to resolve them all. If after we complete our work everything goes to the other groups it will take a very long time. Now time is not unlimited. So I would recommend that we give the Kleber forum something concrete to do because I think that we know all the speeches of your side and you know all the speeches of our side. You can just list them. Say today we give speech A and then give something concrete. So I recommend we say for example, we have agreed there will be a ceasefire and that it will occur at the end of the process but there will still be a lot of discussion on what a ceasefire would be like and they can keep working on that.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: In this connection I can tell you in our view that you and we have to discuss and agree on the two questions—military questions and political questions—and then we can refer to the other forums. As you know there are not too many questions. The military question is nearly agreed. The political question remains.
Dr. Kissinger: Then why don’t we pass the military question to the forum to work out the details?
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: So I think with our proposal—reasonable and logical proposal—if we can come to an agreement then it will take a short time.
Dr. Kissinger: Our proposal would be to pass those questions on which we have agreed to to the other forum and that we should continue to work on the questions that are not agreed.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: So our view is that we should come to agreement on the two key questions—the military questions and the political questions—but for the other questions, if we come to agreement on some questions, then we may refer to them.
Dr. Kissinger: Like for example? Can the Special Adviser give me an example of what he has in mind? Which question can we refer?
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: In our view we should come to agreement on the two key questions—the military and political questions and then we refer these to this other forum but the other questions we refer to the other forum as soon as . . .
Dr. Kissinger: I understand that but can he give me an example?
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: There are many questions contained in the 10 points. We have here two key questions—the military question and the political question. If we come to agreement in the main on these two questions, then the other questions will be easily solved.[Page 456]
Dr. Kissinger: Well, there are 11 points. Which of these 11 points can we pass on to the other forum?
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: In my view what is important is the question I have put to you: the schedule of the negotiations, the timetable of the negotiations.
Dr. Kissinger: Between us?
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: Between us, yes.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, first of all it seems to me that we won’t need a meeting tomorrow because we still have two hours and I don’t think we can do much more today than for me to ask the Special Adviser some questions about his plan.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: I propose a little break. Then after the break you can pose your questions.
Dr. Kissinger: And then we can set another meeting for say two weeks from now? But if I can’t get some clarifications to bring back to Washington . . . but we would like to move as rapidly as possible to a settlement.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: The quicker the better.
Dr. Kissinger: That is our attitude. The Special Adviser has given us a lot of papers to study today.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: You say that the quicker the better, but you put 15 days. How can you show this desire? And it is the normal interval so we have normally passed 15 day intervals between the two weeks.
Dr. Kissinger: That is why I proposed 14 days this time.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: And you speak about the situation being ripe, about your desire for a quick settlement and you propose a long interval. Moreover we have not seen each other for one month and I don’t know what is the intention of the United States side. Because this proposal on the timing is contrary to your desire.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, the problem is we have to study this. There is a difference between you and me, Mr. Special Adviser. You have only one foreign policy problem and I am responsible for the whole foreign policy dealing with many countries.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: But in the eye of the whole world the Vietnam problem is a very hot problem. A very explosive problem. This is my impression. I have the impression that you want to drag on the negotiations and to go beyond the elections and then to prolong the war. Is that true?
Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, first of all the negotiations do us no good in the elections. This is a new change in the situation. I don’t know . . . We have had a poll taken of what the American people [Page 457] think of the war. You see the wrong people. (Aside to Mr. Lord: Where is the Harris poll?) In the latest poll the President is backed by over 2 to 1 in his conduct of the Vietnamese relations. I just give you what we are up against. 74% to 91% are against a Communist government in South Vietnam. Only 15% support McGovern when he says that General Thieu should leave Saigon. We have no motive for dragging out these negotiations. From the point of view of popularity it would be better to end the negotiations than to drag them out. On the other hand every time you make a proposal like this to us we have to discuss it with our people. It takes a week to discuss it. But I want to tell you now we would like to end the war as rapidly as possible. We will meet but as often as necessary to end it rapidly. But to show our good will maybe we can meet earlier—say maybe the 25th or 26th, but I have to check when I get back. The 25th would be 10 days from now.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: Let me speak my piece. The Presidential elections in our respect is your own affair. We don’t pay a great concern about the election in the United States. You have repeatedly said that when you come here it is with good will and serious intent and through the meetings we have also made the same remarks. I have the impression that in spite of your professed desire to seek a quick settlement, an early end to the conflict, and to say that you are of good will and the situation is ripe, the last few months I have the impression that you want to drag the negotiations and my remark is that I am afraid that you are not yet truly wanting to engage in genuine settlement. It is a very important question for the United States and also for Vietnam—the Vietnam problem. But the way you deal with the problems, it does not show that you want a rapid settlement. If you want an early settlement we will reach an early settlement with you but if you try to drag the talks then we have to take countermeasures. If you drag the negotiations and continue to step up the military then we have to be determined. It is something natural. We are prepared that you come to a quick settlement as you say you desire to have it. You say that the situation is ripe but if the situation is prolonged it is because you prolong it. I understand that Mr. Special Adviser has a great deal of work to do but I think that you should devote the greatest amount of time to study, to think over the settlement of the Vietnam problem.
Dr. Kissinger: Well now Mr. Special Adviser we have first of all—I have to completely reject your argument. We have presented a new plan at every meeting we have had. Each time we present a plan it takes days of work and weeks of exchanges with our people and with our own allies. So at every meeting we have made very specific proposals to you so it is an absolutely unjustified remark to say we have been dragging the negotiations. We offered to meet on September 15. That was not our fault.[Page 458]
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: You proposed a meeting on the 8th of September. I proposed the 11th of September. I intended to propose the 10th of September but it was a Sunday. Therefore I proposed the 11th of September, but you proposed the 15th.
Dr. Kissinger: Because I had this appointment with your ally which had been set lor a long time and couldn’t be changed.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: That is your own affair, I have no ideas on that but I have the feeling that through the last few months the way you have dealt with the problem has not reflected your stated desires.
Dr. Kissinger: Well Mr. Special Adviser, I don’t know what to say to this. We have now spent four weeks presenting you with a comprehensive proposal which was extremely difficult to develop and I do say it took extreme effort to get people to agree to. Just yesterday I had to appeal to get Washington’s approval and now you tell me I haven’t made a real effort. I don’t know what I can say to that.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: The effort that I wanted to speak of here—the timing of the meetings and not about the proposals. The proposal has some problems to deal with because at our first meeting you raised a question of timetable of negotiations. Therefore I want to know your view.
Dr. Kissinger: In the past it was always the Special Adviser who refused to set a timetable.
Special Adviser Le Duc: But you have not said anything concrete.
Dr. Kissinger: Well let us not worry about the past months. The trouble as I see it, and I have to study your proposal and you have to study my proposal, is that we are still far apart. That is my impression. I have been in other negotiations where I could say there was agreement in principle and then I could then say we could settle it by this and this date and we settle it by that date. But I do not yet see an agreement in principle between you and us. But if we could settle it, if we want to set ourselves a terminal date by October 15 it would be highly desirable. And I will make every effort to meet that—that means finish these negotiations successfully by October 15th.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: But I wonder what do you have in mind, that we should come to agreement here so that everything will be settled by October 15th?
Dr. Kissinger: How to do it.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: If you fix a timetable of October 15th then we, too, should come to agreement before that date.
Dr. Kissinger: No, no, I thought we would reach agreement by October 15 but faster if it is possible. But I would like to know, what is more important than the date is how we are going to make progress. [Page 459] I mean what will happen next? How does the Special Adviser visualize that we go from all these documents to a final settlement?
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: So if you visualize October the 15th as the date on which we come to an agreement, then on what date do you think that the overall settlement may be reached in the other forums?
Dr. Kissinger: Well, as soon as we settle. We are prepared to refer to the other forums now those issues that are settled, which would save a lot of time, but you have the dilemma that you want to pretend no progress is being made and yet you want to make progress. And the reason you don’t want to have the other forums like the Avenue Kleber forum do any serious work is because you are afraid it will create the illusion of progress. I am being very honest with you. So you face a real dilemma. If we agree on October 15th and if then you start discussing the details of the ceasefire at Avenue Kleber, in my view the ceasefire will take four weeks to discuss. We can’t settle the details here. [illegible] too complex. But perhaps we can have the whole thing finished here and in the other forums by the end of November. You know what is going to happen when the PRG and the Saigon government get together to decide on the third element either of our committee or your government. Let us be realistic. It is going to take weeks before they agree on the third element. I am trying to be realistic. But on the other hand if you and we have not agreed and everything remains for after the election, then you will see the election of a President by a popular majority in favor of the war, which would be an entirely different situation. That was not the case in 1968. So we really think it is important for both of us to settle this between us as rapidly as we can. But we don’t want to prolong it. You are quite wrong.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: It is of course a matter of fact that if we can come to a settlement, if we can agree with each other, it is a good thing. If we can’t come to an agreement and President Nixon is reelected and continues the war, then if need be we will continue the fighting until the end of his term. We will do that.
Dr. Kissinger: I recognize that that is your intention but this is not the forum here to discuss whether you can continue fighting or you cannot. That is not the point. The point is can we come to an agreement to end the war rapidly. That is what we are here for. What is your concrete idea?
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: I have told you that we want to come to a settlement. As you said, the situation is now ripe. If you are ready to come to a settlement we are prepared to do it with you.
Dr. Kissinger: Now let us be concrete. I am just trying to understand what you are saying. You have made a set of proposals to us, some [Page 460] of which we will not be able to accept, which you recognize. Now how do we move from this stalemate to a solution in your view?
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: In our view what is important for a settlement is whether you have shown good will or not. If you really desire to come to a settlement then there should be mutual comprehension and mutual trust.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree but what does it mean concretely?
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: Let me finish.
Dr. Kissinger: I’m sorry.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: Only if both of us—you and us—are prompted by the same [less than 1 line of text in the original is cut off] comprehension and trust, can we find a settlement. For instance if now I want a settlement but you don’t or you want a settlement but I don’t, then no settlement is possible. It is clear because this is a negotiation there should be a mutual desire for a settlement, then a settlement is possible; then we can find a solution acceptable to both sides. If I have no such desire, any proposal you make I refuse.
Dr. Kissinger: This you have proved. You have proved that you can do that.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: So I wonder whether you are really moved by the desire for a settlement. Do you really want an early settlement as you say?
Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, I really want an early settlement and as quickly as possible. I assure you of this, and the President wants an early settlement. But what I am trying to get into my head is how we move concretely from here to a settlement. Now if you think we should come back early it is very difficult for me. The General Assembly will meet in New York. Many foreign diplomats are coming to see the President. I always have to be there when he (the President) meets foreign leaders, but I will do my best. Say for example maybe I can come next Friday, the 22nd; either the 22nd or the 25th. Let us aim for that.
Minister Xuan Thuy: Let me speak. Special Adviser Le Duc Tho raised the question of schedule in order to know your intentions. At what time do you want to come to a settlement?
Dr. Kissinger: Well, I will settle next week if it is possible. Here—do you want to sign this? (Dr. Kissinger holds up a document and there is laughter.)
Minister Xuan Thuy: Because if you want to prolong the negotiation then we will have one way of doing things. If we know that you want to have a very quick settlement then we will have another. For instance, we can meet successive days. As to the volume of work, we have a great volume of work too.[Page 461]
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: And if you want 15 days or 20 days between the two meetings then we will have a suitable way dealing with it.
Dr. Kissinger: I understand your point. We are prepared to meet on successive days in principle. We don’t think it is useful tomorrow because we have to study your documents. But do you think it would be useful to meet tomorrow?
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: I think that we can’t come to a meeting tomorrow because we need time to study.
Dr. Kissinger: That is what I think. You need time to study our documents. But let us plan that the next time I come, which could be—I will have to check it when I come to Washington—I will let you know Monday. Let us aim for next Friday and I will be prepared to stay Saturday or we can do it the following Friday which would be better for me and I stay two days then. We could do it on the 29th.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: Can you come next Friday?
Dr. Kissinger: I will let you know Monday.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: The 22nd.
Dr. Kissinger: Or two weeks from now, which do you prefer?
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: If you propose the 22nd of September we agree to that.
Dr. Kissinger: And I will prepare to stay an extra day but I may have to move it, just so we don’t get into any misunderstanding, to Monday the 25th. In either case I will stay two days.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: It is up to you if you come on Friday the 22nd and you remain here Saturday.
Dr. Kissinger: And if I come Monday, I stay Tuesday but then I have to tell the Special Adviser that if we really want to make progress he should study carefully what we have said because we are close to the limit of what we can do. I am serious about this.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: So are we. We are close to the limit.
Dr. Kissinger: Even when we begin drafting the provisions it is going to be very difficult.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: Please study the proposal carefully. We have many new elements.
Dr. Kissinger: I have noticed several of them and I am sure I will notice others. Could we have—I don’t know whether you have time, but we have some more time on our side and if we could take a brief break and let me ask some questions about your plan so that we understand it. But not too long, [less than 1 line of text in the original is cut off].
[The meeting broke at 2:30 p.m.][Page 462]
[At 2:45 p.m. Le Duc Tho and Dr. Kissinger met in the Sitting Room and the following conversation took place.]
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: Our negotiation has lasted very long. If you want a quick settlement we will do that. If you want to drag on we will do that.
Dr. Kissinger: We want a quick settlement but it can’t simply be an acceptance of your proposals. You have to study our proposals.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: We are. We are. But if you aim in the direction of the settlement and we have the same attitude then we will settle, but if you don’t and we don’t then there will be no settlement.
Dr. Kissinger: We will aim at a settlement.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: We do too.
Dr. Kissinger: Let us both aim at a settlement and then I will take the Special Adviser to Harvard. It is safer for him to go there than for me.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: (Laughing) After the settlement you will bring me to Harvard and and I will bring you to Hanoi.
Dr. Kissinger: Absolutely. Good. We will plan that. [Mr. Lord brings Dr. Kissinger a note that there are newsmen outside the house.] [To Mr. Tho:] Don’t shout at me, they might be listening.
Dr. Kissinger: May I say something. If your allies print all this stuff in the newspapers there will be no settlement because we will have to spend all our time explaining to the press why we don’t accept it.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: We have agreed with you not to make public the content of the private meetings unless you are unwilling to settle the problem.
Dr. Kissinger: He is always threatening me.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: But you have made many threats against me.
Dr. Kissinger: Never.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: You threaten me with bombs and shells but we are brave in fighting.
Dr. Kissinger: You are brave.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: Before our last meeting, before each of the meetings there was one Loi Phong operation in Quang Tri. You have dropped a great amount of bombs. It is unthinkable.
Dr. Kissinger: When this war is over, Mr. Special Adviser, I will give you my views on military strategy.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: And the Liberation Forces have been fighting very hard. They have not yielded an inch for three months now, despite an unprecedented amount of bombs dropped on Quang Tri.
Dr. Kissinger: They have fought very bravely. No, we told you at our first meeting I thought you were a heroic people. The only thing [Page 463] I am not sure of is whether heros know how to make peace. You have proved that you can fight wars.
[2:55 p.m.—The meeting reconvened around the Conference Table.]
Dr. Kissinger: Well I think we have made our first agreement in this meeting—in 17 meetings—that we are trying to settle the war by October 15th. We shall approach our meetings with that attitude. To come rapidly to a conclusion. Now may I ask the Special Adviser the status of these various papers. And after I have finished my questions I would like to make a general observation as to the future of the negotiations.
First the Special Adviser gave me a list of North Vietnamese principles. Again I am thinking of concrete ways of advancing matters. The Special Adviser thinks that perhaps both sides publish their principles with each side taking note of what the other side has said or is this simply for our information?
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: Please put all your questions.
Dr. Kissinger: Shall I ask—or will you answer this one?
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: The previous time you gave us a document, made a statement on the principles. You stated a number of principles there. The last time we expressed our views, our principles and today we expressed a number of views. We recall these principles and views for your information.
Dr. Kissinger: For our information, because we could handle it in two ways. We could say this is for our information; this is fine. Or each side could at some point publish a document of principles of which the other side takes note.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: Today this document is given for your information. As to the publication of the document, that we shall discuss after we have reached the overall settlement.
Dr. Kissinger: After we reach the overall settlement it doesn’t make any difference what we publish. Well, then, I don’t have to make any comments on any specific points that the Special Adviser raised with respect to the principles. Is that right?
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: Right.
Dr. Kissinger: All right. Second, let me make a comment about the 3 topics that the Special Adviser raised so that in preparing for our next meeting, which we will plan for two days, we can be thinking appropriately.
The first is the question of Vietnamese integrity and Vietnamese unity and respect by the United States for that. The difficulty in affirming the unity of Vietnam is that there is no unity in Vietnam at this moment. But we are prepared to make a statement that we will not [Page 464] oppose the unification of Vietnam and that after it is unified we will respect its unity. Something like that we can do.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: I think in the Geneva Agreements it is stipulated about the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Vietnam. But it is not a question of when Vietnam will be reunified.
Dr. Kissinger: We have no problem about reaffirming the provisions of the Geneva Accords, so I think we can find appropriate language. Point 2 about the total withdrawal of American forces, I think this too can be solved. I would like to ask the Special Adviser though because I keep seeing it reappear. What exactly does he mean by the withdrawal of technical personnel? What is his definition of technical personnel?
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: Technical personnel—we meant here the military technical personnel.
Dr. Kissinger: Military technical personnel.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: Yes.
Dr. Kissinger: Not economic technical personnel?
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: No.
Dr. Kissinger: All right, that is a useful clarification. With respect to—again when we talk about troop withdrawal, you have under your paragraph 2 that United States military aid to Saigon will end when the ceasefire comes into effect in South Vietnam. Then you said orally that your aid to the PRG will end at the same time but I see no provision for that in your plan.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: Later on, after discussions, we shall add that.
Dr. Kissinger: I just wanted to point it out. Now secondly we have pointed out under our paragraph 9 that in case of a ceasefire there should be no further introduction of military equipment into Indochina. This would of course also cover our military equipment, so perhaps in preparing for the next meeting—we are not negotiating now, I am just trying to get prepared for the next meeting—you can look at the provisions of our paragraph 2 and paragraph 9 and see if they cannot be made into a statement that is consistent with your views.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: In this connection we shall study and we shall express our views.
Dr. Kissinger: That is right. You don’t need to respond now. If we are going to move rapidly it is important that we know in which direction we are going to move. This is the purpose of my remarks now. It is not to have a long debate with you. We have no problem about making clear that we have no intention to interfere in South [Page 465] Vietnam and that we do not insist on a pro-American government in Saigon.
Now with respect to your third point—the political problem in South Vietnam. The third of the points you covered—4th point of your proposal. First of all let me call your attention to the new elements in our plan: The composition of the Committee for National Reconciliation, and then one can discuss its functions. The fact that the Committee for National Reconciliation has the right to review or help review the constitution; the fact that the new government will have members from each group in its Cabinet in proportion to the number of votes they receive, which is therefore indirectly a coalition government. The fact that we have speeded up the election process but now you tell us too much (laughter). The fact that we agree to settle military and political issues together before withdrawal and POW releases begin. These are elements that you should study carefully, and also our interpretation of the ceasefire.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: Our views are different in connection with the resignation of Thieu.
Dr. Kissinger: We have a number of differences.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: For our part we feel that Thieu should resign after the settlement of all questions, but you don’t mention anything about that.
Dr. Kissinger: He has already agreed to one month before the election but we have already told you we can extend that, but again I would urge you to study this more carefully because I do not believe that your present proposal in its present form will lead to a rapid solution.
Now with respect . . .
[Thuy and the Interpreter talk to Le Duc Tho.]
Interpreter: Please repeat.
Dr. Kissinger: I said the present point 4 of the DRV proposal will not be acceptable unless it is modified. Now we are just suggesting you study it.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: You should also modify your point 4.
Dr. Kissinger: We will both study it, although our associates think we have already modified it far too much.
Dr. Kissinger (cont’d): I will unify Vietnam all by myself. Both the North and South Vietnamese will hate me.
There will be agreement on one point.
Now on the reparations I will be honest with you. If I wanted to delay the negotiations I would talk about this forever, because there is no one in America, including McGovern, who would recommend—who could survive politically by putting an obligation for reparations or indemnity into an agreement and the sum of $9 billion in any form does credit to the Special Adviser’s optimism but not to his understanding of the American Congress. (Tho laughs)
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: What are your concrete views on that subject?
Dr. Kissinger: My concrete views are along the lines of what we discussed last year—a promise by the President of what he will do, which will not be in the agreement and which in my view cannot be $9 billion. But if you insist on it, we can talk about it at great length.
Now let me understand just one point about your armed forces in the south. If I understand you correctly, you said the armed forces that are fighting for the PRG in the South are mostly South Vietnamese regrouped to the North and North Vietnamese volunteers?
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: You should pay great attention to the question of reparations.
Dr. Kissinger: We will study every paper you gave us very carefully.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: I said that the South Vietnamese who return to South Vietnam and a number of North Vietnamese volunteers organize into units and go south to fight the Americans.
Dr. Kissinger: And the regular North Vietnamese army is where?
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: They organize themselves into units and go South. You remember that at the time of the regroupment a half million South Vietnamese went North.
Dr. Kissinger: So are you saying that most of your regular army has volunteered for service in the South?
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: Both South Vietnamese regrouped in North Vietnam and North Vietnamese volunteered to go South.
Dr. Kissinger: We were under the impression that most of your divisions are in the South but they can be volunteers. I am not denying it.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: There are many South Vietnamese who have organized themselves into units. Moreover, in South Vietnam there are a great number of North Vietnamese who have been settled in South Vietnam for a long time.
Dr. Kissinger: But where is your regular army?
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: In North Vietnam.
Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, I must say you are an amazing pacificist because we think you have no army in North Vietnam, but that shows your peaceful character.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: There are many units in North Vietnam. We have to defend our rear too.
Dr. Kissinger: I don’t think the Chinese will attack you.
Minister Xuan Thuy: I think that sometimes you are wrong in believing your intelligence agents.
Dr. Kissinger: Well our trouble has been that when we thought your army was in the North, it was in the South, but now you tell us your army is really in the North.
Minister Xuan Thuy: What I mean is that there are military units left in North Vietnam to defend our rear in case you parachute commandos.
Dr. Kissinger: I won’t repeat that remark when I visit Peking next time. Well, let me—I think you have answered my questions but let me make a general point.
The Special Adviser has asked—are we trying to drag out the negotiations or are we trying to conclude it. And we spent nearly an hour on an abstract discussion of that problem. First, I want to repeat again that we want to conclude it; that we will set ourselves the goal of ending it by October 15th in this forum.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: The overall settlement.
Dr. Kissinger: In this forum and then we open the other forums. But if we can speed it up so much the better; but in order to achieve these objectives we have to have a concrete program. If we keep reading to each other separate proposals I will still be meeting with the Special Adviser here next year and two years from now. I will never get him to be able to visit Harvard. So I think we should make a concrete effort to amalgamate these propositions and to get them into an agreed form.
Now the Special Adviser said for example that military questions are essentially agreed to, so let us spend part of our time at the next meeting in expressing that agreement in language which we both share; and of course we also have to work on the political problem.
Now one point I also want to make in order to be sure that there will not be a misunderstanding. On the international control commission, I do not believe that India will be acceptable to us as a neutral member. I have no name at the moment, but I will bring a list of acceptable countries. But I am certain we will not accept India as a neutral member.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: Next time you will bring . . .
Dr. Kissinger: I will bring a list of acceptable countries and we will try to select—well, there are two categories of countries as I understand, [Page 468] your proposal. One for the 3 member group and then each of us can nominate one other so we will bring to you a list of countries to replace India that will be acceptable to us and a list of other countries whom we would nominate. So what we can accomplish next time is to draft our agreements on the military issues, to begin drafting the provisions for international guarantees and to discuss further the political questions to see whether we can come to an understanding. We will aim for next Friday and Saturday but I will have to confirm it on Monday. Is this work program acceptable to the Special Adviser?
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: We have agreed to your coming here on next Friday but you said that you will confirm it on Monday.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, and if I don’t come on Friday it will be the following Monday. In other words then it will be the 25th and then I will stay for the 26th.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: The reason why I have proposed our next meeting on Friday is to meet your desire to come to a quick settlement but if you can’t come on Friday, then come on Monday.
Dr. Kissinger: Thank you. I appreciate the courtesy. I think it’s our mutual desire for a quick settlement.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: But I think that the next time besides discussions on the military question and international control and supervision the main question we should concern ourselves with is the political question.
Dr. Kissinger: That is the main unsolved question. But I think if we want to come to an agreement we have to draft an agreement on the other questions as well.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: You said you would make an effort to end the war by October 15th or earlier, and I agree with you on that statement. If we can reach complete settlement by that date it would be better.
Dr. Kissinger: It would be a very happy day for all of us.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: But I am afraid that if agreement is reached between you and us by October 15th the war will go on for a long time. If so, it is not advantageous for us both.
Dr. Kissinger: If you and we come to an agreement, we will end the war together. We have carried out every agreement we have ever made and we would not make an agreement with you if we did not want to implement it. If we come to an agreement we will do what is necessary to make it succeed and we will assume you will also.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: The next time I propose that we shall complete the discussion of the political problem, and at the same time discuss the military questions too and draft language. Through detailed discussions and step by step we will come to an agreement, so that when [Page 469] we complete discussions on the political problems then the military questions will have been solved. If you follow this direction towards a settlement we will do the same.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree to that direction but you have to keep in mind what we said to you about the political settlement. Desire is not enough but that will be our intention and we agree to this program. And this should keep us busy for two days. Good. Thank you for your courtesy and your usual hospitality.
Special Adviser Le Duc Tho: But you should make an effort.
Dr. Kissinger: I never engage in over confidence as long as I deal with Mr. Special Adviser [less than 1 line of text in the original is cut off] Kleber instructions to fight at only half speed at the plenary sessions while we are preparing for these meetings? You will have a problem with the Minister. If we settle it, he will go to Avenue Kleber every Thursday for 6 more months.
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 [3 of 5]. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting took place at 11 Rue Darthé, Choisy-le-Roi. All brackets, except those indicating illegible or missing text, are in the original. The tabs are attached but not printed.
In a September 19 memorandum to the President reporting on the meeting, Kissinger wrote:
“It was in many respects the most interesting we have ever had. They were defensive; they professed eagerness to set the earliest possible deadline for an overall settlement; and they have never been so eager to have early and frequent meetings. They repeatedly, and almost plaintively, asked how quickly we wished to settle and there was none of their usual bravado about how U.S. and world opinion were stacked against them. For the first time in the history of these talks I sensed that they were groping for their next move and their tack was devoid of any apparent, clear-cut strategy. Indeed the tone of our exchanges may prove more significant for the future than actual content of their remarks at this meeting.
“On the purely substantive side, we tabled our new proposal building on our August 14 offer but adding the political element which we had withheld at the last meeting pending consultations with Saigon. With your prior concurrence, one element of our political proposal, namely the tripartite nature of the committee to supervise the Presidential elections, was tabled without complete Saigon agreement. This was because of the inordinate delay in receiving Saigon’s comments on our proposals and the fact that without this element our proposal would have had practically nothing new as compared to our January offer.”
He continued: “My surmise is that they are deeply concerned about your reelection and its implications for them but, with their collective leadership, they may be having deep difficulties coming to grips with the very political concessions they will have to make to move the talks off dead center. They continue to pose unacceptable demands, perhaps because they lack imagination, perhaps because they wish to defer the necessary concessions to the last possible moment.
“Whatever the case, we are in an unassailable position. By tabling our new proposal we have built an excellent negotiating record. This will be enhanced by the next meeting and their eagerness to talk will carry us into October. At that point Hanoi will face the choice of moving off its political position in order to reach early agreement or having to deal with you after the election.” ( Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. VIII, Vietnam, January–October 1972, Document 263; a stamped notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.)↩