41. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Le Duc Tho, Special Advisor to DRV Delegation to the Paris Conference on Vietnam
  • Xuan Thuy, Minister, Chief DRV Delegate to the Paris Conference on Vietnam
  • 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
  • Nguyen Dinh Phuong, Interpreter
  • Pham The Dong, Notetaker
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Ambassador William Sullivan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
  • Ambassador William Porter, Chief of U.S. Delegation to the Paris Conference on Vietnam
  • George H. Aldrich, Deputy Legal Adviser, Department of State
  • Winston Lord, NSC Staff
  • John D. Negroponte, NSC Staff
  • David A. Engel, NSC Staff, Interpreter
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff
  • Mrs. Mary Stifflemire, Notetaker

[The group gathered in a sitting room adjoining the meeting room for about fifteen minutes prior to the beginning of the meeting, during which Le Duc Tho and Xuan Thuy presented gifts to Dr. Kissinger: A set of classical Vietnamese wood-block prints; a French book of Vietnamese art, inscribed to Dr. Kissinger by Le Duc Tho and Xuan Thuy; a carved wooden covered bowl in the shape of a coconut. The formal meeting began at about 10:30.]

Dr. Kissinger: Have you met Mr. Aldrich? He is our legal expert on the protocols.

[Dr. Kissinger and the Ambassadors then studied the papers from the experts meeting for about five minutes.]

[Page 1129]

Mr. Special Advisor, we will be separating tomorrow and afterwards be in touch by messages.

Le Duc Tho: I agree to that plan. We will meet today and tomorrow we will rest and the day after tomorrow I will leave. Probably you will leave before me.

Dr. Kissinger: I am leaving tonight.

Le Duc Tho: I will be leaving the day after tomorrow in the morning.

Dr. Kissinger: And I will not be able to rest tomorrow.

Le Duc Tho: So will I because I will have to have meetings with Minister Xuan Thuy and others of our experts.

Dr. Kissinger: And then you will be back in Hanoi when?

Le Duc Tho: On the 18th I will be in Hanoi. The day after tomorrow will be the 15th.

Dr. Kissinger: So you will be able to celebrate Christmas with your family.

Le Duc Tho: In Vietnam we have not the custom of observing Christmas.

Dr. Kissinger: I know. On the 18th you are back in Hanoi. We will communicate with you after you are back in Hanoi, or you communicate with us, and then we can decide whether we can settle it by messages or whether we should meet again.

Le Duc Tho: Right.

Dr. Kissinger: So today we should reduce the number of issues that remain to the minimum necessary, so that we do not have to send messages that are too long. And I think we have the following problems—just wanted to make sure the Special Advisor and I agree on what our problems are. We still have two outstanding issues on the agreement. Unless the Special Advisor thought of some more overnight. They are the DMZ and the form of signing. I put aside his daily assault on Article 8(c). [Tho laughs]

Then we have a whole list of things. I thought yesterday we had reduced the issues on the text to only two: to Article 12(b) and to the competence of the Four-Party Commission for the missing in action. Now I find that there are 17 issues that your people raised this morning, including major substantive issues that had been settled with respect to Article 7, which had been settled over two weeks ago and which had been accepted in two previous meetings of experts. Of course, we still have your attempt to modify Article 8(c). This is not new to us. The two months. And again that you have withdrawn . . . [Luu Van Loi enters the room.] Now all hope of settlement has disappeared!

Le Duc Tho: He finds out many things to raise!

Dr. Kissinger: And again we find an attempt to modify Article 20(a) both as to the substance of what had been agreed upon two weeks [Page 1130] ago and which had been reaffirmed at least five times by the Special Advisor during the last week. And I usually consider the fourth reaffirmation by the Special Advisor of something as official. [They laugh]

Le Duc Tho: But my experts are also tantalizing me on many questions.

Dr. Kissinger: But they are tantalizing us on substance. And I notice that you have again withdrawn the word “shall” which sounds very good to me. I like it almost as much as “khuyen khich.”

Le Duc Tho: But the word you like is disliked by me.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but we have two classes of problems. When your dislike is well known it is difficult but understandable. But when you accept something and then withdraw it again the next day, it raises really the most severe problems for us, because we too report what has been achieved each day, and these substantive changes present the gravest difficulties for us in terms of good faith and the possibility of believing that anything is ever final. Article 7 hasn’t been raised in two weeks; it has been specifically reaffirmed many times by the Special Advisor. It now appears in the form of linguistic change on substance that has never been discussed.

Article 20, which has been reaffirmed on many occasions and now you changed the substance. And Article 20 which we settled yesterday as to words has been changed as to language. There are many other proposals—to drop Republic of Vietnam from the text and to introduce the PRG into the text. I have some understanding for your attempt to maintain some symmetry, but all of our discussions last week were in the context that the PRG would be mentioned only in the Preamble, and when we agreed to that it was considered a solution to the problem. The protocols leave no question. Now you are introducing things into the text which change the whole discussions of last week. So I must say this makes a solution that much more difficult.

Le Duc Tho: Have you finished, Mr. Advisor?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.

Le Duc Tho: As a matter of fact, in the agreement there are still two great major problems left. First the question of the DMZ, and the question of the signing of the agreement. And in the meantime our experts working with us have raised a number of questions again. During the meeting of the experts your experts also raised a number of new questions. Therefore we can discuss them and we will come to an agreement on these.

Dr. Kissinger: What new questions did we raise?

Le Duc Tho: Your experts have raised questions on some words, specific words. They still maintain the word “khuyen khich.” As far as we are concerned, we wanted the word “don doc.” And this word was used as early as October 8 in the text as given to you on that date.

[Page 1131]

Dr. Kissinger: In English.

Negroponte and Lord [to Dr. Kissinger]: The English word has been made weaker since, but not the Vietnamese word.

Le Duc Tho: The Vietnamese text too. We handed to you both the Vietnamese and in English. And in this paper this word is very important to us. As to the word “se,” last night our experts exchanged views again and they think it is necessary to discuss this word “shall” once again with you. Actually our experts have raised a number of questions. We shall discuss it because in the course of the discussions either side may raise a question once and again. It is something normal. It is not a major thing.

There is one question besides the two major questions in the agreement. The question of understandings is also important. We should discuss all of them here.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree.

Le Duc Tho: Regarding the question of American civilian personnel associated with military jobs, I agree to discuss with you, but you should have an understanding on this question. Or like the question of 8(c).

Dr. Kissinger: It is a little early for both Article 5 and 8(c) to be raised together.

Le Duc Tho: I would like to say this, though. I will maintain Article 8(c), but the only thing I would like to propose is to change into two months and it is to be in keeping with your pledge to Minister Xuan Thuy on October 17. Moreover we have accepted to settle the question of 8(c) as it had been done provided that it is according to the pledge given by you. But as now this pledge is changed then the question of 8(c) changes too. Therefore the settlement of the questions in the understandings are also linked to the question of the agreement. Therefore when we complete the agreement, we should also complete the understandings between us. Just like when we complete the agreement we should also complete the protocols.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, I have one or two things to say about the protocols. [He laughs] They were well designed. I don’t think that International Commission is going to exhaust itself in frenzied activity. I think the Vice Minister has deliberately . . .

Le Duc Tho: No, but they will have working hours and resting hours. [Laughter]

Dr. Kissinger: And they will have many resting hours if we accept your protocol.

Le Duc Tho: But you have your aim in drafting your protocols too. And you will overwork the International Commission.

Dr. Kissinger: We can always ease their burdens by bringing in additional personnel. [Tho laughs] In fact, if I understand it, the Vice [Page 1132] Minister has made sure that if the judgment of the Commission should be for more activity that the parties can enforce their rest by taking away their communication and transportation.

Le Duc Tho: Because if we have to supply the means of communication we will supply them with buffalo carts and they will move very slowly then! [Laughter]

Dr. Kissinger: And messages will be delivered by mules.

Le Duc Tho: But it is still slower by buffalo.

Dr. Kissinger: I am sure you have studied this very carefully. But I agree that we should discuss the protocols also. I think we should discuss the text. I recommend we then discuss the protocols because we have never had any discussions of them—and then the understandings. And you still owe us two protocols on the prisoners and on the mines.

Minister Thach: We have already on the protocol on the mines. [Hands over minesweeping protocol at Tab A.]

Le Duc Tho: The other one on prisoners will be ready this afternoon.

Ambassador Sullivan: You say the prisoners have to sweep the mines? [Laughter]

[Dr. Kissinger and Ambassador Sullivan read the protocol.]

[Tho and Luu Van Loi consult together on documents.]

Dr. Kissinger: Are you taking him [Loi] with you to Hanoi? I think he is badly needed there. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: He was expert at Geneva Conference of 1962 and 1954.

Ambassador Sullivan: I remember him well.

Xuan Thuy: But at that time he was not spectacled yet. And I don’t know after completion of this how the degree of his spectacles will be increased.

Dr. Kissinger: Ambassador Porter thinks that after a year with the Minister he would like to devote himself to the Minister exclusively without extraneous influences. [Xuan Thuy laughs]

Are you already modifying what you have just presented?

Le Duc Tho: [Laughter] I have to follow them. They are now commanding me.

Dr. Kissinger: On this mining protocol, we will of course study it. I think what we would have to do is for the experts of the two sides to get together after the signing to set a realistic date. Because it will require some effort on your side as your protocol indicates it will be done in cooperation. In fact, soon after an initialing we would be prepared to bring an expert here if you bring an expert here, and they can discuss a schedule—which you have left open in your protocol, which is realistic because it depends partly on our effort and partly on your effort and facilities. We will be prepared to give you maps and so forth afterward.

[Page 1133]

[Mr. Loi gets up and confers with Tho over Tho’s shoulder. Mr. Negroponte speaks with Dr. Kissinger over Dr. Kissinger’s shoulder.]

Le Duc Tho: These two are looking for trouble!

Dr. Kissinger: I think the ambition of your assistant is to get a medal for having achieved final victory by means of translating. [Loi laughs.] The Special Advisor just missed one of my best remarks. They will put up a statue to him in the park along the lake in Hanoi. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: And on the statue it will be inscribed the amendments he brought to the agreement. [Laughter]

Let me express my views. The two first sentences, we will solve this question along with the signing of the agreement.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree.

Le Duc Tho: We would like to write: “The Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, with the concurrence of the Provisional Revolutionary Government,” instead of “acting in concert with.”

Dr. Kissinger: We will settle it together with the signing. But that is tentatively all right.

Le Duc Tho: From Article 5 downwards, wherever there is mention of the Government of the Republic of Vietnam I have the following views: Here are my views. In the agreement the mention of the name of the PRG has appeared in the Preamble but in other places there is no such mention. On the other hand the name of the Government of the Republic of Vietnam has been mentioned in nine places of the agreement.

Dr. Kissinger: I think Madame Binh spends her evenings reading it to you.

Le Duc Tho: Therefore the reader of the agreement will think that the PRG has been eliminated from the text of the agreement, and it is something inadequate. Therefore I think that if the Government of the Republic of Vietnam is mentioned it should be mentioned in the Preamble and in Article 3(a). In the other places there will be referred to the mention in Article 3(a), and if this is done then we would propose to mention the PRG is only one place, in the Preamble and [not] in Article 17(a). If you agree to drop them we would accept to have the name of the PRG mentioned in the Preamble and . . .

Dr. Kissinger: And drop it in Article 17(a).

Le Duc Tho: We will drop in Article 17(a). Otherwise we will insist in putting the PRG in Article 17(a).

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, after we have agreed on something . . . I admire the Special Advisor’s tactics.

Le Duc Tho: I did not see it previously. It is Mr. Loi who pointed it out to me. Just like the word “civilian,” it must have been invented by Ambassador Sullivan.

[Page 1134]

Le Duc Tho: As to Dr. Kissinger and myself, we did not see that. We see only the major things.

Dr. Kissinger: Like abolishing the DMZ. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: But on that I agreed with you previously but was disagreed afterward by my government.

Dr. Kissinger: I think after this, the Special Advisor and I, when we are both without a job, can give demonstrations of the diplomacy of stalemate. I admire the Special Advisor. We agree on something; it is considered a great concession; then he comes in throwing smoke bombs. It is a great exercise. Then in order to get back to the original agreement I have to give up nine references to the Republic of Vietnam.

Le Duc Tho: I will drop the mention of the PRG in Article 17(a). But there will be one place where there is mention of the Government of the Republic of Vietnam, in Article 3(a).

Dr. Kissinger: I am sure not in a favorable manner.

Le Duc Tho: But you should realize this situation.

Dr. Kissinger: But simply for the record, let us understand what the situation is. The situation was last week that we agreed that the PRG—at first we took the position that it shouldn’t be mentioned at all. Then you said that it would be considered good will if we put it into the Preamble as the only place. We then agreed to put it into the Preamble and if I remember correctly we got ten days off the Laos ceasefire in return. [Tho laughs] Then in the guise of an experts’ meeting on language, in which they were suppose to conform language and not substance, the word PRG suddenly reappeared in Chapter VI. It is an extraordinary method of negotiation, and only my personal affection for the Special Advisor prevents the confidence from being destroyed.

Le Duc Tho: Our experts when they read the agreement they realized that there is many places where the Government of the Republic of Vietnam is mentioned and there is no place where the PRG is mentioned.

Dr. Kissinger: But that was by design; that was not by accident.

Le Duc Tho: We propose now that you reduce the places where the Government of the Republic of Vietnam is mentioned, then we will drop the mention of the PRG in 17(a).

Dr. Kissinger: Maybe the Special Advisor gives me five days in Laos for this?

Le Duc Tho: We will discuss this later when we discuss the understandings. Let me sum up. I agree to mention the PRG only in the Preamble and so the mention of the Government of the Republic of Vietnam should be reduced, only in the Preamble and in Article 3(a), because . . .

[Page 1135]

Dr. Kissinger: But you would like it in the signature too, wouldn’t you?

Le Duc Tho: Our experts when they read the agreement see there are many places when the GVN is mentioned, when the PRG is not mentioned at all. This is conforming to the reality, which I have expounded to you many times, that in South Vietnam there are two administrations, two armies and two different regions, and you have agreed with me on that.

Dr. Kissinger: The Special Advisor’s ability to take phrases of mine out of the whole context of the discussion is extraordinary. But in order to make progress let me say this is another point I have not had a chance to present to Washington. Since I will go back I will tentatively accept this and confirm it to you by message when you return to Hanoi.

Le Duc Tho: Agreed.

Dr. Kissinger: All right. That I assume means you restore Article 7 as it was. That is one of the smoke bombs. That is not an expert’s point.

Le Duc Tho: I think that the word “destroyed” has no meaning because the war is now ended. And the war material will be either damaged, worn out or used up. There is no meaning of armament or munitions or material destroyed after this time.

Dr. Kissinger: If there is an airplane crash or a jeep crash, it will be destroyed.

Le Duc Tho: Then it will be damaged.

Dr. Kissinger: Well.

Le Duc Tho: Because if you put “destroyed” here it may look that they were destroyed before the ceasefire during the tensions of war and there will be permitted the unlimited introduction of armaments.

Dr. Kissinger: How about “damaged” before it? It is true of that.

Le Duc Tho: Damaged after the ceasefire. There is “damaged, worn out, and used up.”

Dr. Kissinger: Besides it says “from the enforcement of the ceasefire to the formation of the government” that these things will happen. But I have two points. One is substantive and one is procedural. The procedural point is that we agreed on this a few weeks ago. The Special Advisor reconfirmed it at least twice during the last weeks when he read all the things he agreed upon that he was not challenging out of his great generosity. And now it is reintroduced as a linguistic point. If the Special Advisor would like a substantive discussion on the metaphysics of the difference between “damaged” and “destroyed,” whether it is possible to destroy something without damaging it, I am sure we can have a fascinating few hours. But I have to return to Washington.

[Page 1136]

Do you really think I can explain this discussion to the President? Both as to procedure and as to substance?

Le Duc Tho: The agreement is now under discussion. We had agreed with you on a former agreement but since you brought many changes to the agreement so we have also brought some changes to the agreement. [Kissinger laughs] Moreover, we are not clear yet in the intention when you propose to put the word “destroy.” Therefore our experts raise this question. Therefore, I discuss with you.

Dr. Kissinger: I think your experts have a serious attitude, but not good will. The point is, Mr. Special Advisor, we have gone over this now many, many times, and every day you tell us again since we raise many points you are entitled to raise many points. And with this speech on both sides we can then continue to meet for at least another year.

Last week, when I was still under the illusion your side wanted a rapid agreement, you listed nine outstanding issues on which you had agreed with us two weeks ago, three weeks ago.

Le Duc Tho: You have not been disillusioned with us.

Dr. Kissinger: I disagree. I have been. I no longer believe you want a rapid settlement. But let me finish. You then said of those nine issues, five of them you would not raise again, including this one. Of the remaining four you sold us two—three times—and we conceded you. Of the other two we conceded you one on Article 1, and you have been disavowed by your government on the other one. So now you are raising again in the form of the interesting metaphysical question of the difference between “damaged” and “destroyed,” the issue of one of the five which we considered settled three weeks ago and confirmed last week, and which has never been raised either by your experts or by yourself since.

Le Duc Tho: As a matter of fact I have more. But our experts think that this word is not conforming to reality, so I have raised this word. Just like you, sometimes you raise some word for discussion.

Dr. Kissinger: I have not raised any new issue for a week. It is one of the Special Advisor’s great achievements he has kept me so busy fighting off his attacks that I haven’t been able to make any of my own. Besides, my experts are not permitted to reflect about the nature of reality. They might come to conclusions that would be hard for them to bear.

Le Duc Tho: So if we review our recent discussions on the text of the agreement, you can say that you have launched an offensive and I am launching an offensive to defend. So in this article on replacement of armament you have proposed to add two more words. I have conceded on the word “used up” for the word “destroyed.”

Dr. Kissinger: Just a minute.

[Page 1137]

Le Duc Tho: But the word “destroyed,” because after the ceasefire there is no destruction.

Dr. Kissinger: Well, in that case what is the problem?

Le Duc Tho: Because if we put “destroyed” here it can be misinterpreted and think that destroy before the ceasefire.

Dr. Kissinger: No, because it says “after the ceasefire” in the same paragraph. In the same sentence.

Le Duc Tho: But since after the ceasefire there is no destruction, this word does not apply to the period after the ceasefire.

Dr. Kissinger: First of all, in 1954 you signed such an agreement and I don’t know why you should want to attack the Minister on one of his proudest achievements. [Tho laughs] Ambassador Porter would never do this to the Minister. Secondly, Mr. Special Advisor, if this were the first day of our discussion, November 20, which was when we settled this for the first time, many things you are saying would be extremely fascinating and very important. It isn’t that today I am asking for two words and because of your good will you are granting us one. It is that three weeks ago we agreed on these two words. They were specifically confirmed a week ago. They were not challenged at two previous experts meetings, and at this morning’s experts meeting, on the last day, which was only to check the changes we agreed on yesterday in which this article wasn’t even supposed to be discussed, you introduced a new modification.

Le Duc Tho: As a matter of fact I have agreed with you on that word but in the course of our discussions both of us raise questions, withdraw it, raise it again. Both of us have done so. Let’s discuss whether the maintenance of this word is correct or not, and we should not say that we have changed our stand and so forth, because it is in the course of discussions.

Dr. Kissinger: This way discussion is endless. On Saturday the Special Advisor said at that time he only had one outstanding issue. He said except for the one outstanding issue we would not raise any other issues. So yesterday the one issue became two issues. So now today you raise another issue. I have refrained from raising any other issues but I have to prove to my staff that I am only half as intelligent as the Special Advisor and not totally unintelligent. Therefore I must raise a few issues too now. We would like to put in the word “stolen” for example. [Tho laughs] Or “sold on the black market.”

Le Duc Tho: Actually I have agreed with you on that word but I did not see the problem here. Our experts find out the problem, and I agree with them that the maintenance of this word is absurd because after the end of the war there is no destruction.

Dr. Kissinger: My experts point out that in the demobilization provision, we don’t say where the soldiers should go after the demobili[Page 1138]zation. They will be totally confused. They will be demobilized without any sense of direction. They won’t know whether to go north or south!

Le Duc Tho: When they are demobilized they will choose the direction themselves. Because a man never loses his orientation.

Dr. Kissinger: That is what we want just to make sure! So if we are going to go through the whole text again from that point of view, there are many interesting questions that my experts pointed out today.

I must say it is a rather interesting way to take up the last day of our discussions. But we can reserve on this issue too and consider it unsettled.

Le Duc Tho: It is up to you, but the word “destroyed” mentioned in this place is absurd, of no significance at all.

Dr. Kissinger: It was mentioned in the 1954 agreement. Was it absurd then?

Le Duc Tho: But we should not repeat the mistake committed previously.

Dr. Kissinger: What you are convincing us of, Mr. Special Advisor, is that no agreement with you is worth making, because either you will break it two days later or your experts will point out to you some way of evading it. So we can have some interesting discussions here and a week later you will tell me some expert in Hanoi pointed out another loophole in it. So this way nothing gets done. So therefore there is no more significance in anything we agree to. The only point of the experts meetings today was to make sure what we agreed to yesterday was correctly interpreted in the document. There was no intention whatever of raising new issues.

Le Duc Tho: In the course of discussions I can raise this question again. If you disagree, I can leave it aside for the time being.

Dr. Kissinger: It is up to you, but then everybody will raise every issue again. And then we just both realize that we are free to raise every issue again. And then we realize what we said on Saturday has no meaning. That is all right with me. I am criticized enough for what I have already settled.

Le Duc Tho: This word here has no significance at all, because after the war there is no destruction.

Dr. Kissinger: Well, then why raise it?

Le Duc Tho: Because this will give way to misapprehension. Because after the war is ended, the three words “damaged, worn out and used up” is sufficient.

Dr. Kissinger: That was a fascinating point to be made three weeks ago. In fact three weeks ago the Special Advisor accepted the word “destroyed” but not “used up” with the same argument. Then he [Page 1139] accepted both. We reported that. He confirmed his acceptance. We reported that. On Saturday we reported that everything of the text was now agreed except the DMZ point. Yesterday we reported that everything in the text was agreed, even word for word, except two issues. Now we are back to 17 issues on the last day of our discussion. After an hour and a half of discussions we have reached Article 7 of something that had been already agreed upon. It will not be easy to convince my associates that there exists a sincere good will to come to a rapid conclusion. But we can reopen that issue and we reserve the right to reopen other issues. And we can leave it open.

Le Duc Tho: Both sides have accepted the other day that there was only one major question left, but as to the details there are many things that remain unsolved. Moreover, the understandings associated with the agreement, if the understandings have not been completed yet, we cannot say that the agreement is completed. Even so for the protocols too. So I propose to leave aside this word and we will examine it later.

Dr. Kissinger: It is all right with me.

Le Duc Tho: Now Article 8(c).

Dr. Kissinger: We will have a lot of messages to exchange. Oh, good, the daily discussion of 8(c).

Le Duc Tho: So regarding 8(c) we propose to put two months, because during your discussions with Minister Xuan Thuy you said it can be reduced from three to two months.

Dr. Kissinger: I never said anything of the kind.

Le Duc Tho: From the record there is such a statement.

Dr. Kissinger: I am sure you can find the word here and there.

Mr. Phuong: [Reading] “If you like we can reduce this period from three months to two months.”

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Advisor, we don’t even know what this period referred to. This might have been the time at which I can go elephant hunting on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The fact of the matter is that during our discussions of this article there were many exploratory ideas advanced in various contexts. We left the text with you which included three months for many reasons which we explained to you. And you then accepted it. You sent a unilateral declaration with it which we never acknowledged in our list of unilateral declarations. Now that is the legislative history.

[To Mr. Rodman:] Now where are my quotes on this? [Dr. Kissinger looks over excerpts from records of October 17.] I just wanted to read what our record shows. It is somewhat less precise than yours. Your notetaker is always very precise on our obligations and very vague on yours. So we can’t accept that change.

[Page 1140]

Le Duc Tho: So this is our proposal. We propose to put it in two months, but you wanted to put in three months. So now we will leave it at three months, but only if you maintain your pledge to us.

Dr. Kissinger: We will discuss that when we get to the understandings. But I understand what you are saying.

Le Duc Tho: So we will discuss it further when we discuss the understandings.

Dr. Kissinger: All right.

Le Duc Tho: Now the word “don doc.” We stick to it. From the very beginning we have maintained this word. As regards this chapter, we have made very great effort. It is the task of the Council and the word “don doc” is conforming to its task.

Dr. Kissinger: Its task has to be agreed to before we can conform it to its task. I have looked over the legislative record on this and now I know what has happened. What happened was you began with “oversee,” with “direct.” You started out on October 8 with the word “direct.”

Le Duc Tho: “Oversee,” to “direct,” to “supervise.” All three.

Dr. Kissinger: We said we couldn’t accept any of them and therefore proposed the word “promote.” You accepted the word “promote” but you kept your Vietnamese translation of what you proposed in the first place. So you changed the English word but you did not change the Vietnamese word, and since at that time my knowledge of Vietnamese was not yet perfect [Vietnamese laugh], I did not realize the maneuver that was being engaged in. So you were negotiating with us about English words. That is our recollection and what our record proves happened.

Le Duc Tho: You proposed four English words, either “promote,” “oversee,” “see to” or “encourage.” We disagreed to the word “encourage” and said one of these three, you can use any word. Because the Council shall operate on consultations and unanimity. If now they have to “encourage” other bodies, then it will sleep.

Mr. Engel [to Dr. Kissinger]: The proper translation of “promote” is your favorite, “khuyen khich.”

Mr. Thach: No, we have used the word “promote,” “oversee” or “see to.”

Dr. Kissinger: And then we decided on the word “promote.”

Le Duc Tho: From the very beginning in the Vietnamese text we used the word “don doc” and we always object to the word to “encourage,” the word “khuyen khich.”

Dr. Kissinger: The trouble is we are conducting two negotiations, the one the English text and the other Vietnamese text. I think your [Page 1141] tactic is to be very generous to us on the English text and never change the Vietnamese text. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: But your intention is to deprive the Council of National Reconciliation of its authority. If so, then you can delete the whole chapter.

Dr. Kissinger: I accept. I accept that proposal. [Laughter] Did you write that down? Our record said you said I can delete the chapter.

Le Duc Tho: You can keep the chapter but the chapter becomes empty.

Dr. Kissinger: The Special Advisor knows I wouldn’t do something like that to a chapter so dear to my heart.

Le Duc Tho: You have reduced the significance of this chapter a great deal.

Dr. Kissinger: But I would like to point out to the Special Advisor we are talking about two slightly different problems. The Special Advisor says I would like to deprive the Council of authority. That is not correct. I would like to establish what authority the Council has. Before we can deprive it of something, it has to possess it.

So why don’t we put this issue aside?

Le Duc Tho: Now Article 13.

Dr. Kissinger: Article 13. I thought we had that settled long ago. Just a minute, before we get to it we also don’t accept [in Article 12(b)] “and its attached protocols.” Particularly since we have seen the protocols.

Le Duc Tho: But the protocols after they have been signed.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand, but we don’t accept it. But we might reconsider it after we have seen the finished texts. But we dropped the words “maintenance of the ceasefire” and “preservation of peace” and we cannot accept the phrase “and its attached protocols.”

Le Duc Tho: You can drop the word “and its attached protocols” but I understand that the agreement includes the text of the agreement and all associated documents of the Paris Conference on Vietnam.

Dr. Kissinger: Each side is entitled to its own understanding.

Le Duc Tho: But if the agreement is understood as each side likes then the agreement will be undermined.

Dr. Kissinger: No, not the agreement. We do not accept the competence of the Council in the ceasefire operation. And we made that clear and we had deleted it from the text.

Le Duc Tho: So I propose to write again “this agreement and the attached protocol.”

Dr. Kissinger: As a concession for which I have to change Article 8(c) to two months. I don’t want to take advantage of the Special Advisor. He might look bad.

[Page 1142]

Le Duc Tho: It is clearer if we put “this agreement and the attached protocols.”

Dr. Kissinger: Except that we agreed—this is another one of those examples that undermine our confidence. Three weeks ago we dropped the words “supervision of the ceasefire” from Article 12(b). Now you are reintroducing it by protocols that have never been defined in Chapter VI or anywhere else.

Le Duc Tho: I think that the agreement and the attached protocols are signed properly. There is no problem at all.

Dr. Kissinger: There is the problem that we have never accepted the competence of the National Council to supervise the ceasefire. That is what the Two-Party and Four-Party Commissions do. When we drafted it, if we had wanted this we would have put it into Chapter VI. When we drafted in October, when we went over it recently, there is no mention of the Council in the Chapter VI provision. It was therefore improper to introduce it into the protocols. It is improper to introduce it here especially after you had agreed to the deletion of the sentence.

Le Duc Tho: The implementation of the agreement is among the tasks of the Council, and the protocols are part of the agreement.

Dr. Kissinger: Not the implementation, but to promote the implementation by the parties.

Le Duc Tho: “Don doc” is also not direct implementation by the Council. “Don doc” is not direct.

Dr. Kissinger: Is not direct. Well that makes much more . . .

Le Duc Tho: Except “don doc” is indirect implementation.

Dr. Kissinger: That makes my point. I am glad the Special Advisor agrees with me on something.

Mr. Engel: I think there is something wrong with their interpretation.

Le Duc Tho: “Don doc” means the two parties implement the agreement; the Council will push them, inquire of them, ask them, to recall them to implement the agreement.

Dr. Kissinger: By unanimity, in a spirit of national conciliation.

Le Duc Tho: Even after the unanimous decision of the Council, the word “don doc” does not mean force the parties to implement.

Dr. Kissinger: I am forming the impression, Mr. Special Advisor, after our discussion, that if we finish today without completing the agreement your life will not be unfulfilled. But I may be wrong. We had reduced the issues to one on Saturday.

Le Duc Tho: When we finish the agreements then we will discuss this further.

Dr. Kissinger: All right.

Le Duc Tho: Article 13. Mention of Article 13 in Article 17 regarding the . . .

[Page 1143]

Dr. Kissinger: I still don’t know. Are you taking your friend [Mr. Loi] home with you? He has done more damage in one day than the Vice Minister in three weeks. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: Mention of Article 13 in Article 17.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, Mr. Special Advisor, what is your proposal? The only consolation I have out of these sessions is that I will see the Special Advisor often and at great length over the months and years to come.

Le Duc Tho: We will meet soon.

Dr. Kissinger: What is the Special Advisor’s proposal?

Le Duc Tho: I have to ask my experts because at some times I don’t remember the place. Regarding the tasks of the Two-Party Joint Military Commission, the mention of Article 13 in this Article 17.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.

Le Duc Tho: The description of Article 13 we propose to write as follows: “Article 13 regarding the question of Vietnamese armed forces in South Vietnam.” In your proposal of November 20 it is the description you have given us.

Dr. Kissinger: So it is a concession for us.

Le Duc Tho: Now you want to rephrase this description.

Dr. Kissinger: Your expert is saving us from ourselves. He is a man of true objectivity.

Le Duc Tho: Now you propose to write “Article 13 regarding the reduction of the military effectives of the two South Vietnamese parties and the demobilization of troops being reduced.” I propose to write this article as it was: “Article 13 regarding the question of Vietnamese armed forces in South Vietnam.”

Dr. Kissinger: Are you willing to do this under Article 18 also? I think the Special Advisor keeps discussing this chapter because it is his favorite chapter and he can’t part with it.

Le Duc Tho: I am fed up with this chapter. [Laughter] I will immediately forget this chapter after our negotiations end.

Dr. Kissinger: That I believe! But you will strictly implement it?

Le Duc Tho: Other of my people will strictly implement the chapter but I myself will forget it. I will forget it. It does not mean I will not implement it. So you have described this Article 13 on December 10. Now I maintain your description of that phrase. So you have raised new questions. On December 10 you wrote “Article 13 regarding the question of Vietnamese armed forces in South Vietnam.”

Dr. Kissinger: Do you have a computer to feed my sentence into and then if it is a half sentence you like to pull it out and make a thing of it? Since I always assume, based on long experience with the Special [Page 1144] Advisor, that he never does anything without a reason—even though that reason may not be immediately obvious to slow minds like mine—could I find out whether the description in Article 18 is the same as in Article 17, and if it is different, can I understand the reason for it?

Can we tell the press today that you made a superhuman effort to come to a rapid conclusion?

Le Duc Tho: I agree with you now. About the description of Article 13 in Article 17, I agree to your description.

Dr. Kissinger: But which version of me do you agree with? [Laughter] We leave it as it is.

Le Duc Tho: I agree to your amendment. [Laughter]

Dr. Kissinger: What is my amendment? [Laughter] I am afraid you are writing in here now your version of Article 8(c). [Tho laughs] May I point out something—you haven’t raised Article 5 for thirty minutes. The pain is subsiding. You should put the needle in again.

Will you read to me what it is you have agreed to, Mr. Special Advisor, or will your expert read to me, or the interpreter, or the Minister? If we could just hear the correct phrase. [Mr. Loi gets up] May I make a proposal that he stay out of this discussion? Every time we are beginning to make progress he comes in. I move that everybody stay in his seat [as Mr. Thach gets up and joins Loi standing behind Le Duc Tho]. You don’t see my experts jumping around. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: And it tires me too. I agree to your wordings.

Dr. Kissinger: Return them to their native places! That is my advice—return to their native places.

Mr. Phuong: “Article 13 regarding the reduction of the military effectives of the two South Vietnamese parties and the demobilization of troops being reduced.”

Dr. Kissinger: Thank you, Mr. Special Advisor.

Le Duc Tho: Now they have returned to their native places [as Loi and Thach sit down].

Dr. Kissinger: Is it the same in Article 18, or are you putting a little zinger there too? Are we agreed?

Le Duc Tho: We will delete the word—that will be agreed.

Dr. Kissinger: Okay, fine. I understand. To sum up, the description of Article 13 in Articles 17 and 18 is the same, and it is as the Vice Minister read so eloquently. [Mr. Loi gets up again.] You are taking unilateral action?

Le Duc Tho: They should bring him to his native place! [Laughter]

Dr. Kissinger: Can we sign an agreement that he will demobilized and return to his native place?

Le Duc Tho: And he will not come up the Ho Chi Minh Trail?

[Page 1145]

Similar article.

Dr. Kissinger: Not similar—identical.

Mr. Phuong: Identical.

Dr. Kissinger: We are making great progress. We are now back to where we were yesterday. We have lost only two words in the process. Now, shall we continue? Now we are in Chapter VII.

Le Duc Tho: Regarding 20(a), yesterday I agreed with you on the word “se” [“will”] and today our experts reviewed it and they think that the word “se” is not correct because if you put “se” it means in the futurity. But the Geneva Agreement signed in 1954 and 1962 said it; therefore, it has been respected, therefore we propose it to be “strictly respect.” And if we put the Vietnamese word “se” people would think that in the past they were not respected. [Kissinger and Sullivan laugh]

Dr. Kissinger: I don’t see how they could get that idea.

Le Duc Tho: In Vietnamese language.

Dr. Kissinger: I mean, considering the Ho Minh Trail, they couldn’t possibly get that idea. My worry is I am haunted by the 316th Division and I am afraid that if he reads it without “shall” the division commander may think when he is marching on Long Tieng he is observing the 1962 Agreement. I don’t want to confuse him and make him think that what he is doing is respecting Laotian neutrality. It is a sign of good will.

Le Duc Tho: But you refer to the offensive on Long Tieng and the Ho Chi Minh Trail. But these things have their historical circumstances.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.

Le Duc Tho: So you should not refer to these things because if so I would debate with you the whole day.

Dr. Kissinger: Well, I enjoy that.

Le Duc Tho: If you like it, then I am prepared to do that.

Dr. Kissinger: But if this agreement has any significance it must be that both of us agree to do something different from what we have done before. If we are going to continue to observe the 1962 agreements in 1972 the way we did in 1971, it is not something that is worth making an agreement about.

Le Duc Tho: The Geneva Agreements of 1954 and 1962 we respect. We put “strictly respect” which means the past we respect, and at present, and in the future; all of the time these agreements are respected. If you put “se” it means that now they are not respected but in the future they are respected.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but in the first place I wonder how the Special Advisor could ever have agreed to it as it is so self-evident. Secondly, when we explain this to the American public we have to explain that [Page 1146] something is happening now that means a turn towards peace in Indochina. The American public may be mistakenly under the impression that there is not peace in Indochina now. So if we say that we will do under this agreement what we have been doing for the past ten years, we don’t need an agreement.

Le Duc Tho: The Geneva Agreements of 1954 and 1962 have existed. If we put “strictly respect” it means in Vietnamese that in the past we respected, the present we are respecting them, and in the future we will be respecting them.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but this is what creates a certain uneasiness in America. Because there are tens of thousands of your demobilized soldiers who chose to go to Laos and Cambodia and form themselves into units there!

Le Duc Tho: Regarding Cambodia and Laos we should read the whole chapter. It reflects adequately the situation. And with the understanding given you, it is for you adequate. If you put in the Vietnamese text the word “se”, it will give rise to many misinterpretations.

Dr. Kissinger: Well how about “agree to”? That can give no rise to any misinterpretation. [Xuan Thuy confers with Tho.]

Now the Minister is intervening. He will cause me trouble.

Le Duc Tho: Let me think one moment.

Xuan Thuy: I am constructive. You will see it.

Dr. Kissinger: Only it will cost me Articles 8(c) and 5. [Dr. Kissinger leaves room; returns in a moment.] What happened?

Le Duc Tho: Objective necessity. We will have a break, for objective reasons.

Dr. Kissinger: But I thought we would hear an historic event, a constructive thing this morning.

[The group got up from the table. Discussion continued around the table on the subject of the proper Vietnamese word for “shall:”]

Mr. Thach: The Vietnamese word “se” means future.

Dr. Kissinger: In English, “shall” expresses an obligation. I don’t care whether it is “shall,” but it has to express a new obligation agreed to. If you say “agree to,” “reaffirm,” anything that is neutral. Why don’t you say “agree to”? “Must”?

Ambassador Sullivan: In French we would say “doit.”

Le Duc Tho: “Doit.” [Nods affirmatively.]

Ambassador Sullivan: What is “doit” in Vietnamese?

Mr. Thach: “Phai.”

Mr. Engel [to Dr. Kissinger]: That means “must.”

Dr. Kissinger: That’s fine.

[Page 1147]

Mr. Thach: Agreed. D’accord.

Dr. Kissinger: Why don’t we eat together? Here. [They agree] Good.

[The group then left the table, at 12:45 p.m. Dr. Kissinger and Le Duc Tho went to the other room to confer privately. Their lunch was later served to them separately there, as their private conversation was prolonged. The rest of the group ate together in the meeting room.]

[The meeting reconvened at 2:30 p.m.]

Dr. Kissinger: Is the Vice Minister going to spring his prisoners paper on us before the meeting is over?

Minister Thach: The protocol is not ready yet.

Dr. Kissinger: It must be something pretty . . .

Minister Thach: But they will be dealing with missing in action.

Dr. Kissinger: We also want to know what it says about the prisoners.

Minister Thach: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: We were already at Article 20 of the agreement, and we either agreed on something just before, or I wasn’t sure. As I understand it, we agreed to say “phai”. Now don’t try to slip another word in on me, because I like “phai.” And then the rest of the text is the same. Because I think Mr. Loi had some other pleasant thought, which we are rejecting.

Le Duc Tho: In the main it is the same, but Mr. Loi brought another change. The writings make it shorter, simpler, because there is a repetition here. So I will hand you the Article (a) and you will consider it, and we will change it later because the substance is the same.

Dr. Kissinger: Let me hear it. It would be the first time Mr. Loi has done something that kept the substance the same. I would think that is his intention. Could I just hear it?

Mr. Phuong [reading]: “The parties participating in the Paris Conference on Vietnam shall strictly respect the 1954 Geneva Agreements on Cambodia and the 1962 Geneva Agreements on Laos which recognize the Cambodian and Lao peoples’ fundamental rights, i.e., the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of these countries. The parties shall respect the neutrality of Cambodia and Laos.”

Dr. Kissinger: Since I have some experience with Mr. Loi, could he explain to us, or the Special Advisor explain to us, the purpose of this change? Or will I find it inscribed on his statue when I arrive in Hanoi?

Le Duc Tho: The simple reason for this proposal is to make the provisions shorter and to avoid repetition of the words “strictly respect the agreement,” etc. Moreover our allies have been reading this provision and they have the impression that the provision has been changed many times.

[Page 1148]

Dr. Kissinger: So you want to change it one more time to give them a greater sense of insecurity. [Le Duc Tho laughs]

Le Duc Tho: To assure them only.

Dr. Kissinger: I see the theory—your allies complain about a change so you say, “Right, we will make another change.”

Le Duc Tho: So I just propose this formulation. Please consider it and we decide it later. Now let us go to another question. Please read the formulation you propose.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, we will read it. [To Ambassador Porter: I won’t accept it. It’s just too much.] All right, you want to discuss it later.

Le Duc Tho: I propose that the experts and Minister Xuan Thuy and Ambassadors Sullivan and Porter will exchange on the formulation of this provision.

Dr. Kissinger: Because we have the same problem of having discussed it with our allies, and every time we say that something has been changed and clarified, if we come with another change it raises doubts.

Le Duc Tho: At the time the provision is under discussion it is different, it is not yet published.

Dr. Kissinger: If it isn’t published, what is your problem with your allies?

Le Duc Tho: But it has been published later, on October 26. So it was published, the whole chapter on Cambodia and Laos. With regard to our allies, the Cambodian allies, they did not agree completely with the provision as we agreed on October 26.

Dr. Kissinger: But first of all it is not self-evident to me that we should pay you for something you shouldn’t have done to begin with. Secondly, I remember the eloquent speech the Special Advisor made last week in which he listed all the changes he made and which he was maintaining, and which we in Washington therefore believed had been accepted, reinforced by the fact that on Saturday he said only one issue remained to settle. Now we find that the fact that it was changed was objectionable, and he goes back more or less to the original. So I just don’t want the Minister’s hopes to be too high that Ambassador Porter will settle that issue with him tomorrow. [Tho and Xuan Thuy laugh.]

But I must say we are doing very well. On Saturday we had one issue, yesterday we had two, and now we have eight. So it is just as well that we are separating for a bit.

Le Duc Tho: I had said that we will stick to the text of the agreement provided that no changes are brought into the agreement.

Dr. Kissinger: But that was three weeks ago. That was another speech.

[Page 1149]

Le Duc Tho: Now that you have brought about the changes, we have done the same, and in the course of discussion you raise a new change, you withdraw another. We do the same. We bring about changes and we withdraw. And on other points I did not see them myself but it was brought about by my experts. So we have been impeded by our saboteurs too.

Dr. Kissinger: So when the Special Advisor makes a big effort and I make a big effort, then Mr. Loi makes a big effort which takes away from your big effort. So I have no expert with the same subtlety. So there you have the advantage.

Le Duc Tho: It is not true. Because your experts sometime they do raise very harsh questions. I think it is not a major question.

Dr. Kissinger: And we will not agree to it. But Ambassador Porter will communicate this separately to the Minister. And by that time you will have taken Mr. Loi. He is leaving, isn’t he? Will he be in Hanoi? I don’t want to have to deal with him if I come to Hanoi. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: When you go to Hanoi the text of the agreement is completed.

Dr. Kissinger: No, you will tell me that your experts have been studying it and have found many loopholes. Like that the United States shouldn’t be mentioned in the text.

Le Duc Tho: But when you propose to come to us on November 20 yet you figure out too many loopholes.

Dr. Kissinger: We believe this too, but is there ever going to be an end to this process, or will Mr. Loi be able to raise constant subtleties?

Le Duc Tho: Everything has its end, and the subtleties of Mr. Loi will come to an end too.

Dr. Kissinger: I just wanted to point out to you this is another chapter we have communicated to the President as being settled, on three different occasions.

Le Duc Tho: We propose this to avoid repetition only, but we can discuss and come to an agreement.

Dr. Kissinger: We are willing to pay the price of complex language to stick with what we have agreed to. We are willing to pay the price of a certain inelegance of formulation to stick to what we have agreed to and have reported to Washington.

Le Duc Tho: There is no problem. Let us have another exchange of view.

Dr. Kissinger: Okay, it won’t lead to any other result, but we will have another exchange of views. Now, what would the Special Advisor like to discuss? I think we should discuss the protocols.

Le Duc Tho: But there still remain a number of understandings we have not yet completely discussed them. You have raised to us the question of Laos. We have raised the question of civilian personnel.

[Page 1150]

Dr. Kissinger: Article 5 has been raised again. I just want to point out that the Special Advisor hasn’t let me down.

Le Duc Tho: The understanding, rather your engagement regarding Article 8(c) I have handed to you. Regarding the contribution of the United States to the healings of the war wounds. We handed to you our understandings on Laos and your understanding on the U.S. contribution to healing the wounds of war. Now we also take note of your pledge regarding the massacre of Vietnamese personnel, military as well as civilian, captured and detained in South Vietnam; I gave it to you yesterday. And regarding the U.S. aircraft carriers, on October 11, 1972 you mentioned about the stationing of the aircraft carriers 300 miles off the coast of Vietnam, and now you want to make it “North Vietnam.”

I just raise these understandings for memory to recall you on them, and we leave the discussions of these understandings to Ambassadors Porter and Sullivan and Minister Xuan Thuy.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, that is a good idea. Ambassador Sullivan had just thanked me for it. He thinks it is a sign of good will on my part that I entrust this to him. Ambassador Porter thanked me yesterday evening.

Le Duc Tho: I would like to speak now about the question of Laos. Yesterday you said that we sacrifice the interests of a small country, to the detriment of the interests of a small country, in the interests of a bigger country. It is not true. We never do that.

Dr. Kissinger: I did not say that either.

Le Duc Tho: They are our allies. We have been fighting with them in a common battlefield of Indonesia—of Indochina. [Interpreter’s error]

Dr. Kissinger: Indonesia—that is the next war. In December 1975.

Le Duc Tho: Let me finish. We have exchanged the views with them and agree with them. We are discussing this question with you. So I heard you say so yesterday; now we would like to make a denial.

Dr. Kissinger: I have never accused the Special Advisor of sacrificing the interests of a small country for a larger country. And I think the computer into which you feed my comments to pick things out of context malfunctioned on that occasion. What I said was you offered us five days in a small country for six months in South Vietnam. I was complimenting the Special Advisor on his buffalo trading. But I want to say again what I have tried to say repeatedly to the Special Advisor.

Le Duc Tho: I am imitating Mr. Special Advisor.

Dr. Kissinger: No, no, you are an original, Mr. Special Advisor. You are much too modest. What I have been trying to tell the Special Advisor is, it is obviously important that when one negotiates one bargains hard. But there also comes a point where one sacrifices so much good will in the long run that whatever marginal gains one [Page 1151] makes are no longer worth it. I cannot exaggerate the impatience that is felt in Washington at what we have experienced here. You take the case of Laos: it is no special favor to us whether you do it in 20 days or 10 days. But it ought to be in our common interest to end military activities in Indochina as quickly as humanly possible. We accepted the argument in October that the Laotian parties, having just met, could not settle very quickly, and therefore we agreed to the 30 days, though the Special Advisor added an oral statement that it could be much quicker. With the time that has been spent on these negotiations—indeed I would say wasted—in these last days, there is no longer any understandable reason why the time for the ceasefire in Laos could not be condensed. But there is no implication intended that the Special Advisor is sacrificing the interests of a small country for a larger country. In fact I haven’t noticed the Special Advisor sacrificing anything in the last ten days. [Tho laughs] Except an enormous amount of American good will.

Le Duc Tho: Because our effort has come to its limits. It is not quite true what you said. We have made a great deal of effort.

Dr. Kissinger: But in what direction?

Le Duc Tho: In the direction of peace, of course. Seriously speaking, we are making efforts towards this direction of peace.

Dr. Kissinger: Well, then we have a great communications problem between Hanoi and Washington.

Let me say one other thing about the understandings, that should be clear. There are some understandings that are common understandings. There are others that are unilateral statements. For example, we intend to say that we do not recognize the PRG and that signing a document that mentions it implies no act of recognition. Of course you are free to join us in that statement and make it a mutual understanding. [Laughter] But in the unlikely event that we will not be able to agree on making it a mutual understanding, we will hand it to you as a unilateral United States statement. We told you that. And there may be one or two other unilateral statements of that nature. You don’t have to agree to them. And then there are some others that are mutual understandings, including those you have listed.

Except the one on massacres. You can’t very well expect us to make a mutual understanding respecting massacres by our allies—alleged massacres by our allies. [Tho laughs]

Le Duc Tho: What we want is to take note of your statement at one of our last meetings that you want to stop the massacre of Vietnamese civilian personnel, military as well as civilian, captured and detained in South Vietnam.

Dr. Kissinger: It wasn’t at one of our last meetings. It was at a meeting in September.

[Page 1152]

Le Duc Tho: Right.

Dr. Kissinger: On that occasion the Special Advisor alleged that there were massacres going on, and I said if any massacres came to our attention we would do our best to stop them. I did not say that I agreed that there were massacres going on. But these were all in the context of exchanges that were in a completely different framework than the one we are discussing now.

Le Duc Tho: We have just done the work of recording what you have told us in our exchange. Whether you accept this statement or not it is another question.

Dr. Kissinger: But you also ought to record it accurately.

Le Duc Tho: We will have the accurate record.

Dr. Kissinger: Can I get the tapes which you made in Rue Darthé too, so that we can play it? [Tho laughs] Did you have the microphone in the flowerpot?

Le Duc Tho: As to the unilateral declarations, either side has the right to do so.

Dr. Kissinger: That is correct.

Le Duc Tho: If you make unilateral declarations we will make also unilateral declarations.

Dr. Kissinger: Is it one-for-one?

Le Duc Tho: For instance, if you say you will . . .

Dr. Kissinger: If we make a big one, you will make a big one? If we make an average one you will make an average one?

Le Duc Tho: It is in Vietnamese we have a phrase saying “tit-for-tat”.

Dr. Kissinger: Write that down. So in other words if we give you three unilateral declarations you will give us three. You won’t give us any if we don’t give you any.

Le Duc Tho: It will depend. It happens that you will make two and we will make two only. But it may happen that you will make three that we will make four.

Dr. Kissinger: But it cannot happen that we make three and you make two. All right, we will look at yours and you will look at ours. I have to get my luggage together too and meet with my people.

Now shall we discuss the protocols briefly? This is a consuming interest of the Special Advisor’s. I think what we should do is discuss the general principles now and then have the Ambassador and the two Ministers discuss the actual drafting. [Tho nods] May I say that it is essential that we receive your prisoners protocol because it is the key element to us?

Should I give you my comments on your protocol, or would you like to start?

[Page 1153]

Le Duc Tho: Please go ahead.

Dr. Kissinger: Let me talk first about the International Commission of Control and Supervision, on which our philosophies are not identical. But no member of the commission that operates under your protocol will die of overwork. [Tho laughs]

There are two sets of issues in your draft. One, the political issues, which are largely irrelevant to the protocol. And secondly, the substantive issues.

First, with respect to the political issues, you have introduced into the protocol a whole host of substantive considerations that we have already encountered in the agreement and that have a tendency to tilt the agreement further in one direction than was intended.

For example, the PRG is mentioned more frequently than in the basic agreement, and that of course presents exactly the same difficulty as in the basic agreement.

The nine regions in South Vietnam specified in Article 5 are regions of your own Communist military organization there, and they don’t correspond to the South Vietnamese, to the Saigon regions. And this has a political significance.

The reference to Cua Viet as a point of exit and entry into South Vietnam in 5(c) tends to imply the de facto annexation of territory north of it to the North. Because we suffer from the illusion that South Vietnam begins at the DMZ and not at Cua Viet.

There is no provision for any team to operate in Hanoi during the period of the repatriation of prisoners.

And finally the protocol involves an expansion of the role of the National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord which is totally contrary to the provisions of the agreement. Article 9(d) says that the ICCS receives cooperation and assistance from the Councils of National Reconciliation and Concord at central and lower levels. First, the only council that has been agreed upon is the one at the central level and it isn’t clear when it is going to come into being. As to the lower-level councils, the parties are only under an obligation to consult about them. So to write into the agreement a provision of functions for councils that haven’t even been decided upon yet is an unwarranted expansion of the substance of the agreement.

For which I blame Mr. Loi. He will need a very large statue. [Laughter] At the rate we are going they can finish one of the size of the Eiffel Tower, though, before I get to Hanoi.

Then Article 4 provides that the International Commission should report to the National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord. Chapter VI of the basic agreement fully spells out to whom the International Commission reports, that is, the parties and the International [Page 1154] Conference. There is no mention whatever in Chapter VI, which fully covers the functions of the Commission. Perhaps through a drafting mistake, I find that the Commission reports to the National Council, but there is no reference to the International Conference.

And the protocol has to restate what is in the basic agreement and cannot add new obligations that are not in the basic agreement. So one cannot avoid the impression that the protocol of the International Commission attempts to introduce into the protocol political issues going far beyond what was in the agreement, but excludes from the protocol some decisions that were made in the agreement. Our experts will want to fix this. I am sure that the Minister will cooperate in this effort with his usual meticulousness. And you will instruct him when you make your luggage tomorrow. [Tho laughs] If you “don doc” his operation. [Laughter]

There is really no point for concluding an agreement as long as we are having such a good time.

Mr. Thach: Ambassador Sullivan is always adding new things too.

Dr. Kissinger: That is because he is my Commissar.

Now may I raise some substantive issues? We feel that your draft exaggerates the traditional Vietnamese hospitality to a point where these teams will find it almost impossible to observe anything, finding themselves surrounded as they are by their Vietnamese hosts at every moment. [Laughter] As we analyze it, there are about four times as many liaison officers as there are Commission members, and westerners not used to your standards of hospitality may confuse it with being taken prisoner. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: But your provisions are too loose, too large.

Dr. Kissinger: So I believe that some greater possibility for initiative should be given to these members. Secondly, as we understand your draft—and I am afraid we understand it—it provides for all communications and support of the Commission to be furnished by the party in whose area the Commission operates. Now the Special Advisor has already pointed out that they may have to move by buffalo cart. But our basic concern is the purposes of the Commission, and its incentive to find violations may be higher than that of the party committing the violation. And you have set it up not only that the party has to agree to the investigation to begin with but that it has to supply all the communications and transportation.

Secondly, we consider the Commission inadequate in size and inadequately distributed around the country. And some of the provisions are so vague as to lead to great ambiguity. Having seen Mr. Loi in operation I cannot believe that that is unintentional. For one thing we may have a slightly different conception of border points than you [Page 1155] do. You do not make clear whether these points of entry are to be used by both parties or by only one party. We don’t know whether the PRG wants to supply its forces through Saigon or how. I think we should get somewhat greater precision. Don’t you, Mr. Special Advisor? It is in our mutual interest to avoid ambiguity, and in order to bring about the meticulous observation of the agreement which we have both agreed is essential, we should specify also that the points at which the teams are located are the only permitted points of entry. So that we do not inadvertently ship 100 tanks to An Loc. [Tho laughs]

Le Duc Tho: If the tanks are to be supplied through the fixed points of entry then it is not so many teams as you approve.

Dr. Kissinger: And of course no one would ever use a point of entry that was not permitted. I know the Minister is now going to propose to have no fixed teams at entry points, so you won’t be able to ship anything, which is what you want.

So at any rate we will clarify this ambiguity. We will specify the points of entry for each side and we will make clear that those are the only permitted points of entry, that there are no others.

And of course we will have to clear up the ambiguity about just exactly where the DMZ is located. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: Under water, under the river Ben Hai. [Laughter]

Ambassador Sullivan: That is where the team is located, under water.

Dr. Kissinger: I think the Special Advisor wants to put an Indonesian team under water at Ben Hai. All right. In case these restrictions are not confining enough, there are some others such as Article 8(c) in which the four parties and the two South Vietnamese parties have to agree on the location and the activities of the team, in case they find a buffalo on their own. [Laughter] Then, knowing that it is impossible to get any unanimous report from any team that has a Hungarian on it, you have made it impossible to provide any separate view. And in order to underline your concern for unanimity you have provided in Article 7 that unless all four parties are present the teams can do nothing. Of course I have already pointed out that you have forgotten to mention the International Conference.

These are just the issues of principle. If I listed all the issues of detail I do not believe the Special Advisor would make his plane on Friday. The intent of your proposal is to deprive the Commission of any theoretical, legal, practical and physical ability to operate.

So I would suggest that the two groups of experts be instructed to operate from both texts and not yours. [Tho nods yes] My impression is that they will not settle this issue on Friday. But it is another reason why it is hard to see how we can bring this agreement into force. [Page 1156] Maybe I should let the Special Advisor reply before I return to the Four- and Two-Party Commissions.

Le Duc Tho: In my view I would propose the following. I don’t know whether it is good to do the job or not. You have tabled a number of protocols; we have also put forward a number of them. So the drafts of the two parties are to be subjected to discussions on the basis of the two drafts. We will base ourselves on our draft but we will take into account what is said in your draft. You will do the same. You will base yourself on your draft but you will consider the views expressed in ours. And we will discuss and find out something just for us two. Therefore any views you may have, you will express them to your colleagues. And whatever views I may have I will convey them to Minister Xuan Thuy and my experts. So that the two parties will discuss the problems. And whatever discussions will be here, they will be reported to you on your side and to me on my side and I shall on the way contribute my views to my experts. Because if now you comment on all the four protocols and I will comment on the four protocols, it would take too much time.

Dr. Kissinger: We only have three of your protocols.

Le Duc Tho: There were four.

Dr. Kissinger: How are we going to get the fourth? Because it is very essential to us.

Le Duc Tho: Tomorrow morning.

Dr. Kissinger: It is in your blue folder.

Le Duc Tho: It is not there.

Dr. Kissinger: Can I see it?

Le Duc Tho: We are progressing slowly.

Dr. Kissinger: Will you send it to our Embassy tomorrow morning? Or call Colonel Guay. He will pick it up. [Thach nods yes]

So you don’t want to hear my views on the Two- and Four-Party Commissions.

Le Duc Tho: It is not so. But as now you make your recommendation on the four, I will make my comments too. If you have any views please convey them. Tomorrow. I have read your draft protocols. Now I will read the draft on my side. We read and I will give instructions to Minister Xuan Thuy.

Dr. Kissinger: That is fair enough, Mr. Special Advisor. I wouldn’t want you to discuss something before you have read it.

Le Duc Tho: I have read your draft. I have prepared my comments. I still remember that in your draft you propose to put 5000 men in the International Commission. I pay a great deal of attention to this.

Dr. Kissinger: 4800. We gave 200 as a sign of good will. In your draft, Mr. Special Advisor, you have 62½ men from each country.

[Page 1157]

Le Duc Tho: And you insist on freedom of movement and organized down to the district level. So I have read your draft.

Dr. Kissinger: And you have adopted all of it for the Two-Party Commission!

Le Duc Tho: These are the few important points. It shows I pay attention to your draft. It shows that I have read it.

Dr. Kissinger: I was sure you read my draft. I was not sure you had read your draft. [Vietnamese laugh]

Le Duc Tho: Actually I have discussed the subject with Minister Xuan Thuy. But I have not read the draft! It is his work [pointing to Mr. Loi].

Dr. Kissinger: That’s going to be quite a statue.

Le Duc Tho: Tomorrow we will hand you the protocol on the prisoners. And please fix a date for the beginning of the work of the experts.

Dr. Kissinger: I think they have agreed to meet on Friday. And then they . . .

Le Duc Tho: Tomorrow I will have to meet with Minister Xuan Thuy.

Dr. Kissinger: And alternate between. We might start at any place you designate. What place do you suggest?

Le Duc Tho: Gif-sur-Yvette, and here.

Dr. Kissinger: Here we may have to change because we have evicted the owner. But we will give you the name of the place. Okay—Gif. On Friday we will give you the name.

Ambassador Porter: We go to your place Friday, and Saturday it may be here, but we will tell you definitely.

Dr. Kissinger: This is so interesting I may come back for it.

Amb. Porter: It is going to be unusual.

Dr. Kissinger: But we have an understanding that Mr. Loi is going back to Hanoi. In fact we don’t care where he goes. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: He will return to his native place! You want them to go to their native place, therefore I will tell Mr. Loi to return to his native place.

Dr. Kissinger: I am sure there is some meaning to this. Where is his native place—Hué?

Le Duc Tho: Right.

Dr. Kissinger: I have a few ambitions: I am looking forward to the negotiating between Minister Xuan Thuy and Special Advisor Duc from Saigon. And to the encounter between Mr. Loi and Mr. Nha. Well then, where are we, Mr. Special Advisor? After this maximum effort today.

[Page 1158]

Le Duc Tho: There is still a number of questions left in the agreement, and a number of questions regarding the understandings. I think that our experts should continue to work on them so as to settle these questions. And of course the protocols will be worked on by the experts too. And during my return to Hanoi, whether there is any major question you and I will exchange messages.

Dr. Kissinger: During, or after?

Le Duc Tho: During my stay in Hanoi.

Dr. Kissinger: Oh, during your stay.

Le Duc Tho: And when necessary you and I will meet again. But if so, we will understand that it will take me at least from 12 to 15 days to go to Hanoi and to return from Hanoi. The quickest is 12 days.

Dr. Kissinger: Well, I leave it up to you to propose a meeting if it is desired. You know your schedule and I don’t know your schedule. So when you are ready for a meeting or if you think a meeting is necessary, please propose a date.

Le Duc Tho: Either side will say a meeting is necessary, and propose.

Dr. Kissinger: Right. Let me then sum up where we are. Our experts will go over the unresolved issues in the text of the agreement. I recommend, Mr. Special Advisor, that when you instruct your experts that you will confine the remaining issues to those that were unsolved yesterday rather than the ones introduced this morning with respect to Article 7 and Article 20. Though I will be glad to receive the unilateral declaration from Mr. Loi about whether it is possible to destroy something without damaging it. Second, our experts will work on the mutual understandings. Third, and most importantly—and this should be our first task—they should work on the protocols.

From our side I must say, Mr. Special Advisor, we believe that an agreement with good will should be easily achievable. [Tho nods] I cannot hide from you the growing impatience in Washington, and its conviction that the delays of the last ten days have been unnecessary. We are prepared to make an agreement, and we still think that the path of peace is the best for both of our people. But the opportunities for peace, if they are not seized when they exist, can be overtaken by events. So I would like to express my hope that we will soon be able to complete the efforts which we started in October, and which have taken too long.

Le Duc Tho: Are you finished?

Dr. Kissinger: I am finished.

Le Duc Tho: This round we have been working over one week now, not counting the last round. Counting the last round we have had until now over ten meetings. As a matter of fact . . .

[Page 1159]

Dr. Kissinger: Fifteen.

Le Duc Tho: If you review our process of negotiations you should have realized that we have made very great effort. Throughout these fifteen meetings, if we review the questions that remain outstanding now, you should have realized that we have not brought anything new; except for Article 8(c), I have proposed two months. But you have raised many questions and very major questions. And yesterday we have responded to your major question, that is the question of the Demilitarized Zone. It is undeniable that we have made great effort, and you can’t say that we don’t want to advance to peace. If you review our last fifteen meetings you should have realized the orientation we have adopted.

Now the number of outstanding questions is not great. If speaking of major questions, there are two: the question of the DMZ and the question of the signing of the agreement.

Besides there are a number of understandings associated with the agreement. For instance, the understanding on the civilian personnel associated with military jobs. Or Article 8(c). [Xuan Thuy laughs]

Dr. Kissinger: You have a one-track mind.

Le Duc Tho: Besides some others outstanding. These questions are under discussion. You have also another question, the question of Laos.

Dr. Kissinger: Which you will sell me one day at a time.

Le Duc Tho: I am confident that with good will we will solve all these questions. And besides there are a few questions of details in the agreement. We will solve them all if both sides show good will. But if we solve the major questions, these questions of detail will be easily solved. Because now we are so near to peace, you should make a step forward, and we will do a step forward.

Now I will be returning to Hanoi because I have been away from Hanoi for nearly one month now, and my government cannot fully understand the details of negotiations we are having here through the messages. I will report to my government on these negotiations because you are not in position to solve the two outstanding questions now. Even if I remain here indefinitely these two questions will remain unsolved.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree.

Le Duc Tho: If we could solve these two questions, that would be the best. But since our views differ on these two questions—I have made my utmost effort—I have no other way of doing. So both of us will return. You will report to your government and if there is anything we will exchange messages, and if necessary we will meet again. There are two ways of doing. Now you will return to Washington, I to Hanoi. We can exchange messages and if necessary we will fix up a day to [Page 1160] meet again, or after we have finished here we can fix a date for our next meeting. It is up to you to choose these two methods. And I am firmly convinced that in the next meetings both sides will make an effort and solve the problem.

I have been consistently telling you that the best way to settle the Vietnam problem is through negotiations. I have been consistently telling you so long ago and this has become evident since July, so there are negotiations ever since. So we should be confident that we will peacefully settle the problem. But both sides should make efforts and show good will. If so, I am confident that a settlement will be found out.

Dr. Kissinger: I want to be candid with you, Mr. Special Advisor. A great deal of the confidence you expressed has been lost in Washington. There are now serious questions about the sincerity and the possibility of coming to an agreement. I want to be frank with you. Our subjective views do not meet at this point. We came here twice, each time determined to settle it very quickly, each time prepared to give you a schedule which we would then have kept absolutely. We kept the Vice President standing by for ten days, in order to start the schedule which we had given you. And we believe that in the last week there has been just enough progress each day to prevent a breakup but never enough to bring about a settlement. I admire the Special Advisor’s skill in keeping the negotiations going. We remain ready to make another effort. Never again will I be able to come to Paris for more than two days, and a protracted session such as the one through which we are now going is now physically impossible for us.

We maintain our offer that we will conclude the agreement by a trip to Hanoi.

But what should be considered is that an agreement consists of two parts: its provisions, and the confidence among the parties after it is concluded. It would be idle to deny [say] that the second element is not in grave jeopardy at this moment. So we have a very important decision to make, both of us: whether we should take this last step towards peace now or whether we should launch ourselves into another period of uncertain outcome, but in which one thing is certain—never again will we negotiate a comprehensive agreement if this one fails.

I can assure you we would like to conclude this agreement, and if you and we conclude it we will proceed without regard for whatever other views may exist. But we have certain minimum requirements. You have known them since October. And if it fails it will not be because of one sentence. It will be because, as the Special Advisor pointed out so well, there was one degree too much heat applied to the glass.

It is always tempting to continue what one knows, and I suppose both of us are more familiar with war and less reluctant to run its risks [Page 1161] than to run the risks of peace. We have made our choice. Let us now see whether in the next weeks we can complete the project.

Le Duc Tho: You mentioned here that you proposed many schedules, but these schedules are not kept. It is not because of our side. The cause for those schedules being not kept is that you have raised too many questions and those questions cannot be solved in one or two days, as you propose. Last time we have met for four days and you yourself have interrupted the talks. I did not interrupt the talks myself. In our proposal we have our necessities; you have your necessities.

Exactly we should not continue the war for one word or, for one sentence. But if this word, this sentence, reflects the necessities of the other side, as in the image which we have used the other day, the glass need only one more degree to break it. This can apply to me as well as to you. We should do in such a way not to let the temperature go beyond the resistance of the glass. It is the responsibility of both of us. But we should understand each other’s necessities to keep the temperature below the critical point.

I earnestly hope that we will solve the problem during the next meeting. But there should be effort from you and from myself. Both of us should make further efforts.

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Advisor, I wish you a good trip back to Hanoi. Don’t inflame your friends in Moscow and Peking too much. I will put aside some time for the Soviet Ambassador already for Monday. He doesn’t know yet. [Laughter] But if he comes in and says, “I want you to make a big effort,” I will know that you have been in Moscow. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: I also wish you a good journey home. And you will make a great effort when you are in Washington.

Dr. Kissinger: It will be needed because I have very restless associates—not to speak of superiors. And just to sum up, we are going both to tell the press that we will stay in contact with each other and we will decide later whether there will be another meeting. And we then will be in touch with each other after you return to Hanoi, which will be Monday next week.

Le Duc Tho: [nods yes] Agreed. I will tell the journalists that I am going home to report and I will get in contact with Dr. Kissinger and we will decide when we meet again.

Dr. Kissinger: Or whether. Just in case we settle in these messages. And that in the meantime the experts will continue their work.

Le Duc Tho: Please. I will make a very brief . . .

Dr. Kissinger: I won’t say anything when I leave. We will just say it in Washington tomorrow. But if I say anything it will be just that.

[Page 1162]

Le Duc Tho: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: Maybe I will say just as I leave that I am going home to Washington to report to the President, the Special Advisor and I will stay in contact, and we will decide whether it is necessary to meet again or when. That is all I will say. And that in the meantime the experts will continue to work.

Le Duc Tho: Agreed.

Dr. Kissinger: When will you announce that you are leaving?

Le Duc Tho: I will not announce my departure. Tomorrow I will prepare for my departure and day after tomorrow at the airport I will announce.

Dr. Kissinger: You will just go to the airport and buy a ticket to Hanoi.

Le Duc Tho: There is no plane direct to Hanoi.

Dr. Kissinger: I know.

Le Duc Tho: How many hours does it take you to Washington?

Dr. Kissinger: About 8½.

Le Duc Tho: Very rapid. For me it is too long a journey.

Dr. Kissinger: Well, I don’t stop anywhere to report about the Special Advisor the way he does about me.

Le Duc Tho: Even if I wanted to have a direct schedule I could not do that.

Dr. Kissinger: It is too long. How many hours flying time is it altogether from here to Hanoi?

Le Duc Tho: 27 or 28 hours.

Dr. Kissinger: It is a long trip.

Le Duc Tho: And tiring too.

Xuan Thuy: And it cannot go only non-stop trip, it has to stop over some places.

Dr. Kissinger: Is it true that the Minister has volunteered to go in your place?

Xuan Thuy: I volunteered to do that but he wanted to go himself. Moreover, Mr. Kissinger wanted that Special Advisor Le Duc Tho return to Hanoi himself and not me.

Dr. Kissinger: I have no special interest whether the Special Advisor goes as long as Mr. Loi goes! We are going to watch the television at the airport to see who is on this flight. [Laughter]

[The meeting ended at 4:30 p.m.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 865, For the President’s Files (Winston Lord)—China Trip/Vietnam Negotiations, Camp David Memcons, December 1972 [1 of 3]. 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. Tab A is attached but not printed.

    A paper by NSC staffer John Negroponte, prepared for Kissinger on December 14, summarized “Hanoi’s negotiating behavior both in substance and procedure” in the negotiations since their reopening on November 20. Negroponte concluded that “Hanoi has no intention to meet any of the basic requirements that we made clear to them at the end of October; and through a series of irritating dilatory tactics has pursued a course which can be interpreted as desire to achieve either no agreement at all or an agreement substantially worse than that achieved in late October. Hanoi’s tactics have been clumsy, blatant, and fundamentally contemptuous of the United States.” (Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. IX, Vietnam, October 1972–January 1973, Document 174)

    Kissinger flew back to Washington on December 13, and he, Nixon, and Haig met the next morning to decide on a course of action. As Kissinger summarized: “We are now in this position: as of today, we are caught between Hanoi and Saigon, both of them facing us down in a position of total impotence, in which Hanoi is just stringing us along, and Saigon is just ignoring us. Hanoi—I do not see why Hanoi would want to settle three weeks from now when they didn’t settle this week. I do not see what additional factors are going to operate. I’m making a cold-blooded analysis.”

    Gradually, a consensus emerged at the meeting that if Saigon absolutely rejected the settlement, the United States would be forced to deal directly with Hanoi to achieve a bilateral agreement, and leave South Vietnam to go it alone. But first the United States would unleash a massive air campaign to shock the North Vietnamese into the minimal concessions necessary to reach an agreement.

    Given the threat of Congressional action to cut off funding for the war, Kissinger suggested: “Now, I would recommend that we leave open the possibility of this settlement, if the other side meets the very minimum conditions that we have indicated. I would then recommend that we start bombing the bejeezus out of them within 48 hours of having put the negotiating record out. And I would then recommend that after about two weeks of that, we offer withdrawal for prisoners, about the time that the Congress comes back and say, ʻIt is now been proved that the—the negotiation’s too complex involving all the Vietnamese parties. Let them settle their problems among each other. The South is strong enough to defend itself.’”

    The course of action selected in the end was to conduct an all-out air offensive against the North Vietnamese heartland. If the North Vietnamese had not offered the necessary concessions by December 28, the United States would move to propose a bilateral deal with Hanoi: the return of U.S. prisoners of war and an end to the bombing, in exchange for U.S. withdrawal from the war. While Kissinger and Haig focused on the strategic aspects of the decision, Nixon repeatedly worked through the political implications of the renewed bombing and the means by which it could be explained to the U.S. people. (Ibid., Document 175)

    Senior planners on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the direction of the Chairman, Admiral Thomas Moorer, had previously prepared and recently updated contingency plans for the bombing. U.S. forces, therefore, could begin the bombing, officially called Operation Linebacker II, in a matter of days. For documentation on the planning, see ibid., Documents 132, 149, 164, 169, 176, and 184.

    Despite the increasing willingness to go it alone, Nixon wanted to give Thieu another opportunity to accept the agreement in return for continued U.S. support. To this end he sent Haig to Saigon to meet with Thieu and personally deliver a letter from him regarding America’s determination to go it alone if Thieu did not accept the agreement. The letter, drafted by Kissinger and revised by Nixon, is printed ibid., Document 189. Haig later characterized the letter as being “brutally frank.” (Haig, Inner Circles, p. 309) Haig saw Thieu on December 19 and 20. Thieu remained noncommittal on the agreement, despite the sustained pressure imposed by Nixon over the previous months. For Haig’s reports on the meetings, including the text of a letter from Thieu to Nixon, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. IX, Vietnam, October 1972–January 1973, Documents 197, 198, and 206.

    The bombing began on December 18 and continued until December 29, with a 36-hour break at Christmas. For contrasting narratives of the course of the bombing and its impact on the negotiations, see Kissinger, White House Years, pp. 1446–1461, and Luu and Nguyen, Le Duc Tho-Kissinger Negotiations in Paris, pp. 415–422.