21. 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
- Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
- Major General Alexander M. Haig, Jr., Deputy 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
- Julie Pineau, Notetaker
Dr. Kissinger: Did I force you to go to early mass this morning? [They laugh.] I am responsible for any inadequacies then in the salvation of your soul.[Page 544]
We’re definitely meeting tomorrow, aren’t we? The only reason I ask is because the Colonel will have to make arrangements if there were any question about it.
Xuan Thuy: Last time we have agreed that we would meet for three consecutive days beginning today. It will depend on our work. We may prolong our meetings if necessary. Probably we shall keep our agreement.
Dr. Kissinger: It’s agreeable to me. It’s just that our airplane is in Frankfurt. It’s purely technical. We’re prepared to meet for three days and if necessary even longer.
Le Duc Tho: Today it is fine weather. It is good travelling for you.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes.
Le Duc Tho: For the sake of peace we sacrifice one fine weather day like this, and also apologize to Christ. But Christ would like peace too and not war.
Dr. Kissinger: And there’s a very important horse race today. I know the Special Advisor wouldn’t have gone, but I am not so sure about the Minister. [Laughter]
Xuan Thuy: I don’t play at horse race, but I do like to see them participate in horse racing.
Dr. Kissinger: I have never seen a horse race.
Xuan Thuy: It is very interesting pleasure indeed, and you have missed it.
Dr. Kissinger: In France they run the opposite way around the track than in America. And I am told there’s one race track in Paris, in Auteuil, where when they get around the other side they’re behind [Page 545] the trees so you can’t see them, and I’m told that that’s where the jockeys decide who will win.
Le Duc Tho: But we, are we making now a race to peace or to war?
Dr. Kissinger: To peace; and we’re behind the trees!
Le Duc Tho: But shall we overcome those trees or we shall be hindered by these trees?
Dr. Kissinger: No, we will settle.
Le Duc Tho: But if you get out of these trees we will too.
Dr. Kissinger: We’ll both come out from behind the trees and we will settle.
Le Duc Tho: And then both the horses will have the same road.
Dr. Kissinger: But as we get across the finish line he will be saying, “You have not been sufficiently concrete.” [Laughter] At the signing ceremony the Special Advisor will make a speech saying Dr. Kissinger was inadequately concrete.
Le Duc Tho: Actually at the signing ceremony, it is not concrete enough, and after the ceremony you should be concrete too!
Dr. Kissinger: And after the signing ceremony we will start a new era which will begin an increasingly friendly relationship between our two countries.
Le Duc Tho: It is certain.
Dr. Kissinger: So it will be a different relationship altogether.
Xuan Thuy: Shall we begin now?
Dr. Kissinger: Now I have one procedural point on which I promised the Special Advisor an answer this time, on how to proceed with these documents. Our idea is that when we have finished with these 10 Points they should be initialed by the Special Advisor and myself, and announced, so that we can give proper direction to the bureaucracy and so that other countries can understand what is going to happen. After the overall agreement is signed—after the overall agreement is completed, we agree that it should be signed by the Foreign Ministers.
Xuan Thuy: We shall take note of this and we shall further exchange views on that. But now I propose we should do this way. Last time, on September 27th before we left, Mr. Special Advisor Le Duc Tho repeated and stressed on the question of principles, and he expressed the hope that both sides will show good will and make effort so that at the forthcoming meetings we should get good results. And we shall do in such a way that we shall put an end to the era of conflict and shift to an era of peace in which the relations between the United States and Vietnam should have a change. Now I shall give to the Special Advisor to speak first.
Dr. Kissinger: I see that the Special Advisor has two big green folders.[Page 546]
Xuan Thuy: I agree with Mr. Special Advisor Le Duc Tho, his views at the end of the last meeting, that Dr. Kissinger said that we should study each other’s views and afterward you sent your Deputy General Haig to Saigon so that we would have a comprehensive proposal.
Dr. Kissinger: I am glad to see, incidentally, that the Minister is fully recovered and in his old fighting form. That’s why I brought General Haig along, so that I have some support. [Laughter]
Xuan Thuy: So now your side is bigger today with General Haig assisting.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree with the Special Advisor’s suggestions that perhaps I should speak first, and then we will exchange views.
I have been sent here by the President to try for a decisive breakthrough to a negotiated settlement. We have worked to that end—in Washington and Saigon—since our last session. And we shall work with you here the next three days toward that objective.
I trust that you are not without information on events in Vietnam, so you will know that the visit of my Deputy to Saigon was not one of the easier missions he has had to perform.
At the end of our last meeting the Special Advisor stressed the necessity for “mutual comprehension” in order to find a mutually acceptable and reasonable settlement. We said we should frankly address the major problems and expound our proposals. That is our approach.
I have brought a new proposal with me today. [U.S. draft agreement, Tab A.] In framing it we carefully studied your own plan of September 26 and the eloquent remarks of the Special Advisor at our last meeting. Before presenting our new plan, let me candidly give you our assessment of your positions as they now stand. For just as the Special Advisor stated firm North Vietnamese principles last time, so the United States has its own principles that it cannot compromise. So let me in the first part of my presentation follow what I have—one of the things at least—that I have learned from the Special Advisor, and offer a critique as we see it on your proposal, and then we will offer our own proposal.
Le Duc Tho: You have the right to do that and I have the same right too.
Dr. Kissinger: I don’t have the impression that the Special Advisor is extremely reticent about exercising that right. [Laughter] In fact it’s a lucky thing my megalomania is so well developed or I would really suffer from feelings of inadequacy after I hear the Special Advisor. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: Please go ahead.
Dr. Kissinger: Let me make first our critique of your proposal so we can see what it is that has to be remedied.[Page 547]
There are two overall tendencies in your plan. First it focuses almost all obligations and controls on our side. The DRV as such would have few reciprocal obligations and would have the implicit right to intervene everywhere in Indochina. Secondly, the plan concentrates exclusively on South Vietnam. It makes no provisions for the other countries of Indochina. Your troops would remain in South Vietnam; the base areas in Cambodia and Laos would continue to serve them; and there would be no limitation on the introduction of military forces into these base areas.
Let me be more specific.
We have found some positive elements in your latest political plan. These include: the principle of unanimity for the tripartite body; the willingness to spell out other guarantees that no force should dominate that body; the fact that the Government, as you call it, would be exclusively charged with carrying out the military and political provisions of the agreement; the maintenance of the existing authorities in South Vietnam.
Le Duc Tho: It is a most positive point, very positive point.
Dr. Kissinger: He won’t even let me agree with him! I agree, these are positive points.
Le Duc Tho: And it no doubt has facilitated the task of General Haig to Saigon.
Dr. Kissinger: I wouldn’t go so far as to say that. [Laughter]
None of these positive elements has any significance, however, if the existing authorities are not able to maintain themselves. And the combination of various elements in your overall plan would put maximum strain on the existing structure. Unintentionally, of course!
Le Duc Tho: But the operation of the new government is on the principle of unanimity, unanimous agreement and consultation; there is no coercion from either side.
Dr. Kissinger: I have understood this, but there’s got to be something to be unanimous on. But I understand; it’s a positive point. I am not arguing. Let me indicate what these strains are because you may have missed them when you devised the plan!
Xuan Thuy: We did not consent to your ideas in drafting our proposal. [Laughter]
Dr. Kissinger: You would remove the incumbent President upon signature of an agreement; you would abolish the present constitutional structure; you would create new quasi-governmental organs from Saigon right down to the village level; you would have all our forces rapidly withdraw while yours remain; you would have all military aid to South Vietnam stop, except replacements, while there would be no control over what happens to the military equipment you could [Page 548] introduce into your base areas. This leaves aside the difficulty of controlling the jungle trails within South Vietnam through which your equipment moves, and which I illustrated last time for the Special Advisor with the example of the appearance of tanks in areas where our experts had told us it was impossible for tanks to operate!
Le Duc Tho: You have so many means of detection: You have electronic means of detection, you have even satellites. Why can’t you know that?
Dr. Kissinger: That’s a very interesting question! But you have shown great ingenuity in moving your forces without detection. Even when we had 500,000 men there.
Le Duc Tho: You did know that, but now you say you did not know.
Dr. Kissinger: We have learned one lesson from the war in Vietnam: We will fight the next war in the desert. [Laughter] That’s a guarantee to you! May I continue my comments on your plan? [Le Duc Tho nods.]
The cumulative impact of these various elements is clear. Even if any particular one would not necessarily prove decisive, the combination of them all occurring simultaneously has to give us concern. I know this isn’t intentional. It is in the spirit of cooperation that I advance this to you!
Now let me comment further on the military provisions in your plan, with regard to their military impact alone, leaving aside their effect in conjunction with your political elements.
After our total withdrawal, your forces would remain behind in South Vietnam—though the way you define your forces is vague. We are not even supposed to discuss your troops, much less cover them in an agreement.
Furthermore, we have to date only verbal assurances about your forces in Laos and Cambodia—which not only affect those countries but obviously South Vietnam itself. And even then their removal is placed at some vague date in the future.
There is no provision for ceasefires in the countries surrounding Vietnam, and no control over the major infiltration routes.
The provisions on replacements of arms apply only to South Vietnam and nowhere else in Indochina. Thus you could build up all along the borders of South Vietnam in your traditional base areas.
And we have serious questions about your approach to international guarantees.
I list all these questions not because I think they add up to an insoluble impasse. I list them so as to tell you candidly the problems we perceive in your plan—despite its positive aspects—and the issues we must resolve. We do not claim that you must satisfy us precisely and completely on every item in this list and in every detail. But you [Page 549] should understand that we must come to grips with these issues with truly mutual understanding and compromise if we are to reach an early agreement. And time is getting short.
Now let me turn to our new plan, which I shall hand you at the end of my presentation. Unless the Special Advisor would like to hear some more philosophy first. [Le Duc Tho smiles.] Let me explain the plan first.
In our new proposal today we have taken account of the positive aspects of your plan and we have tried also to take account of specific points the Special Advisor made last time. We have paid close attention to your principles. But we must also be faithful to our own.
Let me briefly explain what we are trying to do in this proposal.
There are three main categories of problems before us—the political issue, the military questions and the scope of the agreement.
Let me turn to the political issue first. We have taken account of the Special Advisor’s point last time that the central institutions—whether we call them by your name, the Government of National Concord, or by our name, the Committee of National Reconciliation—be given specific responsibility and that the functions of the existing authorities be more precisely spelled out.
What we have done in short is to accept your side’s basic principle that there are two administrations, two armies, and three political forces in South Vietnam. Our political proposal, whose structure closely follows your own in this regard, would reflect this principle. Furthermore, it meets your other fundamental point that there be a tripartite body that can serve as mediator and advisor to the two sides and which can contribute to the implementation of the signed agreements. We accept the essence of your September 26 position in this regard. It is truly a very major concession.
[Mr. Phuong repeats the translation for Xuan Thuy.]
Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Engel has his own ideas on how to settle the war and I am never sure what he presents. I am glad your interpreter is here to watch him. Has the Minister understood what I have said?
Xuan Thuy: I understand.
Dr. Kissinger: Good.
Specifically, we have specified the composition, selection and chairmanship of the tripartite body along the lines of your own proposal. That is to say, we have accepted the 12-membership composition and the other features of its operation. We have expanded, elaborated and specified the functions of this body, incorporating many of the elements of your plan. We have spelled out the functions of the existing authorities, again along the lines of your proposal. We have defined precisely the democratic liberties that are to be respected and guaranteed [Page 550] throughout the political process, and our views parallel yours in many important respects. We have accepted the concept of the Committee drafting electoral procedures and supervising them for the free and democratic election. So I think we are very close on the functions and composition of the tripartite body.
At the same time the Special Advisor emphasized last time that we must talk clearly to one another, that we cannot fool one another with stratagems. In this context there is no avoiding the issue that we continue to call the tripartite body a committee while you call it a government.
We think it is misleading to call this body a government for two reasons.
First, its functions are not really governmental in nature. Secondly, it is temporary in character. If you cannot accept the term “committee,” we are willing to consider the term “commission” or any other concrete proposal you might have, other than “government.”
(Winston Lord speaks privately to Dr. Kissinger.)
Dr. Kissinger: My associate is concerned that I did not point out to you that we accept the principle of unanimity in consultation. I want to make clear that in the spirit of good will that characterizes us we have accepted that too.
Le Duc Tho: Yes, this principle is most liked by Mr. Special Advisor.
Dr. Kissinger: It has certain positive attributes.
Le Duc Tho: We put forward this principle with a view to avoiding neither party should dominate the other party.
Dr. Kissinger: I understood this and it has made it possible for us to go into much greater elaboration toward your view.
Thus we have adopted the principal points and the shape of your plan with respect to the nature and function of the central institutions. We still differ on the matter of what institutions the free and democratic elections that both of our proposals call for are supposed to be for. As you know, we have offered Presidential elections and you have rejected them. I understood that correctly, didn’t I?
Le Duc Tho: That’s right.
Dr. Kissinger: At our last meeting we tentatively suggested the addition of National Assembly elections. Now there is no sense in deluding you—your information about Saigon is too good for this anyway—on this aspect of our political proposal we have not yet succeeded in gaining Saigon’s approval for an electoral formula, partly because the reciprocal security functions are so vague.
For the sake of completeness we have maintained the proposals for Presidential and National Assembly elections, in brackets, in our [Page 551] plan. But I will not push the issue at this meeting. We have noted your proposal for a Constituent Assembly. At this point we believe that this would introduce too many confusing elements.
For the sake of making rapid progress, let me propose the following:
Now that we have made the very major concession of accepting the essential functions as well as the composition of what you call the Government of National Concord and we call the Committee of National Reconciliation, we should set aside the electoral process until all other issues are settled, in carrying out the Special Advisor’s statement that if we are blocked in one area we shall go to another.
If we agree on the essential element of Point 4, that is to say, the central institutions, and settle all other issues, I shall then return immediately to Saigon to work out a proposal on the remainder of Point 4 which takes into account the views of 3 sides.
Of course, I don’t want to keep the Special Advisor from accepting our original proposal for the Presidential elections. I still maintain that.
Le Duc Tho: Please go on. I shall answer you later.
Dr. Kissinger: Of that I am certain. Of that I am afraid. [Laughter] The cooperation of Saigon is important for two reasons: First, if we both genuinely want a rapid agreement we must remember that a public dispute would only paralyze the other forums and prevent us from meeting our deadline. I ask you to remember the experience of 1968.
Secondly, as I have told you, while we are prepared to use our maximum influence and while we have done so and will continue to do so, we will not impose a settlement by force on our allies. However, if we can settle all other issues satisfactorily, especially in the military field, I am reasonably confident that we can work out arrangements for a definitive process which would complete our work on Point 4. On this basis, in my view, I could bring back a solution here next week that should conclude a complete agreement between us.
Now let me turn to some other new features in our plan.
In Point 1, we have dropped many sentences that the Special Advisor objected to and have inserted the word “unity.” This has been a major point of principle for you. We have now adopted it.
Le Duc Tho: Most reasonable.
Dr. Kissinger: Would you sign that if I wrote it down? It would be an historic event that the Special Advisor called something I said reasonable.
Le Duc Tho: I am prepared to do it.
Xuan Thuy: But this was already consecrated by the Geneva Agreements.[Page 552]
Dr. Kissinger: I should have quit while I was ahead. We’ll strike the last exchange from the record. I want an unqualified approval.
In Point 2, we have reciprocated your concession of some weeks ago and once again shortened our withdrawal timetable to 75 days. We have once again shown our flexibility on this issue as you requested last time.
Le Duc Tho: The two sides are near to each other, but you have to agree on the period of troop withdrawal.
Dr. Kissinger: But I can prove to the Special Advisor that he now has to yield, because we have given him 45 days from our original proposal and he has given us only 15 days from his original proposal. So he owes us 30 days.
Le Duc Tho: Now we shall lengthen the period and you reduce it a little and we shall meet together.
Dr. Kissinger: I think we shall settle this issue. It will not be the most difficult issue between us. It is not an issue of principle.
In Point 5, we continue to maintain the principle but we will have specific elaborations to give you.
In Point 6, we recognize the provisional nature of the 17th parallel. This too has been stressed by you as important. I am talking about our points, not your points.
On reconstruction, we shall table a concrete unilateral undertaking as a unilateral United States undertaking attached to the agreement but not part of the agreement. I shall hand that to you at the end.
On Point 9, we have dropped our position that there be a single Indochina-wide ceasefire. Instead we stipulate that there be simultaneous ceasefires, and that they be brought into effect with the participation of all concerned parties. I shall explain to you how this can be done very rapidly.
Also in Point 9, we have accepted your basic approach regarding military aid and replacement; that is to say we accept an obligation of the South Vietnamese parties not to accept the introduction of troops, other military personnel, arms, and so on. At the same time we have added some other provisions, such as prohibiting the signatories of the overall agreement from introducing men, materials and supplies into the countries of Indochina. This imposes an obligation of restraint on us and takes care of our concern regarding your base areas in Laos and Cambodia. We still believe that it is inconsistent with equal security to permit the unrestrained importation of war materials into any part of Indochina. But we respect your position regarding your sovereignty. As a compromise and as a sign of our good will, we shall deal with this issue by a unilateral statement about how we shall define replacements, which I shall give to you.[Page 553]
In Point 10, on international supervision and guarantee we agree to your proposal that there be four members, or two chosen by each side but acceptable to each other. But we will give you a paper. The Chairman will be nominated by the Secretary General of the United Nations but with the approval of the four members.
Le Duc Tho: The Chairman will be chosen among the four members.
Dr. Kissinger: No, the Chairman will be nominated by the Secretary General of the United Nations but unanimously approved by the four members that have been chosen.
Le Duc Tho: There will be five men.
Dr. Kissinger: Five men, so that they can operate by the principle of majority rule.
Le Duc Tho: So then the Commission will operate within the principle of majority. But in South Vietnam it operates on the principle of unanimity.
Dr. Kissinger: Exactly.
Le Duc Tho: That should be illogical.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, the principle of unanimity is not a universal law of nature. We are not protecting the rights of the minority members of the Commission.
Le Duc Tho: Please go on. I shall answer you later.
Dr. Kissinger: I was certain he had seen the document which I handed him.
Le Duc Tho: It would be difficult to have seen it.
Dr. Kissinger: Constant disillusionment. We have prepared a new paper on the details of the operation of the Commission as well as on the operation of the international guarantee, which I will submit to you with the proposal.
Now let me turn to the military issues, which in the light of the procedure I have outlined and the difficulties we face, take on a particular urgency.
Under your approach there would be no effective limits on your reinforcements or on your military operations anywhere in Indochina except in the very narrow strips of South Vietnam that your forces now control. You could supply your base areas and the war in surrounding countries would go on, while we withdrew all our troops and stopped all acts of force.
We therefore think it is essential not to hide behind legal formulae. We are looking for a practical way to achieve not only an early peace, but a lasting peace. We are looking for a settlement that will set the stage for free and democratic political competition, rather than a fragile facade that would lend itself to renewed hostilities, with all the advantages on one side.[Page 554]
With respect to the scope of this agreement, we therefore face four problems. First, the problem of ceasefire. Second, the presence of your forces in Laos and Cambodia. Third, the problem of infiltration through Laos and Cambodia into South Vietnam. Fourth the release of our prisoners in Laos and Cambodia. We acknowledge your point that we cannot solve the internal problems on behalf of Laos and Cambodia. But it is important that we are satisfied on these military issues, both in order to make an agreement that we can in good conscience strongly urge on our allies to sign.
Our new plan addresses the problem in a realistic fashion and in a way that should meet both sides’ concerns. We are making the concession of not requiring one Indochina-wide ceasefire. We propose parallel negotiations and a resolution of the military problems in each of the Indochinese countries. These ceasefires and the accompanying military provisions—such as withdrawals, replacements, and international supervision—would each be negotiated by the concerned parties together with the signatories of these 10 Points and would all be implemented simultaneously.
This is not as complex in practice as it appears in theory. In Laos there are now talks going on between the Government and Pathet Laos representatives. Each of us should use our influence with our friends. As far as we are concerned, we will use our maximum influence to see to it that a solution of the military problems and the implementation of a ceasefire are brought about simultaneously with the overall agreement here in Paris. This will also establish the mechanisms to reassure us on the infiltration routes so that the infiltration points of paragraph 9 are met. Therefore, if you cooperate, Laos should not present a problem.
There are no talks currently going on in Cambodia. We believe that the most practical and rapid solution there would be for us both to use our good offices to get the local commanders together to arrange a series of local ceasefires. We think we can accomplish this on our side. If you will use your influence in a similar direction, the Cambodia situation should be resolved as well. If you have other proposals, we will study them carefully. If we can settle Laos, I’m sure we can find some mutually acceptable means for Cambodia.
To sum up this aspect of my presentation: I have expressed my views about the ceasefires. This arrangement will make it possible to establish control, international supervision, of the infiltration routes into South Vietnam and to make provisions for our prisoners in Laos and Cambodia. With respect to our prisoners, we are prepared to consider a unilateral statement on your behalf, made by you. With respect to the presence of your forces in Laos and Cambodia, we do not require a formal statement in the agreement. But we do require a unilateral statement by you or an acknowledgment by you of a unilat[Page 555]eral statement by us which sums up the views the Special Advisor expressed to me at our last session.
Now let me turn to the interpretation of Point 5, the Vietnamese forces in the South. We accept the present language that this problem should be solved by the Vietnamese parties themselves. At the same time, the presence of your forces in the South does present important practical problems. We understand the legal distinction you make between your forces and those of countries from outside Indochina. At the same time it is totally inequitable for you to keep your entire army in the South. Perhaps a solution can be found in your own statements. You assert that there are no regular forces from North Vietnam in the South, only regroupees that have gone from the South to the North, and volunteers from the North. Furthermore, you state that all these forces are under PRG control.
If it is indeed true that all North Vietnamese forces in the South are either regroupees or volunteers, then it stands to reason that your regular divisions and other regular units should be in North Vietnam—unless you have turned into a nation of pacifists. We therefore have proposed that after a ceasefire has been implemented the parties will exchange lists of the disposition of their forces in South Vietnam to facilitate the task of international supervision. To be specific, our understanding would be that any units introduced into the South during and since your offensive of last spring would not be listed at that time and would have returned to North Vietnam. We believe that this is a practical solution to the point at issue. It preserves your point of principle, it leaves some of your units in the South, and yet at the same time meets our own principle that any settlement cannot hand one side an overwhelming and unfair advantage. It requires no change in wording of Point 5 but a clear understanding between us.
[Thuy and Phuong confer at length.]
Dr. Kissinger: We will give you a list of our units also. None of the points that I have made require any change in the wording of the proposals that we have made, and many of them, as you will see, permit an improvement in the interpretation of these points in a direction favorable to you, or closer to your statements. But we have never had an opportunity to discuss the military issues in detail, because of the Special Advisor’s aversion to that subject. And we have, however, spelled out the practices in order to give us a basis to complete the political point with South Vietnam.
Now let me make a few observations and then, on behalf of the President, give you a few unilateral assurances.
On September 27, the Special Advisor stated a series of North Vietnamese principles concerning a negotiated settlement. From our plan you will see that we have paid particular attention to his listing, [Page 556] in a spirit of the mutual comprehension toward each other’s position that we agree is needed for a negotiated settlement.
First, on the political questions. You said there must be a guarantee of the Vietnamese people’s national fundamental right. Specifically, you stress the need for the word “unity” and the affirmation that Vietnam is one and the 17th parallel line is provisional. We have included the word “unity” in Point 1. And in Point 6, on reunification, we acknowledge the provisions of the 1954 Geneva Accords to the effect that “the military demarcation line at the 17th parallel is not a permanent political boundary.” In addition, we retain our former language on reunification which, as you know, was originally taken from your own side’s proposal of last summer.
Two, you said there should be a body with power and concrete tasks including the implementation of the military and political provisions of the signed agreement. We have greatly expanded the role of what we call the Committee of National Reconciliation, so that in effect it parallels those of your Government of National Concord, and we now assign to it many of the functions that you yourself propose in your own plan.
You said that elections should not be for President. As I have said, we will address this point after other issues have been settled.
You said there should be a detailed definition of what is meant by “democratic liberties.” This, too, we do in our new proposal. Our definitions are drawn from your own document.
You said that the PRG and the GVN should undertake to implement the signed agreements on all military and political questions. We have specifically inserted this in our political point, in addition to the other obligations that we have assigned to the South Vietnamese parties which your plan had suggested.
Secondly, on military questions. We have gone far towards meeting your point on the continuation of military aid. I have stated our views on the rest of the military question and there is no point repeating it.
Thirdly, on the healing of war wounds. You said that the U.S. has a responsibility in this connection and that we should express concrete views. I have made it emphatically clear to you on many occasions that we will never sign a document alleging a U.S. responsibility for reparations. On the other hand, we have expressed our willingness to undertake a major reconstruction program for all of Indochina. We are still prepared to do this as a unilateral engagement, and are willing to put this undertaking in writing as a unilateral statement which I shall give to you.
In addition to our formal proposals, the President has asked me to give you the following unilateral assurances of the United States.[Page 557]
First, we are prepared to sign the final documents at the level of the Foreign Ministers.
Second, with respect to U.S. force deployments in the region. Within two months after the completion of total U.S. withdrawals from South Vietnam—or less than four months after an overall agreement—the U.S. will withdraw all reinforcements deployed at sea and in countries neighboring Indochina since the beginning of your offensive last spring. This means a reduction of over half of our forces in these categories. Third . . .
[Phuong explains to Xuan Thuy. Mr. Engel adds something in Vietnamese.]
Xuan Thuy: So it means two different withdrawals of U.S. forces? First withdrawal from South Vietnam.
Dr. Kissinger: All forces from South Vietnam.
Xuan Thuy: In 75 days.
Dr. Kissinger: Exactly.
Xuan Thuy: After the completion of such withdrawal, two months . . .
Dr. Kissinger: All the reinforcements that were sent there.
Xuan Thuy: It means that within 75 days U.S. forces, for instance, in the South China Sea are not withdrawn yet. I am asking for clarification.
Dr. Kissinger: That’s right, but according to the agreement we have no obligation to withdraw any of these forces. We are doing that voluntarily.
Xuan Thuy: But these forces are at present in the territorial waters of Vietnam. So why do they wait?
Dr. Kissinger: Well, they won’t be in the territorial waters; that’s only 12 miles at most. [Laughter]
Xuan Thuy: But our territorial waters is much larger than 12, because 12 is within the range of your cannons, your guns.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, maybe your strategic waters. We only claim three miles; you claim 12 miles. We could compromise on 8 miles. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: Our territorial waters is 300 miles.
Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Lord points out that I have made a unilateral concession, that it’s only 7 and a half miles as a compromise. But we have undertaken not to use any acts of force against Vietnam starting on the day agreements are signed. And I have one other assurance which I would like to convey to you, unless you are not interested.
Le Duc Tho: And at the same time you should withdraw these forces from the territorial waters of Vietnam.[Page 558]
Dr. Kissinger: Well if we settle everything else, I think we can negotiate this. The Special Advisor is great at negotiating U.S. unilateral assurances that he hadn’t even requested.
Le Duc Tho: No, this question has been raised by our side because we require the withdrawal of all U.S. air force, naval forces and ground forces from the U.S.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, from Vietnam. We cannot as a matter of principle accept restrictions on the deployment of our other forces that are not in your territory.
Le Duc Tho: Out of the territory of Vietnam but also out of the territorial waters of Vietnam which is hundreds of miles. You can deploy your forces in international waters.
Dr. Kissinger: Well we have never accepted the 300 miles limit from any country. And we are now talking about U.S. assurances. But the specific deployment of specific carriers is not the most vital issue. I transmitted this proposal from the President as a sign of our good will, not to start a long debate. This will not be the ultimate issue between us.
Le Duc Tho: What about the reparations?
Dr. Kissinger: I am giving you a statement. May I complete . . . I have one more assurance but the Special Advisor seems not interested in receiving it. You have rejected many things I have proposed but never before I have proposed it. [Laughter] Besides, it’s a really novel method of negotiating when the Special Advisor bargains without reciprocity on unilateral American assurances. But when we give our joint course at Harvard on international affairs he will introduce that subject.
Le Duc Tho: It is natural that since the U.S. has come to Vietnam and now the U.S. will withdraw from Vietnam, it has to make many assurances and guarantees. As for Vietnam, we have done nothing to require reciprocity from our side.
Dr. Kissinger: I know this is part of the Special Advisor’s speech that I will get later, so I will reserve statement.
Le Duc Tho: Naturally in negotiation there is reciprocity.
Dr. Kissinger: And I think the Minister has been unusually restrained in recent sessions and we’ll hear from him too.
Xuan Thuy: At the last session at Kleber Street I merely read my prepared statement.
Dr. Kissinger: I noted it, Mr. Minister, and Ambassador Porter’s blood pressure is much lower this week. The reason, Mr. Special Advisor, why the Foreign Ministers have to sign the agreement is because I don’t think the Minister or the Ambassador could ever agree on who signs first. They’d have a public argument.[Page 559]
Le Duc Tho: It is just like the discussion about the shape of the table.
Dr. Kissinger: That’s right, that’s right.
Xuan Thuy: I agree and we agree that the Foreign Ministers should sign the agreements.
Dr. Kissinger: The Minister has driven four of our negotiators to medical treatment and one to marrying a younger woman. And we are not sure that he won’t require medical treatment.
Xuan Thuy: Please finish.
Dr. Kissinger: You want me to finish?
Le Duc Tho: Yes.
Dr. Kissinger: All right. Third, concerning U.S. bombing and other acts of force in North Vietnam. The U.S. will stop all bombing and other acts of force north of the 20th parallel on the day when we sign this basic agreement on principles. We are ready to repeat this assurance to other countries, and even before an overall agreement is signed.
Mr. Special Advisor, Mr. Minister, we will dedicate ourselves during the next few days and weeks to reaching an overall settlement of this long conflict. During this set of meetings, let us reach a concrete agreement on all points except one aspect of Point 4. We have a clear understanding that all these points are interrelated and no problem is solved until all are solved.
If we can accomplish this, then at our next meetings we should be able to reach a final agreement between us. Peace in Indochina will be in our grasp. The peoples on both sides would take up the tasks of peace and reconciliation, and we could embark on a new era of relationships between our two countries.
Now let me hand you the proposal and then sum up the statements. I want to explain one thing about the proposal. On page 5 we have put points (e) through (i) in brackets, not to keep you from accepting them but to tell you that if everything else is settled we will be prepared to reconsider them and to discuss in Saigon what else is possible. They are points you have already seen. And if you’ve been persuaded by my eloquence, I don’t want to keep you from accepting the entire document. [Hands over U.S. “Proposal,” Tab A] Here is our unilateral statement on reconstruction. [Page 560] [Hands over “United States Unilateral Statement on Reconstruction,” Tab B] Here is our unilateral statement on replacements. [Hands over “United States Unilateral Statement on Replacement of Armaments,” Tab C]
Le Duc Tho: Too many papers.
Dr. Kissinger: I should put it face down and let him guess.
Here is a U.S. unilateral statement of our interpretation of what you said about withdrawal of your forces from Laos and Cambodia. [Hands over “United States Unilateral Statement on Withdrawal of DRV Forces from Laos and Cambodia,” Tab D] Although we prefer to have it made as a statement from you, and this is the version for that. [Hands over “DRV Unilateral Statement on Withdrawal from Laos and Cambodia,” Tab E] And here is a unilateral statement you might consider making on prisoners. [Hands over “DRV Unilateral Statement on Prisoners,” Tab F] You will probably want to read it for five minutes before accepting it.
Le Duc Tho: If we read it for five minutes and could accept it, it is all the better.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree.
Xuan Thuy: We wanted to but since your language is too complicated, it would take more than five minutes.
Dr. Kissinger: I have one other paper, on international control and supervision. [Hands over U.S. paper “International Control and Supervision,” Tab G]
Le Duc Tho: I propose now a break and afterward I shall express my views.
Dr. Kissinger: And maybe give me some of the papers from your green folder. If I may say so, Mr. Special Advisor, there has been a curious change of values. I notice that we arrive with red folders and you arrive with green folders.
Le Duc Tho: So we show that we come here with a desire for peace. Red is the color of fire and of war.
Dr. Kissinger: And we with a desire for understanding. It’s your color. I agree to the break.
[The meeting broke for lunch at 12:38 p.m. At 1:00 p.m. Le Duc Tho reentered the room and engaged in informal conversation around the snack table with Dr. Kissinger, part of which follows.]
Dr. Kissinger: It is a very serious problem. We cannot make such a global political statement for South Vietnam and a ceasefire in which there is no guarantee or supervision in other countries, no control over what comes through the Ho Chi Minh Trail. That is a practical impossibility. If we can get concrete assurances I think we can settle very quickly, and if you keep your agreements there is nothing to be concerned about anyway.
Le Duc Tho: Everything that has been signed is respected by our side, but your side . . .
Dr. Kissinger: We are willing to accept controls over seaports.
Le Duc Tho: But if controls should be maintained for your side, then your movement of ships and planes should be carried out.
Dr. Kissinger: We are willing to accept controls over what we send to South Vietnam. You can have supervision at airports and seaports. [Page 561] We are prepared to do this. There has to be some provision for Laos and Cambodia.
Le Duc Tho: You want to cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail!
Dr. Kissinger: You’re right!
Le Duc Tho: When the war ends, some day I will show you the Ho Chi Minh Trail!
Dr. Kissinger: I want to see how those tanks got to An Loc.
Le Duc Tho: But you have mechanized means of transport. We are only a nation of handicraftsmen; we have only bicycles and our backs.
Dr. Kissinger: Seriously, we cannot go to Saigon on the political proposal without the security provisions.
[Le Duc Tho left for a few moments and returned to say that since the U.S. side had given them so many papers the North Vietnamese preferred to have a longer break and to resume the meeting at 4:00 p.m. Dr. Kissinger agreed. The U.S. side called for Colonel Guay and left for a drive in the country. After a walk around a nearby lake, the group returned to the meeting place at 4:00 p.m.]
Le Duc Tho: This morning we have carefully listened to your presentation. Regarding the political questions we remarked that you have raised a number of points which are nearer to our views, but for a certain number of other points there are still differences. But regarding the military questions you have raised a number of new points, regarding the military questions regarding the international control and supervision and regarding the problems concerning Indochinese countries, that before you did not raise; therefore the stands, the positions, of the two parties still contain many points far apart.
During our last few private meetings, particularly on the meetings of September 26 and September 27 we have put forward a number of proposals, very important proposals; we have also raised our standing on questions of principles on which we can no longer make concessions. Therefore we have shown our good will and desire of rapidly ending the war and restoring peace in Vietnam.
During the last few meetings you have also said that you really want a rapid settlement of the Vietnam problem. We have also agreed on a working schedule so as to put an end to the war in this month of October, or the sooner the better. But through the questions you raised today I am afraid that it would be difficult for us to progress rapidly and to realize the schedule we have agreed to. Therefore, in order to realize the schedule, we have agreed upon and rapidly put an end to the war, I think we cannot negotiate in the way we are doing now.
If we adopt the way we are doing now, first we have to agree on the questions of principle, on the way to implement these questions, [Page 562] on the language to formulate these questions, and afterward we have to refer them to the two-party forum and the four-party forum at Kleber Street, and those forums have to agree on the questions and on the way to implement them. If we adopt this method, I don’t know how long it will take to come to agreement and to end the war, to restore peace. Mr. Special Advisor, you yourself said that if now we discuss the technical questions of the military problems, the question of ceasefire, at the forum of Avenue Kleber, it would take many weeks to come to agreement. And if the two South Vietnamese parties will engage the discussions on the formation of a three-segment Government of National Concord, and discussion on the third segment of this government as we propose or of the Committee for National Reconciliation as you propose, it will take a long time for these discussions, many weeks.
Dr. Kissinger: That’s what I have been trying to tell the Special Advisor for two months.
Le Duc Tho: And I have not mentioned that our points of view regarding the settlement of the internal political problems of South Vietnam are still greatly different. So this way of doing is very complicated, and certainly we can’t realize the working schedule we have agreed upon.
In order to show our good will and to insure a rapid end to the war, rapid restoration of peace in Vietnam, as all of us wish for, today we put forward a new proposal regarding the content as well as the way to conduct negotiations, a very realistic and very simple proposal, as follows.
First, on the basis of our 10 Points and on the basis of your 10 Points, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the United States will agree on and sign an agreement on ending the war and restoring peace in Vietnam as you have once proposed. This agreement is aimed at the settling of the military questions, such as the question of U.S. troop withdrawal, the question of handing over captured people of the parties during the war, the question of the ceasefire under international control and supervision in Vietnam, including the question of U.S. responsibility to heal the war wounds and to rehabilitate the economy of Vietnam. As to the political and military questions of South Vietnam, we shall only agree on the main principles. After the signing of this agreement a ceasefire will immediately take place.
Beside this agreement we shall sign another document recording the agreements regarding the exercise of the South Vietnamese people’s right to self-determination, including the principles of the details of the political problems of South Vietnam and the principles of the settlement on the question of Vietnamese armed forces in South Vietnam that we have agreed in this forum. This document will be referred to the two South Vietnamese parties for discussion and for implementa[Page 563]tion after the ceasefire. This document will be referred to the two South Vietnamese parties for discussion and implementation after the ceasefire.
Third, after the ceasefire the forum between the PRG and the Republic . . . the Saigon Administration will be opened for discussion of the internal military and political problems of South Vietnam on the basis of the document we have agreed upon here and we have referred to the two parties, for a rapidly reached agreement between the two parties three months after the ceasefire at the latest.
Beside the forum of the two South Vietnamese parties, after the ceasefire the three-party forum and the four-party forum will also develop their activities for the continuation of the remaining work. Of course, after we have agreed upon, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the United States will continue to meet each other to settle the remaining questions, the outstanding questions between the two parties and to remove the difficulties and the hindrances arising in the other forums.
If we negotiate in the way I have described then a settlement can be rapidly and expeditiously reached. Therefore, the present negotiations between us with a view to signing an agreement between the DRV and the U.S. is decisive for the early ending of the war and early restoration of peace in Vietnam and to create the conditions for rapidly ending the war in Laos and in Cambodia.
On the basis of our 10 Points and on the basis of your 10 Points, we have drafted an agreement to be used for the basis for discussion of the two parties and to achieve agreement in the three or four forthcoming days. We should complete our work so that we may sign this agreement and have a ceasefire to end the war by mid-October, 1972, at the latest.
When we put forward this new proposal we do not let the political problem of South Vietnam, that is the most thorny, the most difficult problem, to drag out, to prolong our negotiations; and we should aim at rapidly ending the war responding to the aspiration for peace of our two peoples. At the same time we have taken into account the questions on which you have shown the greatest concern. Last time Mr. Special Advisor said that there was a danger, the greatest danger for you in the U.S. election, this danger comes from the part of your supporters who would denounce you to have betrayed your ally.
Dr. Kissinger: May I ask a question? Will we be given a document? Eventually? I don’t need it now, but then I don’t have to write everything down.
Le Duc Tho: Afterward.
Dr. Kissinger: That’s fine; then I don’t have to write everything down; then I can listen.[Page 564]
Le Duc Tho: The draft agreement, we will hand you the draft agreement.
Dr. Kissinger: At the end.
Le Duc Tho: In this new proposal we do not demand the formation of a Government of National Concord before the ceasefire, but we will let the two South Vietnamese do this work, three months after the ceasefire at the latest. And this is what you yourself have proposed, the same proposal. We are prepared to open the forum of the two South Vietnamese parties immediately after the ceasefire without placing any condition, and therefore the timing of the resignation of Nguyen Van Thieu is now different from what it was before.
Dr. Kissinger: I understand.
Le Duc Tho: We have responded to what you have considered to be most difficult for you to reach an agreement acceptable to you, aimed at rapidly ending the U.S. involvement in Vietnam and the prompt return of American servicemen including those people captured during the Vietnam war and their early repatriation. This is one of our great efforts aimed at rapidly ending the war and restoring peace in Vietnam beneficial to both parties.
Last time you said that President Nixon proposed that you would go to Hanoi and meet our leadership. We don’t know whether you still maintain your intention.
Dr. Kissinger: Are you asking me?
Le Duc Tho: I am asking.
Dr. Kissinger: If we can be certain that on this occasion we reach a final agreement, which is also what the Special Advisor said, then I am prepared to go to Hanoi. I agree with what the Special Advisor said last time, if the outcome is uncertain then it would not be an advantage to either side for me to go. Therefore if we are very close to an agreement I would be prepared to go. That’s precisely what the Special Advisor said to me last time.
Le Duc Tho: Today I would like to let you know that on the basis of the agreement that we might reach in the two or three coming days, if we can reach agreement in the two or three coming days, then we are prepared to receive you in Hanoi a few days after these meetings so that we can together complete the peaceful settlement of the Vietnam problem. And we shall discuss the future relations between our two countries and on questions of mutual concern, And on that occasion the two parties will sign in Hanoi an agreement on ending the war and restoring peace in Vietnam. This is a very significant event. And we are of the view that the complete cessation of bombing and the mining of Vietnam is propitious circumstances for Mr. Kissinger to visit Hanoi. And I think that if in two or three coming days we can [Page 565] reach agreement here, then it will be time for the U.S. to stop the bombing and mining of North Vietnam, and the whole of Vietnam, and not north of the 20th parallel as you said this morning. And if you visit to Hanoi and the signing of such an agreement will mark a very important change in the relationship between the DRV and the U.S., and it is a matter of fact that if we can’t agree then the question of your visit to Hanoi will not arise.
Dr. Kissinger: If I can’t agree to what?
Le Duc Tho: If we cannot agree here.
Dr. Kissinger: That’s true. I agree with you.
Le Duc Tho: Our present meetings are of the utmost importance. It will mark the turning point of the whole of our negotiation on the Vietnam problem. This is our last effort in the negotiations that have lasted four years now in order to bring about peace in Vietnam. And I think also it is the best opportunity for you to seek a correct solution to the Vietnam problem. If in the two or three days we can reach basic agreement, then this is a very important historical event for our two peoples. If in the two or three coming days it is impossible for us to come to an agreement, then our negotiations will fall into a deadlock and the war will continue, and you will bear the entire responsibility for such a situation.
The situation in the Pacific is changing considerably. The position of the U.S. in this area is not as it was before. It is because of the Vietnam war, which until now the U.S. is still unwilling to settle. In our view if the U.S. prolongs the Vietnam war, it will be more difficult for you. The Vietnam problem cannot be settled through military means. The experience we have had over the past 10 years have testified to my assertion. As far as we are concerned, we have been fighting for the past 25 years. If President Nixon will be reelected and if he continues the war, then we will resolutely fight on for four more years until we achieve our objectives. Our people cannot be subdued and we will never surrender. Throughout our history the word surrender does not appear in our language.
But I think we should not let this circumstance happen, such condition happen. We shall do our best to reach a settlement and I think you should do the same. Then in such a way, only in such a way, can our negotiation come to good results. The war will be ended, peace will be restored, and such a day will be a day of festivity for our two peoples.
Now, please let me present the content of the draft of the agreement on ending the war and restoring peace in Vietnam. This draft agreement has taken as a basis our 10 Points and your 10 Points to be worked out. We have taken into account the position of both parties, in an [Page 566] effort to come nearer to each other and to reach a settlement. Today I will speak about the points, the content, in our draft agreement and about the questions you have raised this morning and on which there are still differences between our stands.
Our remarks here are still preliminary; we shall continue to give comment on the forthcoming days.
First, Point 1, regarding the Vietnamese people’s fundamental national rights. So our proposal and your proposal have come to agreement on that point. But in your draft this morning there is a sentence, you said that “Once overall agreement is fulfilled the U.S. has no intention to continue its military involvement or to intervene in the internal affairs of Vietnam.” I think after the signing of an agreement the U.S. should completely end its involvement, and not “have no intention.”
Second, regarding the internal political problem of South Vietnam. First, I will speak about the general elections. You propose Presidential election; we propose election to a constituent assembly. Now we propose to mention one sentence to be agreeable to both sides: “The people of South Vietnam shall decide themself their political system through genuinely free and democratic general elections under international supervision.” And afterward the two South Vietnamese parties will discuss with each other.
Dr. Kissinger: I understand that point. But the Special Advisor skipped Points 2 and 3. Will he return to this?
Le Duc Tho: I shall come to that later.
Dr. Kissinger: You will come to that later. Thank you, excuse me.
Le Duc Tho: I shall speak about the point in our draft agreement in the order we have worked out, but it is the same content as our 10 Points.
Dr. Kissinger: That’s fine.
Le Duc Tho: Now, regarding the principle of the formation of a three-segment administration in South Vietnam. We have proposed the formation of a Government of National Concord; you have proposed the formation of a Committee for National Reconciliation. I think if we can agree on the authority, the task, the prerogative of this body then we can agree on finding a name for this body. So in this spirit we propose to call this general body, this body of power, we shall call it the “Administration of National Concord,” and we shall no longer call it the Government of National Concord. At the central level it will be called Central Administration of National Concord. At the various levels we shall call it Administration of National Concord—provincial level, district level, city level, village level. So it is a compromise between your views and our views regarding the call of this body.[Page 567]
Now regarding the authority of this body . . .
Dr. Kissinger: When does this body begin functioning?
Le Duc Tho: So this body will be formed after agreement is reached by the two South Vietnamese parties, and after the agreement this body will begin functioning within three months after the ceasefire.
Dr. Kissinger: I understand.
Le Duc Tho: But the sooner the better.
Dr. Kissinger: Of course.
Le Duc Tho: Two months is better.
Dr. Kissinger: Of course. I just wanted to understand.
Le Duc Tho: As I told you the other day, in reality at present there are in South Vietnam two administrations, two armies, three political forces. To avoid conflict between the two parties and to strictly implement the military and political provisions of the agreement of ending the war, there should be a body, an organ of power in between to see to it, direct, to supervise the implementation of the signed agreement between the two parties and to settle conflict arising between the parties. Moreover, this body will operate in accordance with the principle of consultation and unanimity. Neither side will coerce the other side. But in your proposal you only speak about the facilitation, to “facilitate” the implementation of the signed agreement, to “contribute” to the realization of national reconciliation. But it is not clear how to contribute, how to facilitate the realization of national reconciliation. Here we propose that the body should see to, to direct, to supervise, the implementation of the agreements. So the tasks here have been set more concretely, more clearly; the responsibilities, the authority of the body is more clearly defined.
As to the task of the Administration, you propose to review the laws so as to make them suitable to the conditions of peace. We, we propose that the task of the Administration should insure that the laws, the measures should be suitable to the new conditions of peace and should not contradict the people’s democratic liberties and in keeping with the spirit of national concord. If you say that the task of the body is to review the policy, the constitution and to make it suitable to the conditions of peace, then it is in too vague terms.
I would like to further elaborate on the task of the Administration of National Concord, to point out the differences between we and you. About the structure, in your proposal you say nothing about the organizational structure. You only mention about the composition, about 12 men in the central level. Last time you mentioned that the body will be organized down to the provincial level and the district level. Now you retract your proposal. As far as we are concerned, we want it down to the village level, because in our view the organizational [Page 568] structure should come down to the district and village level, because of the real situation in South Vietnam. Because a district in Vietnam is composed of many villages. Many villages come under the control of the PRG; many other villages come under the control of the Republic of . . . the Saigon Administration. Even in a village there are many hamlets belonging to the PRG and other hamlets belonging to the Saigon Administration; let alone the contended areas. The situation is very complicated. Without an administration at the lowest level as I mentioned, it would be impossible to settle the contention between the two parties. It would be impossible too, to see to it that the agreement be implemented. And without that, conflicts may resume between the two parties.
Dr. Kissinger: I understand the Special Advisor’s point. I just, for the record, want to say that the Special Advisor sometimes gets carried away by his optimism. I don’t recall that I agreed to the functions of these committees, much less to their operation in the villages. Up to now we have spoken of these committees in the context of elections; this is a new dimension. But I will answer the Special Advisor in substance. It is simply when he refers to my statements I am afraid he might construe silence as agreement and use it again. I understand your point, Mr. Special Advisor, I am not debating your point.
Le Duc Tho: I expound our point of view on the organization of the structure that is different from your point of view.
Dr. Kissinger: That is fine, as long as we understand each other.
Le Duc Tho: When I am negotiating with you I am not optimist, but I have our principles and I expound these principles. Probably you are not too optimistic in your conversation with me. I wonder whether this is true. Both sides should make an effort then. Now let me speak about the military questions.
Regarding the military questions, Mr. Special Advisor proposed a period for troop withdrawal of 75 days. I think that we should come now to an agreement on the period for troop withdrawal. We propose now 60 days. So there are still 15 days difference. To come to an agreement, why don’t we share these 15 days and prolong it to 67 days?
Dr. Kissinger: You see, the Special Advisor thinks like me. I was going to propose 67 and a half days. We won’t let the Minister comment; he’ll get it all confused again. Is this your proposal, 67 days?
Le Duc Tho: 60 days. So at the utmost if we can come to agreement you will propose 67 days.
Dr. Kissinger: You will accept that?
Le Duc Tho: A few days for us have no importance.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, this issue will now get settled, Mr. Special Advisor. We shouldn’t spend time on it.[Page 569]
Le Duc Tho: Seven days sooner or later make no difference for us. You have been remaining there for nearly 10 years now and we are still strong enough to cope with you. So seven days mean nothing. So the period for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from South Vietnam, so in your proposal regarding the withdrawal of U.S. forces from South Vietnam, you said that exception should be made for the Americans with the normal function of military attaches. What do you mean by that function? I think that if they are military they should be withdrawn, all of them. In the draft agreement we have mentioned in detail about the withdrawal of advisors for pacification work, advisors for the police service of the Republic of Vietnam, and all civilian personnel serving the Vietnam war. You call it civilian personnel but in fact they are military. So all these military personnel should be withdrawn.
The second question is the military aid to South Vietnam, to the two South Vietnamese parties. We have expressed our point of view many times already. In our view we think that you affirm that you no longer want military involvement in Vietnam, but you insist on continuing to give military aid to South Vietnam, so your involvement essentially cannot be ended, and practically the war will go on. But in your Point 9 you said that the parties should not introduce war materials, arms, military personnel, ammunitions into South Vietnam. If you say so, why do you insist on giving military aid to South Vietnam? Therefore, we propose now that neither party should give military aid to the South Vietnamese parties, should not introduce war materials, ammunition, personnel into South Vietnam, neither the PRG nor the Saigon Administration. I think this is a fair proposal and I don’t know why Mr. Special Advisor stuck to your proposal.
Dr. Kissinger: Which proposal is he talking about?
Le Duc Tho: Your proposal on military aid to South Vietnam.
Dr. Kissinger: In Point 2. I understand.
Le Duc Tho: Now regarding the replacement of armaments. We propose a replacement of armaments on the principle of equality. It is fair. In proposing this we have taken into account your views on this question; that means that armaments may be replaced on the principle of equality. But we propose to let the South Vietnamese parties to agree on that question of replacement. Therefore we propose that the two South Vietnamese parties will discuss and agree on the periodic replacement of armaments and munitions, in an intention to avoid the sentence, the language, we have not agreed with each other. This shows our good will.
Now regarding the question of handing over captured and detained people of the parties. In your proposal you still maintain the denomination of “innocent civilians.” We, we propose “captured [Page 570] people, both military men and civilians.” So the denomination we propose is more specific, more accurate.
Regarding the controlling and supervision of the release of prisoners, in our view there is a four-party joint commission for this purpose. Moreover, there is the supervision and control of the international commission. Therefore in our view the participation of the International Red Cross in this task is not necessary.
Now regarding the question of cessation of hostilities. Among other things there is the question of ceasefire in South Vietnam. In our draft agreement we propose that as soon as the ceasefire becomes effective the U.S. forces and those of other foreign countries allied to the United States and the Republic of Vietnam shall remain in place pending implementation of the plan for troop withdrawal. Second, the armed forces of the two South Vietnamese parties shall remain in place in the regions respectively controlled by them. For the supervision of the ceasefire, I think that besides the International Commission for Control and Supervision, the parties concerned should set up a four-party joint commission and a two-party joint commission for the task of supervising and controlling the ceasefire.
Now for the beginning of the ceasefire. In our new proposal we proposed ceasefire, release of prisoners, withdrawal of troops, all of this.
Dr. Kissinger: No guarantee?
Le Duc Tho: There will be guarantee. And we shall decide on a number of principles. There will be international supervision and control. And there is also control and supervision of the four-party joint commission and the two-party joint commission. But we both, we should come to agreement so that the ceasefire may be observed immediately. Afterward we shall go into the discussion of the concrete regulations. We have done the same way of the Geneva Conference of 1954 and the Geneva Conference of 1962, because there are many complicated questions. If we engage in discussions on these questions, as you said it will take months to come to agreement. But after the ceasefire, these questions may be promptly settled. Because we shall base on reality at this point to decide the modalities. If you, as you say, want to rapidly end the war and to realize the working schedule we have agreed to, how can we go immediately into the details of these questions? We shall go immediately into the ceasefire and discuss these modalities. Probably you have done the same way in Egypt and other places.
Dr. Kissinger: We have, unfortunately, not fought the Egyptians. They would settle much more quickly than you. Their endurance is six days, not 25 years. [Laughter][Page 571]
Le Duc Tho: So our proposal has shown our good will, our real desire to rapidly end the war. And it is the same proposal made by President Nixon himself—ceasefire, release of prisoners, and troop withdrawal. So in our new proposal we have responded to your proposal, in part.
Now regarding the question of Vietnamese armed forces in South Vietnam. Regarding the so-called withdrawal of North Vietnamese troops, we have repeatedly expounded our point of view to you. We have expressed our views on that question over the four years of our negotiations. It is not the first time that we have said this. If this question is posed, as I told you last time, this question cannot be settled. So your proposal on the withdrawal of North Vietnamese troops is utterly unacceptable. We propose the following provisions. We propose the following formulation: “The question of Vietnamese armed forces in South Vietnam will be settled by the South Vietnamese parties themselves in a spirit of equality and mutual respect, in keeping with the post-war situation and with a view to lessening the people’s contributions.” We have proposed such a formulation; you have proposed the same too. If an agreement should be reached between us, we propose to record this principle: “The South Vietnamese parties will discuss and settle this question.”
Now regarding the question of healing the war wounds and rehabilitating the economy in Vietnam, we agree to recording one sentence in the agreement. We propose the following sentence: “The U.S. Government assumes the responsibility to contribute to the healing of the war wounds and the rehabilitation of the damaged, devastated economy of North and South Vietnam, without condition attached and without repayment.” The parties concerned will discuss the implementation of this provision. Besides, we may sign a protocol on this question. As to the details, we shall discuss this question. But until today, last time, you promised to have a concrete proposal on that question and to propose a specific sum. But so far you have made no mention about that. Probably you have it in your papers but you are unwilling to reveal it!
Regarding the international commissions of control and the international guarantee, there are still many differences between our views and yours on the tasks of the international commission. Let me speak on the composition of the international commission. We proposed five members: India, Poland, Canada and two other countries, each party would propose one. You disagreed to that. We proposed each party would propose two countries. You considered that possibility as a positive one. Now you propose the representative of the United Nations. So from a proposal that was positive you propose a negative proposal.
Dr. Kissinger: I consider it positive; you consider it negative.[Page 572]
Le Duc Tho: So there is a difference in our view. In our view each side will propose two countries. We propose two countries; you propose two countries. It is fair. If now we have another member it will be difficult for discussion. And I think that the activities of the international commission should also be based on the principles of unanimity and consultation. We have done the same way in the 1954 and 1962 Geneva Conferences. And the members of the international commission will in turn act as chairman of the commission.
As to the tasks of the international commission, we maintain our views as previously. The task of the international commission is to control part of Point 4 in our previous 10 Point proposal. That is, it will supervise the general elections and materialization of democratic liberties in South Vietnam.
As to Point 5, regarding the control of armed forces of the two parties in South Vietnam, I think in this connection the international commission will carry out its task when requested to by the two South Vietnamese parties. Because the control of the international commission in these questions is tantamount to interference in the internal affairs of South Vietnam.
Dr. Kissinger: You are talking about Point 5 now?
Le Duc Tho: Point 5. Regarding the composition of the international commission, we propose each party will propose two members. The norms to choose the members should be the countries who have not participated in the Indochina war, who have not sent troops to this war, who have not let their territory to be used as military bases or logistical bases in this war. Therefore, we think Australia and Indonesia do not meet the norms.
Dr. Kissinger: What did Indonesia do?
Le Duc Tho: [pause] It has not directly participated in the Vietnam war but everyone knows the attitude of Indonesia toward this war. So to replace India it is not adequate.
Dr. Kissinger: You are talking now about the commission, not the conference.
Le Duc Tho: I am speaking now about the international commission of control. The international commission has nothing to do with the international guarantee. Because the international commission will be set up in agreement by the parties to the Paris conference. It is not set up by the international conference for international guarantee which set the guarantee.
Dr. Kissinger: That’s your proposal; that has not been settled.
Le Duc Tho: It is our proposal. As to the period of activity of the international commission, we have clearly defined in the draft agreement.[Page 573]
Dr. Kissinger: Until there is a definitive government.
Le Duc Tho: Yes, it is our intention. In regard to the international guarantee: As I told you repeatedly, the conference on international guarantee will not guarantee the ceasefire because the ceasefire comes under the competence of the Vietnamese parties.
Dr. Kissinger: [Speaking of the cook after having been offered a cup of tea.] He is the most agreeable Vietnamese of the whole group. I have never given him any difficulty. I do everything he wants me to do. Please.
Le Duc Tho: As to the guaranteeing powers, we do not agree to your proposal on the guarantee by Japan, South Korea, and Thailand. But I think that the question of international guarantee should be discussed after the ceasefire. What we have to discuss now would be the question of ceasefire, and release of prisoners under international control and supervision, the question of reparations. As to the internal political and military questions of South Vietnam we agree on principles and the South Vietnamese parties will discuss. So the international guarantee we should leave it until later. It is not a pressing question. Maybe after the ceasefire we can talk about this question once or twice and we can come to agreement. We do this with a view to reducing the thorny questions. So our aim is to do what you proposed previously: ceasefire and cessation of hostilities, troop withdrawal, release of prisoners. But the question of your responsibility to heal the wounds of war because once the hostilities have stopped, you are to assume the responsibility.
Finally let me speak about the question of Laos and Cambodia. I have expounded our views on that question many times already throughout our meetings. You in your proposal mentioned many things throughout Indochina: the question of international control and supervision throughout Indochina, the question of international guarantee throughout Indochina, the question of troop withdrawal and ceasefire throughout Indochina. We have expressed very many times our negotiations here deal with Vietnam. We can’t discuss the sovereignties of the people of Laos and Cambodia. I have told you that once we settle the Vietnam problem, undoubtedly, certainly, the question of Laos and Cambodia will be settled and end the war. There is no reason that once the war in Vietnam has ceased the war in Laos and Cambodia will continue. I can tell you that the end of the Vietnamese war will create a very great impact that will immediately, promptly, end the war in Laos and Cambodia. Maybe it is immediately after the end of the Vietnam war. But now you propose that we should record this provision in the agreement. It is contradictory to the principle of non-interference in these countries.
Dr. Kissinger: But so is the presence of your troops.[Page 574]
Le Duc Tho: Let me speak. But to take into account your view I am prepared to acknowledge what I have told you previously. The question of American prisoners, we do not agree to record it in the agreement but I am prepared to acknowledge what I said: We can assure you that this question will be settled because the number of American prisoners in these two countries are not too great. We can discuss this question with our friends over there.
We can assure you that when the war is ended the American prisoners will return to the States in the same tempo as the withdrawal of the U.S. forces. We have no interest in keeping them behind. Because the end of the war is important for our two peoples not for the immediate period, but for relations between our countries for a long term, long period to come. Only when we have such a desire to have in view not only our relation to the present period but a long time to come, this explains our intentions and our proposals. Because we will not deal with only two or three questions. Because in my view after we can sign the agreement and end the war we shall meet many times more, because we have many questions to discuss together. Therefore, in our agreement there is one paragraph dealing with the relations between the DRV and the U.S. You will see in the draft agreement.
I have completed the presentation of our new proposal. I have also pointed out points on which we still differ. I hope you will give careful study to our new proposal. We think that we both should make an effort so that in the two or three days to come we can come to an agreement. And a few days later after the agreement you will visit Hanoi and we shall discuss more important questions. And it is your proposal, and we met it with great good will, in order to end the war in accordance with the schedule we have agreed upon.
And I think once peace is restored the relationship between our two countries will turn a new page. Resolutely we shall follow this orientation. It depends on you now. What I have been telling you is with an open heart, frankly speaking. I think that both we and you should make an effort to come to an agreement, to sign an agreement, and to end the war that has lasted rather long. But in a few days to come whether the war can be ended or not, whether peace can be restored or not, American prisoners captured in the war can return to their country soon, depends on you. As far as we are concerned, we are ready. I have finished.
Now I hand to you the draft agreement. [He hands over paper “Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam,” at Tab H.] As to the text of the agreements reached between us that should be referred to the South Vietnamese parties, we will hand to you tomorrow. So they can read it, discuss it, and implement it the sooner the better but no later than three months.[Page 575]
So I propose that we should reach basic agreement on all questions in two or three days to come. So I propose this working procedure. I propose this. I have given you the draft agreement. Tomorrow you will express your general views on that and we shall discuss point by point to see which we agree to, on which we differ, and we shall concentrate our efforts on these questions. We have two or three days of work. We should finish the settlement. And if we cannot do that, as I told you, then the negotiation will fall in a deadlock. Because this new proposal is exactly what President Nixon has himself proposed: ceasefire, end of the war, release of the prisoners, and troop withdrawal. And we propose U.S. responsibility in healing the war wounds for both North and South Vietnam, and we propose a number of principles on political problems. You have also proposed this. And we shall leave to the South Vietnamese parties the settlement of these questions within three months.
So we have responded to your proposal. We have been discussing these questions for many months now. We should settle these questions within a few days. Otherwise the question is unsolvable, because finally we have responded to your proposal.
Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Advisor, Mr. Minister, I first of all want to say I share completely the sentiments you expressed at the end of your presentation. Our two countries must make peace and they must start a new relationship and they must pursue that relationship with the same energy and the same dedication with which we have been adversaries before. This is our solemn intention.
I of course have not had an opportunity to study your paper. From your presentation I believe that you have opened an important new chapter in our negotiations and one that could bring us to a rapid conclusion.
May I now propose the following. Can we take a brief break, maybe 15 minutes? I would then like to ask some clarifying questions—without expressing a comment. Then I suggest we meet tomorrow, perhaps a little later in the day, say at 1:00 or 1:30, so that we have the morning to work this paper over, because it is without question a very important document.
During our present break I will think about procedures for a bit and make some proposals to you about how we can bring it to a conclusion. But I believe you have at least shown us a way by which we might conclude an agreement this month, which is realistic, which was not clear before. And I am prepared to extend my stay here if necessary beyond Tuesday if this helps our progress. So with your agreement now if we could take a 15-minute break, then perhaps you could answer a few questions and then we meet again tomorrow.
Le Duc Tho: We resolutely will come to a settlement.[Page 576]
Dr. Kissinger: I agree with you. That is our intention.
[The meeting broke at 5:57 and resumed at 6:34 p.m.]
Dr. Kissinger: Now, I have often remarked that even in our most difficult encounters you have always maintained your dignity and your courtesy.
Now let me say a few words first about procedure and then about substance.
With regard to procedure. You have submitted here a very important and a very fundamental document. Since it is in the framework of our own proposals, it is of course one that I believe opens possibilities for a rapid settlement. These are preliminary comments; when we study it we may find aspects that are more complex. But if . . . I would like to make a realistic schedule with the Special Advisor. Ending the Vietnam war is an event of historical significance. And it cannot be done by one man who travels by Paris to Hanoi, who first settles something in Paris and then travels to Hanoi to sign the document. So I propose that we work the next two or three days, whatever time it requires, to develop a document which is satisfactory to the parties in this room. I must then take it back to Washington to discuss it with the President, and we now will have to expand the circle of people who have discussed it somewhat, at least to get legal opinions. Up to this point no one in Washington, not one senior official except the President, has seen any of the documents we have exchanged. But in the past—I have negotiated with many countries—when I agree with you it is very probable that this will be approved by the President, with perhaps minor points here and there. And I will stay here until we have a document that I know I can recommend—or until we know we cannot get such a document.
After we review this document in Washington I must then go to Saigon. This document says that the agreement is made with the approval of both our allies. And it is therefore essential that we have this approved. And it is all the more essential because there are here provisions about ceasefire and other matters that can only be implemented with the agreement of our allies.
Now, from Saigon I am prepared to come to Hanoi. I could go to Guam and then come back to Hanoi. I am told for technical reasons that it would be best if I did this by flying over China, and I am sure you can help us to obtain the right to overfly China. It depends whether we make it an open or a secret trip. If we make it an open trip, the way our planes usually go, it will be picked up by our radar. If we make it a secret trip I should fly over China. But we can work this out; we don’t have to spend time on it now.
In Hanoi we can complete the agreement and settle the understandings that go with the agreement. I think the formal signature ought to [Page 577] be some more neutral place, such as Paris. But we could initial it and settle it, so when I return from Hanoi to the U.S. we could simultaneously announce in Washington and Hanoi that an agreement has been reached and that it will be signed immediately, within a day, in Paris—if we can get the Minister and our Ambassador into the same room without an argument—or at any other level. I would be prepared to come back here; this is not a major matter. And we would have no objection to announcing that the final negotiations were completed in Hanoi. Now this process will take, in my view—where are we now, the 8th?—we should be able to complete it during the week of October 22. Assuming we come to an agreement here.
Le Duc Tho: 22nd of October?
Dr. Kissinger: During that week.
Le Duc Tho: To sign the agreement in Paris?
Dr. Kissinger: Everything, this document with all the changes I give you tomorrow—which you will accept!
Le Duc Tho: And after the signing, the ceasefire in that week.
Dr. Kissinger: The ceasefire goes into effect when the agreement is signed. Well, 24 hours later, we have to set a time. But it’s your basic concept.
Le Duc Tho: But in the week of the 22nd of October.
Dr. Kissinger: If we reach agreement here. I may discover—I usually do—aspects that are too complex. But if we reach agreement here I would go back to Washington, then go to Saigon early next week, go to Saigon then to Guam, then to Hanoi the weekend after. I would be prepared, maybe October 25th, to sign—not this document, but whatever we agree on. And then the ceasefire goes into effect, if not immediately then almost immediately.
And if we are that close to an agreement then the issue of the bombing of North Vietnam will take on a different aspect.
Now let me come to a few general observations.
Le Duc Tho: If we come to an agreement and when you visit Hanoi, then the bombing should be stopped.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, we will certainly not bomb Hanoi while I am there!
Le Duc Tho: All over North Vietnam, because we have come to a basic agreement.
Dr. Kissinger: If we have almost come to a basic agreement it is certainly a proposition we will examine most carefully. It is not an unreasonable proposition. We would be within a week of a final agreement, and it is certainly something then that takes on a completely different aspect. Although we would not take the formal commitment [Page 578] until the agreement is signed. This would have to be an understanding between us.
I would expect that when I am in Hanoi that we would finish every detail, that when I leave Hanoi the agreement would be completed. Otherwise there’s no point in going.
Le Duc Tho: Right.
Dr. Kissinger: So that is the schedule that I now foresee. Now I would like to raise a number of realistic problems that you would perhaps like to consider overnight and we will discuss tomorrow.
First, with respect to Saigon. You can make any theoretical comment you wish about the degree of our influence in Saigon, but if we want to meet the schedule we have to cooperate in removing the real obstacles. You remember the experience of 1968. I can assure you that it is not possible for us to do everything that we want. And secondly, we must be able to recommend to the government in Saigon with a good conscience the measures we are urging.
Now the concerns which will, of course, exist in Saigon will be that the agreement permits you to build up in your base areas, that it has no restrictions on your traditional infiltration routes and permits you to continue military activities in neighboring countries, especially in Cambodia and Southern Laos. And therefore it would be essential for us to be able to find some assurances with regard to those problems.
Now the Special Advisor has already pointed out that there are negotiations going on in Laos at this moment. I think if you and I reach some understanding with respect to these, we can give them a very rapid impetus. I also thought I heard the Special Advisor say that upon the completion of a ceasefire between us, military operations would cease almost immediately in Cambodia.
Le Duc Tho: Immediately after the ending of hostilities in Vietnam, this event can push forward the settlement of the Laos question very rapidly.
Dr. Kissinger: I am talking about Cambodia now.
Le Duc Tho: After a settlement in Vietnam we believe—we are convinced—that the ending of the war in Vietnam—push forward the settlement in Cambodia and Laos very rapidly.
Dr. Kissinger: But there are two questions: One is the settlement, the other is the ending of the military operations. I am therefore urging the Special Advisor to consider some formula we can adopt, either in the settlement or in a protocol, which puts a time limit on the presence of foreign forces in these countries and some assurances with respect to their military operations while they are there. It would facilitate matters very much on my trip to Saigon. I, incidentally, am planning to take General Haig with me, at least to Saigon. So this is one set of [Page 579] questions which I can tell you now we will have to raise with you tomorrow, and which you might want to think about.
On some other issues: It is impossible for us to write into a document an obligation that will be read in the United States like reparations. We have to find some formula to deal with this.
On your definition of what forces have to be withdrawn, your statement is too inclusive with respect to civilian personnel. But we will have an alternative proposal for you.
With respect to the replacement provisions of the agreement, it is to be predicted that the two South Vietnamese parties will never agree among each other as to the need for replacements, since they have a maximum incentive not to permit the strengthening of their opponent. Secondly, of course, we have the concern of what happens if there is a massive infusion of arms into parts of Indochina not covered by Article 9.
Specifically, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. We have a two-fold problem: One is if there’s an unlimited introduction of arms into North Vietnam—and since we have not yet agreed on the monitoring of the movement of supplies into South Vietnam, this is bound to be an inequality. So you should consider the formula we have given you, which we believe is realistic and without which, or something like it, I can assure you that Saigon will never accept these proposals.
Now, with respect to your forces. We have not asked for the withdrawal of all your forces. We have said that on the day of ceasefire there be an exchange of [lists of]2 the units that are in place in each area, which is required in any event. We would hope that such a listing on your side would show that some of the units that have entered South Vietnam after March 25 had returned to North Vietnam. Of course it would also mean that some of your units remain in South Vietnam. We simply would like the de facto situation on the day of the ceasefire to reflect some movement.
We don’t want to write it into the agreement. It is a very important element in presenting the case, and I think you gentlemen recognize its practical implications are not all that total. If we can’t find every tank we are not likely to find every soldier. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: You can’t find them because all of them are Vietnamese. [Laughter]
Xuan Thuy: And if you introduce the materials through seaport and airport we can’t know it.[Page 580]
Dr. Kissinger: We will agree to let you have inspectors at these places. These are the major things I would appreciate your considering overnight, and we will come back to them.
May I ask one question? What happens after three months if the South Vietnamese parties don’t agree on a political framework? What happens after three months if there’s no agreement?
Le Duc Tho: You want me to answer you at this time?
Dr. Kissinger: I would appreciate it, yes.
Le Duc Tho: I think that the two parties should achieve settlement within three months.
Dr. Kissinger: But what if they don’t?
Le Duc Tho: You have responsibility to step up the settlement within three months; we have the same responsibility. Because regarding the political questions, the points you have raised and those we have raised, there are many we can agree up already. Because if now the South Vietnamese parties do not come to agreement, then we should push them to materialize the schedule because the schedule has been agreed upon. We shall do our best. On the political questions there are many points on which we have agreed. There are two major points, the question of the three-segment Government of National Concord and the question of the resignation of Nguyen Van Thieu. These are two most thorny questions.
Dr. Kissinger: But they have to settle that among each other.
Le Duc Tho: Because we both have come to agreement, and these two questions we have come to agreement, as the proposal of our side has reflected it. So it is a great effort on our part. But as to the form of the body or power in South Vietnam, you propose the Commission for National Reconciliation; we propose an Administration of National Concord.
Dr. Kissinger: No, we proposed the resignation of President Thieu in the context of a Presidential election, and therefore this matter will now be discussed among the South Vietnamese parties. It will not be part of our agreement. That is correct?
Le Duc Tho: Right. Therefore, there is one sentence in the draft agreement I mentioned.
Dr. Kissinger: I understand.
Le Duc Tho: It is a sentence saying that South Vietnam should settle their political system through genuinely free and democratic elections.
Dr. Kissinger: I understand. Now, the ceasefire, however, is of unlimited duration in South Vietnam.
Le Duc Tho: When we sign agreement between you and us, then the ceasefire begins and lasts forever.[Page 581]
Dr. Kissinger: Also among the South Vietnamese parties.
Le Duc Tho: Definitely.
Dr. Kissinger: Now I have only one other issue that is of some concern. In the United States the issue of the prisoners of war is of great emotional significance.
Le Duc Tho: We know that.
Dr. Kissinger: And therefore the obligation with respect to prisoners held in Laos and Cambodia must be very precisely stated.
Le Duc Tho: It is difficult to record it in the document because it will involve Indochina. It will involve Laos and Cambodia. I told you that in Laos and Cambodia American servicemen are very few in number.
Dr. Kissinger: But there are civilians in Cambodia.
Le Duc Tho: There are none. There are no civilians, not in Cambodia. We know definitely. In Laos there are a few. When we come to an agreement then we should give you the list.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, we must have lists. We must have some accounting for the missing in action. We must have some possibility of dealing with the facilities. And there must be some assurances we receive from you in some form which we can show to the families of those concerned. I believe you. I see no reason why you should want to hold a few prisoners in Laos.
Le Duc Tho: I told you.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but we must agree on some form of getting that assurance. I don’t believe that is a decisive point.
Le Duc Tho: We can acknowledge the understanding.
Dr. Kissinger: All right. I can perhaps do best by meeting with my colleagues tonight on the document, and shall we meet again tomorrow when we can go through it more carefully? Unless of course the Special Advisor has any comments on what I have just said.
Le Duc Tho: Let me add a few sentences. Now we have a schedule proposed by Mr. Special Advisor. Therefore I think that we should make an effort to put in practice the schedule you have proposed, that is in the week of October 22; but the sooner the better. And these three days of meetings are very important. We should do in such a way that in these three days we will have reached a basic agreement. And if we reached basic agreement in these three days then we should set a very accurate schedule of work, from which we should make an effort to put in practice.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree. With the one proviso that your compatriots in Saigon are no easier to deal with than you! It’s a national characteristic. But we will make a big effort.[Page 582]
Le Duc Tho: That question should be understood by General Haig who has just come back from there. You will have the necessary means to influence. You should command Saigon, and not Saigon is commanding you. Naturally, you understand from time to time there are some divergences of views, but objectively speaking I think in the main you decide everything.
Dr. Kissinger: No, we have influence, but we don’t have unlimited influence.
Le Duc Tho: But decisive influence.
Dr. Kissinger: We don’t have quick influence and we’re dealing with a rapid schedule. So it is important, as I said, for you to study what I have said very carefully. We will make a genuine maximum effort to meet the schedule.
Le Duc Tho: In these three days we shall really do also maximum effort. But if after these three days we can’t come to an agreement, we should say it is impossible to reach agreement.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, let us not be so pessimistic. We have come so far. So let’s not even admit that there may not be an agreement.
Le Duc Tho: We should make an effort, but as you said we should not be too optimistic.
Xuan Thuy: You recalled the experience in 1968. I remember this experience very well. The experience is that the Saigon people availed themselves by the election of President Nixon to refuse to come to the conference table very rapidly. So it appears that the Saigon people are not so obstinate but you have created conditions for them to be obstinate. Now the situation is different now; you are very influential with regard to Saigon people. On that score I am optimistic.
Dr. Kissinger: If we can get an agreement here that I can enthusiastically support in Saigon, I believe we can do it.
Le Duc Tho: I think that if you and we come to an agreement here, you will force Saigon to abide.
Dr. Kissinger: No, that will not be done. It cannot be done rapidly enough, but if we have an agreement here that we can genuinely believe in, then we can use all our influence in Saigon and we shall.
Le Duc Tho: So in three days time if we don’t come to an agreement it means we cannot.
Dr. Kissinger: But it means that we must have an agreement that lends itself to an easy presentation, and that requires some satisfaction on many of the points I have mentioned to you.
Le Duc Tho: You only speak of our satisfying your demands, but you have not mentioned your satisfaction of our demands.
Dr. Kissinger: We have to meet. We have made a great effort also and so we meet. You are quite right; we must do it in a spirit of mutual comprehension.[Page 583]
Le Duc Tho: So I propose tomorrow we shall meet again at 2:00.
Dr. Kissinger: Good.
Le Duc Tho: We can work until 6:00 or 7:00.
Dr. Kissinger: Good.
Le Duc Tho: And tomorrow morning we shall study the documents.
Dr. Kissinger: Good. Thank you for your courtesy.
[The group gets up from the table.]
If we agree on a trip to Hanoi, we must agree beforehand on what will be said and what coverage it will have. I cannot be made subject of a television show. Let us come to an agreement first and then we’ll discuss the trip to Hanoi.
Le Duc Tho: Yes, the date and the time.
Dr. Kissinger: In two weeks. No, faster. About 10 days after I leave here. Around the 20th.
Le Duc Tho: Around the 20th.
Dr. Kissinger: Around the 20th to Hanoi, and to Saigon.
Le Duc Tho: How many days? Two days?
Dr. Kissinger: What do you propose?
Le Duc Tho: It is up to you. You make your proposal about where it is to be signed.
Dr. Kissinger: We could agree to it in Hanoi. What I visualize is, when I return from Hanoi there can be a simultaneous announcement that it was agreed in Hanoi and will be signed in Paris.
Le Duc Tho: When would it be signed? On what day?
Dr. Kissinger: On the 25th or 26th. Probably here. I mean for the formal signing. We would initial it in Hanoi; we would agree upon it in Hanoi. The negotiation would be completed in Hanoi.
Le Duc Tho: So only the formal signing here.
Dr. Kissinger: We’ll have the Minister and the Ambassador in separate rooms and ring a bell and say, “Now sign!” So no one has to sign first.
Le Duc Tho: So, we will consider what dates would be convenient for the work program of our leaders.
Dr. Kissinger: Good. It would be helpful if I knew before I left here. Or this week.
Le Duc Tho: What is important is on the basis of what we’ve agreed here. And I can answer you.
Dr. Kissinger: We may decide we can skip the stop in Hanoi. I may go to Saigon, and then return to Washington and then finish it here. From our point of view it is not essential to go to Hanoi. Whatever creates the best atmosphere and best helps a settlement.[Page 584]
Le Duc Tho: Tomorrow we shall give you an answer.
Dr. Kissinger: One other question. I’m assuming the document you’ve given us is not known to others.
Le Duc Tho: No one.
Dr. Kissinger: So there will be no public discussion of it.
Le Duc Tho: We have not handed it to anyone.
[The meeting then ended.]
Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 856, For the President’s Files (Winston Lord)—China Trip/Vietnam Negotiations, Sensitive, Camp David, Vol. XX [1 of 3]. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting took place at 108 Avenue du Général Leclerc, Gif-sur-Yvette. All brackets, except where noted, are in the original. The tabs are attached but not printed.
After this meeting with Le Duc Tho, Kissinger directed Haig to send the following message to Haldeman through NSC Staffer Colonel Richard T. Kennedy: “Tell the President that there has been some definite progress at today’s first session and that he can harbor some confidence the outcome will be positive. However current state of play here confirms that it is essential that we make absolutely no public statements on the status of negotiations.” (Message from Haig to Kennedy, October 8, 2132Z; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 856, For the President’s Files (Winston Lord)—China Trip/Vietnam, Sensitive Camp David, Vol. XIX)
Kissinger later wrote that Le Duc Tho’s proposal represented a breakthrough moment: “For nearly four years we had longed for this day, yet when it arrived it was less dramatic than we had ever imagined. Peace came in the guise of the droning voice of an elderly revolutionary wrapping the end of a decade of bloodshed into legalistic ambiguity.” (Kissinger, White House Years, p. 1345)
The breakthrough reflected guidance sent to the North Vietnamese negotiating team from the Politburo on October 4:
“We should endeavor to end the war before the US election, to foil Nixon’s scheme to prolong the negotiations and to win the election, to continue Vietnamization and to negotiate from a position of strength. We should make pressure on the US to officially sign an agreement on a cease-fire in place, the withdrawal of US forces and the release of prisoners of war. For this purpose, we should hold the initiative in solving the content of the agreement, the timing, the conduct of negotiations and the tactics at the meetings of October 8, 9, 10.
“Our primary requirement at present is to end the US war in SVN. The US should withdraw all its forces, end its military involvement in SVN and stop its air and naval war and its mining in NVN. The end of the US military involvement and the cease-fire in SVN will lead to the de facto recognition of the existence of two administrations, two armies, and two areas in SVN. If these objectives are reached, they will constitute an important victory for both zones in the present balance of forces in SVN and create a new balance of forces to our great advantage. Besides this primary requirement, we shall insist upon democratic freedoms in SVN and the payment of damages.
“To concentrate the brunt of the struggle on using the electoral opportunity to put pressure on Nixon and to obtain the aforesaid requirement before the election, we should, for the time being, set aside some other requirements regarding the internal issues of SVN.
“What we do not obtain in this agreement is due to the situation; even though we continue to negotiate until after the election we still cannot obtain it, unless there is a change in the balance of forces in SVN. However, if we succeed in ending the US military involvement in SVN, we will have conditions to obtain these objectives later in the struggle with the Saigon clique and win bigger victories.” (Quoted in Luu and Nguyen, Le Duc Tho-Kissinger Negotiations in Paris, pp. 302–303)
For a fuller account of the adversaries’ preparation for this meeting, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. VIII, Vietnam, January–October 1972, Document 284.↩
- Bracketed addition supplied by the editor.↩