31. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • DRV

    • Special Adviser Le Duc Tho
    • Minister Xuan Thuy
    • Nguyen Dinh Phuong (Interpreter)
  • U.S.

    • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger
    • General Alexander M. Haig, Jr.
    • David A. Engel (Interpreter)

Dr. Kissinger: Before going on to other business, Mr. Special Adviser, I wonder if you could explain to me why a member of your delegation gave a background briefing to the press revealing the contents of our conversations?

Le Duc Tho: That is not true. There was no one who did that. I was surprised at the article myself.

Dr. Kissinger: Do you think it is in our interest to reveal exactly what went on in each meeting; to even say that you pounded the table and gave us an ultimatum? Do you think that we would put out everything about your proposals and nothing of ours?

Le Duc Tho: I am very surprised to hear you say this. I can tell you seriously, on my honor, that I have never done such things.

Dr. Kissinger: I said your side, not you.

Le Duc Tho: On my honor, that is completely untrue. You should know that when I speak of honor, I respect it. You can be confident that I would never do that. I am surprised. In fact, I had it marked down in my notes to ask you about it. I would never do this. If “our side” had done this, this would mean me, myself. I have been negotiating with you for four years now and have never done that. You can see that I am serious.

Dr. Kissinger: I have always respected the Special Adviser. But who has a motive to do this? First of all, we know it was a member of the North Vietnamese group. The journalist himself told us this. I am beginning to fear that this question is in the same category as the so-called question of so-called troops. Who has the motive to do this? [Page 911] Not the South Vietnamese, who are made to look ridiculous by this article. There are only two groups. Your allies or yourselves.

Le Duc Tho: I tell you this. If you know who on our side has done this, tell me. I will ask him why he did it and I will reprimand him very severely, but I am confident that no one on our side did it. We never do such things. We have no interest in doing them while we are negotiating with you. It would only be to our disadvantage.

Dr. Kissinger: You could pretend it was a great victory, but in fact it caused a loss of confidence in you so it was a big mistake.

Le Duc Tho: I told you but you have not believed me. I said on my honor, and seriously. I am a revolutionary. I respect my honor. If I had done it, I would tell you frankly. I am not afraid. If I know that someone on our side had done it, I would reprimand him severely. But I said that we would not do it. In negotiating with you I always want to create mutual comprehension and confidence. You have realized this in the course of our negotiations. I ask you, in our negotiations have I ever done anything at variance with my promises? Never. We are still negotiating and we will sign an agreement. We will have long-term relations after the signing. What motive would I have to do such a thing?

Dr. Kissinger: If these tactics continue there will be no agreement. This is what I wanted to discuss with you.

Le Duc Tho: I would not do this. I think it was your side and you want to put the blame on me, but you have no evidence. We are negotiating with you. What would be our purpose?

Dr. Kissinger: Now let us move to substance.

Le Duc Tho: Let me say that we have been negotiating a long time. If we want to negotiate, we should do this seriously and both sides should make an effort to arrive at a settlement. You have threatened me that if this continues there will be no agreement. We should be serious. In negotiations no side should threaten. We should discuss the substance of the matter and both make an effort.

Dr. Kissinger: Now let me give you an analysis of where we stand. This is why we asked for a private meeting. I want to analyze our objective situation this week. I told you in the garden what our necessities were. I explained that we wanted to bring about some changes to satisfy the President’s sense of moral obligation. I told you that if the President’s sense of moral obligation is met we would make a maximum effort to bring about the most rapid implementation of the agreement. I said it yesterday and repeat on behalf of the President today, that once an agreement is reached between us which the President considers satisfactory, and should it be refused by any of the other parties, the President would make a public statement defending the [Page 912] agreement and criticizing whoever was opposing the agreement. But before he could take that grave step we must be able to prove to ourselves that we have done the best possible. Secondly, we must make every reasonable effort to convince our allies that what we have done should be accepted.

These are the objective results this week as I see them. Some marginal improvements have been brought about, but this was followed by an ultimatum on Thursday which poses very grave problems for us and even graver problems for our allies. In this sense, the tendency of the article was perfectly correct. We know each other. We have told each other many things—some difficult, some not difficult. We sincerely want a rapid peace. We are willing to run serious risks for this peace. The President and I have already run great personal risks to bring about peace, but you continue to misrepresent this as trickery. But there are objective limits for both of us and we are very close to those limits. I told you earlier this week we do not want to repeat October. Next time you and I shake hands on an agreement we must be confident that we can carry through the schedule we establish. We don’t believe these conditions exist today. We can’t make the decisions you are asking. If we meet in formal session the danger of a breakup would be too great. Therefore I would like to propose that we postpone today’s session one week, to give me an opportunity to consult personally with the President so he can carry through with the steps which have to be taken. During that week we will also conduct conversations with Special Adviser Duc which we told you we would conduct after the agreement is concluded, but we will do this before the next session so we can save some time afterward. This would be a delay of 5 working days for me; 6 days for you since I need one day of travel. It will give us the opportunity to be certain that when we meet for the final session we will have done everything on both sides to create the preconditions for agreement. Then if we fail, it will not be because one side would be imposing its views on the other side, but because objective reality does not permit a solution.

So now we have a very important decision to make. We can dedicate ourselves to one more effort in a serious search for peace, maintaining strict silence on both sides and without any pressure on either side, or we can recognize that we have not succeeded. I strongly urge we follow the first course. I would like to hear the Special Adviser’s views. You have to understand that when we meet, what I said yesterday concerning conditions will apply. This is also the maximum we could even discuss. As I said, we will make an effort and you should too. Our discussions will be in the framework of yesterday’s conversation.

Le Duc Tho: We have been talking for the last few days. You said that the President has moral obligations. We, too, have moral [Page 913] obligations. Throughout our negotiations in these days I have talked to you at length on this. In reviewing these days of negotiations you should correctly evaluate the efforts we have made, including our proposals on Thursday. My proposal on Thursday opened the way to a settlement. You said I made an ultimatum to you but it is not a threatening ultimatum. I said many times that I don’t threaten anyone but I will not let anyone threaten me. In our proposal we have maintained the questions of principle. We have made the greatest efforts in connection with these, but we have come to our limits and we cannot retreat. I have expressed all these views to you. We are still making efforts to move to a peaceful settlement of the Vietnam problem. If I were not trying to do this, I would never have made such a proposal. In recent days of negotiation there were points on which the two parties agreed. You proposed some changes which we met, but you have not responded to our proposals and yet we are proposing nothing much new. Therefore, we have made the utmost effort. Whether there is a peaceful settlement or not depends on you. If you want further discussions with us, I agree. But if you want to stop for a while, I agree too. If we temporarily stop the meetings and meet again, tell us when you want to meet so we can arrange a schedule. In negotiations, both sides should make serious efforts. If you want to postpone for a few days, in the interval think it over and make great efforts. If so, we will also make great efforts. Both sides should find formulas to preserve principles, so as to bring about a good solution. This is the meaning of negotiations. But I do not understand whether your proposal to temporarily discontinue the negotiations stems from the article or from a desire to consult with your allies. If it is the article, we have not leaked anything. From our experience whenever there is a leak it is from your side.

Dr. Kissinger: You are good students. You have learned your lessons well.

Le Duc Tho: We never learn mistakes from others, just good things. If you must consult with your allies for a few days and return to talk with us, I agree. It is up to you. When we resume our meetings you and we must make efforts to find a solution. If we can’t it is the responsibility of your side. When we resume our meetings, because we are so close to peace, both sides should make great efforts. We have made the greatest effort possible. As I told you yesterday, we have a great desire for peace but we have to envisage all the possibilities. We don’t know whether a settlement is possible or not because from past experience over the four years of negotiations we have realized that our negotiations have been very difficult because of President Nixon’s policy. He was not yet ready for a settlement.

Dr. Kissinger: Neither were you. You were still counting on sending your tanks to An Loc using the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

[Page 914]

Le Duc Tho: If we continue to talk this way it will take us days. We want peace but we do not know whether President Nixon is also prepared to go to peace. We have realized many difficulties in negotiations. We want a peaceful settlement, but if President Nixon does not want it then there will be no settlement and the war will continue. We have to be prepared for all eventualities. This is very objective. There is no other way. As I told you, if a settlement is to be found we should understand each other. Requirements should have some limits. If these limits are depassed then there will be a breakup. You should understand me and we will understand you about this too. Yesterday I made a comparison to a glass of water. We understand. We never go beyond the limits which we think are acceptable, but you also have to understand us like that in order to attain a settlement. To this date you have seen how we have proposed reasonable and logical solutions, but there are always limits. If the limits are depassed, whether we want it or not, we will not be able to settle. Yesterday I spoke to you lengthily on the subject. Now it is up to you.

You want to postpone and we agree. You fix a date.

Now let me add one thing. We are negotiating to come to a settlement. On the battlefield, as well as the negotiating table, you should not threaten and pressure us. This will not lead to a settlement. But if you show good will, we are very reasonable people to settle. I think once we reach agreement you will also come to that conclusion. I tell you this frankly and straight-forwardly. In negotiations we should be frank with each other and create a propitious atmosphere for the talks. We must have mutual comprehension to make a settlement possible.

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, let me make a few observations. In our early meetings you always emphasized the importance of correctly analyzing the situation. In this respect your analysis of the President is very important. You have difficulties regarding this because very few people know him. The people you usually talk to don’t know him at all, and journalists do not understand him, and so you are often misled. You should understand him. He has many attributes like yourselves. When he thinks he is being threatened or pressured, he reacts very violently, just like you do.

Le Duc Tho: Last night I said we never threaten or pressure you. Why did I say that? We have been an oppressed people. Only others come to threaten and pressure us. We are never afraid of threats, not afraid of pressure. We oppose pressure and threats. We never threaten or pressure anyone else. We have never said anything to threaten you. That is a fact. In negotiations, who has pressured and threatened whom? Everything has been put forward by you, not us. We only put forward the question of civilian detainees but we understand your difficulties. That is the reason we suggested steps to settle the question. So have [Page 915] you ever seen anyone put forward more reasonable and logical solutions? When any war is ended both sides should release their captives.

Dr. Kissinger: But both sides should also withdraw their troops.

Le Duc Tho: But this does not conform to morality because you have introduced one half a million troops. You have a moral obligation to withdraw.

Dr. Kissinger: I do not want to reopen that issue, but I would like to answer a question which the Special Adviser asked me as to whether President Nixon wants peace. I am President Nixon’s closest associate in foreign policy. Every day I meet him for many hours. I can assure you that he wants to make peace. He is making great efforts for peace. He is prepared to make great efforts for peace. But if the result of the negotiations is an agreement worse than the one we started with, if we don’t show some improvement in areas in which he has expressed concern, we can’t make peace. That is an objective reality. But I agree with the Special Adviser. We should both think about the issues. We shall make great efforts. We shall come to the next meeting with a serious, fixed determination to settle matters then. We are now at the point where we know that in one more session we only have three issues left, as the Special Adviser has said. There is not that much to talk about. We will settle or we will not. I believe we can settle. We will take your principles seriously. You should do the same regarding ours. We will look for sentences to put in or keep in the agreement taking into account your concerns. You know what haunts us. You have found a reasonable solution to the problem of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. We can find a reasonable solution for other problems. We will come with good will and an expectation to settle. This is the reason for the postponement: to permit both sides to come to the best possible solution, and this will permit me to consult personally with President Nixon and for President Nixon to personally consult our allies. The only significance of the article is that we should agree in the interval not to pressure each other through the press, and we should maintain good will toward each other.

Le Duc Tho: I agree with you. We will postpone the meeting for a few days for you to consider our views.

Dr. Kissinger: You should consider our views too.

Le Duc Tho: I understand your views. But I should say that in our views there are things that we cannot go further. You should give special attention to this.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand.

Le Duc Tho: In the interval we will not pressure you, but actually you are making pressure on us.

Dr. Kissinger: How?

[Page 916]

Le Duc Tho: From past experience we know. So when you raise the question of making pressure it is your responsibility. When you do not abide by our agreement not to make pressure, you have no reason to complain about our actions because we will never yield to pressure or threats. We obey only reason and truth.

Dr. Kissinger: I propose, Mr. Special Adviser, that we meet December 4, a week from Monday, at 10:30 in the morning.

Le Duc Tho: I agree.

Dr. Kissinger: I propose that in order to prevent speculation we announce this: that both sides have agreed to meet again on December 4.

Le Duc Tho: I agree.

Dr. Kissinger: We will say that we have made progress this week and both sides will study the remaining issues in order to bring about a solution at our next meeting. Nothing else.

Le Duc Tho: I propose that we will announce only that we will meet again next time, because of our past experience. Last time you announced to the press that we would meet one more time to come to an agreement and if we say this time that we will come to a solution, we will have the same experience.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree.

Le Duc Tho: So we will say only one sentence that we will meet next time. If we reach agreement next time, we will announce it then.

Dr. Kissinger: Right. I have just one suggestion. We will not say that this will be the last session but there will be great speculation on what happened this week and therefore it would be better, since it will be unavoidable to say something, not in an announcement, but as press guidance, to say that some progress was made but that some issues are still unsettled. Incidentally, we will not reopen any issues that we have settled this week.

Le Duc Tho: Because if you raise these issues again the war will continue. We have agreed to things. If we discuss again, the negotiations will last four more years. As for us, if anyone asks us we will just say no comment, just that we agreed to meet again. You should do the same thing.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree. But no more stories like this. Let me make another suggestion.

Le Duc Tho: You did it but you are complaining about it.

Dr. Kissinger: Just a minute. We know you did it. If something happens like this again we must react strongly.

Le Duc Tho: We did not do it. Once we promise we will not do something, we should keep our promises.

[Page 917]

Dr. Kissinger: We have done nothing. I have one other suggestion. In order to save some time, I suggest the experts begin work on the protocols in order to expedite the signing.

Le Duc Tho: The important thing for us is to arrive at an agreement. On the basis of the agreement we can discuss the protocols. Since we have not yet completed the agreement there is no basis to discuss them.

Dr. Kissinger: But the protocols set up the procedures for the International Commission. It is up to you, but you understand we want everything to be signed together. We just thought that this would speed matters up.

Le Duc Tho: We don’t want to delay ending the war, but our view is we should complete the agreement and then discuss the protocols on the basis of the agreement. That was also your view.

Dr. Kissinger: My view now is that we should discuss the protocols, but if you are not yet ready to do this it is up to you. But this will delay the signing.

Le Duc Tho: We do not want to delay the signing. Once agreement is reached, the experts will discuss the protocols immediately.

Dr. Kissinger: The Minister has not had too much to do recently. We do not want him to get lazy. He will just meet Flora Lewis to practice his speciality of making complicated and ambiguous statements. There is a plenary session scheduled for Avenue Kleber this Thursday. I propose that both sides make calm statements. We will instruct Ambassador Porter in this sense so as to contribute to the atmosphere.

Xuan Thuy: If Ambassador Porter is calm, we will be calm, we will be calm ourselves. I thank you for your concern about my not having anything to do but in fact I have a great deal to do.

Le Duc Tho: You have suggested that this week both sides not reveal anything, but if you propose it you should honor it. Many times you have not. If you do not honor it, there is no reason for us to honor it either.

Dr. Kissinger: We will reveal nothing. We will warn the press not to speculate in any direction. We will not say anything, and you also must scrupulously observe this.

Xuan Thuy: The United States press has been saying many things about the International Commission, its organization, numbers, etc.

Dr. Kissinger: Let me add one thing. We have some experts in the State Department not under my direct control. For the first time in my negotiations they have something to do. They are beside themselves with pride. Therefore, in that one area there has been some difficulty enforcing discipline. It is unfair because proper credit should be given to the Special Adviser for his role in drafting the chapter. But we will enforce discipline and we will also use our maximum influence with our allies to keep them from press comment.

[Page 918]

Xuan Thuy: There are daily comments from Saigon.

Dr. Kissinger: If I could control Saigon they would not be attacking me personally. Recently Radio Hanoi has been kinder to me than Radio Saigon.

Le Duc Tho: Radio Hanoi has never attacked you personally.

Dr. Kissinger: It did so, once. But we will do our best. So we will meet December 4th at 10:30. Incidentally, where should we meet? At Gif or at Avenue Kleber? There is no sense going all the way out there when everyone knows we are meeting anyway.

Le Duc Tho: We will consider it but if we meet at Kleber and if we don’t come to a settlement there will be much speculation.

Dr. Kissinger: Why would there be more speculation if we meet at Kleber than at Gif?

Le Duc Tho: It is more official. Gif is only semi-official.

Dr. Kissinger: I think when the Special Adviser and I meet it is already very official.

Now I understand Kleber has a smaller conference room. Or the other possibility is that one day we meet at a place you suggest and the other day we meet at a place we suggest.

Le Duc Tho: We will consider it.

Dr. Kissinger: Let Colonel Guay know. I want you also to know this. There are many people who want to get the Nobel Prize for Peace. Yesterday I paid a courtesy call on Foreign Minister Schumann. He thinks he has great influence with you. I spoke to him only in a very general way, like the Minister with Flora Lewis. I did not speak as specifically as your spokesman did to the Herald Tribune. Therefore if he uses his influence with you he’s on his own. We don’t recognize him as an intermediary.

Xuan Thuy: Yesterday the French Radio said that you met Schumann and the French would keep secret all the details of the interview.

Dr. Kissinger: That would be very easy.

Le Duc Tho: You are very resourceful. After we reach an agreement I will make my observations about you. It is something I owe you.

Dr. Kissinger: You are trying to bring pressure on me again. What date should we tell the press we will meet next time?

Le Duc Tho: That is up to you. You will be asked when you leave.

Dr. Kissinger: How about 11 o’clock Washington time today? That is 5 p.m. Paris time.

Le Duc Tho: I agree.

Dr. Kissinger: We will just announce that we have completed our discussions for now and that we will meet again on December 4.

[Page 919]

Le Duc Tho: I propose we just say we will meet again on December 4.

Dr. Kissinger: All right. I agree. If I am asked about the article as I certainly will be, I will dismiss it as speculation and warn the press on speculating in any direction. We will recall that we have mutually agreed to reveal nothing.

Le Duc Tho: All right, but I will closely follow your statements after you leave here.

Dr. Kissinger: I will say nothing. I will give no interviews or make any statements of any kind. So we will meet again on December 4. Both sides will make great efforts.

Le Duc Tho: I agree.

Dr. Kissinger: And we will both use our influence with our allies to restrain their natural southern exuberance.

Le Duc Tho: But they are completely in your hands.

Dr. Kissinger: I wish you could attend our evening meetings.

Le Duc Tho: But Saigon troops are paid and their equipment supplied by you. All the money for economic construction and their finances come from you. You can decide.

Dr. Kissinger: We cannot, as recent events have proved. But once agreement has been reached we will make a big effort. So both of us should use this week to think over our proposals very seriously and try to preserve the best possible atmosphere. We will instruct Ambassador Porter to observe a more generous line with the Minister.

Le Duc Tho: I remind you that in the interval before our next meeting you should also reduce your air activities south of the 20th parallel, where you are attacking very ferociously now, so as to create a propitious atmosphere.

Dr. Kissinger: I will look into it. So we will meet December 4 at a place to be decided.

Le Duc Tho: We will let you know before you leave Washington.

Dr. Kissinger: I will leave Washington December 3rd. And you should not look so glum when you leave the house today or there will be many articles like the ones we have seen.

Le Duc Tho: When you proposed the schedule the other day, we did not believe it. We have had much experience and we will not be deceived by your schedule again.

Dr. Kissinger: There is a time to be distrustful and a time for confidence. I am not trying to deceive you and it is unacceptable to me for you to accuse me of deceiving you. This is a difficult problem. We will move as fast as we possibly can but it is not enough just to end the war. We must make peace between us. I told you that we can [Page 920] agree on many schedules but if there are not the conditions for fulfilling it there will always be failures.

Le Duc Tho: This is what I want to say. Next time you propose a schedule you should keep it.

Dr. Kissinger: Right. Therefore if we come to an agreement next time we will be certain that when we make the schedule we will keep it. This is the advantage of the postponement. I want to say one other thing. Both sides are preparing for two possibilities because both must be ready for either peace or war. But we should not create needless animosity and distrust in what we hope is the final phase of the war. The most important result of the ending of the war should be the improvement of relations between our two peoples. While we should be prepared for each contingency, we should keep in mind that we are so close to agreement that we should have a new attitude in our relationship and create no unnecessary hostility between us. Therefore we should not attack each other’s motives either publicly or privately.

Le Duc Tho: I have one more sentence. You speak about creating confidence to reach a peaceful settlement. That is right but that depends on you. You must make great efforts.

Dr. Kissinger: On both sides.

Le Duc Tho: Mainly on you.

Dr. Kissinger: On both sides equally.

Le Duc Tho: We maintain our view.

Dr. Kissinger: One more thing. To show how serious we are, on Chapter 6 we want to give you our idea of a protocol on the Four-Party Joint Military Commission for you to study in the interval for when the experts meet again. It is a sign of our good will.

Le Duc Tho: Have you any other protocols?

Dr. Kissinger: I think you have all of our protocols. There is a protocol for the Two-Party Joint Military Commission but this does not affect us, just the two South Vietnamese parties. If you want to come to meet in the United States on December 4 we can meet in Arizona. It is warm and dry. It would be good for the Minister’s chest.

  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 11 Rue Darthé, Choisy-le-Roi.

    The meeting this day made no progress. The sides remained far apart on the few remaining issues separating them. In fact, as Kissinger told Nixon, he had purposely set up the meeting as a private one, between Le Duc Tho and Xuan Thuy and himself and Haig, rather than a formal delegation-to-delegation negotiating session. During the meeting, as Kissinger informed Nixon: “I pressed home to him [Tho] that if we were to hold a regular business session today it was apparent from my discussions with him yesterday that we would have quickly reached an impasse. The result would be a breakdown in negotiations and a resumption of military activity, this time on a scale not heretofore contemplated.” Kissinger proposed a week’s delay in which each side would study the other’s positions and he would carry out necessary personal consultations in Washington, pushing the next meeting to December 4. Le Duc Tho, despite wanting an agreement then, reluctantly agreed to the delay. ( Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. IX, Vietnam, October 1972–January 1973, Document 126)

    During this round of negotiations after his return from Saigon, Kissinger met nightly with the South Vietnamese Ambassadors to the United States and United Kingdom and the head of the South Vietnamese delegation to the plenary talks to brief them on his meeting earlier in the day with Le Duc Tho. In his memoir, Kissinger recalled: “Their instructions [from South Vietnamese President Thieu] were simple. They were authorized to accept Hanoi’s surrender on all the sixty-nine changes proposed by the inventive Nha [Hoang Duc Nha, confidant and close adviser to Thieu]. They had no authority to consider less or to discuss any compromise or to entertain any alternative language.” (Kissinger, White House Years, p. 1418) The key issue for the South Vietnamese was the presence of North Vietnamese troops. And because the South Vietnamese demanded the withdrawal of these troops before Thieu would sign a settlement, and because the North Vietnamese refused to consider this demand, or even to admit that North Vietnamese troops were in the South, Kissinger, as Nixon’s representative, found himself in an almost impossible position.

    Kissinger, Haig, and Ambassador William Sullivan, a new and senior member of the U.S. negotiating team, met with the South Vietnamese diplomats on the evening of November 25. Kissinger read to them a message from President Nixon in which Nixon said that the October 8 agreement, with improvements added since, was the best the United States and South Vietnam would get and that if South Vietnam wished U.S. support in the future in the event North Vietnam violated the agreement, the South Vietnamese had to accept the less than perfect agreement. There was no chance at all, given the diminishing support in the U.S. Congress for the war, that he could continue the war; if South Vietnam wished to continue, it was on its own. After discussing the message with the South Vietnamese diplomats, joined at the meeting by Thieu’s special assistant from Saigon, Nguyen Phu Duc, Kissinger told the South Vietnamese they had to accept the cease-fire and the agreement he had negotiated, assuming he could get the North Vietnamese back to this point. “Your choice,” he said, “is to join with us ordestroy yourselves. These are facts.” Ambassador Sullivan added: “If you had driven out the North Vietnamese you would, of course, be in a different position in a ceasefire.” ( Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. IX, Vietnam, October 1972–January 1973, Document 125)

    Kissinger reported to Nixon that the meeting had one good result: these senior South Vietnamese “are now seized with the realities of the situation.” However, he continued, “I seriously doubt that President Thieu himself has yet grasped the problem accurately.” (Ibid., Document 126)

    The North Vietnamese understood well that the South Vietnamese were making it difficult for the United States to achieve a settlement and that this offered an opportunity for them. Le Duc Tho and Xuan Thuy, reporting on their November 25 meeting with Kissinger and Haig, informed the Politburo: “The U.S. is having problems with its puppets. We need to watch this and exploit this contradiction [conflict].” (Message from Le Duc Tho and Xuan Thuy to the Politburo, 25 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. 351)