43. Memorandum of Conversation1
- Le Duc Tho, Special Adviser to DRV Delegation to the Paris Conference on Vietnam
- Xuan Thuy, Minister, Chief DRV Delegate to Paris Conference on Vietnam
- Phan Hien, Delegation Member
- Trinh Ngoc Thai, Delegation Member
- Nguyen Dinh Phuong, Interpreter
- One Notetaker
- Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
- Ambassador William Sullivan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
- Winston Lord, NSC Staff
- David A. Engel, NSC Staff, Interpreter
- Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff
- Miss Irene G. Derus, Notetaker
[Before the meeting started the group gathered in a sitting room off the meeting room for informal conversation. The meeting began about 10:00 a.m.]
Dr. Kissinger: I wanted to send the Special Adviser a message last night to comment on the slow progress of the people working on the protocols. But he has already anticipated me and offered a practical solution.
Le Duc Tho: I think that for more rapid discussions it would be better that Ambassador Sullivan and Mr. Thach should meet each other. They have more authority to settle the problem.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree.
Le Duc Tho: Now they are meeting already.
Dr. Kissinger: Is Mr. Thach with the other group today?
Le Duc Tho: Not yet. He is at Choisy at the moment. If the two come to join today there can be a meeting tomorrow or this afternoon.
Dr. Kissinger: All right, I agree. I think it is better because Mr. Sullivan has authority and my complete confidence, and I think yesterday the progress was too slow at the meeting of the experts. So we could arrange that Mr. Sullivan join the experts after lunch, if Mr. Thach will do the same thing.
Le Duc Tho: Yes, it is possible.
Dr. Kissinger: All right. Then say Mr. Sullivan will be there about 2 o’clock. You can use the telephone. Maybe your people at Gif could tell Mr. Aldrich that Mr. Sullivan will be out about 2 o’clock, and Mr. Thach, because you have telephone communication.
Le Duc Tho: Yesterday they were too loyal. They fight about the terminology.
Xuan Thuy: There were points that had been agreed previously and yesterday they were raised again.[Page 1190]
Dr. Kissinger: That was our impression. We thought maybe you had instructed them to do this.
Le Duc Tho: Because they haven’t enough authority. Shall we begin now?
Dr. Kissinger: Please.
Le Duc Tho: Today then you should also find out new formulas. [Kissinger laughs] So every time you come here you said that you want a rapid settlement and with seriousness. You made the same statement this time too. I believe that you will make an effort then to come to a rapid settlement but we shall see how you will resolve the problem. But I should say that if you are serious in finding a rapid solution, we will do the same. But in order to prove our seriousness and good will to find a rapid solution, we should adequately take into account each other’s attitude. Naturally, there should be mutual concession and there should be reciprocity. If one keeps one’s own stand then no settlement is possible. Do you agree with me on these lines?
Dr. Kissinger: I agree with you, Mr. Special Adviser.
Le Duc Tho: Now there are two questions to be solved. First the DMZ. Now regarding the question of the DMZ, you propose to add the word “civilian.”
Dr. Kissinger: “Civil.”
Le Duc Tho: “Civil.” But we prefer the words “to determine the modalities for the movement of the population across the Provisional Military Demarcation Line.” We prefer the word “of the population” because it is more suitable for the Vietnamese language. We do not use the word “civil.” In substance the two words are the same in Vietnamese. It is an effort on my part to find out a way to meet your proposal.
Dr. Kissinger: The Special Adviser said yesterday that the DMZ doesn’t have military people in it by definition.
Le Duc Tho: No military. There is no military in it.
Dr. Kissinger: So we could accept what the Special Adviser has in mind if we add to it this phrase: “consistent with the special character of the DMZ and with the provisions of this Agreement and its protocols.”
Le Duc Tho: Please read the whole sentence.
Dr. Kissinger: It would say “. . . are the modalities of movement across the PMDL”—if you want, “of the people” instead of “population”—“consistent with the special character of the DMZ and with the provisions of this Agreement and its protocols.” [They confer.]
Le Duc Tho: Please elaborate. I am not clear yet. Please elaborate what you mean by “consistent with the special character of the DMZ, agreement and protocols.”[Page 1191]
Dr. Kissinger: The Special Adviser has said two things to me. [Hien confers with Tho.] I think he is worse than Thach. [Laughter] I propose we send him to Gif also. Get all the trouble makers to Gif and then the Special Advisers settle it among themselves. The Minister can stay with us out of old friendship, to give him ammunition for his next television appearance.
The Special Adviser has said two things to me. One is that the DMZ is by definition demilitarized, so there are no military people in it. This is what we mean by the special character of the DMZ. Secondly, he has said that the agreement prohibits infiltration. This is what these two clauses mean. And it does permit a certain amount of logistic support, and that would also be permitted, under supervision.
Le Duc Tho: I think when we add the words “modalities for the movement of the people” it already reflects the demilitarized character of the DMZ already. As to the agreement and the protocols, there are two provisions as you say. That is to say, first, “the two South Vietnamese parties shall not introduce armaments and war materials into South Vietnam,” and second, the provision on the replacement of armaments. And regarding these tasks, in the agreement there are already provisions explicitly defining the task of the International Commission and the Joint Commissions. Therefore we think that you should not add the phrase “consistent with” and so on and so on, because it implies many provisions and not only the two provisions I have just mentioned. I think that if you add “consistent with the provisions of the Agreement and of the protocols” it includes too many provisions and it is not clear. Moreover, the two provisions that you have in mind; that is to say the introduction of armaments and war materials by the two South Vietnamese parties and the provisions on the replacement of armaments, these two tasks have been explicitly stipulated in the provisions of the agreement for the International Commission and the Joint Commission to supervise. And in this connection in the protocol it will be discussed in detail. Therefore, I think if you put “the modalities for the movement, the people’s movement or the movement of the people,” it is adequately and explicitly reflecting the demilitarized character of the DMZ.
Dr. Kissinger: In English, “of the people” is really not very precise. “Civil” would be precise. If you say “of the people,” then military people are people too. I admit it takes two military to make one human being but still it accumulates. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: In my mind in Vietnamese when we use the word “of the people,” in substance it is civil movement. But in Vietnamese it is often used, “of the people,” and “civil” is not often used. And when we speak of “of the people,” it does not include military men at all.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, my knowledge of Vietnamese is not yet perfect, so I can’t argue with the Special Adviser about his use of those two [Page 1192] terms. But in English if you say “of the people” it doesn’t mean anything. Secondly, I don’t understand why we cannot say as we said. If you use the phrase “civil” that makes it clear; if we add the phrase “consistent with the special character of the demilitarized zone,” that also makes it clear. But without those in English it is very vague.
Le Duc Tho: So now I think that if you want to use the word “civilian movement,” then we can accept that, but without adding the words “consistent with.”
Dr. Kissinger: All right. If you do that, we will drop the word “consistent with.”
Le Duc Tho: “Civilian.” Let me read the whole paragraph. “Pending reunification: (a), (b), (c) North and South Vietnam shall promptly start negotiations with the view to reestablishing normal relations in various fields; among the questions to be negotiated are the modalities for civilian movement across the Provisional Demarcation Line.”
Dr. Kissinger: Provisional Military Demarcation Line. I don’t care. And I would suggest a period instead of a semicolon. It is a better English. Make a new sentence. We accept it.
Le Duc Tho: So settled, this question.
Dr. Kissinger: Settled.
Le Duc Tho: So very rapidly settled.
Mr. Engel: [To Mr. Phuong] I would like to hear it in Vietnamese.
Dr. Kissinger: I have another saboteur on my left, where they usually are.
[Mr. Phuong reads the text in Vietnamese.]
Dr. Kissinger: Good. Only one more issue left. Only six more weeks.
Le Duc Tho: We have proved our good will and serious intent. Now regarding the question of the DMZ, really we have made a concession to you and we have accepted your formula: therefore, in the signing question you should concede to me.
Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, since we are practically at the end of the agreement—we have agreed now on all its provisions except the form of signing—if this were a matter which was in my power to concede, to show good will I would do it. But it is not a matter that is in our power to concede. And as I have told you, and as your own information must indicate to you, even with these changes we will have an incredibly difficult task in Saigon. If they are asked to accept the PRG in the signing, they will have a pretext which will simply lead to a refusal of signing. We are prepared to sign the document mentioning the PRG; that is a big concession from us. That we have not told Saigon yet. But they simply will not do it. I know it.
Le Duc Tho: I have on many occasions heard this statement of yours on this subject, but it is always my view that the final decision [Page 1193] is by you. Moreover, the practical situation over the past four years is that the four parties have been negotiating together. Now at the end of the negotiations, that the four parties will sign the agreement is something conforming to this reality. If now the agreement will be signed by the four parties with the name of the four governments in the Preamble, and in the final provisions with the mention of the four governments, and they will be signed by the four foreign ministers, then it will be best. And if the two parties, the DRV and the U.S., will sign, it is good too—if you and I will initial the agreement, and the agreement will be signed by the four parties. Only because I think that this way of signing will find the parties to implement correctly and strictly the agreement. Only this way binds us to implement the agreement but also binds the Saigon Administration to implement the agreement. Moreover, the provisions you have agreed to—the provisions of the agreement—I think that Saigon people will agree also to the provisions of the agreement.
Dr. Kissinger: Let us separate two things. We are prepared to use extreme pressure to convince Saigon to accept the provisions of the agreement. And in recent weeks the President has taken extremely drastic measures vis-à-vis Saigon in this respect. So we are not now arguing about the provisions of the agreement. We are arguing about how to produce a valid commitment to the provisions of the agreement.
Now we are prepared, as a sign of our good will, to eliminate even the one reference that is left to the Government of the Republic of Vietnam in the text of the agreement, so then the PRG and the GVN are on exactly the same level. But it is our judgment that it will be absolutely impossible to obtain a signature of the GVN to a document that lists the PRG, and therefore we propose that the GVN sign all the provisions except the Preamble—the Preamble contains no obligation anyway—and that you and we sign the whole agreement and that the PRG and GVN sign separately an agreement in which neither is mentioned anywhere. And this means acceptance of all the provisions of the agreement. Legally this obligates them to carry out every single provision.
Le Duc Tho: I have told you that I disagree to this formula, and I think there is no reason at all that now since all the provisions of the agreement have been agreed to and the parties do not sign these provisions of the agreement.
Dr. Kissinger: No, the parties should sign the provisions of the agreement. The only difference is in the Preamble. After all, as the Special Adviser knows, Saigon has never accepted that this is a four-party conference. They always claim it is a two-party conference.
Le Duc Tho: Actually it is a four-party conference—four parties and two sides.[Page 1194]
Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, I think if we want a very rapid settlement, which we seriously want, then I believe that the formula that we have proposed is the most rapid way of concluding it. And we will be prepared, as I said, to eliminate the reference to the Republic of Vietnam in Article 3(a) so that there is no reference at all any more to either of the two sides.
Le Duc Tho: This is one thing but the signing is the other one.
Dr. Kissinger: I recognize this, but we are now talking about a rapid process. And the Special Adviser must know it from his own information from Saigon, first, that we have already made a major effort, and second, that this agreement as it stands is highly unacceptable to Saigon and that we will have an overwhelmingly difficult task to get their approval even with very extreme threats. But if they are also asked to sign an agreement which lists the PRG, then no threat will work. Then they would rather take all the consequences and then we will not get their signature. And then what they may do is what Dulles did in 1954 and this would be a worse situation for you.
The only other possibility is that we put in the Preamble “The Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, with the concurrence of the two South Vietnamese parties” and then it can be signed by all four parties. But they don’t have to do it at the same time. [They confer.]
Mr. Phuong: “The two South Vietnamese parties, namely . . .?”
Ambassador Sullivan: No.
Dr. Kissinger: We don’t mention either one by name. And no titles. [They laugh.] But Madame Binh should put her fingerprint on. Ambassador Sullivan says “or a toothmark.”
Le Duc Tho: Is it possible this way now? The U.S. and the DRV will sign the agreement with the names of the four governments in the Preamble, the names of the four governments in Article 23; then the two South Vietnamese parties, the Government of the Republic of Vietnam and the PRG, will sign separate copies with the name of the governments.
Dr. Kissinger: No. That’s the problem.
Ambassador Sullivan: But with or without the name of the government?
Mr. Phuong: With. They sign the two separate copies.
Ambassador Sullivan: In both Article 23 and the Preamble?
Dr. Kissinger: [To Ambassador Sullivan] It isn’t in the Preamble now.
Le Duc Tho: Because Article 23 deals with the coming into force of the agreement. Since the agreement will be signed in three copies, therefore the Article 23 should be redrafted.[Page 1195]
Dr. Kissinger: That is correct.
Le Duc Tho: But the two South Vietnamese parties will sign separate copies with the name of the government in the Preamble and in Article 23.
Dr. Kissinger: We do not object, for our part, to put the name of the PRG—even though it is not now in the text—in Article 23 into our copy. We could say “comes into force upon the receipt of separate signatures.” We have a phrase for it which lists the PRG but then that should be deleted in the copies signed by Saigon and the PRG. But let me read Article 23 in our joint draft: “This Agreement shall enter into force upon signature by the representatives of the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and upon signature by a representative of the Government of Vietnam and by a representative of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam of an Agreement in the same terms.” In other words, we are mentioning the PRG twice in our document.
Le Duc Tho: I understand. Now regarding the signing by the two South Vietnamese parties. In my view, the copies signed by the two South Vietnamese parties should also contain a Preamble with the name of the government and in Article 23.
Dr. Kissinger: No, it should not have a Preamble and a different Article 23. This is the Article. [Hands over Tab A.] The obligations would be the same.
Le Duc Tho: We have put forward many formulas but all of them are unaccepted by you. I don’t know what you want. Now you decide to have a rapid settlement and therefore we have made a concession on the DMZ. Now you should accept one of our formulas.
Dr. Kissinger: There is actually a mistake in there. It should say “of the other South Vietnamese party.” “This Agreement shall enter into force upon signature by representatives of the other South Vietnamese party, of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the Government of the United States of America of an Agreement in the same terms.”
Le Duc Tho: So I have proposed two formulas but they have been rejected by you. I have proposed the formula signed by two parties, then by four parties, then by the two South Vietnamese parties separately.
Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, in this respect I think our interests are the same—to get a rapid settlement. And I genuinely believe you are better off to have the South Vietnamese signature to all the obligations of the agreement than to have a signing formula about which Saigon says it will do what John Foster Dulles did in 1954, of simply saying they will not sign the agreement but they will adhere to it.[Page 1196]
Le Duc Tho: So this will not be an agreement then. How can we peacefully settle?
Dr. Kissinger: No, there will be an agreement. They will be forced to implement, because they are obligated to every single provision of the agreement. They are obligated to carry it out. What differs is the Preamble, which has no obligations, and the implementing provision which has also no obligation.
Le Duc Tho: But what is important is that at present there are two governments in South Vietnam. If now these two governments do not recognize each other then how can they discuss at the four-party Joint Commission, two-party Joint Commission? And after the ceasefire the two South Vietnamese have to sit together and negotiate. Moreover, now we both want that there will be peace in South Vietnam and lasting peace, durable peace. Without the recognition of these two South Vietnamese parties, even when the ceasefire is observed then peace is very difficult to be maintained. We, the DRV, we want to sign an agreement which will be strictly implemented and we want to have lasting peace and durable peace.
So I think it is also the desire of the United States to have the same objective. If so, there is no other way [but] that we both should make the two administrations in South Vietnam recognize each other and to join hands with each other to respect the agreement. Then that will lead to peace. Naturally this objective should be realized step by step to come to a good solution, but now even in the first step it is already an obstacle. And I wonder what the two South Vietnamese parties will say when they are in the Four-Party Joint Commission.
Dr. Kissinger: I have often wondered.
Le Duc Tho: When they are facing each other.
Dr. Kissinger: I am waiting for Mr. Duc and Madame Binh to be in the same room together.
Le Duc Tho: I think that if this cannot be settled then it is very difficult to maintain peace in South Vietnam. But I think that when one wants peace then one can settle this part. Even we and you sit together and speak together. We have been fighting for a dozen of years now, very fierce, very violently, and how is our people’s attitude toward you, you are aware. But when we want peace we can sit together and speak to each other. I think among South Vietnamese when they want peace they can sit together and talk together unless they do not want peace. And I am of the view that when peace is maintained in South Vietnam, it is in the interest of the Vietnamese people but also the American people. So it is in this intention we make this effort, so that the agreement will bind all the parties and will make the South Vietnamese parties agree and sign together and talk to each other.[Page 1197]
Dr. Kissinger: Are you finished, Mr. Special Adviser?
Le Duc Tho: [Nods yes]
Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, I agree with your sentiments and I agree with your objectives completely. I think it is important that the agreement be strictly observed. I think it is important that the South Vietnamese parties sit down together to discuss. And I think it is in the interests of the Vietnamese people and of the American people that the conflict in Vietnam finally stop.
Le Duc Tho: Right.
Dr. Kissinger: I was very moved in October when the Special Adviser said on October 11 that what we want is not an armistice, but a peace, and that is our sentiment also. And with all the suffering of recent months, you should know that when we sign this agreement we should dedicate ourselves to the reconciliation with the same intensity as we did previously to the conflict.
But now, what is the immediate problem? It would be idle to deny that there is an enormous distrust between the two South Vietnamese parties. And their relationship will be difficult. And we both have to use our influence to induce them to carry out the agreement in good faith. And therefore we are in favor that Saigon takes an obligation to accept every single provision of the agreement without any reservation. This will require them to sit down with the PRG and it will require them to discuss with the PRG.
We are both realists, Mr. Special Adviser. The execution of this agreement will create its own realities, of which you are well aware. But if we now attempt to force a legal recognition of this by the form of signature of the agreement, we may destroy the evolution which this agreement may bring about. And this will simply create a situation where Saigon will not sign but merely adhere. We cannot use pressure on Saigon because it says it will not sign, but will adhere. But with this formula, if we show Saigon that we have made a maximum effort then it will put us in a better position to force them to sign.
Le Duc Tho: But I would like to ask this question, if now the two South Vietnamese administrations do not recognize each other. Suppose now there is a ceasefire and then they will sit together but they will persist in not recognizing each other, the Saigon Administration will call the PRG other names: the Front, etc. Then how can the two South Vietnamese talk and discuss? And then they will say that in the agreement we do not recognize you, and then when they sit together they will not recognize each other, then what will they discuss? Because the first item—the very first item—cannot be discussed. And so my practical intention in proposing this is for a strict implementation of the agreement by the two parties so that after the ceasefire they will sit together and discuss things.[Page 1198]
Dr. Kissinger: Well, we agree with you about the strict implementation of the agreement. But in your October 8 proposal you made no provisions whatever for the adherence of these parties, and it would have been easy for either of the two parties to dissociate themselves or to associate themselves with reservation. Under our present scheme they have to accept all of the provisions. Now I believe that there must be a strict implementation of the agreement and we will promise you to use our influence for the implementation of this agreement. As for the recognition, this is an issue that must be left to reality and to the future political evolution, as we have left other issues in this document.
Le Duc Tho: On October 8 we proposed the document signed by two parties, only by the DRV and the U.S., because we thought at that moment that you have full power and authority to compel the Saigon Administration to implement the agreement. And we would have full concurrence of the PRG for a strict implementation of the agreement. But now we think that the Saigon administration has the intention to undermine the agreement. Therefore our intention is to have them sign the agreement in a way that will bind the parties in implementing the agreement. But we are always thinking in the final analysis you are the man who makes the final decision regarding the implementation.
Dr. Kissinger: Have you heard Radio Saigon about me?
Le Duc Tho: No, with regard to you personally the Saigon people may say something but the final decision is always made by the American Government. Because I think that if now the Saigon people do not sign an agreement with the mention of the name of the governments, then when the two South Vietnamese parties sit together they will say, “No, I will not recognize you” because in the agreement there is no recognition of the PRG, and in this respect they will undermine the agreement and I think that you have the responsibility in having this done.
Dr. Kissinger: You have on a number of occasions pointed out that signing an agreement with the name of the other side does not imply recognition, so if it were signed it would not achieve on your theory what you want it to achieve. But if you want to achieve legal recognition then you are putting in an enormous substantive change which will make agreement impossible. In the agreement it now says “The two South Vietnamese parties will discuss this and do that.” There is no way the Saigon Government can refuse to participate. We do not support any evasion of the Saigon Government because the obligations are stated now in such a way that both sides are obligated to carry it out, and this is not affected by a phrase of the Preamble or Article 23 says it comes into force on signing.
So I believe the Special Adviser’s fears are groundless, and as a joint signatory we have an obligation to encourage, promote, to “don doc” the execution of the agreement.[Page 1199]
Le Duc Tho: I hear you say the word “don doc” now.
Dr. Kissinger: We will come back to that when we go through. We can show more understanding on such points later, like “don doc,” than on this signing point.
Le Duc Tho: The word “don doc” has no great significance, but the signing is significant. My view is always that signing the agreement naming the government does not mean recognition of that government because they have no diplomatic relations. But signing the agreement has some legal value—juridical value. And I think that after the signing of the agreement the U.S. and the DRV or the Saigon people and the PRG should not issue unilateral statement; saying “we do not recognize them.” It is no good. We will not do that, because doing that will create tension. Because we visualize that in the future the relationship between the DRV and the U.S. will be normalized. Even with such a unilateral understanding it is not beneficial at all. So if now there is normalization of relationship between DRV and the U.S. and there is such unilateral statement regarding the PRG, it is not good, because in practice in the future the two South Vietnamese will sit together and discuss, will talk to each other and settle the problem. Therefore, I think neither the DRV nor the U.S. have interest in making such unilateral statements. We propose this having in mind a lasting peaceful settlement. This way we create no tension and it will gradually return to national reconciliation and concord.
Dr. Kissinger: We can consider, and we intended, as I told the Special Adviser, to attach to the agreement a unilateral statement on our part that we did not recognize the PRG. We can consider that we do not attach that statement if the Special Adviser agrees to our signing formula. I would have to check it with Washington but I would be prepared to make this proposal to Washington. We just would attach no statement at all.
Le Duc Tho: I think it is wise not to make such a statement and we, too, we will not make such a statement because both of us want lasting peace, a durable peace. We do not want a resumption of hostilities. I think that you are correct in thinking so.
Dr. Kissinger: But I have to check this with Washington but I think it would be approved. But then we should settle on the signing formula that we have proposed.
Le Duc Tho: May I propose this: Now we set aside the question of signing for the time being. Let us go to the specific questions in the agreement and settle them. For a rapid settlement.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree.
Le Duc Tho: Now in the specific questions, to my view there are only four questions left. First, the word “destroyed.” The word “don [Page 1200] doc,” “promote” in Vietnamese. “To implement this agreement and the protocols,” relating to the National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord. And regarding Article 8(c) there is the question of two months or three months.
Dr. Kissinger: [Laughing] I have paid for that about six different times. You have withdrawn that text I don’t know how often, Mr. Special Adviser.
Le Duc Tho: But you owe me this question even after the signing of the agreement.
Dr. Kissinger: That is a different question. That I recognize!
Le Duc Tho: Regarding Laos and Cambodia, there is a correction question regarding a few words. [Laughter]
Dr. Kissinger: These are all the changes?
Le Duc Tho: Ambassador Sullivan was making that correction. You see, regarding the word “destroyed,” I think the words “worn out, damaged, used up” are sufficient because there is no longer war and no longer destruction at all.
Dr. Kissinger: Then there is no damage either.
Le Duc Tho: But you quote the example of the airplane crash or tank exploded; we can put them in the category of damaged, so that “damaged” is a very broad category.
Dr. Kissinger: But I think that General Giap has figured out a way of destroying something without damaging it. It just evaporates.
Le Duc Tho: Now since the war is ended there is no destruction by one party or the other. We will do the same. You will do the same. But regarding the word “don doc” we should leave it.
Dr. Kissinger: In contrast to the word “destroyed” which you want to eliminate so as a concession. If we eliminate “destroyed,” as a gesture of reciprocity he will maintain “don doc!”
Le Duc Tho: Then you are buffalo trading again.
Dr. Kissinger: I have no buffalo left to trade. He is already gone.
Le Duc Tho: I think that the word “don doc” we should maintain it. There is no big significance in this word but we would like to maintain it, particularly in this Chapter. This article there will be no changes at all; therefore, I agree to drop the words “and the protocols.”[Page 1201]
Dr. Kissinger: Agreed.
Le Duc Tho: I think this article should remain.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree. It shakes up the Special Adviser when I agree with him without an hour’s struggle.
Le Duc Tho: So now we maintain the word “don doc.” We drop the words “of the protocols.”
Dr. Kissinger: Agreed.
Le Duc Tho: Therefore there is no change.
Now regarding Laos and Cambodia, there are two important questions on this subject.
Dr. Kissinger [Laughs]: I admire the Special Adviser. Here we had a Chapter completely settled, then there is a technical change, the next thing we know there are two important problems.
Le Duc Tho: There are two important questions that have been settled.
Dr. Kissinger: Oh. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: 20(b).
Dr. Kissinger: I thought that was all right. Go ahead.
Le Duc Tho: This is important in the paragraph: “The parties participating in the Paris Conference on Vietnam undertake to refrain from using the territory of Cambodia and the territory of Laos to encroach on the sovereignty and security of one another and of other countries.” Then there will be the understanding we sent you in our message. We feel this is adequate already.
Now what I would like to propose is about the respect: “shall strictly respect the 1954 Geneva Agreements and the 1962 Geneva Agreements.” We gave you a formula.
Dr. Kissinger: I don’t understand what you said about the preceding paragraph.
Le Duc Tho: It remains.
Dr. Kissinger: How about the paragraph you just read to me? It is part of (a).
Le Duc Tho: I recall the questions that have been settled and the message we sent to you. I recall these two paragraphs, the message, the understanding, to say that the question of Laos has been adequately settled.
Dr. Kissinger: We will go through the understanding separately. There is no problem.
Le Duc Tho: We will maintain “shall strictly respect the 1954 Geneva Agreements on Cambodia and the 1962 Geneva Agreements on Laos.” We maintain that.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but then what is your problem?
Le Duc Tho: “. . . which recognized the Cambodian and the Lao peoples’ fundamental rights, namely sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of these two countries. The parties shall respect the neutrality of Cambodia and Laos.” The reason we propose that is to remove the concern of our allies in Cambodia that we changed the provisions on Cambodia repeatedly. Because now if we redraft this article they will [Page 1202] suspect that you and we have discussed some things. This is the only reason. So we shall strictly respect the 1954 Geneva Agreements.
Dr. Kissinger: What I don’t understand is, either this means the same or it means something different. If it means something different then I would like to understand why your Cambodian allies would be more reassured by this phrase than by the other one.
Le Duc Tho: The only reason is that repeated change in the provision arouses their suspicion that the U.S. and the DRV have discussed something regarding their affairs.
Dr. Kissinger: But it hasn’t been repeatedly changed. It stayed like this since November. You are changing it now again.
Le Duc Tho: The formulation only. I repeat the formula, the text of October 20, and we published it. So I repeat, I recall the important provisions regarding Laos and Cambodia but this sentence is only the formulation because we have published it and now if we change it then our Cambodian allies they suspect. The only thing is that this is a formula we have agreed to and then you proposed a change to it and now we would like to return to the original.
Shall we make a break now?
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, let us take a break.
Le Duc Tho: Let Ambassador Sullivan study the question.
[The group broke at 11:49 a.m. and resumed at 12:14 p.m.]
Dr. Kissinger: Are you ready, Mr. Special Adviser?
Le Duc Tho: I am ready.
Dr. Kissinger: On the Laotian point I suggest that we drop the words “and shall strictly respect” and simply say “and the Cambodian and Laotian peoples’ fundamental rights as recognized by these agreements.” [They confer.] If Mr. Loi gives you any trouble we can send him off.
Le Duc Tho: But we propose here two deletions. First “and shall strictly respect” and “as recognized by those agreements.” We propose to write “which recognized . . .”
Dr. Kissinger: No, I know what you recommend.
Le Duc Tho: Because if we say we recognize these Geneva Agreements, so it is not necessary to repeat it again “recognized by these agreements.” So there is repetition here.
Dr. Kissinger: Whenever the Special Adviser is particularly concerned about style, I begin to worry. [Tho laughs] Because I don’t have as subtle a mind as the Special Adviser.
Le Duc Tho: The idea is fully reflected in our proposal saying “they shall strictly respect the 1954 Geneva Agreements on Cambodia and the 1962 Geneva Agreements on Laos.” It is the one idea. The second [Page 1203] is that these agreements recognized the Cambodian and Lao peoples’ fundamental rights. There are two ideas that are reflected. What we propose is that we maintain what we agreed to previously.
Dr. Kissinger: But I never know when previously. I also favor that we maintain what we agreed to previously.
Le Duc Tho: On October 20th.
Dr. Kissinger: I admire the Special Adviser’s negotiating method. First the Special Adviser makes a concession; we pay a heavy price for it; then he goes back to October 20th and we are right back to where we started.
Le Duc Tho: Regarding the question of Laos and Cambodia, I have reminded you that there are two important questions that have been settled. Moreover, in the present paragraph there is a provision that the two parties shall strictly respect the Geneva Agreements on Cambodia and Laos of 1954 and 1962, so it is very sufficient and very adequate. The question is here the question of formulation only.
Dr. Kissinger: Let me say this. We both have a problem of what we have already indicated to our allies. I will accept your suggestion on this if you keep the word “destroyed.” [Tho laughs] No, we have the same problem.
Le Duc Tho: Now we are buffalo trading again.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, I admit it. And that is what you deliberately set up. We had already agreed on both of them. These were both agreed. It was only on December 13th that you objected to both of these.
Le Duc Tho: I agree with your buffalo trade. I agree with that.
Dr. Kissinger: You get two healthy buffaloes for one sick one.
Mr. Phuong: I read your paragraph again, in Vietnamese first.
Dr. Kissinger: Which paragraph are we reading now?
Mr. Phuong: 20(a). [Reads it in Vietnamese] Now in English: “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 recognized the Cambodian and Laos people’s fundamental national rights, namely, the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of these countries.”
Dr. Kissinger: OK. So now if the Special Adviser will withdraw 8(c) for the 10th time we are finished with the agreement.
Le Duc Tho: Regarding 8(c) there is only the question of two months only.
Dr. Kissinger: I know.
Le Duc Tho: Moreover, you have stated to Minister Xuan Thuy in October that you could agree to two months [Kissinger laughs] and I think that is correct to put two months. Because this is not very signifi[Page 1204]cant to have one month more, but it is sentimentally important for us and to make humanitarian effort for the detainees.
Dr. Kissinger: We can’t accept that.
Le Duc Tho: Moreover, the two South Vietnamese parties will have to settle that question.
Dr. Kissinger: We can’t agree to it.
Le Duc Tho: Regarding this question we have made a great effort and moreover this question has nothing to do with the captured military men.
Dr. Kissinger: It is impossible for us since it has been one of those issues which we have used to indicate good will on your side. We have told you this at every meeting. You have withdrawn it on at least five different occasions and we absolutely cannot yield on this. We are prepared to make an understanding with you but we cannot change the text of the agreement on that.
Le Duc Tho: I have been explaining to you on that question for several months already. It is a question of humanitarian reasons. It is not a question of significance, one month, 3 months.
Dr. Kissinger: I know what your reasons are. Our concern is to separate this from our prisoners. Secondly, you have your problems in presenting changes and we have our problems in presenting changes. On innumerable occasions in the past with you in the negotiations you have proposed this and then withdrawn it. As I explained to you, it is impossible for us to change this. We will make an understanding with you but we cannot change the text of the agreement.
Le Duc Tho: So if you stick to that, I agree with you now. But I insist that you stick to the engagement you have made to Minister Xuan Thuy that the greater part of the prisoners will be released in two months. But we will leave the three months. This is a great effort of mine.
Dr. Kissinger: We will use our influence. We will make a mutual understanding, if you don’t speak of an engagement with Minister Xuan Thuy. When one is negotiating there are many ideas that are discussed. But let us not argue, because I don’t want to trigger the Minister on television again. It always takes me three days to analyze what he has said before I can reply to it. We can arrive at an understanding on that question in the sense that you have just mentioned.
Le Duc Tho: And you said that to Minister Xuan Thuy and we repeated it in our message.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but we didn’t answer that part of your message. We listed all the understandings. And having seen the Minister on television, his memory is not always exactly the same as ours.
Xuan Thuy: [Laughs] So you don’t allow me to respect the good idea you had.[Page 1205]
Dr. Kissinger: On TV? It is an amateur against a professional. Oh, what was the good idea?
Ambassador Sullivan: [To Dr. Kissinger] Maximum influence.
Dr. Kissinger: No, we will write an understanding about using our influence.
Le Duc Tho: I still remember the message and the message to the President of the United States.
Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, we have gone over this. You sent a message, we replied to yours. We then listed all the understandings we acknowledged. This was not one of them. But we don’t have to debate it, now because we can write a new understanding and then we are both agreed. There is no sense debating the history.
Le Duc Tho: But in the understanding we have agreed upon we shall stick to what was said by the President of the United States.
Dr. Kissinger: No, I know what you had.
Le Duc Tho: No, what we want to put in the understanding is that the U.S. Government will use its maximum influence so that the greatest part of the detainees be released within two months and the remaining will be returned in three months.
Dr. Kissinger: We will discuss it this afternoon when we discuss the understandings or whenever you are ready. I think we should discuss all the understandings together. We will settle this question, Mr. Special Adviser.
Le Duc Tho: Now regarding the mention of the Republic of Vietnam in 3(a): You said you delete it, but how will you redraft this paragraph?
Dr. Kissinger: No, we propose to delete it in case we get the signing formula that we proposed.
Le Duc Tho: Deletion is one thing; signing is another.
Dr. Kissinger: No, no, no. We delete it in case we agree on the signing we propose.
Le Duc Tho: No, these are two different things: one, the mention of the PRG and the other mentions of the Republic of Vietnam should be deleted in the text of the agreement except in the Preamble and the final article. If you mention in one place then . . .
Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, you have an extraordinary method of negotiating. It is one that I have not encountered before. On December 13 you said that the Government of Vietnam was listed 12 times—I didn’t count them—and you wanted to eliminate every place except one and you considered it a concession when I agreed to that. Now today when you expressed concern about the inequality that would be produced in case our proposed signing were accepted, I offered as a concession that if the signing procedure were accepted we [Page 1206] would drop the reference to the GVN. So now you will pocket this concession and not do anything about the signing. That is impossible.
Le Duc Tho: No, these are two different questions. Previously in the agreement there were many mentions of the PRG. You wanted to delete all mention of the PRG. So it is a question of fairness. If all mention of the Republic of Vietnam be deleted, then the question of signing we will discuss later. If I adopt your method then I would have said that since I adopted the word “civilian” then you should accept our method of signing. I told you that the other day.
Dr. Kissinger: How can one buffalo trade when you kill my buffalos before we start trading?
Le Duc Tho: So I propose we solve this question and then we shall discuss the question of signing. Let us stop buffalo trading because it will drag on.
Dr. Kissinger: It won’t drag on at all. If we solve the question of signing, this question will solve itself. I propose we solve the question of signing; then this question will be solved automatically.
Le Duc Tho: It is not an important word. Then we will discuss the question of signing.
Dr. Kissinger: Can we sign in ink or does it have to be in blood?
Le Duc Tho: The important thing is that we have the result, but what you use to sign it isn’t important. So you agree to drop this word “Republic of Vietnam” and we will find a way. Please let us know how you will redraft if you rewrite it.
Dr. Kissinger: If we redraft we will just drop the words “Republic of Vietnam.”
Le Duc Tho: Or shall we leave it to Mr. Loi to study this? [Laughter]
Dr. Kissinger: One condition is that the next time we go over this text I ask that Mr. Loi be excluded!
Le Duc Tho: To see how Mr. Loi will propose this correction. So regarding 3(a) we have agreed to drop that. We shall find how to redraft the article. Let us now discuss the signing. Also agree to drop this word. Let us discuss the signing now.
Dr. Kissinger: He has agreed to drop it!
Le Duc Tho: Both of us agreed to drop it. Let us discuss the signing now.
Dr. Kissinger: All right. Let us discuss the signing now.
Le Duc Tho: Do you agree to my proposal now? [Laughter]
Dr. Kissinger: No, Mr. Special Adviser. I have given you the only practical method by which we can get the acceptance of Saigon to all the provisions of the agreement.[Page 1207]
Le Duc Tho: Now seriously speaking, we drop this word “Republic of Vietnam” and we shall find how to rewrite the provision. And let us now discuss signing of the agreement.
Dr. Kissinger: We are discussing it now.
Le Duc Tho: Yes, let us now discuss the signing. They are two different things. This is a big buffalo and a small calf. Let us now discuss the signing.
Dr. Kissinger: Let us discuss the signing.
Le Duc Tho: We will drop the word the “Republic of Vietnam” and we will redraft the provision.
Dr. Kissinger: I am still waiting for a discussion of the signing. This will not be a problem.
Le Duc Tho: But you should not link the two matters. Let us discuss the signing.
Dr. Kissinger: And you will ask for Hawaii in return for the signing.
Le Duc Tho: [Laughs] Now let us discuss how we will sign.
Dr. Kissinger: All right.
Le Duc Tho: Now we have proposed two ways to sign the agreement, but you disagree with them, and we think those ways are reasonable and logical.
Now I have another formula, and the last one. I have no other formula. If you still disagree then I am in an impossibility. Now for the text of the agreement signed by the U.S. and the DRV we have no problem. We have agreed.
Dr. Kissinger: We have agreed.
Le Duc Tho: The name of the governments are mentioned in the Preamble and in the final article. Now in the copies signed by the four parties, there will be no mention of governments, but the signature of the four foreign ministers should have a title on behalf of whom they represent. In the Preamble we say “the four parties participating in the Paris Conference.” But the four foreign ministers will sign it and I think it is reasonable. So it is the utmost effort we make to find out a suitable formula. This is my utmost effort. So it is reasonable and logical manner and we have taken into account of your views. Previously there was your proposal, except that you proposed Madame Binh, and with titles too. But in the Preamble no names. This was your proposal.
Dr. Kissinger: Let me understand your proposal. The document does not mention either government anywhere, either in the Preamble or Article 23.
Le Duc Tho: Yes.
Dr. Kissinger: It just says . . .
Le Duc Tho: Only in the document signed by four parties there will be the name of the foreign ministers and the titles at the end.[Page 1208]
Dr. Kissinger: All right. I just want to understand once again, to be sure. The document signed by the four parties does not contain the name of either the PRG or the GVN anywhere, either in the Preamble or in Article 23.
Le Duc Tho: Right. The four signatures of the foreign ministers on behalf of the governments.
Dr. Kissinger: And do they sign simultaneously or can they sign it separately?
Le Duc Tho: Simultaneously. And one copy.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but do they have to sign it in the same place?
Le Duc Tho: They will sign together. In one room. We have taken into account all your views; you should do the same for us. This is our final effort.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but I have explained to you many times this is one issue in which it is not up to us to take your views into account. [Confers with Ambassador Sullivan]
So what I understand then is the following: There are really two documents. One has the signature of the U.S. and the DRV and it mentions the PRG and the GVN. Correct? [Tho nods yes] Then there is a second document in which the Preamble says “The parties of the conference”—it just says “The parties participating in the Paris Conference on Vietnam, with a view towards . . .” And then an appropriate concluding paragraph, Article 23, and that is then signed by the four parties.
But then can you explain to me why we need two separate documents?
Le Duc Tho: We propose two separate documents because this is two different problems. First is that the DRV and the U.S. will sign the agreement and second, the document is signed by the four parties, because they refuse to sign the text of the agreement with the name of the governments but we want to. The PRG and the GVN sign the agreement, therefore we have to separate the documents. We have taken into account your view that the Saigon Administration refuses to sign an agreement in which there is mention of the PRG, therefore we propose the four parties would sign the agreement without the mention of the PRG.
Dr. Kissinger: I understand.
Le Duc Tho: But we, the U.S. and the DRV, will sign a document with the names of the four governments.
Dr. Kissinger: That is no problem. Of course, under our formula there is no difficulty about using the title in the signature. Under your formula there is a difficulty about using a title in the signature.[Page 1209]
Le Duc Tho: Now we have taken into account of your views, saying that the Saigon Administration refuses to sign a document in which there is mention of the PRG. But the person who signs it, then it is a matter of fact that he should have a title under his signature, who he represents, which government.
Dr. Kissinger: It is no problem at all if they sign separate documents.
Le Duc Tho: But this will not become a problem if they sign it separately, but it is our proposal to sign together.
Dr. Kissinger: No, I understand your proposal, but I am telling you it would be best to have two separate documents—one that the U.S. and DRV sign, plus one for the Vietnamese parties in each case. Three documents.
Le Duc Tho: It is your formula, the three documents signed. But you have proposed three or four formulas. We have strived to find out a middle of the way formula, a compromise formula. If now you stick to your formula, how can we solve the problem? You see we have been striving to find formulas for a good settlement of the problem and we have taken into account of your views. This morning I have made many efforts in solving the problems, and even on this question we have made an effort. I don’t know what formula I can find out. I have nothing in mind now. We have proposed several formulas.
Dr. Kissinger: I have to study this formula. It is senseless for me to accept a formula which has no chance of being implemented. I have to study this and find a way it can be done or make a counterproposal. I do not think it is possible to arrange a joint signature of one document. I think it might be possible to arrange a signing between the two of us and then send the document around to the other parties to be signed. This is what I have to explore.
Le Duc Tho: [Laughs] The four parties have been sitting together for nearly five years now at Kleber Street.
Dr. Kissinger: That’s right. That’s another possibility—that it is passed around at Kleber Street.
Le Duc Tho: I propose this. Please consider it. We too, we will consider the signing ceremony, how we will do that. Remember the form of the table—square table, round table. But finally they sit together.
Dr. Kissinger: Saigon intends to sign in invisible ink. Disappearing ink. [Laughter] We will discuss this again tomorrow.
You should consider the signing ceremony. We will consider the technique by which it could be signed. They can sign under the table. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: I agree that we will return to this question tomorrow, but you should realize that we have made very great efforts. We have [Page 1210] endeavored to find how to meet you half way. We shall consider the ceremony but we should not do in the same way as we would for the round table or square table—it takes months.
Dr. Kissinger: But this is exactly the problem, Mr. Special Adviser. We are trying to remove excuses for delay. That is exactly the problem.
Le Duc Tho: No, I meant in saying that it is technical question. It will not take three months for that. In 1969 the Saigon Administration wanted to sabotage the conference.
Dr. Kissinger: Wait until you deal with Mr. Duc! Then you will think of me with nostalgia.
Le Duc Tho: But you should let me hear the recording of your interview with Mr. Duc then I will understand.
Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Duc is a worthy adversary of Mr. Loi. [Laughter] All right, should we have lunch and then discuss understandings after that?
Le Duc Tho: So we have made big progress.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, I agree. In fact we have finished the text of the agreement now.
Le Duc Tho: Almost.
Dr. Kissinger: Except for the signing.
Le Duc Tho: Except for 3(a) and the Republic of Vietnam; but it is not a major question.
Dr. Kissinger: We should get our language experts together for one final check.
Le Duc Tho: So we make greater progress than Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach.
[The group broke for lunch at 1:16 p.m. and resumed at 2:17 p.m.]
Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, as I see where we stand now, we are finished with the text of the agreement except for Article 3(a) in which our experts will find a formulation to eliminate the words “Government of the Republic of Vietnam.” And we have before us your proposal of signing, which we shall study to see how we can make it possible, and you will reflect about the appropriate ceremony which will ease the task of signing.
So then we have before us only the following issues: First, the question of the understandings. Issues of principle with respect to the protocols. And the protocols themselves. And we should attempt to finish all of that this week. So I propose that we deal first with the understandings and the agreement, we can perhaps have a preliminary discussion on the schedule, because I suppose both our plans depend to some extent on the schedule. Then we go to the questions of principle with respect to the protocols. And then just before I leave we confirm [Page 1211] the schedule and adjust it if necessary. Is that agreeable with you, Mr. Special Adviser?
Le Duc Tho: [Nods yes] I agree with your assessment regarding the work to be done in the agreement. As to the signing, we will consider the signing ceremony.
Dr. Kissinger: Two separate ones; one for the two of us and one for the four parties.
Le Duc Tho: And we will discuss it. Now we will discuss the understandings and then we will exchange our views on the schedule and finally the protocols. That is to say, I agree with you.
Dr. Kissinger: And I want to confirm also that 48 hours after my return to Washington we shall stop bombing south of the 20th parallel.
Le Duc Tho: We would like only 24 hours, because since we have agreed then the bombing should be stopped, the sooner the better.
Dr. Kissinger: It is partly a technical question. I will look into it and I will give you the shortest realistic time period. We will look at it with a positive attitude to make it as short as technically possible.
Le Duc Tho: I agree.
Dr. Kissinger: But I will tell you definitely before I leave what the exact hour is.
Now should we just confirm those understandings which are agreed to? [Tho nods yes]
The first, with respect to reconnaissance. “With respect to reconnaissance activities, the U.S. side confirms that with the coming into effect of the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam, reconnaissance activities against the territory of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam will cease completely and indefinitely.”
Le Duc Tho: I agree.
Dr. Kissinger: All right, this is agreed then. Then we have one on prisoners and missing in action of the parties. It says: “It is understood between the United States and the DRV that the phrase “of the parties” in Article 8(a) and (b) of the Agreement covers all personnel of the parties and from any other country.”
This is a technical understanding.
Le Duc Tho: Agreed.
Dr. Kissinger: Now, on aircraft carriers, our formulation is: “With respect to U.S. aircraft carriers, the U.S. side cannot accept any restrictions regarding the transit of aircraft carriers, as was pointed out by Dr. Kissinger to Special Advisor Le Duc Tho on October 11, 1972. Thus, the understanding on this question with respect to maintaining a distance of 300 miles from the shores of North Vietnam refers only to the stationing of U.S. aircraft carriers.”[Page 1212]
Le Duc Tho: Shall I comment on this understanding?
Dr. Kissinger: It is up to you. You can also say “I agree.”
Le Duc Tho: There are two questions here. We would like to maintain what you said to us before regarding the moving of the aircraft carriers to 300 nautical miles from the shores of Vietnam. Because if you say North Vietnam, 300 miles from the shores of North Vietnam, then we understand that they will be near the shores of South Vietnam. Now I think that now that peace is restored, it is more sensible that U.S. aircraft carriers should be 300 nautical miles from the shores of Vietnam rather than the shores of North Vietnam. Then if you say only North Vietnam, then they will be near South Vietnam, then they will make pressure on South Vietnam. And recently they were located in South Vietnam but they launched attacks against North Vietnam.
Secondly, we would like to say that the moving of 300 nautical miles from the shores of North Vietnam should include U.S. aircraft carriers and also a number of U.S. warships associated with the aircraft carriers. I mean ships which are associated, linked with the aircraft carriers. Since now peace is restored these ships, aircraft carrier ships, should be stationed far from the shores of Vietnam. It is something natural. Except for transit purposes; I agree that they make transits.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, it is against every principle of freedom of the seas to accept any restrictions on the stationing of our forces on the seas. We have never done this for any country.
Now with relation to ships associated with aircraft carriers, we have to confine it to aircraft carriers because of the special role they have played. With respect to ships associated with aircraft carriers, first of all, it is a very difficult matter to define and secondly they represent no threat.
Le Duc Tho: I have two points to address here. First, these ships should not be used 300 miles from the shores of Vietnam because past experience shows that they are located in the waters of South Vietnam but they launch attacks against both North and South Vietnam. Therefore, I think that after the restoration of peace it is something logical that these ships should move far from the shores of Vietnam. Moreover, if they remain in South Vietnam they will continue to use pressure against South Vietnam.
As to other ships, we stick to ships associated with the aircraft carriers. It may be when the aircraft carriers are moved far from the shores of Vietnam then the other ships will move far from the shores of Vietnam too, but we want to clarify, to put it clearer too.
This understanding is in the light of the war in Vietnam. If there had been no war in Vietnam, then this question doesn’t arise at all and it would be applied like for other countries.[Page 1213]
Dr. Kissinger: I can consider the distance from the shores of Vietnam, but we can’t consider restrictions on any other ships except aircraft carriers.
Le Duc Tho: I agree that you will pay attention to the word “shores of Vietnam.”
Dr. Kissinger: I have to check this with our experts.
Le Duc Tho: [Laughing] It is something very easy to understand. You need not ask your experts if it is North Vietnam or the whole of Vietnam!
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but I have to find out where this 300 miles takes us.
Le Duc Tho: I myself can measure how long is 300 nautical miles and if you move 299 nautical miles I can check it.
Dr. Kissinger: Now . . . I am just going through the ones which on our records are listed as agreed, and then we get to the ones that still require discussion.
Now our records indicate that the statement on Laos and Cambodia is agreed, and that it consists of our message of October 20. We will get our language experts to compare it but it is a very long one and I don’t know whether I should give it to you. Do you have it?
Le Duc Tho: We have it.
Dr. Kissinger: It consists of our message of October 20, the Special Adviser’s reply signed “Pham Van Dong” of October 21 [Tho laughs]—I know the style.
Le Duc Tho: It is our Prime Minister drafted the message.
Dr. Kissinger: He wrote it long hand? He had a little help though.
Le Duc Tho: He has his advisers to help him.
Dr. Kissinger: Not Mr. Loi; it is too simple for him. And our message of October 22. This is the complete understanding. That is correct, isn’t it?
Le Duc Tho: As regarding Laos and Cambodia you raise a question of Laos and Cambodia in a message, we answer to your message in our message, and then you reply to that message on behalf of the President of the United States saying it was satisfactory.
Dr. Kissinger: And these three messages are the understanding. That is what we agreed to last time when I was here.
Le Duc Tho: We replied to your message on October 21 and we sum up the question of Laos and Cambodia, and then the President of the United States replied to that message saying that he was satisfied on this question. And we consider this as the understanding.
Dr. Kissinger: But we have discussed that before. We went over this before. From our point of view our message of October 21 makes [Page 1214] no sense except in relation to our message of October 20, and in our view all three messages—ours of the 20th, yours of the 21st and ours of the 22nd—should be taken as one body of understanding. Besides, the experts agreed on this. It was one of the few things that they agreed on.
Xuan Thuy: This is how it was at the experts’ meeting: The U.S. side separated the message of the President of the United States into subjects—one on Laos and one on Cambodia. And I also separated the DRV message into subjects—Laos and Cambodia. But we discussed that and it was agreed that we combine the message only, but so far we have not received the text. The U.S. will rewrite this and give us.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, my difficulty is my associates are treating you like they treat me. My associates think that the fewer documents I see the less damage I can do. But I thought that Ambassadors Sullivan and Porter handed it over. Well, this has everything together. This is the exact text. [Hands over new copy of Laos and Cambodia understanding, Tab B.]
Le Duc Tho: We will review this and we will answer you.
Dr. Kissinger: It is the exact text of both messages. Now the only additional thing is that the release date of our prisoners has to be adjusted. And I propose we just say “within sixty days of the signature of the agreement.” The Lao prisoners. In your message to us you said that the prisoners will be released by December 31. Now you have not kept that promise!
Le Duc Tho: [Laughs] But you refused to sign the agreement in October. You did not keep your promise first.
Dr. Kissinger: There is nothing in your message that makes it conditional on the signing of the agreement. But seriously, we should say “within no later than 60 days.”
Le Duc Tho: Agreed.
Dr. Kissinger: Now the only other thing is reducing the interval between the ceasefire in Vietnam and the ceasefire in Laos. The Special Adviser at our last session agreed to reduce it to 20 days, but I think that on further reflection he might prefer a shorter period.
Le Duc Tho: Please go on.
Dr. Kissinger: I have finished about Cambodia and Laos.
Le Duc Tho: And there are other understandings?
Dr. Kissinger: Can I hear the Special Adviser’s views first on Cambodia and Laos?
Le Duc Tho: Now we think that our message in answer to the President of the United States regarding Laos and Cambodia is adequate, but now you combine the messages. We will look at it this evening.[Page 1215]
Regarding the American prisoners in Laos, we maintain our understanding with you on that question. Now we can agree that they will be returned in sixty days.
Regarding the time for the ceasefire in Laos, I will further think about that and answer you later.
Dr. Kissinger: But I would like to point out that you have already agreed to twenty days.
Le Duc Tho: I agree to twenty days.
Dr. Kissinger: Now with respect to the exchange of messages. I would like to point out an exchange that I had with Minister Xuan Thuy while the Special Adviser was out of the room at Gif on December 12. [Reads from December 12 transcript] What the Minister said was: “What I want and I think it is sufficient and adequate is to use excerpts of the message of Prime Minister Pham Van Dong and the first paragraph of the reply of President Nixon.” Then I said, “I don’t think the Prime Minister’s reply makes any sense except in the context of what the President addressed to him first. Because the reply drafted for Prime Minister Pham Van Dong by the Special Adviser affirms statements which were made by the President.” And then Minister Xuan Thuy said “I agree to your way of doing.”
Le Duc Tho: We will review the text. But we always felt that our reply to your message of the 20th of October is sufficient and adequate and the President of the United States had said he was satisfied with that.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but it didn’t make any sense except in the context of what we said to you in the first message.
Le Duc Tho: But it is an official confirmation of our message, and comprehensive.
Dr. Kissinger: But we want to know of what.
Le Duc Tho: It is clearly mentioned in the message.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, I think we should have all three, and it seems to me this is what we agreed to when we met on December 12.
Le Duc Tho: Because all what we have been talking about is reflected in the message we sent to you.
Dr. Kissinger: That may be, but we reflected what had been sent to you, our understandings of what you had said. You then confirmed it, and without that your confirmation doesn’t make any sense.
Le Duc Tho: But the message we addressed to you is an understanding between us because we sent this message in reply to yours.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, and therefore we think all three documents together express the understanding. You cannot very well say that when you send us a message in regard to prisoners to which we never [Page 1216] reply it reflects an understanding, but when we send you a message to which you did reply the two statements together don’t reflect an understanding.
Le Duc Tho: We will consider this question.
Dr. Kissinger: And please remember that your first statement of the message of October 21 said: “Concerning the understandings on the part of the DRV as mentioned during the private meetings of September and October of the current year, the DRV side will carry out, without any change, what it has declared to the U.S. side.” That refers to what we said [in our message of October 20] that you had declared to us.
Well, you will consider that.
Le Duc Tho: Yes.
Dr. Kissinger: Now we gave you, and you have not given us a reply yet, a statement with respect to return of U.S. prisoners. We gave it to you on December 12. [Reads Tab C]: It says “The United States reaffirms the statement of the President in his message of October 20”—you have it?—and the statements by Dr. Kissinger in the private meetings of September 26, October 17, November 21, November 23, and December 9, 1972, that the United States signs the agreement with the explicit understanding that the return of all U.S. military and civilian prisoners throughout Indochina is guaranteed unconditionally and is not linked in any way with the settlement by the South Vietnam parties of the question of civilian detainees in South Vietnam.
This the Special Adviser has affirmed to me orally on innumerable occasions.
Le Duc Tho: Here I would like to say that American prisoners have been covered by Article 8(a), and I have been telling you that the American prisoners are not linked to the question of civilian detainees. But the American prisoners belong to the category of military captives, military prisoners of war. We will discuss this in the protocols. We don’t propose the question of linking the question of political detainees with military detainees.
Dr. Kissinger: Or civilian American detainees.
Le Duc Tho: American civilians are also covered by 8(a).
Dr. Kissinger: So it is our understanding that 8(a) is separated from 8(c) and not linked to it.
Le Duc Tho: Agreed. But here you said about “throughout Indochina.” Regarding Laos, it is a separate understanding. This should not be done.
Dr. Kissinger: All right, we will say “Vietnam.”
Le Duc Tho: So we have agreed with that. Why is such an understanding necessary then?[Page 1217]
Dr. Kissinger: For our own domestic opinion.
Le Duc Tho: I have answered to you this.
Dr. Kissinger: All right. I understand and I will consider in the light of your answer whether we need a formal understanding.
Le Duc Tho: It is not necessary. Please remember my statement. I will honor it.
Dr. Kissinger: How about Madame Binh?
Le Duc Tho: Madame Binh also does not link the question of American prisoners with civilian detainees. But it is the result of a long and perseverant persuasion of mine over Madame Binh. This is a fact.
Dr. Kissinger: I believe it! Now then, on my list we have the questions of civilian detainees in South Vietnam and U.S. technical personnel in Vietnam. Now with respect to civilian detainees in South Vietnam, we have given you a proposal, but in the light of our discussion this morning I would like to rewrite it tonight to make it somewhat more specific along the lines of our previous discussion. And I will bring it with me tomorrow morning.
Le Duc Tho: Let me add one sentence regarding the question of American prisoners. We have settled this question in a very adequate way and we take into account of your views and I am fair in this. Therefore I would suggest that you should consider the question of political detainees in a very positive way and in a very good way.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, this is why I am not discussing the proposal we gave you last time and why I will see if we can make it somewhat more specific. And somewhat more consistent with the Minister’s selective recollection. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: I hope you understand my sentiments in this question and consider this question in a positive way.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, I understand. This is why I asked for an opportunity to rewrite that first paragraph. Then this leaves one other understanding. Or does it leave any more understandings? [Laughter] I don’t want to exhaust the Special Adviser if he is through with his list.
Le Duc Tho: I still have one point to make. From experience we know that each time when peace is approaching, then the adversary side always massacres the Vietnamese. Therefore, I recall here your statement on 27 September, 1972 that the U.S. will do its utmost so that the Government of the Republic of Vietnam somehow stop the killing of the personnel who belong to the PRG who have been captured and detained in South Vietnam.
Dr. Kissinger: Does that mean that they can massacre North Vietnam civilian and military personnel? Now let me say this. First of all, I do not know whether such massacres are occurring. Secondly, I cannot make a written understanding saying that the U.S. will prevent its ally [Page 1218] from doing things we have no formal knowledge of. But I stand by my oral assurance that we will use our maximum influence to prevent it from occurring when we know about it.
Le Duc Tho: We record only your statement that you will make a maximum effort to prevent such massacres.
Dr. Kissinger: If they are occurring.
Le Duc Tho: Yes, these massacres.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, you can note my oral statement to you that we will use our maximum influence to prevent such events from occurring when they come to our attention. But I do not want to say with that statement that I admit that they are occurring. But we will make an effort to act in the sense that I have described. And we can of course put it also in the protocol on prisoners, write in some safeguards against abuse by all parties in this respect. And we are prepared to do that.
Le Duc Tho: Yes, we can write it.
Dr. Kissinger: I beg your pardon.
Le Duc Tho: We can write it in the protocols.
Dr. Kissinger: But it has to apply to all parties in the protocols.
Le Duc Tho: We reaffirm your statement in this respect. As to a protocol we shall discuss it later.
Dr. Kissinger: It is an oral statement. Do we have any other problems?
Le Duc Tho: American civilian personnel associated with military branches.
Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser is not so tired that he overlooks anything!
Le Duc Tho: Now regarding the American civilian personnel in South Vietnam, whether they belong to U.S. Government or private companies, but associated with military activities in South Vietnam, they should be completely withdrawn within a certain period. You proposed 15 months. We proposed six months. Now we propose eight months.
So we propose half of the number be gone within sixty days, that is to say two months and then the remaining will be six months after that. This is eight months in all. The civilian personnel of the U.S. or other foreign countries allied with the U.S. and the Republic of Vietnam are not included in this category and they should be completely withdrawn: “The U.S. reaffirms the statement made on December 7, 1972, by Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President of the United States, that pending their withdrawal from South Vietnam, no civilian personnel of the United States and of the other foreign countries allied with U.S. and the Republic of Vietnam will participate in military operations or operational military training.”[Page 1219]
Dr. Kissinger: Well, I have no problem with that paragraph. That I have confirmed to you and that I will reaffirm. So we accept this paragraph.
With respect to the other matter, first of all you have repeated so often that I am beginning to think you actually believe it, that we have introduced large numbers of civilian personnel in South Vietnam since October 15. That is simply not true. That can very easily be checked. There could not have been more than the normal fluctuation, which would have been not more than a few hundred, if any. There has been a tremendous amount of noise because the various departments in Washington are fighting over who should control the numbers that remain. But that is interesting only to students of American bureaucracy. That has nothing to do with Vietnam. And it produces nostalgia for countries which have only one official newspaper. [Laughter]
But the principle that the Special Adviser here is making is a very major change in the October agreement. I have no difficulty with a statement that the number of civilians cannot be increased; second, that no civilian can be assigned duties that were performed by military people prior to October 15; and thirdly that they will not engage in military operations or in operational military training. But we cannot accept those time limits that the Special Adviser is proposing.
Le Duc Tho: You proposed 15 months. I proposed eight months, more than half of the period you proposed. The period for the troop withdrawal you proposed four months and now we agreed to two months.
Dr. Kissinger: [Laughs] Yes, but that is a different problem. Don’t use that as a model for something that will happen every time.
Le Duc Tho: But we have proposed eight months—more than half the period of 15 months.
Dr. Kissinger: No, but the truth of the matter is that the absolute minimum, according to our people, was 24 months. I, on my own, proposed 15 months. That was our absolute minimum. It is always a mistake to go to the absolute minimum with the Special Adviser. But it was not a bargaining position.
Le Duc Tho: You are never mistaken in the time period you proposed.
Dr. Kissinger: I wasn’t mistaken. I gave the absolute minimum.
Le Duc Tho: But I think that you should reduce this period because you are always proposing very long periods to reduce it later.
Dr. Kissinger: [Laughs] No, but this time I don’t. This is an exception to the rule. Now what I am willing to do is this, and we cannot do any more. [Mr. Engel reads Tab D in Vietnamese.] That is a major change in the agreement in your favor.[Page 1220]
Le Duc Tho: I propose only you reconsider the period—only the period. After the formulation of the understanding, we will discuss. [Dr. Kissinger hands over Tab D.]
Dr. Kissinger: Let us discuss it tomorrow, but I don’t think we can reconsider the period. But you recognize this is a major change in the agreement in your favor.
Le Duc Tho: Because you put an end to your involvement in Vietnam, therefore the withdrawal of such personnel is something natural. But we have taken into account of your views already.
Dr. Kissinger: But the Special Adviser has the ability of confusing two issues: that it changes the agreement and the merits of what he proposes. We are now talking about the fact that this changes the agreement; not whether it is good or bad.
Le Duc Tho: We will exchange on the remaining questions tomorrow.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, tomorrow we have three issues left on understandings; the time period on Laos and Cambodia, the civilian detainees in the South, and this understanding. Is that correct?
Le Duc Tho: Yes.
Dr. Kissinger: And I will let you know—I owe you something about the distance of aircraft carriers, whether it is from North Vietnam or Vietnam. And then after we complete these understandings we have a preliminary discussion of schedule, and after that we go to the issues of principle in the protocols. We can decide whether to do that tomorrow or the day after on the protocols, depending upon where they stand at Gif. Because we should have Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach here for that. Maybe tomorrow afternoon, but we can see.
Le Duc Tho: Yes, there are four remaining understandings to be discussed. We will discuss them tomorrow. And after the understandings we will discuss the schedule and the protocols. But in the agreement there is still the Republic of Vietnam and the signing left.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but you will get Mr. Loi and I will get my pedant, whoever he is, to find a phraseology. [Laughter] 3(a) is no problem. Even we will not manage to disagree on 3(a).
Le Duc Tho: And we will discuss the signing ceremony tomorrow.
Dr. Kissinger: We will do our best. It may have to wait a day because we may have to make some exchanges, but I will think of some possibilities. I have to exchange ideas with our Ambassador in Saigon. So at what time should we meet tomorrow?
Le Duc Tho: I would like to propose 3:00 in the afternoon, to have time in the morning to review the understandings.
Dr. Kissinger: Where?[Page 1221]
Le Duc Tho: Gif.
Dr. Kissinger: And can the experts meet in the morning on protocols?
Le Duc Tho: The experts come here, or to the other place?
Dr. Kissinger: They can meet here in the morning and then Sullivan and Thach can join us later in the afternoon when he completes his work. [Tho nods yes.] Good.
Le Duc Tho: Then two more saboteurs join us.
Dr. Kissinger: I will suggest to Sullivan he doesn’t have to be with us at the beginning for the understandings. If he came as late as 5:00 or 5:30, that would be time enough to discuss the protocols.
[The meeting adjourned at 3:45 p.m.]
Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 866, For the President’s Files (Winston Lord)—China Trip/Vietnam Negotiations, Camp David Memcons, January 8–13, 1973 [January 23, 1973]. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting took place at La Fontaine au Blanc, St. Nom la Bretèche. All brackets are in the original. The tabs are attached but not printed.
Kissinger began his report for Nixon on the day’s proceedings by stating: “We celebrated the President’s birthday by making a major breakthrough in the negotiations.” Kissinger then explained that he and Le Duc Tho had agreed to phrasing in the text of the agreement about the Demilitarized Zone that reflected the U.S. position, and had also made substantial progress toward finding an acceptable way to sign the agreement. Looking ahead, Kissinger added, “we now have to figure out a way to get Saigon aboard.”
Kissinger believed that the agreement would be completed over the next few days, possibly by Friday, January 12. He cautioned, however, that the “Vietnamese have broken our heart several times before, and we just cannot assume success until everything is pinned down.”
Despite the day’s successes, Kissinger let the President know that that progress remained fragile and that a critical element in that progress was the secrecy of the negotiations. On this he wrote:
“I cannot overemphasize the absolute necessity that this information be confined to the President alone. There must not be the slightest hint of the present status to the bureaucracy, Cabinet members, the Congress, or anyone else. If a wave of euphoria begins in Washington, the North Vietnamese are apt to revert to their natural beastliness, and the South Vietnamese will do their best to sabotage our progress. Furthermore, we cannot afford to raise expectations before everything is firmly in concrete. A great deal of work remains on the protocols. We must keep in mind how often Hanoi has pulled back from agreements before. And we in any event still face a massive problem in Saigon. Therefore it is certainly premature to celebrate even privately.
“What has brought us to this point is the President’s firmness and the North Vietnamese belief that he will not be affected by either Congressional or public pressures. Le Duc Tho has repeatedly made these points to me. So it is essential that we keep our fierce posture during the coming days. The slightest hint of eagerness could prove suicidal.” ( Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. IX, Vietnam, October 1972–January 1973, Document 256)↩