26. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Le Duc Tho, Special Adviser to DRV Delegation to the Paris Peace Talks
  • Xuan Thuy, Minister, Chief DRV Delegate to Paris Peace Talks
  • Nguyen Co Thach, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs
  • Phan Hien, Delegation Member
  • Luu Van Loi, Delegation Member
  • Trinh Ngoc Thai, Delegation Member
  • Tran Quang Co, Delegation Member
  • Pham The Dong, Notetaker
  • Nguyen Dinh Phuong, Interpreter
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Major General Alexander M. Haig, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Ambassador William Sullivan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
  • Winston Lord, NSC Staff
  • John D. Negroponte, NSC Staff
  • David A. Engel, NSC Staff, Interpreter
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff
  • Irene G. Derus, Notetaker

Before the two sides sat down at the table, Dr. Kissinger handed out some gifts to the Special Adviser and the Minister. To the Special [Page 794] Adviser he gave a set of picture books of Harvard, to prepare him for his term at Harvard teaching a course in Marxism-Leninism, and a sterling silver desk pen and pencil set, for signing the peace agreement. To Minister Xuan Thuy he gave a picture book of America, to prepare him for his expected visit, and a Steuben glass desk ornament of a horse’s head, in honor of his love of horseracing.

Xuan Thuy: I propose that we should set a timetable. I propose that today we work until 16 hours.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree. I am so used to night sessions now though, that it looks a little early. No, I agree.

Le Duc Tho: Let us begin our work. Before you speak, I would like to speak a few words.

Dr. Kissinger: I suspected that.

Le Duc Tho: You have guessed right. Because I have been negotiating with you for a long time and it is known to you probably that I go directly to the matter. But this time I would like to recall the recent events that aren’t so good. And I would like to raise these events now so that we can draw experience from them and so as to avoid the misgivings which might be had so that our work would be crowned with success.

Please, now, let me make my statement. [He reads the following:]

In the recent period, in the course of negotiations, we can say that we have shown very great good will and very serious intent. In the [Page 795] four-day talks from October 8 to October 11 we have put forward very important, very fundamental proposals, opening the way for agreement in a very short time on the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam. And up to October 11 there were only two outstanding questions left. But afterward, on October 19 [18], we agreed with you on these two outstanding questions and removed the last obstacles to complete the text of the agreement. The U.S. October 19 [18],2 1972, message addressed on behalf of the President of the United States to the Prime Minister of the Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam welcomed our good will and serious attitude and acknowledged and affirmed that the text of the agreement could be considered as completed. In view of your concerns about a number of questions to be understood between the two parties, once again we made an effort for settlement, and on October 23 the President of the United States acknowledged that we had met all the concerns raised by the United States side.

And so the two parties agreed in the main on all questions and also on the date for the signing of the agreement.

Through the above-mentioned facts no one can deny our good will and our effort in seeking a peaceful settlement of the Vietnam problem. But ever since, you involved one reason after another to protract the negotiations. As soon as we met one demand of yours, you raise other matters and try by every means to seek further gains. You maneuvered by putting forward a schedule to induce and coerce us to solve substantive questions of the settlement, and finally you made an about-turn. You delayed the signing of the agreement. It is obviously a way of negotiating without good faith. If you continue such a way of negotiating indefinitely, this negotiation cannot bring about the result and the war cannot be ended.

Do you think that you can by so doing coerce us? If you think so, it is a great mistake of yours. Past experience has shown that in the course of negotiation that when you show good will to settle the problem we are very reasonable people, but when you deliberately seek means to coerce us and deceive us then we are the toughest people and fight with the greatest determination. We will never let you coerce us and do whatever you like. You should understand that in negotiations both parties should have serious attitude if the problem is to be resolved. Today I feel it necessary to point out that if you continue such maneuvers and prevent the negotiations to come to result, you will be entirely responsible for such a situation.

[Page 796]

In the course of these private meetings, and in your messages too, you have repeatedly said that there should be mutual comprehension and mutual trust if we are to settle the problem. You have pledged to respect not only the letter but also the spirit and all the nuances of every agreement that has been reached. You have also said that you had been authorized by the President of the United States to come here to settle the problem with us and the agreements reached with us at this forum would not be changed in Washington with respect to the substance, the principles, the content, and if there is any change it would be only minor technical changes.

On October the 11th, 1972, when you mentioned about the necessity of insuring the agreement of Saigon, we pointed out to you that if you did so it would lead to continual changes and would lead to a deadlock. And you replied that when we completed our work here, then we could consider that the agreement was completed and there would be no changes. And on October the 11th at the end of our meeting I stressed one final time that the agreement we reached here should not be changed, and you agreed to that. All your statements, all our statements have been clear on the record. Today that we are face-to-face again you can’t deny that.

But only a few days later all your promises and the promises on behalf of the President of the United States became valueless. You have reversed the matter. You swallowed your promises and commitment very swiftly. In the history of negotiations it is something unprecedented. I told you that we have struggled with the French, the Japanese and now with Americans. We have pointed out also that so many times we have been deceived. Agreements are reached and then scrapped up; promises are made and then broken. However, it has never happened as it did this time. The agreement had no sooner been reached than it was reversed. If you felt honorbound to keep your pledge you could not break your commitment so easily. As far as we are concerned, through so many negotiations over the past 25 years and over the seven years of negotiations with you, we have never violated the agreements that have been reached, but when these agreements have been violated by the other side then we oppose it very staunchly. No force can bind us. In negotiations both sides should abide by their promises, should respect and strictly implement the agreements that have been reached. Only this way can the problem be settled and mutual comprehension be created, not only for the immediate but also for a long time to come. However, your recent actions have undermined all this trust and comprehension you have often referred to.

Now you request one more private meeting, this round. You promised that you will complete the settlement in three or four days and you will show the greatest seriousness and the maximum of effort to [Page 797] reach rapid settlement and to come to a peaceful settlement and to end the war the sooner the better. You also promised that in these negotiations there will be no major questions, only minor questions, technical questions, as you stated to the press on October 26, 1972, and the agreement this time would not be changed. Let us see whether your promise this time will have some value and will be matched by the actions. Whether the agreements can be signed or not, whether the war will be prolonged or not, whether peace will be restored or not, it completely depends on you.

Today we come to this private meeting once again with you to rapidly settle the conclusion of the agreement. We reaffirm our consistent good will and serious intent to seek a settlement to the Vietnam problem. We shall resolutely stick to the agreements reached in the agreement. We have made great effort. It is known to the whole world. But we will definitely not go beyond the limits of what has been agreed to. We will not give up our principles.

With respect to the US side, you should make an effort and adopt a serious attitude and keep your honor promise. You should not change the questions of principle and the question of substance that you have been agreed to.

Only in this way can we rapidly settle the question of conclusion of the agreement, rapidly restore peace in Vietnam, and open up a new relationship between the two countries which has been desired by both sides. Our attitude is very correct, very clear and clearcut. This attitude had been governing all our actions, all our proposals throughout the negotiations here.

If you, on the other hand, reverse what has been agreed to, if you change the content of the agreement, protract the negotiations, delay the signing of the agreement, if you on the other hand continue to intensify the war as has been done in the last few days at the moment that I was leaving Hanoi to go here; you have stepped up the bombing attack against North Vietnam with unprecedented violence, particularly by the B–52 bombers. At the same time you massively introduce armaments into South Vietnam and Cambodia. If so, we wonder if you want to seek peaceful settlement of the Vietnam war or you want to extend the war. How can this be consistent?

We have repeatedly pointed out to you that we have never been frightened by your threats, and through tens of scores of years your bombing and shells could not subdue the Vietnamese people. Your own face cannot deceive the Vietnamese people. If you really want a peaceful settlement of the Vietnam problem, you should put immediate end to these dangerous acts and you should keep your promises. Then you will see we are good-willed people in peacefully settling the problem. On the contrary, if you continue these maneuvers in negotiations [Page 798] and you use military strength to pressure us, then the Vietnamese people have no other way to follow than to struggle until we achieve our fundamental national right no matter how many years we have to fight; no matter how much suffering we have to undergo. For us nothing is more precious than independence and freedom. This is the reason why for our entire people. You should also draw experience of the past ten years. If the war is continued indefinitely it will bring to you no interest at all and it will pile up difficulties and failures for you. This is a fact, because there is no force at all that can overcome a whole nation which has united and resolutely stands up to secure their right to live.

Now there are two paths to follow—either to rapidly restore peace or to continue the war. You should make a choice. If you really want and if you are resolute in seeking peace, we will also be fair and resolute to find a peaceful solution, as I have many times affirmed. But if you protract the negotiations to the war then you will see that we are also prepared to continue our struggle with the greatest determination. This is something evident and clear. If peace is to be secured, both parties should make an effort. The meeting this time is decisive. If the negotiations fail, the responsibility will be entirely on your side. [He ends reading.]

This is what I have to say before we begin our negotiations this time. I have come here for the clear purpose to seek a peaceful settlement of the Vietnam problem. Whether a settlement is possible or not, as you have repeatedly said, a certain mutual comprehension, mutual trust should be created. But whether this comprehension and trust can be created or not depends on you. And through so many meetings we have had here you have seen that how much good will, how much effort we have made.

But good will has its limits. If you show good will then we show good will. But if you ask good will from us and you don’t show good will, then no settlement is possible. It is something evident, but we should draw experience from the lesson. You should know that in the negotiations we have our self-respect, too. But when you make a statement and then you reverse it, then imagine how I can understand this. So there should be some certain mutual trust. And you repeatedly told me so, and personally I do want to create this mutual trust, but you undermined this mutual trust and I think that now it is your task to recreate this mutual trust and mutual confidence. Now let us see how you will resolve the problem.

Dr. Kissinger: First of all I am glad to notice that the Special Adviser is fully recovered and is back on the attack with his usual vigor. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: Actually I was unwell recently but I still have enough strength to negotiate with you. You are much younger than I am, but [Page 799] we have had negotiations for seventeen hours one time but I have kept up with you.

Dr. Kissinger: Secondly I had occasion to say in Washington recently something for which the Special Adviser does not give me sufficient credit; namely, that I have made a great contribution to unifying Vietnam because now both North and South Vietnam are mad at me. [Laughter] I don’t know how good the Special Adviser’s sources are from Saigon, but it is no secret that I was not received as a national hero on my recent visit.

But let me make a few observations. First of all, as I have stated repeatedly publicly, I have the greatest respect for the Special Adviser and the Minister, and for the determined, tough and principled way in which they have conducted the negotiations for your side. I have repeatedly paid tribute to your seriousness, both privately and publicly, and I want to assure you we are not taking you lightly and we are not trifling with you.

Secondly, I have acknowledged publicly, and I want to repeat privately, that you have approached the negotiations, at least since October 8, with good will and a constructive attitude. I said so publicly on my arrival at the airport—where I was forced to speak because I could not let the Special Adviser get all the television time.

Le Duc Tho: Then there will be reciprocity there.

Dr. Kissinger: We have genuinely made serious efforts to bring the war to a rapid conclusion. And it is inevitable in a war that has lasted between us for ten years and in Indochina for nearly 25 years that as one approaches a settlement more and more difficulties begin to appear. When we were talking general principles in the early stages of our negotiations, until say September of this year, we were only talking about categories of issues: ceasefire, the relations between military and political issues, and similar problems. We never had an opportunity to speak about nuances of implementation. After October 8, when we settled the general principles, the implementation suddenly took on a new significance. And so it is inevitable and not a result of bad faith and certainly not a result of deliberate deception that as one studies the provisions that way, various aspects appear that had not previously been considered. Also the Special Adviser should consider that when he made his proposal on October 8, if I am any judge of how things are done in Hanoi, it had been studied for many weeks before it was submitted here. And you had had an opportunity for full discussions with your allies. For us, on the other hand, the proposal was new. The Special Adviser must admit that in the previous four years of our discussions he had not moved with such rapidity that one would expect a totally new proposal to appear suddenly.

Le Duc Tho: [Smiles] It may happen that we do not reach a settlement during four years but a settlement can be reached in five days.

[Page 800]

Dr. Kissinger: I am not saying this critically, I am saying it analytically. I have to make sure that when we invite the Special Adviser to Harvard I get an exchange professorship at Hanoi.

Le Duc Tho: But if I go to lecture at Harvard University then I should point out this experience to make it known. [Laughter]

Dr. Kissinger: You could not say anything worse about me than my colleagues have already done! Also you had undoubtedly full discussion prior to making your proposals with your allies, and simply judging from the performance at Avenue Kleber the Foreign Minister of your ally was probably not restrained in expressing her views privately before October 8. [Tho smiles.]

All of this means that we faced after October 8 a very compressed schedule, a necessity to make internal studies in Washington and a necessity to talk to our allies in a very brief period of time. If we had wanted to drag out the negotiations it would have been easy to do so without adopting this procedure. We could have negotiated at much greater length about individual points. We could have returned to Washington for instructions and we could have applied some of the lessons that I have learned over the years from the Special Adviser and the Minister. [Laughter]

So what you should understand is, it was precisely our desire to settle the war as rapidly as possible that has contributed to some of the difficulties. I say this so that when your colleagues and you study our intentions they draw the correct conclusions.

Now the Special Adviser has been very generous on many occasions in investing me with full authority, and my ego is so well-developed that I may perhaps not deny that with the vigor that the American Constitution would require. In the American system, as a result of provisions in our Constitution that I accept with more or less good grace, the final authority rests with the President.

Le Duc Tho: I do understand that you do not have plenipotentiary powers and that you should consult the views of the President. However, you have daily communication with your government, and so do we have daily contacts with our government. I don’t think that you have full authority.

Dr. Kissinger: But I tried to point it out to you. For example, when we left I said to you on October 11, I said, [reading from the transcript] “I think you have an exaggerated idea of the degree of my authority.” I said, “I will have enormous difficulty in Washington already, with the agreement as it stands. For many reasons, which I shall sometime explain to you when it isn’t so late and I can explain to you the operation of our governmental machinery, everybody who was excluded from the negotiations now has a vested interest in proving that I failed the [Page 801] country. They have not had the privilege of working with you but they think you are easier to persuade than you are.” And then you disagreed with me. You said it would be easier and then I said, “But whatever the situation in Washington we will have an unbelievably difficult time in Saigon. We should not underestimate this, and it is in all our interests that we do not repeat the experience of 1968.” And on October 17 I said to the Minister “As I said to the Special Adviser, we have not had an opportunity, as you have had, to discuss this document with our allies. And though we will use our maximum influence to persuade them of our views, we have to take their views into consideration. This is the one proviso which I have always made. But we intend to keep to our program.

“We are so close to an agreement that certainly we will solve the outstanding questions. So we must not get so impatient that we jeopardize what has already been achieved. We have not had a chance to present any of this in Saigon except in the most general way. We do not know what the reaction will be, but we do not expect it to be enthusiastic.”

And some other quotes. I will give just one more quote. I have many others. I just want to show you—“Well, I will have to consult the President, and I will have to see what the possibilities are that I find in Saigon. Our most important objective for our two sides now should be to settle the war the quicker the better. We should not tie ourselves to one particular time schedule. I am certain that if we cannot do it this week we will settle it in a matter of weeks.” That was also on October 17.

All I am trying to say to you, Mr. Special Adviser, is that we did not have a plan to trick you into making concessions and then to delay. Our intention is still to settle the war most rapidly. As I have told the Special Adviser and as I now want to repeat after the election, we consider an improvement in our relations and moving from hostility to normalization and from normalization to cooperation one of the essential goals of the new administration. Therefore, we want to get the war settled now, so that we can concentrate on this principal objective. This agreement will be preserved in part because its clauses are correct but in much larger part because both you and we, for the first time, will make not an armistice but a peace, and will develop a relationship which gives both of us a vested interest in maintaining a good and cooperative relationship.

The reason we have agreed to visit Hanoi is not because of the agreement but because of the relationship that we expect to build with you. So we should always keep this principal objective in mind. We have enough experience with each other to know that in difficult periods we will not be able to wave a piece of paper at each other, [Page 802] because there is no court to which we can go. What will maintain the agreement is the consequences of breaking it, either in terms of the reaction of the other side in terms of hostility or in terms of jeopardizing the positive goals we have set up for us.

Now there were other factors at the end of October which we have already pointed out. As somebody who has recently been the victim of an interview I must say that an interview given to Newsweek magazine did not occur at the most opportune time in terms of the discussions in Saigon. I will not go into the details of the difficulties it caused, since we have pointed them out.

But there was a third factor which I do want to mention, which is outside of the agreement but related to it. We received information which we consider highly reliable that your side was planning a massive set of military operations to coincide with the period of the ceasefire and specifically to occur between my visit to Hanoi and the signing of the ceasefire and extending for one or two days beyond it. If that information was correct, and we believe it is, then it was very fortunate that we did not conclude the agreement. We would certainly have reacted with extreme violence, and what should have started a new relationship would have turned into the beginning of new hostilities.

So let us not discuss the origins of our difficulties, but also let us not exaggerate them.

I told the Special Adviser prior to our election that our policy would not be affected by the election. I repeat that to the Adviser today. We maintain the principles that were agreed upon in October. We maintain the essence of the agreement that was achieved in October. We are certain that a settlement is possible in a matter of weeks and that we can conclude the major part of the agreement during this week, and this is the intention with which I am here. Difficulties between us and our allies that could not be overcome in three days have now had sufficient time to crystallize. We have told you in several messages, and we repeat today, that if we reach an agreement this week, as we will make every effort to do, we will not ask for any other substantive changes. We will require a couple of weeks to complete our consultations with our allies. And this process would be aided by restraint in publicity by all sides.

But the major problem we should focus on now is this: We have done a very important work in October. We have covered the greatest part of the road towards peace. The changes we shall discuss will strengthen the agreement, and when peace is made, as we want to soon, these last few weeks will seem like only an episode on a road on a journey towards closer relations between our two countries. So we will meet you with a serious attitude to complete the process, with a determination to prevent a repetition of some of the difficulties we [Page 803] have recently encountered, and with the assurance that peace between our two peoples is one of the principal objectives of the new administration. An objective, moreover, which we believe can be realized before the new administration is formally inaugurated on January 20th. That is all I want to say in a preliminary way.

Le Duc Tho: Let me add a few words and then I propose a little break. The reason why I recall some of the facts of the recent process of the negotiations of our talks is that so as to draw some experience, some lessons, to avoid difficulties for the negotiations in coming days. I know that we have been fighting over the past ten years and if now we are engaged in peacefully settling the problem there are many difficulties. I also understand that the Saigon people have been put in place by you but I understand that you have to exchange views with them and to a certain extent there may be some difficulties between them and you. But in any case the decision will be made by you.

Dr. Kissinger: I have never had the good fortune, Mr. Special Adviser, to meet a Vietnamese who was easy to push around.

Le Duc Tho: Suppose now that if Nguyen Van Thieu would stubbornly oppose the agreement, I wonder whether you will overcome this difficulty to settle the war or not. I say this to mean that finally the decision is made by you. What we are incriminating [intimating],3 what we are complaining, is that if really you meet with difficulty, then you should not answer by your messages that the agreement could be considered as completed. You should frankly say that you are meeting with difficulty and you should not propose a schedule which later afterward you reverse. You should frankly tell us.

Dr. Kissinger: But, Mr. Special Adviser, we have always kept you informed about the precise status of our knowledge and we informed you as soon as we were aware of the extent of the difficulties, and as soon as we realized that they could probably not be resolved in a two day visit to Hanoi. We believed the most dangerous course would be to go to Hanoi and to fail. Then we would have had no recourse than to continue the war, because both sides would have been so deeply engaged. But I have always said publicly that I understand that you have some reason to be disappointed, and we never criticized you for breaching the confidentiality of these discussions—though I hope you don’t make a habit of it.

Le Duc Tho: Because you did not keep your promise, therefore we have to divulge, so you can’t criticize us.

Dr. Kissinger: Don’t underestimate us, Mr. Special Adviser. We chose not to criticize you because we recognized that you behaved [Page 804] seriously in October. Therefore, our public reply was to reaffirm the essence of what had been achieved in October. And also we did not in our public reply raise every issue, because we did not want to make it a test of prestige between you and us, to make it as easy as possible to settle at this meeting. We recognize you have more than earned your self-respect.

Now as for your first question about what will happen after we agree. I think I expressed it on October 26 when I said first “We will not be stampeded into an agreement until its provisions are right, but we will not be deflected from an agreement when the provisions are right.” The President said exactly the same thing on November 2 when he said, “We will not delay one day beyond the point when we think the agreement is adequate.” I hope that by the end of this week or whenever we complete our discussions we will have finished our substantive work. Then we should make a schedule which takes into account various contingencies.

The major thing is that you should understand that we are trying to make peace and that we are not looking for a pretext to continue the war, and that we will not make new demands after we conclude our work. And we have said this already as an American unilateral statement to two of your principal allies, so that our relationship to them, which is also important to us, is involved in this understanding.

Le Duc Tho: So you have just said that you come to these meetings with determination to settle the problem rapidly. Within this week we should complete the settlement; we should complete the text of the agreement.

Dr. Kissinger: And then be quiet about it.

Le Duc Tho: Let me come to that. Now let me provisionally trust you when you say that you will make an effort to come to a rapid settlement and complete the text of the agreement this week and that afterward there will be no change at all in substance. Within this week we will complete the text of the agreement without any substantive change.

Dr. Kissinger: No, we will complete the text of the agreement. After that we will not ask for any substantive change.

Le Duc Tho: And you have just said that you maintain the essence and the principles of the agreement that was made in October.

Dr. Kissinger: That is correct. That is correct.

Le Duc Tho: And if you adopt such an attitude we will do the same. We should do it in such a way that we can settle the problem within this week and we shall do the same, and we maintain the essence of the agreement reached in October; the substance and the principles made in October.

[Page 805]

Dr. Kissinger: We may differ as to what constitutes the essence, but we will discuss. I know the Minister won’t let me get away with anything, but I am getting suspicious of his new colleague. Not that the others lack vigilance! [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: And when the agreement is reached I provisionally agree with you that afterward there will be no change. [Laughter] And if this time there will be further change then there will be continuation of the war.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree with you. We are aware of that. This cannot happen again. We recognize it.

Le Duc Tho: And when the agreement is reached within this week then we should decide a schedule, what we shall do in the coming time.

Dr. Kissinger: Exactly.

Le Duc Tho: Please let us know your views. And this time in the course of our negotiations whatever we have reached agreement here, if you keep it confidential and do not divulge it, we will do the same. But in case you violate the agreement then you can’t prevent us to divulge. As I have repeatedly told you, in fighting we have shown the greatest determination but in a peaceful settlement we are good-willed people, too, and we should open up a new period of relationship. Let us hope so. And after a peaceful settlement is reached we should do it in such a way to maintain a lasting peace. We agree with you. But through our past experience, over the past scores of years, whether a lasting peace can be preserved or not depends on you. Therefore I think that it is your great responsibility to maintain lasting peace.

Dr. Kissinger: It is both our responsibility.

Le Duc Tho: And whatever agreement is signed, you should respect it.

Dr. Kissinger: Both.

Le Duc Tho: Naturally. Let us have a little break here now.

Dr. Kissinger: I appreciate the spirit of your remarks.

[The meeting broke for lunch at 12:20 p.m. Dr. Kissinger and Le Duc Tho conversed informally during the break as follows:]

Dr. Kissinger: He asked whether I would initial the agreement here this week and I said no.

Le Duc Tho: But I wonder whether this peace will come through.

Dr. Kissinger: It should come through and it will come through, well before the end of this year. Actually, we will make a big effort. I will present all our changes and you will see 95% are technical. The most important question—we don’t discuss it now, but so that you can think about it during the break—is the problem of troops. If you could come up with any suggestion on that issue, it would solve all [Page 806] our problems in Saigon. And we recognize your position and your difficulty. But I said to my colleagues on the way over that I am sure the Special Adviser has a more ingenious solution than I can think of, but if I am any judge of him he will make me speak first and confuse the issue completely.

Le Duc Tho: But I have to speak first to avoid the difficulty that happens.

Dr. Kissinger: No, you speak with greatest of dignity and with great restraint.

Le Duc Tho: But you keep saying that I am ingenious in finding out a solution, when you should find out solution. If you say that I could find out the solution, then you mean that I will have to make concessions to you.

Dr. Kissinger: It is not a question of concession, because over a period of years the real forces in Indochina will assert themselves. We cannot have peace if one side wants to have a unilateral advantage. But this one issue has become the symbol which is being used to prevent an agreement on everything else. And, therefore, some solution—it is not really a concession—prevents those who may want to continue the war from having a pretext. And certain changes are inevitable anyway as a result of the peace. We should not do this negotiation today with a scorecard of who won or who lost. If the war continues we will both lose. And if a proper peace is made it will be a benefit to both, and it will permit the real forces in Vietnam to assert themselves. That is the essence of the problem. Two years from now when we have economic relations and diplomatic relations, many problems which today seem very insoluble and where we look at each other from a perspective of hostility will have a totally different perspective.

Le Duc Tho: So, Mr. Special Adviser, take a break.

[The conversation ended at 12:32 p.m. and the break resumed until 1:22 p.m., when the meeting reconvened.]

Dr. Kissinger: We should go outside together, Mr. Special Adviser, and you should point a finger at me. [Laughter] What do you think about our meeting tomorrow? Should we meet out here or should we meet at Avenue Kleber, now that it is become so public? I don’t care. Where ever it is is up to you. The French can make a tape recording of it.

Le Duc Tho: I think that they make recording here, too.

Dr. Kissinger: But only the French Communist Party.

Le Duc Tho: The French use the recording, too, because they are technically advanced.

Dr. Kissinger: How should we proceed, Mr. Special Adviser?

Le Duc Tho: Please now expound your views. The whole of your plan.

[Page 807]

Dr. Kissinger: All right. I will give you our suggestions, Mr. Special Adviser. You will see that the vast majority of them are really for the purpose of clarification. There are three or four that I think are of more substantive significance. We can do it in two ways. I can give you all the changes, or I can give you all of those we consider important first and then take up the technical changes. I think it is more efficient to give you everything.

Le Duc Tho: Please give the whole of your views.

Dr. Kissinger: All right.

Le Duc Tho: You will please present the proposals one after another. The substantive first and the technical.

Dr. Kissinger: Well, let me give them paragraph by paragraph. That is the easiest, because otherwise I may think something is important and you don’t and then it is confusing. I give you everything even if it is just a word for clarification. Is that agreeable?

Le Duc Tho: (nods yes)

Dr. Kissinger: My basic suggestion is we should proceed as follows. We go through this agreement and I give you the changes, then we discuss it and see where we are. Then we would like to discuss with you some of the protocols to set up the various commissions, the international control commissions. I won’t present that today. We should also review the various understandings. We propose no change in them, but just to make sure we are operating from the same language.

All right, let me start then.

[The marked up draft with US-proposed changes is at Tab A.]

In the Preamble, you remember we had always told you that we should be ready for the signatures of either the four parties or two parties. We had never finally resolved that issue. We propose to eliminate the first two paragraphs and simply say “The parties participating in the Paris Conference on Vietnam.” No other change in the Preamble. And then it can be signed by the Foreign Ministers of all four parties.

Article 1. Let me make a general comment. The President in reviewing this text has come to the conclusion that it is a very bad basis to begin a relationship, to single out the United States as a culprit. We are willing to undertake the obligation, but we do not want an agreement that singles ourselves out. And in a number of places we have made changes like this, so we are proposing “The independence, unity and integrity of South Vietnam as recognized by the 1954 Geneva Accords on Vietnam shall be respected by all countries.”

Article 2. There is a technical problem. It appears that there is a different time as between Hanoi and Saigon. And it seems to us not right to have the war continue on the issue of which of the Vietnamese times should be listed here, so we propose just listing the Greenwich [Page 808] Mean Time and not listing the Indochina Time. Failing that, we have to list both Hanoi and the Saigon time.

To go back to Article 1, we actually think that our formulation puts an obligation on all countries and strengthens it from your point of view.

At the end of Article 2, there is a question really of reconciling the text. We have “without limit of time” and you have “long-lasting.” Now I know the Special Adviser and the Minister have explained to me that this is primarily an esthetic problem; that “without limit of time” doesn’t have the same meaning in Vietnamese. But on the other hand, in English “long-lasting” means that it is going to end and then we will debate what is long. And, therefore, I suggest that our colleagues from Hanoi do violence to their esthetic sensibilities and use the phrase “without limit of time.” [Conference on US side.]

My staff is of the view, Mr. Special Adviser, that you are very lucky to have me on the other side of the table. If they were on the other side of the table you would be in much difficulty. They had some question about the rapidity of my comprehension. [Laughter] Do you hear my secretary laugh?

All right, Article 3(a). We propose to say “the US forces and all other non-South Vietnamese forces shall remain in-place.” Then at the end of 3(a)—this is not relevant yet, we are suggesting that Chapter IV be several paragraphs rather than one long paragraph, and that would change the numbers. It might make this Article 16 rather than Article 11, but that is a purely technical point. If you agree to make Chapter IV into several articles then the numbers will have to be changed. It has no substantive significance whatsoever. It is a purely technical point. Not even the Minister will find anything of substance to that. Not even Ambassador Porter has found anything substantive to that.

Next, (b), there would be the same change in the article; where we say “12” we would have to say “17.” And we are proposing a slight change for technical clarity. I will read it to you: “shall determine the areas and modalities of stationing of each party’s forces to facilitate control of the ceasefire.”

No change in (c).

Article 4. “The United States will not continue its military involvement in South Vietnam.” We propose deleting “or intervene in the internal affairs” because that is covered under Article 9. And this is the chapter that only deals with ceasefire.

Article 5. After where it says “of the the United States,” we propose to say “and of all other non-South Vietnamese forces.”

Article 6. No change.

[Page 809]

Article 7. Oh, wait a minute. I am not finished yet with the previous one. What we would say at the end of Article 5 is “Foreign advisers to all paramilitary organizations will also be withdrawn.”

Article 7. The first sentence should read “from the enforcement of the ceasefire to the completion of the political process provided for in Article 9(b).” Take out 9(i) because that is not really relevant. No change in substance.

In the next paragraph, “the two South Vietnamese parties shall be permitted to make”—just an improvement in English—we say “periodic,” not “periodical.” It is not worth translating. I mean you can translate it but it is of no significance in Vietnamese. It means the same thing. You can look it up. I am just giving you everything so that I don’t get another speech from the Special Adviser.

And in the next line “replacement of armaments, munitions and war material,” we want the language from the Geneva Accords, which says “which have been destroyed, damaged, worn out or used up.” Because we know of the Minister’s attachment to his handiwork and we didn’t want to offend him. It is a sign of our good will. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: Too much good will.

Dr. Kissinger: There can never be too much good will.

Le Duc Tho: Because you plan for the massive reintroduction of weapons.

Dr. Kissinger: No. This makes no real practical difference, but it makes for exactly the same provision. “Worn out and damaged” covers everything else. An artillery shell that is fired is certainly worn out. [Laughter] Chapter III . . .

Le Duc Tho: It is a very hard chapter.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, and we are very aware of the problem. In paragraph 8(a), where it says “completed on the same day as the troop withdrawal,” we want to say “completed no later than.” Because our understanding was not that all the prisoners would be held until the last day, our understanding was that they would be released over that period and completed that day. Therefore, the phrase “completed no later than that day” is more accurate than “on that day.” That is what we have always discussed.

Le Duc Tho: Not one day later.

Dr. Kissinger: Not one day later than the last day of the troop withdrawal.

Le Duc Tho: Naturally.

Dr. Kissinger: I know, but if you say “on,” that means you hold them until the last day and then you release them.

Le Duc Tho: We have used the word “simultaneously.”

[Page 810]

Dr. Kissinger: That is right. “No later than.” I think your experts will find that it reflects the discussions accurately. It is what we have always discussed. In paragraph (b) it says the parties should help each other about those “captured military personnel missing in action.” That doesn’t make sense. We want to take out “captured.” I mean if personnel are missing in action they’re not captured.

Le Duc Tho: In our text there is no word “captured.”

Dr. Kissinger: Then we made a mistake. We will delete it from our text. That is the only change in Chapter III.

Le Duc Tho: About 8(c), there is no change?

Dr. Kissinger: No.

Le Duc Tho: You should bring a change.

Dr. Kissinger: [Laughs] My assistants point out to me that we are capitalizing some words. We don’t have to worry about that. The technicians will go over the text. You don’t want spelling changes. Haig has been corrupted by Lord. They are becoming very conservative.

Le Duc Tho: Then we shall propose a change to 8(c).

Dr. Kissinger: But you don’t. You told us you would keep everything intact. I have a message from you to that effect.

Le Duc Tho: But you have brought many changes and you don’t want us to make any changes at all.

Dr. Kissinger: That is to expedite a settlement.

Le Duc Tho: But so far they are all negative changes.

Dr. Kissinger: That isn’t true. Most changes are neutral. [They laugh]

Chapter IV. We have reorganized it somewhat. I will give you the new text rather than read it to you, but I will explain what we intended to do. I don’t think the Special Adviser will accept this immediately anyway.

Le Duc Tho: It is certain.

Dr. Kissinger: I tell everybody that you make concessions to me because you like me personally. You must not disappoint me. All right. Let me explain what we did.

Now Chapter IV is one long article, which lumps together what all four parties agreed to do with what the US will do with what the two parties will do. And we tried to break it up into separate obligations. So, for example, Article 9(a), (b) and (d) list the obligations of outside powers. Article 9(c) talks about the ceasefire. And Article 9(e) talks about what the two South Vietnamese parties will do after the ceasefire. So what we have done is to make Article 9(a), (b) and (d) one article. We have made Article 9(c) a separate article. You will get it; I am just trying to explain to you what we are trying to do. That is not a substantive change yet.

[Page 811]

Le Duc Tho: You make no change.

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, I object to the reinforcements you have brought [Mr. Thach].

Le Duc Tho: You have brought reinforcements [pointing to Sullivan].

Dr. Kissinger: But he is much more restrained. He makes no editorial comments.

We made Article 9(e) into Article 11. Article 9(c) is now Article 10. We have made Article 9(f) Article 12. We have made Article 9(h) Article 13, and we have made Article 9(i) Article 14. This is to group them by subject matter. If you want to take a recess to study this. It took me three weeks to understand it myself.

Now then let me sum up the changes we have made. Here is the text. [Hands over clean copy of US redraft of Chapter IV, Tab B.]

In the first part, Article 9, instead of saying “the Government of the United States and the Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam” we just say “the parties.”

There is no change in 9(a).

No change in 9(b) except that we want to say “national” for “general elections.”

No change in 9(c) which now becomes Article 10.

In 9(d) we have the same problem as in Article 1. We want to phrase it neutrally so it is not a singling out of the United States. We want to phrase it as a general obligation, that no country has a right to impose a political personality on the South Vietnamese people.

Article 9(e) which is now Article 11, no change. One editorial thing here—it says “insure the democratic liberties of the people.” We want to take out “of the people,” which in English sounds a little funny. But I can tell the Special Adviser that if that change is the only thing that stands between us and an agreement, I think I will reconsider that proposal. [Laughter] This is why they say in Washington I am a very bad negotiator. I give everything away before we start negotiating.

Article 9(f): we have made some condensation, which I think you will find best in the translation, which is self-explanatory. It keeps the essential element. Article 9(f) will now be 12(a).

Article 9(g) is now 12(b). In Article 9(g), the only substantive change in Article 9(g) is that we have taken out “maintenance of the ceasefire and the preservation of peace,” because we believe that maintenance of the ceasefire is the responsibility of the two-party commission, and “preservation of peace,” we don’t know what that means.

In Article 9(h), which is now Article 13, I just want to explain what we did rather than give you the language, because you have it. As I [Page 812] told the Special Adviser during the break, the question of the armed forces is really the one which complicates everything. So what we did at the end of Article 13 is to spell out in a little bit more detail the provision for demobilization that was in the original agreement. I will read these things to you if you want. I am trying to save time and just give you the reasoning. I have no doubt that this great assembly on your side will find everything we have in there, because many things even we did not understand.

Le Duc Tho: But it is difficult to find out everything.

Dr. Kissinger: The Vietnamese skill is to find things that don’t exist.

Article 9(j), Article 14. We took out one sentence that says “South Vietnam will respect the military provisions of the 1954 Geneva Accords” because that is covered in Chapter V. All right?

Le Duc Tho: All right.

Dr. Kissinger: That is all for Chapter IV.

Le Duc Tho: Too many questions.

Dr. Kissinger: Chapter V. I enjoy so much negotiating with the Special Adviser.

Le Duc Tho: You add new things always.

Dr. Kissinger: No, not to 9(h). In short, even your new assistant could not have found anything new. Clarification and precision.

Chapter V: Where it says “as stipulated in the 1954 Geneva Accords on Vietnam,” we want to say “as stipulated in paragraph 6 of the Final Declaration of the Geneva Conference of 1954.” This makes clear that it’s a quote from that Declaration. Then we want to add the following sentence to the end of that paragraph. We want to prove that we have studied these documents carefully, out of respect to the Minister. We want to add the following sentence:

Xuan Thuy: But you studied the agreement and can take out all that is advantageous to you.

Dr. Kissinger: No, we kept all the things you want in there. We reaffirm it anyway. “As stipulated in Article 24 of the Agreement of the Cessation of Hostilities in Vietnam of July 20, 1954, pending reunification each party shall respect the demilitarized zone.”

We have no other change in Chapter V, except there is a difference in the translation. In the third paragraph we have “the establishment of relations in various fields” and the Vietnamese translation has “in all fields.”

Now Chapter VI, which I know is a subject that is especially dear to the heart of the Special Adviser and which he has carefully designed to insure . . .

[Page 813]

Le Duc Tho: But this isn’t the chapter in which there should be great difficulty because the International Commission will have a great deal to do.

Dr. Kissinger: Will have a great deal to do? The Hungarian perception of Vietnamese problems is a terrifying thing to consider. We don’t know whether you know the joke where they say the difference between the Hungarians and the Romanians is they both will offer to sell their mother but the Hungarians will actually do it. [Laughter] But with respect to this chapter, most of the difficulties arise because the Vietnamese text and the English text have some discrepancies, and I think the experts should look at it. The differences arise in nuances about the description of the duties. All we should agree on now, rather than have you reject it all, is that the paragraphs describing the duties should be consistent with the paragraphs to which they refer. Because otherwise I will have to repeat some of the changes I have already suggested, though no new changes as to substance.

Except in Article 11(a) where the four parties are listed. We just want to say “the parties participating in the Paris Conference on Vietnam shall immediately designate . . .”

All the other changes in this chapter are to align the text of the duties with the text of the obligations in earlier paragraphs, and I won’t repeat them. It is a purely technical issue.

The only substantive change, and again it is not major, is in the last paragraph where it says “The United States and the DRV will propose to the following parties that they participate.” We want to say “The United States and the DRV on behalf of the parties participating in the Conference on Vietnam.”

There is one other difference in translation. You say “propose to the following countries that they will participate in the International Conference,” and we want to say “propose to the following parties.” Our reason is that the Secretary General of the UN is not a country. [Laughter] I don’t know whether the Ministers we have here have a different view on that subject.

Incidentally—this is not a subject of the agreement—our idea is that this conference should take place in Geneva. If it meets in Paris the delegations will be tempted to stay too long. [Laughter] It is not in the agreement.

Le Duc Tho: Not written.

Dr. Kissinger: No, not in the agreement. We can have an understanding about this. We are prepared to write it in the agreement, but it need not.

Now one other thing as to procedure about this international machinery. Our idea is that we agree on protocols. This is not to be [Page 814] written in the agreement; it is just to tell you what our understanding is. Our recommendation—it is not a change, it is a procedural suggestion—our suggestion is that the protocols setting up these various commissions be signed on the same day we sign the agreement and, therefore, can start operating on the same day. Before we leave we will give you our proposed draft of these protocols. I mean before we leave here this week. And after we have the agreement finished we can perhaps discuss those protocols.

Le Duc Tho: After completion of the agreement. You mean the signing of the agreement?

Dr. Kissinger: No, after we here in this room agree on the text of an agreement we will give you the protocols that we propose I sign. And since I think it will take about 2½ weeks between our completion of our discussion here and the signature, then the details of the protocols should be worked out in that interval and completed by the time of the signature. This could be done at Avenue Kleber, but we could give instructions to them from here. We would prefer to complete the International Control Commission, actually, this week.

Chapter VII, Article 15, where it lists all the four countries by name, we simply want to say “the parties participating in the Paris Conference on Vietnam.” I will read the whole rest of it: “The parties participating in the Paris Conference on Vietnam reaffirm and shall strictly respect the 1954 Agreements on Cambodia and the 1962 Geneva Agreements on Laos and the Cambodian and the Laotian people’s fundamental national right as recognized therein, that is, the independence, sovereignty, unity . . .” just as it is.

Then in the next paragraph we again take out the names of the parties and just say “the parties participating in the Paris Conference on Vietnam.”

And then in the last line of it we will say “to encroach on the sovereignty and security of one another or of other countries.”

(b), No change.

(c), No change.

15(d) We propose saying “the problems existing between the Indochinese states.” And we want to add the following sentence, which is familiar to you, as the last sentence: “Among the problems that will be settled is the implementation of the principle that all armed forces of the states of Indochina should remain within their national frontiers.”

Chapter VIII. There is a translation difficulty. We said “in pursuance of its traditional policy” and you put in your translation “in that spirit,” which is not exactly the same meaning. And then we want to say “The United States contribution to heal the wounds of war and post-war reconstruction throughout Indochina including the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.”

[Page 815]

No change in the next paragraph.

There has been a suggestion, which I wanted to discuss with the Special Adviser, whether we should make this chapter a separate agreement if it is a four party document. Since it includes our bilateral relations. But it is not a fixed opinion. It is for discussion. We have really not fully made up our minds.

Chapter IX. We would like to drop the French text.

Those are all our changes.

Le Duc Tho [Laughs]: So these are the technical changes, detailed changes, changes of the details?

Dr. Kissinger: Well, these are the changes we are proposing.

Le Duc Tho: Have you other problems to raise? Exhaust all your problems?

Dr. Kissinger: The other problems I wanted to raise I have already mentioned, the protocols. The other problem I want to raise is, now that we can make a schedule, how we can make the ceasefire in Laos more nearly simultaneous with the ceasefire in Vietnam, and how to handle the problem of Cambodia, on which we have a specific proposal.

Among the protocols we want to discuss is a protocol on the release of prisoners of war, which parallels what we have already discussed. We can give that to you tonight if you would like to see it. I don’t think it has any substantive issues.

[Aside to Winston Lord]: Have you got a copy of it?

Mr. Lord is afraid that I will see it before he hands it to you. [Hands over US draft understanding on prisoners, Tab C.]

Le Duc Tho: Mr. Lord is in charge of the secrecy.

Dr. Kissinger: He is the Commissar of this group.

The only other item of business we have, which we do not believe is anything new, is simply to review the exchanges of understandings that have taken place. That we should do sometime this week, so that we can be sure we are both operating from the same texts. We can bring those with us tomorrow. They are not part of the agreement. We are also prepared to discuss—but I think that we should really have the fuller discussion in Hanoi—aspects of reconstruction and how that could be done. And we have a paper for your consideration.

Le Duc Tho: Please give us any documents that you want to discuss with us so that we can peruse it; we can study it.

Dr. Kissinger: Incidentally, about studying it, I wonder if you would find it helpful, if you would like one of my associates to meet with some of yours to go over these changes to make sure you have the correct text. Or do you think you have absorbed them correctly? We don’t insist on it. Just to make sure.

[Page 816]

This is our idea on the operation of the economic commission. [Hands over US paper on reconstruction, Tab D.] This isn’t part of the agreement. This is a subsequent thing.

Le Duc Tho: Have you any other proposals?

Dr. Kissinger: No, I am sorry if I didn’t give enough.

Le Duc Tho: [Laughs] It is too many already.

Dr. Kissinger: No, this is all. We will not make any other proposals.

Le Duc Tho: Please let me put a number of questions. Then afterwards we shall discuss how we should work tomorrow. So your intention is to have the agreement signed by the four parties and not by the two parties?

Dr. Kissinger: That is correct.

Le Duc Tho: Now after we reached agreement on the text of the agreement this week here, if we can agree on that—if not, that is another question—then you will need two weeks for the discussions of the protocol?

Dr. Kissinger: And for other consultations, which will be no easier than the ones with you.

Le Duc Tho: It is for my information.

Dr. Kissinger: I will tell you precisely what we intend to do. I do not again want to go to Saigon without having an agreement in principle because I am at a disadvantage when I sit there with a deadline running against me. So we will invite a representative from Saigon to meet with the President in Washington, and the President will take personal responsibility to put himself behind whatever agreement we achieve, so that they will hear it from him and not from me. Then we will send General Haig with that representative back to Saigon. Then when General Haig has finished his work, he will come back to Washington and I will go to Saigon. So by that time, by the time General Haig leaves Saigon the basic principles will be settled. If not, we leave him there and you can have him!

Then I will go to Saigon to complete whatever details need to be completed, go to Hanoi, then come back to America. And we believe this whole process can be completed—I hate to give another date—but we think it can be completed by December 15. Of course, it depends on what we achieve here this week. This time we will have had many weeks.

I hope you have good information from Saigon so that you know we have made a really great effort. We will continue to make, and we shall make, an absolutely maximum effort after we agree on the text this week. In any event, we will not come back to you after we have agreed this week and reopen the negotiations. But we think we will be successful. At any rate, now you know exactly what our plan is. [Page 817] Our plan, in fact, is to take the emissary from Saigon on my plane back to Washington so that there can be no delay from here.

Le Duc Tho: Now the representative is waiting here?

Dr. Kissinger: He isn’t here yet.

Le Duc Tho: Now let me ask you this question. If we reach agreement this week—if not, it is another question—but if we reach agreement this week then you will bring the representative of Saigon to Washington and then General Haig will go to Saigon and then you, yourself, will go to Saigon? I would like to ask that.

Dr. Kissinger: And if I survive that experience, I will go to Hanoi.

Le Duc Tho: Will the agreement be changed or not?

Dr. Kissinger: No, maybe very minor technical changes. [They laugh.] But let us say no. If we suggest anything you would have the right to refuse it. If we suggest anything it would have to be something Mr. Lord discovered.

Le Duc Tho: Then the agreement cannot be signed and the war will continue if changes are made.

Dr. Kissinger: No, but for example, say if we refer to paragraph 14 when we mean paragraph 12, you would permit us to change that. It is that sort of a change. There will not be another negotiation. But you must permit us to go through the procedure of consultation, and you must cooperate in this and not make any public statements about a completed agreement. If we change it, you will undoubtedly repeat what you did on October 26. But while we are in good faith going through this process we should have an understanding that there will be no public comment of any kind.

Le Duc Tho: If we reach agreement this time then the question of consultation is your right. It is your affair. But the main thing is that the agreements reached here should not be changed. As to the publication of the agreement, if you do not publish we will not. Is that true?

Dr. Kissinger: I suppose. Yes. You have learned too much from us.

Le Duc Tho: You are firm on that.

Dr. Kissinger: No, I agree. We will not publish it.

Le Duc Tho: But after we reach agreement here, when will the agreement be initialed?

Dr. Kissinger: I will go to Hanoi to discuss the post-war situation, and while I am there I will initial it.

Le Duc Tho: After the initialing of the agreement then there will be an announcement of the agreement reached or a publication?

Dr. Kissinger: I think what should be done is, after the initialing of the agreement, which should be done as a private—we should not have it on television all over Asia—after the initialing of the agreement [Page 818] there would be an announcement maybe 48 hours later, 24 hours after I return to America. At that time the agreement should be published, then two or three days later, depending on transportation schedules, the Foreign Ministers should meet in Paris and sign the agreement. We think that the ceasefire should go into effect within a couple of hours after the announcement of the agreement, or maybe at Noon the following day.

Le Duc Tho: But the ceasefire will become effective after the signing of the agreement, not after the announcement of the agreement.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but we should observe the ceasefire. It would be a very bad thing if both sides at both the time of the signing and announcement would seize as much territory as possible, because the Foreign Ministers would then be meeting in Paris at the end of a period of maximum military activity. I think both sides should stop offensive activities as they have at various times during Tet—except 1968—and at Christmas, because it would be disastrous. It would be disastrous for our relationship if the announcement of peace would be followed by violent actions because we will certainly react very violently under those conditions; and that would start matters under the worst possible circumstances.

Le Duc Tho: So, but how many days after the initialing of the agreement do you intend to have the agreement signed?

Dr. Kissinger: I expect to have the agreement signed within three to four days.

Le Duc Tho: Now another question. In your messages to us, in one message you said that immediately after we reached agreement here then the bombing of North Vietnam would be immediately stopped, but in another message you said the bombing would be stopped within 48 hours after we reached agreement here. There is a discrepancy.

Dr. Kissinger: I think 48 hours is correct for technical reasons, because I have to get back to Washington. I have to get technical approval.

Le Duc Tho: After we reach agreement here?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, I have to get authority. I have to check how our command structure operates.

Le Duc Tho: Now I have another question. You requested two weeks for the discussion of the protocols. If agreements can be reached on the protocol, it is all right, but in case agreement cannot be reached within this time limit, I would like to ask whether this affects the initialing date of the agreement and the signing of the agreement.

Dr. Kissinger: Our idea is that they should be brought into operation simultaneously. It won’t be any easier after the agreement. I would think the Special Adviser would like this carefully-designed craftsman [Page 819] ship of his in action. This is our idea. But we can see when we look at the protocols this week whether the difficulties will be really so great. We don’t think they will be so great. But our idea is they should all be signed the same day. And for our planning purposes—don’t hold me to this now; again I am getting very nervous—but we are planning for December 15 for the signing.

Le Duc Tho: This is the sum of our questions. Now I would like to ask questions on two subjects on which I am not clear yet. You raised the question of ceasefire in Laos and you want it nearly simultaneously with the ceasefire in Vietnam. What is your view?

Dr. Kissinger: Our idea is this: Assuming we agree this week, and assuming we plan for December 15 as a date, it would give three weeks for the negotiations in Laos to be completed. So that they could be reasonably completed about the same time, give or take a day, as the ceasefire in Vietnam, because we have already agreed to do it within 30 days.

Le Duc Tho: 30 days after the ceasefire in Vietnam.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, that is what we understood, but that was when we were working on a very accelerated time schedule. But since we know it apparently can be done in 30 days, since the parties have already been meeting, if both of us encourage our friends to begin an accelerated procedure now, it would give them three weeks to do it and then the ceasefire could go into effect the day of the signing here.

Le Duc Tho: It is too fast.

Dr. Kissinger: Why? If we had signed on October 31 we would already be approaching a ceasefire in Laos now.

Le Duc Tho: Unfortunately you didn’t keep your promise to sign the agreement on October the 31st, because if you had the ceasefire in Laos would have been 30 days. It is only one of my questions.

Dr. Kissinger: But in October you had a good argument: that the two parties had just met, that it would take some time for them to begin their negotiations, and that since we were on an accelerated schedule we should not impose the same schedule on them. That was a reasonable argument in October. But now the two parties in Laos have been meeting, they are in contact, and I think we should begin counting the 30 days from the time we agree here.

Le Duc Tho: This is my question for my information. We shall discuss this question in two or three days time.

Dr. Kissinger: Of course, but what we should really consider, Mr. Special Adviser, is this: There are great temptations on both sides to try to get this or that advantage in these last periods. The difficulty is that it is a very shortsighted view. I apply this also to us. If one tries to get advantage in a particular area. Take the case of Laos or [Page 820] Cambodia—we will shift all our air force into Laos and Cambodia. At the same time when everybody should be thinking about peace you will have tremendous military actions in other parts of Indochina, and I think the best way to begin a new period is to stop all military activity. When that is done, we can begin a new era in our relations. A year after that all conditions will look different. Certainly we will try to demonstrate that we are determined to maintain our position; we will use massive air efforts in the other countries. Your people will become suspicious. Our people will become suspicious. There will be a very unfortunate situation and I don’t see what can be gained in a situation like that.

Le Duc Tho: These are my questions for information. I have not stated my views yet.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand.

Le Duc Tho: Now let me have another question. What is your intention with regard to Cambodia? What is your concrete proposal?

Dr. Kissinger: Our concrete proposal is as follows: We will recommend to our friends in Cambodia, and we believe that they will accept, that on the day the ceasefire goes into effect in South Vietnam they will declare an end to all offensive operations in Cambodia. And we believe the same thing should be done on your side.

Le Duc Tho: So there will be unilateral statement of a ceasefire on your part?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but obviously it cannot be maintained if it is not reciprocated.

Le Duc Tho: Have you other proposals? This is one of your proposals, but have you others?

Dr. Kissinger: On Cambodia?

Le Duc Tho: Yes, on Cambodia.

Dr. Kissinger: Well, we also believe it might be good to restore the International Control Commission to activity in Cambodia. And also we believe that as a result of this the government in Phnom Penh will be prepared to begin negotiations with the Khmer Rouge, or whatever they call themselves now.

Now I have expressed our views on this matter, and also on the dangerous consequences of the continuation of the war, to the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister in the United States—in case they have any visitors to whom they would like to convey our thoughts.

Le Duc Tho: Who will visit Peking?

Dr. Kissinger: Who will visit Peking? Well, there are all kinds of people living there who talk too. [Laughter] I think the Minister knows who I mean. I was talking more of permanent guests; not temporary [Page 821] visitors. And I also explained to him that after some period of tranquility political negotiations in the general framework look much more promising, but that a period of tranquility was necessary before this could take place.

Le Duc Tho: And what did the Vice Foreign Minister of China reply to you?

Dr. Kissinger: You were just in Peking.

Le Duc Tho: I would like to know what Chiao Kuan-hua said to you.

Dr. Kissinger: My impression always is that when people don’t contradict me, they agree with me, but they may simply be polite. My impression was that there was understanding for our position, quite honestly, but I do not want to speak for the Chinese. What did they tell you? [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: They said the national fundamental right of each people should be respected, because of the significance of the problems in each country comes under the national right of each people. All right.

Dr. Kissinger: I like advice of such precision. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: So you have finished the presentation of your changes to the agreement?

Dr. Kissinger: Exactly.

Dr. Kissinger: That is correct. Mr. Special Adviser, I have completed the presentation of the agreement. But I have pointed out to you before on this issue of the troops. First of all it may be that you have a more ingenious idea than I do. Secondly we still expect some de facto movement in this context, which does not have to be reflected in a description but should be noticeable. This I have said before. But this now really completes everything. This is all I am going to say.

Le Duc Tho: Which armed forces do you mean?

Dr. Kissinger: The ones that I have always so much on my mind. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: They are always haunting your mind? [Laughter]

Dr. Kissinger: That is right. But this is in effect all. It is in the proposal really.

Le Duc Tho: And at the same time I have expressed my views in our discussion. Besides the agreements, your proposals on Laos and Cambodia, on the protocol, on the schedule, they are all your proposals?

Dr. Kissinger: That is right. Now we maintain the understandings we already worked out previously, and we will bring you our text of them tomorrow. We have already exchanged them. We just review them for completeness.

Le Duc Tho: But the formulation, the wording of your understanding should be agreed. It should not be formulated according to your subjective ideas.

[Page 822]

Dr. Kissinger: No, what we will do is just quote from the message we sent you and the messages you sent back to us. We will make the understanding the exact text of the two messages.

Le Duc Tho: And if it is something unilateral, maybe we shall just hand you the understanding.

Dr. Kissinger: That is right, and we will do the same thing. But in an objective way.

Le Duc Tho: We are always correct in our view.

Dr. Kissinger: See, in the West only the Pope is infallible.

Xuan Thuy: But the Pope makes mistakes!

Dr. Kissinger: You can’t say this in front of General Haig. He is a Catholic.

Le Duc Tho: No regarding the protocols. Have you any other documents to hand us?

Dr. Kissinger: Tomorrow.

Le Duc Tho: Now let me propose the following way of working. Tomorrow I propose we shall meet in the afternoon, 3 o’clock, so as to have time to study the documents in the morning, and tomorrow I shall express my views.

First of all we should discuss and complete the agreement.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree.

Le Duc Tho: After the completion of the agreement then we shall discuss the schedule of work and the plan of work.

Dr. Kissinger: And the protocols.

Le Duc Tho: How to discuss and the question how to sign the agreement, you propose to discuss them. We shall discuss the problems you have raised. So tomorrow afternoon we shall go directly to the agreement.

Dr. Kissinger: All right.

Le Duc Tho: And then we will discuss the problems outside of the agreement that you have proposed. So we shall complete these two items tomorrow.

Dr. Kissinger: Tomorrow.

Le Duc Tho: To begin discussion tomorrow, and then we shall discuss the schedule, the way to discuss the protocols. But you have raised many questions. There are technical questions but there are also substantive questions and major questions, principle questions.

Dr. Kissinger: That is a metaphysical issue; what is substantive and what is technical.

Le Duc Tho: But you are a metaphysical philosopher. Therefore, you should make a great effort. Of course, we shall make an effort but it should be a great effort because there are questions.

[Page 823]

Dr. Kissinger: May I say something to the Special Adviser? These may look like many changes to you but we have already made a great effort in reducing the changes to what we consider a minimum level. We have advice that urges us to go much further.

Le Duc Tho: Because if you bring more changes the agreement will be upset.

Dr. Kissinger: No, I understand. We have made . . .

Le Duc Tho: But as I understand, Mr. Special Adviser should make further effort and only in this way can we settle the problem.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree with you.

Le Duc Tho: And as I understand this is not yet your final proposal?

Dr. Kissinger: I would put it this way. It is our final proposal but it is not an ultimatum.

Le Duc Tho: [Laughs] Because if this is not your final proposal, your unchangeable proposal, then no settlement is possible.

Dr. Kissinger: No, we will discuss tomorrow and we will discuss in a constructive spirit on both sides.

Le Duc Tho: Only in this way can problems be settled.

Dr. Kissinger: Do you think, Mr. Special Adviser—just to make sure that there is a correct understanding on your side of everything we have said—that our experts should get together this evening and just review what I have given you? Or do you believe you are sufficiently confident? Just to make sure there is no misunderstanding.

Le Duc Tho: I agree.

Dr. Kissinger: So they should meet.

Le Duc Tho: The experts may begin their work this evening.

Dr. Kissinger: All right. Do you want to fix a time?

Le Duc Tho: 7 o’clock; 7:30.

Dr. Kissinger: 7:30. We say 7:30. Where?

Le Duc Tho: At the house is all right.

Dr. Kissinger: At the house, yes, where we first met.

Le Duc Tho: They have photographs of you [pointing to Lord and Engel].

Dr. Kissinger: Shall we meet here tomorrow or what?

Le Duc Tho: Here.

Dr. Kissinger: Do you like all the photographers outside? Will you come out with me and grab me by my coat now? Or take me to the door and throw me out? [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: After the agreement, it is something to keep as a memorial.

Dr. Kissinger: I appreciate the spirit in which you conducted this discussion, Mr. Special Adviser. I recognize it was not an easy matter [Page 824] for you to come back here, and we are not taking it lightly either. I have to say, Mr. Special Adviser, one of these things [the gifts] is a pen which you can use only for the initialing of the agreement.

Le Duc Tho: So you have realized that you will make an effort so you should do it soon.

Dr. Kissinger: I recognize that.

[The meeting adjourned.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 858, For the President’s Files (Winston Lord)—China Trip/Vietnam Negotiations, Sensitive, Camp David, Vol. XXI, Minutes of Meetings. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting took place at 108 Avenue Du Général Leclerc in Gif-sur-Yvette. All brackets except where noted are in the original. The tabs are attached but not printed.

    Since Kissinger’s last meeting with the North Vietnamese in Paris on October 17, South Vietnamese President Thieu had blocked the settlement, rejecting the agreement negotiated by Kissinger and Le Duc Tho despite Kissinger’s attempt to persuade Thieu during his (Kissinger’s) October 19–22 visit. Thieu had numerous criticisms of the agreement but central to his objections was that it did not require North Vietnamese forces in South Vietnam, estimated to be 140,000–300,000, to leave the South. Believing it was critical that the United States and South Vietnam be on the same page regarding the negotiations, President Nixon directed Kissinger at this next meeting in Paris to present and argue for the changes Thieu requested. For documentation on Kissinger’s visit to Saigon and his meetings with Thieu, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. IX, Vietnam, October 1972–January 1973, Documents 27, 29, 32, 3436, 39, 4144, 4850, and 5258.

    The number of changes demanded by the South Vietnamese numbered 69, and Le Duc Tho was, as Kissinger noted in his November 20 memorandum to the President reporting on the meeting, “obviously somewhat taken aback by the extent of our proposed modifications and indicated that they may have some changes of their own.” While most modifications desired by South Vietnam were less than significant, a few were, and the question of North Vietnamese troops in the South was the most significant for both Hanoi and Saigon. Kissinger, according to his memorandum to Nixon, made it clear to Le Duc Tho that “the most important remaining obstacle was the issue of North Vietnamese troops in the South. Although he [Tho] did not reject some give on this issue he was essentially noncommittal in expressing any degree of flexibility.” (Ibid., Document 115) It should be recalled that Tho had said many times in the negotiations that the question of North Vietnamese soldiers in the South would not, as a matter of principle, be discussed.

    After Le Duc Tho reported to the Politburo on the developments at this November 20 meeting, the Politburo sent the following analysis and directive: “Based on the points that Kissinger demands be changed both as part of the Agreement and outside the written agreement, the Politburo believes that the U.S has changed the content of the Agreement and has reversed its position on many important issues to which it had previously agreed. This means that we must view this as a re-negotiation of the agreement.” To this the Politburo added: “You need to concentrate on arguing hard to defeat the American plan to change the content of the Agreement and to reverse themselves on issues about which agreement has previously been reached.” (Message from the Politburo to Le Duc Tho and Xuan Thuy, 22 November 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, p. 349)

  2. The bracketed corrections were supplied by the editor.
  3. The bracketed correction was supplied by the editor.