24. Memorandum of Conversation1
- Le Duc Tho, Special Adviser to the DRV Delegation to the Paris Peace Talks
- Xuan Thuy, Minister, Chief DRV Delegate to the Paris Peace Talks
- Phan Hien, Adviser to the DRV Delegation
- Nguyen Xuan
- 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
- Irene G. Derus, Notetaker
Dr. Kissinger: I know the document by heart now.
Mr. Special Adviser, we have redrafted the document, I think incorporating everything we discussed yesterday. We added only one clause, which I will explain to you when we get to it. But in order to save time, I will give it to you now. [Hands over U.S. Draft Agreement at Tab A] I will give you two copies.
Le Duc Tho: Let me speak a few words.
Dr. Kissinger: Please.
Le Duc Tho: From your comments on our draft of our agreement we handed to you yesterday, through your comments yesterday and our comparison with our own draft, we realize that we have come to agreement on many major problems. This is the result of our common effort, yours and ours. But there are still two very great problems left, outstanding problems between us. One of our big concerns is the question of United States assuming the responsibility of healing the war wounds in Vietnam. This is one of the most important items in our agreement. But at the same time we know that one of your questions of concern is the question of Laos. So today I would like to point out these two outstanding questions.
Therefore, if today Mr. Special Adviser brings about satisfactory and correct solution to the question of the United States assuming the reconstruction of North Vietnam and healing the war wounds in North Vietnam, then we shall show our understanding towards the question of Laos. We know that you are considerably concerned about the question of Laos. Because your concern is that when the ceasefire becomes effective in Vietnam, the war continues in Laos and Cambodia. Then you are concerned about the fact that we shall continue to infiltrate through the Ho Chi Minh Trail through Laos and Cambodia to bring our supplies to forces in these countries, through what you call our bases in Laos and Cambodia, to the forces in Vietnam.
Dr. Kissinger: Exactly.
Le Duc Tho: But you have also understood very clearly our problem of concern, too. Because North Vietnam has been subjected twice to United States air war of destruction. The damages are very great; the loss is very great. Therefore the healing of these war wounds in North Vietnam is not only a question of United States responsibility but it is also an action which will open up a new era in our relationship between our two countries. This action will be beneficial to you and to us too.
That is our two major problems. I have pointed them out but I would like also to reiterate here that Mr. Special Adviser should not [Page 638] pay constant attention to what you call the question of North Vietnamese troops in South Vietnam because we have put forward reasonable and logical solution saying that the two South Vietnamese parties will agree on the question of reduction of military strength, the question of reduction of military effective troops, and the question of demobilization of troops.
Besides that, in your comments on our draft yesterday, there remain a number of points that are important but not so too much important. That is the question of replacement of armaments; the question of the return of the people of the parties captured during the war.
Regarding the political questions we still have the question of the name of the administration of South Vietnam, the question of local elections.
Regarding the question of the International Commission of Control and Supervision there still remains a number of points where we still differ.
So all of these specific questions on which we still differ. So I propose that today we shall settle all of these major questions and specific questions. After agreement on these there is still another document on an acknowledgment by the two parties of the exercise of the South Vietnamese people’s right of self-determination. That we shall further discuss.
Now let me address the contents of the agreement regarding the amendments you propose and we propose, and how they should be amended.
Dr. Kissinger: We have a mechanical problem now, because we have a new document which is in our language and we would rather work from our document, not because it differs so much but because the English is so much better than in yours. Then I will go through what we did and then—why don’t you go ahead. If I am a little slow in following you, understand that I have a slightly different document. Please go ahead, Mr. Special Adviser.
Le Duc Tho: The basis of my comments now is on our document, on your previous documents, and on the comments you made yesterday.
Dr. Kissinger: Please. I know what is going to happen: When we come to the final signing, you will sign the version of Monday, we will sign the version of Wednesday, and the Minister and Ambassador Porter can then argue for two more years. [Laughter] All right, let us go ahead.
Le Duc Tho: Article 2, page 2, regarding the cessation of hostilities and withdrawal of troops.
Dr. Kissinger: Can I assume then that when you pass an article it is accepted. You didn’t operate like that yesterday.[Page 639]
Le Duc Tho: Exactly.
Dr. Kissinger: Fine.
Le Duc Tho: In Article 2 you propose mention of a ceasefire of indefinite duration. So we will put this sentence at the end of Article 2. The sentence we propose is “The cessation of hostilities mentioned in this Article is lasting and stable.”
Dr. Kissinger: May I make a suggestion. This sentence should be at the end of the first sentence. The first sentence says “A ceasefire shall be observed . . .” Because if you put it at the end of the article it applies only to the United States, while if you put it at the end of the first sentence it applies to everybody, which I am sure is the intention of the Special Adviser.
Le Duc Tho: No, my intention is that the whole Article 2 refers to both South and North Vietnam. Therefore we mention “the cessation of hostilities mentioned in this Article is lasting and stable.” It applies for both South and North Vietnam, so it will be a guarantee for both zones.
Dr. Kissinger: All right. We make a new paragraph at the end of Article 2.
Le Duc Tho: Another line.
Dr. Kissinger: Another line. I agree, but will you indulge us and let us use our English, and can we say “the ceasefire will be without limit of time?” It is the same as “lasting” but it means something more concrete in English.
Le Duc Tho: So you would say “the cessation of hostilities mentioned in this Article is not limited in time and stable?”
Dr. Kissinger: In English “and stable” doesn’t add anything. What are you trying to say?
Mr. Phoung: Firm. Firm.
Dr. Kissinger: In English it would sound better if we say it is unconditional.
Le Duc Tho: Firm or stable. So our idea is that the cessation should be better if we use the word “firm” or “stable.”
Dr. Kissinger: I have no disagreement with the ideas. I agree with you, Mr. Special Adviser. He [Mr. Engel] has explained to me what it means in Vietnamese and it makes a lot of sense in Vietnamese. It is hard to find an English word for it. In Vietnamese it makes absolutely good sense but we can’t find an English word that is acceptable. We have no trouble with the ideas. We accept it. We are just looking for an English word.
Le Duc Tho: “The complete cessation of hostilities mentioned in this Article is lasting and stable.”[Page 640]
Dr. Kissinger: “Lasting” is “without limit.” It is better for us.
Le Duc Tho: But if we retranslate it in Vietnamese and we hold it “without a limit of time.”
Dr. Kissinger: You can call it “lasting.” You can use the Vietnamese word for “lasting” and we will use the word “limit in time.” That is no problem to us.
Xuan Thuy: “The complete cessation of hostilities mentioned in this Article is lasting and stable.”
Dr. Kissinger: We are in agreement. It is just that we have to find words that mean the same in Vietnamese and English. “The cessation of hostilities in this paragraph should be strict, complete, and without limit of time.” You say “lasting.”
Le Duc Tho: It is strict already.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, we can take “strict” out. How about “permanent?”
Le Duc Tho: “Lasting” means “permanent.”
Dr. Kissinger: Then what does “stable” mean?
Le Duc Tho: Not fragile.
Dr. Kissinger: The trouble is—I was just paying you a compliment. It is a beautiful expression. If we had a word in English that we could use.
Mr. Rodman [To General Haig]: Durable.
General Haig [To Dr. Kissinger]: Durable.
Dr. Kissinger: “Durable” is our word. Let me read: “The complete cessation of hostilities mentioned in this Article shall be durable and without limit of time.” And you will say “shall be stable and lasting.”
Le Duc Tho: All right.
Dr. Kissinger: In English “durable” means something not fragile. It is as close as we can come. You can use your phrase in your document.
Le Duc Tho: Durable and long-lasting.
Dr. Kissinger: We can’t say long-lasting. No, we have to say “without limit of time.”
Le Duc Tho: What we propose, this is not that it will cover our desire to make war again but it is conforming with our Vietnamese language only.
Dr. Kissinger: I understand. So why don’t we agree in English that we say “shall be durable and without limit of time.” We both understand that what we are saying is that it is indefinite duration.
Le Duc Tho: Both sides understand it this way.
Dr. Kissinger: We both understand. Just to make sure because we don’t want to have a misunderstanding: The word “durable” to us [Page 641] means it is strong in character and quality, and the word “lasting,” the way we use it, means there is no time limit.
Le Duc Tho: So in Vietnamese we write “lasting.”
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, with the understanding I have just expressed to you. Do we understand each other, so there is no dispute later?
Le Duc Tho: Yes.
Dr. Kissinger: All right. You can write it that way and we write it this way.
Le Duc Tho: This part of the sentence we can use this way, but for other parts, if we can avoid this one-side-use-one-word-and-the-other-side-use-another-word.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree.
Le Duc Tho: As to the sentence “The United States undertakes to completely and immediately remove all mines. . . .” you propose “the United States will help the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.” We propose to delete both amendments. We should say only “the United States will completely and immediately remove all the mines.”
Dr. Kissinger [To General Haig]: No, we can’t say that, can we?
General Haig [To Dr. Kissinger]: No.
Dr. Kissinger: No, I understand. Our problem is our own domestic situation. We can in fact do it, but we cannot state it this way.
Le Duc Tho: We would prefer to use it. It would be more correct to say “The United States undertakes to completely” but we take into account your view and we put “The United States will completely,” because if you wish to help us in doing this it means your people laid the mines and now you help us in removing the mines. It is not conforming to reality, as if someone else laid the mines. But so we have taken into account your view, but you should do the same with us.
Dr. Kissinger: You haven’t taken our view into account because you have said “United States will remove.” All you are taking out is the words “will undertake to remove.” It means the same thing in English. But let me suggest the following, which is also more consistent with your sovereignty: Can we say “The United States . . .” Go ahead. I think he probably has a better compromise than I have.
Le Duc Tho: Please go ahead.
Dr. Kissinger: We will say “The United States will, in cooperation with the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, remove all the mines.”
Le Duc Tho: Because you have laid the mines against us and now we cooperate with you in doing that? And I think we should not spend too much time in these minor things.
Dr. Kissinger: But do you want us to just sail into your waters and just start removing mines?[Page 642]
Le Duc Tho: So I think that you should send there the means for the removal of the mines, and we shall discuss the details afterwards.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but now we need a phrase here. We don’t mind saying, if it helps you, we don’t mind acknowledging that we laid the mines. We don’t mind saying that “The U.S., in cooperation with the DRV, will remove completely and immediately all the mines it has laid in the territorial waters.” If it means something to you that we acknowledge that we laid the mines, we are prepared to do that.
Le Duc Tho: We think this way. Since you laid the mines and the war is ended, you come and remove the mines. If now we say that we cooperate with you in doing this and you help us in doing this, the world will understand that you laid the mines and now you take it away. There is no problem in this because as a matter of fact people will understand it this way.
Dr. Kissinger: Can we say the United States will pick up all the mines that belong to it in the waters of Vietnam so that they can be used elsewhere? [Xuan Thuy laughs.] That is a joke.
Xuan Thuy: In what territorial waters then?
Dr. Kissinger: Outside Vietnam.
Le Duc Tho: We wanted to put the fact here. We do not ask you to “undertake” that but we do not want you to “help” or “cooperate.” It is conforming to reality.
Dr. Kissinger: How about saying, “All the mines laid in the territorial waters, harbors and waterways will be removed immediately and completely”—since this isn’t a paragraph of yours. It is in a paragraph of United States obligations.
Le Duc Tho: So it will not be known who will remove the mines. Is it we that will remove the mines or you? People may understand that after the end of the war, then we shall proceed in removing the mines ourselves. It may be understood this way.
Dr. Kissinger: There are a number of practical problems that I want to mention to you in connection with the mines. Some of the mines have a time limit on them and it is easier to let them die than to pick them up, because they are very difficult to pick up—some of them. And if a minesweeper should be sunk in the harbor of Haiphong that would close the harbor even longer.
Le Duc Tho: No, we would like only to write this sentence. But the question of how they will be removed, we shall discuss this later. Because the whole world knows that you laid the mines, now to remove it is very simple and need no discussion about it.
Dr. Kissinger: No, if this document becomes the subject of very violent criticism in America, then many individual points that may be good will be a serious problem for us. Then the whole document [Page 643] becomes a serious problem. I am speaking of the domestic situation in America. I do not contest the fact that we will do it.
Le Duc Tho: But what I understand is that the American people, the whole American people, understand that since the United States has laid a mine over there, now after the war they take them away.
Dr. Kissinger: I must say one thing. I have enormous admiration for many of the qualities of the North Vietnamese leadership, but your understanding of the American people has been limited to a very unrepresentative group. We intend to remedy this in the next years.
Xuan Thuy: So we have spent so much time for the only word of “under taking.” I don’t know how long it will take to discuss other things.
Dr. Kissinger: We are just warming up. A few practice rounds. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: Please go on.
Dr. Kissinger: It is very difficult for us. But I shall, on the assumption that you will show some understanding for our problems later on in this document, I agree that we will say “the United States will remove.” But I would like to add “or neutralize all the mines in the territorial waters, harbors and waterways of North Vietnam.” If we add then “completely and immediately,” it sounds too much like an ultimatum. “All the mines” means “completely.” We are prepared to say “The United States will remove or neutralize all the mines in the territorial waters, harbors and waterways of North Vietnam as soon as this agreement goes into effect.” This means immediately, and “all” takes care of “completely.”
Le Duc Tho: But I propose to delete the word “neutralize” because our language is too simple. “To remove it.” Whether you remove it or deactivate it, the result is to remove all the mines. Our people will understand that the mines have been laid, and now they are removed.
Dr. Kissinger: As long as you understand that we will not pick them all up; that we will make ourselves responsible to deactivate them but we may leave them there.
Le Duc Tho: Technically speaking you will do as you like, but the sentence here should be “The United States will remove all the mines in the territorial waters, harbors and waterways of North Vietnam after the ceasefire becomes effective.”
Dr. Kissinger: What we would like to say is “or deactivate after this agreement becomes effective.” We would like to say “will remove or deactivate.” We should not have that many understandings. It is not healthy that every paragraph has an understanding.
Le Duc Tho: “Will remove and deactivate.”
Dr. Kissinger: “Will remove or deactivate.” “And” isn’t correct. We will do one or the other.[Page 644]
Le Duc Tho: Remove is sufficient.
Dr. Kissinger: Maybe in Vietnamese, but in English “remove” means we have to pick them up and take them away, and that can be very dangerous.
Le Duc Tho: Technically speaking you will do as you like, but in Vietnamese words it means to remove them.
Dr. Kissinger [To Mr. Engel]: Is that true? Or is there a Vietnamese word for “deactivate”? [To Le Duc Tho]: We cannot promise to do what we cannot do. We don’t know exactly where some of them are.
Le Duc Tho: What we request here is that the mines should be removed from the waterways of Vietnam, but technically speaking, we don’t discuss that here; later that will be discussed.
Dr. Kissinger: But the problem is we have already got an understanding in the first paragraph. We can’t have two understandings in the first paragraph.
Le Duc Tho: Let me tell you one sentence. We understand this sentence is simple, not in as complicated way as you think. The Vietnamese people understand that the United States has laid the mines, now the United States takes them away. But this is only one word, but there are still many things to be discussed later. It will take three days perhaps.
Dr. Kissinger: It can’t, because I must leave tonight. I cannot possibly stay another day.
Le Duc Tho: But if we can’t finish this one day, then I shall say we finished, because I have also my work to do too. It is only the word “remove” and it takes an hour already.
Dr. Kissinger: But we have agreed with your formulation, as a sign of good will. The only possibility is that we record in the minutes, and I will also say publicly that we informed you that removal means that we will either physically pick it up or deactivate them.
Xuan Thuy: So it is a very simple problem and it seems that you want to make the problem complicated. Probably we should set a time limit for our discussions here and not go beyond the time limit. We feel that it is not serious.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, if that is what you feel then we should stop now instead of wasting our time. We are trying to make commitments we can undertake. I have agreed to your sentence and all I want is a word that expresses what we can in fact do.
Le Duc Tho: Now what I tell you is this: I don’t know about the techniques of your mines. So you say that you will remove some of them, you will deactivate the others and they still remain in our waterways.[Page 645]
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but in any case they will no longer operate as mines. We can say “permanently deactivate.”
Le Duc Tho: We are not technicians in mines. We simply understand that since the mines have been laid now they should be removed. But I frankly tell you that we have only one day left. If today we will not finish, then we come to that.
Dr. Kissinger: We can’t operate on the basis of threats. If we both want an agreement we will have an agreement. I have conceded you your principal point, that the United States will do it. I just want to make clear that “remove” in English means that we have to pick them up and take them out of there. That may take years. We can guarantee that we can have them all inactive in a number of weeks. We cannot guarantee that we can have them all picked up in a number of weeks.
Le Duc Tho: Let me say this, to end the discussion on this sentence. “The United States will definitely deactivate by removing and destroying all the mines laid in the territorial waters, harbors and waterways of North Vietnam.”
Dr. Kissinger: No, I would rather say it the other way “will remove either by destruction or deactivation.”
Le Duc Tho: “The United States will definitely deactivate, remove and destroy all the mines laid in the territorial waters, harbors and waterways in Vietnam.”
Dr. Kissinger: All right, we can accept that. “Will permanently deactivate, remove or destroy.” It can’t do all three. It has to do one of the three. You can’t deactivate them, remove them, and destroy them all at once.
Le Duc Tho: There are two ways of removing the mines, but you can adopt one of these ways.
Dr. Kissinger: May I suggest a better formulation from your point of view: “The United States will permanently remove by deactivation or destruction all mines.” I think it is better for you, but I will accept your phrase if you put in the word “or.” I will accept your phrase if we say “deactivate, remove or destroy.” If you say “or” I will accept your phrase.
Le Duc Tho: We prefer this sentence.
Dr. Kissinger: That is what I thought. I am trying to be helpful—except that the Minister is threatening me.
Le Duc Tho: We do not threaten. What we want is to bring about rapid results.
Dr. Kissinger: No, it is always a difficult period drafting these documents, but we are going to succeed. It is obvious. It may take a longer time than we think but it is going to succeed. So you take our sentence, “The United States will permanently remove, by deactivation [Page 646] or destruction.” You prefer your sentence, “The United States will permanently remove, deactivate or destroy.” That’s all right.
Le Duc Tho: All right.
Dr. Kissinger: “As soon as this agreement goes into effect.”
Le Duc Tho: A short distance but a lot of effort.
Dr. Kissinger: That is all right. It is worth it. It is in the common interest.
My assistant has figured out that at this rate it will take us only four more years to finish it.
Le Duc Tho: I propose now a half hour or a little more so that we can see into your new document.
Dr. Kissinger: Good. As long as you look into the document, Mr. Special Adviser, may I call your attention to Article 16, in which you asked us to show our understanding for your problem. We are prepared to add a phrase to it. We will add the phrase “contribute to healing the wounds of war and to postwar reconstruction.”
Le Duc Tho: But it’s only a sentence in general terms but we should discuss it in more detail.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but it is very similar to the paragraph you had.
Le Duc Tho: Yes, but when we discuss this we should go further into details not to be recorded in the agreement.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree with you. I agree with you.
[There was a break from 11:02–11:40 a.m.]
Le Duc Tho: Let us resume.
Dr. Kissinger: May I make a suggestion? When the Special Adviser began this morning’s meeting he pointed out that if we meet his concerns with respect to reconstruction he would take into account our problems, which he summarized very well, with respect to Laos and Cambodia. And since he pointed out that these were our principal problems, I wonder if we can hear what his views of them are because they would then in turn affect all our other deliberations.
Le Duc Tho: But do you correctly understand our question of concern?
Dr. Kissinger: I correctly understand your question, which has two parts. The first part was that you need for moral and other reasons in this agreement a statement about healing the war wounds. We have given you that statement even though it is very difficult for us.
Your second point is that you would like to discuss with me a concrete program. To that I want to say the following: First, it is in our mutual interest that we develop such a substantial program because, to tell you frankly, the best guarantee we have that these agreements will in fact be carried out is to be certain that you will concentrate on [Page 647] tasks of reconstruction rather than on tasks of war. And the more we cooperate together on tasks of reconstruction, the more there will be mutual trust. So I would undertake when I return to Hanoi to discuss with you in more detail what such a concrete program might look like. But I can tell you now that it will be substantial and that it will be pursued energetically. We are perhaps the only major country—we are in any event a country whose only interest after peace is restored in North Vietnam is to have you strong, independent and developing. And in this sense we will be prepared to work with you very closely.
So I think I have gone beyond the answer you asked for yesterday.
Le Duc Tho: Let me ask Mr. Special Adviser this: As far as we are concerned, after the end of the war naturally we will be engaged in peaceful construction of our economy. Naturally also in this peaceful construction of our economy you will contribute an important part to this work, meaning healing the wounds of war of North Vietnam. It is not only a question of your responsibility, but it is a question beneficial to us and to you. That is the reason why yesterday I told you that when it is necessary to fight, we fight with determination, but when we decide to have a settlement and to engage in the direction of peaceful construction, we are also doing it with determination.
Therefore what I have told you about my understanding of your question of concern shows the direction we want to follow and to show that we have understood your question of concern. If we wanted war, we would not express our views in such a way. But you too should understand our requirements, because in negotiations there should be reciprocity. You have understood that.
Previously you had raised a concrete amount of money. We have raised also a concrete amount of money. Now what is your view in this connection? As to a program for reconstruction, you said a substantial one and you shall discuss when you are in Hanoi. Previously you have given specific assessment or evaluation of the sum. Please now give another assessment or evaluation. As to the detail, we shall discuss it in Hanoi.
Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, if we were engaged in discussions that would probably lead nowhere, it would be easy to give a figure. But I believe we are engaged in a discussion that will lead to success, and I believe also that in this discussion it is very important that we put our relationship on a new basis in which confidence can develop. We have been fighting each other for ten years. The American people have been conditioned to believe—I am speaking honestly with you—that you are untrustworthy, and—not the people you see, but the average American—and determined to make war, and many other attributes that they do not like. So we have a problem, both of us, to turn this public attitude around. We have done this with respect to China, so we know we can do it with respect to you.[Page 648]
And that is why at the end of the session last night I said to you that for a few months we have to show understanding to each other. I am saying this with an open heart. Because for the first few weeks after we make this agreement everybody is going to try to find what is wrong with it and what you are going to do to us. So we have a difficult problem. Now I say this because, on the other hand, if we can manage the next few weeks well—and my trip to Hanoi, one reason is to bring this about—then we can move to develop a program of economic reconstruction.
When we gave you a figure of $1.5 billion a year, we thought that about $600 million of this could go to North Vietnam for a year. My own personal judgment is that the first year it may be a little less; the second year it may be substantially more. This is my personal estimate, but I would have to check it more carefully when I go back to Washington.
Le Duc Tho: Last year when speaking of this question you mentioned a sum of $2.5 billion for North Vietnam.
Dr. Kissinger: Over five years. That is about $500 million a year.
Le Duc Tho: Now you said that each year North Vietnam may have $600 million; it will be $3 billion for five years, but the recent air war against North Vietnam has caused considerable losses, not only material losses but human losses, and a great deal of damages to the lives of the people. And so the amount as you proposed is not sufficient to make a counterpart to the losses and damages suffered by our people. I propose that after we make this agreement we shall make a protocol on this question between us, of cooperation between the two sides on this question. We have drafted also a short protocol of one page for your consideration. Just like when you give aid to other countries there is a protocol about it. [Hands over DRV “Protocol on Healing the Wounds of War,” Tab B] This is evidence of mutual trust, so that we can rapidly reach settlement of the problem.
Dr. Kissinger: [Reads the paper] Now this is something I would have to take to Hanoi with me. Because this requires Congressional action and large sums of money. And what is your idea—to publish this protocol?
Le Duc Tho: Between us.
Dr. Kissinger: This we would really have to study. And it is not a question of intention; here it is a question of managing. Let me give you an example, which is not exactly correct. If the Japanese in 1945 had asked the Americans, “How much will you contribute to the reconstruction of Japan?” the answer would have been “nothing,” or next to nothing. In fact, as our relationships developed, we made an enormous contribution, which if we had attempted to lay it down at the beginning, [Page 649] could never have been made. It is not a good example, because you are not defeated. I am just trying to say that as our relationships develop, I believe the sums will be larger than we can now determine.
But I believe that it will be possible for us to form a Joint Commission. I believe that paragraph 1 is essentially acceptable. Paragraphs 2 and 3 I will have to examine. And it is impossible to make a commitment without Congressional approval of any specific sum. But we can tell you that the spirit of this document is consistent with our objectives.
So when I return to Washington I shall have immediate consultations with those of our officials who are responsible for the management of aid. I will also discuss the matter with the President of the World Bank. The real problem here is not whether to do it but how to do it, and what precise sum we shall agree to. But I will try to make a very realistic proposal to you when I come to Hanoi, if you want it earlier, to transmit it through the liaison officer here. But I understand what you want. I must tell you frankly that the sum is more a question of whether to specify it and how to specify it, because it does us no good to sign a protocol which we then cannot implement. So I can tell you now that the principle of it is acceptable to us.
Le Duc Tho: Which principle?
Dr. Kissinger: The principle of a contribution. The principle of a five-year program. The principle of a substantial sum. I have given you my estimate of $3 billion; you say $4.5 billion. It is very abstract right now, because when you understand our system these sums will have to come from many different sources and we will have to see how to piece them together.
I tell you frankly that I believe a Joint Commission between us for the economic reconstruction of North Vietnam is a better guarantee for peace in Indochina than a Joint Commission on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, because such a Commission would show that we have made peace and not an armistice. So we will strongly support it. But on the other hand, for the immediate period, we need the other.
Le Duc Tho: Yes, I have listened to your statement but I would like to raise again the question of the protocol because it is a normal thing. If a Joint Commission should be established it is one question, and it is another question that everywhere there is protocol. What is your view now? And if you go to Hanoi then we shall have a protocol made in Hanoi between the two parties.
Dr. Kissinger: I will have to study. This is new to me.
Le Duc Tho: Naturally.
Dr. Kissinger: I believe that a protocol between our countries on economic reconstruction is possible. I think it is even essential. It may have to be done in two parts: It may be that when I come to Hanoi [Page 650] we can express a joint intention to move in a certain direction, which we would agree to keep secret, and that then early next year we sign a formal agreement between our two governments which would be public, which puts it into effect.
Le Duc Tho: So if we can come to a basic agreement here then we should discuss this question in detail.
Dr. Kissinger: What I will promise I do is—you will see, when we publish this agreement, I will have to be the principal person defending this document. And when I present this agreement, that is in two weeks, you will see that I will lay the basis for the conception of a substantial program of reconstruction. But you must understand that we have to condition our people for it. And there has to be a minimum of trust now, so that when I promise you something I will want to keep it, if we are to put our relationship on a new basis.
The Special Adviser said that you are determined in war, but also determined in peace. You will see this is our attitude also. We will move rapidly and energetically to improve our relations and to help rebuild your country. It is in our common interest.
Le Duc Tho: It is because of our good will and desire to reach a peaceful settlement of the Vietnam problem that we have followed a very positive orientation.
Dr. Kissinger: I know. I am convinced of this.
Le Duc Tho: And not only for the purpose of peaceful settlement of the Vietnam problem but also with a spirit of mutual cooperation between our two countries in economic construction that we propose this.
Dr. Kissinger: But it is important for our long-term relation that we make this not in a way that it can be presented as buying ourselves out of the war, but as a positive action in our mutual interest for the future of our relationship and not to settle the past. It must be consistent with our dignity, and your dignity, for it to have the effect which you have described, if it is to last.
Le Duc Tho: It is also our attitude too. We propose this question not in a spirit that we wish that you give us a sum of money. Our conception is that the war has caused considerable destruction and damages to our country and it is your responsibility in healing these wounds of war, but at the same time it is opening a new era of cooperation between our two countries on a new basis and in building up a new relationship based on trust and long-term interests.
Dr. Kissinger: This is exactly our attitude.
Le Duc Tho: But I have asked you about a specific sum; it is to have an idea of the amount you can contribute. As to the exact sum, you will discuss with our leaders in Hanoi. But personally I think [Page 651] that the sum you have proposed is too little in comparison with the destruction and the sufferings of our people. I think that we should not go in further detail in discussing this, but we will stand this way and we will discuss it in Hanoi.
Dr. Kissinger: Let me say one more thing, simply for the thinking of your leaders. Most of your relations have been with countries in which the government could make all the conclusive decisions. As you move into a relationship of friendship with us, you will see that our situation is more complex. For example, in order to help you more fully in this reconstruction we must mobilize, and we intend to mobilize, many private groups—which are somewhat more influential than the ones you have up to now invited to Hanoi. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: Recently there is a proposal from Mr. McNamara to go to visit—and many other Americans.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes. What we can do for you is, we will coordinate all of these activities and we will put them into a coherent program and we will stimulate them, and therefore the sums that we can get from the government will not be the total amount. Because we can help mobilize some funds from other countries as part of a consortium. But you have to give us a little time to develop this. Just as it is hard for you to do things while we are bombing, it is hard for us to do certain things while you have our prisoners.
But this is the direction in which we are determined to move and you can count on it. I will be much more specific when I am in Hanoi. I will study the problem. If you will ever let me get back to Washington, I will study the problem there immediately.
Le Duc Tho: The primary thing, and to lay the basis for our relationship, is to achieve an agreement.
Dr. Kissinger: Oh yes, we have to settle this.
Le Duc Tho: And so, if we have not yet achieved our agreement then we come to nothing. Now let me express my views to show our taking into account the question of your concern, and to show you also that we are reasonable people when we settle the problem.
Dr. Kissinger: I am not so sure about the Minister.
Xuan Thuy: So I am.
Le Duc Tho: And so if I show this good will I think that we should go more rapidly and avoid complicated things, because if we settle the major problems then the minor ones will be settled rapidly.
Dr. Kissinger: That is why I thought we should talk about this first.
Le Duc Tho: Let me do that. But what I am telling you is something frank, straightforward, with an open heart. In settling anything we should have a real desire to settle it. I have never made pressure on [Page 652] you. But definitely you can’t make pressure on me too. When we achieve a settlement this settlement should be reasonable for both.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree.
Le Duc Tho: Now the question of greater concern of yours is the question of Laos. Objectively speaking, the question of Cambodia is different from the question of Laos. So in envisioning our conception the Vietnam problem will be settled first, then the question of Laos. Objectively speaking. But in starting anything I should point it out first—in starting anything we start from the principle of respecting the concerned peoples’ fundamental national right. We shall discuss with our friends, our allies, in Laos to speed up the negotiations, to hurry them to results. So for the problem of Laos, after the ceasefire becomes effective in Vietnam, after the peaceful settlement of the Vietnam problem, we think one month after, then all foreign powers—not only us but you too—should put an end to all their military activities and to abide by the principle I mentioned to you before. That is to say that all foreign troops should be withdrawn from Laos and should refrain from reintroducing armaments, military personnel, war matériel into Laos. That is Article 15(b). So in the agreement we record as 15(b) has been drafted, but we shall give you a statement. We can’t record my statement in the agreement. It is an understanding between us. Because I have given you one month, because we have to exchange views with our friends and it will take some time. But we shall strive to do it the sooner the better, as soon as possible, but at least it will take one month.
So I think I have satisfied all your concerns. Therefore now all the provisions you have made about the resistance of base areas in Article 7 I think should be deleted, because if all foreign troops are withdrawn from Laos, and a ceasefire has been observed in Laos, then there are no base areas in Laos.
Dr. Kissinger: Now let me understand one thing. I just want to sum up, to make sure that I have understood you correctly.
Le Duc Tho: I shall give you a statement in writing.
Dr. Kissinger: Right, but it says “one month after this agreement goes into effect,” one month after the ceasefire. [Le Duc Tho nods yes.] There shall be a ceasefire in Laos. That when this goes into effect the provision of Article 15(b) will be in force. [Le Duc Tho nods yes.] And all your forces will be withdrawn. Of course, all of ours also.
Le Duc Tho: And your allies, the Thai troops.
Dr. Kissinger: We shall discuss with Thailand.
Le Duc Tho: That is why we have to discuss with our allies too.
Dr. Kissinger: Now supposing the Chinese refuse to withdraw their troops.
Le Duc Tho: Of course we can’t decide that, but I think you too, you can’t decide that.[Page 653]
Dr. Kissinger: No, but I want to have it understood. Even if the Chinese keep their troops there you will withdraw your troops.
Le Duc Tho: We shall abide by Article 15(b).
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but Article 15(b) could be interpreted to say that your troops will be withdrawn only if all foreign troops are withdrawn.
Le Duc Tho: Probably you are a philosopher. You have an extraordinary interpretation of this article, but politically speaking I think we should have a correct interpretation of the article.
Dr. Kissinger: I understand now. You will give us a statement to that effect.
Le Duc Tho: I shall give it to you.
Dr. Kissinger: But the practical problem—you do not want it published.
Le Duc Tho: No, understanding. There are things we agreed by understanding and we abide by it. You should understand.
Dr. Kissinger: No, I understand the problem. It will present us with some problems, first of all in Saigon—which I don’t think will cause the Special Adviser sleepless nights—and secondly, when we present this agreement what to say publicly, because this is one of the first questions we will be asked. But I think that is probably manageable. And perhaps if we make an agreement and I come to Hanoi the Special Adviser will coach me a little bit on the handling of the press, which he does so well. [Laughter] But I understand this point.
Now I told you yesterday we have three problems. One is Laos. I think I understand your view and I won’t ask for any additional clarification.
The second is Cambodia. Now I understand that with relation to Cambodia your political situation is much more difficult than with relation to Laos, because your friends in Cambodia live in Peking. [Laughter] And that presents a more complex situation. So I understand this very well. But let me tell you what my problem will be, first within my government and then in Saigon: It will be said that this agreement does not prevent your resupplying your base areas in Cambodia and that the provisions about military aid are not applicable to your forces in Cambodia. This presents a great difficulty for us, how to explain it. And since we know that in the recent history your forces—speaking here openly—have used these base areas in Cambodia and then come across the border, this is a serious problem.
Le Duc Tho: Have you finished?
Dr. Kissinger: I have finished. It is a problem I am putting to you in an open way.
Le Duc Tho: Those problems you put before us which we can solve, we shall do so. But there are problems which contain difficulties. You [Page 654] should understand also these difficulties of ours. While we peacefully settle the Vietnam problem, we discuss with our allies to reach a peaceful settlement of the Lao problem. And in the agreement we have explicitly said that we shall refrain from introducing armaments and war matériels into South Vietnam and into Laos. But you should do the same too.
Then with regard to Cambodia we shall follow the same principle, once there is a settlement in Cambodia. But as I told you repeatedly, the peaceful settlement of the Vietnam problem will create, will pave the way for the settlement of the problem of Laos and Cambodia. But once the Vietnam problem has been solved, once the Laos problem has been solved, then it will create propitious conditions for the settlement of the Cambodia problem. Naturally, Cambodia contains these difficulties as you understood, but it will create the conditions for a settlement. I believe that our friends, our allies in Cambodia will follow the same orientation. There are three Indochinese countries closely linked to each other, to wage resistance war. Now if two countries have reached a peaceful settlement the third one will follow the same orientation. It is what I am thinking.
You are Americans. It is said that Americans are very realistic. You should understand that. So the question of the solution of the Vietnam problem and the Lao problem, and particularly Article 15(b) as it is written in the agreement, is a great evidence of our good will. And the understanding I have told you.
Dr. Kissinger: I understand.
Le Duc Tho: So it is clear. It is explicit.
Dr. Kissinger: Of course I haven’t seen it yet. Could I see it?
Le Duc Tho: I shall give it to you later. I told you that it is an understanding between us, and confidential.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, you can count on that. Now is it possible to have an understanding?
Le Duc Tho: Let me ask something more. But on the other hand you should also instigate your allies to move to the settlement with good will.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, we will do that. We will use our maximum influence, and our impression is the same as the Special Adviser’s: that the Laotian problem can be settled within a month, and maybe sooner.
Le Duc Tho: Frequently you refer to over-optimism.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, but this is our assessment of the situation. Now, with respect to Cambodia, can we have an understanding that no offensive operations will be taken within Cambodia by the Vietnamese forces? And we will use our influence and undertake—will guarantee—that no offensive operations will be taken against Vietnamese forces in Cambodia.[Page 655]
Le Duc Tho: What we can do for the time being, I have told you that. But as regards Cambodia the situation is more complicated. There are other forces too, those of Sihanouk. Therefore I have told you that we should not raise too many complicated things. But as I told you, once we settle the Vietnam problem, then there are many real things, real possibilities that we can’t see now. But after the settlement of the Vietnam problem then these real possibilities appear every day, because the entirety, the real things change. A settlement of one problem will have its impact upon other problems.
Dr. Kissinger: But why is it difficult? I understand that you do not control the forces of Prince Sihanouk. And in fact, when peace is restored, the Special Adviser can tell me his personal opinion whether Prince Sihanouk controls his forces. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: He does. He does command. He is the Chief of State. I think someday he will return. My personal view, I think that you should also go in this direction of a settlement.
Dr. Kissinger: But why is it difficult to agree that the Vietnamese forces in Cambodia not take any offensive action? We do not ask for a guarantee that the other forces not take offensive action?
Le Duc Tho: Because the Vietnamese forces in Cambodia are linked, closely related to Cambodian forces. They can’t be separated now. Once the problem of Cambodia is settled, it is settled for all fighting forces in Cambodia, not separated for the Vietnamese forces only. This is an objective thing, reality. When the Cambodian problem is settled, the problem will be settled completely and wholly. This problem is as it is now. You should understand. The most practical thing is that we should achieve this agreement. If we can settle the Vietnam problem then all other problems. . . .
Dr. Kissinger: But you will have to understand. I will want to consider for a few minutes. We will complete this discussion and then perhaps we should have a 15-minute break. We will hold our airplane. I said 4:30, but we will hold our airplane until we complete the discussion. But you must understand that if we make an agreement in which we say nothing specific about Cambodia and if afterward you bring about by your actions a change in the situation in Cambodia, that it would totally undermine the agreement that we have reached and the possibility of mutual trust between our two countries.
Le Duc Tho: I point out one thing very practical to you. You are still speaking in your own things, but I can tell you that the settlement of the Vietnam problem and of the Laos problem will bring about a big change in the situation. You should realize that. So I think that we should stop the discussion on the question now, because it is a whole hour discussing. You understand the problem thoroughly now?[Page 656]
Dr. Kissinger: But the Special Adviser overestimates my intelligence. I am a slow student as he often pointed out to me.
Le Duc Tho: Because you are too suspicious.
Dr. Kissinger: I have never found that excessive trust is a Vietnamese vice. [Laughter]
I have three problems: Laos, Cambodia, and your forces in the South. Do I understand the Special Adviser correctly, that he proposes that we add a clause to the agreement to the effect that the two parties will discuss the reduction of their military effectives and that the forces reduced should then return to their native homes? Is this my correct understanding?
Le Duc Tho: I propose to put this provision in the article dealing with the question of Vietnamese armed forces. But I should point out when I say reduction of military strength, military effectives, and demobilization of troops, it means that they should get out of the army, but as to where they will go to, their home or other places, is up to them.
Now I would like to raise another question to you. I have been telling you over the past four years of our negotiations that the question of North Vietnamese should never be raised because it is contrary to the real things, legal things, political things and moral things. When we propose the approach of reduction of military effectives and demobilization, it is a fair solution and conforming to reality. If you look at all the provisions as a whole, you will realize that all of these provisions testify to our desire to progress, to our peace orientation—on many questions, not only these agreements.
Your trip to Hanoi is in the direction of peace. You have not realized that our people have been fighting against United States aggression for national salvation for over ten years now. You can imagine their feelings, their indignation, hatred and so forth. And in such circumstances we agree to receive you in Hanoi while the war is still going on. Without a desire to go forward in the direction of peace and to find a way of peace, this decision would not be made. Therefore, for the purpose of settlement we should go rapidly in achieving this agreement so that we can move also rapidly toward peace. But I should also add that we are deeply attached to peace, but not at any price. You should understand this. Therefore, you should also make an effort so that we can achieve the agreement today, because otherwise it will not work.
Dr. Kissinger: We shall make an effort.
Le Duc Tho: Moreover we have a schedule to do. We should meet the schedule we have made. I have told you this from the bottom of my heart, an open heart. I have met you 20 times now but I have never spoken to you in this way.[Page 657]
Dr. Kissinger: That is true.
Le Duc Tho: So let us have a 15-minute break.
Dr. Kissinger: Let me say one thing. We have two problems: one is substance and the other is presentation. I personally believe if you want to break this agreement, there is nothing we can write in here to keep you from breaking it.
Le Duc Tho: This is a realistic understanding you have, but in any case the agreement should be a correct one.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree, it should be a correct agreement. But what I want to say is if you want to make war you will find a way of making war.
Le Duc Tho: You should pay attention to this legal aspect, but you are too suspicious.
Dr. Kissinger: No, it is not my personal conviction, but it is the problem of how, in the limited time we now have, to convince our government, to convince the Saigon government, and then to convince the American people in such a way that the economic measures can be put forward and we do not spend all our time in mutual recrimination.
I want to say one thing to the Special Adviser. You have many forces in South Vietnam which are close to the demilitarized zone which could move the 20 miles north without affecting the situation significantly. Not as a promise to us, not as an understanding, but if some movement occurred that our intelligence people and military pick up—in fact if you would communicate a little more frequently than you now do!—then it would be very helpful to us, then we would have a basis for discussion with our allies without bringing about an enormous practical change. I say this to get our agreement approved, and not because I do not understand the concern for your forces. It is not a formal proposal.
Le Duc Tho: Let me answer.
Dr. Kissinger: If you answer negatively I would rather not hear it!
Le Duc Tho: You like it and you should listen to it. You see you only mention your difficulties, your difficulties with the American people, with the Saigon government, but you should know that we have our difficulty. We have our friends, our people, our allies. If we have a real desire to reach a peaceful settlement, we have all possibilities to surmount, to overcome, all difficulties. But if we have not such a desire then the discussion of only one word will take three days and we can’t come to an agreement. I have been negotiating with you for a long time now. If we wanted to drag the negotiations, we have many methods. You, too, have such methods.
Dr. Kissinger: I am familiar with the methods.
Le Duc Tho: But these methods cannot deceive anyone. We, in the same way. You in the same way because we have understood each [Page 658] other. This is frankly speaking. You say that you want to overcome some difficulties to reach a settlement. You have your difficulties; we have many difficulties too. So for purposes of settlement we should understand the situation in an objective way and we should not raise too many complicated problems. Each problem should have its limit. You, too. We, too.
Let me now speak of the draft agreement we handed to you. Since we handed the agreement to you we have never added anything to create difficulty for you. What we have done was in facilitating an agreement. On the contrary, each amendment you make creates too many difficulties. And you sent us the message last night [October 9] and you added many more problems. But you should understand also that we have covered a distance and we have come now to the limit. Beyond such a limit we will not go. On the content as well as on the schedule. When we have decided something we should both be resolute in achieving it. But if we are not disposed, not prepared to do anything, then let us stop.
I point out only the real things. You have realized that since we have given you the draft agreement we have never added any more things to create more difficulties for you. On the contrary, we have made a great deal of effort to bring about a correct solution to the question. You should realize that. You, on the contrary, you are creating difficulties for us. I told you that we should have mutual trust. If, with mutual trust, there are things we cannot solve now, but with mutual trust they can be solved in the future; and there may be such cases that you raise problems now, you ask it to be recorded in the paper, but in the future it is not so.
Dr. Kissinger: I understand what the Special Adviser has said. I agree he has made a major effort. We have also. We would like to make the agreement in such a way that it has the minimum difficulty when it is made. We have come such a long way now that we must cover the remainder, and we must keep our schedule, and if the Special Adviser agrees, perhaps we can take a 15-minute break and then resume. I will then make a brief comment on what he said, and we will go to the next point.
[There was a break between 1:18–1:50 p.m.]
Le Duc Tho: I have another person which I would like at the meeting.
Dr. Kissinger: It is up to you.
[Mr. Xuan enters the meeting and sits at the table.]
Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, could I raise another question unconnected to the negotiation? Colonel Guay has just informed me that he has heard on the French radio that there was an attack on Hanoi [Page 659] last night. I want to tell the Special Adviser that I was not aware of this, and I want to apologize to him on behalf of our government for such an action being taken while we are concluding our negotiation. I also want to tell him that as soon as I can get to my airplane and can restore communication with Washington, we shall prevent all attacks on Hanoi. From the time we conclude this agreement there will be no further attacks. But I must express my views that this was an improper action while we were negotiating. Please communicate this to your government.
Le Duc Tho: At the very beginning of our session I was informed of that news, and I intended to raise it with you. But my intention was that we start immediately our negotiations and . . .
Dr. Kissinger: My associates heard it on the radio.
Le Duc Tho: I intended to raise this question after our discussions, but since now you have raised the question I appreciate your good attitude. I shall convey your statement to my government.
Dr. Kissinger: Now, Mr. Special Adviser, we have considered what you have said about Laos and about Cambodia. We will accept the assurance you give us about Laos, assuming that the text is satisfactory. Which I have not yet seen.
Le Duc Tho: After this meeting I shall give it to you. What I have said will be recorded.
Dr. Kissinger: I understand. It is my understanding that when this agreement is signed, that when the Laotian agreement is signed, no later than one month after the ceasefire goes into effect then Article 15(b) of our agreement goes into effect.
Le Duc Tho: Ceasefire in Laos within one month of the agreement.
Dr. Kissinger: Right, and then foreign troops will be withdrawn.
Le Duc Tho: The settlement of the Laos question depends on the Lao parties, and you will use your influence with your allies and we shall use our influence with our allies.
Dr. Kissinger: But once the ceasefire has been achieved, foreign troops will be withdrawn.
Le Duc Tho: When we say that we withdraw, we will withdraw. But when a ceasefire in Laos is observed then we have to discuss with our allies in Laos, because there are other forces in Laos too. And they discuss, the parties in Laos too and the other forces belonging to your side.
Dr. Kissinger: Now, that I don’t understand. Will you then only start discussions after a ceasefire is achieved, or will you begin withdrawal—assuming the forces on our side withdraw?
Le Duc Tho: Yes, after the ceasefire the concerned parties will start discussions and to fix a timing for the withdrawal. What can I tell you? [Page 660] Because there should be some meetings to discuss that question. But when we fix the principle that all foreign forces should be withdrawn from Laos and Cambodia, we shall abide by this principle.
Dr. Kissinger: I think the matter is very simple if it is going well on both sides.
Le Duc Tho: Naturally.
Dr. Kissinger: If we understand each other that after a ceasefire foreign forces will be withdrawn, we will undertake to arrange for the withdrawal of foreign forces on our side. And of course there will have to be some discussion of timing, but the timing should be very short.
Le Duc Tho: But we have not discussed the timing now, but when we discuss it then the timing will be decided. In our view we should make an effort so that this timing should be the shortest possible, because we can’t discuss the timing now.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, one difficulty is that every time I think we have an agreement and then I summarize it, it begins to evaporate.
Le Duc Tho: You have been negotiating with us for a long time now. All I have told you, when we agree we have respected our words.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, we haven’t made so many agreements that I could test that.
Le Duc Tho: It has been tested many times, but probably you, Mr. Special Adviser, are making too many demands. Naturally after the settlement there will be better comprehension of each other.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but you see, if there is no time limit on the withdrawal of your forces then the problem of the base areas and the infiltration routes in Laos is not settled—because then you can continue to use them even if there is a ceasefire.
Le Duc Tho: I think that you have spent too much time on this question. What I have stated is very clear. It is not a question of my making a statement for this moment only; we have a whole agreement to be implemented, and we have long-term relations to be maintained. And this depends not only on us but also on you. Our experience in past years, we have signed so many agreements, but who has implemented them? Who has sabotaged them? I do not want to recall here these historical events. So you always wondered whether we shall respect the agreement, but it depends also on you. But we have stated we will carry it out then.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but what I want to know is what you are undertaking to do. That is just the question.
Le Duc Tho: I have been explaining to you all morning and you have not understood me. Let me repeat then. After the ceasefire and the agreement in Vietnam, within one month there will be a ceasefire in Laos, then there will be a discussion with our allies in Laos and all [Page 661] foreign troops will be withdrawn as soon as possible. I shall give you the statement.
Mr. Negroponte [To Mr. Phuong]: This is withdrawn within a period of time as soon as possible?
Mr. Phuong: Yes.
Le Duc Tho: Are you satisfied? Not yet, I am sure.
Dr. Kissinger: No, because I will be told—what I will be told is . . . first of all, the history of the Laotian negotiations is that we have not agreed to a ceasefire in the past unless we were sure that the trails would not be used.
Le Duc Tho: If you raise always such a problem it will not be correct and we will never end our work. When we say there will be a ceasefire in Laos, then there will be a general ceasefire there, and some time later the foreign forces will be withdrawn as soon as possible. And after the agreement is reached in Vietnam then all introduction of troops, armaments, equipment, war matériel into Laos shall be prohibited.
Dr. Kissinger: After the agreement is reached in Vietnam?
Le Duc Tho: After the ceasefire in South Vietnam and in Laos, then there will not be such introductions. Article 15(b), I told you. Not only us, but you too, you should not introduce, should no longer introduce into Laos and South Vietnam. It is in explicit language.
Dr. Kissinger: All right. Now let me understand again. Let me summarize so that I am sure I understand it. “The introduction of military equipment and personnel into Laos will stop immediately when the ceasefire in Vietnam goes into effect.
Le Duc Tho: Let me repeat it. Here in the agreement we have stated that we shall no longer infiltrate our troops, armaments and war matériels.
Dr. Kissinger: Into where?
Le Duc Tho: Article 15(b). In Article 15(b) it will be explicit. [Tho reads the article.]
Dr. Kissinger: But that is only after the forces are withdrawn.
Le Duc Tho: After the ceasefire we shall no longer introduce them into South Vietnam. In Article 15(b) it reads: “Foreign countries shall put an end to all military activities and arms, totally withdraw from, and refrain from introduction into these two countries troops, military advisers, military personnel, armaments, munitions and war matériel.”
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but when will that go into effect?
Le Duc Tho: After the ceasefire in Vietnam.
Dr. Kissinger: “After the ceasefire goes into effect in Vietnam, foreign countries will refrain from introducing into these countries, military troops, armaments and war matériels.”[Page 662]
Le Duc Tho: The formulation has been written in the provision and we shall carry out the provision. Once the forces have been withdrawn, what for to reintroduce them?
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but that is my problem. You have given us no schedule for the withdrawal of these forces, and therefore we continue to face the problem that in your draft the infiltration through Laos and Cambodia remains possible. We just cannot make an agreement that permits infiltration through Laos and Cambodia and into the base areas of Laos and Cambodia for an unlimited time.
Le Duc Tho: I have exhausted my views.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, I have to see.
Le Duc Tho: Because I have given very explicit and clear statements regarding Laos and Cambodia in our draft agreement which says that “We respect the Geneva Agreements of 1954 and 1962.”
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but you say you do that now.
Le Duc Tho: We shall respect our statements here.
Dr. Kissinger: No, but you are saying now that you respect the 1962 Agreements, and you are using Laos and Cambodia.
Le Duc Tho: I told you that I don’t like to lengthen the discussion of this question, because if we enter into such discussion it will take endless time. We don’t want to recall that it is your violation of the Geneva Agreements of 1954 and 1962 that created the present situation in Laos.
Please look at Article 18.
Dr. Kissinger: Eighteen? We all agree.
Le Duc Tho: It says, “This agreement shall come into force as of its signing. It must be strictly implemented by all parties.” Have you understood me?
Dr. Kissinger: You really can solve my problems very quickly if you will tell me that you will stop infiltration through Laos as soon as this agreement comes into force. That is all I need to know. Then I can accept your statement.
Le Duc Tho: I have stated that. Once it is withdrawn, they should be refraining from reintroducing.
Dr. Kissinger: That is where we keep . . . Once they are withdrawn they should refrain from reintroducing, but we don’t know when they will be withdrawn! I am using the Minister’s old speech of last year. It is like the storekeeper who puts a sign in the window and says “Free meal tomorrow.” I don’t know whether the Minister has heard that phrase but . . .
Xuan Thuy: I have heard that. I have repeated that same argument to the United States delegation many times but this question is different.[Page 663]
Dr. Kissinger: This is our concern.
Le Duc Tho: I have fully responded to your concern. But your response to our concern is not fully satisfactory to me, in part only.
Dr. Kissinger: To what concern?
Le Duc Tho: You have only satisfied partly my requirement but not fully yet.
Dr. Kissinger: What are we talking about?
Le Duc Tho: I have pointed out that your questions of concern—major questions.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, I think we have covered them. At any rate, we have to get this one resolved, then I have to go back to the other one. I think the Special Adviser understands very well what our problem is. Our problem is that we cannot defend an agreement in which the prohibition is only against the introduction of equipment in South Vietnam but there is no prohibition of the introduction of equipment into all the countries bordering South Vietnam from which traditionally the attacks on South Vietnam have been launched.
Le Duc Tho: “All introduction of armaments and war matériel into Laos shall be prohibited.”
Dr. Kissinger: But only after you are withdrawn, and when you are withdrawn, we don’t know.
Le Duc Tho: I have told you that after the agreement is signed we shall carry out the provisions of the agreement.
Dr. Kissinger: But that is what we are trying to understand. What is the agreement to be carried out? What in the Special Adviser’s view is the obligation with respect to military equipment in Laos?
Le Duc Tho: I have explained to you.
Dr. Kissinger: There must be some mental block. When does the equipment stop? If you say it stops after the ceasefire in Vietnam, I will understand. If you say it will stop after the agreement is signed in Laos, I can understand it. Even if you say one month. But if you say it will stop after your withdrawal is completed, I do not know when that is. It could be anytime.
Le Duc Tho: I have stated that after the signing of the agreement and the enforcement of the ceasefire then there will be no more introduction.
Dr. Kissinger: Into Laos, is my question.
Le Duc Tho: Yes, into Laos.
Dr. Kissinger: Now I don’t want to make the Special Adviser’s life unnecessarily complicated but if that is true, then according to the text of the agreement there won’t be any introduction into Cambodia either, because the text is the same for both. It is satisfactory to me. I am not objecting to this interpretation. If this is the correct interpretation it is satisfactory to me.[Page 664]
Le Duc Tho: It is in this spirit. Let us stop this discussion.
Dr. Kissinger: I will sum it up once more. It will be absolutely the last time. “After the ceasefire goes into effect in Vietnam, there will be no further introduction of matériels, equipment and so forth into Laos and Cambodia. Secondly, the ceasefire will go into effect in Laos one month later, and after that foreign troops will be withdrawn from Laos as soon as possible.” Did I understand all of this correctly? All right, if I understood all of this. Is that a correct understanding?
[Mr. Phuong and Le Duc Tho confer.]
Le Duc Tho: But here there must be made—differences should be made between the two questions.
Dr. Kissinger: Which two questions?
Le Duc Tho: As regards the Laos questions I shall give you such a clear statement, but as regards the Cambodia question we should understand each other.
Dr. Kissinger: That is fine. That is acceptable. I just wanted to make sure we understood what we understood.
Le Duc Tho: But keep it confidential.
Dr. Kissinger: Unless you break it.
Le Duc Tho: We maintain always the secrecy. You always reveal.
Dr. Kissinger: No, not when there is a relationship of mutual trust. No, we are starting a new era.
Le Duc Tho: The solution we proposed paves the way for such an era. Now you should show this by good will.
Dr. Kissinger: No, the summing up I have done. This understanding is agreeable to me. I want to say one other thing about the three points. Second, with respect to Cambodia, I accept as a private understanding, without a written document, what you have said. But I feel that I must give you . . .
Le Duc Tho: And verbal only.
Dr. Kissinger: Verbal. I understand. But I will give you a written statement of what the consequences would be of unilateral military actions in Cambodia, so there is no misunderstanding. It is our view. You don’t have to accept it. It is along the lines of what I have already said to you.
Le Duc Tho: Yes, and you can give a paper to state your views. But as to accept or refuse your view, it is our right. But I can tell you that once there is a ceasefire in Vietnam and a ceasefire in Laos, the situation will change. So we do not raise too many questions now.
Dr. Kissinger: All right. Now with respect to your forces in the South we have had our . . .[Page 665]
Le Duc Tho: But I should stress the fact that once we respect the provisions on Laos and Cambodia regarding 15(b), you should respect this article, too.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree. Both of us. With respect to your forces, in the last discussion I have made a recommendation to you to which it is not necessary for you to respond. It would make things very much easier. And when we get to the appropriate paragraph, I recommend we try to draft the language the Special Adviser has recommended regarding reduction of military effectives the mobilization of troops.
Le Duc Tho: We shall write it. In order to have peace then there must be a reduction of military effectives. If we wanted war, we would not raise this proposal.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree. I understand. Now we have spent five hours getting through two articles. That is moving.
Le Duc Tho: It is your fault.
Xuan Thuy: You should not imitate the Kleber sessions!
Dr. Kissinger: I was just going to say. You have not even finished one article yet, Mr. Minister. When you finish one, I will listen to you. Ambassador Porter will miss you tomorrow.
Xuan Thuy: Then he will refrain from using adjectives! [Laughter]
Dr. Kissinger: What do you suggest, Mr. Special Adviser, shall we go on to Article 3?
Le Duc Tho: We have progressed too slow in this connection.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, we will go faster from now on. After we finish today, if we finish at all, Mr. Lord will stay here and go over with whomever you designate, to go over the texts and make sure we have the same one. Mr. Lord and Mr. Engel. After we finish the text we will then make absolutely sure and compare it tomorrow.
Le Duc Tho: Now let me speak. Article 2, there is another point. You still use the words “The United States will stop all its acts of force against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam” I would like to propose that “The United States will stop all acts encroaching on the sovereignty and security of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.” Because it involves here not only acts of force. Because once peace is restored and the war is settled, then we definitely can’t accept the air reconnaissance by the United States over our territory.
Dr. Kissinger: You didn’t accept it with very good grace previously! [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: We never accept it.
Xuan Thuy: And that is the reason why we shot down your reconnaissance planes!
Le Duc Tho: We accept this sentence in negotiations with Ambassador Harriman because the real situation at that time was that the war [Page 666] was going on, but now the war has been ended. Therefore, we make this amendment to make it clear. I would propose, of course, in our draft that we state clearly the time, from so and so hours Indochina time, 1972; that is to say G.M.T., 1972, the United States will end all . . . as soon as the ceasefire goes into effect. We propose it, to be specifically clear then, to put the time.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, why would you not consider that under Article 2 or throughout South Vietnam? Can’t we just say, “at the same time, at the same hour, a ceasefire shall be observed throughout South Vietnam,” and then “as soon as the ceasefire goes into effect?” My only concern is if we put the time here, we will have to put it at the beginning of the next two paragraphs. It is all right with me if you would like it.
Le Duc Tho: All right.
Dr. Kissinger: I think if you put “as soon as the ceasefire goes into effect,” it is perfectly clear.
Le Duc Tho: So it would be more specific if we put the time here on which we have agreed to let the United States stop all acts of encroachment.
Dr. Kissinger: Then let us say “at that same hour,” I mean we have said “A ceasefire shall be observed as of . . .” Why can’t we say “at that same hour” or “from that same hour”?
Le Duc Tho: If in the place of the sentence “As soon as the ceasefire goes into effect,” we say “at the same hour,” “at the same hour as above.”
Dr. Kissinger: At the same hour. “Same” has to refer to “above.” Let’s not get too pedantic. There is only one hour mentioned in the document.
Le Duc Tho: All right. “At the same hour.”
Dr. Kissinger: We won’t start cheating in the first 15 minutes.
Le Duc Tho: But you will try to buy time.
Dr. Kissinger: No. All right, now we cannot go further than to say “The United States will stop all military activities.” That will cover your point about reconnaissance.
Le Duc Tho: All right. “All military activities.”
Dr. Kissinger: One trouble is we are both working from different texts. What we have is . . .
Le Duc Tho: Nothing regarding Article 3.
Dr. Kissinger: Wait a minute. Which text are you gentlemen working from? We are willing to add to the text we have here the phrase “territorial waters.” We are not trying to make an exception for territorial waters.
Le Duc Tho: Now Article 3, Article 3(b). You have deleted the sentence “. . . in the regions respectively controlled by them.”[Page 667]
Dr. Kissinger: Because it doesn’t make any sense. If they remain in-place, where else can they remain in-place?
Le Duc Tho: But it would be clearer.
Dr. Kissinger: To me the opposite is true.
Le Duc Tho: Do you mean in these regions respectively controlled . . .
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but I am trying to understand why you want it.
Le Duc Tho: It is clearer.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but could you explain to me why?
Le Duc Tho: Because at the place carried by military forces there is a region controlled by these forces. Because they have liberated areas. In South Vietnam, there are two armies, two administrations, two regions. They are in the regions respectfully controlled by them.
Dr. Kissinger: What I am trying to understand frankly is this: Frankly, I don’t know any towns which your troops hold so I can’t give an example, so let me give an example from the other side. Now what would you say in Quang Tri—would you say the whole region of Quang Tri is controlled by Saigon or how does it work?
Le Duc Tho: Yes, speaking of Quang Tri, the greater part of Quang Tri is controlled by the PRG; the Saigon forces control only small part.
Dr. Kissinger: But when you say “in the region,” how many miles is that? Is the whole region controlled by Saigon?
Le Duc Tho: The General has been to South Vietnam. He must know which one is controlled by South Vietnam and which one is not. Because without the whole liberated areas how can they keep their troops, how can they locate their governments? And you know in South Vietnam there are two armies, two administrations and two different regions.
Dr. Kissinger: I frankly have been wondering where they would locate their government.
Le Duc Tho: They have many places.
Dr. Kissinger: But that is not my problem. I have enough worries with Laos and Cambodia.
Le Duc Tho: Now you say for the past ten years that fighting against your troops have been going on and the question of location of these troops does not arise, but the fighting has been going on all the time.
Dr. Kissinger: But the problem is, if you say the military are free to move in whatever region they claim they control, we are right back to where we are now. That is what is going on now.
Le Duc Tho: The real situation in South Vietnam is that each force has its own region controlled by itself. So that is more accurate, our formulation.[Page 668]
Dr. Kissinger: We are prepared to say that after the ceasefire is in effect the Joint Commission shall determine the modalities, such as radius of operation and so forth. We are prepared to put it there. But if you begin the ceasefire in-place by permitting everyone to move around in the region they claim they are controlling, and since this is in dispute—that is why they are fighting—there will not be any ceasefire. I agree that they cannot stay in their place forever, but the Joint Commission ought to be able to work out how many miles they can move and so forth.
Le Duc Tho: Yes, the decision of the Joint Commission is something that can go later. But now do you agree that in South Vietnam there are two different regions controlled by two different armies? So I think it more accurate that we say “these forces remain in place in the regions controlled by them.”
Dr. Kissinger: No, I agree that obviously when there are two forces it is obvious they have to be somewhere. If you want to say “in the locations controlled by them,” that is acceptable to me.
Le Duc Tho: All right. We agree. Our word does not exactly correspond to the English word “location.” Location is too limited, you know, because our word is “the area controlled by them.”
Mr. Engel [To Dr. Kissinger]: They want to say “the place where the soldiers are stationed.”
Dr. Kissinger [To Mr. Engel]: That’s OK, by me, but they won’t move out of that place to another 50 miles.
Le Duc Tho: Then it is synonymous to “remain in-place.”
Dr. Kissinger: That’s what we want.
Mr. Engel [To Dr. Kissinger]: They think that is too narrow and restrictive and they won’t accept it in our sense.
Dr. Kissinger: If these units are free to move around without any strict control, then we don’t have a ceasefire. We cannot go to our public or to Saigon and say we have stopped bombing, we have stopped mining, we have stopped all other activities, in return for a ceasefire which is interpreted to mean everybody can go into an area with total freedom, into whatever he defines in his area right now. That is the reason for the existence of the war. That’s ridiculous. When we said general ceasefire, you wanted standstill ceasefire; now that we want standstill, you want to move around.
Xuan Thuy: There are two cases. The first is that in one region there is the presence of the forces of the two sides, and the second case is that there are larger regions in which there are different positions which the PRG or Saigon forces are controlling. In such a large region in which there are many positions of the PRG, you say the PRG is controlling a large region, [even though] there are [only] two or three [Page 669] locations of the PRG troops. But then there is no reason that the PRG forces cannot move in the region actually controlled by the PRG. Now in a region controlled by the Saigon forces, [though in] this larger region there are only three or four spots in which there are Saigon forces, there is no reason that the Saigon forces cannot move in this large area.
Le Duc Tho: But to take into account the views of both sides, I propose the following: “That the armed forces of the two South Vietnamese parties shall remain in-place. The Joint Commission described in Article 12 shall determine the modalities and shall determine the regions controlled by each side and determine the modalities of stationing.
Dr. Kissinger: We are willing to say “shall determine the radius of operation permitted to each side.”
Le Duc Tho: They can determine the region controlled by each side.
Dr. Kissinger: That may be one of the results but we are not prepared to say that.
Le Duc Tho: If you do not agree to that amendment, that shows that you deny the fact that there are two different regions.
Dr. Kissinger: That is not a question that we should settle. We obviously admit that there are two different armies or there can’t be a ceasefire in-place. We are obviously admitting that both armies control something, but we are now discussing what it is that these two armies are permitted to do. We are not making a judgment as to what regions they control.
Le Duc Tho: I think that these determinations should be very clear because if not we can’t define the locations of the troops. So we have taken into account your views, and say that “the two armed forces of the South Vietnamese shall remain in-place. The Joint Commission described in Article 12 shall determine the regions controlled by each side and the modalities of stationing of forces.” This is the precise work of the Joint Commission. It cannot avoid this work. Before the decision of the Joint Commission, then the troops of each side shall remain in-place. So what we propose here is something correct and accurate.
Dr. Kissinger: We can say “can determine the areas controlled by each side and the modalities of stationing.”
Le Duc Tho: The Vietnamese word means “area” or “region.”
Mr. Engel [To Dr. Kissinger]: The Vietnamese word “area” has the same concept as “region.”
Dr. Kissinger: What does it mean, “shall determine the modalities of stationing”?
Le Duc Tho: As long as there is a ceasefire military operations will not be resumed. It is stationing.[Page 670]
Dr. Kissinger: I would like to see the modalities of the operation of the Joint Commission; I hope they develop a spirit of national reconciliation and concord quickly. OK?
Le Duc Tho: Article 3(c). Agreed.
Dr. Kissinger: All right. Now we have agreed on two more lines in half an hour. We are going very fast.
Le Duc Tho: Article 3(c). Your paragraph “All military forces on the ground, in the air and on the sea will be prohibited.” We propose “All acts of combat and reconnaissance activity in the air and on the sea will be prohibited.”
Dr. Kissinger: Does that mean that they can’t fly any airplanes?
Le Duc Tho: They will determine their flight paths.
Dr. Kissinger [To General Haig]: The 21st Division will like this. [To Le Duc Tho]: I said I know a South Vietnamese division who practices this already. [Laughter]
Xuan Thuy: They have done this before the ceasefire?
Dr. Kissinger: Already before the ceasefire. [Laughter] I have followed their operations for two years and their intelligence is perfect: They are always where your forces are not.
I don’t think we have the right to give that precise a directive to the South Vietnamese. We have no concern about stopping all offensive activities and we have no objection for the Joint Commission to develop a radius of operation, but in this case, where it is not our forces, we cannot go beyond “all acts of force.” But if you want to add “shall strictly abide by the following stipulations pending further elaboration by the Joint Commission. . . . ”
Le Duc Tho: You know these stipulations apply also for United States forces because they apply immediately after the ceasefire, before the withdrawal of the U.S. forces.
Dr. Kissinger: But we have no ground forces left in South Vietnam.
Xuan Thuy: Because you say immediately after the ceasefire your troops will be there for two months more, so your reconnaissance and combat should be applied to your forces.
Dr. Kissinger: Our acts of force belong to combat. We don’t mind saying “all combat activity on the ground and in the air.”
Xuan Thuy: So you want to keep reconnaissance activities?
Dr. Kissinger: As long as we have American forces in Vietnam we must have means to protect them. We are talking about South Vietnam. It is inconceivable that we ground all our airplanes for two months while we are there. But we are pulling them out.
Le Duc Tho: So if you defend them, then combat begins again.[Page 671]
Dr. Kissinger: We will not. There is a prohibition against offensive activities, we have no ground combat forces there anyway, and we will be withdrawing very rapidly on this schedule.
Le Duc Tho: Let us set aside this sentence for the time being. Let us shift to other sentences.
Dr. Kissinger: I thought the rest of the document was already agreed.
Le Duc Tho: Well, we finish, then return to the point.
Dr. Kissinger: All right.
Le Duc Tho: Article 3.
Dr. Kissinger: Are you still at 3?
Le Duc Tho: Article 3, last sentence. “All acts of terrorism and reprisal . . . will be banned.” We propose “All hostile acts” so as to avoid conflict between the two parties and “acts encroaching on the lives of the people of Vietnam.” “All hostile acts, terrorism and reprisals by both sides, and all encroachments on the lives and property of the people shall be prohibited.” It is aimed at preventing a soldier from encroaching on the lives and the property of the people.
Dr. Kissinger: I am not in favor of encroaching on the lives and property of the people, but it has nothing to do with ceasefire. I don’t object to restoring “All hostile acts, terrorism and reprisals . . . will be banned,” but the other is covered under democratic liberties—and for that matter under “hostile acts.”
Le Duc Tho: The reason we have put this sentence is normally the Saigon troops very frequently encroached on the lives and the property of the people. Therefore the presence of this sentence is good.
Dr. Kissinger: I am not contesting it. I am not affirming it either. But here we are talking about a ceasefire among the parties and not about the behavior of the troops.
Le Duc Tho: I think that this sentence is good in the sense that it will prevent the bad behavior of the Saigon troops and all undisciplined acts of their soldiers.
Dr. Kissinger: I don’t see how a sentence will prevent lack of discipline.
Le Duc Tho: It limits.
Dr. Kissinger: I repeat, I am not in favor of encroachment on the lives and property of people. I think the paragraph that talks about ceasefire should deal with acts in which the two parties impinge on each other, so I’d even question “hostile acts, terrorism and reprisals,” which should be covered under democratic liberties. But I can understand it because it involves the conflict of the two sides. But when you want to pass judgment on one army or the other then it seems to me this is not the section for it. We agree on adding “hostile acts.”[Page 672]
Le Duc Tho: This sentence will prevent the conflict between the soldiers and the people.
Dr. Kissinger: No sentence will prevent anything as such. The point we have to address is, what is this section supposed to do. This section is supposed to establish the framework of the ceasefire and the framework of the American withdrawal, not misconduct against the people. It is a political problem, not a ceasefire problem.
Le Duc Tho: Let us put this provision aside then.
Dr. Kissinger: All right.
Le Duc Tho: Article 4.
Dr. Kissinger: I was hoping this one would not be challenged.
Le Duc Tho: I have commented on it yesterday. Now we propose to delete the part of the sentence saying that “After the agreement becomes effective, the parties shall not continue its military involvement and intervene in the internal affairs of South Vietnam.” We propose to delete that part of the sentence “After this agreement becomes effective,” but to maintain “The United States shall not continue its military involvement in the internal affairs of South Vietnam.” And we add another sentence saying that “The United States shall not have any acts of encroachment on the sovereignty and security of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.”
Dr. Kissinger: That we have already done.
Le Duc Tho: Previously it deals with past actions of the United States, but this provision will cover actions by the United States in the future.
Dr. Kissinger: What covers past actions of the United States?
Le Duc Tho: Article 2, because previously we proposed that the United States shall end all military activities against the DRV. Now we propose for this Article 4 “The United States shall not engage in any encroachment against the sovereignty and security of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.”
Dr. Kissinger: We can accept your first proposal. We can agree to delete the phrase “After the agreement goes into effect.” We cannot agree to the second for the reasons which we have already given you. I think we have said enough about what we will not do with respect to the DRV.
I don’t think I will make my plane at 4:30.
Le Duc Tho: We agree to delete this.
Dr. Kissinger: I am beginning to think the associate at your left is causing more trouble than the Minister.
Le Duc Tho: You too have associates, on the right and left.
Dr. Kissinger: They want to go home. They have wives. I don’t have a wife. I am patient. I was supposed to go to a birthday party [Page 673] for Joe Alsop tonight. I want you to know that he will not consider this agreement binding on him.
Le Duc Tho: Article 5. We propose the following: “As of the signing of this agreement, shall be completely withdrawn from South Vietnam all troops, military personnel of the United States and those other foreign countries allied to the United States and to the Republic of Vietnam including military advisers, technical military personnel, the advisers for paramilitary organizations, advisers for pacification, advisers for the police forces, advisers for the psychological warfare and all civilian personnel serving in military branches and all branches of the Republic of Vietnam relating to the waging of war. This withdrawal would be completed in 60 days.” We have reduced in length this provision.
Dr. Kissinger: I’ve never heard of the psywar advisers.
Le Duc Tho: We have reduced the length of this article. In the Geneva Conference of 1954 and 1962 they enumerate what shall be withdrawn. But in the provisions it is deleted “for other branches of the Republic of Vietnam.” As to the aircraft carriers and United States warships, you said you put in your agreement, but it is not.
Dr. Kissinger: Oh no, we cannot put them in the agreement.
Le Duc Tho: So please give a verbal statement that we can take in our session, take note.
Dr. Kissinger: The verbal statement is that “After the withdrawal of our forces is completed, the aircraft carriers will be moved a distance of 300 miles from the shore except, for [movement for] transit purposes.” Now it is important that we keep that assurance confidential until I can tell you when.
Now to get back to the categories of people you would like to eliminate. Of course you understand we cannot absolutely guarantee the withdrawal of other foreign countries, but we will use our influence. We do not think this will be a problem.
[Reading] “Military advisers, technical military personnel, advisers on pacification”—I don’t know what that phrase means and we have to eliminate it.
Well, let me go through your categories of what we can accept: Military advisers is all right; technical military personnel is all right; advisers for paramilitary organizations is all right; police forces, that is all right; advisers on pacification we cannot accept; advisers on psychological warfare, I don’t think there are any. There aren’t any civilian advisers on psychological. We can’t write that. It gives the wrong impression in an agreement. We can accept military advisers, technical military personnel and paramilitary advisers.
Le Duc Tho: Regarding the advisers on pacification, we cannot accept your view. It is a military organization repressing the people.[Page 674]
Dr. Kissinger: I don’t know what you mean by pacification. Maybe we have different words for it. What we mean by pacification is economic development, rural development and so forth. What do you mean?
Le Duc Tho: In the Saigon army they organized what they call pacification units and advisers in pacification work.
Dr. Kissinger: But they don’t have American advisers. What we mean by pacification, Mr. Special Adviser . . .
Le Duc Tho: John Paul Vann was an adviser on pacification.
Dr. Kissinger: That is what we can’t accept. John Paul Vann was . . . what we understand by pacification is the economic development and civilian activities, together with some security activities like police work. Now we have already agreed that our advisers would withdraw from police work and from paramilitary organizations.
Le Duc Tho: You see the pacification work in South Vietnam is a major military organ of South Vietnam and they carry out major sweeping operations, sweeps with military forces, and in these military forces there are advisers.
Dr. Kissinger: We have already agreed that military advisory personnel shall be withdrawn.
Le Duc Tho: In the report by Mr. Lowenstein and Mr. Moose done in 1972 they mentioned about advisers on pacification work.
Dr. Kissinger: Moose used to be on my staff! That may be, but most of the ones that you object to are covered in the categories which we have already agreed to. What we are trying to preserve are the civilians who are not working for . . . It is impossible. If we cannot have people who are working in paramilitary, police or in the army, it is impossible to engage in any military or paramilitary activity.
Le Duc Tho: And all the civilian personnel serving in military branches.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, we can accept that.
Le Duc Tho: So we delete “the advisers for psychological warfare.”
Dr. Kissinger: And for pacification.
Le Duc Tho: But we have deleted the psychological warfare. There are remaining a great number of advisers for pacification.
Dr. Kissinger: I don’t give a damn about advisers for psychological warfare. The military advisers for pacification are going.
Le Duc Tho: So we still differ in connection with advisers on pacification.
Dr. Kissinger: That is correct.
Le Duc Tho: Lay it aside for the time being.
Dr. Kissinger: I want to make a general comment. You seem to be working from your text and I, of course, from our text. They are often [Page 675] the same, but your English is so bad that I would prefer to work with our text.
Le Duc Tho: We have your text.
Dr. Kissinger: What is your next problem?
Le Duc Tho: Article 6. Nothing for Article 6.
Article 7 regarding the replacement of armaments.
Dr. Kissinger: Wait a minute. On Article 6 I want to make a statement. I want to make clear that we are talking only about bases owned by the United States, not bases that are owned by the South Vietnamese armed forces.
Le Duc Tho: Article 7.
Dr. Kissinger: That is understood, so it won’t be disputed. All right, Article 7.
Le Duc Tho: We maintain our proposal saying that the two parties shall be permitted to make the replacement of armaments. I repeat the provision: “After the cessation of hostilities the two parties shall be permitted to make periodical replacement of armaments, munitions, war matériel, on the principle of equality between the two parties.”
Dr. Kissinger: That isn’t what you gave us yesterday. And secondly, we can’t accept it—it depends what you mean by it.
Le Duc Tho: We want to say that when the replacement of armaments is carried out then it should be the preservation of the principle of equality between the two parties.
Dr. Kissinger: So that if one artillery piece is replaced by one side, there must be an artillery piece added to the other side. Is that what you mean?
Le Duc Tho: Right.
Dr. Kissinger: Well that is impossible, and that is not what the 1954 Agreement said. We are prepared to accept the provisions of the 1954 Agreement and the same language.
Le Duc Tho: Another thing, we propose to delete the sentence “or into any base areas in Indochina supporting the war in Vietnam.” Previously there was not such a sentence. I have referred to this when . . .
Dr. Kissinger: On the basis of what the Special Adviser affirmed before on Laos and Cambodia, we are prepared to delete the sentence. But we cannot go beyond what we have written here.
Le Duc Tho: Regarding the replacement of armaments, I think that in 1954 it was different from what it is now. We propose that the principle should be of equality between the two parties until a decision by the definitive government of South Vietnam.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, I understand this. I understand your position. But our position is that we have stretched our willingness to come to [Page 676] an agreement on this point to the absolute limit, and if we go beyond this we are making an excessive unilateral concession, which is that you are free to receive unlimited aid. They can receive new replacements in Saigon but if then the PRG has a veto over the replacement, it becomes an impossible agreement to put forward. So I must say we cannot go beyond what I have given you. This is as serious a problem for us as the Laotian and Cambodian problem is for you. I can assure you we will use our influence to exercise very great restraint with respect to this problem in accordance with what I have told you.
Le Duc Tho: I think that is fair to say that now there are two forces in South Vietnam and the replacements should be equal.
Dr. Kissinger: We are not saying what the replacement of the other side is. The replacement should be equal to that which is being replaced. The weapons wear out at a different rate.
Le Duc Tho: So let us put this one aside.
Now regarding the question of return of captured people. I have expressed to you all my views on that subject. We will not accept the word “innocent people, innocent civilians.” Because if we call them “innocent civilians” then those civilians automatically have no crime at all, so automatically they must be released and they shall be returned to the other side. Here we want to refer to the military and civilian personnel. If you don’t mention military and civilian personnel, then there would be tens of thousands of civilians captured for political reasons who will not be released. This we can’t accept.
Dr. Kissinger: We don’t say that they should be. We have split it into two categories in the interest of speed. We have one category of military personnel and innocent civilians, because on this agreement is rapidly possible. It is within our competence to agree to this.
The second category is other civilian personnel, and we think that this should be resolved by the South Vietnamese parties because there is no possibility in getting an agreement on the schedule we have set ourselves if the idea of the Special Adviser is included.
Le Duc Tho: This we can’t accept. So at the return of all captives of the parties, then after the end of the war all people who are listed could be released. It is also major problem for us. Our conscience cannot be cleared when the war is ended and tens of thousands of people captured during the war are still in jail.
Dr. Kissinger: I understand what the Special Adviser is saying and we would be prepared to give the Special Adviser an assurance that the United States will use its utmost influence to bring about the release of any civilians that are detained for political activities, in addition to the ones of Article (c). But I know that as a practical question there is no possibility of getting the agreement accepted in such a short time [Page 677] frame if we do not operate on this basis. We will use our maximum influence.
Le Duc Tho: I feel that it is a difficult question.
Dr. Kissinger: It is a very difficult question.
Le Duc Tho: For the time being I have not found any word to replace it to meet each other.
Dr. Kissinger: I haven’t either. I understand your problem, Mr. Special Adviser, and we will certainly use our influence and we think we can bring about some amnesty. But I know if we write it into the agreement now, it will not yield a good result, and it may even be dangerous to the people we want to protect. I am speaking very frankly to you.
Le Duc Tho: Now in this connection I speak with reference to American military men and civilians captured in Laos. Speaking of principles, we have no obligation to solve this question in Laos, but to show our good will I have offered a solution to solve this problem. But here there are people who have opposed Nguyen Van Thieu’s administration and who oppose Americans in South Vietnam too. After the war is ended it is your responsibility to have these people released.
Dr. Kissinger: They are unfortunately not in our control. We understand the principle, and we can certainly use our influence. And we will use our maximum influence, but it will take some time.
Le Duc Tho: Now if we accept your formulation here, it cannot be understood by the South Vietnamese population. Because after so many years of war, now they are still in jail. I have never seen any war in history that after the settlement of the war, the two sides still keep the people they captured from the other side. The two sides, if they want to materialize the national concord and national reconciliation, they cannot.
Dr. Kissinger: No, I do not say they should keep them. I say they should discuss it among themselves. We certainly think we can say that it should be resolved in a spirit of national reconciliation and concord and with a view towards ending the hatred. So that there are some very concrete criteria, and as I said, we would certainly use our influence strongly in that direction.
Le Duc Tho: We find it very difficult, because speaking of sentiment, speaking of influence among the population, if you keep this we don’t know how to solve it. It is illogical. If national reconciliation and national concord are to be implemented, how you can avoid the sentiment of tens of thousands of families in South Vietnam, now they have their relatives in South Vietnamese jails.
Dr. Kissinger: But the Special Adviser said to me more than once, on a number of very difficult issues, that it is hard to press him too [Page 678] much. And I interpreted this to mean that he could do something, but we should not press him formally to do so. Similarly, we are in the same kind of position. If we write it, it could cause an explosion in Saigon next week. We are here in a very comparable position. It is a very difficult problem for you and a very difficult problem for us. When we say we will use our maximum influence, that has a very concrete meaning. But we cannot bring it about next week. But we are certain we can bring about some releases—after the first impact of this document has settled down. This is the practical problem which we will face.
Le Duc Tho: I propose to lay aside this question here. I still disagree with your views, because your argument is not convincing yet.
Dr. Kissinger: Could we take a five minute break? Five minutes, very brief. Excuse me. Were you saying more about this, or were you going on? I am sorry. I thought you wanted to go on to the next chapter.
Le Duc Tho: Then let us finish this Article 8(b), the last sentence. You have “such other measures as may be required to verify those still considered missing in action.” We are going to “such other measures necessary to get information about people missing in action.”
Dr. Kissinger: I don’t know what the difference is. In English it makes no difference, except ours is better English.
Le Duc Tho: We mean “to get information about.”
Dr. Kissinger: We don’t mind saying “to obtain information,” “get” is a bad word. “To obtain.”
Le Duc Tho: Let us have a break now.
Dr. Kissinger: One point, you have in your (a) “military men captured in Vietnam.” We cannot say this. We have therefore our phrase for 8(a) which doesn’t mention the area.
Le Duc Tho: Where are they captured and detained then?
Dr. Kissinger: We said “of the parties.”
Le Duc Tho: So please have a break.
Dr. Kissinger: Thank you.
[The break lasted from 4:30–5:00 p.m.]
Dr. Kissinger: This is the fifth time that I have gone through this exercise. With your allies.
Le Duc Tho: On Vietnam?
Dr. Kissinger: No, not Vietnam, on other subjects. Strategic arms limitation.
Le Duc Tho: Is it really limited? [Laughter]
Dr. Kissinger: The numbers are limited; the quality is not.
Le Duc Tho: Let me now deal with Chapter IV. You can see in general this is the chapter where we have made the great concessions, [Page 679] so now there are still a few minor problems left and you should make concessions. Moreover, this question will have three months for the discussion of the two parties. In any case, we have the provisions recorded here. Let me go point by point.
Article 9(a), (b), (c), (d), (e). You have put “strive to achieve national reconciliation and concord.” We propose now . . . “strive to” does not show the effort made; therefore we propose that they “actively achieve national reconciliation and national concord.”
Dr. Kissinger: Did the Special Adviser want my answer now?
Le Duc Tho: Yes.
Dr. Kissinger: I recommend we take out “strive to” and just say “will achieve,” what you had to begin with.
Le Duc Tho: Now about the name. We propose that “an administrative structure be set up called the Supreme Council of National Reconciliation and Concord of South Vietnam.” Previously we proposed “an administration called.” Now “an administrative structure.” We have shown now the flexibility on this subject, so now we propose that this name of Supreme Council of National Reconciliation and National Concord. So you should give us a concession on that subject to show your good will and real desire to respond to our question of concern. As to the word “oversee,” we propose “to see to and to supervise” the two parties.
Dr. Kissinger: We are operating now from which document, yours or ours?
Le Duc Tho: Our document. Because in our Vietnamese language if we convey the idea, the concept of “oversee” into Vietnamese, then it would look like a grown-up person to look after the children. So it should be “see to and supervise the implementation of the agreement.”
In every place we put “national reconciliation and national concord” in every place.
And to “organize general elections,” we would add “general elections mentioned in Article 9(b).” We would like to say “general elections” and not elections only.
Dr. Kissinger: I will listen to everything that the Special Adviser has to say and then I will respond all at once.
Le Duc Tho: Once previously you have written “general elections,” now you delete the word “general”; you only mention “elections.” Previously you have agreed also to our mention of Article 9(b). We mention the general elections and the local elections because here in Saigon Administration they organize also local administrations, although not democratic elections.
We have put “laws and modalities on general elections.” You mention “procedures and modalities.” We accept this.[Page 680]
Dr. Kissinger: Thank you.
Le Duc Tho: In point (f) we propose that “the two South Vietnamese parties will hold consultations in a spirit of national reconciliation and national concord, equality, mutual respect and without mutual elimination, in order to set up the Supreme Council of National Reconciliation and Concord and to settle all other internal matters of South Vietnam.”
Dr. Kissinger: That is our point (f).
Interpreter: Formerly (i).
Dr. Kissinger: Formerly (j) is now (f). You accepted our transposition, which I am in favor of. I think that is a very good thing. I agree.
Le Duc Tho: But for the period for discussion, the three-month period, we still maintain in this paragraph that the South Vietnamese will sign an agreement on all internal matters of South Vietnam, the sooner the better and not later than three months after the ceasefire. You put this three months period in paragraph (g).
Dr. Kissinger: No, we accept that it goes in paragraph (a). That is no problem. All right, you have given me so many changes. Is this everything? It is every paragraph?
Le Duc Tho: All in this paragraph. I have finished. There are three points only. First, the name the “administrative structure” will be called. Secondly, we add “general” to “elections.” And third, “the formation of Councils of National Reconciliation and Concord at all levels will be settled after the Council of National Reconciliation and Concord assumes its functions.” Because if we put that the two South Vietnamese sign an agreement on all internal affairs of South Vietnam, the sooner the better, and after the three months of ceasefire, it means the two Vietnamese parties have discussed this question so there is no need to agree upon by the South Vietnamese. Moreover, all this chapter was further discussed by the two South Vietnamese parties before they sign the agreement. Here we agree between us two, but the two South Vietnamese will discuss and agree in three months time after the ceasefire.
Your point (i).
Dr. Kissinger: Our point (i). Let us settle the others first before we get to (i).
First of all, we are suffering from the fact that our languages are extremely different. So let me read what I have here for point (f), in order to avoid total confusion: Our present version is “The two South Vietnamese shall hold consultations in a spirit of national reconciliation and concord, mutual respect, and mutual non-elimination . . .” Now you want to add “to set up an administrative structure called the Supreme Council of National Reconciliation and Concord.” I am just talking about this sentence. Is that correct?[Page 681]
Le Duc Tho: Our point (g) that is to say your point (f). Your point (g) differs from our point (f).
Dr. Kissinger: We don’t even have a point (j). No, our point (g) is different. Our point (f) is different from your point (f). Our point (f) is your point (i). And we want to move that before your point (f), and you want that too.
Le Duc Tho: Agreed.
Dr. Kissinger: All right. Now I just want to read you the first sentence of that, if it is in our document.
Le Duc Tho: But in your version there is no sentence that “the South Vietnamese will sign an agreement on these and other internal matters.”
Dr. Kissinger: No, we will put that at the end of (f). I have agreed to it, so we move the last sentence of (g) to the end of (f).
Le Duc Tho: Agreed.
Dr. Kissinger: All right, now let us get to the substance of these sentences. Now at the first sentence you want to say “shall hold consultations in the spirit of national reconciliation and national concord, mutual respect, and mutual non-elimination to set up an administrative structure called the Supreme National Council of National Reconciliation and National Concord.”
Le Duc Tho: Right.
Dr. Kissinger: That is what you want. What I would propose is “to set up a structure called a National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord.”
Le Duc Tho: We would like to call it “administrative structure.”
Dr. Kissinger: Administrative structure.
Le Duc Tho: Called Supreme Council of Reconciliation and Concord.
Dr. Kissinger: “Supreme” we cannot accept.
Le Duc Tho: We delete the word “Supreme.”
Dr. Kissinger: We just say then “administrative structure called the National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord.”
Mr. Phuong: It is different between government and administrative structure. The name we accept—the National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord.
Dr. Kissinger: Let me think about the word “administrative.” I accept the word “structure,” to set up a structure. I will think about the word “administrative” for a bit. Now then we add a sentence saying “The Council will operate on the principle of unanimity.”
Le Duc Tho: Agreed. Then you should keep “administrative structure.” It is little meaning only but because the name is called National [Page 682] Council of National Reconciliation and Concord, it will not be called National Administration, no, it is “administrative structure.”
Dr. Kissinger: Let us see how the text of the paragraph will read when we are finished with it. I am disposed to try to find it possible. So we have “The Council shall operate on the principle of unanimity.” That is agreed.
Le Duc Tho: Agreed.
Dr. Kissinger: Now what is your next sentence?
Le Duc Tho: You put in your proposal “the two South Vietnamese parties will consult on the formation of subordinate bodies.” We propose that “the two South Vietnamese will set up councils of national reconciliation and concord at all levels after the National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord assumes its functions.” After the formation of the National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord, the councils at various levels will be formed. It is for logic; for the purpose of implementing national concord and reconciliation. Last time you already said that the central body can have its structure down to its provincial level. We propose to the village level, because in South Vietnam you have even at the level of village, the lowest, in a village there are many hamlets, and there are hamlets belonging to one side and hamlets belonging to the other side. Therefore, the national reconciliation cannot be implemented between the two sides without the local body. At this level then there is a conflict between the two sides.
Dr. Kissinger: That may or may not be true. My problem is what we should say in this document. We cannot ourselves say at what level these councils should operate; I think that the Vietnamese parties together with the Council can decide at what levels it should operate.
Le Duc Tho: We propose this now: “the formation of the Council of National Reconciliation and Concord at all levels will be carried out after the National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord assumes its functions agreed upon by the PRG and the Saigon Administration.” So there is no harm in recording this way.
Dr. Kissinger: Can you say it again?
Le Duc Tho: “The formation of the Councils of National Reconciliation and Concord at various levels will be carried out after the National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord assumes its function with the agreement of the two South Vietnamese parties.” So, in agreement by the two South Vietnamese parties, this way of formulation will have no harm because they will agree on it.
Dr. Kissinger: I would never suspect the Special Adviser of wanting to do harm with a formulation. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: So regarding the Vietnamese armed forces in South Vietnam . . .[Page 683]
Dr. Kissinger: No, I am not ready. We haven’t agreed on this paragraph yet. [The chef, Mr. Can, serves tea.] He is already practicing concord and reconciliation—international concord and reconciliation. [Laughter]
I propose the following sentence, which is as far as we can go: “After the National Council of Reconciliation and Concord has assumed its functions, the two South Vietnamese parties will consult about the formation of councils at lower levels.”
Also I think I can accept the word “Administrative” before “structure,” to show my good will.
Le Duc Tho: What about the general elections?
Dr. Kissinger: Have we agreed then on this sentence? I will agree to the “general elections” too. I want to make one concession every five minutes. I want to go through sentence by sentence and I want to make sure Mr. Lord has the document we all agree on.
Le Duc Tho: I agree with your proposal, “After the formation of the National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord the two South Vietnamese parties will consult on the formation of councils at lower levels.”
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, the South Vietnamese parties. The two South Vietnamese parties.
Le Duc Tho: The two South Vietnamese parties. Yes. I agree to your acceptance as to the “administrative structure.”
Dr. Kissinger: You have just disproved a theory of mine. I have had the theory for 19 of our 20 meetings that if I ever accepted a proposal of the Special Adviser’s, he would reject my acceptance, because he would think there was something wrong with his proposal. [Laughter] But I was wrong, Mr. Special Adviser.
Now we have the general elections in the next paragraph. So I will wait until we come to it. I will certainly agree to mentioning 9(b). But let us say I want to make sure we have this paragraph correct. What do you then have as the next sentence? How do you conclude this paragraph?
Le Duc Tho: “The two South Vietnamese parties shall sign an agreement on the internal matters of South Vietnam as soon as possible and not later than three months after the enforcement of ceasefire.”
Dr. Kissinger: It is fine to move the sentence there. So we agreed with moving the sentence here. We, however, have a slightly different formulation, and the difference is “do their utmost to accomplish this within three months after the ceasefire comes into effect.”
Le Duc Tho: I agree.
Dr. Kissinger: All right. Fine. Let me read the whole paragraph because I want to make absolutely sure we are agreed: “Immediately [Page 684] after the ceasefire, the two South Vietnamese parties shall hold consultation in a spirit of national reconciliation and concord, mutual respect and mutual non-elimination to set up an administrative structure called a National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord of three equal segments. The Council shall operate on the principle of unanimity. After the National Council of Reconciliation and Concord has assumed its functions, the two South Vietnamese parties will consult about the formation of councils at lower levels. The South Vietnamese parties shall sign an agreement on this and other internal matters of South Vietnam as soon as possible and do their utmost to accomplish this within three months after the ceasefire comes into effect.”
Le Duc Tho: We still need in the sentence “in the spirit of national reconciliation and concord and equality and mutual respect.”
Dr. Kissinger: Well, I think that “non-elimination” really implies equality.
Le Duc Tho: Previously you have mentioned about equality between the segments, so we should put it here. Equality in the armed forces of South Vietnam.
Dr. Kissinger: I must tell you candidly. Our problem is that I do not believe we can convince Saigon to put in this word. We are already having unbelieveable difficulty about three equal segments. In fact, I am sure they will reject this too, but we will have to use some very strong arguments.
Le Duc Tho: For the South Vietnamese armed forces I have agreed to “equal and mutual respect.”
Dr. Kissinger: I tell you quite honestly I have done this without any authority. I can perhaps sell it there in the context of armed forces, but if I put it in here it will be impossible. I have no authority to do this. I have done this on my own responsibility.
The fact that I have agreed to national councils will be a very shocking thing for Saigon. If on top of it in the same sentence I agree to “equal” and since they cling to words the same way their neighbors do in the North, I tell you candidly, it is better to save “equality” for the next paragraph.
Le Duc Tho: So I agree to delete the word “equality” here. But “the two South Vietnamese parties” shall sign an agreement, and not “the parties.”
Dr. Kissinger: The two South Vietnamese parties. He’s absolutely right.
Le Duc Tho: Point (h).
Dr. Kissinger: The Special Adviser is getting very impatient. Can we finish (g) next? (g) that is your old (f). I propose instead of “oversee” we say “shall promote.”[Page 685]
[Mr. Phuong reads meaning of “promote” from dictionary to Le Duc Tho.]
Le Duc Tho: I propose “to promote and to supervise.”
Dr. Kissinger: No, it is the word “supervise” that I am trying to avoid, because in English that is a bad word. “Encourage.”
Le Duc Tho: I agree “to promote,” “to promote the two parties.”
Dr. Kissinger: “And ensuring of democratic liberties.” Then the Council will organize—what would you like to say? “General elections”? or you want to say “free and democratic elections as provided by Article 9(b)?
Le Duc Tho: Right. “General elections” as mentioned in 9(b).
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but 9(b) doesn’t mention “general elections.” It mentions “free and democratic.” Oh, you have “general.” We don’t.
Le Duc Tho: We should put “general elections” and you have agreed to 9(b) too.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but we have a different version. We have “free and democratic.” We do not have “general elections.”
Le Duc Tho: I propose to add the word “free and democratic general elections.” General means nationwide. It is different from local elections, general elections or South Vietnam elections. We understand this way. When you call general election, it is election to elect a national assembly or in your country, the election of the President there is general election, but the election organized in a locality we call elections or local elections.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, we will accept “free and democratic general elections” with the understanding that “general” doesn’t determine the office but the area it covers. In other words it is a national election, maybe for the President, maybe for the assembly, to be determined later.
Le Duc Tho: Right. We do not mention to elect what body or whom. We mention here general elections.
Dr. Kissinger: So I accept general in the sense of nationwide, for an office not specified.
Le Duc Tho: Agreed. And about local elections.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, now let me finish first. “The Council will organize free and democratic general elections and decide the procedures and modalities of these elections.” And “will organize the free and general elections provided for in Article 9(b).” In that case I would like to make one change in 9(b). Instead of saying “the political system” which in English has a very heavy sound, I would like to say “shall decide themselves the political future of South Vietnam.” It is less—well, you don’t mind doctrine but in English it has a very heavy sound. There is no other way.[Page 686]
(Repeats again the whole sentence.) “The South Vietnamese people shall themselves decide the political future of South Vietnam,” and I will then agree to put in the word “general.”
Le Duc Tho: “Political system” is more accurate, and “political future” is very vague.
Dr. Kissinger: But it includes the possibility of a system. I should have paid attention to it earlier.
Le Duc Tho: Usually when there are general elections then they will not elect a future, but they elect a body.
Dr. Kissinger: I think “future” includes “system.”
Le Duc Tho: But in our language if we say “general elections, then it will lead to a political system and not lead to a political future.
Dr. Kissinger: Why is that? Now maybe you give a meaning to “general elections” that I do not give. “General election” means only that it is a nationwide election. It can be for President; it can be for an assembly; it can be a referendum between the two parties; it can be either one of those three or anything else the two parties can think of. It can lead to a change of system; it can lead to a confirmation of the system; it can lead to an adaptation of the system.
Le Duc Tho: I agree to “future.” Many concessions.
Dr. Kissinger: Anytime that the Minister gives advice I know I have just made a mistake and will regret it. I haven’t told Ambassador Porter yet that you won’t be there tomorrow. I don’t want to upset him all day.
All right. “And the procedures and modalities of these elections.”
Le Duc Tho: What about the local elections? Even under the Thieu regime they have local elections.
Dr. Kissinger: Let me try something for a minute. [Confers with staff] Let me try this sentence, Mr. Special Adviser. You see we operate here by consultation and on the principle of unanimity, but if there are difficulties we settle them by democratic centralism!
Le Duc Tho: You use very much the words “consultation and unanimity,” so when in diplomatic negotiations you frequently use the word “consultation and unanimity.”
Dr. Kissinger: “The National Council will also decide the procedures and modalities of such local elections as the two South Vietnamese parties may agree upon.”
Le Duc Tho: We agree.
Dr. Kissinger: All right, I accept the Special Adviser’s acceptance of my proposal. [Laughter] All right. Our (h), your (g).
Le Duc Tho: (h) “The two South Vietnamese parties will agree on the question of reducing their respective effectives, or military effec[Page 687]tives, and demobilize the number of the troops reduced from these effectives.” [Reads again] And demobilize the troops, the reduced troops. “The two South Vietnamese parties will agree on the question of the reduction of their respective military strength and on the demobilization of the reduced troops.
Dr. Kissinger: Let me . . . I told the Special Adviser that in the Soviet Union I would always turn my papers over because I was told there was a camera in the ceiling.
Le Duc Tho: [pointing upward.] We have many cameras overhead.
Dr. Kissinger: I have noticed that whenever I say something the Special Adviser doesn’t like, one of these lights blink.
Let me ask the Special Adviser whether my understanding of some of his earlier remarks was correct. I understand that the Special Adviser offered this sentence yesterday in order to solve the problem of various types of forces in the South and to permit a possibility of reductions being made on the principle of equality.
Le Duc Tho: We raised this question about how the Vietnamese armed forces in South Vietnam . . . They will reduce their effectives and they will demobilize those reduced troops in agreement by the South Vietnamese parties; and how to carry out this principle they will discuss later.
Dr. Kissinger: Let me propose this sentence: “Among the questions to be discussed by the two South Vietnamese parties are steps to reduce the military numbers on both sides and to demobilize the troops being reduced.”
Le Duc Tho: All right.
Dr. Kissinger: Good.
Le Duc Tho: We have completed this article.
Dr. Kissinger: And “with a view to lessening the contributions of the people” is not really necessary since we are talking about reductions in the next sentence. I propose to end with: “In accordance with the postwar situation,” and then add the sentence.
Le Duc Tho: All right.
Dr. Kissinger: Could we take just a very brief break. I want to consult with my colleagues to see where we stand now.
Le Duc Tho: Consultation and unanimity and democratic centralism. [Laughter]
Dr. Kissinger: Did you invite me to speak at the Leninist Institute in Hanoi?
[There was a brief break from 6:35–6:47 p.m.]
Dr. Kissinger: I think we are making good progress. We will definitely finish it tonight.[Page 688]
Le Duc Tho: There is another question I would like you to pay attention to. It is the question of the prisoners. It is a sentimental question. All other questions we can find out some way or other to settle in a satisfactory manner, but the question of prisoners is the major one. You understand the American people’s feeling toward their prisoners, but our feeling is much stronger. The present regime of our prisoners in South Vietnam is very harsh. When we release American prisoners you will know how we treat them. You will see the ration we give to the Americans. The ration is higher than our average personnel. This is a fact.
Dr. Kissinger: We can certainly undertake to improve the conditions of your prisoners in the South pending their release. That we can promise you and that we must do. You are entitled to your feelings of sentiment as much as we are, and we are willing to put into the agreement also a very strong statement that “the question of prisoners in South Vietnam shall be settled by the South Vietnamese parties in a spirit of national reconciliation and concord, with a view to end hatred and enmity, in order to relieve suffering and to reunite families.”
We are making a very solemn engagement to you that we will take maximum efforts to secure the release of the largest number. But when General Haig and I review what our problem is, to meet this schedule, we have a number in Washington, but the most difficult will be in Saigon next week. This is an objective fact, and I understand the anguish you feel on this issue. We are not being frivolous about it and we are not trying to press you on it.
Le Duc Tho: But you wanted to have the statement you made meaningful.
Dr. Kissinger: The statement I have made can be put into the agreement under paragraph 8(c). In addition to this, we can give you a solemn private assurance.
Le Duc Tho: It is a show of good will on your part. We shall have something showing good will towards you.
Dr. Kissinger: Thank you. Let me read you what will be recorded in the agreement: “(c) The question of other Vietnamese civilian personnel detained in South Vietnam and not covered by 8(a) above will be resolved by the South Vietnamese parties in a spirit of national reconciliation and concord, with a view to ending hatred and enmity, in order to ease suffering and to reunite families.”
But we will listen to amendments that you might wish to make.
Le Duc Tho: We shall propose an amendment. Now let us go to V.
Dr. Kissinger: Chapter V?
Le Duc Tho: We would like to maintain the stipulation of the Geneva Agreements that “South Vietnam shall not recognize the protection of any country, any military alliance or bloc.”[Page 689]
Dr. Kissinger: But what does that mean?
Le Duc Tho: It is in keeping with the stipulations of the Geneva Agreements, that in order to maintain the independence and the neutrality then South Vietnam should not join any military alliance or bloc and should not recognize the protection of any country. For both sides.
Dr. Kissinger: But let me ask a hypothetical question. Supposing Japan attacks North Vietnam and the Warsaw Pact wants to defend you. May it do so?
Le Duc Tho: We do not belong to any military alliance or bloc.
Dr. Kissinger: No, I have no trouble accepting that. They shall not join any military alliance or military bloc. That is accepted. I do not know what “accept the protection” means.
Le Duc Tho: Naturally the SEATO bloc wants to protect one country or another, but we don’t want such protection. But if you disagree to “recognize the protection,” we can take it out.
Dr. Kissinger: We take it out. We will say “shall not join.”
Le Duc Tho: As you have put it in your draft.
Dr. Kissinger: That is acceptable.
Le Duc Tho: All right.
Dr. Kissinger: All right. Fine. And the rest of our draft is acceptable? It is the same as yours, but in better English.
All right. Now comes my favorite chapter. [Laughter] How many people would you have figuring out all these control arrangements? You must have had three different groups working it out and you accepted all of their recommendations!
Xuan Thuy: Yes, after consultation and unanimous approval. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: In your Article 11(b) you have a sentence “Disagreements shall be referred to the International Commission of Control and Supervision.” We have: “The four-party Joint Commission may request the assistance and cooperation of the International Joint Commission when necessary.”
Dr. Kissinger: What does it mean? Does it request it by unanimity?
Le Duc Tho: It is a principle.
Dr. Kissinger: But Mr. Special Adviser, if they have already disagreed, how can they do that? [Prolonged laughter on both sides.]
Le Duc Tho: That is . . . For the reason as you have mentioned, I propose to delete it! [Laughter]
The same thing is for Article 12, the four-party Joint Commission. I think that the most practical way is that when it is unanimous agreement they may request the assistance and cooperation of the International Commission.[Page 690]
Dr. Kissinger: But then they don’t need it! [Laughter] Let me see whether we can delete it. The key question really is whether the International Commission can operate without in each instance going to the four countries, because if in each instance it has to go to the four countries, it will be totally meaningless. If it can operate autonomously but report to the four countries, that is different.
I must say this. This is something which I will tell you personally. I do not believe it has great practical significance but in America it has tremendous symbolic significance.
Le Duc Tho: But you mentioned about this unanimous action operation by the Joint Commission or the International Commission?
Dr. Kissinger: The International Commission.
Le Duc Tho: Now we are talking about the four-party and the two-party Joint Commissions. You propose “Disagreements in the four-party Joint Commission shall be referred to the International Commission.”
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, that is what we would like.
Le Duc Tho: We think that we should not put this sentence, and we should propose that the “two-party Joint Commission as well as the four-party Joint Commission may request the assistance and cooperation of the International Commission.” Because the four-party Joint Commission and the two-party Joint Commission will settle problems existing between the four parties and can operate by themselves.
Dr. Kissinger: But what does the International Commission do?
Le Duc Tho: We shall deal with the International Commission afterwards.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, I understand but conceptually?
Le Duc Tho: We have talked about and described the task and authority of the International Commission in Article 13.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but what I don’t understand is how can it exercise these functions?
Le Duc Tho: Yes, they will operate through its teams.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, I know, but can it operate autonomously?
Le Duc Tho: It’s autonomous but it should be responsible to the four parties.
Dr. Kissinger: But could the Special Adviser explain to me what it means, “responsible to the four parties”?
Le Duc Tho: It will be responsible to the four parties for the control and supervision of the implementation of the provisions of the agreement.
Dr. Kissinger: Now supposing after the ceasefire in Laos . . .
Le Duc Tho: And if any question arises it may send its report to the four-parties Joint Commission.[Page 691]
Dr. Kissinger: My question is, if after the ceasefire in Laos, somebody says there is a North Vietnamese armored division coming down the Ho Chi Minh Trail and you say, “No, it is a herd of elephants,” can this Commission then send its own team in there, or does it have to wait for permission?
Le Duc Tho: Here the Commission operates in a sovereign country, therefore it should operate in accordance with the principle of respect for this sovereignty. Therefore, it should inform wherever it goes it has to inform the Joint Commission.
Dr. Kissinger: And they have to approve unanimously?
Le Duc Tho: It should be so.
Dr. Kissinger: Let me tell you my personal opinion, Mr. Special Adviser. I personally do not believe that any international supervision is going to prevent you, as I told you yesterday, from doing what you want to do in moving supplies and men. Our real guarantees for that will have to be found in other ways. On the other hand, we cannot make plausible in America that after all the history of distrust that has existed, an agreement which has a supervisory mechanism in which the parties to be supervised have to agree unanimously before the international body can do what it can do, and then agree unanimously as to the report. That is not a serious enterprise. That will be taken as a joke. In your scheme, when the parties agree then international supervision is unnecessary. When they don’t agree, it is impossible.
Le Duc Tho: Since now you are talking about the International Commission, then let us talk about the International Commission and then return to the Joint Commission.
Dr. Kissinger: All right. I don’t mind having the principle of unanimity on the Joint Commission.
Le Duc Tho: Regarding the International Commission, let me first raise the principle according to which the International Commission will carry out the task of international control and supervision without interfering in the internal affairs of Vietnam. Therefore, when it operates in Vietnam it should obtain the concurrence of the local administration. It can’t do whatever it likes.
Now your question is to whom this International Commission will be responsible. We feel that when there is an International Conference of Guarantee then they will decide this question.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree with that.
Le Duc Tho: But the International Commission should be responsible to the four parties and maintain relations to the four parties from now to the convening of the International Conference.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree.
Le Duc Tho: But we will decide afterwards.[Page 692]
Dr. Kissinger: That is agreeable to us.
Le Duc Tho: Regarding the control tasks of the International Commission, here is Article 9(g) regarding the control of the Vietnamese armed forces in South Vietnam.
Dr. Kissinger: That is 9(h). Yes, I know, the question of the armed forces. We will get the right number in there.
Le Duc Tho: 9(h). If you put control and supervision of the Vietnamese armed forces in the South of Vietnam, it is too extensive a task.
Dr. Kissinger: How would you phrase it?
Le Duc Tho: We would propose “The Vietnamese armed forces in South Vietnam when there is a conflict happening.”
Dr. Kissinger: Well, but that is ceasefire. That is Articles 2 and 3 which they already have. The question of the Vietnamese armed forces—this refers to Article 9(h).
Le Duc Tho: The International Commission should do its task of control of supervision regarding the provision of ceasefire.
Dr. Kissinger: That is number 2 and 3. That is in Article 13(b) and we agree to that.
Le Duc Tho: So you agree to our Article 13(b), all this paragraph 13(b)?
Dr. Kissinger: What we did is split those parts that concern the South Vietnamese parties alone, namely, the Vietnamese armed forces and the elections, and put those under the two-party Commission, and we made the International Control Commission responsible to the two-party Joint Commission, so put the rest into Article 13. That is the logical arrangement you followed earlier.
Le Duc Tho: I feel that in this way it is all right.
Dr. Kissinger: That is all we did. It is in our document, Mr. Special Adviser.
Le Duc Tho: But where it says “regarding the Article 9(h),” we would like to say “regarding the Vietnamese armed forces in South Vietnam when there is a conflict happening.” Because if the Commission controlled the armed forces in South Vietnam, then it would interfere in the internal affairs of South Vietnam. And if it does this work, then it is of course too extensive. It will have to know the strength of the armed forces, the logistics of the armed forces, etc. We propose to put concretely what they can put in control.
Dr. Kissinger: “When there is conflict,” what do you mean? If you want it to mean disagreement, that is fine.
Le Duc Tho: For instance, fighting, shooting.
Dr. Kissinger: But that is covered by Article 2, ceasefire.
Le Duc Tho: Regarding the ceasefire we visualize that the Commission will control and supervise, the locations, the operations and not [Page 693] the conflict. Because if we put the control of the Vietnamese armed forces in South Vietnam, it includes so many aspects; strength of the armaments, locations.
Dr. Kissinger: I understand the Special Adviser’s point. But let me ask him this: How can they evaluate the replacement question if they cannot look at the logistics?
Interpreter: It has such a responsibility for armed replacements.
Le Duc Tho: Yes, we have added control of Article 7 regarding the prohibition of introducing troops, military personnel, armaments, munitions and also control the replacement of armaments, munitions and war matériels.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree. We have added it too. You accepted our change? Oh, I thought we had independently come to the conclusion.
Le Duc Tho: So if they control, they will come to know this aspect. In Article 7 if you put control of the Vietnamese armed forces in South Vietnam it would be too extensive.
Dr. Kissinger: May I make this suggestion: “Regarding any agreements that may be reached under the provision of Article 9(h).” So then if there are no agreements under Article 9(h) the Commission has no functions. What I want to say is “Article 9(h) regarding any agreements reached under its provision.” I understand that the way it’s phrased here is too general, and therefore I say only if it is an agreement under paragraph 9(h). If they agree, for example, to demobilize forces, the Control Commission can check into that. If they don’t agree then the Commission cannot autonomously look into the Vietnamese armed forces. It is a bad way of phrasing it.
Le Duc Tho: We continue to feel that if the Control Commission did this question it would interfere in the internal affairs of the parties, because this question is done in common agreement by the two parties.
Dr. Kissinger: So are the elections; so is everything else.
Le Duc Tho: But the control of the general elections or election are different from the control of the armed forces. There is no country who lets its armed forces be controlled by foreign powers.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree with the Special Adviser that the formulation we have should be dropped. It is when it is an agreement to demobilize or to dispose of forces that it comes under this provision, and therefore I want to say: “Article 9(h) with respect to agreements reached under this provision,” not in general.
Le Duc Tho: But it only controls the agreement regarding the demobilization and reduction of military numbers?
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, this is what is involved under 9(h).
Le Duc Tho: We shall think it over. Let me shift to another item. Now about the number of the International Commission members. We [Page 694] maintain four countries. We now drop Cuba. We propose Poland and Hungary. We agree to Indonesia. We disagree to Japan. Please propose another.
Dr. Kissinger: We propose Canada.
Le Duc Tho: All right—four countries only. If you agree to four countries then we agree to the principle of majority. [Laughter] Mutual concession! You want five, I, four. I want unanimity, you want majority. I agree to majority so you should agree to four countries. It is logic.
Dr. Kissinger: Logic but no sense!
Le Duc Tho: So, but our conception differs.
Dr. Kissinger: I frankly have no authority to agree to four, because on this there are very fanatical opinions in the United States. Some of the legal experts are more fanatical on this chapter than on all the substantive chapters. They will be already objecting to Poland and Hungary, but I will not object to your nominations.
Le Duc Tho: It is fair that we choose two countries from our side and you choose two countries from your side.
Dr. Kissinger: No, the objection will be different. I think these are, but are they willing to send people into Vietnam for supervision purposes?
Le Duc Tho: They are prepared.
Dr. Kissinger: We have not yet approached these other two countries. I cannot. That is something that will have to wait until I get back to Washington. I would have thought that our proposal of the countries . . . What country could these four agree to that would do any damage to you? I must tell you in Laos you have a Commission that operates by majority; in Vietnam they have a Commission that operates by unanimity. I frankly see no practical difference in their effectiveness.
Xuan Thuy: Both commissions cannot operate when either party is not honest in implementing the agreement.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree. This is not a great substantive point with us, which is why I have so little authority. It is a symbolic point. We have no set theory. I tell you, Mr. Special Adviser, that if you were to agree on our formula with the five-member commission operating by majority, it would do more to get acceptability for this agreement in our government, especially in our State Department, than any of the other provisions which are much more important. Maybe you and I can agree on a fifth member.
Le Duc Tho: You say your government prefers a five-member commission, but really my government, most of the members of my government, prefer a four-member commission. It is our difficulty. Now there are two formulas; you can choose either of them.[Page 695]
Dr. Kissinger: What are the two formulas?
Le Duc Tho: A four-member commission and principle of majority decision, or a five member commission with consultation and unanimous decision. It is a mutual concession. You said the other day that a four-member commission is a positive proposal, so we agreed to majority in this case. If we agree to your proposal of a five-member commission, then you should agree to unanimity.
Dr. Kissinger: The positive aspect of the five-country proposal was the elimination of India, not the five countries! I have a real problem because this is the one area in which I have no strong conviction, and others have an enormously strong conviction, and in which the practical difference is very small. What we could do is, if we accept majority for five, is that you and I agree on the fifth member rather than have the four countries agree.
Le Duc Tho: We don’t agree to five-member commission and majority decision. It is four-member countries and majority, but there is discussion and it is a majority decision.
Dr. Kissinger: But not when you have two from each side.
Le Duc Tho: So it is our point of view. Now let us return to the task of the Commission. I agree to your Article 9(h).
Dr. Kissinger: Oh, to the rephrasing of 9(h)?
Le Duc Tho: Now let me express our ideas and then we shall rephrase the idea.
Dr. Kissinger: All right.
Le Duc Tho: “Control regarding the agreements reached by the two South Vietnamese parties on the reduction of military effectives of the Vietnamese armed forces in South Vietnam and the demobilization of troops mentioned in Article 9(h).” So I have responded to your proposal.
Dr. Kissinger: That is agreeable.
Le Duc Tho: It is very explicit.
Dr. Kissinger: No, I agree. We may put it into better English if you don’t mind that.
Le Duc Tho: Now, regarding the tasks of the International Commission, let me add another sentence regarding the question of International Commission being responsible to the four parties. As to the relationship between the International Commission and international conference of guarantee, it will be discussed later.
Dr. Kissinger: All right.
Le Duc Tho: So this chapter, the only point left is the member and the composition.[Page 696]
Dr. Kissinger: And how it operates. It is an unbelievably emotional point with some members of our bureaucracy who will have to defend this agreement.
Le Duc Tho: As to the International Commission’s formation of teams, you said that the International Commission “has the right to form” international control teams for carrying out its tasks. We propose that the International Commission of Control “shall form” international control teams for carrying out its tasks.
Dr. Kissinger: Good, that is better.
Le Duc Tho: “With the concurrence of the South Vietnamese parties.” Otherwise the International Commission may locate its teams whenever it likes, violating the sovereignty of the country. So we add “the concurrence of the South Vietnamese parties.”
Dr. Kissinger: How does the Commission operate in South Vietnam today? Can we make two sentences out of it? Can we say—I accept your proposal “shall form an international commission and control teams” rather than “shall have the right to”—and can we say then “they should operate on the basis of respect for the sovereignty of host country”? And “the parties will facilitate its operation.” We will have to rephrase it.
Le Duc Tho: I think it’s all right if you say that on the principle of respect for the sovereignty.
Dr. Kissinger: Let us say “the control teams shall operate with the concurrence of the parties.” All right let us say, “The control teams will operate with the concurrence of the parties,” and then “the parties will facilitate its operation.”
Le Duc Tho: All right.
Dr. Kissinger: Now when you say concurrence, do you mean the concurrence of the four parties or of the two parties?
Le Duc Tho: When the question concerns the four parties, then with the concurrence of the four parties, but when the question concerns the two parties, then with the concurrence of the two parties.
Dr. Kissinger: In our text we have split the questions between those that concern the four parties and those that concern the two parties. You do also. So we add a sentence in both sections, the end of 13(b) and 13(c). “The International Control Commission will operate with the concurrence of the parties. The parties will facilitate the operation.” All right. Good. What is now says is “International Commission of Control and Supervision shall form international control teams; they shall carry out these tasks; the control teams will operate with the concurrence of the parties. The parties will facilitate their operation.” That is at the end of 13(b) and at the end of 13(c). All right? Good.
Xuan Thuy: So you have deleted the sentence “The Commission will operate on the basis of respect for the sovereignty . . .”[Page 697]
Dr. Kissinger: No, that is under 13(e). It is in a separate paragraph. If we agree to Cuba for the five member commission, will you accept the majority principle? [Laughter] It’s a joke. All right, so we are finished with 13 except for the composition.
Xuan Thuy: About the majority?
Dr. Kissinger: I really have to go back to Washington and let you know.
Le Duc Tho: Have you anything else to say about Article 13?
Dr. Kissinger: No, my understanding is that you will accept under 13(b) “until the international guarantee conference makes definitive arrangements.” You accept our formulation? It is from our text. I thought the Special Adviser said that you agreed that the guarantee conference should make definitive arrangements. We will accept another phraseology.
Le Duc Tho: The International Commission is responsible to the four parties, but as to the question of relation to the international guarantee conference and the International Commission that we will discuss later.
Dr. Kissinger: But how do you want to phrase it in the agreement? We say “until the international guarantee conference makes definitive arrangements, the International Commission will be responsible to the four parties.
Le Duc Tho: But from the very beginning the International Commission must be responsible to the four parties. As to the relationship between the International Commission and the international guarantee conference, we will decide it later.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but that is what my sentence says.
Le Duc Tho: What you mean by adding the sentence “until the international guarantee conference makes a definitive arrangement?”
Dr. Kissinger: The international guarantee conference will establish the responsibilities of the Control Commission but until then it is responsible to the four countries. It is just that the international conference will make the final decision.
Le Duc Tho: I think that we should put here that the International Commission and Supervision shall be responsible to the four parties. As to the relationship between the International Commission and the international guarantee conference, that we shall discuss later. What is your view about the sentence that the differences in the four-party conference should be referred to the Joint Commission? We have expressed our view.
Dr. Kissinger: If we can form a more autonomous role for the International Commission, I am willing to drop that sentence. But we will be in an impossible position to defend this agreement in America [Page 698] if we cannot show some autonomous international supervision, even though your own experience teaches you that it is meaningless. For example, the release of our prisoners of war will come under this category. And, in fact the very people who would normally defend this agreement will turn against it if we do not have it.
Le Duc Tho: We shall think over it. But Article 11, we would like to add that the four-party Joint Commission shall end its activities after the completion of the troop withdrawal and the release of captured people, because the four-party Joint Commission will carry out this task until that moment only. Because after the troop withdrawal and the release of prisoners, then the four-party Joint Commission will have no more task. Only two-party Joint Commission.
Dr. Kissinger: But then where are we with respect to Article 7? With respect to Article 2, the ceasefire? And Articles 5 and 6? Where does this leave us with respect to them?
Le Duc Tho: Regarding the ceasefire, after the withdrawal of United States forces, then the ceasefire will apply only to the two South Vietnamese parties. Therefore, it is the two-party Joint Commission in charge of that question. Regarding Article 7, the two South Vietnamese parties should refrain from accepting outside reinforcement in troops or matériel, weapons, etc.; it is the International Commission of Control and Supervision and the two-party Joint Commission in charge of that.
Dr. Kissinger: Then we should list the appropriate paragraphs also under the two-party Joint Commission.
Le Duc Tho: We shall split it. We shall rearrange it to make it clearer.
Dr. Kissinger: Oh, I understand the point now, the difference you make between the two-party Joint Commission and the four-party Joint Commission. We have no objection to dissolving the four-party Joint Commission when its tasks have been fulfilled, but then there should be a list of its appropriate paragraphs like 7. What this means is that 2, 3 and 7 are now under the . . .
Le Duc Tho: Let us shift to another subject.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, what have we decided? I assure you, insane as it may appear to you, this chapter will receive more scrutiny than almost any other chapter in the document.
Le Duc Tho: If you agree to a four-member International Commission, with the principle of majority, then we can agree to the reference of disagreement of the two-party Joint Commission and the four-party Joint Commission; then the two-party Joint Commission and the four-party commission, if they meet with some disagreement they may refer their disagreement to the International Commission.
Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, that will help enormously. I will recommend this. I tell you honestly, in areas to which I give little [Page 699] attention, I feel free to go ahead without referring it to Washington. I frankly never pay any attention to these matters because I don’t believe they ever work, therefore I do not want to make a final decision but I will let you know by tomorrow evening, and I will recommend it. But I am not absolutely sure they will accept it. You have dealt with our people on control matters, Mr. Minister, you know how it is. It is a religious point.
Le Duc Tho: Let us shift to another subject.
Dr. Kissinger: Let me just sum up. I have the following concern now, Mr. Special Adviser, I don’t know what I am going to do about a definitive text in Washington tomorrow. You know I am beginning to think that the best arrangement would be that we do our best to finish tonight. That I then go back to Washington, Mr. Lord stays here, and then I come over again so that you and I can go over an agreed text even if our schedule gets delayed by a couple of days. Because I think it’s too dangerous.
Le Duc Tho: What is your schedule then? Because if you go to Hanoi I intend to leave here tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, because it will take me four or five days to go there.
Dr. Kissinger: Complaining in each friendly capital about his interlocutor. Well, then I would have to delay my going to Hanoi by a couple of days. But I think when we are ending the war that has lasted ten years we should not operate on such a slipshod basis. I am not at all sure that in every case we have agreed on a text. That way I can’t talk to the President. I can’t get a clear answer from him. I could come back here and then go from here to Saigon. I would not have to return to America. It would delay everything maybe two days. I think it would be worthwhile. What we have agreed to here we will stick to, but I think it would be very dangerous for Mr. Lord and your expert to work tomorrow and have that then be the absolutely final text. We should finish tonight anyway. We should finish every important point tonight. I would like to have the possibility, simply for bureaucratic reasons, as the Special Adviser knows, to change a word here and there. Because I frankly, we have worked from two different drafts; you from yours and we from ours. What do you think?
Le Duc Tho: We shall make an effort to finish discussion today. It is the best thing.
Dr. Kissinger: That’s essential anyway.
Le Duc Tho: And then your two experts and our two experts will arrange the text. What is important is that the essential agreement we have reached here should not be changed.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, I agree with this. The only thing I have to say is this section here on international guarantees I am going to find more [Page 700] legal experts with comments—although what you have just agreed to will help greatly—that these agreements should be referred to the International Commission.
Le Duc Tho: And what we would like to repeat is that the agreement we have reached here should not be changed.
Dr. Kissinger: No, except if there is some violent objections by lawyers to the international control part. On all other sections we can stay with it.
Le Duc Tho: But we have agreed on many things regarding the International Commission.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but for example, the majority vote of four—I really have to check this, but your concession has made it easier—of referring disagreements.
Le Duc Tho: As to the schedule of your trip to Hanoi, I think that you should make an effort to meet the schedule we have agreed to because I, myself and you are leaving together. I have the rest of my program of work. I have arranged it.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, I propose this: Let us finish our work here. I must have three days in Saigon. There is no possibility of finishing in Saigon in less than three days. So everything depends when I can leave Washington and when I can leave Washington depends on whether I have a truly agreed text, not just in principle but in every word.
Le Duc Tho: But I should recall here that I have set my program according to the schedule we have agreed to. And moreover your trip to Hanoi we have arranged it. We have arrangements to make for the visit, and therefore you should make an effort to meet the schedule we have agreed to. So what is your view on that trip?
Let us finish our discussion and then we shall discuss the schedule. Once the schedule is discussed, we should meet it because on it will depend my program, your trip to Hanoi, the program of our leaders and the arrangements of our trip to Hanoi.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree completely.
Le Duc Tho: Because otherwise it will do hindrances to my program.
Dr. Kissinger: No, we will settle it tonight, unless the President fires me when he sees this agreement. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: Now the question of Laos and Cambodia.
Dr. Kissinger: All right, Laos and Cambodia.
Le Duc Tho: Have you anything to add to this?
Dr. Kissinger: Incidentally, I don’t do this for pressure but the thing that makes me most concerned about the international control is the four-power Commission and the majority vote. I don’t say this for [Page 701] pressure because I would rather use my prestige for other issues. I am giving you a fact.
Le Duc Tho: If you agree, you can let us know tomorrow through Colonel Guay.
Dr. Kissinger: Tomorrow, Friday morning.
Now with regard to Cambodia and Laos. As you know, we have rewritten Chapter VII by just grouping some of the points. It has no new language but it groups the elements. It is a reorganization.
Le Duc Tho: The formulation we propose is more compact and more accurate.
Dr. Kissinger: At the end of your Article 15(a), you have a statement that “the four parties undertake to refrain from using the territory of Cambodia and the territory of Laos to encroach on the sovereignty and security of other countries.” I just moved that to the beginning of paragraph 15(b). 15(a) has general principles and 15(b) has specific obligations, and everything else we left completely unchanged. We did not introduce any new elements. It is just a reorganization.
Le Duc Tho: So this deletes your previous proposal.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, this is our present version.
Le Duc Tho: You only rearrange the last sentence of our first paragraph.
Dr. Kissinger: We have taken the last sentence of your first paragraph and put it in (b). We have taken one sentence and made (c) out of it. To be fair, we have added one phrase where it says it is possible to get replacements of armaments, equal in quantity. We took the same after the supplies are cut off. [They confer.]
While you are consulting, why don’t I go out with General Haig for a minute. We have the danger of Bonapartism and I want to make sure what’s happening. [Laughter]
[The meeting broke at 8:57, dinner was served, and the meeting reconvened at 9:58 p.m.]
Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, you are even stronger than your Soviet associates. They kept me up more than 12 hours; you are keeping me up longer than that. When we made the agreement on strategic arms, I was with Mr. Gromyko until 4:00 in the morning, and we decided we couldn’t agree and so I went to bed. At 10:00 he called and said let’s try again and by 10:45 we had it all settled. But then we had to draft it. We had expert help then. That is more than I can say for this.
Le Duc Tho: Regarding the chapter on Cambodia and Laos. I have an idea quite different from yours.
Dr. Kissinger: I have lost my papers. This has been the secret dream of everybody. I have no ideas.[Page 702]
Le Duc Tho: Regarding the sentence that the parties in Laos and Cambodia should be able to make their replacements of armaments, I think that here we cannot decide a question involving our infringing on the sovereignty or the internal affairs of Laos and Cambodia.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree.
Le Duc Tho: On the other questions, we have an undertaking; only this question comes under the internal affairs of Laos and Cambodia. So all questions on this chapter have been settled.
Dr. Kissinger: You are accepting our text? You are accepting the text I just gave you?
Le Duc Tho: Rearrangement made by you. Shall I read the proposal that we make? “Article 15(a): The Democratic Republic of Vietnam, the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam, the Government of the U.S.A. and the Government of the Republic of Vietnam shall strictly respect the Cambodia and Laotian people’s national rights as recognized by the 1954 Geneva Agreements on Indochina and the 1962 Geneva Agreements on Laos; that is the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of these countries, shall respect the neutrality of Cambodia and Laos.
“(b) Foreign countries shall put an end to all military activities in Laos and Cambodia, totally withdraw from and refrain from reintroducing into these countries military personnel, armaments, munitions and war matériels, . . .
“(c) The problems issuing between the three Indochinese countries shall be settled by the three Indochinese countries on the basis of respect and as to its independence and territorial integrity and non-interference in each other’s affairs.”
Dr. Kissinger: So you have dropped out (c) of my text? That is fine.
Mr. Phuong: (c): The internal affairs of Laos and Cambodia shall be . . .”
Dr. Kissinger: Oh, you left it in? All right. Now may I comment, Mr. Special Adviser? Of course, we are still waiting for a written unilateral statement in addition. But let me make a comment on this. 15(a) is fine; 15(c) is fine; 15(d) is fine.
Now with respect to the undertaking, you had a sentence we put at the beginning of our 15(b), where it said “The Government of the United States of America and so forth undertake to refrain from using the territory of Laos and Cambodia.” That was taken exactly from your previous paragraph where you said the four governments make the undertaking.
Le Duc Tho: Because when we put “foreign countries” here we have in mind not only the four countries but other foreign countries too.
Dr. Kissinger: Like China?[Page 703]
Le Duc Tho: Like Thailand. So if you mention four specific governments it is not complete. We put it in the first paragraph. It is more accurate, more correct.
So the four parties, the four governments, undertake to respect the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity and shall respect . . . and these four governments undertake to refrain . . .” So it is more logic.
(b), then “all foreign countries shall put an end to all military activities in Laos and Cambodia,” and so forth.
(c), then dealing with the internal affairs of Cambodia.
Dr. Kissinger: I have no problem with (c) and (d). My problem is with (b), the beginning and with the end. Why can we not say “these four governments undertake to refrain from using the territory of Cambodia and the territory of Laos to encroach on the sovereignty and security of other countries?
Le Duc Tho: That means the four governments should undertake to refrain.
Dr. Kissinger: They shall respect the neutrality of Laos and Cambodia. They undertake to refrain from using the territory. I will read that whole paragraph to you so that we are sure we both know. What we are doing, Mr. Interpreter, is simply to add the sentence “They undertake to refrain from using the territory of Cambodia and the territory of Laos to encroach on the sovereignty and security of other countries” at the end of 15(a). That is where it was to begin with. At the end of 15(a) we are making it a new sentence.
Le Duc Tho: So you feel that the subject of the verb “undertake” is too far from the verb.
Dr. Kissinger: It’s too far. Our minds are not as sharp as those of yours! The expression is too much for me. In fact it would be best if we said “the four parties.”
Le Duc Tho: All right. “The four parties” is not clear, better you put “they.”
Dr. Kissinger: All right, “they.” Then we have to go back. Then “foreign countries shall put an end to all military activities in Laos.”
Le Duc Tho: If you want to repeat the name of the four governments it is all right.
Dr. Kissinger: All right. Let us repeat the name of the four governments.
Le Duc Tho: The above-mentioned four governments.
Dr. Kissinger: Where? At the beginning of 15(b)?
Mr. Phuong: No, at the beginning of “undertake to refrain from using the territory.”[Page 704]
Dr. Kissinger: Now I understand your point about 15(b). But it is not an obligation if you make a general statement saying, “foreign countries shall put an end.” It is not an international obligation. That is a general expression of desire. Why can’t we list the four governments and say “together with other foreign countries”? Then you don’t have to mention them in the previous sentence.
Le Duc Tho: You have agreed to that and now we stick to it. If you ask for a change, then I shall make a long statement and it will take . . .
Dr. Kissinger: What have I agreed to?
Le Duc Tho: You have agreed to follow 15(b).
Dr. Kissinger: No, what I would like to say is, I would like to list the governments and add “together with other foreign countries, shall put an end to all military activities in Laos and Cambodia.”
Le Duc Tho: I have told you that I shall give you a statement.
Dr. Kissinger: All right. Let us leave that for a minute, because it may be covered in your statement. But I have one more concern. I temporarily agree to the phrase “other foreign countries.” I have to say, however, this, I can understand why you do not want to say what the powers in Laos and Cambodia should be able to do, but here we are talking about what foreign countries are permitted to do. I think we must insist they are permitted to replace armaments and war matériel on a one-to-one basis. And you can say “as requested by the governments concerned.”
Le Duc Tho: We can’t speak on their behalf.
Dr. Kissinger: We are not asking you.
Le Duc Tho: Encroaching on their sovereignty, and previously you have agreed to delete this sentence.
Dr. Kissinger: No, I agree to delete the sentence that “Laos and Cambodia should be permitted to . . . ,” and you agreed this is a question of their sovereignty. We are not saying what Laos and Cambodia shall be permitted to do. We agree that troops, military advisers and military personnel must be withdrawn, but the question is whether a foreign country has the right if it is requested by the government to replace its equipment on a one-to-one basis. That is to say they cannot increase their total number.
Le Duc Tho: You complicate things. I have explained to you lengthily our views on this question.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but now I am talking about ourselves.
Le Duc Tho: I have told you that the question of Laos and Cambodia is a question of principle for us. We can’t speak on their behalf, but in connection with Laos and Cambodia I have told you that I shall give you a unilateral statement and it is sufficient.[Page 705]
Dr. Kissinger: But I am not asking you to speak on their behalf. We are here speaking on our behalf.
Le Duc Tho: I think that this sentence should not be put here because it complicates the problem, and not only complicates what we have to do here but complicates the situation in this area.
Dr. Kissinger: Why?
Le Duc Tho: Probably you have understood because you are a diplomat traveling a great deal throughout the world. I think that this record, this formulation is quite sufficient, and besides that I will give you a statement.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, let me see what the statement is and let us leave this aside for a minute.
Le Duc Tho: I don’t agree. You are saying that you will leave aside this point for the moment.
Dr. Kissinger: What should we do then?
Le Duc Tho: And you know you agree that you put another sentence here. I have told you that I shall give you a statement I have made this morning in writing and I shall give you it.
Dr. Kissinger: But we have two problems. The problem of your activities and of your forces in Laos and Cambodia and of your transit through Laos and Cambodia. We have the second problem of our existing relationship to Laos and Cambodia and while we are willing to restore it substantially this is a different matter from waiting.
First of all, I don’t quite understand what this obligation really means, because “foreign countries” is not a specific designation.
Le Duc Tho: What I have explained since this morning is not yet understood by you. If I put “foreign countries” here, this “foreign countries” includes foreign countries, United States, ourselves. All these foreign countries should put an end to all military activities in Laos and Cambodia. Since they have been withdrawn, then how can they infiltrate again? Since this morning I have explained to you on this point and I am afraid that you are unreasonable. I have finished.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, could I hear what your statement is and then I can make a judgment.
Le Duc Tho: I shall give it to you. Have we finished this chapter?
Dr. Kissinger: I must say this is a chapter that I would have to discuss with the President, and I cannot finally decide until I have heard your unilateral statement.
Le Duc Tho: I can say that if you do it this way then we cannot settle the problem, if now you have agreed to this and now you retract and you say you have to consult the President. Here we are negotiating with you on many questions. I have full authority to decide everything with you here. You, too, have full authority to decide everything here.[Page 706]
Dr. Kissinger: The Special Adviser is undoubtedly correct about the degree of authority he possesses. He is not fully correct on the degree of authority I possess. I just have to see what your unilateral statement is before I make a judgment. As it stands, I cannot accept it without some additional assurances from you.
Le Duc Tho: I can’t give you any assurance except to let you write a sentence about the replacement of armaments in Laos and Cambodia.
Dr. Kissinger: You cannot or you can?
Mr. Phuong: Cannot.
Dr. Kissinger: But you said you had a unilateral statement on Laos and Cambodia.
Le Duc Tho: I shall give you our unilateral statement, but I will not write down the sentence about the replacement of arms.
Dr. Kissinger: I understand that.
Le Duc Tho: I shall write down what I told you this morning.
Dr. Kissinger: I want to see this in writing before I can make a judgment; before I can accept paragraph (b) without a sentence.
Le Duc Tho: I shall give you the statement but if we pass over this chapter and we shift to another chapter . . .
Dr. Kissinger: I don’t understand.
Le Duc Tho: We shall let this chapter and begin discussion on another chapter.
Dr. Kissinger: But where is the statement?
Le Duc Tho: Please give me your statement on the healing of the war wounds.
Dr. Kissinger: We have written it into the agreement.
Le Duc Tho: I have told you that I shall give you it. I will keep my promise.
Dr. Kissinger: I have to say in this form I cannot accept it until I see what the whole package is. Maybe the President may want to accept it, but I have to discuss it with him. This is a matter of enormous national policy for him.
Le Duc Tho: So I shall give you the statement because we have been negotiating all the time. I have not written the statement yet. I shall give it to you later. If we have finished this chapter, we shall begin discussing another chapter.
Dr. Kissinger: All right, let us discuss another chapter.
Le Duc Tho: Regarding Chapter VIII, we have no big change to make, no comment, but we would like to change only one word. “The Government of the United States of America accepts to contribute to the program of postwar reconstruction and economic development [Page 707] and of healing the war wounds through the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and throughout Indochina.” [Tho hands Dr. Kissinger the statement.] Do you agree to Chapter VIII? Because this is with the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the United States, therefore I put the Democratic Republic of Vietnam first.
Dr. Kissinger: One problem we have, Mr. Special Adviser, is that you always seem to work from your text and we always have a different text and I am very worried what will happen tomorrow if our experts get together.
Le Duc Tho: We reverse the order of the names. Because of the chapter dealing with this relationship between the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the United States of America, therefore I would like to put “the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and throughout Indochina.”
Dr. Kissinger: That I understand, but instead you read your whole article to me so I am sure we are talking about the whole thing.
Le Duc Tho: “The U.S. expects this agreement will usher in an era of reconciliation with the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and with all the peoples of Indochina. In pursuance of its traditional policy, the United States will agree to contribute to healing the wounds of war . . .”
Dr. Kissinger: And you want to add what, “and to postwar reconstruction”?
Mr. Phuong: Yes.
Dr. Kissinger: Read the whole thing to me. The second sentence. The first is all right. Is it the Special Adviser’s proposal? I just want him to read what you propose.
Interpreter: “It is the traditional policy of the United States that the United States will contribute to healing the wounds of war and to postwar reconstruction of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and throughout Indochina.” This order.
Dr. Kissinger: I accept it.
Le Duc Tho: Now there are a number of problems left. Now I realize that there are four or five problems left. The biggest problem is the return of captured people. I shall address this problem last.
Dr. Kissinger: And we still have the Laos and Cambodia problem to discuss briefly.
Le Duc Tho: We have nothing to discuss about Laos and Cambodia. I have given you my view.
Dr. Kissinger: We can do one of two things. We can either try to do the other points or we can make a break for ten minutes and let me consult with my colleagues to make sure I understand all the implications correctly, and I can give you an answer immediately. What do you prefer?[Page 708]
Le Duc Tho: Let us discuss other questions. We will discuss this question later. There are still four military questions left. Regarding then Article 3, the paragraph on “All hostile acts, terrorism, reprisals by both sides and encroachment on the lives and property of the people shall be prohibited.” We accept now deletion of the phrase “to end all encroachment on the lives and property of the people.” We accept it. You have requested the deletion.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, I agree. I appreciate the spirit.
Le Duc Tho: Another point, we put forward this amendment.
Article 3, the paragraph, the preceding paragraph on “all combat and reconnaissance activities on the ground, in the air and on the sea.” Now we propose “all military activities on the ground, in the air and on the sea shall be prohibited.” So now we delete the word “combat and reconnaissance.” We replace them by “military activities.”
Dr. Kissinger: As long as you understand that as long as we are in South Vietnam we will engage in flying over South Vietnam. Does that mean that ships cannot go to sea and airplanes can’t fly?
Le Duc Tho: On the previous paragraph you have accepted this morning to stop all military activities on the ground, in the air and on the sea.
Dr. Kissinger: I will have tremendous difficulty with even that when I get back to Washington, I assure you, because it means we cannot fly over North Vietnam. But that is quite different because that is something we can do. That we will do. But in this paragraph it means we can’t fly over South Vietnam or have ships go that way across to port in South Vietnam; that means no one can fly a plane over South Vietnam and no ships can move in the seas of South Vietnam. If you want to say “combat actions.” It is quite different with the Democratic Republic of Vietnam because the territory is geographically separable.
Le Duc Tho: Moreover the war is ended and you have no right to fly over our airspace in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
Dr. Kissinger: That is right and that is why I accept it. I accept it with regard to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. I don’t change the view with respect to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. I maintain the previous paragraph. I don’t withdraw this.
Le Duc Tho: Now we can drop the question. Either you can put “all combat activities on the ground, in the air and on the sea are prohibited” or “all acts of force on the ground, in the air and on the sea is prohibited.”
Dr. Kissinger: Thank you.
Le Duc Tho: Now, regarding the advisers on pacification. We insist on putting this word because actually there are advisers on pacification.[Page 709]
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but we are willing to define the pacification to which you object, if we agree with it. To us “pacification” has a different meaning than it does to you. We are, therefore, willing to specify “advisers to paramilitary organizations, police forces” and so forth, but we are not prepared to lump all pacification advisers, which to us has an economic function, in our technical language.
Le Duc Tho: What you call economic advisers are actually military advisers. I didn’t mention about the economic advisers.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but if you say advisers on pacification that, to us, is an economic word. I know to you it means something else. This is why I was prepared to specify paramilitary organization, police, and if you want, psychological warfare, but pacification advisers are part of our economic program.
Le Duc Tho: But so far as we know in pacification operations there were American military advisers going with them.
Dr. Kissinger: That is probably true, but all military advisers regardless of their work will be withdrawn.
Le Duc Tho: So I call it military advisers for pacification.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, it is redundant because all military advisers will be withdrawn for everything.
Le Duc Tho: If we say as you say, then there would be no need to mention advisers for paramilitary.
Dr. Kissinger: No, because we are prepared to withdraw even civilian advisers to paramilitary organizations and to the police.
Le Duc Tho: So I leave now aside the economic advisers. I don’t mention about them, but here, since actually you have military advisers or advisers of military pacification. In this agreement I have tried my best to choose every word to make easy for you.
Dr. Kissinger: Read to me exactly what your sentence says.
Mr. Phuong: “From the time of the signing of this agreement, shall completely withdraw from South Vietnam.”
Dr. Kissinger: Oh, we are back to your text. You see the trouble is your English is so bad that we are always rewriting it, thus I have not and we will not have an accurate text.
Mr. Phuong: Reading: “From the date of the signing of this agreement shall be completely withdrawn from South Vietnam all troops, all military personnel of the United States and those of the other foreign countries allied to the United States and to the Republic of Vietnam including military advisers, technical military personnel, advisers for paramilitary organizations,” we add “advisers for pacification work and advisers for the police and all other civilian personnel serving in all military branches, all armaments, munitions, war matériel and radar installation. This withdrawal shall be complete within 60 days.”[Page 710]
Dr. Kissinger: I will accept mentioning pacification, but let me put it into an English that can be understood by Americans. We will then read it to you and see if it sounds the same in Vietnamese. It is no reflection on your excellent interpreter, because he is translating it word for word correctly, and I want to formulate sentences which are more in the English grammar. He is really an outstanding interpreter.
Mr. Phuong: But not as good in English.
Dr. Kissinger: But your Vietnamese is much better than mine! It is a grammatical question, not a substantive question. We have a lot of substantive questions but this is grammatical. Let me read you this sentence: “The total withdrawal from South Vietnam of troops, military advisers and military personnel including technical military personnel and paramilitary advisers associated with pacification programs, armaments and matériel . . .”
Le Duc Tho: You agree also to “civilian personnel serving in military branches of the Government of the Republic of Vietnam”?
Dr. Kissinger: Whom are you thinking of here?
Le Duc Tho: That is logistic and so on. Civilian personnel serving in military branches. This morning you have agreed to that.
Dr. Kissinger: And serving in the military branches of whom? Of the Republic of Vietnam?
Le Duc Tho: American civilian personnel serving in military branches.
Dr. Kissinger: Of who?
Le Duc Tho: Of South Vietnam and of the United States. You have agreed to this this morning.
Dr. Kissinger: Not that I remember.
Le Duc Tho: So you have put it “from the date of the signing of the agreement” long after the beginning of the sentence of the paragraph; “from the date of the signing of the agreement” at the beginning of the paragraph.
Dr. Kissinger: I see what you mean. We will put “within 60 days” early in the sentence. We can say “within 60 days of the signing of this agreement the United States and those foreign countries allied to the United States shall totally withdraw from South Vietnam.” And then list all the categories.
Le Duc Tho: Civilian personnel serving in military branches of the Republic of Vietnam. You have no mention of it.
Dr. Kissinger: We just don’t know to whom you refer. I don’t think there are any civilians serving in the military branches of South Vietnam.
Le Duc Tho: This morning you agreed to this sentence.[Page 711]
Dr. Kissinger: No, I didn’t agree to it. I may have asked you what it meant. You know you read something and I just asked what it meant.
Le Duc Tho: I shall give you a more specific indication.
Dr. Kissinger: I just have no knowledge of any American civilians serving with the military branches of South Vietnam. And this gives a very misleading impression to our people.
Le Duc Tho: I shall tell you about this later, but just like you said that there is no American advisers in pacification work.
Dr. Kissinger: No, I said there were advisers in pacification work but I said it has a different meaning, but once I understood what you meant I agreed to a proper terminology for it. It is senseless when we totally withdraw to try to hide a few people in South Vietnam. This will hardly determine the future. But on the other hand, if we make an undertaking we want to know how to keep it. All the other materials I understand and we will withdraw them.
Le Duc Tho: I shall list them. Now regarding the time period for the troop withdrawal, the 60-day period. You said that after 60 days there might be a few remaining . . .
Dr. Kissinger: It won’t happen.
Le Duc Tho: I would ask for clarification on that point.
Dr. Kissinger: What I said was—you were willing to agree on 66 days.
Le Duc Tho: But if you want six days more, I am not so . . .
Dr. Kissinger: No, I think it’s ridiculous, but it could happen that for some technical reason, some very small unit has at the last minute to stay two or three days longer. I do not see it, but it might be just a minimal unit that would have to stay three or four days. And actually in the United States case I do not believe it will be a problem. I know it will not be a problem. And if it should be, I am certain it will be handled with mutual understanding. In the Korean case, fine. We will have to look into the shipping situation. We are almost certain it can be handled, but we can let you know within a week or two and again it will not be a big matter.
Le Duc Tho: I find it difficult to understand. You give us a specific undertaking here that all United States and other foreign troops shall be withdrawn within 60 days but now you mention about Korean troops and you mention shipping and say “I give you answer in a few weeks’ time.”
Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, do you really think, after such a big undertaking, that we would sign an agreement with you and then want to play games with you to keep a few there for a few days more? Does it make any sense that we would stop all military activities. I want to be honest. I think it is 98 percent certain that we can get all [Page 712] our forces out. Only in order to be absolutely honest with you, I wanted to leave a little margin for technical error. It would not be more than ten days; I don’t think it will arise at all. I just wanted to tell you in a spirit of frankness that when you move 50,000 people in two months, there may be some logistic difficulties.
Le Duc Tho: When you sent the troops in, in 60 days you could send a much bigger number of troops in. But please now give us a very specific number of days. Like 65 days for instance, if you propose it, we could agree.
Dr. Kissinger: I think it is ridiculous. If we say 60 days, it will be done in 60 days.
Le Duc Tho: You said that it is 98% sure that they would be out, but there might be 2,000 more, but I say let your proposal be 65 days.
Dr. Kissinger: No, it won’t make any difference. I wanted to make a generous gesture and say 60 days, and then tell you if we came across an unexpected difficulty—which I don’t expect—I wanted to tell you in a spirit of frankness. I shouldn’t have even mentioned it.
Mr. Special Adviser, let us leave this subject. When I come to Hanoi I will have looked into the question in Washington. If it should turn out that we need 62 and one-half days or 65 days, I will tell you then. It was your proposal. I was trying to leave a tiny margin for a gentleman’s agreement; I can see we are not at that level yet. If it should turn out that we need 65 days I will tell you when I come to Hanoi and we can change it then.
Le Duc Tho: I shall let you correct the agreement in Hanoi.
Dr. Kissinger: You will see I will not change it and you will also see that I have every interest to make sure that an agreement we both sign is one I can keep, and you will have every reason to feel was a just agreement for you too.
Le Duc Tho: Now let us tackle another point. The question of replacement of arms. This point still contains difficulty between us. Let us propose the following to settle this question: “After the cessation of hostilities, the replacement of armaments will be agreed upon by the two parties. Particularly or especially with regard to weapons for inventory, the two parties will be permitted to replace them on the basis of one piece-to-piece.” So I have taken into account your view.
Dr. Kissinger: No, but it is dependent now on agreement.
Le Duc Tho: But for the armaments of the inventory the parties shall be permitted to replace them on the basis of piece-to-piece. It is to limit the dangers of starting war.
Dr. Kissinger: Can you read that to me again?
Interpreter: “After the cessation of hostilities, the replacement of all kinds of armaments, of weapons will be agreed upon by the two [Page 713] parties. Especially regarding the armaments for the inventory, the two parties shall be permitted to replace them on the basis of piece-to-piece.”
Dr. Kissinger: I cannot go much beyond what I have given you. Because we already confront a situation where we will be charged with having no restrictions on the imports of weapons into North Vietnam, no control except your statements on the influx of weapons into Cambodia and Laos, and then on top of it we cut off even replacement of weapons to South Vietnam. It will become an impossible assignment.
The only change that I can make to what I have given you is to add the phrase “and of similar characteristics,” so that you will be sure there will be no upgrading.
Le Duc Tho: Please explain “of the same characteristics.” What do you mean by that?
Dr. Kissinger: That means you can’t replace a rifle with an artillery piece. I mean you can replace a rifle with a rifle.
Le Duc Tho: On this question we are still far apart. On the military questions this is one outstanding question, because you will be able to introduce into South Vietnam any amount of weapons.
Dr. Kissinger: Only by getting rid of other weapons. For every weapon that is introduced, a weapon has to be thrown out. There can be no reinforcements.
Le Duc Tho: So we have not come to agreement on that point. Set it aside then. There is another question, the greatest outstanding question, of the prisoners. I have misunderstood Mr. Special Adviser. I thought that you would add a sentence about the release of civilians captured in South Vietnam, and I did not know that you mentioned here that the release will be carried out on agreement by the parties.
Dr. Kissinger: What did the Special Adviser think I would say?
Le Duc Tho: I thought that you would put that after the cessation of the war, then captured and detained people of all parties shall be released. And the title of the chapter is written “The Return of Prisoners of War and the Return of Captured and Detained People of the Parties.”
Dr. Kissinger: Ours is written differently. That is what we have to decide. But I understand your point.
Le Duc Tho: So we are still far apart in this problem and it is one of our major difficulties.
Dr. Kissinger: It is a point I understand. I have no solution. No solution has occurred to me but I recognize it as a severe problem.
Le Duc Tho: Imagine, Mr. Special Adviser, that the war has lasted so long, that the Saigon Administration has captured tens of thousands of civilians and now the war is ended and those people are not released. It is a very big problem. We have signed agreements twice in 1954 and [Page 714] 1962; we have never met such an obstacle as you raise this time. It is a problem that it is difficult to come to an agreement on that question. We would like to find some formulation, some way of writing this provision.
Dr. Kissinger: So would we.
Le Duc Tho: You see, in the whole agreement there are many points which are difficult, but we have found the way to get out. We can say that for this agreement since we began working this morning, we have agreed on almost all.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree.
Le Duc Tho: Now it’s the biggest question remaining. So if we can’t settle this question now, I propose the following: When you go to Saigon you have full authority to settle this problem. You say that you will have difficulty in Saigon, but I believe it is not true. [Laughter on U.S. side.] This question implies many aspects: political aspects, human conscience. But if we can’t settle this question now, then lay it aside.
Dr. Kissinger: Let me say, Mr. Special Adviser, I think you have exaggerated ideas of the degree of my authority. I will have enormous difficulty in Washington already, with the agreement as it stands. For many reasons, which I will some time explain to you when it isn’t so late and I can explain to you the operation of the governmental machinery, everybody who was excluded from the negotiations now has a vested interest in demonstrating that I betrayed the country. They have not had the privilege of working with you, but they think that you are easier to persuade than you are. But this is my problem; I will handle it.
Le Duc Tho: I think if now you succeed in settling the Vietnam war, and if there were an American who called you a traitor, then this American is unworthy to be an American.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, we will see. It is my problem and I will handle it. But above all, and whatever the situation in Washington, we will have an unbelievably difficult time in Saigon next week. We should not underestimate this, and it is in all our interests that we do not repeat the experience of 1968. And from a political point of view it is very risky for us to have a confrontation at this moment. But I think the Special Adviser’s proposal is reasonable. I shall make a big effort in Saigon. I shall report frankly to you what I think is possible, and then we shall see whether we want to proceed. But I understand your problem.
While we are talking about this, incidentally, may I say that when the Special Adviser leaves here there is already . . . I have been away from Washington so long with so little information, and I have never been away from Washington at the same time that my Deputy was [Page 715] away, so if the Special Adviser leaves for Hanoi as he said he might, tomorrow, there will be even more speculation. We must avoid two opposite dangers. The one danger is that the impression is created that we have already concluded an agreement. Because we want to arrive in Saigon without prior notification of this agreement, so it is very important that we keep the secrecy and that no comments be made to anybody, and that if you inform your allies they understand the need for secrecy.
The other danger is to leave the impression that our negotiations have totally failed. And perhaps if the Special Adviser would permit me to make a suggestion to him on his very skillful handling of the press. If when he leaves he could indicate that he expects to return here soon to resume negotiations, it would be helpful.
Now we have still . . . I don’t know what the Special Adviser recommends on how we should proceed.
Le Duc Tho: Let me make the following proposal. I only see we have a very long distance between you and me. If we review all the problems we have raised, there are two problems left now; the question of replacement of arms and the question of prisoners.
Dr. Kissinger: No, three. I have to say something yet on Laos and Cambodia, and we have some technical questions on the control chapter. Should I raise those now?
Le Duc Tho: Please.
Dr. Kissinger: They are not issues of enormous principle.
Le Duc Tho: Then we let that to the experts.
Dr. Kissinger: But I can make very concrete suggestions and they are not too difficult for you.
First, I am not sure I understood you, Mr. Special Adviser. At one point you said that the four-party Joint Commission should end its activities at a certain point. Where do you want to write that into the agreement?
Le Duc Tho: I shall take note of your question and I shall answer you later. It is not a difficult question.
Dr. Kissinger: May I suggest the following: First of all, did I understand you correctly? If we could agree on the following in Article 13(b) for example: “Until the international guarantee conference can make definitive arrangements, the International Commission of Control and Supervision”—instead of saying “shall be responsible,” say “will report to the four parties.” This would make a very great difference in our presentation. It is really the only issue of principle I have to raise. That, of course, would come also in 13(c), the same sentence with respect to the two parties.
Le Duc Tho: Previously you have proposed the words “to be responsible to.” Now you change it.[Page 716]
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, I tell you what the problem is. On every other section of the agreement I will be able to override the critics because I will be recognized as having some competence. But in this section it will be ridiculous to say that the International Commission will be responsible to the people whom it is supervising. Therefore, I would like the international conference to decide to whom it is responsible. I have no doubt that you will defend your position and with your usual tenacity. One of my colleagues can have the pleasure of debating these constitutional problems with the Minister. This is a neutral formulation which commits neither side. You will defend your position. You will certainly be supported by some of your allies at this Conference and you will not be in an isolated position. Until then they will make their reports to the parties. In practice, as the Minister knows, “to be responsible to” means making a report to somebody. That is what the Lao Commission does and what the ICC Commission does.
Le Duc Tho: I agree that the Commission shall report to the parties. You see I can agree very quickly!
Dr. Kissinger: When it makes no difference! You will make my reputation in Washington.
Le Duc Tho: But all of my requirements are big requirements, but you have also. You should pay great attention to the question of prisoners.
Dr. Kissinger: I will pay great attention to the question of prisoners. I understand it very well. It is a human question. I understand it very well. Could we take a five-minute break? I want to discuss with my colleagues the question of Laos and Cambodia.
[The meeting broke at 12:05 a.m. and resumed at 12:27 a.m.]
Dr. Kissinger: I have one proposal about the chapter on Cambodia and Laos. I have expressed my view on the replacement question and I gained the impression that the Special Adviser was not in total agreement. Or did I miss his point? [Laughter] He has such an indirect way of making his case that I thought perhaps I missed it!
What is lacking in paragraph 15(b) is that it does not define who has what obligation and when. So in order to end the discussion, I will drop the sentence on replacement and propose the following sentence, which I draw from what I thought the Special Adviser said this morning: “The parties concerned will convene a conference or conferences to arrange the modalities.”
Le Duc Tho: You have finished?
Dr. Kissinger: Yes.
Le Duc Tho: I have to say that Mr. Special Adviser always puts forward complicated questions and problems. I have told you that for the time being there have not been circumstances or time to discuss [Page 717] with our allies, to raise the question with our allies and friends, and to do that we need to exchange views with our allies. It will take some time. I have told you that if the war in Vietnam is ended and the ceasefire in Laos takes place too, then all the questions you raise will have been solved. I firmly believe when our problem is settled and when the Laos problem is settled, the settlement will come very fast. I think that we should have a minimum of mutual understanding and a minimum of mutual trust. If you request me to write here one sentence I can do that.
Dr. Kissinger: You can?
Le Duc Tho: Yes.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, that is what I want, one sentence.
Le Duc Tho: I have not yet finished my ideas. But what I told you helped to settle the problem. I told you that the ceasefire in Laos would take place one month after, that once the Vietnam problem is settled, then the ceasefire in Laos will come no later than one month after. So the putting down of a sentence here does not bring anything out, and the sentence I told you verbally will come true quicker than the sentence written.
Dr. Kissinger: I believe this. I don’t need this sentence as an obligation for you. I need this sentence so that I know what to instruct our government to do. They will want to know what are they obligated to do now, and if we set the direction to be worked out then they will know what to do. If we say nothing they won’t know what to do and what the obligation is. So it is not to create an additional obligation for you. I accept your assurance.
Le Duc Tho: You can give directives to your government whether this sentence is put down here or not.
Dr. Kissinger: No, I cannot. This . . .
Le Duc Tho: You request me to put a sentence here. This will make the question more complicated. Not so complicated for Laos but for Cambodia. You are thinking of your difficulty, you are thinking of your favorable conditions, but you are not thinking of our difficulties.
Dr. Kissinger: All right, we will omit the “conference,” we will just say “the modalities will be worked out.” The Special Adviser this morning said to me that after the ceasefire he will start consulting his allies. He also said that it is dependent on the withdrawal of all other forces; that means somebody has to talk to somebody to arrange a time and obligation, and that is what I am trying to fix here.
Le Duc Tho: I can tell you that when the ceasefire in Laos begins, then the parties will meet and discuss the modalities. I know immediately after the ceasefire the parties will meet.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, I have another suggestion then.[Page 718]
Le Duc Tho: You have frequent successive proposals.
Dr. Kissinger: Never stop. Let us take paragraph 15 (b) and make it, with the amendments, an understanding between us, and take it out of the agreement.
Le Duc Tho: There is no important point. I have no objection. That is agreed.
Dr. Kissinger: But then we will see. We would have it as a joint statement and then we would add “The parties concerned will convene a conference or conferences to arrange the modalities.”
Le Duc Tho: It is a higher requirement than before.
Dr. Kissinger: No, but it isn’t public so it would not be embarrassing.
Le Duc Tho: You will keep the paragraph 15(b) in the agreement?
Dr. Kissinger: No, out of the agreement; it becomes a private understanding between us. [Each side confers.]
Le Duc Tho: I think that paragraph 15(b) should be kept in the agreement. Now, we too, can write down: “The foreign powers in Laos, after the ceasefire in Laos, can arrange modalities for the implementation.” We should not mention Cambodia in here. Because if you take out 15(b) and you put a sentence and you mention Cambodia, it is complicated. So let us keep modalities for Laos first.
Dr. Kissinger: If you make it a private understanding . . . well, go ahead give it to me again.
Le Duc Tho: “After the ceasefire in Laos, the foreign countries in Laos will discuss with their respective allies to arrange the modalities of control of implementation of troop withdrawal from Laos. They would introduce foreign troops, military troops, . . . into Laos.”
Dr. Kissinger: We can say “modalities of implementing 15(b).” That is clear enough.
Le Duc Tho: All right.
Dr. Kissinger: What do we say about Cambodia?
Le Duc Tho: With regard to Cambodia, since we have not exchanged views yet, if we do that it will be complicated. As far as we are concerned we shall do our best in this connection. You have known that this problem of Cambodia is complicated.
Dr. Kissinger: All right.
Le Duc Tho: But once the Vietnam problem and the Laos problem have been settled then the Cambodia will be settled. But we need to discuss with them. The Cambodia is more difficult.
Dr. Kissinger: You would like to add the sentence you gave me to the sentence on the ceasefire in Laos?
Le Duc Tho: Right. It is confidential understanding between us. It is not to be added to agreement.[Page 719]
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, to be released at a press conference!
Le Duc Tho: If you understand it this way, it is wrong.
Dr. Kissinger: No I understand. I must say something about the Special Adviser. He won’t trust me about two days about troops in Vietnam but he demands I trust him for a much more indefinite future in an infinitely more complicated situation in Laos and Cambodia.
Le Duc Tho: No, I was not worried by the fact that you remain there one day or a few days more in South Vietnam, but since you raise the difficulty I would like to take into account these difficulties. This is a frank . . .
Dr. Kissinger: I will know when I come to Hanoi. It is not foreseeable that there will be difficulties. If there are—anyway I don’t expect any—let me get back to you.
What this now says is: “After the ceasefire in Laos the foreign countries in Laos will discuss with their respective allies the modalities of implementing Article 15.” Can we add, “or discuss with their allies and with each other.” Or can’t we add “each other”?
Le Duc Tho: All right.
Dr. Kissinger: You say “The foreign countries in Laos.” “The foreign countries engaged in Laos?” Or “involved in Laos?” I don’t know what “foreign countries in Laos” means.
Le Duc Tho: Mr. Special Adviser, after the ceasefire in Laos probably we shall meet each other and we shall say how to carry this out, because I have not any ideas at the time being.
Dr. Kissinger: That is all right. I look forward. Maybe the Special Adviser would come to Washington for that occasion. No, we can meet certainly. But we are now concerned with the sentence and the phrase “the foreign countries in Laos.” It is not a good word in English because it is a contradiction in terms. You can say “the foreign countries involved in Laos,” “with forces in Laos,” or something like that.
Le Duc Tho: We shall review the Vietnamese formulation and leave to you the English formulation.
Dr. Kissinger: All right, but we agree to this sentence.
Le Duc Tho: Which sentence? Please read.
Dr. Kissinger: “After the ceasefire in Laos the foreign countries in Laos”—I would prefer to say “involved in Laos, etc.”—“will discuss with their respective allies the modalities of implementing Article 15.”
Le Duc Tho: But it is for a confidential understanding between us.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but we add it to the paragraph he handed me on ceasefire. It is a confidential understanding. It shall not be published. It is your own sentence.[Page 720]
Le Duc Tho: “After the ceasefire in Laos the foreign countries in Laos will arrange the modalities for the implementation of Article 15(b).”
Dr. Kissinger: That is all right.
Le Duc Tho: You maintain 15(b) in the agreement?
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, if we have this as a private understanding “After the ceasefire in Laos the foreign countries in Laos will arrange the implementation of implementing Article 15(b).”
Do you mind if we say “Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam”? So that no one thinks it is a UN Charter? [Laughter] Or the United States Constitution? [The Laos understanding as agreed is at Tab C.]
Le Duc Tho: So it is sufficient now. Now let us settle another question. Let us to go to another question. Now there are only two questions left, the question of captured people and the question of replacement of armaments. We have done our best with you to achieve agreement. Now I think that we should deal with other chapters completely. As to these two questions: On replacement of weapons, we have agreed in principle but as to the formulation we differ. But the most difficult question is the question of captured and detained people. Now let us achieve agreement by our experts. So according to you, you will return to Washington and you will come back to Paris, so you will think over and I will do the same and we shall both achieve the agreement.
Dr. Kissinger: We shall both meet. I shall meet the Special Adviser again?
Le Duc Tho: As to your new schedule we shall have to exchange views with our leaders in Hanoi. I shall give you an answer later.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but I didn’t give you a new schedule yet.
Le Duc Tho: Let us now discuss the schedule then if you have one.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, it depends. I could come here again and meet either with you or with the Minister and make one final check of the agreement, to make sure we understand each other. I could do that on Monday. I need at least three days in Washington, because I must make preparations on the economic question, I must get the legal questions looked at . . .
Now I have two alternative approaches. If I do not come back here, then I will leave Washington Monday morning and arrive in Saigon the evening of the 17th. Then I must take three days in Saigon, spend there the 18th, 19th and 20th, then I would go to Hanoi the morning of the 21st and leave the morning of the 23rd. We would announce the agreement the morning of the 26th, your time. And we would sign it either the 29th or 30th depending on schedules. Maybe the 30th, [Page 721] because the 29th is a Sunday and we don’t want to deprive your Minister of attendance at church. [Thuy laughs.] So let us say the 30th would be the signature. The announcement would be on the 26th.
This is if we could settle everything tonight. What I intend to do on the prisoners is to see whether I can persuade Saigon to make a gesture when the agreement is announced and to give your leaders then assurance that we will continue to use our influence. This is the way my mind is thinking now. This is one possibility.
The other possibility is that we meet here on the 16th or 17th—the 17th. I cannot really leave Washington before the 16th. Then I would go from here to Saigon. That would get me to Saigon the evening of the 18th, then I would be in Saigon the 19th, 20th and 21st. In Hanoi the 22nd and 23rd. I would return to America on the 24th. The announcement would then be the morning of the 27th, your time. Everything is one day later that way. Announcement would be the morning of the 27th, your time and the signing could still be on the 30th or 31st.
So we can do it either way. It might be a little better if we could meet here on the 17th, Tuesday, next Tuesday. Those are the two possibilities. It is a little better, I think, if we meet again. Or if the Special Adviser wants to return to Hanoi, it would be a pleasure to meet with the Minister, but he never yields anything. [Laughter] It is just that if there are last minute difficulties and if there is any problem tomorrow between the experts, or if our bureaucracy have any suggestions—not of a principle nature, but of words—we might perhaps get it done here.
My colleagues wondered whether you are going to make Cora Weiss come to get me!
Le Duc Tho: Have you finished?
Dr. Kissinger: Yes.
Le Duc Tho: We have both made an effort to achieve the settlement in the main questions. But there are two questions left, particularly the question of captured people. It is a big question as you have realized. So imagine that when the agreement is signed it is announced that 60 days after the signing all captured people will be released, including American servicemen captured during the war. Think that when all captured people including Americans captured during the war are released, tens of thousands of our people are still in jail. It is a real difficulty for us, politically speaking and sentimentally speaking. The war has lasted decades and so the people have been in jail for 10 years or more, and they are looking for peace to be released. But now peace is restored and they are still in jail, and all parties will announce that within 60 days of the signing of the agreement then all foreign troops will be withdrawn, all captured people will be released.[Page 722]
We are prepared to abide by this time schedule and to respect what we have signed. But in that time innumerable people of ours are still in jail. It is something utterly unfair. It is a real fact. Please pay great attention to this question. We wanted to settle all the problems I have raised to you. There are many which are very difficult but we have settled them. We have made effort. Tonight I have made every possible effort to settle the problems. But there is one problem—sentiment. I have not solved it. This is a fact.
Dr. Kissinger: I understand.
Le Duc Tho: But I believe that you will make an effort on this.
Dr. Kissinger: I will make a major effort.
Le Duc Tho: We shall make our effort too. We want to receive you in Hanoi to settle the problem, and no doubt we will settle the problem. Now there are a few problems left. I think that it is good if you return on the 17th, the sooner the better.
Dr. Kissinger: I will make a decision when I come to Washington how quickly I can return. I can definitely promise the 17th. But I think the best way to get an answer on the prisoners, quite honestly, is in Saigon, and if I raise the issue by telegram it will make the presentation of the agreement much more difficult since I will not be able to explain the circumstances of the agreement. So I will not be able to give you a definitive answer on the 17th, but I will make inquiries and we will have a better estimate.
Le Duc Tho: So if you have arranged to return here on the 17th, it is all right.
Dr. Kissinger: Will you be here, or whom shall I meet?
Le Duc Tho: Let me explain. According to the schedule you have presented here, I will return to Hanoi in a few days to arrange your trip to Hanoi. In the meantime you will meet Minister Xuan Thuy to settle the outstanding questions and to arrange the text.
Dr. Kissinger: Right.
Le Duc Tho: And afterward you go to Saigon. So we will receive you in Hanoi on the 22nd.
Dr. Kissinger: There is a very important football game in Washington on that day and we cannot bring Mr. Lord because he will not miss that game. Can we also get some technical answers about what airplane we can take?
Le Duc Tho: I shall do everything.
Dr. Kissinger: Thank you.
Le Duc Tho: So you will be in Hanoi on the 22nd. Let me repeat the schedule to see whether I have well understood. On the 17th you will meet Minister Xuan Thuy in Paris.[Page 723]
Dr. Kissinger: Right.
Le Duc Tho: You will come to Hanoi on the 22nd and you will leave Hanoi on the 24th. Announcement of the agreement already initialed by the two parties the morning of the 27th.
Dr. Kissinger: Your time, the morning of the 27th. Evening of the 26th our time.
Le Duc Tho: Sign on the 30th or 31st.
Dr. Kissinger: I will give you on the 17th the definite date, or I shall let you know before then through the liaison officer. Probably the 30th, but whichever you prefer.
Le Duc Tho: According to me, if you can return to Paris sooner then it would be more convenient to me and to our leaders in Hanoi.
Dr. Kissinger: I cannot possibly return before Monday. That is out of the question. I will not know until I get to Washington to see what I face. It is very unlikely. We face a massive job in Washington.
Le Duc Tho: So if you cannot come to Paris earlier then, we shall arrange our schedule or time. So please keep this schedule.
Dr. Kissinger: We appreciate it. We are grateful. This is a schedule now which I am confident we can keep.
Le Duc Tho: But since you go to Hanoi then you will stop the bombing on what date?
Dr. Kissinger: I am going to Hanoi on the 22nd.
Le Duc Tho: Will you keep the 18th as before?
Dr. Kissinger: No, it will create too much confusion. We will reduce the bombing. You will see. I told you today we will no longer bomb Hanoi. We have already ordered this today, and we will keep this and we will decrease the number of sorties. It would be best if we stopped north of the 20th parallel the morning of the 21st and everywhere the evening of the 21st. And we will reduce in a way which you will notice in the next week. But it is essential that we do not have too much speculation until we have been in Saigon.
Le Duc Tho: So now we have set a schedule. Let us firmly keep it. We shall do an effort to keep it.
Dr. Kissinger: We, too.
Le Duc Tho: We shall rearrange our program of work. This should not be upset by change.
Dr. Kissinger: Thank you.
Le Duc Tho: Because your reception will be a whole thing to organize but it is very hard, very tiring too, if it is upset.
Dr. Kissinger: I understand. We will not change.
Le Duc Tho: And it is also very hard for me to return. Now let me say about the agreement. Let us complete the text on the points, on [Page 724] the provisions, we have agreed on. On the two points I have mentioned to you, when you meet Minister Xuan Thuy then I think you should come to an agreement by that time. We shall make an effort. You should make an effort too.
Dr. Kissinger: I don’t know whether the Minister, fond as I am of him, is capable of agreeing!
Minister Xuan Thuy: It is easy to draw experience from Avenue Kleber.
Le Duc Tho: So I can say now that except for these two questions we have agreed in the main.
Dr. Kissinger: That is right.
Le Duc Tho: So each one what we have agreed, we should not change it.
Dr. Kissinger: A few words here and there.
Le Duc Tho: Technical words. We will not change it too. We are not like you, always adding everything.
Dr. Kissinger: I like the generosity of spirit.
Le Duc Tho: So we have agreed on the schedule. We are determined to do in this direction.
Dr. Kissinger: I am a little worried about those last two items, Mr. Special Adviser. How shall it be done, with the Minister and I negotiating them? Or what do you suggest?
Le Duc Tho: Minister Xuan Thuy and you will negotiate. Minister Xuan Thuy has full power to do that.
Dr. Kissinger: That is more than I can say for myself.
Le Duc Tho: You have it. You have full power.
Dr. Kissinger: Don’t ever say it when the President can hear you.
Le Duc Tho: Now when you come here I will have left Paris already, otherwise I would be present . . .
Dr. Kissinger: I understand.
Le Duc Tho: Now there is another question. The Agreements on the Exercise of South Vietnam People’s Right to Self-Determination. When we have time, I myself and you will discuss it.
Dr. Kissinger: All right, we will continue our conversation.
Le Duc Tho: On this basis?
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, on a private basis.
Le Duc Tho: This will be used as a basis for the two South Vietnamese. I have drafted the announcement when you come to Hanoi. I have redrafted it a little: “As agreed upon by the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the United States, Dr. Kissinger arrives in Hanoi on October 22, 1972 to continue the talks with the Special Adviser Le Duc Tho and to meet with the leaders of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.”[Page 725]
Dr. Kissinger: Could we say “By mutual agreement of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the United States of America by mutual agreement.” It is the same meaning.
Le Duc Tho: Yes.
Dr. Kissinger: “By mutual agreement between.” [Le Duc Tho hands over DRV draft announcement, Tab D. Dr. Kissinger reads it.] Can we say “Dr. Kissinger, Assistant to the President”?
Le Duc Tho: All right.
Dr. Kissinger: I must tell you I think it will be to all practical purposes impossible to hold the announcement until I am in fact there. We will try to hold it until. Well, we say “has arrived in Hanoi,” or “arrived in Hanoi on October 22 to continue talks with Special Adviser Le Duc Tho and to meet other leaders of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.” The rest is fine.
Now when I meet the Minister we will make the usual announcement that I am here and this time to meet Minister Xuan Thuy. On the 17th. Just what we have always done.
Le Duc Tho: Now on the part of the agreement we have agreed to, how we shall proceed?
Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Lord and Mr. Engel will meet with you tomorrow. I propose you don’t meet until noon. And can they meet somewhat closer, maybe not out here. They are not so well known! Maybe at the meeting place at the previous place. Whom will they meet?
I want to say, in order to avoid confusion, we will retype from our English and you have a copy of it. We will make a most conscientious effort to make sure that everything we have agreed on is incorporated.
Mr. Lord has no authority to negotiate, so if he is difficult this is not a sign of ill will. But he can make verbal adjustments. So if substantive differences remain, we will have to leave them until the 17th. He can bring the differences back, of course. He will leave a copy with you of our text with the right page numbers, with our page numbers. If there are any unexpected technical problems in Washington, I will notify you immediately and let you know what they are, on what page, and why. I do not expect it, but we must be prepared for everything.
Now we have one other matter which I must say. Even though you think I have full power, in our system the President must make the final decision, and he must see the completed text. I do not expect that he will raise any objections and I have often negotiated for him and he has never changed it. If there should be any objections from the President, I will let you know on Friday. He will be out of town tomorrow. I just must say this. You shouldn’t be too concerned about it, but I must say it on grounds of propriety. He will almost certainly approve it; I would say certainly.[Page 726]
Le Duc Tho: I can say now that we have achieved one of our most difficult work. We have made very important steps. In fact, the Vietnam war has been the longest, the most difficult and the most expensive war in American history. As far as we are concerned this war is also the biggest war against foreign aggression in our history, and it is also the biggest war against foreign oppression by oppressed peoples in the world. Our negotiations have lasted over four years now. It can be said that these negotiations are the longest negotiations between nations in the world. But we have made great effort, and you too, you have made great effort. And the efforts are the biggest during the last few days. And sometime during the course of the negotiations, our discussions were hot; on many occasions the impression left was that the negotiations might break. But our efforts have been great, and it can be said that our negotiations have brought about basic agreements on many basic questions, although the agreement has not been completed in that there are still two or three questions left. But through our effort, no doubt we will reach our objective of peace.
If peace is restored, I can say that there is a new page turned in the history of the relationship of our peoples, a new page turned from the relationship of hostility to a relationship of friendship; not only for the immediate period but for the long-term. And the day of signing of the settlernent and the day of the end of the war will be a day of festivity for our two peoples. You and us can undertake to firmly keep the agreement we have made here. When we achieve the agreement, then we will undertake to honor what we have signed. So that is what I would like to express before I leave for Hanoi in two or three days. And I would like to wish you, and General Haig, and all your colleagues a good trip, a safe trip, to visit our country. It is my wish that your trips will be crowned with good success opening up a new era in the relationship of our two countries.
I shall meet you in Hanoi with General Haig and all your colleagues.
Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, I greatly appreciate your comments. I have personally negotiated on the problem of Vietnam now since 1967 and with the Special Adviser since 1969. We have had very difficult periods, but we have surmounted them, because we have both realized, as our people have realized, that peace is the most important objective to be achieved. As I told you yesterday, our two countries have on several occasions, made an armistice with each other but this time we must make a permanent peace.
But as we move from hostility to friendship, we should remember that there has been a great deal of suffering on both sides and that we owe it to those who have suffered that we not characterize the war in any particular way and that neither of us proclaim victory or defeat.
The real victory for both, of course, will now be the durable relations we can establish with each other. So when my colleagues and [Page 727] I come to Hanoi, we will come to pay our respects to the heroic people of North Vietnam and to begin a new era in our relationships. And we know you will be as dedicated in the pursuit of peace as you have been in the fighting of a war. So my colleagues and I look forward very much to seeing you next week in Hanoi.
[The group gets up from the table.]
Can you let us have the information about which airplane we can use?
Le Duc Tho: For technical points, we shall answer you through Colonel Guay.
Dr. Kissinger: We have handed you a number of unilateral statements of our position in the last few days. We will get them all together and give them to Minister Xuan Thuy on Tuesday. Since it is a statement of our position, you only have to note them, you do not need to make comments.
There is one statement of your position that you said you would give us which you haven’t given us, having to do with American prisoners in Laos.
Le Duc Tho: For the documents you have given us, that is satisfactory. We shall send to you an answer through the liaison officer.
[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 [2 of 3]. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting took place at 108 Avenue du Général Leclerc in Gif-sur-Yvette. All brackets are in the original. The tabs are attached but not printed.
Upon returning to Washington later the same day (October 12), Kissinger and Haig went directly to meet with President Nixon in his hideaway Executive Office Building office. (Haig, Inner Circles, p. 299) Rather than writing a report, Kissinger gave a verbal account of the meeting. He first told Nixon: “Well, you got three out of three, Mr. President. It’s well on the way.” Nixon replied: “You got an agreement? Are you kidding?” Kissinger answered: “No, I’m not kidding.”
As Kissinger attempted to provide details, the President peppered him with questions and comments about the settlement, the events leading up to it, and Nguyen Van Thieu’s agreement. When Kissinger told him that the agreement represented peace with honor, Nixon stated: “Henry, let me tell you this: it has to be with honor. But also it has to be in terms of getting out. We cannot continue to have this cancer eating at us at home, eating at us abroad. Let me say, if these bastards [referring to the South Vietnamese leadership] turn on us, I—I am not beyond [unclear] them. I believe that’s, that’s what we’re up against.” Nixon then added: “I am not going to allow the United States to be destroyed in this thing.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Executive Office Building, Conversation 366–6; transcribed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. IX, Vietnam, October 1972–January 1973, Document 9)
Haldeman recalled that Nixon “kept interrupting Henry all through the discussion. He obviously was all cranked up and wasn’t listening to the details.” The group concluded, according to Haldeman, that “the real basic problem boils down to the question of whether Thieu can be sold on it.” (Haldeman Diaries: Multimedia Edition, October 12, 1972; quoted in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. IX, Vietnam, October 1972–January 1973, Document 9)
In contrast to Nixon’s and Kissinger’s exuberance, Le Duc Tho reported matter of factly to the Politburo in Hanoi. After reciting the major points on which he and Kissinger had agreed toward a settlement, he concluded: “In summary, the goals that the Politburo set forward have essentially been achieved. Three difficult issues still remain: replacement of weapons, political prisoners, and the international commission.” (Message from Le Duc Tho and Xuan Thuy to the Politburo, 12 October 1972, in Doan Duc, et al., compilers, Major Events: The Diplomatic Struggle and International Activities during the Resistance War Against the Americans to Save the Nation, 1954–1975, volume 4, pp. 343–344)↩