19. Memorandum of Conversation1
- Le Duc Tho, Special Advisor to the DRV Delegation to the Paris Peace Talks
- Xuan Thuy, Minister, Chief DRV Delegate to the Paris Peace Talks
- Phan Hien, Advisor to the DRV Delegation
- Nguyen Dinh Phuong, Interpreter
- Mr. Thai, Notetaker
- Second Notetaker
- Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
- Winston Lord, NSC Staff
- John D. Negroponte, NSC Staff
- David A. Engel, NSC Staff, Interpreter
- Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff
- Miss Julienne L. Pineau, Notetaker
Kissinger: This is a beautiful house. Do you come here on weekends or did you just get it?
Le Duc Tho: The house belongs to one of our friends; we borrowed from him.
Kissinger: The Special Advisor always has another move up his sleeve. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: What move do you mean?
Kissinger: Well, like another house that we didn’t know about.
Le Duc Tho: Shall we determine now the timetable? Because we will have two successive days. Therefore I propose today we will work until 3:30.
Kissinger: All right.
Le Duc Tho: Have you anything to say? Or otherwise we shall begin our work.
Kissinger: No, we should work today until 3:30 and then tomorrow perhaps meet at 10:00. Is that convenient, or do you prefer 10:30?
Le Duc Tho: 10:00 is all right.
Kissinger: Because we wanted an extra half hour because of the time change today. It’s only 5:00 in the morning for us.
Le Duc Tho: In Hanoi it is afternoon, 4:30 in the afternoon.
Kissinger: But you didn’t come from Hanoi last night. [Laughter] Yes, I agree, Mr. Special Advisor, let’s work until around 3:30 today. Are we definitely planning to meet then tomorrow?
Le Duc Tho: Because we have agreed last time to have . . .
Kissinger: No, if we are sure then I would like to let Washington know now.
Le Duc Tho: . . . to have successive days.
Kissinger: Yes, it’s fine with me. I just left it open so that it wouldn’t create too much confusion if for some reason we decide not to meet. But I am prepared to stay and it’s fine with me.
[Mr. Lord leaves to give instruction to Colonel Guay.]
I got caught at a press conference where I wanted to talk about the Soviet Union but they all wanted to hear about Vietnam.
Le Duc Tho: Yes, we did receive an excerpt of your press conference.
Kissinger: You probably have the whole text.
Le Duc Tho: You sent it.
Kissinger: I sent you an excerpt, but you also have the whole text?
Le Duc Tho: No, we do not have it. We have not yet the complete text.
Kissinger: I will send it to you. But I sent you the most important part. The rest was just my saying three times that I wouldn’t say [Page 471] anything. I don’t have the mastery in handling our press that the Special Advisor does. [Laughter] He has restrained his impulses on this visit.
Le Duc Tho: But you yourself often hold press conferences too.
Kissinger: But I haven’t said anything about Vietnam. I hold a press conference every time the President speaks, to explain what he meant. Or when we make an agreement. If we make an agreement here, Mr. Special Advisor and Mr. Minister, you will be amazed what good things I will say about you to the press to defend the agreement.
Le Duc Tho: But so many conferences, you have held enough already.
Kissinger: You think I have held enough press conferences?
Le Duc Tho: Yes, so many press conferences, you have held enough.
Kissinger: Enough? If we make an agreement I will have to explain it. You’ll have to suffer through at least one other. [Laughter] But then I will be very positive.
Le Duc Tho: But first of all you should have a positive attitude at the negotiation, then afterward you will be positive at the press conference.
Kissinger: I was wondering when he would hit me. I’ve been here five minutes without getting scolded. I always say good things about the Special Advisor in public. I always praise him publicly.
Le Duc Tho: Yes, in the course of our negotiations at times you praise me, but at times you worry me.
Kissinger: Worry you?
Le Duc Tho: Scold.
Kissinger: Scold? Never personally.
Le Duc Tho: Yes, I told you about that. Let us begin our work.
Kissinger: I think since we are in your new house, I think you should inaugurate it. The Minister looks better today. Are you feeling better?
Xuan Thuy: Yes.
Kissinger: Ambassador Porter is impatiently waiting for your return. There are some adjectives he hates to use with your deputy.
Le Duc Tho: Let me speak first this time.
Le Duc Tho: Last time, Mr. Special Advisor spoke about the schedule of the settlement of the war in a way that is not clear and certain. Today, I would like to know your clear views on this schedule of negotiations because this schedule is related to the conduct and the content of negotiations. Therefore, we should discuss this point first.
Of late, Mr. Special Advisor said that the situation was ripe to reach an overall settlement, but there was not much time left. You [Page 472] affirmed that the U.S. side really wants a quick settlement, the sooner the better. You also said that also was President Nixon’s desire. You also said that you would strive to settle the war by October the 15th and you would adopt in this direction in future meetings so as to rapidly reach a settlement. But at one point you said that October the 15th was only the date on which agreement would be reached at this forum, and the discussion on the questions here and other forums would be completed by the end of November 1972. You also said that if at the election day we have not settled the problem and President Nixon would be reelected with the majority of the people standing for the continuation of the war, then the questions will be different. How will the question be different? Do you intend to threaten us? If so, your threat will have no effect at all. I would like to ask Mr. Special Advisor very frankly and seriously that.
First, we wonder whether the U.S. side wanted to drag the negotiation until after the election, then the war would be prolonged. Secondly, we wonder whether the U.S. wanted to put an end to the war and sign an overall agreement by October the 15th. So you should choose one of these two directions. If you choose the first alternative, then we would conduct the negotiation in another way. And we would resolutely carry on our struggle until we achieve our fundamental national right. If you choose the second alternative, then we are also prepared to do with you to seek a seek a settlement and to seek to find out rapidly a settlement acceptable, satisfactory, to both sides. And there is not much time left. If you choose the second alternative then there is not much time left and it is time now we should join effort and decide a schedule of the negotiation, for really straightforward and forthcoming talks. We should put forth our proposal to settle the problem in an expeditious way.
Whatever the alternative you choose, we are prepared. Therefore we would like to know Mr. Special Advisor’s views on this question in a clearcut way. I think we should discuss this question first. Then we should decide a schedule of negotiations, the way to conduct negotiations, and the content of the negotiations, because these two questions are closely linked to each other.
Kissinger: Let me answer the Special Advisor. First, I would like to repeat what I said at the last meeting. We want a settlement as quickly as possible, on a basis acceptable to both sides. What I said about the election is as follows. The election has become, partly as a result of your friends in America and partly as a result of your actions, a kind of plebiscite on the war in Vietnam. This is a fact; we have not made it so. It is also the case, if you read this week’s Time Magazine or today’s Herald Tribune, that the President is supported in his conduct of the war by a majority of three or four to one. I therefore want to [Page 473] say that the election is not a reason for us to make a settlement. We make a settlement because we believe that the time is right, that there has been enough suffering, and that the reasonable objectives of both sides can be achieved in negotiation.
It is also a fact—and I am simply describing reality—that after the election we will be occupied for four to six weeks in reorganizing our government. We will change many of our top personnel, and inevitably the President and to some extent I will be occupied with this responsibility. So this will enforce a delay.
Secondly, you remember yourself that after a new President is elected he has a very great popular support. And there will be no public pressures for us to deal with this issue. On the contrary, he will have a great deal of public support for any course he will want to take.
But this is an academic question. I am not threatening you, Mr. Special Advisor. For three years you and I, I on behalf of the President, you on behalf of your Politburo, have seriously attempted to make peace. We know each other too well to realize that we cannot deal with each other on the basis of threats. And therefore I can assure you we would like to settle the war quickly. I am prepared to come back here again very shortly, for three days, or four days if necessary. And we are prepared to adopt an expeditious handling of the negotiations.
On the other hand, if this is our intention we must be realistic. And realistically, we have a very big task ahead of us. Up to now we have been exchanging abstract documents. We agree on some points and we disagree on other points. Even on the points where we think we agree there are many nuances of difference. Even on the points where we think we agree without differences in language, we have never really spelled out the implementation. And then of course there are some points where we don’t agree at all. So this is a very big task we have.
Now, in order to finish quickly, two things at least are needed. First, the intention to settle quickly. Second, the elaboration of conditions which lend themselves to be implemented quickly. We have the intention to settle quickly. But let me say a word about the terms. And I will speak frankly because we haven’t enough time any more to beat . . . to be complex. I know the Special Advisor believes that we can do anything in Saigon that we want. Unfortunately, I have never met a Vietnamese who is easy to push around.
Le Duc Tho: [Laughs] That is something very strange indeed.
Kissinger: It is a national characteristic, for which I respect you.
Le Duc Tho: Our characteristics are different from those of South Vietnam, and Nguyen Van Thieu.
Kissinger: We will discuss that more when we have some time. To some extent they are different. But extreme stubbornness is common [Page 474] to both. [Tho laughs.] You may not believe this, but I did not have at all an easy time on my visit to Saigon or in the period afterward. And I tell you frankly that some of the proposals we made the last time did not have the full approval of the Saigon Administration.
Now the reason I mention it is as follows. You had an experience in 1968, in a much simpler situation, where an agreement between you and us was delayed for months in implementation because of difficulties that existed elsewhere. So the problem is that if you are too ambitious in your demands, first it is doubtful that we will accept them, at least quickly, or at all. And secondly, there will be months before the whole negotiation can be completed. I am talking abstractly.
But let me say three things that I believe have to be done now:
First, we have to reach basic agreement on each of the major issues. And this means not only agreements in principle but precise language on which we . . . which we can then write down. And after we have the precise language we have to decide which forum should handle it.
Second, after we have agreed on the wording of these points we should agree in some cases on the precise implementation. To show our good will we have brought along some precise implementation papers for four of the points. We also have to decide to which forum they should go.
Thirdly, of course, we have to settle the issue which most divides us, which is the political issue.
Now, can the whole thing be settled by October 15? And only the issue between us? I frankly do not know. I am prepared to work rapidly. The more quickly we agree among each other the more quickly we can open the other forums, and then the more quickly we can settle it. There will be no delays from our side. If we could settle this war in October in all the forums we would think that we have achieved a very great and historic thing.
That is my concrete answer to the Special Advisor.
Le Duc Tho: Let me speak. Last time I have expressed my views in connection to the election in the United States. You and we have decided to leave aside this question, because the Presidential elections in the United States is a question decided by the American people and not by the Vietnamese people. The American people go to the poll, and not the Vietnamese. Therefore in this question you have said and we have decided to put this question aside.
As for us, during the last few meetings we have repeatedly said that we come here with good will and serious intent. But the question of settlement does not depend solely on us. It depends on you too. Therefore, if you come here with good will and serious intent only in this way can we reach settlement. As far as you are concerned, as you [Page 475] said, the situation is ripe, and if you are prepared for a quick settlement we are prepared too. And I agree with you too that if we can settle the problem in October it would be a historic event, and we agree with you to settle the problem in that month.
I would like to ascertain whether you are prepared to settle the problem within the month of October. If so, we are prepared to do this too.
Kissinger: Yes, we are prepared to do this in the month of October. Of course it depends on whether we can agree on the conditions. But we are here to approach it with the attitude of settling it in October.
Le Duc Tho: If you decide to settle the problem within the month of October we agree with you to do that.
Since we have agreed on that point, of settling the problem in October, we would now propose a schedule to conduct the negotiations and a way to conduct the negotiations, so that we can agree on that question.
From now to early October 1972, at this forum we should have agreed at this forum on the questions mentioned in our 10 points and in your 10 points. And this agreement at this forum will serve as a basis for the other forums to rapidly reach an agreement and to proceed to the signing of agreements. This schedule is related to your visit to Hanoi. If we can agree by early October then we shall think and arrange your visit to Hanoi, because these two questions are related. Then from early October to around about October the 15th or some time later, then we shall complete all the settlement, an overall settlement, and then the overall agreement would be signed to end the war. If this schedule is agreed to, then in our view our talk here on September 26 and 27, these two days, have very decisive character. We have put forward this schedule. I wonder whether you agree to it or not.
Kissinger: Well, of course the Special Advisor is a great theoretician and he’s talking in very general terms. As I said before, no dates will do us any good if we don’t come to an agreement. But let us be precise. I can stay through tomorrow. The earliest date after that at which I could come back would be October 5—although that would deprive Ambassador Porter of the Minister, and I can barely take that responsibility. [Xuan Thuy smiles.] [To Xuan Thuy:] The 5th is a Thursday. He always asks for you.
Xuan Thuy: I know.
Kissinger: So I could come back, and stay three, if necessary four, days. Assuming we finish our work by then, which would be say the 7th of October—of course I am prepared to finish our work this time, but I want to be realistic—if we finish our work by October 7th we can then open the forums the following week. That still gives us the month of October to complete the work.[Page 476]
I want to tell the Special Advisor another thing. I have made preparations so that my Deputy, General Haig, can leave for Saigon as soon as I return, in case we make significant progress, and no time is wasted. So I would then propose that between this time and the next time I come here my Deputy will have been in Saigon and we can make a big step forward. But this will be justified only if we make a big step on this trip, in this negotiation. So I think our schedule is not so different. I think if I understood the Special Advisor, we might be able to finish by the end of my next visit here.
Now, may I ask the Special Advisor a question. He mentioned something about a visit by me to Hanoi. Of course I am assuming that the Special Advisor will be there; I would hate to be there alone!
Le Duc Tho: Please finish your idea. Then I will answer.
Kissinger: My question is when should this trip take place? Should it take place after everything is finished, in which case it would only have ceremonial nature? Or should it take place before we concluded our agreements here? Or should it take place after we have concluded our agreements but before the other forums open? And finally, are you thinking of a secret trip or a public trip? Of course a secret trip would be announced afterward. Could you answer those questions?
Le Duc Tho: Let me speak first about the schedule. You spoke of my proposal on the schedule as something academic or theoretical, but it is a practical question and it shows our desire to settle. And I table this schedule for an exchange of views, so you have made a counter-proposal.
Kissinger: I have made a specific proposal, which is realistic in terms of my own schedule.
Le Duc Tho: I think your schedule is all right. Because we should reach basic agreement at this forum at the end of your next visit here, from October the 5th to October the 7th.
Kissinger: I would a little prefer from the 6th to the 8th if that is equally convenient for the Special Advisor, but I will adjust it to suit him.
Le Duc Tho: That’s all right. If we can come to agreement on all questions and then the work at the other forum will be rapid, we will deal with our ally and you with yours. Then when the question is put forward at the other forum, then everything has been arranged and the settlement will be quick. And according to the schedule that you mention, I envisage that it would take two weeks and then everything will be over, but if it can be sooner, the better. But that will need your efforts and ours too.
Kissinger: It depends . . . I want to be honest with the Special Advisor. It depends on the terms. There are some terms in which it [Page 477] can be done in two weeks. There are other terms in which it can’t be done in two months. If you ask somebody to commit suicide, he has no reason for accepting.
Le Duc Tho [laughs]: Therefore you should be reasonable and we, we should make an effort.
Kissinger: I agree.
Le Duc Tho: And because if you put forward excessive demands, then it will not be acceptable to us. Because we have principles to abide by, but we should show flexibility too. We cannot pass these limits. This is something I have frankly to tell you.
Kissinger: We are both in the same position. But in principle, if we make a reasonable settlement, then if we agree on the 7th, whether it’s possible in two weeks or three weeks, we could spend the rest of October on an overall settlement and certainly settle it by the end of October.
Le Duc Tho: You mean everything would be over, you mean by that the end of the war, everything?
Kissinger: If the Special Advisor and we agree here on the 7th or 8th of October, if we then open the other forums quickly, and if the terms are, as the Special Advisor said, reasonable, so that we can both speak to our allies, then the other forums should be able to finish their work by the end of October and the overall agreement is signed before November 1. This is our, a possible, program.
What does the Special Advisor think about the trip to Hanoi? We don’t have to take it; what we should do is what helps us end the war quickly. Because the Special Advisor has invited me in any event for after the war, so I’ll have the pleasure of seeing Hanoi anyway. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: So I agree with Mr. Special Advisor. And I repeat here, from October the 6th to October the 8th, between us, Mr. Special Advisor and myself, we finish with this forum. Afterward the matters will be referred to the other forums and all the work will be over by the end of October. And if this schedule is adopted, then as concerning the way to conduct the negotiation, the way to conclude the agreements, the contents of the agreements, in all these matters we should make efforts, both sides.
Kissinger: If there is a deadlock after we have agreed it might be necessary for the Special Advisor and me to meet to see whether we can resolve it. If the other forums have a deadlock. I would be willing to remain available and I hope the Special Advisor would be, to give impetus to the negotiations.
Le Duc Tho: I shall do the same. We agree to that, and both sides should make an effort and adopt a correct attitude, reasonable, logical [Page 478] terms acceptable to the other side, and no side should make coercion against the other side, and both sides should show good will to the other side.
As to your visit to Hanoi, I think in this connection after we reach basic agreement between we two we can agree to your visiting Hanoi. But there is one point I would like to straightforwardly bring to your knowledge. I think your trip to Hanoi is something to be discussed with you. We should discuss how you will visit it, the program of your work there, the plan of your visit. I mean by program the items to be discussed between you and our other leaders.
But there is still an important point I would like to tell you now. When we have reached basic agreement at this forum, then after we reach basic agreement at this forum we think that it is time for you to stop the bombing and mining of North Vietnam. Because in our view when we reach basic agreement here, I think that the war has been settled in the main. Then when basic agreement on all questions have been reached, then we agree on your trip to Hanoi. But it would not be understandable to anyone when we have come to agreement and when you go to Hanoi and the bombardment against North Vietnam continues. The circumstances in our country are different from those of China and the Soviet Union when you visited those countries. Our people have fought against U.S. aggression and for national salvation for 10 years now, and the war is still going on. Hatred has not died down, and nevertheless we receive you as a very important personality representing President Nixon. If the mining and bombing are not halted to create the suitable atmosphere for your reception, this could constitute a great obstacle.
I have brought up this question very frankly and straightforward. It is the objective situation. This does not mean that we create difficulty for your trip to Hanoi. This is one point I brought up for your consideration and thinking.
I sum up. Basic agreement having been reached between us both, and while the war is still going on and in the conditions you know, because a basic agreement have been reached between us both when you visit our country, if the bombing and mining is stopped then it is something good, and the war is settled in the main by that time. And the bombardment against North Vietnam for the last few months constitutes a violation of an engagement made by the United States. You should have stopped the bombing before. And since we will have reached basic agreement when you visit Hanoi, then the bombing should be stopped. It will create some favorable atmosphere.
Kissinger: May I ask the Special Advisor, on the trip to Hanoi, I look at it as a practical question. If it can make a contribution toward ending the war I am willing to do it. But if we have already settled [Page 479] the principal questions here, then why should I go to Hanoi? Why not wait then till we have the overall agreement signed and then go afterward? Then the war will be definitely over.
Le Duc Tho: In our view, when we have reached a basic agreement on major question here, then it will be favorable condition for your visit to Hanoi. Suppose now if you go to Hanoi and when you go out of the visit with no agreement at all, it would be unfavorable, disadvantageous, for both sides.
Kissinger: I understand that, but if we have already reached an agreement then why should I go to Hanoi?
Le Duc Tho: If you go to Hanoi without achieving results then it would be disadvantageous for both sides.
Kissinger: I understand this, and I am perfectly willing to reach agreement here. In fact, if we reach agreement here then maybe we ought to spend our time better spending the rest of the month here trying to implement it than spending a week going to Hanoi.
Le Duc Tho: Here there are two questions. First, if there are questions you feel you wanted to discuss in Hanoi, please put it out. Then we shall consider it. But the second point is that we should settle all the major questions here and then the discussions in Hanoi it would be quicker and more certain, because if you go to Hanoi without reaching a settlement it would be disadvantageous for both sides. Or otherwise, if you feel that all the basic agreement has been reached here and we should continue to remain here to settle all questions and you no longer wanted to go to Hanoi, then it is up to you to decide.
Kissinger: To me the trip to Hanoi is a practical matter. If it helps to settle the issues I will be glad to go to Hanoi. If we have already settled the issues, then there is no point going to Hanoi, and then we should stay here and use our influence with the other forums.
Another possibility is—and I am just trying to plan—if on the 7th and 8th we are nearly agreed, then we could decide to go to Hanoi and finish whatever little remains to be done to complete the agreement. So it is to us a practical question.
Le Duc Tho: Let me ask you this question. If by October the 7th or the 8th on the major questions we have reached basic agreement in the main, then what question would you raise if you plan your trip to Hanoi?
Kissinger: I don’t think there are any major questions then to raise in Hanoi.
Le Duc Tho: So by October the 8th, after our discussion here, you will see whether you wanted to go to Hanoi. Or if then you feel what questions you had felt necessary to discuss in Hanoi, you will raise too and we shall see. Or if you feel you no longer want to go there, then it is up to you. So we shall decide this question.[Page 480]
Kissinger: All right. It is a practical question. So as not to waste time on procedural issues, if we come to agreement either here or in Hanoi on the basic questions, do you envisage that we sign it, or announce it, or how do you envision it?
Le Duc Tho: In our view, if we reached basic agreement here the matters would be referred to the four parties at Kleber Street to sign the agreement. And there will be two documents to be signed, one by the DRV and the U.S. and the other by the four parties at the Kleber conference.
Kissinger: But do we announce that an agreement has been reached, or what?
Le Duc Tho: We shall see how you envisage this question, but in our view, after we reach basic agreement here we will exchange views with our ally and you with your ally. And then there are two documents to be signed, one by the DRV and the U.S. and the other by the four parties at the Paris conference, and the four parties will sign the documents agreed upon by us here. Besides, there are a number of documents on concrete provisions, subordinated to the 10 points. One is the protocol on the troop withdrawal mentioned in Point 2; the release of peoples of the parties captured during the war, mentioned in Point 3; the implementation of the ceasefire in South Vietnam mentioned in Point 8; the international control and supervision mentioned in Point 9. We think that in this connection on these questions the experts on the two sides will study and prepare the above-mentioned documents, so that the two sides may approve the documents more quickly. Particularly the decision on the question of ceasefire—we only decide on the main points; as to the details, then this will be discussed later. This is how we envisage the problem.
As to the signing of the agreement, we are still thinking on that question—the matter of who will sign, at what level. We shall discuss this later. Or if you have any idea on this, please let us know.
Kissinger: We are also thinking about who is to sign the final agreement. But let me make this specific proposal, because this is a procedure that for us has worked elsewhere. Assuming the Special Advisor and we achieve agreement on the 7th and 8th on the 10 points or whatever, we should then announce within a couple of days after that, say Tuesday or Wednesday, that agreement in principle has been reached on the following points and that now Avenue Kleber is now directed to work to implement these principles. This will enable us to give very concrete directives to our bureaucracy. And it will create a very definite reality for our allies. We can just call this a working document, and the Special Advisor and I can initial it. Then after the Avenue Kleber forum is finished, then we will have a formal agreement and a number of technical annexes, and they will be signed in the normal way as treaties are signed.[Page 481]
But if we don’t publish our 10 principles—or whatever it is, 10 points—that we have agreed on, then the work of Avenue Kleber will be very slow because it will be hard for them to know what they are talking about. In fact, I would propose that if we agree on a working paper and if Avenue Kleber opens for serious work, that then in any event the Special Advisor and I meet two weeks afterward to review where we stand. Even if there is no major disagreement, just to see that things are working smoothly. Because then we have an obligation, the Special Advisor and I, to see to it that we come to a successful result.
Le Duc Tho: We have put forward a way to conduct negotiations and to conclude agreements, and the documents to be signed. Now you have made a counter-proposal. We shall study it and we shall answer you later. Because primarily we think that our proposal is logical. We think that when we reach basic agreement here the matter will be referred to the Kleber Street conference, and whenever things will be settled then we shall proceed to the signing of documents.
Kissinger: But we announce that we have reached agreement here?
Le Duc Tho: I think that when we reach basic agreement here and the matter will be referred to the Avenue Kleber forum, to make the negotiation more rapid we think that our experts should study and prepare the documents to be signed and then refer it to Avenue Kleber.
Kissinger: I agree with that; that is no problem. But when we reach an agreement here do we announce that we have reached agreement, or do we just open up Kleber without announcing anything?
Le Duc Tho: We shall consider this question and answer you later.
Kissinger: All right.
Xuan Thuy: May I ask you one question? You spoke that at the signing of the agreements at Kleber Street you said that the document will be signed as it is usually done for the signing of other treaties. Do you intend who will sign the agreement?
Kissinger: We haven’t considered that question yet.
Le Duc Tho: It is what we are thinking now. Let us exchange views on that matter.
Kissinger: Yes, we will come to an agreement on that question. It will not delay us. Have you any ideas?
Xuan Thuy: Because you said that the agreement will be signed as it is usually done for other agreements. Therefore, I thought you had an idea about it.
Kissinger: I have no precise idea. I would welcome yours. After everything else we have discussed, this will be the easiest question we will have. Maybe by Foreign Ministers?
Le Duc Tho: It would be good if the Foreign Ministers of the four parties will come to sign.[Page 482]
Kissinger: We will consider it. I think the Special Advisor and I ought to sign it.
Le Duc Tho: We shall consider that.
Kissinger: In blood. [laughter]
Le Duc Tho: As to signing by you and myself, we shall consider it and we shall answer you later. I think it is advisable to consider your views that the four Foreign Ministers will come to sign the overall agreement. Because the Vietnam problem is an important problem and a historical problem relating not only to Vietnam but to the rest of the world.
Kissinger: We have to consider it. This was thinking out loud.
Le Duc Tho: I intended to raise the same question you and I think your thinking is right.
Kissinger: It’s not excluded.
Le Duc Tho: As to the signing of the document by you and myself, we shall consider that.
Kissinger: I want to explain what I have in mind. As for the agreement, this would not be a formal legal treaty, just a working document. We did this in the strategic arms talks with the Soviet Union. This was a document setting forth the direction of the negotiations from now on. Then the actual treaty was signed, in the case of the strategic arms talks, by the President and General Secretary Brezhnev. So this could be a published unsigned paper, or just initial it. On our side, it would make it easier and faster to give directions to the bureaucracy. But we can handle it. Because if we tell them to work quickly we have to tell them why, and then we have to show them the paper anyway. But you give us an answer whenever you are ready, no hurry.
Le Duc Tho: We shall answer you.
Le Duc Tho: Now let us sum up. So we have agreed on a schedule to settle all the problems, to reach an overall agreement and to end the war by the end of October 1972. We have agreed that we shall meet again on October the 6th, 7th, and 8th to reach basic agreement on all problems. After we reach basic agreement on all problems on October 6th, 7th, and 8th, the question of your visit to Hanoi will be discussed, whether it is necessary to go to Hanoi or it is not. We shall discuss and decide it then. And if you go to Hanoi, then we shall discuss the conditions of your visit, the program of your work in Hanoi, the way you go there. And after we reach a basic . . .
Kissinger: But you won’t make my family come and get me if I go? [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: . . . agreement here then our experts will work out the details. And when the documents have been prepared, the 10 [Page 483] points, the annex documents have been prepared, then we have the responsibility on us to exchange views with our ally and you with your allies, and after everything’s done then it will be brought up to Kleber Street for the four parties to sign and to implement. The experts on the two sides begin their work after October the 8th when we reach basic agreement here. So that the overall agreement may be signed by the end of October 1972. As to the signing of the documents, after we reach basic agreement, the question you raised about you signing the documents and myself signing the documents, I shall answer later. Probably I shall answer next time when we meet again.
Kissinger: You mean tomorrow?
Le Duc Tho: Tomorrow if possible; if not, October the 6th.
Kissinger: That’s fine.
Le Duc Tho: Because if we come to agreement there is enough time.
Kissinger: It would help me if you can’t answer me tomorrow if perhaps you can answer me in the interval, because I think the President would like to know. Just send me a message.
Le Duc Tho: It is possible.
Kissinger: Two points, one minor and one more important.
Le Duc Tho: Let me finish.
Kissinger: Oh, excuse me.
Le Duc Tho: As to the signing by the four parties, after the documents and the annex documents have been prepared on the 10 points and the annex documents have been prepared, then it can be referred to the four parties to sign the agreement. And I agree with you that the four Foreign Ministers will sign the agreement.
Kissinger: I wasn’t proposing it; I was just thinking out loud. I haven’t discussed it with anyone yet.
Le Duc Tho: It is your thinking but it is our proposal. So I have summed up the views we have exchanged so far. Is it correct?
Kissinger: It is a correct statement, but I would like to clarify one point—two points, one is minor. The Special Advisor said we would meet the 6th, 7th and 8th, which I proposed. If he would do me the courtesy when I come back of letting me check the President’s calendar, and maybe making it the 5th, 6th and 7th. It will be one or the other. But if he will do me the courtesy of letting me check I will let him know within two days. If you don’t mind.
Le Duc Tho: I agree.
Kissinger: I will let you know before the end of this week.
Now secondly, I have a little trouble understanding that one procedural point. After the Special Advisor and I agree here, then my understanding was that our agreements will be referred to the other forums [Page 484] as well as to Avenue Kleber. But I think I heard the Special Advisor keep saying it will be referred to the experts. I don’t understand quite what he means by that.
Le Duc Tho: This is my intention. I declare it for you. My intention is to insure the schedule we have agreed upon and to insure the quick settlement. When the basic agreement has been reached between you and I and in the course of reaching the basic agreement, you will talk to your ally and I to mine, and we can see that we can reach overall agreement on all the 10 points. Then when we reach basic agreement you will appoint a number of experts and we will do the same, to discuss the concrete points, the details, and annex documents.
Kissinger: You mean American experts?
Le Duc Tho: American experts. And agree on everything. When everything has been agreed to then we refer to Avenue Kleber and then the signing will be quick. In the course of the discussions by your experts and our experts, we keep on talking to our allies. Then after agreement maybe the Kleber conference will have to take one or two sessions to finish the work. I think this way of doing it is quick.
Kissinger: Well, first of all, the Minister and Ambassador Porter can do nothing in two sessions. Each of them needs that much time to criticize the other. [Laughter]
Xuan Thuy: If Ambassador will not continue his language I am prepared to settle everything very quickly.
Kissinger: He’s been waiting for you for two months. He’s got a big stack of speeches ready for you. But let’s forget about that. But this means, in effect, that you are dropping your procedural document.
Le Duc Tho: Because of the schedule, and to insure the timing of the schedule, we have changed a little the procedure of negotiating for a quick negotiation and quick settlement.
Kissinger: I don’t think that will be a good procedure. I don’t insist on every forum the Special Advisor mentioned. For example, I think the third forum . . . I’ve never understood what that is supposed to do. But I think we have to maintain the Avenue Kleber forum and I think it is in your interest to maintain the second forum where the NLF or PRG, whatever you call it, is talking to the Saigon administration or GVN, whatever we want to call it.
Now, the Avenue Kleber forum can create experts if they want to, and we would strongly support this. One reason why I think a working document between you and us to be published would be desirable is because it would create in everybody’s mind an expectation that there would be an agreement, and a working to achieve the agreement. And then we can have these other forums. And if you and we agree—obviously if the terms are reasonable—we will use our influence to get [Page 485] it done, and the Special Advisor and I can meet, if necessary, once a week to see that it is getting done. Once we have an agreement we will do our best to see that it is implemented.
Le Duc Tho: I think that after we reach basic agreement we should also discuss concrete points so when the other forums are open they will discuss implementation.
Kissinger: We have brought along some concrete papers, some specific documents on implementation of certain points. We can discuss them and these can then be the terms of reference of the other forums.
Le Duc Tho: We shall have further discussion of that point tomorrow, to see which method will be better and will insure quicker results.
Kissinger: All right.
Le Duc Tho: As to the three-party forum, maybe after the ceasefire this forum will be open.
Kissinger: That’s fine.
Le Duc Tho: We can decide some time after the ceasefire, because there are many problems to discuss: the questions of relations between North and South, the question of reunification, the question of DMZ.
Kissinger: After the ceasefire. That would not be a bad time to open it.
Le Duc Tho: After the ceasefire. To save time.
Kissinger: We have to have some understandings about the DMZ before, but the implementation can be decided in the three-party forum after the ceasefire.
Le Duc Tho: We can exchange views on that, but this is a question concerning the three parties.
Kissinger: That’s in principle agreeable to us.
Le Duc Tho: Have you anything else to add?
Kissinger: Only one other minor question. If we should think of this trip to Hanoi, just so I can prepare myself for the next meeting, are you thinking of making it an open trip or a secret trip?
Le Duc Tho: According to us, at the beginning—it is my preliminary thinking—it should be secret, and when you are there we shall consider whether it will be kept secret or it will be announced. But if it is not announced you will announce it!
Kissinger: [Laughs] I am not all that eager. Some of our friends will not be overjoyed if I visit Hanoi. I agree if we go we should go secretly, and then by common agreement announce it at a specified time afterward.
Le Duc Tho: We shall consider your views. Probably the next time we shall decide that.
Kissinger: Yes. All right. I think we have settled all procedural questions.[Page 486]
Le Duc Tho: Let us have a little break.
[The meeting broke at 12:36 p.m. Dr. Kissinger’s party conferred outside in the garden and the North Vietnamese withdrew upstairs. After about 15 minutes the chef brought snacks into the meeting room—including sausage-like rolls (cha gio, or nem), fruit, and white wine. Dr. Kissinger’s party returned to the meeting room and ate, and were joined soon afterward by the Special Advisor and the Minister.]
[They discussed a possible visit by Dr. Kissinger to Hanoi. Dr. Kissinger asked whether Le Duc Tho lives in a house or an apartment in Hanoi. Le Duc Tho said, “In a house.” Tho added that it would be hard to get to his house with the bridges out, and that Dr. Kissinger would have to come over a pontoon bridge! Dr. Kissinger laughed, commenting that the Special Advisor never spoke a sentence without making a point.]
[They then discussed a visit by Xuan Thuy and Le Duc Tho to the U.S. “Where should I go?” Xuan Thuy asked. Dr. Kissinger replied, “We should send you to Arizona. It’s hot and dry. It’ll be good for you.” “But it’s desert there; I’ll be alone,” Xuan Thuy said. “We’ll send Ambassador Porter to join you,” Dr. Kissinger replied.]
[The subject of earlier private negotiations with Ambassador Harriman came up, and the North Vietnamese asked what Harriman was doing now. Actually he was not doing very much, Dr. Kissinger said. He had just married a much younger woman. Dr. Kissinger had thought this would tire Harriman out, but Harriman was still attacking Dr. Kissinger as vigorously as ever. Le Duc Tho doubled over in laughter.]
[The meeting resumed at 1:30 p.m.]
Le Duc Tho: Now let me speak about the content of the settlement.
Dr. Kissinger: Good.
Le Duc Tho: Let me speak about the content of the settlement and then we shall take up question by question to see on which points we have reached agreement and on which points we still differ. And then this afternoon we shall agree on some points and the remaining will be discussed tomorrow so as to reach an agreement.
Before going into the political problem of South Vietnam, the main question of a settlement in the Vietnam problem, we would like to reaffirm the principle of respect for the Vietnam people’s fundamental right, that is the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Vietnam. This principle in your 10 points—your 10 points have omitted in connection with this principle the word “unity,” and the formulation is not so concrete. Therefore we propose the following formulation: “The U.S. will respect the independence, the sovereignty, the unity and the territorial integrity of Vietnam as recognized by the 1954 Geneva Agreement on Vietnam.” We add . . .[Page 487]
Dr. Kissinger: That’s what you already had.
Le Duc Tho: “The U.S. will not intervene in any form in the internal affairs of Vietnam, will not use force or the threat of force against both South and North Vietnam.”
Dr. Kissinger: That’s your new Point 1.
Le Duc Tho: Right. Now, regarding the political problem of South Vietnam. Last time you already said that you recognized the reality of South Vietnam, that in South Vietnam there are two administrations, two armies and two main political forces. But in practice, in your document, we see that you avoid to speak of the Provisional Revolutionary Government; you only speak of the National Front for Liberation. In South Vietnam there are actually the PRG and the NLF. These are two different bodies, two organizations of different character. I think that you should not be confused in connection with these two organizations, and you should not deny the role of the PRG. And you should not consider the PRG as like the other political forces in South Vietnam, that is, that the PRG is not a government. This is something that is not correct. You explain that we should not engage in a debate on the denomination, but it is not merely a question of the name, of denomination; this is a question of principle.
As far as we are concerned, we have proposed that these two administrations, these two armies, are equal to each other. That is a concession of ours. Therefore, you should realize that point very clearly and bring about a correct, reasonable and logical solution. In the document to be signed, the official name of each party should be used. That does not mean recognition de jure, or legal recognition of it. The 1954 Geneva Agreement on Vietnam and the 1962 Geneva Conference on Laos did the same.
Now, regarding the question of election in South Vietnam. You propose to organize a Presidential election and the new President will form a new government, and after the Presidential election then the constitution of Saigon will be amended. So in the main you still maintain that the elections would be organized in the framework of the Saigon Administration, the Saigon institutions. We feel that such elections cannot be genuinely free and democratic which would allow the South Vietnam people to decide themselves their political future. It cannot be considered as a free election aimed at eliminating all unfair advantages of the present Saigon leaders and not giving victory for any political force of South Vietnam as you say.
You said that you will not predetermine the will of the South Vietnam people, but your intention to organize in such a way is to impose on all South Vietnam a political regime in accordance with the Saigon constitution. That is the reason why we are of the view that genuinely free and democratic general elections should elect a constitu[Page 488]ent assembly, and this constituent assembly will be really representative of the people, and this assembly will work out a constitution and set up the definitive government of South Vietnam. Only such general elections can be genuinely free and democratic, can really insure and fully insure the right to self-determination of the South Vietnam people. On the contrary, if it is decided now that the election will be a Presidential election and the President will form the government, then this would not be in keeping with real democracy.
Now, regarding the respect for the democratic liberties and national concord of South Vietnam. Your proposal deals with this question in a very simple way, inadequate way, and inconcrete. You only speak of the enforcement of democratic liberties. So how do you envisage the meaning, the content of democratic liberties? And as for us, we clearly and concretely define the content of democratic liberties and how to implement democratic liberties and national concord and the broad union of the South Vietnamese people. And I think that we should not deal with this matter in a simple way as you do. This problem is very important for the South Vietnam people, because the South Vietnam people have been living under a dictatorial and a fascistic regime. All their democratic liberties have been ignored. Hatred and enmity among the parties are rife. Therefore, we should define this provision very concretely and very clearly. Only in doing so can we implement these provisions correctly, strictly.
Now regarding the question of administration, power, in South Vietnam during the period from the restoration of peace to the formation of the definitive government of South Vietnam. We would like now to clarify on some main points. You propose the formation of a Committee of National Reconciliation that would have the task to organize and to supervise the new presidential elections. Beside that there is no other task. But you speak that the responsibilities, the task of this Committee of National Reconciliation is a question that can be discussed. But what do you envisage for this task?
If the Committee of National Reconciliation proposed by you has no authority at all, then in the actual situation of South Vietnam where there are two administrations, two armies, two different regions, how can we insure the cessation of hostilities, how can we insure the restoration of democratic liberties, preserve lasting peace and implement national reconciliation and national concord? Which body will have enough authority to implement the political and military provisions of the signed agreement that we have mentioned, as we have envisaged as the task of the Government of National Concord in the proposal we have handed to you? If there is no such authoritative body, the situation of South Vietnam will continue to be chaotic; the two administrations and two armies will continue. Conflict, hatred and enmity instead of [Page 489] being wiped out will increase. The democratic liberties in South Vietnam will not be insured and that will result in the impossibility of preserving lasting peace or the implementation of genuine national concord and bringing about a stable situation to build up South Vietnam reflecting the aspirations and the will for peace, independence, democracy and national reconciliation, as you say.
Therefore, when we propose the formation of a Provisional Government of National Concord with the three components while the two other administrations, the PRG and the Saigon administration, remain in existence, this is a practical feature of the political situation of South Vietnam. And only such an authoritative government, with full power, can moderate these two administrations, and these two armies, and these three political forces. But we are very realistic; we recognize that the Provisional Revolutionary Government and the Saigon Administration will temporarily remain in existence and govern the regions respectively controlled by them during the period from the signing of the overall agreement to the formation of the definitive government of South Vietnam. That is the reason why we propose certain limitations to the internal power of the Provisional Government of National Concord. That power will cover only the implementation of the military and political provisions of the signed agreement.
Dr. Kissinger: What else is there? [The other side discusses in Vietnamese.] Well, I will ask afterward. Please continue.
Le Duc Tho: Now, regarding the question of Nguyen Van Thieu’s resignation, we maintain our proposal that Nguyen Van Thieu will remain immediately after the conclusion of the overall agreement.
Dr. Kissinger: Will remain?
Le Duc Tho: Will resign. We don’t know why until now you have not answered this proposal regarding Nguyen Van Thieu’s resignation. In our view the resignation of Nguyen Van Thieu is an important and indispensable question in the settlement of the Vietnam problem in the present political situation. And regarding this question of Nguyen Van Thieu’s resignation, we have made concessions already. It is now time, please, to give a direct answer to this question.
These are the political questions that need our discussion.
Regarding the military questions. Now about the U.S. troop withdrawal: You proposed last time a period of three months; we also proposed a period of 45 days. I think that this period, 45 days, is long enough for the total withdrawal of U.S. troops and other troops from out of South Vietnam. There are not many U.S. ground troops left now. The U.S. air and naval forces can be withdrawn very rapidly. The shorter the period of military troop withdrawals, the sooner the release of U.S. captives. I don’t know why you want to prolong this period to three months; the U.S. proposal is not suitable.[Page 490]
Now, regarding the question of U.S. military aid to the Saigon Administration, we maintain our point of view that if the U.S. completely ends its involvement it cannot continue to give military aid to the Saigon Administration after the ceasefire. In your 10 points you still maintain this question. That shows that the U.S. still wants to carry on its involvement in South Vietnam contrary to your affirmation that you want to end it.
Last time, you proposed that we should consider the question of military aid, the question of replacement of military weapons, in order to find out a solution, an agreement. We cannot put on the same footing the question of the DRV giving assistance to the Provisional Revolutionary Government and the question of the U.S. giving aid to the Saigon Administration, because the character of these two aids are different. But we take into account your view, and in a desire to come to an agreement we agree to the following. We agree to write down in the document that after the ceasefire, after the enforcement of ceasefire, the two South Vietnamese parties will not accept any military aid, any reinforcement of troops, advisors, military and technical personnel, weapons, munitions and war materiel into South Vietnam. The two South Vietnamese parties will agree at intervals on the replacement of weapons in accordance with the principle of equality.
Now regarding the question of Vietnamese armed forces in South Vietnam, we maintain our views as have been mentioned in Point 10. The reason why we maintain this point we have expressed to you previously. The settlement of the question of Vietnamese armed forces in South Vietnam should be made in a spirit of equality and not in a spirit of “fairness” as you proposed. The Provisional Government of National Concord will stimulate, will supervise, the implementation of the agreement between the two South Vietnamese parties regarding the question of Vietnamese armed forces in South Vietnam, and not the International Commission as you propose.
Regarding the question of ceasefire, last time you said that President Nixon had accepted our stand regarding the question of ceasefire. So we have reached agreement on this question. But why you don’t write this question in the document?
Regarding the word “ceasefire.” Previously, you used the word “standstill ceasefire;” now you use the word “general ceasefire.” What is the reason for that change? In our view, starting from the actual military situation in South Vietnam, we think that a standstill ceasefire is the most realistic way, and this is moreover a question you have agreed to.
Regarding the question of ceasefire in Laos and Cambodia, we have repeatedly expressed our views very clearly when we speak of the questions existing between the three Indochinese countries. I will not repeat my statement again.[Page 491]
Now, regarding the question of the U.S. shouldering the responsibility of healing the war wounds and the economic rehabilitation in the two zones of Vietnam. At the meeting of September 15 I have expressed my views in this connection and given you a document. Last summer you have also spoken about this question. So now please give a concrete answer to this question. I think the U.S. has to shoulder the responsibility in this connection.
As to the signed document, if it is a problem for the United States, if the U.S. finds it difficult, we should find a form of signed documents suitable to the U.S. The U.S. and the DRVN will settle the question of the U.S. contribution to the DRVN; as to the U.S. contribution to South Vietnam, it will be settled by the two South Vietnamese parties with the United States.
Regarding the question of the reunification of Vietnam, we have many points in common, but there remain some differences that need solution. The U.S. is unwilling to mention the principle that Vietnam is one, the Vietnamese people is one, the military demarcation line at the 17th parallel as established by the 1954 Geneva Agreement on Vietnam is only provisional and not a political or territorial boundary. We don’t understand why the United States is unwilling to commit to paper the one question that had been decided upon by the 1954 Geneva Agreement on Vietnam. I have on many occasions expressed our views on this question. You yourself have said that you have no problem to reaffirm the provisions of the 1954 Geneva Agreement on Vietnam. Therefore, the U.S. should accept this principle.
Regarding the time for reunification, we think that later the two zones of North and South Vietnam will meet and discuss. We don’t understand why you propose that the timing for the reunification will be decided upon “after a suitable interval following the signing of an overall agreement.” How you propose that—I don’t understand the reason why. I think that this formulation of yours is vague and not necessary.
Regarding the question of international control and supervision, there are three questions on which we still differ. First, the composition of the international commission. In the three countries of the international commission, we propose India. I think that India is a neutral country; therefore this proposal is reasonable. But in order to achieve a quick solution to this problem, we propose that the international commission will be composed of four countries.
Dr. Kissinger: Which?
Le Duc Tho: Each side will propose two countries, and these countries should be agreeable to the other side. So you propose two countries, we propose two countries, and we shall agree upon which country. We shall discuss.[Page 492]
Dr. Kissinger: I understand.
Le Duc Tho: Regarding the task of the international commission, we do not accept the U.S. proposal regarding the international control and supervision of the provision of Point 4 on the political problem of South Vietnam, and we do not accept the control and supervision of the international commission on Point 5 regarding the Vietnamese armed forces in South Vietnam. Because these are internal matters of South Vietnam. The international commission cannot interfere in the internal affairs of South Vietnam. But regarding the question of a general election in South Vietnam, we agree to the supervision of the international commission.
We also disagree with you on the international control and supervision of the questions existing between the three Indochinese countries. Because this does not come under the competence of the Vietnam international commission. Moreover, these questions concerning Laos and Cambodia, these questions should be decided by Laos and Cambodia, not only by us. And while carrying out its task, the international commission should respect the independence, the sovereignty of Vietnam and should not interfere in the internal affairs of Vietnam.
Now regarding the international guarantee. The U.S. proposed that there should be international guarantee for the ceasefire. I think it unnecessary because there is already the international commission for control and supervision which is in charge of that question. Previously you did not raise this question; I don’t know why you raise it now.
Regarding the international guarantee for the national rights, the fundamental national rights and the neutrality of Laos and Cambodia, this is a question that comes under the competence of Laos and Cambodia. However, we think that after the settlement of the Lao and Cambodian question there may be an international conference for the guarantee for the whole of Indochina. This is our private stand.
Now, regarding the countries participating in the international guarantee and the form of the guarantee, previously the U.S. raised that these countries should be “agreed upon by the parties.” Now you propose “agreed upon by the belligerent parties.” We disagree to the use of the wording “belligerent parties.” We think that our proposal is suitable. We have put forward a list of names of countries participating. We can agree on this at least. We can write down the principle, but I think that we can delay this question until after the signing of the overall agreement. It is up to you to decide.
Now the last question I would like to speak about is the questions existing between the three Indochinese countries. I have expounded our stand during the last four private meetings. To save time I will not repeat it again. However, I want to reaffirm once again that the peaceful settlement of the Vietnam problem will create favorable condi[Page 493]tions for the settlement of the Lao and Cambodian questions. But if you want that we settle the questions existing between the three Indochinese countries at the same time with a settlement of the Vietnam problem, then we should confer with Laos and Cambodia to settle this question. If we adopt this method, then the war will continue and be prolonged in the three Indochinese countries until we settle the problem. So you want it to go quickly, but in fact it is a slow advance.
Therefore, the quickest way is to settle the Vietnam problem before. The sooner the question of Vietnam is settled, it is assured that the Laos and Cambodian questions will be settled too. I have repeatedly told you that the question of war in the three Indochinese countries is closely related to each other. When we settle the Vietnam problem with you there is no reason that we should want the war to continue in the Indochinese countries. This is something very clear, very definite; there is no doubt in it, we can assure you so. We want to know your specific views on this question.
As I have told you from the very beginning, it is time now we should engage in straightforward and forthcoming talks and put forward our proposals to settle the problem. We have proposed a schedule for the negotiation, and a way to conduct negotiations so as to insure the implementation of the schedule. We should settle the questions of the settlement so as to quickly settle the problem. Therefore, we have made an effort to put forward constructive proposals to narrow the differences, so as to rapidly come to agreement. I think you should have also a constructive proposal to respond to our reasonable logical proposals. Only in this way can we achieve significant progress and rapidly achieve agreement and implement the schedule we have agreed upon, and finally to put an end to the war in Vietnam and restore peace in Vietnam, which is beneficial to both sides.
So today I have pointed out the points on which our views still differ. We can examine point by point, particularly the Point 4 regarding the political questions, and then we shall tackle the other points and to see other points of difference and to continue to discuss them tomorrow, so we can narrow our still great differences.
I have finished.
Kissinger: Thank you, Mr. Special Advisor. You have, in fact, proposed a procedure very similar to the one we were proposing to adopt, which is to say, to go through the document point by point to see which adjustments can be made and what progress can be achieved.
Now I had originally intended to hand you a new document. But I think it would be more efficient if I considered tonight some of your objections to see how many of them can be incorporated into the document, so we can make some real progress. So we don’t have to do it twice. So what I propose to do, Mr. Special Advisor, if that is [Page 494] agreeable to you, is to go through those points on which you have not commented and leave the ones on which you have commented for tomorrow morning. And to incorporate whatever we can into that. Is that agreeable with you?
Le Duc Tho: Agreed.
Kissinger: Now let me sum up again what I believe our tasks are, regardless of where we stand on the points.
First, we have to agree on the basic principles among each other. Second, we have to agree on the language, because even if we agree on principles it may be there are nuances of difference in the language. As you point out, for example, when you object to our word “fairness” and want the word “equality.” I am just pointing that out as an example, not arguing it. Because if we don’t agree on the language the other forums are going to waste a great deal of time.
Le Duc Tho: Quite right.
Kissinger: Thirdly, even when we have agreed on common principles and when we have agreed on language, it would be useful for this forum to agree on some specific measures of implementation, in order to speed up the work of the other forums. So when we speak, for example, of ceasefire and withdrawal and prisoners, we should have a precise schedule in mind and precise measures of what each side can and cannot do. Because only then would our agreements have any meaning.
Now let me go through the various points with this in mind, and in some I will give you the language. And we will give you a total document tomorrow morning. I will incorporate some of the Special Advisor’s comments tonight, but some of them he didn’t talk about so I can talk about it now.
At the last meeting, as at this meeting, the Special Advisor pointed out the absence of the reference to “unity” in our position. The trouble . . . our hesitation has been not that we are opposed to unity but the fact that, as you know, realistically there has been no unity. But we are prepared to say that we will place no obstacles in the way of the unity of Vietnam, and that we will respect such unity once it exists, once it has been brought about according to the provisions of this agreement.
Secondly, we are prepared to include a provision indicating that the United States will not interfere militarily or otherwise in the affairs of South Vietnam after the overall settlement is implemented. We will give you some precise language tomorrow morning, taking into account your comments today. But we accept those two principles.
With respect to Point 2, this was not discussed by the Special Advisor, but at our last discussion he indicated that in your point [Page 495] when you referred to “technical personnel” you mean technical military personnel. We believe that this should be made clear and should be put into precise language.
Now on Point 3, the prisoners. There is one important difference between your plan and ours. There is one point about which I can leave no doubt in your mind. The President will under no circumstances sign an agreement that leaves any American prisoners anywhere in Indochina. There would be no support in America whatsoever for any agreement that made a distinction between American prisoners that are held in Vietnam and American prisoners that are held in Laos and Cambodia. Now the modalities by which this is achieved or the language that is used to express it is of course subject to negotiation. Whether your allies can be persuaded . . .
Le Duc Tho: So you mean by that that there is a difference between reality and language?
Kissinger: If we have assurances that all American prisoners held in Indochina will be returned as a result of the agreement, then we can negotiate about the language that expresses that reality. It is conceivable to me, for example—and I am speaking here without precise authority, but if we want to make rapid progress I have to say things sometimes and then check it in Washington—that your allies could turn over their prisoners to you and then you return all prisoners to us.
Le Duc Tho: Please go on speaking, and we shall discuss.
Kissinger: All right. Now we have prepared a paper for your consideration on how one might visualize the release of prisoners and withdrawal. I will hand you it.
Le Duc Tho: But at the same time you should also prepare written documents on the political questions and in concrete terms.
Kissinger: You will have it tomorrow. I just want to take into account the Special Advisor’s points. At the beginning of the meeting tomorrow I will give him an integrated document with all our views.
This is a subsidiary document. We provide in this document that every two weeks over the three months of our withdrawal period one-sixth of the U.S. and allied forces will be withdrawn and one-sixth of the prisoners will be released, with the sick and wounded prisoners released first and the others in the order in which they were captured.
Le Duc Tho: So the period for the troop withdrawal will remain three months?
Kissinger: Yes, for the time being. But if we settle every other issue I think we can find a compromise for this one. I think if we settle by November 1, there won’t be too many Americans in Vietnam by the new year.[Page 496]
Le Duc Tho: Now since it is now time to settle the problem, so you should put forward any question you have in mind and we shall do the same and we should settle it.
Kissinger: All right, this is the paper. [Hands over U.S. paper, “Withdrawal of Forces and Prisoner of War Releases,” Tab A.]
I will return to Point 4, the political point. Let me finish.
I think on Point 5, Vietnamese armed forces, and our Point 7 on the Geneva Agreements, and Point 8 on Indochinese foreign policy, I think we are pretty close to agreement. I think when we give you concrete language tomorrow we can perhaps work out a concrete agreement. For example, I see that the Special Advisor makes a point of the difference between the word “fairness” and the word “equality” of Vietnamese armed forces. I shall consider that point tonight and respond tomorrow.
Now as for the Point 6, reunification, the Special Advisor expressed some concern about the words “after a suitable interval.” I shall consider that point tonight and give him an answer first thing in the morning.
On the point of the ceasefire, the Special Advisor would be more comfortable if we expressed our agreement that a ceasefire will be signed only after the overall agreement is achieved, rather than the general language that we have today.
Le Duc Tho: Standstill ceasefire.
Kissinger: That’s the second point, he’s always impatient. He would have been a great capitalist; he banks everything he has immediately, draws interest on it and demands another deposit. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: But you are a better capitalist than I.
Kissinger: I am a very poor capitalist; one cannot live on governmental salaries in Washington. So we will consider that first point, that is, specifying the time of the ceasefire and give you an answer on it tomorrow.
If I understood the Special Advisor correctly, he wanted to have said, for example, that “when the overall agreement is signed, then the ceasefire will go into effect.” He wanted us to be more precise.
Le Duc Tho: Because this is a point on which we have agreed upon and we don’t see it written in your document.
[Mr. Lord confers with Dr. Kissinger.]
Kissinger: My colleagues always think that I don’t understand things properly. We have constant revolution on my staff; they all want my job. You have been a bad influence on them.
Le Duc Tho: Sometimes you have correctly understood but you don’t want to commit it down on paper.[Page 497]
Kissinger: I will consider it tonight, and no doubt when I reflect on the Special Advisor’s eloquence I will be very heavily influenced by it.
Now on the word “general ceasefire,” the phrase is the preference of our allies. Here is how we propose, here is my proposal for handling it. Let me work out a separate paper tonight, which can be a supplementary paper to this document, which makes it very clear that we will define “general ceasefire” as a standstill ceasefire.
Now, on Point 10, international supervision and guarantee, you are quite right. We differ as to the subjects that are to be internationally controlled. We believe, for example, that the ceasefire must be internationally controlled, and some of the other military provisions. And I do not see any possibility as yet of bridging that. I know you agree to international control and supervision but you don’t want an international guarantee.
Le Duc Tho: Right.
Kissinger: Yes, well, we agree then on the international control; we are not agreed yet on the international guarantee. This remains an issue to be settled.
As for your proposal that there should be four members, our thinking had gone along different lines. We were going to propose Indonesia as a replacement for India. But we would like to consider your proposal of two members for each side, and let you know at our meeting on October 6th. It has possibilities. I don’t know what our answer will be, but it’s a constructive way of looking at it.
Now let me turn to the political issue.
Clearly, there are important differences remaining between us on how to describe the future political process in South Vietnam.
You say that a Provisional Government of National Concord of three equal proportions should be established at the outset through agreement. It would conduct foreign policy, run the elections, and give instructions to subordinate organs of the two sides. I am just summing up the differences. We believe that a Committee of National Reconciliation representing three forces should be organized to insure genuinely fair and free elections, so that the Vietnamese could choose their definitive government. The existing government would not run the elections, and the present leaders would step down in advance.
And therefore, we have answered the question of when President Thieu would resign.
Le Duc Tho: But you have not mentioned the specific time for the resignation.
Kissinger: But we have said this is subject to negotiation and we have indicated, it was offered, one month before the election. But we [Page 498] have also indicated we were prepared to consider as part of an overall settlement that this might be extended to two months.
Le Duc Tho: But our stands are still far apart in this connection of timing.
Kissinger: I agree. I am just saying we have replied.
Le Duc Tho: You have not responded to us.
Kissinger: We have not agreed but we have replied.
You have said that the elections should be for a constituent assembly. We have said they should be for the Presidency, as you pointed out, and that the future government should represent all forces in proportion to the votes they receive in the election, and that all forces should be eligible for all branches of government.
We will consider whether the election can be broadened to go beyond the office of the Presidency.
You believe that local areas should be administered throughout by three-segment bodies. We believe that they should be administered by who controls them de facto.
We have extensively discussed what our real differences are. We frankly believe the objective consequence of your position is to guarantee a takeover by your side. Unless you understand this you cannot understand what our concerns are.
According to your proposal, the present government would change its personnel, its policy, and its negotiating delegation. All of this would be done without reciprocity, as an entrance price to negotiations, and while the war was still going on.
After a ceasefire, the South Vietnamese army would be cut off from outside military aid while your side’s forces would continue to receive assistance.
Though I recognize you have answered this today. I made this point before you spoke. But even with respect to this there is this problem. If I understand your proposal there is the right of unlimited supply to North Vietnam.
Le Duc Tho: It is right, because North Vietnam is a sovereign country. It has the right to receive foreign aid from countries, like all other countries. If now the country is prohibited aid to North Vietnam, it is the wrong way to propose a problem and we cannot accept that. North Vietnam has recognized the provisions of the Geneva Agreement prohibiting the establishment of foreign military bases, not joining any military alliance and not accepting the protection of foreign countries.
Kissinger: No, but the problem is not that. It is a 20-year record that makes it clear that we have absolutely no way of knowing what moves from North Vietnam into South Vietnam. You moved over a [Page 499] hundred tanks from North Vietnam through Cambodia to An Loc this year and we had no idea you could do that. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: If now we return to the discussion of this, it will take four years and the discussion will be endless.
Kissinger: I’m just explaining the practical problem. If there is unlimited supply into North Vietnam and North Vietnam can then infiltrate that supply into South Vietnam, then it is a very inequitable solution.
Le Duc Tho: As I told you lately, it is not conforming to political reality and to morality to put on the same footing the question of the DRV giving aid to the PRG and the question of the United States giving aid to the Saigon Administration. But in order to quicken the agreement, we have accepted that the United States should refrain from giving military aid to the Saigon Administration and North Vietnam will refrain from giving military aid to the PRG. This is a great concession of ours, and we agree to write this provision down in the written document.
Now, let me ask you one question. Now the Committee of National Reconciliation you propose has only the task regarding the elections only. But last time you said that the task of this committee can be discussed. So what is in your mind about the other tasks of this Committee of National Reconciliation? And I have put a number of questions regarding your proposal of a Committee of National Reconciliation? Please answer my questions.
Kissinger: I understand. First I want to make a realistic point to the Special Advisor, because if we are going to settle rapidly we must avoid as much theory as possible and become very concrete. Now we both have allies. That is a fact. You may regret it, and we may regret some of your allies, but that is a fact we now have to deal with. We have told you we will not overthrow through our actions what is the existing administration in Saigon. But we are prepared to start a process in which, as a result of local forces, changes can occur.
Now these negotiations between us give us a practical problem. If we make too many sweeping proposals here, there is no possibility of getting any agreement in Saigon and therefore no possibility of getting a rapid agreement. I want to explain the situation; I am not arguing with you. But if your colleagues in Hanoi have to make decisions they should understand our position. I will answer your questions. I agree with you that we should not consider the election in making a settlement. But the only danger we face in the election is not from our opposition; the only danger we face in the election is if we are accused of betraying our allies. Dellinger is no problem to us; George Wallace is. I just want to explain the situation; I am not arguing it.[Page 500]
Therefore, what I am willing to do is to make a few general formulations with you. And then I am willing to send my deputy to Saigon as soon as I return, Thursday or Friday night. Now you may say that the Committee of National Reconciliation as we have offered it is nothing, and that it’s a charade. I can tell you it was four weeks of the most intense efforts, and even then we had to do certain things which are not strictly in conformity with what one usually does with allies.
Now let me answer your question about the Committee. I believe it is possible to frame some language in a general way that would give the Committee certain functions in addition to the elections, such as helping to implement the agreement. And I listened with interest to what the Special Advisor had to say about this view and the Provisional Government’s role in that connection, helping to resolve differences among the parties. But if we want to be practical it has to be spelled out in a somewhat general way, and the full details have to be left to the implementation.
Let me say something in this connection which I sincerely believe your colleagues have never fully understood in Hanoi—if you will forgive me. Your colleagues have always concentrated on the juridical basis of the agreement, and you have tried to avoid escape clauses which would permit us to undo what we have agreed upon. And I understand this, because you have had your experiences in 1954 and in 1962. But what I have said to you often before I must say again. John Foster Dulles went into Indochina not because the agreement was badly drawn in Geneva. He would have gone into Indochina no matter what the agreement said, because this was the orientation of his policy. Because he was carrying out a policy of containment. In 1962 the existing administration would have involved itself in Indochina because its whole theory was, first, that you were carrying out the views of Khrushchev on global guerrilla war, and then the theories of Lin Piao on protracted war. [Laughter] That is what Rostow and his colleagues thought in 1962, and that’s why they went in, and no matter what the Geneva Agreement had said this would have happened.
We have no such ideas. We know that you are acting for your own purposes and that you are almost as difficult for your friends as you are for your enemies.
Once the war ends in Vietnam we have no intention of involving ourselves in this area. In a second administration for the President we want to continue the policies of conciliation that we have started. And my expectation would be that at the end of the second term, far from being in a position of hostility to Hanoi, we would be in a position of an increasingly friendly relationship.
Take the case of the very recent past, of Bangladesh. We opposed the Indian invasion of what was then East Pakistan, and we used some [Page 501] very strong language in the United Nations. And we even moved our fleet into the Indian Ocean. And yet today, less than a year later, we are the largest single contributor of aid to Bangladesh. We gave more aid to Bangladesh than the whole rest of the world combined including the Soviet Union and including India. And in November we will send an economic mission to India to discuss how we can coordinate our aid in Bangladesh. We do this because now that the conflict is over we are interested in a Bangladesh that is independent and that is developing itself, and we have no national interest there. And that will be our attitude toward Vietnam after the war.
All we want, in terms of our conception, is that we want Vietnam to be independent and prosperous and we do not want it to be the tool of other major countries. We don’t want it to be our tool. And therefore, as I have told you before, it is a historical absurdity that we are fighting each other, because we are not the long-term threat to your independence.
But let us leave that philosophy aside. I say it, if I may say so, as much for your colleagues as for yourself.
But it applies to the problem of reparation. If I wanted to protract these negotiations—in fact if I wanted to end them—I could let you go on making these proposals on reparations. The total American foreign aid bill for this year is $1.8 billion, for all the countries of the world together. You are asking for all of that for Vietnam. It doesn’t matter what we agree to; Congress will never vote it. I state it as a fact, and you ask any of your American friends whether I am not telling you the truth. If we could end the war with money it would be the easiest way to do it. Secondly, it isn’t possible to write a specific sum or indemnity into the agreement. What we can do is to put a phrase into the agreement that we recognize the need for reconstruction of Indochina, or something like this, and to give you a private assurance that we will make a major effort.
Now there’s one other thing that I have said to you once privately, but I will say again. You want two contradictory things: You want us to spend a lot of money for North Vietnam, but you want us to spend very little, in fact nothing, for South Vietnam. If you are worried about the American economic and military investment in South Vietnam, it is my judgment that under conditions of peace the amount of money Congress would be willing to appropriate for South Vietnam would be much less than the amount of money that is now going into South Vietnam.
But I will do another formulation tonight of the functions of this Committee and submit it to you. I mean additional functions for the Committee.
Now one other point, about ceasefire. I can understand your argument that the whole solution for Laos and Cambodia cannot also be [Page 502] included in this negotiation. The entire political solution. I understand your argument. However, on the issue of a ceasefire, we cannot imagine how it is possible to end the war in Vietnam but let the war continue in Laos and Cambodia. So we think there should be at least a ceasefire, that the ceasefire should be extended into Laos and Cambodia. And since most of the Lao and Cambodian troops that fight against the governments seem to speak Vietnamese it should not be too difficult to transmit instructions to them. [Laughter]
Xuan Thuy: Just like Americans speaking English.
Kissinger: That’s right. We will give instructions to all troops in Indochina in the languages of this conference and see what happens. [Laughter]
These are my answers to the Special Advisor’s questions, and I would then propose that tomorrow I will hand him a document which is redrafted on the basis of his discussion today and my observations.
But I am sure the Special Advisor has another paper here. He never fires all his cannons at once. [Laughter] What I want to know is has he got any more tanks in An Loc?
Le Duc Tho: There are still tanks and ammunition, but the tanks and the ammunition in the negotiation have their limits, and after a certain moment we can’t give any more tanks and ammunition.
Kissinger: That’s true for both of us.
Le Duc Tho: Let me express a few opinions. Then we shall break and meet again tomorrow.
Mr. Special Advisor recalled the events of 1954 in Vietnam and the events of 1962 in Laos. Regarding these events our respective views greatly differ. We don’t speak at length on these questions, to save time, but I would like to remark that these events did not stem from the language of the agreement, whether they were concrete or inconcrete.
Kissinger: I agree.
Le Duc Tho: But when we sign the agreement, the formulation of the provisions should be concrete and should help the implementation of the agreements and have a certain role in the implementation of the agreements. Otherwise, there is no use to sign agreements. Because a signed agreement should reflect not only the principles but also the concrete provisions for the implementation by the parties, and these provisions are also to be implemented. So it is these provisions should be concrete and explicit.
Today I have pointed out many questions on which we still disagree. Mr. Special Advisor has just covered a number of these differences. So I would invite you to carefully consider my statement today and the questions I have put to you so that you may give clear answers tomorrow. And I shall do the same regarding your statement and I will answer you tomorrow.[Page 503]
Le Duc Tho: Because for the question of the Committee of National Reconciliation alone there still remain many points to be discussed. Therefore, please carefully study my statements on the political questions on Vietnam. Not only the task of the body you proposed but also the power, the authority of the body. And in my statement I have referred to this point regarding the organization of the Provisional Government of National Concord.
I can say that today we have had discussions, forthcoming discussions, but not yet at the level we wish to see. But at least it is the first step in the forthcoming and straightforward discussions we are holding here.
Kissinger: I agree.
Le Duc Tho: But I have not answered fully all your ideas. But it is the initial step on the way that we both put forward our proposals.
Kissinger: You will get the other document.
Le Duc Tho: Please, the document you have not given me today, please give me now and I shall have a document to give you too. Tonight we shall consider each other’s documents and tomorrow we shall explain.
Kissinger: I would like to redo the material in the light of what the Special Advisor said today and give it to you first thing in the morning.
Le Duc Tho: All right, but if you have a document, even if you have not redone it, give it to me and I shall have a document to give you.
Kissinger: The Special Advisor raised so many questions that I would like to answer, about the timing of ceasefire, the functions of the Committee of National Reconciliation, with respect to the elections other than for the Presidency, with respect to the words “fair” and “equal,” it would just be confusing.
I can give you some other documents, with respect to the functions of the Central Commission and its membership, which I will be glad to give you. But the one document I was going to give you . . . what I can give you is a document without Point 4, because I wanted to wait for our discussions, and which will have some of the weaknesses in the other points which the Special Advisor pointed out. It does have more detail on the first point, to meet his concern on unification, on unity. So if the Special Advisor would . . . if this will help him I will be glad to give it to him. [Hands over “U.S. Proposal” at Tab B.]
Le Duc Tho: So your card on Point 4 is still closed.
Kissinger: I would rather not give you this document because it will just lead to confusion. I would much rather give you a new document in the morning. There is no point to proceed from this.[Page 504]
Le Duc Tho: Let us see. It is still incomplete. You wanted to amend it?
Kissinger: I wanted to amend it. [Tho hands it back.] And really, I think you will be—you won’t be satisfied with the document tomorrow morning either; I don’t want to raise your expectations—but I can go over with you tomorrow morning first thing all the new elements in our proposal.
Le Duc Tho: Now let me give you some ideas on the new document I shall give you. I would like to give you a new document of ours. And you should give it very serious consideration. We can say that it is our final document. I tell you that in a forthcoming and frank way. There are new elements in comparison with previous proposals, so that we both can come to an agreement. We have made new proposals and we have paid attention to the language of it. And so this shows our serious intent and good will—giving you a document and not asking a document in return.
Kissinger: I agree with you.
Le Duc Tho: So please consider it and tomorrow you will give us your answer. [Hands over DRV proposal at Tab C.]
I draw your attention to four points in this document.
First, regarding the political questions, we still feel it is necessary to form a three-segment Provisional Government of National Concord in South Vietnam, with the task regarding the implementation of the military and political provisions of the signed agreements. This is a new and final proposal of ours. This new proposal is very logical and flexible. The essence of this new document is the maintenance of the two existing administrations with their name, their functions regarding internal affairs and their existing foreign relations, provided that this is not at variance with the provisions of the signed agreements.
As to the Provisional Government of National Concord, it is a common body; it is aimed at implementing the pressing and indispensable task of implementing the military and political provisions of the signed agreements. Without such a body with such authority and power, without such an authoritative body, in a situation where there are two administrations, two armies, and two different regions, then it would be impossible to prevent the resumption of such a conflict. If with your proposal of the Committee for National Reconciliation without any authority at all, then the implementation of the signed agreement is insured, and with no authority to prevent resumption of the conflict the situation will remain in chaos. It would be difficult to prevent the resumption of hostilities and it would be difficult to preserve lasting peace. This is our new proposal, a very important one, aimed at achieving a rapid agreement between the two sides. You should positively respond to our proposal.[Page 505]
The second point is regarding the U.S. troop withdrawal period. For the period proposed by you, we feel it is too long. Therefore, we maintain our stand, that is, a period of 45 days.
Regarding the damages, the reparations, tomorrow I shall speak further. But I think that in the signed document there should be a sentence that the U.S. should shoulder the responsibility of healing the war wounds in North and South Vietnam. As to the details, we shall find out a suitable formulation—the language we shall discuss later.
The fourth point regarding the questions existing between the Indochinese countries, we maintain our stand in this connection as I have told you.
Regarding the question of prisoners of war. As I told you last time, that the American prisoners in Cambodia, there are none. In Laos, there are very few. But if you satisfactorily solve the political question and the question of reparations then we can find an understanding. But it is a question under the competence of Laos and Cambodia, and we have to exchange views with them. And moreover, this cannot be written down in a signed document.
As to other questions you raised in connection with Indochina, it is unsolvable, and we still maintain our stand. But considering it as an understanding between us, I can tell you this: All foreign troops and foreign military personnel must put an end to all their activities in Laos and Cambodia and should be withdrawn from Laos and Cambodia. They should not be reintroduced into these countries. It is prohibited to reintroduce troops and armaments into Laos and Cambodia. I can tell you this now. But if written in an agreement we cannot agree to that. Because it is here matters concerning the sovereignty of Laos and Cambodia. Moreover this question does not come under the scope of this conference.
But we feel that you are not realistic. Because if we now end the war in Vietnam, how can we still intend to continue the war in Laos and Cambodia? There is no reason that we should like this.
Kissinger: Do you consider North Vietnam a foreign country in this definition? In Laos and Cambodia?
Le Duc Tho: [angrily] In Laos and Cambodia when we say that foreign troops, foreign countries, then troops other than Lao and Cambodian should get out of these countries.
Kissinger: I understand.
Le Duc Tho: The Geneva Agreements of 1954 and 1962 provided for that and they have been signed. But you started the operations in Laos so we and our friends joined hands to fight against you. But it belongs to history; if we recall that it will be endless.
Let me say a few words. This move constitutes a new show of good will from our side, our desire to come to peace. Please give it [Page 506] careful consideration. And I would like to repeat that this is final and I mean what I say. In order to rapidly settle the Vietnam problem you should give a positive response.
Kissinger: First of all, [illegible] you should look at this tonight. [Hands [illegible] “U.S. [illegible].]
Le Duc Tho: But you will amend it greatly?
Kissinger: I will amend it. You will see tomorrow that it will be amended.
Secondly, as I understand it, the new element here is that the existing administrations [illegible] South Vietnam can continue their foreign relations.
Le Duc Tho: The foreign policy applied by the two existing administrations in South Vietnam should be the foreign policy mentioned in the agreement we shall sign, and this is a policy of peace, independence, and neutrality.
Kissinger: I am just trying to understand what the new thing in this plan is.
Le Duc Tho: I have told you and you did not listen to me?
Kissinger: No, I have listened and I will study the notes very carefully.
Le Duc Tho: What is new here is that each side’s relations with foreign countries will be maintained. This is the greatest . . .
Kissinger: That’s right, I understand.
Le Duc Tho: And the task of the Provisional Government of National Concord, the three-segment we propose here, will cover only the scope of the implementation of the political and military provisions of the signed agreements.
Kissinger: I understand.
Le Duc Tho: Externally, this government will supervise the two existing governments in their implementation of the foreign policy of peace, neutrality and independence, as agreed in the documents.
Kissinger: That’s what I thought. I understand.
Le Duc Tho: This is a great point. It is different from previous proposals. Regarding Laos and Cambodia it is different.
Kissinger: No, I understand.
Le Duc Tho: So we have shown our good will and flexibility in this point. There should be response from your side on this point by giving suitable proposal on these points. Reciprocity.
So we have finished our day’s work. But, in reviewing it, we are more concrete than you are. You are still in space. Tomorrow you should catch up.[Page 507]
Kissinger: I think we have had a constructive meeting today. We have laid out a definite program. I think you will see some movement already in this proposal [at Tab B]. You will see more tomorrow. And while we will still be apart tomorrow, we have laid out the route on which we will travel that will bring us together. Thank you Mr. Special Advisor, Mr. Minister.
[The group got up from the table and began farewell handshakes.]
Le Duc Tho: We have been positive. You have too. But not at the same level as we. [Laughter]
Kissinger: I agree that you have made an effort. It shows you are serious about ending the war. We are serious too. But it is a very difficult problem.
[Dr. Kissinger and his party thereupon departed.]
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1021, Alexander M. Haig Special File, Kissinger and Haig Memcons with Thieu [3 of 4]. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting took place at 108 Avénue du Général Leclerc in Gif-sur-Yvette. The residence, formerly owned by the artist Fernand Léger, became a property of the French Communist Party on Léger’s death in 1965. The Party made it available to the North Vietnamese as one of the locations for the negotiations. All brackets, except those indicating illegible text, are in the original. The tabs are attached but not printed.↩