39. Memorandum of Conversation of a Ministers Meeting1


  • Xuan Thuy, Minister, Chief DRV Delegate to Paris Conference on Vietnam
  • Nguyen Co Thach, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs
  • Trinh Ngoc Thai, Delegation Member
  • Nguyen Dinh Phuong, Interpreter
  • Notetaker
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (Briefly at end)
  • Ambassador William Porter, Chief of U.S. Delegation to Paris Conference on Vietnam
  • Ambassador William Sullivan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
  • Mr. Winston Lord, NSC Staff Member
  • Mr. Peter Rodman, NSC Staff Member
  • Miss Bonnie Long, notetaker

Xuan Thuy: How did you sleep last night?

Ambassador Porter: Very well, thank you. I hope you slept well last night, too.

Xuan Thuy: I slept rather well last night but it took me a long time before I could fall asleep. I was waiting for the message from Hanoi, but it did not come yet.

Ambassador Sullivan: We did not let Ambassador Porter go home last night. He had to sleep at our Residence.

Ambassador Porter: It was too late to go home and I telephoned my wife but she didn’t believe me.

Mr. Minister, Mr. Vice Foreign Minister, as he said yesterday, Mr. Kissinger is planning to leave this evening.

[Aides struggle to get tape recorder going.]

Mr. Minister, we can go to the moon but we can’t make this work.

Because Mr. Kissinger is leaving this evening, we really should pin down these understandings today. We should reach agreement on as many as possible, and then our principals can take up any remaining ones this afternoon.

There are two types of documents. First are mutual understandings, on which we should achieve agreed language. Our versions of those understandings consist of statements by one side and the response of the other. Second, our unilateral statements. These reflect our assumptions or interpretations. We will give you these unilateral statements for your information; we do not need to debate them or work out common language.

You listed your documents yesterday. I propose we begin by going through our documents today.

The first one concerns U.S. reconnaissance. We will read off the list. The second is aircraft carriers. The third is “Prisoners/Missing in Action of the Parties.” The fourth is Cambodia. The fifth is a mutual understanding on Cambodia. Sixth is Laos. And seven is “The Unconditional Return of U.S. Prisoners.” Do you have any comment at this point, Mr. Minister?

Xuan Thuy: Please go on, Mr. Ambassador.

Ambassador Porter: Well, we would begin with reconnaissance. There is a question of general agreement on substance and consideration of specific language. With “Reconnaissance”—the understanding on reconnaissance—it would be quite brief and it would read as follows: “With respect to reconnaissance activities the U.S. side confirms that with the coming into effect of the agreement reconnaissance activities [Page 1081] over the territory of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam will cease.” [Ambassador Sullivan hands over a copy at Tab A.]

If you would like to consider that or give us a reaction now, or we can proceed to go through the various texts as we have developed them.

Xuan Thuy: Please, Mr. Ambassador. Please, read out all the understandings. Then we shall come back.

Ambassador Porter: The next one is “Aircraft Carriers:” “With respect to U.S. aircraft carriers, the U.S. side cannot accept any restrictions regarding the transit of aircraft carriers, as was pointed out by Dr. Kissinger to Special Adviser Le Duc Tho on October 11, 1972. Thus, the understanding on this question with respect to maintaining a distance of 300 miles from the shores of North Vietnam refers only to the stationing of U.S. aircraft carriers.” [Ambassador Sullivan hands over copy at Tab B. Mr. Phuong rereads aloud in Vietnamese.]

The next item is “Prisoners and Missing in Action of the Parties:” “It is understood between the U.S. and DRV that the phrase ʻof the parties’ in Article 8(a) and (b) of the Agreement covers all personnel, military or civilian, from any country associated or allied with any of the parties to the Agreement.” [Ambassador Sullivan hands over copy at Tab C.]

The papers on Cambodia and Laos are longer and they have been separated for the purpose of facilitating discussion and handling generally. Now in this case it would perhaps be simpler to just hand it over to save time, because they are lengthy papers, except for one small section on Cambodia. These are messages that have been passed back and forth. So if the Minister agrees, we will simply give you these papers to save time. [Ambassador Sullivan hands over copy of “Cambodia” paper at Tab D. Mr. Phuong translates aloud into Vietnamese.]

Very well. That paper on Cambodia represents messages exchanged by both sides on that subject.

Now the last one brief paper is the understanding we propose on Cambodia: “It is understood between the United States and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam . . .” [Ambassador Sullivan hands over copy at Tab E. Mr. Phuong translates into Vietnamese.]

The paper on Laos is somewhat longer and we propose simply to hand it over to you to save time. [Sullivan hands copy over, Tab F.]

Mr. Phuong: Let me translate. [He reads aloud in Vietnamese.]

Xuan Thuy: Other things?

Ambassador Porter: We have one more at this time. It is called “Unconditional Return of U.S. Prisoners.” It is quite brief: “The United States reaffirms the statement of the President . . .” [Ambassador Sullivan hands over copy, Tab G. Mr. Phuong translates.]

Xuan Thuy: Have you anything else, Mr. Ambassador?

[Page 1082]

Ambassador Porter: We have no additional items to cover unless you have some proposals or subjects in mind. We would propose discussions of these papers begin.

Xuan Thuy: I propose this. We have handed to you a number of understandings. Now there are still other understandings which we have not yet handed to you. Now let me hand them to you. Afterwards I will propose a little break so that the two sides may consider the understandings. You will remain here and I will go to the other room.

Ambassador Porter: Are these new papers or matters you have already mentioned to us?

Xuan Thuy: We have discussed them here but I have not handed you the paper.

Ambassador Porter: And then you propose a recess; and then perhaps we can begin a discussion on the items we have presented. Is this what the Minister has in mind?

Xuan Thuy: And after the discussion on these understandings if each side has anything else to present, then we will present them.

Ambassador Porter: All right. How long a recess would the Minister propose?

Xuan Thuy: Half an hour.

Ambassador Porter: Half an hour would be fine with us.

Xuan Thuy: [Goes over the papers with Mr. Thach.] We will hand you a proposed understanding as follows: “The U.S. side undertakes to use every means and its maximum influence . . .” [Mr. Thach hands over paper on Vietnamese Civilian Detainees, Tab H.]

The second one regarding the period for the withdrawal of U.S. civilian personnel, reading as follows: “The U.S. side undertakes to completely withdraw . . .” [Mr. Thach hands over paper on U.S. Civilain Technicians, Tab I.]

Now regarding the return of the prisoners of the PRG, reading as follows: “The U.S. side reaffirms the assurances made on September 27, 1972 . . .” [Mr. Thach hands over paper on “Massacres”, Tab J.]

Now another understanding which regards the formation of the National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord: “The DRV and U.S. undertake to use their influence . . .” [Mr. Thach hands over Tab K.]

Another one regarding the contribution of the U.S. to the healing of the war wounds. Reading as follows: “On the basis of Article 21 of the Agreement . . .” [Mr. Thach hands over paper on reconstruction, at Tab L.]

So far we have such understandings.

Ambassador Porter: We will then recess as the Minister proposed.

[Page 1083]

[A break occurred from 11:08 to 11:56.]

Ambassador Porter: Would the Minister like to begin comment?

Xuan Thuy: Please, I give the floor to you first.

Ambassador Porter: Well, I propose that if the Minister is ready to comment on the papers we gave him, he might wish to do it in the order that we gave him, beginning with reconnaissance and proceeding to aircraft carriers and the others.

Xuan Thuy: I will make these comments. Regarding the reconnaissance activities I propose the following amendment to the text, for clarification only. I will read it again: “With respect to reconnaissance activities, the U.S. side confirms that with the coming into effect of the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam . . .” This part of the sentence is added. Then, “reconnaissance activities against the territory of the DRV will completely and indefinitely cease.”

Ambassador Porter: Does the Minister have further comment on this particular paper?

Xuan Thuy: That is all. [The U.S. side confers.]

Ambassador Porter: With regard to the words “Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam,” there is no problem. Would the Minister care to give us his reason for the word “against?” We are not familiar with the background.

Xuan Thuy: The reason why I have proposed to change the “over” into “against” is to be in keeping with the wording of the message of the U.S. side addressed to the DRV side on behalf of the President of the United States on October 20, 1972. You used also the word “against” in paragraph 3(b).

Ambassador Porter: Is that the only reason?

Xuan Thuy: That is all.

Ambassador Porter: We can accept that. The phrase “will cease” is a fact. It is a cessation. Does the Minister insist on the word “completely”? To us it will cease.

Xuan Thuy: I would like to insist on it, to be in keeping with the terms of the Agreement on the hostilities ceasing “without limit of time.”

Ambassador Porter: To us it is not an important change. If it is ceasing it stops and that is all it needs. If you wish we can accept this. In our opinion it does not add anything. In a spirit of good will. I don’t want to bother about small things.

Xuan Thuy: We should change our working manner from that of Kleber Street.

Ambassador Porter: Surely. I am entirely willing.

[Page 1084]

Xuan Thuy: We should speed up our work here. We must make a great effort. We consider this particular understanding finished, agreed, “completely cease.” Shall we read it back?

Ambassador Porter: Yes, please.

[Xuan Thuy rereads as above.]

Ambassador Porter: I thought the word was “completely.” We did not hear “indefinitely.”

Mr. Thach: “Without limit of time.” [Laughter]

Xuan Thuy: It is your word.

Ambassador Porter: Well, the other thing is something which will require some examination. We can take, as we have indicated, the word “completely,” and that is a phrase which is without limit. But we would prefer to leave it at that, because it would make a much cleaner, much more complete thought. It will cease completely.

Xuan Thuy: You insisted, Ambassador Sullivan insisted, on the word “without limit of time.”

Ambassador Sullivan: On the ceasefire.

Xuan Thuy: It is in the framework of the ceasefire too. Article 2 of the Agreement. We only repeat the wording you had.

Ambassador Porter: We are making an agreement ending the war and restoring peace. If we have an understanding that activities against the territory of DRV will cease completely, we think that is sufficient coverage without going into further words. We can add, if we wanted to, many additional words—“indefinitely,” “without limit of time,” “forever and a day,”—but what would they add to the thought? It is redundant, repetitious. We have shown good will.

Xuan Thuy: When we are working on the agreement, you insist so long on the words “without limit of time.” Therefore I would like to put the same word in the understanding.

Ambassador Porter: But the understanding is not in the agreement. But it is complete. It adds nothing. It is completely clear.

Xuan Thuy: I think that we should not debate lengthily on this question because it is only a repetition of the word you have used in the agreement.

Ambassador Porter: But you quote the agreement when you want something and you don’t quote the agreement when you do not want something. I agree that we should not stay on this. Let’s move to the next one and leave this point undetermined.

Xuan Thuy: Agreed. Leave it undetermined.

Ambassador Porter: We have shown good will by making three of the changes you have requested.

Xuan Thuy: But these are only the words that have been used by your side and now you are refusing them.

[Page 1085]

Ambassador Porter: Not in the message.

Xuan Thuy: Let us come to the aircraft carriers. First, I propose to add, after the word “aircraft carriers,” add the words “and other warships.” Every place there is an aircraft carrier, I propose to add and change the words “and other warships.”

Ambassador Porter: No, this is a discussion of aircraft carriers which is of special interest to you. We do not wish to add a general phrase which would cover all the warships of every kind.

Xuan Thuy: Then U.S. warships will keep threatening our country after the ceasefire.

Ambassador Porter: For this particular understanding we wish to discuss aircraft carriers. We are taking care of this kind. We do not wish to reintroduce other categories into this particular understanding. It is very clear that it is with respect to aircraft carriers.

Xuan Thuy: Then there would be another understanding on U.S. warships?

Ambassador Sullivan: I think we should understand, Mr. Minister, that the very fact that we have made any limitation on any of our ships is a major concession for a naval power like the U.S. As far as we are concerned, our naval vessels can go anywhere on the high seas except territorial waters.

We do not intend to create any precedent in any manner restricting the maneuver or the transit of our naval vessels anywhere in the world. This is a question that goes well beyond the issue of Vietnam.

Ambassador Porter: This will create worldwide problems for us.

Ambassador Sullivan: Now, as a special concession in the message which was sent in the name of our President on October 20, the U.S. did make a specific understanding with respect to aircraft carriers. We have neither authorization nor intention to go beyond that understanding. The essence of that understanding is in paragraph 3(c) in the message of October 20 which you replied to on October 21.

It is not our purpose at this table this morning to create new understandings but to record and transcribe understandings that were already reached, and that is what we intend to do.

Xuan Thuy: First, I have agreed with you in regard to the aircraft carriers but I have not said whether this understanding is adequate or not. Secondly, it is known to everyone that the war in Vietnam against North Vietnam started with the events of the Tonkin Gulf with the U.S. warships and not beginning with the U.S. carriers question. Therefore our people in North Vietnam will be impressed by the lacking of mentioning other U.S. warships.

Ambassador Sullivan: There are many countries in the world who have territorial waters and whose waters are not violated by U.S. war[Page 1086]ships but near whose waters our vessels move. And that does not constitute a menace; it constitutes a normal operation of our navy.

Xuan Thuy: If you disagree to that, we leave it aside for the time being and consider the question undetermined.

Ambassador Sullivan: Do you accept the wording as it now stands on aircraft carriers?

Xuan Thuy: Leaving aside the question of other U.S. warships, the word “300 miles” you are using here—is it nautical miles?

Ambassador Sullivan: Nautical miles, yes, when we are talking of the sea.

Ambassador Porter: So you will get more than 300 miles. Nautical miles is correct. You will get 20% more!

Xuan Thuy: Now in your text you use “off the coast of North Vietnam.” I would like to propose “Vietnam” and not “North Vietnam.”

Ambassador Porter: This is not practical. North Vietnam is a sovereign entity, and there is another sovereign entity. We cannot accept this. It would make many approaches to a number of nearby states impossible.

Xuan Thuy: But I am afraid that the PRG will not agree to the word “North Vietnam” only.

Ambassador Porter: We are not accepting any limitation of transit of forces. We are accepting it on stationing of forces.

Xuan Thuy: Yes, but regarding stationing?

Ambassador Porter: This covers carriers and stationing and North Vietnam.

Xuan Thuy: So there are two words unsettled on this understanding. Let us move to another problem.

Now regarding the prisoners and the missing in action. Only one amendment to this understanding. After you said “all personnel, military and civilian between any country allied or associated with any of the parties,” I would like to add after the word “civilian” the following: “military and civilian, from the Vietnamese parties, from the United States, and from any country associated or allied with any of the parties to the agreement.” After the word “civilian” I would like to add “from the Vietnamese parties, from the U.S., and from any country associated or allied with any of the parties to the agreement.” And I have also proposed to delete the word “associated” and use the word only “allied with,” like written in the agreement. Because we have never used the word “associated” in the agreement.

Ambassador Sullivan: Basically this understanding was intended to cover a technical point that you and the other experts argued about last Sunday. It arose from the fact that you wished to use the phrase “of [Page 1087] the parties.” It is clear from the text of the agreement that Vietnamese civilians are not covered under either Article 8(a) or (b). Therefore adding the phrase that you have suggested would only confuse the issue further. All we were trying to clarify is that such personnel as Koreans, Australians, or even some journalists of other nationalities who were captured while associated with our troops would be released under (a) and (b). Therefore if you literally translate or assume “of the parties” it would mean literally that only those people who had American nationality or military men of Vietnamese nationality would be released. We think there are some French journalists, some Japanese journalists, who are in captivity. We don’t wish to try to clarify this point and only end up in greater confusion.

So it is really rather a small matter we are concerned about—it is not a question of principle or a question of issue we are concerned about. So if our experts at the translation and conforming session that is going on this morning accept the sentence “of the parties,” we just wish a clarification of what that means. We think the language we have used explains the issue most clearly. We think the additions you proposed would confuse it very severely.

Xuan Thuy: Your sentence is not clear regarding the Vietnamese civilian personnel. It is not clear. But the phrase I propose to use will be clear with regard to the Vietnamese, U.S., and from any other country allied with any of the parties of the agreement.

Ambassador Sullivan: It is clear from the text of the agreement that U.S. personnel and that Vietnamese military personnel are covered there by Article 8(a) and (b) because they are parties so are therefore covered by “of the parties.” All we are trying to embrace is those that are not “of the parties” and therefore are not clearly covered. [Both sides confer.]

Mr. Minister, we would be willing to propose an amendment to our own text which might improve it.

Xuan Thuy: Please.

Ambassador Sullivan: After the word “agreement” we would drop the word “covers” and say “also includes.” This means that the parties are clearly covered but this is in addition to the parties. [Vietnamese confer.] C’est un grand acte de sabotage?

Mr. Thach: I improve it.

Xuan Thuy: I propose: “It is understood by the U.S. and the DRV that the phrase ʻof the parties’ in Article 8(a) and 8(b) of the agreement covers all personnel, military or civilian, of the parties signatories to this agreement and any other country allied with any of the parties to the agreement.”

Mr. Thach: It is clear.

[Page 1088]

Xuan Thuy: We can drop “associated with any party of the agreement.” “It is understood between the U.S. and the DRV that the phrase ʻof the parties’ in Article 8(a) and 8(b) of the agreement covers all personnel, military and civilian, from all the parties signatories to this agreement and any other country.”

Ambassador Porter: “All personnel from any country.” What is the “other” for?

Xuan Thuy: If you want to keep “allied with any party to the agreement.”

Ambassador Porter: We could do that. It would simplify things. We could suggest that it covers all personnel “from any country.” Leave the rest out.

Mr. Thach: “And the parties signatories.”

Ambassador Sullivan: We don’t need that. “Of the parties” in Article 8(a) and (b) covers personnel from any country.

Ambassador Porter: Very nice and simple and clean, very clean.

Xuan Thuy: I propose to add “covers personnel of the parties to the agreement and of any country.”

Ambassador Porter: All right then.

Ambassador Sullivan: So let me read it again: “It is understood between the U.S. and the DRV that the phrase “of the parties” in Article 8(a) and (b) of the Agreement covers personnel of the parties and from any other country.”

Mr. Thach: Right.

Ambassador Sullivan: D’accord.

[Mr. Phuong rereads in Vietnamese.]

Mr. Thach: D’accord.

Ambassador Porter: So that takes care of that particular understanding.

Xuan Thuy: Now there remain four understandings you have handed to us.

Ambassador Porter: Yes.

Xuan Thuy: These are the understandings on Cambodia and on Laos and on the return of American prisoners. These four understandings mention the message of October 21 of the Prime Minister of the DRV in reply to the October 20 message addressed on behalf of the President of the United States—it has been adequately dealing with these four questions, and afterwards on October 22 the President of the U.S. responded to the Prime Minister of the DRV and the first sentence read as follows: “The President notes with appreciation the message from the Prime Minister of the DRV which satisfies all his points with respect to Laos and Cambodia as well as U.S. prisoners.”

[Page 1089]

Therefore we propose it is not necessary to raise again the four understandings you have just raised. It suffices to excerpt from the message of the Prime Minister to the DRV in reply to the President of the U.S., and after that add the first sentence of the message of the U.S. President. It will constitute an adequate understanding on these questions.

Mr. Thach: There is a high value to this understanding.

Xuan Thuy: Why do you wish to mention the President’s message?

Ambassador Porter: Why do you not wish to quote the original message of the 20th of October?

Xuan Thuy: Because the reply of the Prime Minister of the DRV on October 21 has received a reply from the U.S. President saying that he was satisfied with the reply of the DRV regarding Laos, Cambodia and U.S. prisoners. Because these are the statements by the President of the U.S. and by the Prime Minister of the DRV; these statements have greater value than the understandings that we have here. Because if we make four other understandings then we shall have extra work to do.

Ambassador Porter: Don’t we want a complete record? The complete record would be better than to have parts or to have two of the three parts.

Xuan Thuy: You can keep the documents of yours, but regarding our understanding with regard to Laos and Cambodia you can excerpt from the message of the Prime Minister of the DRV the paragraphs dealing with Laos and Cambodia. It is an adequate understanding we are giving you.

Ambassador Sullivan: The sentence which you quote from the President’s letter of October 22 speaks of the message from the Prime Minister of the DRV and says that that message satisfies all his points, all the President’s points. But unless you include the letter of October 20 you don’t know what the President’s points are. So if you wish to record an understanding you record both the letter of October 20 and the reply of October 21. Otherwise you don’t know what it is the President is talking about.

Now we think that the questions of Laos and Cambodia are quite complete questions. And if we were going to try to negotiate here a new understanding on the whole matter it would take—what is the word you use—without limit of time. So by far the simplest way is to quote the two exchanges back and forth.

Xuan Thuy: That is no prohibition that the two sides keep the texts by ourselves that have been exchanged by the two parties. But now regarding the understandings regarding the four questions here, our Prime Minister has given a clear answer to these questions and the [Page 1090] President of the United States has expressed his satisfaction on the reply.

Ambassador Sullivan: But this is a normal matter in diplomatic intercourse. If we have the two documents, we have an understanding. We don’t specify what the subject matter is and we have to have the subject matter.

Xuan Thuy: On your side you can keep anything you like, but from our part, as far as we are concerned, we only have the message of the Prime Minister answering to you. [Laughter]

Ambassador Porter: Yes, but you are excluding one important part of the record from your own record of the matter. It is difficult to understand why you do not wish to include the message of the 20th. It is such a natural part of the picture. It is like buying that picture with 1/3 of it out and saying the rest was pretty.

Xuan Thuy: What do we need here? You wanted clarification on four questions. And these four questions have been dealt with in the message of the Prime Minister of the DRV.

Ambassador Porter: Yes.

Xuan Thuy: And this has satisfied the U.S. President.

Ambassador Porter: Because there was a message on the 20th with his points.

Xuan Thuy: The President of the U.S. was satisfied with the reply given to him by the Prime Minister of the DRV on all his points.

Ambassador Sullivan: Now the President’s note I can read you. Unless you know what the points are, you cannot say that he was satisfied. He did not say he was satisfied with your message; he said the message satisfied his points.

Ambassador Porter: Which points? —well, the points which he mentioned on the 20th.

Xuan Thuy: I have no objection to you to keep this in our record, the message of the President of the U.S.

Ambassador Sullivan: That is ridiculous. If we want to have a record of the understanding, we have to record both sides or there is no understanding.

Ambassador Porter: We must have the record complete. It exists. It is normal. It is an accepted practice in diplomacy to have a file that tells the whole story.

Xuan Thuy: We keep in our record all the messages you send to us, and you will in your record all the messages we send to you.

Ambassador Porter: No, we can’t do this that way. If there is an understanding on this matter, there is no question of one party keeping part of the record and another party keeping part of the record. It is abnormal and it is unnecessary. Undesirable.

[Page 1091]

Xuan Thuy: So we shall, as an understanding, we will clip together the message of the U.S. President of October 20, the reply of the DRV Prime Minister of October 21, and the reply of the U.S. President on October 22. And no need to write it into a separate document.

Ambassador Porter: Do you propose a covering document? A covering résumé?

Xuan Thuy: We put together the three messages. We propose to put together the three messages of the U.S. on October 20, of the DRV on October 21 and of the U.S. President on October 22. And there is no need to sum up and write it into a new document.

Ambassador Porter: We will have to talk to you again about this. This is very strange. It is not a normal thing. Those documents contain reference to other subjects. What we are interested in would be normal in summarizing a covering document.

Ambassador Sullivan: For example, do you wish the record to contain what our President pointed out about the interview with Arnaud de Borchgrave of Newsweek? That does not seem to be a proper part of the understanding. That is contained in the President’s letter of October 22. That is irrelevant to the understanding.

Xuan Thuy: Because you see the excerpts, the understanding you gave us, it is not an excerpt but there is some change in the wording of the message. Therefore we want to keep the message.

Ambassador Sullivan: There is no change; we excerpted from it.

Xuan Thuy: We can excerpt what we have told you previously.

Ambassador Sullivan: That is what we have done. We excerpted from our messages and from your messages.

Ambassador Porter: The relevant portions, not Mr. de Borchgrave’s press conferences. This is why it is the better way.

Xuan Thuy: We shall reexamine this question. Now please give us your comments.

Ambassador Porter: There are two more: There is the paper on Cambodia, the mutual paper on Cambodia. Are you putting it all together? You will reexamine later in the light of what we have said here.

Xuan Thuy: Now we will comment later on all four, all four questions.

Ambassador Porter: What we want is a complete record but we don’t want all the irrelevant matter.

We will have to talk about this one again. You are going to reconsider this question.

Xuan Thuy: Yes. But you should too.

Ambassador Porter: We are always prepared to think about it. We are glad you are going to reconsider.

[Page 1092]

You would now like us to comment on some of the things you have proposed?

Xuan Thuy: Please.

Ambassador Porter: On Vietnamese civilian detainees and the question of U.S. influence to secure their release, we have a proposal or in effect a development of your statement here. I think I will just turn it over to Mr. Phuong and you can perhaps translate it to save a little time. This is our comment on your paper, our reaction.

[Ambassador Sullivan hands over U.S. statement on Vietnamese civilian detainees, Tab M. Mr. Phuong translates aloud.]

Xuan Thuy: But the commitment, the engagement given by Mr. Kissinger, did not mention that the influence is affected by points 1 and 2.

Ambassador Porter: We are just stating the situation. And this is important enough to affect our ability and the degree to which our influence will be effective. It is simply a statement of fact as we see it on these matters.

The point of interest to you is that we will exert our maximum influence to secure the release of the maximum possible number. We are unilaterally pointing out these other considerations which will affect the situation which we encounter.

Xuan Thuy: Now let me read to you the statement made by Dr. Kissinger on October 17. I read it from the record: [reads] “Our intention regarding Article 8(c) is not that we are unwilling to release within three months but our intention is that before we sign the agreement we will let you know the certain number of the people who will be released as an amnesty, and afterwards we will use our maximum influence to settle the whole problem in a satisfactory way. That is to say, within the period of two months there will be a great number of people who would be released as mentioned in the agreement. As to the rest, we will use our maximum influence so that they may be released before three months. That is our intention that we propose to you regarding Article 8(c).”

Let me add the following. On October 19 the Prime Minister of the DRV sent the message to the U.S. accepting the proposal on Article 8 of the agreement, on the condition that there would be the commitment made by Mr. Kissinger on October 17.

So now you add the two new points; that is not keeping with the previous record.

Ambassador Sullivan: We also have the record of October 17 and the words which the Minister used in describing what Dr. Kissinger said. There are differences in our English language text from what the Minister read. But they are not serious differences in the intention of [Page 1093] what Mr. Kissinger said. And if you read the first paragraph of the paper we just handed you, you see that we state once again the essence of what Mr. Kissinger said on October 17. Does the Minister agree that the first paragraph is a faithful reflection of the October 17 statement?

Xuan Thuy: I read another excerpt from Dr. Kissinger: “If you like,” he said, “we can reduce the period of three months into two months.” What I am proposing is that we shall keep the statement made by Dr. Kissinger and not, therefore, the two points you raise that would affect the ability of the U.S.

Ambassador Sullivan: Let me say two things. First I would like to have an answer to the question I posed, whether the first paragraph reflects what Dr. Kissinger proposed.

Xuan Thuy: No, it is not completely reflective of this because in the genuine paragraph you have not said that all of them will be released and the period of their release will be how much time—how long?

Ambassador Sullivan: I think that one of the other factors is that a great deal of this discussion took place in the context of a suggestion made by Special Adviser Le Duc Tho that there could be some redeployment of forces in the northern part of South Vietnam and this could have an effect on the question.

Xuan Thuy: That is another question. You should not link these two questions.

Ambassador Sullivan: We did not link these questions. It was the Special Adviser Le Duc Tho who linked them.

Xuan Thuy: What the Special Adviser said is that there should be no distinction between American prisoners or Vietnamese prisoners—all of them should be released within two months. As to the first proposal, the original proposal, we made to you. But now the release of the prisoners changes in the agreement. But if you wanted to keep this question as unsettled yet, we should shift to another question.

Ambassador Sullivan: We don’t ask that you make any understanding or agreement with us about redeploying either forces or demobilization. We are merely pointing out an objective reality, that our influence in Saigon will be measured and affected in the degree that these two questions happen. We will use a maximum influence as Dr. Kissinger said, but that influence will be more effective if these two questions were treated in the way we described them in the second paragraph.

Xuan Thuy: Now let me ask you this question. Do you keep the statements made by Dr. Kissinger made to me on October 17 or not? Or will you drop this statement and add new things to that?

Ambassador Porter: We reaffirm these statements. This is what it says here and that is our position. However, for the other matters, we [Page 1094] are not asking you to accept these mutually; we are describing to you factors which will affect our influence, we believe. We are saying this is our view of factors which in our honest judgment may affect our effort to use maximum influence. But we state here, yes, the answer to your question is affirmative.

Xuan Thuy: Let me say this. Dr. Kissinger wanted us to conclude the settlement today. We do want a rapid settlement, and it is not our intention to recreate here the atmosphere we had at Kleber Street. But if we do as you are doing now, I am afraid that we will not conclude it today and we don’t know when we will conclude. I say this to mean that we should understand each other and speed up our work. Because if you raise questions, problems, for us to discuss here again, discussion will last forever.

Ambassador Porter: We are not raising problems, we are simply trying to state what may affect our ability to influence this matter. But I suggest we put this aside and move on to try to make progress where we can.

Xuan Thuy: But with the spirit you have, I am afraid we will move very slowly forward. Because if this morning we here don’t finish, then this afternoon Le Duc Tho and Dr. Kissinger will have to accomplish this and we can’t conclude this afternoon.

Ambassador Porter: We should nevertheless discuss the whole arrangement of matters. We now have some reaction to your counter-proposals, and we have started to respond to yours. I think we should go to the next one which you presented and perhaps discuss amongst ourselves the views you have explained. We are not trying to undermine or change the statements of Dr. Kissinger of October 17 in any way. But we are explaining some facts that exist in our view.

We have, in connection with your paper concerning the formation of the NCNRC, we have a similar statement of similar factors which might bring some difficulty. But we are simply stating that it exists. It does not affect our undertaking to exert our influence.

[Ambassador Sullivan hands over paper on Formation of NCNRC, Tab N. Mr. Phuong translates.]

Xuan Thuy: So you link also this question to other questions, too?

Ambassador Porter: It is not a linking. It is a calm discussion of factors which exist. It is not a linking. This is a new understanding that you are seeking now and that, like the others, will encounter problems in the question of using our influence because of other things which exist. We are not approving that situation. We should use our influence wherever it is needed, where our influence is needed.

[At this point, 12:35 p.m., Dr. Kissinger entered the room. Ambassador Porter briefly described where the discussion stood and explained [Page 1095] that the U.S. was not linking its assurances on the release of Vietnamese civilian detainees and the formation of the NCNRC to the redeployment and demobilization issues.]

Dr. Kissinger: These are just statements of fact. Shall we have lunch? Shall we eat?

Xuan Thuy: I have just said to Ambassador Porter that we should improve on the working method we had at Kleber. And I have secondly told him in that spirit that we should speed up our work to conclude our work today.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree.

Xuan Thuy: But we moved very slowly since this morning.

Ambassador Porter: Even so, we have done more than we have done at Kleber. Even if it is only a small amount this morning, we have done better than the Kleber in one year!

Xuan Thuy: But the reason why we have achieved this is because we come to this place and not at the Kleber place.

Ambassador Porter: I agree.

Xuan Thuy: And therefore we refused the proposal of Dr. Kissinger to meet at Kleber Street.

Dr. Kissinger: I made another proposal, to meet at the Residence, at Rue du Faubourg St. Honoré.

Xuan Thuy: Now, Ambassador Porter and myself have had a contest at Kleber Street. So we should make progress here.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree.

Ambassador Porter: The Minister now understands what I have been saying. There are factors which prevent us from achieving what we would like to achieve at Kleber, just like there are factors which may affect our maximum influence.

Dr. Kissinger: The Vietnamese side will consider it a great effort by the United States when I take over the discussions again.

Ambassador Porter: Perhaps you should come to Kleber with us!

Dr. Kissinger: I can’t handle ladies as well as the Minister can.

Ambassador Porter: Without the Minister’s help at Kleber we would be helpless. [Laughter]

Dr. Kissinger: I have arranged lunch in two separate places but any of our Vietnamese colleagues are more than welcome to join us. It is just a chance to talk among yourselves.

Xuan Thuy: Shall we eat together?

Dr. Kissinger: Let’s eat together.

[Lunch was then served to the whole group at the meeting table, beginning at 1:42. Following lunch, the DRV side, then the U.S. side, left by motorcade for the afternoon session with Le Duc Tho at Gif.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 859, For the President’s Files (Winston Lord)—China Trip/Vietnam Negotiations, Sensitive, Camp David, Vol. XXII, Minutes of Meetings, Paris, December 4–13, 1972. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting took place at 31 Boulevard de la Saussaye, Neuilly-sur-Seine. All brackets are in the original. The tabs are attached but not printed.