27. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Le Duc Tho, Special Advisor 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, Jr., 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
  • Julienne L. Pineau, Notetaker

Dr. Kissinger: We’re going to have some casualties on the trip out here with these motorcyclists following us.

Le Duc Tho: I propose that today we work until 7:00 so that I may have some time to relax, and tomorrow morning we can begin our work sooner.

Dr. Kissinger: No, I would recommend, Mr. Special Advisor . . . I am going to Brussels tonight to see President Suharto of Indonesia to discuss with him the International Commission. And I will not be back till 10:00. We could meet at 11:30 tomorrow. Is that agreeable? And maybe even a little earlier. I will be back in Paris at 10:00, at Orly at 10:00. We could say 11:00 if you will understand if I am a few minutes late, if there’s some airplane delay.

Le Duc Tho: All right, never mind.

Dr. Kissinger: Good.

Le Duc Tho: Let me now express my views. We have carefully read the changes you proposed to the agreement. And the questions you wanted to have a unilateral understanding, regarding Laos and Cambodia. At the same time we have considered the schedule you proposed. Today I would like to speak about three questions: first, regarding the changes you proposed to the agreement; second, to the [Page 826] questions on the unilateral understandings you have raised, and third I will express my views on the schedule.

The agreements we have reached so far result from great efforts from our part and also result from efforts on your part at the beginning. Because of these efforts we have completed the agreements. Afterward you said on behalf of the President of the United States that the agreements might be considered as completed, and in your message you addressed to us in reply to our message you also acknowledged that the unilateral understandings of ours have met all your concerns. And you also promised to us that there would be no substantive changes and no changes of principle. Vice President Agnew himself in answering to an interview of the Agency ABC on October 29 acknowledged that it be necessary to clarify a number of questions, but there is no question about the substantive problems.

But now that we have studied the changes you proposed we realize that these changes are not changes of detail and technical changes but these are a number of changes of principle and substantive changes. These are great and important changes. And we have repeatedly told you that changes of principle and substantive changes are unacceptable to us.

The first question I would like to raise now is the role of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam mentioned in the agreement. According to your proposed changes, throughout the text of the agreement there is no mention at all of the role of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Government of South Vietnam. In every place you said only “the parties participating in the Paris conference on Vietnam . . .” In practice, on the battlefield of South Vietnam, no one can deny the reality that there are in South Vietnam two administrations, two armies, two regions controlled by the two parties. And in the course of our talks here with you you yourself on many occasions recognized that there are two administrations, two armies, two different regions in South Vietnam.

The role played by the PRG on the international scene is also very great. Not only the PRG has established diplomatic relations with many countries, but the Conference of Non-Aligned Countries, in which over 60 countries participated, recognized the PRG as an official member of the Conference instead of the Saigon Administration.

In the face of this reality, not only of South Vietnam but also on the international scene, you cannot deny this reality, in reality and practice and in the text of the agreement, the role played by the PRG.

The second question I would like to raise. Because of your denial of the role of the PRG you propose a change to Article 3(b). You proposed that the Joint Military Commission shall determine “the areas and modalities of stationing of each party’s forces,” instead of “the [Page 827] areas controlled by each party.” In reality in South Vietnam there are three categories of regions. First, the regions controlled by the PRG; second, the regions controlled by the Saigon Administration; and third, a great number of regions are zones of contention.

Therefore it cannot be mentioned only on the areas and stationings of each party’s forces. But it should be mentioned about areas controlled by each party. This is a situation of reality no one can deny.

The third question I would like to raise is the question Dr. Kissinger often says he was haunted by, that is the so-called question of withdrawal of North Vietnamese forces.

Dr. Kissinger: Did he say “the so-called question” or the “so-called North Vietnamese forces?”

Le Duc Tho: “So-called North Vietnamese forces.” Because this is how you call, we have never recognized that. Over the past four years probably I have spent a great deal of effort to speak about this question and in records we have probably they are piling up papers on this question. There are many legitimate reasons for us not to agree to the raising of this question. The most legitimate reason is that since our country is subject to aggression, since you have brought troops for this aggression and moreover you scrapped the 1954 Geneva Agreement, then we, our entire people, have to stand up against this aggression. Not only the people of North Vietnam but also in South Vietnam and the people throughout the world approves this as legitimate. And therefore this is the reason why we can’t accept the so-called question of North Vietnamese troops in South Vietnam. So there is no reason for raising this question. Politically, legally speaking, it is so.

What is the reason why you raise this question? On the one hand you want to weaken the forces of the PRG; on the other hand you strengthen the forces of the Saigon Administration. You equip them with armaments so that you may strengthen the forces of the Saigon Administration in order to annihilate the revolutionary forces of the PRG. Therefore this approach and this solution to the problem is unfair and illogical. And in order to settle this question in a fair and reasonable way we have proposed that the two parties will agree on the reduction of the effectives of each party’s forces and the demobilization of the troops being reduced. And this solution have been agreed to by you at our last meeting and this has been written in the agreement.

Now I would like to speak on the fourth question, regarding the whole Chapter IV about the Exercise of the South Vietnamese People’s Right to Self-Determination.

Before coming to that I would like to add these words. Even Vice President Agnew, whom American press consider to be the hawkish personality . . .

[Page 828]

Dr. Kissinger: I think the Special Advisor is making provisions for 1976 already. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: Even Vice President Agnew himself said that the so-called question of withdrawal of North Vietnamese forces was not raised by the United States. Because he said we have shown good will not to demand the formation of a three-segment Government of National Concord.

Dr. Kissinger: We’ll have to fire his speech writer. [Laughter] That’s what happens when people are running around outside Washington during a campaign.

Le Duc Tho: So you see that we have legitimate reasons for not answering this question.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand. I understand your point; I haven’t agreed with it.

Le Duc Tho: If you have understood, then I . . .

Dr. Kissinger: No, no, please go ahead. I will tell Vice President Agnew that he has become a household word in North Vietnam. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: Because Vice President Agnew’s statement is consonant with reality and he himself could not deny that reality.

Now let me return to Chapter IV, regarding the Exercise of the South Vietnamese People’s Right to Self-Determination. We can say that as a result of this chapter we have made very great effort. As you understand, on the political field in South Vietnam there are two great questions. They are the question of three-segment government of coalition and the question of the resignation of Mr. Nguyen Van Thieu. Over the past four years of negotiation we have been consistently raising these two questions. But in the course of our negotiations on October 8 we no longer raised these two questions. And so doing we have shown very great good will and we have resolved this question as we have formulated the provision of the agreement. Now you want to change the agreement we have reached. You want to qualify the National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord as an administrative organ and you no longer want that this Council be organized at lower levels. The question of general elections you change into “national” elections—very vague terms.

So these are not changes of details—these are not technical changes but these are political substantive changes. In consequence we will never accept them.

Now if we review these proposals of yours, what is your intention? On the one hand you are unwilling to recognize in an official way, in writing, in the text of the agreement, the role of the PRG. Second, you want the withdrawal of so-called North Vietnamese troops from South [Page 829] Vietnam. Then you want to strengthen the forces of the Saigon Administration. You deny the regions controlled by the PRG of the Republic of South Vietnam.

Regarding the right to self-determination of the South Vietnamese people you have brought changes to draw this chapter to the lowest level and to remove all political significance of this chapter.

And so we can say that you want to accumulate all the advantage to your side and it is not a solution that is reasonable and logical. These are very great questions. These are questions of substance and principle, [on] which we can’t accept your proposals. It is definitely so. And therefore if you don’t bring about a correct solution to these problems and you do not show good will in solving this question, then the agreement cannot be signed. These questions are questions of principle and substance which you have promised not to change.

Besides these great questions there are a number of concrete questions you have proposed to change in the agreement. Among these questions there are some we can consider; there are others [on which] we will maintain our stand.

Now let me go into the concrete points of the agreement, which ones we can’t agree. I shall express my views to you.

Dr. Kissinger: In the same spirit we discussed yesterday, that this is not an ultimatum.

Le Duc Tho: The ultimatum always comes from your side. As for us, we have stuck to reasonableness. As to a number of concrete points in the agreement, I may have some concessions.

Dr. Kissinger: Why don’t we go through it and then I will reply and then we will see.

Le Duc Tho: Originally you proposed the signature of the agreement by the two parties. We agreed to that. Now you propose that the agreement be signed by four parties. We agree to that. Therefore we can have the agreement signed by the two parties and also by the four parties as you mentioned. This is our stand, our point of view, and you can count on it. Because these are the points of view which you have agreed to. Therefore I reiterate. If the agreement will be signed by the two parties, then the Preamble will remain as it is, but if the agreement is signed by the four parties we would propose the enumeration of the Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam, the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Vietnam. These four parties to the agreement have been recognized at the very beginning of the Paris conference on Vietnam since 1968. And when the agreement is completed it may be signed by the four Foreign Ministers. And therefore we think it correct [Page 830] to enumerate the four parties. The reason you are unwilling to enumerate the governments is that you have some political intention—you do not want to mention about the Provisional Revolutionary Government. Therefore we mention the four governments.

Dr. Kissinger: If the Special Advisor permits I will answer at the end.

Le Duc Tho: Enumerate the four parties.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand. But I will not answer each question. I will answer when he is finished, if that’s all right with you.

Le Duc Tho: Yes, let me finish my presentation.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, you finish and then I will comment.

Le Duc Tho: Now Chapter I, regarding the Vietnamese People’s Fundamental National Rights. The original text of Article 1 is that “the United States respects the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Vietnam as recognized by the 1954 Geneva Agreement on Vietnam.” In reality in fact the U.S. has made aggression against our country and now the United States disengages itself from it, so the question of the U.S. respecting the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity is a fact which we have agreed to. It is something real, factual. But now in the agreement you want to drop the word “United States” and you want to amend and say “shall be respected by all countries.” But we take into consideration of your views and we take into consideration the honor you often refer to. Therefore we agree to that and the article will be written as follows: “All countries shall respect the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Vietnam as recognized by the 1954 Geneva Agreement.” This is not a small political question.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand.

Le Duc Tho: You should realize that and you should make concessions to us on other points. Chapter II . . .

Dr. Kissinger: The Special Advisor still owes me 8 days. I made a concession of seven and a half days at one point for which he never made reciprocity. [Laughter] No, I understand—we will proceed in a similar spirit.

Le Duc Tho: Now, regarding Chapter II on the Cessation of Hostilities and Withdrawal of Troops. I agree to your suggestion that we mention only GMT. It is good will on our part. [Laughter] The mention of GMT is understood by us, but the common Vietnamese, they may not understand.

Dr. Kissinger: I know what will happen. They will fight on for six more weeks and claim that is Greenwich Mean Time in North Vietnam. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: The same, Article 2. You are much worried about “the cessation of hostilities shall be without limit of time” and we have put [Page 831] in a Vietnamese version that the cessation of hostilities is “long-lasting and durable”. It does not mean that we stick to these words so that we can resume the fighting. It is certain. But stylistically speaking, in the Vietnamese language, when Vietnamese write “durable and long-lasting” it means very long-lasting and very durable in the Vietnamese language.

Dr. Kissinger: But that is a metaphysical question. What is durable and what is long-lasting? Volumes have been written about it. While if you put down “unending” everyone understands what it means.

Le Duc Tho: You are always referring to metaphysics. But if now you stick to the words “without limit of time” in Vietnamese, we have no objection. Because even if we put down “without limit of time”, if we don’t fight then we don’t fight; if we fight then we fight. [Laughter]

Dr. Kissinger: No, I know you would never break an agreement.

Xuan Thuy: You know the Geneva Agreements of 1954 and 1962, they have used much stronger words but the sabotage of the reunification is not our fault.

Dr. Kissinger: That was the Minister’s work. We’ll take you to court if you break this agreement. We’ll stand on the DMZ waving a piece of paper at you. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: But probably we shall go to court before you. The main thing lies in the point whether we want peace or war.

Dr. Kissinger: Absolutely, I agree completely. That is the absolutely key issue.

Le Duc Tho: The fundamental thing—the basic thing.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree completely.

Le Duc Tho: Now Article 3. You propose now the wording that “the United States and all other non-South Vietnamese forces shall remain in place.” The amendment of “all other non-South Vietnamese forces”—in our mind you imply the so-called North Vietnamese forces.

Dr. Kissinger: I don’t know how you could get such an idea. It shows your suspicious nature!

Le Duc Tho: I don’t know whether I have understood you correctly. But the suspicion here is justifiable. Therefore, we maintain the wording “United States forces and those of the other countries . . .”

Dr. Kissinger: Let me explain our problem here, just so we can see whether we can solve it in some other way.

Le Duc Tho: You may express your views later. Is that all right?

Dr. Kissinger: It’s hard for me to be silent so long. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: You are too eager and impatient.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, that is true.

Le Duc Tho: You should cool down. [Laughter]

[Page 832]

Dr. Kissinger: I will remember that when it comes to signing the agreement.

Le Duc Tho: Now regarding 3(b). Regarding 3(b), “The armed forces of the two South Vietnamese Parties shall remain in-place. The Two-Party Joint Military Commission shall determine areas controlled by each party and the modalities of stationing.” But you want to delete the words “controlled by each party.” I have explained to you that there are regions controlled by each party of South Vietnam.

Dr. Kissinger: You maintain that we keep in “controlled by each party.”

Le Duc Tho: I maintain as it was.

Dr. Kissinger: All right. I don’t think, if I may say so, that your reinforcements are an entirely good influence on you, Mr. Special Advisor. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: Ambassador Sullivan is also a reinforcement.

Dr. Kissinger: He is not a good influence either.

Le Duc Tho: In Article 4, [reading] “The U.S. will not continue its military involvement or intervene in the internal affairs of South Vietnam.” You want to delete “or intervene in the internal affairs of.” We think we will maintain this article. If you feel that the place of this article is not correct, then we will put it in Chapter IV.

Dr. Kissinger: All right. I mean I understand. You have two problems with me, my level of comprehension and my willingness to agree. The former is even a bigger problem than the latter. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: Yes, I have been negotiating with you for a long time and I understand that you have two ways of comprehending, but these are related, these two ways.

Dr. Kissinger: I just hope you never write a book about me. I always say nice things about you publicly. The Minister the other day made a very friendly comment, which I appreciated.

Le Duc Tho: But I have never mentioned any things of you personally.

Dr. Kissinger: No, that is true. My father agreed with what the Minister said about me. [Laughter] Please.

Le Duc Tho: Now regarding Article 5. On Article 5 we have agreed, both sides, on the text. Now there have been new events, new situations. Of late you have sent civilian personnel into South Vietnam to do military jobs. Therefore we would like to add after the words “within 60 days of the signing of this agreement there will be a total withdrawal from South Vietnam of troops, military advisers, and military personnel, including technical personnel, military personnel associated with the pacification program . . .” We would like to add here: “and civilian [Page 833] personnel associated with the military training, supply, maintenance, storing, use and repair of war material.” And it is also mentioned in the Geneva Agreement of 1962 on Laos. Probably Ambassador Sullivan still remembers.

Dr. Kissinger: Can you give that to us again?

Le Duc Tho: After “the military personnel associated with the pacification program” we would like to add: “civilian personnel associated with the military training, supply, maintenance, storing, use and repair of war material.”

In the same article there is also “the withdrawal of U.S. and all other non-South Vietnamese forces” instead of “the other countries allied with the United States and the Republic of Vietnam.” We maintain the other formulation for reasons I have mentioned.

Dr. Kissinger: I thought the Special Advisor wouldn’t find that clause.

Le Duc Tho: I paid attention to this clause.

Now Article 7, “From the enforcement of the ceasefire to the formation of the government provided for in Article 9(b) and 9(i) of this agreement.” We would like to maintain the former formulation instead of the amendment “to the completion of the political process provided for in Article 9(b).” Because the words “completion of the political process” is too vague.

Now, regarding the Article 7, regarding the replacement of armament. Now you wanted to add “war material which have been destroyed, damaged, worn out and used up.”

Dr. Kissinger: In deference to the Minister.

Le Duc Tho: We agree to the words “destroyed, damaged and worn out,” but we disagree to “used up” because here it involves replacement. Because the replacements would be allowed for material destroyed, damaged and worn out, but if it is used up and new material is introduced, then the war will continue. Replacement applies to what has been destroyed, damaged, and worn out. But we have taken into consideration your views; therefore we accept the addition of the word “destroyed.” Because in your message you have agreed to our formulation of Article 7, you completely agreed to that. But now you wanted to add something new. We agree to the word “destroyed,” but it should have been after the agreement that no change should be made.

Dr. Kissinger: You don’t want me to speak now, so I will wait.

Le Duc Tho: Be patient, Mr. Special Advisor.

Now, Chapter III, The Return of Captured Military Personnel and Foreign Civilians of the Parties. This is the title of the chapter, your title of the chapter. We propose the title of the chapter “The Return of Captured and Detained People of the Parties.” This is the title of it. [Page 834] For us it is a very great problem. Mr. Special Advisor knows that we discussed last time for 17 hours and I think that this question accounted for 7 hours. But at last it remained unsolved. It was 2:00 in the morning—I told you that we should put aside this question. I did want to complete the agreement on that day. But sentimentally speaking and logically speaking, morally speaking, we could not agree to it. Then Minister Xuan Thuy continued to discuss with you. Probably the discussion of that question accounted for the greater part of your discussion that day. [Xuan Thuy nods.] But it remained unsolved.

What is the reason why in Hanoi we agreed to your proposal in answer to your message? Because we wanted the agreement to be signed in accordance with the date we proposed. Therefore we made a great effort on that score. Therefore we replied to you and informed you of that agreement, but on condition that the agreement be signed on the fixed day and the war should have been completed. Now the situation is different. Now that you did not sign the agreement on the fixed date, now the question is tabled again. And in our view this is a question that suffers no concession. Please consider, in any war throughout history, do you see any case where after the war is ended, one side returns the captured people and the other side continues to detain the captured people? Of course if one side retains the captives the other side will do the same also. It is something fair and logical. Therefore, in our view, when the war is ended the different parties should return all the captives, military as well as civilians.

What is more inhumane than that after the war is ended the people involved in the war continue to remain in jails? You should understand that American prisoners have remained in camps for seven years, but compare it to Vietnamese prisoners in South Vietnam—they have a great deal much more suffering than the American prisoners, and please think after the end of the war these people continue to remain in jail. You should understand, I myself and Minister Xuan Thuy, we spent tens of years in jails—we deeply understand and we deeply sympathize with these prisoners who are in jail in South Vietnam now. I tell you this so you can understand my sentiments, legitimate sentiments.

Therefore I think that if this question is not solved the agreement cannot be solved. And if this question remains unsolved not only the Vietnamese people but people throughout the world will be indignant at it. And I also think that people of conscience in America, when they see that this question remains unsolved, it will be unbearable for them.

Therefore we think that you are responsible for solving this question and not to revert the question to the Saigon people because these are direct negotiations between us and you. And moreover, if I remember well, the U.S. has spent a great deal of money to build jails in [Page 835] Saigon, in South Vietnam. And there are also American advisors in the managing of the jails, and after investigation by a delegation of your House of Representatives this question has been brought to light. Therefore I think that you should solve this question. It is something fair and it should have a fair and reasonable solution. I have told you lengthily on this question so that you have understood me.

Therefore I propose an amendment to this Chapter III. If now the agreement is signed by the four parties, then the four parties should return all military and civilian personnel of the other parties. Therefore 8(c) is no longer necessary.

Now Chapter IV is a very important chapter.

Dr. Kissinger: Do you have a text?

Le Duc Tho: [Hands over DRV redraft of Chapter III, Tab A.] Regarding the Exercise of the South Vietnamese People’s Right to Self-Determination. I have expressed my views at the beginning of this chapter. It can be said that we have made the greatest effort on that chapter. These efforts are undeniable. So we maintain the agreements that have been reached in the main. Now let me go into the detail on that chapter. As to the arrangements of that chapter, I agree to your suggestion.

Dr. Kissinger: Let me negotiate for a minute with my staff.

Le Duc Tho: As to the arrangement, the order of articles, I agree to that. Now let me go article by article, consider article by article. Article 9, you propose to write at the beginning of Article 9: “The parties undertake”. We propose that “The Government of the DRV and the Government of the U.S. of America undertake”. Now you propose to write “The parties undertake”.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand your point; you want to say “The Government of the U.S. and the Government of the DRV” instead. Go ahead.

Le Duc Tho: Now regarding 9(b), you propose to put “national elections.” We would like to maintain “general elections.” Because it is not clear if we use the words “national elections.” Because if it involves an election in all the communes, all the villages of South Vietnam, then you can call it “national elections.” If it involves elections in all the provinces of South Vietnam you can call it “national elections.” But as I understand, if you use “general elections” then the general elections will elect the institutions of the whole country. And in South Vietnam there should be general elections to elect the institutions of South Vietnam. Sooner or later there will be such elections. It cannot be that the Nguyen Van Thieu administration will remain in existence forever through fraudulent elections.

In Article 9(c), the formulation of 9(c) that “The U.S. declares that it is not committed to any political tendency or personality in South [Page 836] Vietnam.” But taking into consideration the honor you often refer to—moreover we think that once the agreement is signed then a new relationship will be opened between us and the United States—however we do not accept wholly your amendment.

Dr. Kissinger: You raised my hopes there for a minute, Mr. Special Advisor.

We’ll have one good 17-hour session before this week is over. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: I will be strong enough to talk with you for such a long session. But for specific additions it is not necessary to have such a long session.

Dr. Kissinger: No, I agree.

Le Duc Tho: “Foreign countries shall not impose any political tendency or personality on the South Vietnamese people.” Now Article 11.

Dr. Kissinger: It means only Vietnamese can impose governments on each other! [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: Because the South Vietnamese will elect, will participate in general elections. If something is established, it will be established by the people. No one has power over them.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand.

Le Duc Tho: Article 11. You have dropped “of the people” after “insuring the democratic liberties.” We maintain “of the people.” We think it correct to put “of the people.” Because it does not involve democratic liberties of the leaders only!

Dr. Kissinger: Right.

Le Duc Tho: Now in Article 12 you propose that the wording to “set up an administrative organ called the National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord.” We would like to maintain the wording “to set up an administrative structure called the National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord.” Here I would like to add these comments. Here the National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord definitely is not a government. It is not a government with three components, with three segments. Because a government would have full authority to deal with internal affairs as well as external affairs. It would have its constitution, its army, its security organs. It builds up the economy, maintains diplomatic relations with many countries. So the Council here is not a government, it is clear. And it is not a camouflaged government as Nguyen Van Thieu says.

But it is also not an administrative organ dealing only with bureaucratic affairs. It has some authority to a certain extent. It has the task to see to the implementation of the agreements on the cessation of hostilities. It has the task of insuring the practice of democratic liberties and national concord. It has the task of organizing the general elections. [Page 837] In a situation in which there are two administrations, two armies, two different regions, it is necessary to organize such a body with such extent of authority. Only in this way can we realize national concord. As you know, this Council will operate in accordance with the principle of agreement and negotiations . . .

Dr. Kissinger: Unanimity.

Le Duc Tho: Negotiation and unanimity. So it has a limit to its authority. The Council is composed of three segments. If one segment disagrees, then nothing can be put in practice. So it is an organization that reflects reason and logic. [Kissinger laughs.] You often refer to your honor. We have taken into account of this. You have realized we have changed the wording “the U.S. respects . . .” But you should understand also that we have demanded a three-segment government and the immediate resignation of Nguyen Van Thieu over so many years. It is due to very great effort, it is also due to our earnest desire to have an early settlement, that we have proposed this solution. Moreover, you and we have agreed to that, and now you want to change it. How can we explain to our people?

Dr. Kissinger: You didn’t have to publish it.

Le Duc Tho: You forced me to publish it.

Dr. Kissinger: No, I understand.

Le Duc Tho: For myself I always keep my pledge, my promise. So it is a very great concession of ours. I should add that you have also deleted the three segments of the Council, and I . . .

Dr. Kissinger: The Minister found that. I didn’t think you’d notice it.

Le Duc Tho: Moreover, the third segment will be agreed to and chosen by the two parties. This reference to segments is not a very great phrase but really it is an influential phrase. In order to have national concord, an end to the war and lasting peace, there must be a union of the people. And actually this third segment, they would not fully agree with us, but of course they also disagree, they do not approve also Nguyen Van Thieu. Therefore we think that Article 12 cannot be changed.

And moreover I propose to you that this Council should be promptly set up, immediately set up, and not later than 15 days after the ceasefire. I remember in our discussions you agreed with me that after the ceasefire the Council will be set up immediately. Now I propose that the Council be set up within 15 days, taking into account of your previous views. And moreover I think that this Council is not only set up at the central level but also at the lower levels as agreed to by the parties in South Vietnam. And this provision had been agreed to by you also previously.

Now, regarding the settlement of the internal affairs of South Vietnam “as soon as possible.” I propose to delete the words “do their [Page 838] utmost” and to write “and accomplish this within three months after the ceasefire.” Because you explained to me that “do their utmost” means that it might be that after three months this work is not yet accomplished. And I think in this way the internal matters of South Vietnam would be delayed and not be settled indefinitely. It is precisely our desire to have a peaceful settlement of the problem and to rapidly stabilize the political and military situation of South Vietnam that we propose to settle this question within three months. Because if this is delayed then the situation will remain unstabilized.

Now Article 12(b), regarding the task of the Council of National Reconciliation and Concord. Now in Vietnamese we use the word “oversee,” “to see to,” the implementation. And you propose [last night] the word “encourage.” The word “encourage” is very vague. But the Vietnamese word means to remind the parties and to push them to implement the signed agreement. As to the task of the Council, I agree with you on “the implementation of the signed agreement, the achievement of national concord, and the insurance of democratic liberties,” and to delete the words “to maintain the ceasefire and to preserve peace.” Another task of the National Council on National Reconciliation and Concord is to organize the free and democratic general elections. We propose to delete the words “specific task.” Because this Council has two tasks: one, to see to the implementation of the signed agreement and second, to organize the free and democratic general elections.

Now the last sentence of Article 12(b), “such local elections as the two South Vietnamese parties may agree upon.” We suggest “such local elections as the two South Vietnamese parties agree upon” and delete the word “may.” Because if we use “may agree upon” it means “may not agree upon.”

Now Article 13. Now regarding Article 13 we like to maintain the former wording as we had before. Because the question of the reduction of the effectives of the armed forces, the question of demobilization of the troops, the question of timing of that, will be settled by the two South Vietnamese parties.

Article 14, I agree to your amendment. But the last sentence of Article 14, instead of writing “the acceptance of military aid by South Vietnam in the future shall come under the authority of the government formed after the political process,” we propose the wording that “the acceptance of military aid by South Vietnam in the future shall come under the authority of the government formed after the general elections.” Now that you propose that the agreement be signed by the four parties, I think that the agreement we have reached by me and you is that the general elections be organized five months after the ceasefire and Mr. Nguyen Van Thieu can resign two months before the elections. Because you agreed to this.

[Page 839]

Dr. Kissinger: Oh, now wait a minute. That is unacceptable. You cannot use one proposal which was superseded by another proposal and which we have informed you is not part of the negotiations and introduce it into this negotiation. It is totally ridiculous. I will answer you later, but you cannot use a proposal of September 15 when a new one has been introduced on October 8.

Le Duc Tho: Because previously the agreement was to be signed by two parties, and now it is signed by four parties. These questions are also the political requirements of the real situation of South Vietnam.

Dr. Kissinger: Well, I am going to answer later. I don’t want to raise every point. When it was to be signed by two parties it was with the concurrence of the other two parties. So there was no practical difference. I think the Special Advisor and I have similar problems when we adjourn in the evening. So I understand.

Le Duc Tho: So you have difficulties. We have some too.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand fully.

Le Duc Tho: Therefore there should be negotiation, discussion and mutual comprehension.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand.

Le Duc Tho: Now Chapter V, regarding the Reunification of Vietnam and the Relationship of North and South Vietnam. Article 15, former Article 10. Our wording is slightly different from yours, but also different from our former Article 10.

Dr. Kissinger: You have a new version?

Le Duc Tho: It is also taking into account your views.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand.

Le Duc Tho: [reads] “As stipulated by the 1954 Geneva Agreements on Vietnam the military demarcation line between the two zones at the 17th parallel is only provisional and not a political or territorial boundary.” Now we add: “Pending the reunification, South and North Vietnam shall respect the demilitarized zone and agree on the statute [status] of the demilitarized zone and decide the modalities for movement across the provisional military demarcation line.”

Now another point in your Article 15 “Pending reunification, North and South Vietnam shall . . . establish relations in various fields.” We agree to your word.

Dr. Kissinger: That’s the way it always was. You agree to the way it always was.

Le Duc Tho: So regarding this chapter, regarding the reunification of Vietnam, Mr. Advisor should be optimistic now.

Now Chapter VI, the Joint Military Commissions and the International Commission of Control and Supervision. Your Article 16. I agree [Page 840] to your proposal of “the parties participating in the Paris conference on Vietnam,” on condition that the four governments should be mentioned at the beginning. To simplify things, to reduce the number of words.

Dr. Kissinger: All the Special Advisor’s concessions laid end to end advance matters one centimeter.

Le Duc Tho: We have made a greater advance.

Dr. Kissinger: No, you really have in the past.

Le Duc Tho: And now too. Article 16, where it says “regarding Article 3(a), regarding the ceasefire by U.S. forces and all other non-South Vietnamese forces,” we maintain the wordings.

Dr. Kissinger: I am sorry this was given to you. It is useless to discuss this because this has to be made consistent with the body of the agreement. Whatever we agree to in Chapter II we will write in here. There’s no sense repeating all the arguments. I know the Special Advisor’s particular attachment to this Chapter [Laughter] but we can simplify our work by just saying it will be made consistent with the paragraphs to which it refers.

Le Duc Tho: I agree with you. What is written on the task of the Commission and Joint Commission that describes the articles, we will use the wording consistent with the articles. I don’t know about Mr. Advisor, but for myself I think after this negotiation I will forget them all. I can’t remember them all; it is too complicated.

Dr. Kissinger: In the 19th century there was a complicated diplomatic issue, Schleswig-Holstein, which only three people understood. When someone was questioned about it he said there were only three people who had understood it: One was dead, the other was mad, and he was the third but he had forgotten it. When I held my press conference I said Sullivan was the only man on the American team who understood it.

Ambassador Sullivan: He didn’t say whether I was mad or dead, though.

Le Duc Tho: But if you remain alive you will forget it.

Ambassador Sullivan: I hope so.

Le Duc Tho: Ambassador Sullivan, you will not forget it.

Now another point regarding this chapter: “The International Commission of Control and Supervision shall carry on its task in accordance with the principle of respect for sovereignty.” If you put it this way one doesn’t know which country’s sovereignty. Therefore, we propose to add “for sovereignty of South Vietnam.”

There are still certain concrete questions, technical questions, not important. I propose we leave them to our experts.

[Page 841]

Dr. Kissinger: For Chapter VI?

Le Duc Tho: Chapter VI.

Dr. Kissinger: I think what the Special Advisor really wants is that the International Commission members report to each other and not to anyone else. That’s his secret dream. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: Now Chapter VII.

Dr. Kissinger: How about that last point that “The United States and the Democratic Republic, on behalf of the parties participating . . .” Is that agreeable?

Le Duc Tho: Agreed.

Dr. Kissinger: Okay.

Le Duc Tho: Regarding Cambodia and Laos. I think that regarding Cambodia and Laos Chapter VII very adequately dealt with this question and the draft has been agreed to. Therefore I propose to delete the changes you’ve proposed.

Article 20(a), our wording is clear. Regarding Article 20(d), I think that your addition “among the problems that will be settled is the implementation of the principle that the armed forces of the Indochinese countries should remain within their national frontiers.” I think that this sentence is not necessary. You raised this question previously, but after my explanations you accepted the wording before this. Because we respect the Geneva Agreements of 1954 and those of 1962—that is we respect the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Laos and Cambodia. Moreover, after the settlement of the questions, all foreign countries should put an end to their military activities in Laos and Cambodia, totally withdraw from and refrain from reintroducing troops, armaments, munitions, and war materials, as mentioned in Article 20(b).

Dr. Kissinger: What about it?

Le Duc Tho: We maintain the former formulation of Chapter VII, the agreed-to-draft. Now Chapter VII, the relationship between the United States of America and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. We propose to maintain the agreement reached by the two parties. Although it is an agreement signed by four parties. Because the chapter regarding the right of self-determination of the South Vietnamese people, Article 14, have mentioned the relationship between South Vietnam and foreign countries including the United States. So it is better to maintain the chapter on the relationship between the U.S. and the DRV.

Now another point, regarding the part of sentence “in pursuance of its traditional policy,” I agree to it.

Now, an important point, the final one, the French text of the agreement. I agree to delete it.

[Page 842]

Dr. Kissinger: With this attitude we cannot fail to reach agreement. How about that other change, postwar reconstruction “throughout Indochina including the DRV?”

Le Duc Tho: My stand is that we should maintain the postwar reconstruction “of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and throughout Indochina.” So both sides are positive.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand your point. I don’t understand your reasoning. [Laughter] All right. Do you have anything else or should we take a brief break?

Le Duc Tho: Let me add another point, regarding the unilateral understanding on Laos and Cambodia. We have addressed you a message, and President Nixon said that it has met his concerns. So this message, that constitutes a document handed to you. So it is a satisfactory unilateral understanding from our part.

Now let me speak briefly about the schedule and then we should have a break. I think that we are both in the course of negotiations and both sides should make an effort. We will not be behind you in regard to effort and good will. We should do such a way that we complete our work this week. If it will not be so, probably it is beyond our desire, you and me. But we will make the effort and achieve it.

Afterward, it is my views as follows. After we reach agreement here your intention is, 48 hours after, you stop the bombing and mining.

Dr. Kissinger: Forty-eight hours after I return to America. I will give you the exact time.

Le Duc Tho: We propose 24 hours, 24 hours after you return to America. It would not be good if we have reached agreement here and the bombing continues for 48 hours at home. And afterward I would propose that you will spend one week for consultations with Saigon, etc., etc., with your allies. And after one week after we reach agreement here you will visit Hanoi and we will initial the agreement. And a few days after the initialing then there may be de facto ceasefire.

Dr. Kissinger: When?

Le Duc Tho: A few days after the initialing and announcement and publication, then there may be a ceasefire. I think a de facto ceasefire may be as effective as an official ceasefire after the signing of the agreement, if the two sides really want peace. Naturally the signing of the agreement after the initialing should be very soon, very promptly. Actually in the course of the 10 years of war, on many occasions there were de facto ceasefires—on the occasion of Tet and Christmas, and sometimes they lasted as long as six days.

Now about the discussions of the protocols. After we reached agreement here, maybe the experts on both sides will discuss. It would be quicker if the experts of the two sides discussed this. And I agree [Page 843] with you that when the agreement is signed the protocols will be signed too. But I think that we should not await the completion of the discussion of the protocol before you will go to Hanoi to initial the agreement. It would not be necessary to wait for that. And after we reached agreement here, on the one hand the experts of two sides discuss the protocols and on the other hand you will visit Hanoi. Because in practice, one week after we reached agreement here, you visit Hanoi and you return to Washington and it will take a few days after the agreement will be signed; there will be a period of 10 days, sufficient for the experts to discuss the protocol. We should not wait the completion of the discussions before the visit.

Dr. Kissinger: Before the visit. But you agree there can be no signing until the protocols have been finished?

Le Duc Tho: I think that both sides should make an effort that after we reached agreement here then the experts of the two sides will discuss the protocol and both sides should make an effort to complete the discussions before the signing. But we should not wait till after the completion of the discussions for you to visit Hanoi. We should not for the reason of the discussions of the protocol being unfinished delay the signing.

Dr. Kissinger: You will do your utmost to finish it.

Le Duc Tho: We will do our utmost. You have yourself said that in fighting we are resolute but when a solution is adequate already we are resolute in peacefully settling the problem. But in the greater part it depends on you. From past experience we realize that. I do not want to reiterate the past experience.

Dr. Kissinger: All right, let us take a brief break and then I will make a response. Is there another document?

Le Duc Tho: Chapter IV, the most important one. [Hands over DRV redraft of Chapter IV, Tab B.]

Let us have a break.

Dr. Kissinger: All right. Oh, but you’ve got a change?

Mr. Thach: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: You have changed (c)?

Le Duc Tho: In a few places we have changed as we said.

Dr. Kissinger: You’ve already reduced the time for election by one month. Since you’ve typed this, you’ve already reduced the time for election by one month. If we meet here all week long you will be back to your original demand that Thieu resign immediately. You’ll ask for elections in two months and the resignation of Thieu two months before the elections.

Le Duc Tho: It is your proposal!

[Page 844]

[The meeting broke at 5:36 p.m. and resumed at 6:14 p.m.]

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Advisor, I think I will make only some general comments. And then we will make some specific comments tomorrow. As I have said to you before, we recognize that in our discussions in October you proceeded with good will and that you made a great effort. And so did we make a great effort. Our positions were some what unequal in the sense that you had many weeks to prepare your position and you had many weeks to consult your allies, while we were presented for the first time with your position on October 8 and therefore had to work with very short deadlines. This is the objective basis that has brought us together again here and that we have to overcome.

Now we have already made major efforts and, as I said to you yesterday, difficulties that could not be overcome in three days will have a different aspect when we have many weeks and when we can show there was some concern for the point of view of parties not present in this room. So, provided we have an agreement by the end of this week that we can really believe in, we will implement it with the greatest determination. And indeed at the end of the meeting, after we have an agreement, I want to discuss with the Special Advisor concretely various contingencies that might arise, so that we are prepared for every possible case.

As I told you a while back, it appears now that the emissary of Saigon to the President will be his Special Assistant Mr. Duc. And we will take him and the Ambassador to Washington, Ambassador Phuong, back with us, and the President will personally impress his determination on them. I shall talk to you about the schedule that is being planned after that, at the end of my remarks.

Whether this is necessary, or whether we are willing to do this, depends on the kind of agreement we can achieve this week. And we are, quite frankly, in the same position as you are. If we make peace we should make it quickly. But if there’s a continuation of war we should also know it quickly. And so we both have the same approach to these talks.

Now, as for the presentation of the Special Advisor, we are now in the position where both sides are putting forward views and we are not yet really negotiating. As I analyze the concessions of the Special Advisor, they were in two categories, neither of which has practical consequences. The first has to do with our honor and our basic position as a people. And they are appreciated. But they reflect primarily, they will primarily result in a better atmosphere about the agreement. They will not affect any operational matter. The second concerns certain technical changes, such as dropping Indochina Time and dropping the French text. [Laughter]—I don’t want to seem ungrateful—and [Page 845] agreeing to the correct Vietnamese translation for “without limit of time” and to the correct translation of “various.”

We have, however, a number of issues of principle which the Special Advisor raised.

First, let us mention who should sign it. We had never agreed to a two-party signing. We had always said that we would ask our allies in Saigon and do whatever seemed more appropriate to them. Now on the issue of whether the parties should in fact be named, we have, of course, in our proposal not mentioned the Government of the Republic of Vietnam either. And since the four parties would sign with their official titles, I would assume that the official title of the Foreign Minister of the Provisional Revolutionary Government would be mentioned at that point in the document. So we are not trying to prejudge this issue one way or the other. We are asking nothing for Saigon that is different from what we are willing to give to the PRG. The Special Advisor mentioned to me once that nothing we do here requires us to recognize the PRG, and he realizes, of course, that we will not recognize it. We therefore think that we should confine the titles to the signature.

With respect to the control of areas, I think this will be a fact that will arise from reality and not from the wording of a document, because the practical consequence of a ceasefire in place is that some areas will have to be controlled by some parties. But we are prepared to discuss which is the best way to express this reality.

I will put aside the two big issues, withdrawal and political issue, and turn to the problem of Cambodia and Laos. As it is written in the agreement; I will speak separately about the unilateral understandings, although it applies also to the unilateral discussions. We must avoid in these discussions raising questions about our possible motives. For example, I find it very difficult to understand why you would not be prepared to reaffirm and respect the 1954 Agreements on Cambodia and the 1962 Agreements on Laos. Because either your text already says this, and all we thought we were doing was to make this clearer, or your text says something else and we would like to know what it is that makes the difference between our version and your version. We did not intend with Article 20(a) to change the meaning; we simply wanted to clarify.

Or when you refuse to say that “the parties to the conference will not use the territory of Cambodia and the territory of Laos to encroach on the sovereignty and security of one another,” naturally one wonders why it is you object to this. Or let us take the ceasefire in Laos and Cambodia. Why is it that the ceasefire in Laos must be 30 days after the ceasefire in Vietnam? Why would it not be better to end the war in Indochina simultaneously? On any schedule that we can project, the signing of the agreement will be two to two and a half weeks, closer [Page 846] to two and a half to three weeks, after we complete the agreement here. Then why is it that we cannot move toward a ceasefire in Laos immediately? And if you want to protect yourself we can agree to delay it a couple of days after the signing. But we do not see why there has to be a month delay between these two events. This again raises an inevitable question about motive.

Incidentally, I think your paragraph about the DMZ we have to analyze, but that does seem to me a substantive progress. But I’ll give you a definitive answer tomorrow.

Now then, let me turn to the two big issues in which the Special Advisor has instructed me for many months, for many years, the political issue and the military issue.

When I look at the changes which the Special Advisor has proposed, he has withdrawn almost all the significant concessions that were made by him in October, both in the political field and in the related field of the civilian prisoners. For example, our proposal of September 15 for an election in five months was a Presidential election within the existing constitutional framework and was part of an agreement the security provisions of which had not even been discussed. As we made clear in the message that we sent to Hanoi, we considered that particular proposal superseded by the discussions that took place in October. Similarly, the creation of the Committee of National Reconciliation which was proposed then was in the context of supervising elections within a completely different framework than the one that exists today.

I will not debate every one of the points that was raised, but what we are trying to achieve is not so much an objective change in the situation on the political side as to avoid ambiguities that can later be the source of unending debate and controversy.

Now let me turn to the issue of the civilian prisoners. Our position was based on two factors. One, we wanted to separate the issue of civilian prisoners from the issue of American military personnel. We cannot possibly maintain the ceasefire or the other provisions of this agreement if our military captured personnel are not returned and if it gets involved in the disputes that may arise between the Vietnamese parties as to who is a military and civilian prisoner. Secondly, we told you then and we’ll tell you now that we have a difficult enough job with this agreement and any conceivable modification of it in gaining the acquiescence of other parties. And to propose that, first, any forces that are considered enemy can stay in the country and that, secondly, they should be augmented by 30,000 prisoners is a proposal which we cannot in good conscience accept and which will under no circumstances be accepted by our allies. This I state as a fact of life.

On the other hand, if we can get a satisfactory solution of the troop issue then the prisoner issue will be much easier to settle. I am certain [Page 847] if there were a withdrawal of forces that the release of the prisoners could be pressed for much more easily and could probably be achieved.

Now let me say a word about the withdrawal of the so-called North Vietnamese forces. I am using the Special Advisor’s formulation.

Le Duc Tho: And it is correct.

Dr. Kissinger: Now there are a number of difficulties that I wanted to explain that are of a technical nature. For example, in paragraph 3(a), where it says “The United States forces and so forth should stay in place” and where we have proposed saying “and all other non-Vietnamese forces.” If there are no North Vietnamese forces there, then what is the objection? But if there are North Vietnamese forces there then they are not covered by the ceasefire at all. So that, from a strictly legal point of view, North Vietnam would have the right to resume military activities as soon as it admitted it had forces there. This is a legal, an objective difficulty for which, apart now from the issue of withdrawal, we have to find a solution.

Le Duc Tho: Here you quoted only half of the sentence, the so-called North Vietnamese forces. Regarding these forces there have been North Vietnamese going to South Vietnam. Literally they are children of the South Vietnamese regroupees. These people are organized into units and go South. As I told you the other day, these forces now belong to the people’s liberation forces of South Vietnam. Therefore Article 3(b) stipulates that the armed forces of the two South Vietnamese parties shall remain in place. So it has been explicitly explained in 3(b). Now in 3(a) you propose “United States forces and all other non-South Vietnamese forces.” So you put the so-called North Vietnamese forces at the same place with United States forces though these are two different forces. It is stipulated here that they stay in-place pending the implementation of the plan of troop withdrawal. So your intention here is that these forces should be withdrawn. And herein lies the intention . . .

Dr. Kissinger: That was not really the intention. The intention was to create an obligation, for in these three provisions the troop withdrawal was not the key issue. The key issue was that there was no legal obligation for North Vietnamese forces at all. Because all you would have to do one day is announce you had forces in the South and they would not be covered by this agreement.

Le Duc Tho: I shall answer you later. I have many reasons.

Dr. Kissinger: Many reasons for what?

Le Duc Tho: Answering you.

Dr. Kissinger: Of that I have no question. But it’s a problem that we must deal with.

But beyond this, we have attempted in a number of places at least to make more specific the requirement for the demobilization of forces, [Page 848] to make it more concrete, and to the end of the chapter on Laos and Cambodia to add a statement about the principle that these forces should remain within their country. Which does not maintain that the forces are outside their country. So in that respect there is no need for an admission.

Now, let me state my own personal view of the matter. My own personnel view was jokingly expressed by the Special Advisor when we talked about “without limit of time.” I believe that when you want to fight again you will fight again, no matter what we say in this document. I believe that the guarantee for this agreement is not the brilliant international commission which the Special Advisor has developed, but the willingness of the United States and the DRV to live in peace together. These are the guarantees. I also have no illusions that since you managed to infiltrate so many people and so much heavy equipment we didn’t know anything about, that you can do so again. It is a question of principle that you do not admit you have troops in South Vietnam. But it is also a matter of principle for the South Vietnamese not to admit that you have a right to keep your forces there. So what we are trying to do is to find formulations that are consistent with the self-respect of all parties and that will permit the evolution to occur on which the peace will ultimately depend. Therefore I am not asking you to answer me now with a concrete proposal, but I am asking you to consider some of these aspects overnight.

So on the issue of the troops we agree that what you call the so-called North Vietnamese troops should not be mentioned as such. But we ask again to look at the additions to Article 13 and the additions to Chapter VII that maintain the principle. About specifying the rate of demobilization. These are some general observations. And I have already covered the point on the simultaneity of Laos and Cambodia.

Let me say a word about the schedule. With respect to the ending of the bombing after we come to an agreement, I will have to check in Washington what the practical aspects of this are. With respect to the schedule, we agree that it should be rapid and that it should be carried through to the conclusion once it is started. As a practical matter I should stay in Washington for a week, then leave for Saigon which will take one day, then spend three days in Saigon. So it could not really happen before the 11th day after I return to Washington. But the major thing is that we avoid getting into the same difficulty as last time—that the next time we make a schedule we can really maintain it. But this seems like a realistic schedule.

Now, with respect to the ceasefire after the initialing, I am not sure that I understand your reasoning. Our idea is to have a de facto ceasefire occur as soon as the agreements are announced and published, which should be within about 48 hours of the initialing. But I must also tell [Page 849] you in all candor that it would have extremely grave consequences if on my way back from Hanoi to the United States there were suddenly a violent eruption all over Vietnam started by your side. I do not see how the President can go on television after my return and announce that there is peace in Vietnam or in Indochina when at that precise moment there is a total turmoil all over the country. So I think we should both restrain the impetuosity of our allies and induce them to cease offensive operations after my visit to Hanoi.

Le Duc Tho: But you do with Saigon’s side too.

Dr. Kissinger: Absolutely, we have the same obligation. Absolutely. We will take the same obligation with Saigon. It cannot be unilateral. We shall agree with one another when offensive operations should cease, and we will bring about the observation of this by all forces on our side. As for the signing of the protocols, we believe that they should be signed simultaneously and we believe that two weeks is enough time to get them completed. Because the international machinery will simply not be able to function without these protocols. And I would have thought that the Special Advisor was anxious to see his handiwork in action. [Laughter]

But now let me be very concrete. Both of us have come a very long way. And while we are at a very difficult point right now, we should not forget where we started. The war has lasted so long and so many issues are raised with each passing month that inevitably as we make peace we discover more and more new aspects. So we are approaching these discussions this week with the determination not to let the settlement fail. We will review all your comments today, tonight, with the intention of seeing what adjustments are possible. We will review all of our proposals tonight to see which of them are not central to the solution. And we will meet you tomorrow and then we should discuss, and if you approach matters with the same attitude I believe that we will come to an agreement this week and that peace will then return to Vietnam within a matter of weeks.

Le Duc Tho: Let me speak a few sentences. Then we should break. Truly we have covered a long distance to peacefully settle the Vietnam problem. But the path of this long distance is not a smooth one. Now, once again, let us make an effort and achieve the agreement. But you should realize that we have made great efforts and on every point you have agreed with us. Now you raised a number of new questions, and some involved great questions of principles and great questions of substance, and you should understand that it will be difficult for us to accept. Because you have promised to us that you would not change them, but now you change them, and this is a very harsh question for us. We have constantly made efforts so that we might achieve a solution. But you should carefully consider our views and find out a satisfactory [Page 850] solution. Of course we will show good will to settle the problem. Therefore I would invite you once again to give careful consideration to our views. We have come here purposefully to settle the problem and not to drag on the discussions. But it will not really depend on us. We can say that this time it mainly depends on you. I hope that tomorrow you will have new views to express, and we shall consider your comments too. We shall depart now and tomorrow we meet again at 11:00.

Dr. Kissinger: No, may I suggest, Mr. Special Advisor, if it is convenient to you. Unfortunately, I had agreed to go to Brussels to enlist one of the members of your International Control Commission. And I know you would never forgive me if there were not some Indonesian forces on Vietnamese soil to help inspect the agreement. And after that I would like to meet with my colleagues to make sure that we have a realistic position. So perhaps if we could meet say at 2:30 tomorrow afternoon. If that is convenient.

Le Duc Tho: That I agree to. Please go on.

Dr. Kissinger: No, that is all. And I will then be in a position to go through the agreement more precisely.

Le Duc Tho: There are still a number of protocols you have to hand us. Please hand us now so that we can consider.

Dr. Kissinger: I think we’ll be in a better position to do it tomorrow. May we do it tomorrow?

Le Duc Tho: But you will give us tomorrow morning?

Dr. Kissinger: We will send them to you by noon tomorrow, I hope. We don’t want to give you something that we may later have to change.

Le Duc Tho: But in the protocol regarding the International Commission, you should not put in the introduction of a field force of 5,000.

Dr. Kissinger: Do we give any precise numbers?

Mr. Thach: It’s in the press.

Dr. Kissinger: I think it’s only 4,500. You will comment on this. We will give it to you tomorrow. And if we don’t have a final document we will give you something that is a working document that you understand we may have to change. I think the Special Advisor will be proud of us—we have really tried to give meaning to his creation.

Do we want to meet here tomorrow? What about Kleber?

Le Duc Tho: Here.

Dr. Kissinger: With all the television already set up!

[The meeting then 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 are in the original. The tabs are attached but not printed.

    Le Duc Tho made the following report to the Politburo:

    “We criticized Kissinger’s suggested changes to the Agreement and raised four matters of principle:

    “+The Agreement must include the name of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam along with the names of the other governments participating in the agreement.

    “+The areas controlled by the two sides must be clearly delineated.

    “+No withdrawal of North Vietnamese troops.

    “+Article IV must mention the South Vietnamese people’s right to determine their own future.” (Message from Le Duc Tho and Xuan Thuy to the Politburo, 21 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. 350)

    On November 22, Kissinger reported to the President, describing the North Vietnamese response to the 69 proposed changes as follows:

    “—They accepted a few changes which were slanted primarily in the direction of preserving U.S. prestige or adopting technical improvements.

    “—They demonstrated absolutely no substantive give and in fact drastically hardened their position on the political conditions, the problem of political prisoners, and the presence of U.S. civilian personnel in South Vietnam following the 60-day withdrawal period.

    “—In several important areas they returned to former (pre-October 8) negotiating positions.”

    Kissinger continued:

    “It is patently clear that in typical Communist fashion they have hardened their position in order to neutralize the many changes we have asked of them. It is now apparent that we have some very difficult negotiations ahead of us which will probably keep us here for the remainder of the week.” He continued: “During tomorrow’s session we will attempt to reduce the now-serious areas of difference and focus more clearly on the more crucial changes which we must have. The task ahead is a considerable one but it is still obvious that the North Vietnamese do want a settlement. One of the main difficulties now will be to convince Saigon of the urgent necessity of dropping their petty demands and the need to focus on the few really critical issues.” (Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. IX, Vietnam, October 1972–January 1973, Document 116)