42. Memorandum of Conversation1

PARTICIPANTS

  • Le Duc Tho, Special Advisor to DRV Delegation to the Paris Conference on Vietnam
  • Xuan Thuy, Minister, Chief DRV Delegate to Paris Conference on Vietnam
  • Nguyen Co Thach, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs
  • Phan Hien, Delegation Member
  • Trinh Ngoc Thai, Delegation Member
  • Pham The Dong, Notetaker
  • Nguyen Dinh Phuong, Interpreter
  • One Other Delegation Member
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Ambassador William Sullivan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
  • Winston Lord, NSC Staff
  • John D. Negroponte, NSC Staff
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff
  • David A. Engel, NSC Staff, Interpreter
  • Mrs. Mary D. Stifflemire, Notetaker

Dr. Kissinger: I saw Mr. Special Advisor on every television network in America on Saturday. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: Shall we begin now?

Dr. Kissinger: Please.

Le Duc Tho: I would like to propose that each day we will work for four or five hours. Because lately I was caught by serious flu and I am still a little tired. So I propose these working hours.

Dr. Kissinger: May I ask one procedural question, Mr. Special Advisor? Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach discussed Saturday the possibility of experts meetings this afternoon, subject to your agreement and mine. I am prepared to agree to it and I just wanted to check whether you are agreeable also.

Le Duc Tho: I agree.

Dr. Kissinger: Should we then proceed this afternoon at three, as the two delegates for the experts meetings agreed?

Le Duc Tho: I agree.

Dr. Kissinger: Fine. Excuse me for interrupting. Mr. Negroponte of our group will join the others, and Mr. Aldrich and Mr. Thompson. Sullivan will stay with me. Wherever Mr. Thach goes, Sullivan goes.

Le Duc Tho: Let me now, Mr. Special Advisor, say a few words.

Today I would like to recall that last October we put forward a reasonable and logical proposal that leads to an agreement that should have been signed on October 31. But then you reversed the matter. And then on November 20 you requested another meeting with us. And then at these meetings you insisted on many changes regarding the principles and main substance of the agreement. Then these meetings lasted one week, and then in the midst of these meetings and these negotiations you requested a restricted meeting with me, a private meeting with me, in which you threatened us, and then you suspended the meetings for ten days. Then we had another round of meetings that lasted for nine days. And in our assessment, in these meetings we have made major efforts that enabled many agreements to be reached at these meetings, and there were only a few questions left unsolved. I remember that on December 12 regarding the question of the DMZ, we solved it in the main, and there were only a few ideas different from either side. And also the question of the signing of the agreement. Besides these two questions there are a few specific questions, not important, minor ones. And then there were a number of understandings that were being discussed.

[Page 1165]

Therefore we think that our negotiations then were in progress [sic] and I think our assessment is correct. And before leaving I told you that I would return to my country for twelve days for consultation with my government. These consultations were necessary because I was far from my government. I had to return to report to my government and ask their views in order to complete the settlement of all questions. Before our departure I told you in private, too. Definitely I had to return because there were a number of questions on which I had to have the views of my government, and I told you that we would exchange messages to settle those problems and if necessary we would meet again. And to save time our experts on both sides would continue the discussions.

I thought that in my absence the experts will hold discussions and when I returned to Paris then they would have solved part of the questions and there would be only one part left for us to continue to debate, and then our continued discussions would be rapid and fruitful. You and I also agreed on the settlement to be made at airports. We both agreed not to divulge anything regarding the private talks. On my part I have respected what I had told you. But before my reaching home you divulged part of our discussions here.

Dr. Kissinger: The Minister divulged a part that hadn’t even occurred. [Xuan Thuy laughs]

Le Duc Tho: Let me finish, Mr. Advisor. And then under this pretext you resumed the bombing of Hanoi. Just shortly after my arrival in Hanoi. So you welcomed me home very courteously indeed. I should say that your actions were very brazen, very gross. You thought that by such actions you could subdue us. You are mistaken. You should know that we and our leaders had experienced imprisonment, tortures, massacres, for tens of years—under the imperialist rule and feudal rule, without submission. Indescribable quantities of bombs and shells had been used against our country and our people were not intimidated. So your objective to bring us to our knees, to intimidate us is in vain. On the contrary, our people fought back very firmly, energetically, and you met with great failure. Over the past ten years we have never shot as many planes and captured or killed so many pilots as in the past ten days. You met with failure. But also you prolonged, you caused the negotiations to be prolonged and thereby more difficult. You have tarnished the honor of the United States. Your barbarous and inhumane action has aroused general and tremendous indignation from the world peoples. The world public opinion—personalities, governments, journalists—most of them, all of them assess that your actions were frenzied, inhumane. And even one of your friends, journalist Joseph Kraft, assessed these actions to be stupid.

Dr. Kissinger: That’s not the first time he has come to that conclusion.

[Page 1166]

Le Duc Tho: I think that these assessments by public opinion are correct and accurate. Therefore, I think that you should draw experience from them and put an end to such extremely inhumane actions against our people. While we were nearing a settlement, an agreement, you should engage the negotiations with a serious intent.

Now if you want a peaceful settlement we are prepared to do that. If you want to continue the war, we are also prepared to carry on the war without being intimidated or fear. If you want a rapid settlement, we are also prepared for a rapid settlement. If you want prolonged negotiations, we are prepared for a long negotiating too. Any way you adopt, I will respond to you. Now comes a moment when all depends on you. We should say that we have made great efforts. Therefore you are responsible for the problem, [and for] whether it is possible to solve it or whether it is impossible to solve the problem.

These are the ideas I would like to express to you before we engage this round of talks. And I should conclude by saying that the recent actions on your part evidence once again your breach of faith, your disregard to your promise. On many occasions you said to me that we should create mutual trust, mutual understanding, but each time this trust from you proved to be valueless.

I have finished.

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Advisor, Mr. Minister, I did not prepare a statement because I did not want to take up our time in accusations and counterattacks. I will reply very briefly, and then let us get down to business.

We on our side know how seriously we intended to make a settlement. We know that we came here in November and then again in December determined to settle rapidly. I explained to you again and again at these sessions and privately what our objective difficulties were and what our minimum necessities were. You know that we reduced our proposals very rapidly to an absolute minimum.

No one can read the records of the meetings in December, however, and come to any other conclusion except that you were determined not to have an agreement in December. When I arrived on Monday, the 4th, I told you the Vice President was ready to leave for Saigon on the 6th. For nine days the Vice President of the United States was standing by without a schedule, waiting to be leaving. We would not have done this if we had not been prepared on our side to settle very rapidly. On Saturday, December 9, you yourself said there was only one issue left. By Monday that had grown to three; by Tuesday it was four; and Wednesday we did not know how many issues because you were inventing them faster than we could even discuss them. I told you on many occasions during these meetings, at the table and even more privately, that there was developing in Washington an increasing [Page 1167] doubt about your seriousness of purpose. The conclusion was that you were deliberately playing with us. If we hadn’t genuinely believed that an agreement was near, the events of the recent weeks could not have happened. You have always, in the four years that I have had dealings with you, had the great ability to pretend that all the responsibility is on our side. But that is simply not true. In the recent sessions, for whatever the reason—you know better than I do—you were in no position to settle and you had no intention of settling.

Now you say that we broke our agreement not to reveal the content of the negotiations. There are two different positions. One is to reveal our assessment of where the negotiations stood, and the other is to reveal the content. We owed the American people an honest assessment of where we stood. But we have not at any time revealed the content of our discussions. Even under extreme provocation. Even when the Minister on television gave an account which indicated that you live in a different realm of reality from us. We did not do so because we did not want to provide a checklist for our journalists. You are difficult enough to negotiate with without adding a lot of American journalists too.

Now, as for recent events, I will not debate them with you and I will not debate the opinions of those who are always ready to express them on issues that they don’t understand and that don’t concern them. Peace will not be made as the result of such matters but as the result of the decisions of our two governments. You have said, Mr. Special Advisor, that you are prepared for every situation—rapid solution, prolonged negotiation or continuation of the war. With all respect, there are only two possibilities: The first possibility is a rapid conclusion; the other is the continuation of the war. The issues have now been reduced to very few. If we cannot solve them this time, we won’t be able to solve them any other time either. We would therefore have to draw the conclusion that the October framework is simply not capable of leading to a settlement.

We are prepared to attempt a rapid settlement with you. You and I have been talking for nearly four years now. [Vietnamese confer] Is it clear?

Le Duc Tho: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: I am prepared to come to a rapid settlement with you. We have been talking for four years and there is no objective that has meant more to me than to end the war with a negotiated settlement. So I am here with good will, with a serious intention to conclude rapidly. We cannot spend the amount of time we have on recent meetings. But we are willing to work long hours and to make a very serious effort. But it must be done on a reciprocal basis. And I hope that by the time we conclude, we will have brought peace to Vietnam and to Indochina. That will be our attitude.

[Page 1168]

Le Duc Tho: You have finished, Mr. Advisor?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.

Le Duc Tho: Let me add another word. First of all, you said that we did not want to come to an agreement in December. That is not true and I cannot accept this assertion. I would like to recall to you that when we met again you yourself assessed high value to my return to Paris for another meeting.

Dr. Kissinger: That is based on personal affection.

Le Duc Tho: [Laughing] No, that is not true. If you made a just assessment of that moment that was different.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree with you.

Le Duc Tho: And you proposed many modifications. And in the course of our discussions we have agreed on many points. Regarding the question of the DMZ, the most difficult question, on December 12 I have solved it with you except for a few more words. This is a major question. Besides that, our experts raised a number of questions, smaller ones, minor ones. And then you returned to your country, and then you launched the most ferocious, the most barbarous bombardment ever seen in the past ten years.

Dr. Kissinger: Can I make a suggestion? I listened to the adjectives the first time but I think you should eliminate them.

Le Duc Tho: I have shown great restraint when I used these adjectives in comparison to those used by public opinion, world opinion, American journalists, American personalities and statesmen. I have said that because you have not seen the reality. But when you come on the spot, in the future maybe, you will see the destructions, the ashes left behind by the bombing for whole quarters, villages. If a conscience is left in you, how would you think of that? While we were nearing a settlement and I fixed the date to return to meet you again—four days for the return, four days in Hanoi and four days to go to Paris again? And in the meantime the experts continued their discussions. So you cannot say that we have no good will to settle the problem. Therefore I cannot accept your conclusion as correct.

And I should say that the recent bombings bring no use at all, as I just told you. But this bombing brings only adverse effects, not counting the number of our civilians who were killed. But no use on your part—only losses. The protests against you is aroused and the negotiations are hampered. You are responsible for that. If now you show good will and serious intent to settle the problem, we are prepared to do that with you.

Many times you assert to me that you wanted a rapid settlement but the fact shows that was not your intention. The first time we met again for one week you said also that you wanted a rapid settlement. [Page 1169] Then it led to a pause for ten days and we met again. You affirmed again your intention for a rapid settlement. This time too you say you want a rapid settlement. Let us see how you solve it.

Now I leave the floor to you and let us go into our work.

Dr. Kissinger: I must correct one other point. The Special Advisor has referred several times to the experts meetings that were supposed to have taken place in the interval between our meetings. There were three experts meetings. They lasted about two to three hours each and they could not agree on an agenda, because your side insisted constantly that it was without instructions, and these experts meetings merely reinforced our conviction that there was no seriousness whatever. If these experts meetings had worked seriously the events would not have occurred. Second, I have told you on many occasions that you have to abandon the approach whereby it is always up to us to settle the problems which at least partly you have created and we must approach these issues in a spirit of reciprocity and not in a spirit of dictation by one side. And, therefore, you cannot invite me to begin the discussions with telling you how we are going to solve all these problems. I am willing to make my contribution, but I would not accept the statement you made at the airport—the statement you repeatedly make—that it is up to us to solve all the problems. The only time we made real progress was when you abandoned this attitude.

Le Duc Tho: Let me answer to that point. I do not want to return to the experts meetings. Actually, the concept on both sides was still different. Therefore discussions were necessary. Moreover, both sides, our side and yours, should wait my return to Hanoi to ask for instructions from my Government. But I had no sooner reached Hanoi without having time to ask for instructions from my Government than the bombing was launched. So you blocked the road to that objective. Now secondly, while I am telling that you are responsible for that, naturally in negotiations there should be reciprocity and both sides should show good will if a settlement is to be reached.

But I should say that recently you insist upon so many changes, and I should say also that we have had a very great effort that enabled the result we got last time. If now we review the agreement, all the changes were brought by your side. We did not bring any change on the substance. This is a fact. That is why I said that you are responsible. To solve the problem. Of course, if you show good will then I will show good will, and a settlement will be reached, but the responsibility rests on your side more than anyone else. This is a fact.

I just say that just to reply to you. But now let us come to our problem. A settlement should be found out. I am prepared to listen to you.

I propose that first we should go into the agreement, the remaining questions. Then we will discuss the understandings, then the schedule, [Page 1170] then the protocols, and what the discussions of our experts have left outstanding. The outstanding questions of the discussions, then you and I will exchange views. Roughly I propose this agenda.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree, Mr. Special Advisor, we should discuss the remaining issues in the agreement first. Then we should complete the understandings. Then perhaps we should discuss those issues of principle that remain in the protocols. And I must say, having reviewed the discussions between Ambassador Sullivan and Vice Minister Thach, I must say our saboteurs have not sabotaged as much as usual last week and have made some progress.

Then I think we should discuss the schedule and then I think we should complete the protocols. And then I want to say again what I have put in many communications—the schedule we agree on here will be completed without fail and regardless of opposition that may be raised.

Le Duc Tho: I agree.

Dr. Kissinger: I want you to know, before you accuse me of bad faith later, you have to remember is that for a few days before our Inauguration until just after the Inauguration it is impossible for me to leave Washington. But we will make specific proposals to you. But we are prepared with specific proposals but there is no sense discussing them until we have completed our work.

Le Duc Tho: It is practical and pragmatic. Because all of the previous schedules proposed by you were never realized.

Dr. Kissinger: [Laughing] I was afraid for a minute the Special Advisor might say a generous thing. [Tho laughs] If I ever come to Hanoi will you greet me with a sign that says “you again have not met your schedule”? [Laughter] Well, let’s get to work.

We have expressed our views to you in various messages of how we could proceed most rapidly. As we understand it, there are two issues left in the basic agreement, in addition to a very few wordings that Mr. Loi has managed to produce. The two issues in the basic agreement concern the DMZ and the method of signing. Then we have a number of problems with respect to the understandings which we have handed over to you. These understandings are in two parts. Some are mutual understandings, in which we have agreed on some and have yet to agree on some others. Then there are some unilateral statements which either side might wish to make which are of course not binding on the other. For example, the Special Advisor has pointed out to me on a number of occasions that the fact that the PRG is mentioned in the Preamble does not mean that the United States recognizes it as a formal government. We would expect to say this as a unilateral statement which you do not have to acknowledge. Of course [Page 1171] we are aware that you might wish to make some unilateral statements of the same kind. I think we should both show restraint and confine those to the absolute minimum.

And then there is one problem which is somewhere between a mutual understanding and a formal document, which we had reserved for discussions for the period just prior to the initialing of the agreement, that has to do with economic reconstruction. We are prepared to discuss the subject with you after the rest of the agreement is concluded, and as we have told you before we are prepared to set up an economic commission, a U.S.-DRV economic commission, to follow the signature of the agreement.

And finally, I believe that Minister Thach and Ambassador Sullivan have identified a number of issues of principle that need solving in the protocols. I propose that the Special Advisor and I, after we have completed our other work, agree on those in principle and then let the Minister and the Ambassador find the exact words to express our agreement in principle, rather than have him and me spend time on drafting.

I propose that we spend today and tomorrow on completing the agreement and understandings and Wednesday and Thursday on the other matters. And of course if we can move more rapidly that would be even better.

Le Duc Tho: It is up to you. [Laughter] If you go fast, we will go fast too. If you will go slowly then we will move slowly.

Dr. Kissinger: What is your definition of ill will and unserious intent? That you move slowly when we move fast? [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: We always accord our speed to your speed. If you go fast then we will do the same. If you will move slowly then we will do the same.

Xuan Thuy: You referred to the experts meeting before. You said that these experts meetings were fruitless and there was lack of good will on our part. I have to deny this, and we should draw experience from that. We said that we were prepared to discuss any outstanding questions, but if you stick to discussing only the protocols then we were prepared to do so too. But Ambassador Porter wanted to discuss only the protocol on the ICC. I said that would not do. We should discuss all the protocols, one by one, and after long, long discussions we came to an agreement that we would alternate the discussions, one day on the joint commissions and the other day on the International Commission. And then when we came to the joint commission, Ambassador Porter said that we were not prepared to discuss that and he should wait for instructions. Then he asked for a one-day pause, and I agreed to that.

[Page 1172]

So it is not true that the first experts meetings were hampered by our side. It is actually your side which hampered these discussions because you wanted us to follow your ideas and we could not accept that, and you said that it is lack of good will on our part. So if the two sides have agreed on an agenda then we should abide by the agenda and follow the items one-by-one.

So if now we have agreed on the items to be discussed, then we will deal with them one-by-one, and I think it is easy to come to an agreement. So I have to deny what you have just said. And I think that you should draw experience from that when we enter the new phase of our negotiations.

Dr. Kissinger: And Minister Thach and Ambassador Sullivan—do they now get a chance to protest their good mutual good will too, or should we get to work?

Le Duc Tho: It is up to you. [Laughter]

Dr. Kissinger: Well, I see the Special Advisor is in his usual form.

We have twice made a specific proposal to the DRV side, one, in the message of December 18 and the other in a message of December 23 which is specifically that with respect to the basic agreement we return to where it stood on November 23 except for the deletion of the word “administrative structure” which had been agreed to in the week of December 4. And that with respect to the signing we had agreed to what the Special Advisor had agreed to on December 11, that the U.S. and the DRV sign the document as it was according to the procedure agreed to in October and that the Saigon Government and the PRG adhere to it in separate instruments, which however contain the totality of all the obligations minus the Preamble, or with a different Preamble. Alternatively, we are prepared to sign the document according to the formula agreed on in October and find some other means of adherence for the PRG and the GVN. Those seem to me the principal issues, because the November 27 Article 1 which remains a very difficult one for us, was in a different form which did not single out the United States.

These were the proposals we made in our message, which we could assume were confirmed in your message but we want to confirm that. The Minister is unsettling me with all the documents he keeps surfacing.

Le Duc Tho: Have you finished?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.

Le Duc Tho: But listening to your initial proposals I should say that you have made a step backward. Comparing to what we agreed to on December 13. So you say that you want rapid progress. How can we make rapid progress? Now we have come back to the negotiations on December 13 and there were two outstanding questions as [Page 1173] you mentioned in your message of December 27. Besides these two there were a number of specific questions raised by our experts regarding the agreement. So I thought that we would have to solve the outstanding questions as they stood on December 13. And then after my departure, Minister Xuan Thuy discussed a number of understandings in the experts meetings, but the discussion was not complete yet. We would continue with that. It is our view.

Dr. Kissinger: I was referring to our message to you of December 18 which we then reaffirmed on December 27.

Le Duc Tho: But after, in our message in reply to your message, we have defined the outstanding questions after my departure from Paris on December 13, and then in your message in reply to us you confirm these problems, these questions.

Dr. Kissinger: Perhaps the Special Advisor could tell me his views as to the solution of the outstanding issues. And then let us see what we can do to find a common position.

Le Duc Tho: But we should agree first that those are the outstanding questions, then we will discuss them. When we parted on December 13, I told you there were two major questions left unsolved. First, the question of the DMZ; you wanted to add the word “civilian” but I disagree to that word.

Dr. Kissinger: No, I wanted to delete the whole sentence.

Le Duc Tho: It is not true. Secondly, the way of signing the agreement. Besides these two major questions there are a number of specific questions raised by both sides—five or six I think. But these are not major questions. This is my understanding. And I think I am correct because I have sent you a message telling about it and you confirmed them. And I think that I have not yet a short memory.

Dr. Kissinger: No, but you have a selective memory. [Tho laughs.]

Le Duc Tho: It is not true. It is an objective memory—and correct. [Laughter]

Dr. Kissinger: Well, Mr. Special Advisor, you are a man of great consistency in method.

Le Duc Tho: True, but you, you are versatile. [Laughter] And I am correct in saying so.

Dr. Kissinger: I repeat again, we told you on December 18 and again on December 27 what our proposal was for breaking this particular deadlock. You on December 26 told us where you thought the meeting had stood, but we had made a specific proposal to which you had not yet responded. And I would like to hear your response to all of our ideas before I can . . .

In fact, what the Special Advisor put in his message to us of December 28 was that “the meeting will take place as proposed by the U.S. [Page 1174] side.” But we are not going to play a game of a long discussion of what “as proposed” means—whether that means as to substance or as to procedure. It is certainly capable of that interpretation. But we don’t want to take this to a court.

We have now managed to spend an hour and a half just on procedure. We are now back in our December pattern, and on this basis the only exchange we haven’t had yet is on buffalo trading. Maybe when we get that out of the way we can get to substance.

I propose this. Let us set Article 1 aside for the moment and just discuss the DMZ and the method of signing.

Le Duc Tho: So I would like to reaffirm that in the agreement there are two major questions that remain unsolved, that is, the way of signing the agreement and the question of the DMZ. I have reiterated to you our position in our message addressed to you and you have confirmed our message.

Dr. Kissinger: No.

Le Duc Tho: Besides that there are a number of specific questions, minor questions, which we shall discuss. And then if you raise any other questions we are unwilling to discuss it because we agreed to that before we parted. In my message I have reaffirmed that and your last message also referred to these two questions.

Dr. Kissinger: We sent you a message on December 18 and we sent a message on December 28. The message on December 18 made a specific proposal. The message on December 28 referred to the message of December 18. So there was nothing to reaffirm—the 27th.

Le Duc Tho: I have clearly defined the two outstanding questions and before we left on the 13th. And on December 27 in your message to us you said also there were two questions. “The U.S. side agrees that the following matters remain to be settled: (a) two questions in the agreement, namely the question of the DMZ and the method of the signing; (b) a number of understandings; (c) a number of protocols, dealing with supervisory machinery.”

Dr. Kissinger: I have agreed to discuss those two issues first. You have indicated you are not willing to discuss Article 1. I take note of what you have said. Let us discuss those two issues first. If we can agree on them we can then see where we are.

Le Duc Tho: [Heatedly] We should come to a clear-cut agreement that there are now two major questions left and then besides that a number of special questions. This is what we agreed to on December 13 and your message is before us.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, and a message on December 18. For about ten days in December you explained to me in excruciating language that each side was free to raise an issue as long as the negotiations continued. [Page 1175] On the very last day you raised I forget how many issues that were not just technical. So I am referring to the message of December 18—to the message of December 28. I am saying we should discuss those two problems first. You say we can’t even reserve our right to discuss something we had in two messages to you and you are proceeding in a very peremptory way.

Le Duc Tho: You see, your last message and our last message supersede the previous one because we have defined the outstanding issues to be discussed. If now you want to raise other questions then we will raise other questions too. We will raise again the question of 8(c) and the question of civilian personnel. So we withdraw these questions so as the other questions were solved.

So you affirm your desire to make rapid progress but you have never really had this intention. You spent too much time to discuss on procedural questions we have agreed to. So what is this way of negotiation? You wanted to force us. Do you mean that the recent bombing is for the purpose of coercion? That cannot do, because if you wanted to settle the problem you should settle the problem. If you now raise other questions we have also many questions to raise.

Dr. Kissinger: If you are going to raise the issue of the civilian personnel at all—you are raising it as an understanding. But as I told you before, that has the purpose as an agreement, so you are not making any concessions.

Le Duc Tho: An understanding is different from what is said in the agreement.

Dr. Kissinger: Why?

Le Duc Tho: Because the agreement will be signed and published. The understanding will not be published.

Dr. Kissinger: In our system the understanding in one form or another will become apparent too, and secondly, we are obligated; we don’t care whether it is signed or not, we will carry out the understanding as well as we carry out the agreement. Otherwise it doesn’t make any sense. And one of the objectionable features of the last sessions was that on one day you would make what we thought was a concession in withdrawing something from the agreement and next thing we knew you raised it as an understanding in the next meeting.

Le Duc Tho: Your way of negotiation is worse than mine because you are always changing and you are always creating complicated questions. We have agreed that there are now two major outstanding questions. Let us discuss them.

Dr. Kissinger: That is what I am proposing.

Le Duc Tho: And if now you raise other questions then I will raise the question of 8(c) or other questions. So you waste too much time because we have agreed.

[Page 1176]

Dr. Kissinger: What happened last time? On Saturday, December 9, you said that if I accepted your formulation of Article 1 you would withdraw Article 8(c) and Article 5. I agreed. On Monday you reintroduced them as understandings. Everyone in Washington thought I had lost my mind.

Le Duc Tho: You agreed with us on the understandings regarding 8(c) as early as October 17. So you are not respecting the fact.

Dr. Kissinger: Have we had enough procedure now, or shall we discuss it longer? [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: If now we agree to that, that we have those questions to be discussed on the procedure. Let us go into the question to discuss.

Dr. Kissinger: That is what I have proposed for the last hour.

Le Duc Tho: If you agree that these are the two major outstanding questions, let us go into them and discuss them.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree, these are two major outstanding questions that have never been settled. That isn’t true either—on November 23 the DMZ was settled. It was agreed upon on November 23.

Le Duc Tho: But we discussed this matter until December 22. Then we agreed on the point except you wanted to add the word “civilian” and we disagreed to that. And the formula on the DMZ was proposed by you previously and I accepted, but afterward you wanted to add the word “civilian,” so . . .

Dr. Kissinger: This is going to wind up like the other one. This is turning something into a high school debating exercise and it is going exactly like the other one and it is going to end like the other one. We proposed the formula on modalities of crossing together with the one about respecting each other’s territory. Then we took that out, as well as the other phrase. Then I made clear to you on December 9, on instructions from Washington, that your phrase was totally unacceptable.

Le Duc Tho: No, your statement does not conform to facts.

Dr. Kissinger: I don’t want to break well-established habit.

Le Duc Tho: The formula you proposed and I accepted it, you wanted to add the world “civilian.”

Dr. Kissinger: Can you explain one rational reason to me why I should propose a formula which I withdraw after you accept it?

Le Duc Tho: On December 13 we accepted the formula you proposed, but you wanted to . . .

Dr. Kissinger: In a different context.

Le Duc Tho: You wanted to add the word “civilian” but we did not agree to the word “civilian.” So when we talked privately on that day you explained to me that you wanted the words “civilian movement.” My mind is clear on that.

[Page 1177]

Dr. Kissinger: I have achieved one thing. I have united Vietnam almost better than anyone else. Your compatriots in the south call me a traitor and you call me a liar. [Laughter] Your compatriots in the south accuse me of being fooled by you, you accuse me of following the instructions of them. Perhaps we should let you two negotiate.

Le Duc Tho: These are not our compatriots; this is Nguyen Van Thieu. Because our compatriots they are thinking in another way. Our compatriots want to see our country unified, because over thousands of years our country has been one.

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Advisor, shall we try a little substance. We have had two hours of procedure. I propose fifteen minutes of substance and then another hour of procedure. Just to see whether we can do it. (Tho laughs)

Le Duc Tho: All these procrastinations on procedure stem from your side. I would have solved it in five minutes, because we abide by what has been agreed to.

I would like to propose a little break. It is one o’clock.

Dr. Kissinger: So that we can digest our achievements.

Le Duc Tho: Now let us define the procedure and we will go on to this question. And what we have agreed to in our message, in our private talks.

Dr. Kissinger: I propose to set aside Article 1, if we are going to continue to play these games. But I won’t begin this negotiation by accepting a prohibition on issues I can raise.

Le Duc Tho: If you raise matters again, I will raise.

Dr. Kissinger: Then we will see.

Le Duc Tho: But I think that what we have agreed you should not raise again. I stick to what you have said in your message, and what I told you on December 13, and what we have agreed to in the messages, and what I told you on December 13. The record is already there. I propose a little break.

[There was a break of about an hour beginning at 1:00 p.m. during which a luncheon buffet was served to the U.S. side in the meeting room, while the DRV side adjourned to the upstairs. After about 45 minutes Le Duc Tho returned to the room and he and Dr. Kissinger engaged in private conversation for about 15 minutes, before the meeting resumed at 2:10 p.m.]

Dr. Kissinger: Negroponte is at the other meeting [with the experts].

Le Duc Tho: Please now, Mr. Advisor.

Dr. Kissinger: [laughs] I make the following proposal, Mr. Special Advisor. We will discuss the agenda as it is outlined, with the two outstanding issues of the signing and the DMZ. If in the discussion of [Page 1178] the understandings, however, issues are raised which in our view change the substance of the agreement, then we reserve the right to reopen the substance of the agreement. So on this basis after two hours of discussion we could perhaps have a few minutes of substance.

Le Duc Tho: So I would like to reiterate that in the agreement we have two major questions to discuss, and besides these two there are a number of specific questions that will be discussed too. After that we have a number of understandings. And this is the agenda. If we find difficulty in one question we may shift to another one. This is my proposal.

Dr. Kissinger: Obviously there can be no negotiation in which one side can be precluded from raising topics when it chooses, so let us proceed on this basis.

Le Duc Tho: Let us limit ourselves to the outstanding questions to discuss.

Dr. Kissinger: Let us proceed on this basis.

Le Duc Tho: Yes, there are now two major questions to discuss, the signing and the DMZ.

Now, regarding the DMZ, last time we handed you a formula. What is your view now on this?

Dr. Kissinger: What is my view with respect to the DMZ?

Le Duc Tho: The formula on the DMZ we gave you last time.

Dr. Kissinger: We cannot accept it.

Le Duc Tho: What do you propose?

Dr. Kissinger: We consider the best solution the solution of November 23. That is to say, we simply say “South and North Vietnam shall respect the Demilitarized Zone on either side of the Provisional Military Demarcation Line.”

Le Duc Tho: You see, in the paragraph after “pending reunification,” there are three paragraphs, (a), (b), (c).

Dr. Kissinger: We think it should be (b).

Le Duc Tho: But (c) is a separate paragraph. Regarding (c) we adopted now the formula that had been proposed by you.

Dr. Kissinger [laughs]: It is a . . . the formula was proposed in a different context, Mr. Special Advisor.

Le Duc Tho: There are no changes to this formula. The situation has not changed after ten days. After ten days the situation has not changed at all.

Dr. Kissinger: When I said “in a different context” I did not mean in the context of the events of these ten days. I meant that when we proposed that sentence we proposed it in the context of the language about “both sides shall respect each other’s territory.” That is the con[Page 1179]text of which I am talking. It was proposed on the same day and in the same package where we said “respect each other’s territory.” And in order to ease that we were willing to put in this sentence. When you rejected “respect each other’s territory” you also rejected this sentence.

Le Duc Tho: No. When we rejected your proposal . . . but it is not true. When we rejected your proposal on the mutual respect of each other’s territory you said to drop this part of the sentence. Then you proposed the formula that “among the questions to be discussed there are the modalities,” and so on. So you drop the words “respect each other’s territory” but you maintain your sentence in (c) regarding the movement across the Provisional Demarcation Line.

Dr. Kissinger: It was part of a package. I do not have all the elements of the package in front of me now, but it is irrelevant. It was at any rate part of a package which implied something about your forces. At any rate we cannot accept this sentence as it stands. I told you so last . . .

Le Duc Tho: You dropped the phrase “respect for each other’s territory,” but you maintained the “modalities for movement across the military demarcation line.” You wanted to add the word “civilian.” We disagreed to the word “civilian.” You wanted to determine the modalities for civilian movement across the DMZ.

Dr. Kissinger: Tomorrow I will bring my records of these meetings. We will have a happy week this way, worthy of the discussions we have been having. It won’t settle it but it will be fascinating. All I know was we presented this sentence as part of a package, this sentence about modalities of movement. That package has since been destroyed. It is unacceptable. It is therefore senseless to keep quoting it. If we can add the word “civil,” then we have a possibility.

Le Duc Tho: You propose the word “civilian.” We disagreed to it last time. I think because the Demilitarized Zone is already there, there is no “military” in it. So the modalities to be agreed upon for movement will include modalities for civilians.

Dr. Kissinger: Why do you mind putting it in then?

Le Duc Tho: Because in the modalities for movement it implies civilian movement because the DMZ—Demilitarized Zone—in itself is a demilitarized zone. There is no military in it.

Dr. Kissinger: Are you telling me you are holding up an agreement because you won’t put in a word that is already implied in it?

Le Duc Tho [laughs]: Because we accepted your phrase on the modality of movement.

Dr. Kissinger: I don’t want to hear that any more. You are saying you are making a concession to me in making a phrase that we are rejecting. Don’t insult our intelligence.

[Page 1180]

Le Duc Tho: You have corrected it.

Dr. Kissinger: I accept your phrase on respecting the Demilitarized Zone. That would be the easiest way of settling it.

Le Duc Tho: So our views still differ on that question. Let us now see about the signing and then we will return to that question.

Dr. Kissinger: Well . . .

Le Duc Tho: We have expressed our views regarding the signing of the agreement last time. In our view, once we have agreed on the text of the agreement then the signing is not a very great question. Because throughout the negotiations over the past four or five years all the four parties have been talking at Kleber Street. Although they do not recognize one another. But in practice they have been sitting together. Therefore if now we achieve the agreement, then the DRV and the US sign the agreement and after that the four parties will sign the agreement, it will be in the interest of the good implementation of the agreement. And the signature of the agreement does not mean the recognition of each other. In our view it is all the better if now the agreement is signed by the two parties and then by the four parties. And it testifies to the fact that the Paris Conference has been participated by the four governments. I expressed my view on that question before December 13.

Dr. Kissinger: I know, you have expressed your view, Mr. Special Advisor, and we explained to you why it was not possible. There are in our view three possibilities of signing this agreement. First is that you and we sign as was foreseen in October, with nobody else. This was the formula of October. The second is that all four parties sign. In that case there has to be no reference to either the PRG or the Government of the Republic of Vietnam in the text of the agreement or in the titles of those signing. The third possibility is the one you proposed and then withdrew, that you and we sign the entire text including a Preamble that mentions the PRG and the Government of the Republic of Vietnam, and that then the PRG and the Government of the Republic of Vietnam sign a copy of the agreement without the Preamble but containing every last one of its obligations. Each sign a separate document. In that case each side would have all its obligations and we would have made the concession of signing a document that mentioned the title of the PRG in the Preamble.

Now we both recognize what will happen in the post-war period. The PRG will claim to be a government and the Government of the Republic of Vietnam will deny it. That is a fact, and events will determine the outcome of this. But we cannot settle that issue by the form of signature of the agreement, and to attempt to do so raises a major substantive problem.

[Page 1181]

Le Duc Tho: You have misunderstood the proposal on the way of the signing I proposed last time. The day before I proposed that the agreement would be signed by the two parties and the four parties. I said that on the same text of the agreement. On a copy where the name of the PRG and the name of the GVN appear, the US and the DRV will sign it.

Dr. Kissinger: Right.

Le Duc Tho: On the same copy, the same text, and with a Preamble that has the GVN and the PRG, and the United States and the DRV.

Dr. Kissinger: Right. We agree and we have accepted that.

Le Duc Tho: On the text, the separate text, to be signed by the PRG and the GVN there will be the name of the governments but the Saigon people will sign a separate copy and the PRG will sign a separate copy. So the way of signing I propose is actually this, but not the way you propose with different Preambles.

Then the following day I had another proposal. Then the following day I proposed that besides the text of the agreement to be signed by the DRV and the US there would be another copy of the agreement with the name of the four governments and signed by all the four parties. You have not accepted that proposal. And then the previous proposal you have misunderstood my idea. So that on that day I proposed three copies: The US and the DRV will sign one copy where there are the name of the PRG and the GVN, “the DRV with the concurrence of the PRG; the US with the concurrence of the GVN.”

Dr. Kissinger: I understand.

Le Duc Tho: As to the other two copies, they have the names of the two governments in the Preamble, but Saigon will sign a separate copy and the PRG will sign a separate copy. This is the proposal I made the day before.

Dr. Kissinger: First, it doesn’t make any sense for either the GVN or the PRG to sign a copy which has a Preamble that is relevant primarily only to the US or the DRV. Second, it doesn’t make any sense to have three copies unless it is a way to avoid the difficulty we have described. And if we want to take the realistic—and I must say understanding—view of each other’s situation we would not attempt to settle that problem now. In October you were prepared to have nobody sign the agreement—just you and us. At that time Saigon could have said they don’t recognize the agreement and you could have done very little. Or they could have acceded by a letter. Then you were worried that if Saigon acceded by a letter they would say there were certain provisions they did not agree to. Now we are proposing a formula by which they sign every single clause of the agreement. But if you persist and try to go beyond this and try to settle an issue that should be left to the future . . .

[Page 1182]

Le Duc Tho: In our previous discussions you yourself recognized the reality of South Vietnam, that there are two different governments, two different armies and two different regions. And in reality these two governments have diplomatic relations with various countries in the world. They have not only a real role in the country but also some position in the world scene. Afterward you wanted to wipe out any mention of the PRG in the agreement. So in the text of the agreement you wanted to delete anything relating to the PRG. In the signing of the agreement you wish not to mention at all the PRG. Even the protocol on the Two-Party Joint Commission you weren’t willing to discuss it. So you wanted to deny the reality that you agreed to in our discussions in October, that there are two governments, two armies and two different regions. Moreover in the agreement there has been mention of this reality.

Dr. Kissinger: Where?

Le Duc Tho: In many places, many places. And I have told you that it is a matter of principle for us. There cannot be the removal of the PRG from the agreement. Therefore these questions are related. To avoid the problems of four-party signing we have said that there will be three documents, with separate signature by Saigon and the PRG but with the name of the PRG and the GVN in the Preamble.

And moreover we wish also to have mention of the PRG in the agreement too, not many but one or two places just like the GVN.

Dr. Kissinger: But just one minute. This is just absolutely inadmissible. I am just going to stop the discussions altogether if the Special Advisor thinks he can raise issues that have been settled six times but I cannot raise issues. As it is, we have agreed that the PRG is mentioned only in the Preamble. The GVN is mentioned only once. I am prepared to drop it altogether. We are not asking anything special for the GVN. We are willing to treat them exactly as the PRG. But we will not keep playing games. Now he is saying the PRG has to be mentioned two or three times in the agreement. That has been settled two or three times. I will not continue the discussions at all if now we are told the PRG has to be mentioned two or three times in the text when it is already mentioned in the Preamble. He is trying to sell me the same concession six times. That is more of a point than Article 1.

Le Duc Tho: What I want to say here is your intention, general intention, is to remove the PRG.

Dr. Kissinger: We have agreed that the PRG is not to be mentioned in the text of the agreement. I am even prepared to eliminate the GVN from the text of the agreement. That is no secret. The Special Advisor did not discover any hidden intention. That has been understood since November. Innumerable times now we have agreed to this procedure and now it comes up again. There is a big difference between my [Page 1183] saying I recognize certain realities in South Vietnam and trying to force legal recognition on parties that are contesting it. I have said that I see certain realities in South Vietnam, but that is quite different from trying to force the GVN to recognize this in any binding form at this particular moment. This is an absolutely impossible way to proceed.

Le Duc Tho: We are talking about the way of signing. I propose the agreement be signed by the two parties and then by the four parties.

Dr. Kissinger: Well, I have already rejected that, so let us go to something else.

Le Duc Tho: If now this agreement will be signed by the two parties then by the four parties, then we add nothing to the agreement. The agreement being signed by the four parties will reflect only the reality that the four parties participated in the Paris Conference for over four years now.

Dr. Kissinger: We have offered you a way of doing it by saying the four parties but not mentioning them, by signing by the representatives of the four parties without mentioning them. That way we can get it signed by the four parties. It is a major concession of the US to sign a document that mentions the PRG.

Le Duc Tho [laughs]: The agreement will be signed by the four parties without any title at all! Then anyone can sign it.

Dr. Kissinger: Anyone can sign it only if he can say . . . All right, strange documents have been signed before. Our problem is, do we want a real solution or do we want to continue to play games?

Le Duc Tho: Yes, we want a real settlement, but there should be some legal signature in this.

Dr. Kissinger: No one is going to forget Madame Binh very easily and I do not suppose there are two Madame Binhs in the world.

Le Duc Tho [laughs]: There may be two women . . .

Dr. Kissinger: More than one is more than the planet could stand. [Tho laughs.] Not even Chairman Mao could go through that.

Le Duc Tho: There are many women named Nguyen Thi Binh.

Dr. Kissinger: That may be true, but you can put a picture next to the signature of each man and woman so that they know who it is! So I think if we say the four parties of the Conference in the Preamble, and the four signatures, that will take care of it. [Tho and Thach confer.] Or they can put their fingerprints on it. I have any number of ideas.

Le Duc Tho: In November you proposed that the agreement will be signed by four parties, and in the preamble there is no mention of the governments but in the signature there is the title of the signatories. Now you withdraw the titles of the signatories.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, it just gives the title Foreign Minister.

[Page 1184]

Le Duc Tho: Foreign Minister of the PRG?

Dr. Kissinger: Foreign Minister of France. [Tho laughs.]

Le Duc Tho: Or Foreign Minister of no country at all?

Dr. Kissinger: I would like to see a negotiation between the Foreign Minister of France and the Foreign Minister of the PRG. That would go on for all eternity. Under this formula of three different documents it could be signed by her with the title of Foreign Minister of the PRG.

Le Duc Tho: Yes, if the signing will be separate, then there should be the title of the signatory. There is no sense to sign separately and no title at all.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. But if I follow the Special Advisor’s methods, I would first say no name, then I say no title and then as a special concession I would yield.

Le Duc Tho: [laughs] It is a great concession of yours.

Dr. Kissinger: Well, we have now discussed two topics and we have advanced not one bit from where we were in November.

Le Duc Tho: I have told you that the signing of the agreement does not mean the recognition of each other, so I think that the agreement may be signed by four parties but the parties do not recognize one another.

Dr. Kissinger: That is easy. We can do this. As far as the GVN is concerned that is senseless; it cannot be done. There is a limit to what we can impose. This is one of those limits. In October you recognized the realities and you did not even ask for the signature of the GVN. In any form. Not even in a letter, because you knew very well what would happen. We are willing to go to that formula.

Le Duc Tho: But the situation was different in October from what it is now. We wanted to settle with you and have the two parties sign the agreement. But now the Saigon Administration do not want to sign the agreement. They want to undermine the agreement. And moreover they did not accept the PRG in the text of the agreement. That is why we propose this way of signing. If now the agreement is reached, then the four parties will sign.

Dr. Kissinger: I don’t think it will be reached. I don’t think we will have that embarrassment.

Le Duc Tho: Then each party can issue a statement saying they do not recognize the other parties.

Dr. Kissinger: I have told you what our problem is. I have given you three possible ways of dealing with it.

Le Duc Tho: So I propose the following: that the agreement be signed by the two parties and then by the four parties. You disagree to that.

[Page 1185]

Dr. Kissinger: That is right.

Le Duc Tho: So today we have discussed two questions but we have not reached agreement.

Dr. Kissinger: That’s putting it mildly.

Le Duc Tho: Therefore I propose we adjourn now and tonight you think over the problem, I will think over the problem, and both sides try to find out the formula. Because I think if I maintain my stand you will not accept it.

Dr. Kissinger: That is right.

Le Duc Tho: But if you maintain your stand I will not accept it. If you maintain your stand and I maintain my stand we can come to no settlement. So we should think it over.

Dr. Kissinger: How about the DMZ point? Oh, is he going to think that one over too?

Le Duc Tho: We should think that over again. I will consider your views and you consider my views. We shall find out a way to solve this question. We should carefully think over both sides.

Dr. Kissinger: The only thing that worries me is that we have had three weeks to think it over. And we have spent 2½ hours discussing what we should discuss. We have spent less time—an hour—on substance, repeating word for word what we have already said. So I wonder what good these consultations are.

Le Duc Tho: You will consider my views and I will do the same regarding your views and to find out how we can come to an agreement tomorrow. If we take into account each other’s views we can find out a way to solve these questions. This is what I am saying. You should think it over.

Dr. Kissinger: But we have also quite a few understandings to discuss. Since we have already spent a day on two sentences I must again point out the limitations under which we operate. But we have no choice. We cannot force you to go at a pace faster than you are willing to go. But we will give it enough time to determine whether there is a serious discussion. It will not be easy to conclude that from today.

Le Duc Tho [laughs]: But you maintain your stand as it was. All your proposals are there. You have not changed them and there is no idea to come to a compromise.

Dr. Kissinger: It is awfully hard to find a compromise when there is one word that is at issue. Do you want us to split it in half? [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: No, if efforts are exerted by both sides then we can settle this question.

Dr. Kissinger: Well, we shall see. Our position was communicated to you. You knew it exactly. You knew exactly what our position was [Page 1186] with respect to the signing. It could not have come as a surprise to you. You knew exactly what our position was with respect to the DMZ. That could not have come as a surprise to you.

Le Duc Tho: But we also expressed to you our stand regarding the signing and the DMZ.

Dr. Kissinger: No, I am talking of the messages we sent you since then.

Le Duc Tho: We understand your thinking. But we have our stand, and we have expounded it to you today, and previously we told you about that.

Therefore I propose that we should think over each other’s point of view. I will consider your point of view. Tomorrow we will discuss and we will find a way. But careful study of each other’s views is necessary.

Dr. Kissinger: What time do you suggest? Eleven? It is up to you.

Le Duc Tho: Shall we meet at ten o’clock? We will have more time.

Dr. Kissinger: It is fine with me. Can we agree that I will not read in Mr. Randal tomorrow what happened today?

Le Duc Tho: I agree. I never divulge anything.

Dr. Kissinger: Of course it wouldn’t fill many paragraphs if you did tell him what we did.

Le Duc Tho: But be assured that if you make an effort we will make an effort to settle the problem. And we should take into account each other’s views in an adequate way.

Dr. Kissinger: Well, it is not obvious from today but we will try again tomorrow. We shall meet tomorrow at the golf course? You bring your clubs. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: I have not been to that place yet. But if we come to a new place probably you will have new ideas.

Dr. Kissinger: We have given you our ideas. And on the understandings it is possible to show some more flexibility. On the text of the agreement we have told you our absolute difficulties—privately and I have told you on the record at these meetings—and it really now comes to a question of whether you seriously want to settle or attempt things which are not achievable.

Le Duc Tho: I told you that for the purpose of solving the matter we have come here. If not we would not have come here.

Dr. Kissinger: I thought it was for sharpening up our exchanges for when we go on the lecture circuit together teaching the diplomacy of stalemate . . . the lectures to our classes.

Le Duc Tho: It may happen that we can’t find a solution for months but only in a few hours we can find a solution.

[Page 1187]

Dr. Kissinger: Well, we have frankly only a few hours left. We don’t have months. Whatever hours that are left.

Le Duc Tho: So I repeat, we should endeavor to make an effort and we should fully understand each other’s necessities. In that spirit I am convinced that we can find a solution.

Dr. Kissinger: All right. Ten o’clock tomorrow at the golf course. And any of your colleagues who play golf can bring their clubs.

Ambassador Sullivan: Small arms.

Dr. Kissinger: We will play afterwards. Ambassador Sullivan will give lessons. I don’t play. That is where the Foreign Service gets promoted, on the golf course.

Le Duc Tho: I would like to have longer sessions with you but this period I am a little tired.

Dr. Kissinger: It is up to you.

Le Duc Tho: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: Should our experts meet tomorrow?

Le Duc Tho: They should meet continuously.

Dr. Kissinger: Here? Ten o’clock or three o’clock?

Ambassador Sullivan: 10:30.

Le Duc Tho: Let them decide over there.

Dr. Kissinger: All right.

Le Duc Tho: Because once we settle the agreement here then the protocols will be settled rapidly. But in any case the protocol contains many more complex things than the agreement. Sometimes there are more questions.

Dr. Kissinger: But we should settle the principles of the protocols while I am here. There will be no other occasion to do it.

Le Duc Tho: I agree.

Dr. Kissinger: When we have the agreement finished we should then turn to the principles of the protocols. And the understandings.

Le Duc Tho: I agree.

Dr. Kissinger: Do you have a program on Hanoi television called “Issues and Answers” so I can answer the Minister?

Xuan Thuy: It is up to you! [Laughter]

Dr. Kissinger: It was a very skillful performance.

Xuan Thuy: Because you forced me into it.

Le Duc Tho: He had to answer you.

Dr. Kissinger: Amateurs should not compete with professionals. It takes me 20 minutes to distort one fact; it takes him one minute to distort 20 facts.

[Page 1188]

Le Duc Tho: But the matter of the International Commission was not discussed between you and me but you said we wouldn’t give them telephones and jeeps.

Dr. Kissinger: That was discussed at Neuilly. But I didn’t tell them that you offered them buffalo carts!

[The meeting then adjourned.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 28, HAK Trip Files, HAK Paris Trip Tohak 67–146, January 7–14, 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting took place at 108 Avenue du Général Leclerc, Gif-sur-Yvette. All brackets are in the original. The pages of the original are misnumbered, skipping page 24, but no text is missing.

    After this session, the first since the Christmas bombing, Kissinger reported to Nixon: “We held a four-and-a-half hour session with the North Vietnamese today which was totally inconclusive. The atmosphere at the outset was frosty but thawed as we went along.” When the meeting broke for lunch, Tho initiated a private talk with Kissinger in which Tho noted that he was “having domestic difficulties with regard to his negotiating posture.” That is, the Politburo had restricted his negotiating freedom because he had earlier, especially in the November round, showed signs of excessive flexibility in the negotiations. ( Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. IX, Vietnam, October 1972–January 1973, Document 255) “If this were true,” Kissinger later wrote, “it was beyond my imagination what his hard-line [Politburo] colleagues might be like.” (Kissinger, White House Years, p. 1463)

    Kissinger concluded his report to the President as follows:

    “It is impossible to draw any meaningful conclusion from this meeting. Realistically, it would be impossible for them to cave on the issues on the first day at the conference table after intensive B–52 bombing. Thus, they could be following the essential procedure of the technical talks [run by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs William H. Sullivan and North Vietnamese Deputy Foreign Minister Nguyen Co Thach, January 2–6] at which they didn’t give much ground the first day. On the other hand, it is equally possible that they are stonewalling us again as they did in December. Under this hypothesis, the progress this past week on technical talks would only be their way of removing the propaganda vulnerability of their position concerning international control machinery.”

    Kissinger expected to have a clearer indication of North Vietnamese intentions after the next day’s meeting. ( Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. IX, Vietnam, October 1972–January 1973, Document 255)