45. 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
- Nguyen Co Thach, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs (after lunch)
- Phan Hien, Delegation Member
- Nguyen Dinh Phuong, Interpreter
- Two notetakers
- Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
- Ambassador William Sullivan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State (after lunch)
- Winston Lord, NSC Staff
- John D. Negroponte, NSC Staff (after lunch)
- David A. Engel, NSC Staff, Interpreter
- Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff
- Miss Irene G. Derus, Notetaker
Dr. Kissinger: We have the following matters. We have first of all the problem of signing. We have secondly a number of understandings. We have a few observations about the schedule, and then we have the question of protocols.
Le Duc Tho: I agree.
Dr. Kissinger: Should I say a few words about the signing first and then turn to the understandings?
Le Duc Tho: Yes.
Dr. Kissinger: On the signing we agree to a two-party signing and a four-party signing. The four-party signing should be done as we proposed, each signature on a separate sheet of paper but bound into the same document with a title and signed at the same ceremony, preferably Avenue Kleber.
Now I must tell you frankly we have not yet the full concurrence of Saigon on this but this is our view of the matter. We would like to reserve for another day whether both ceremonies should be public or one of them should be private.
Xuan Thuy: What do you mean by private?
Dr. Kissinger: He [Xuan Thuy] does like television.
Xuan Thuy: For clarification.
Dr. Kissinger: By private I mean it is known that it is signed but whether there is television or press present when the signing occurs at both ceremonies or only at the two-party ceremony . . . But it is in any event known that both documents are signed. This is our proposal about the signing.
Le Duc Tho: Now let me speak about the signing, Mr. Special Adviser. For the copy signed by the two parties, in this Preamble we should say “the Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam with the concurrence of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam, the Government of the United States with the concurrence of the Republic of Vietnam, etc.”
Dr. Kissinger: All right. [Tho hands Tab A.]
Le Duc Tho: And then Article 23. “The text of the Agreement signed by the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and of the Government of the United States, together with the text of the agreement with the same content and with the same terms and signed on this same day by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, the United States, the Provisional Revolutionary Government and of the Government of the Republic of Vietnam constitute a single international agreement called the Paris [Page 1247] Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam. This international agreement comes into force as of the signing of the two texts of the Agreement as described above. All the parties concerned shall strictly implement this international Agreement and the annexed protocols.”
Dr. Kissinger: We have a slightly different text for Article 23 of the Agreement, which has the same meaning and I propose that our two legal experts look at it. There is no substantive difference. There is no intention of having a different meaning. Do you want me to read it to you?
Le Duc Tho: Please read on.
Dr. Kissinger: [reading] “This Agreement shall enter into force upon signature by 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 the Republic of Vietnam and by a representative of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam of an Agreement. It shall be strictly implemented by all the parties concerned.”
The difference is that you also mention the protocols. I will accept this. Secondly, you mention Foreign Ministers and we mentioned representatives. I think you might prefer not to mention Foreign Ministers because we cannot absolutely force Saigon to send their Foreign Minister. I mean it should be valid whoever signs it. But there is no substantive difference.
Le Duc Tho: In our draft there is another sentence that all these two texts constitute a single international agreement.
Dr. Kissinger: I will have to check that with our legal experts. I knew Mr. Hien had cooked up something clever here that would be substantive.
Le Duc Tho: Here there are three questions in this. Now for the copies signed by the DRV and the U.S., it will be signed by the Foreign Ministers.
Dr. Kissinger: No question. This we can guarantee.
Le Duc Tho: But for the copy signed by the four parties, if you put representative of the government then will a representative . . .
Dr. Kissinger: Our representative will be the Foreign Minister.
Le Duc Tho: Therefore I would propose that regarding the DRV and the U.S. we should put Foreign Ministers.
Dr. Kissinger: That is fine.
Le Duc Tho: But for “representative”, regarding the Saigon Administration you put “representative.” What do you mean by that?[Page 1248]
Dr. Kissinger: We will strongly recommend Foreign Minister. We will press for the Foreign Ministers. But supposing they say their Ambassador to the Peace talks should sign it? We cannot make the coming into force of the Agreement depend on the rank of the person signing it. On our side, we guarantee that our Secretary of State will sign the document in all circumstances, regardless of what Saigon does. And he will sign both documents in our case, providing your Foreign Minister signs both documents.
Le Duc Tho: So we have settled the question of the copy signed by the DRV and U.S.
Dr. Kissinger: It will be done by the Foreign Ministers.
Le Duc Tho: We have settled this question. So in Article 23 we will put the Foreign Minister of the DRV and Foreign Minister of the U.S.
Dr. Kissinger: That is right.
Le Duc Tho: We have settled the question of the copies of the Agreement being signed by the two Foreign Ministers of the DRV and U.S.; but regarding the copy signed by the four parties, I think that there is no problem in having the four Foreign Ministers sign this copy of the Agreement because the Paris Conference has lasted for over four years now. The whole world have paid attention to this Agreement. Now if we have agreed on the text of the Agreement and we come to the signing of this Agreement, if now there will be part of the signatories who are Foreign Ministers but another part who are not Foreign Ministers but representatives of the Government of Saigon then there is something abnormal. Therefore we think there should be four Foreign Ministers signing the Agreement. It looks very awkward when if the three signatures will be the Foreign Ministers of the U.S., the DRV, the PRG and the fourth will be Ambassador Pham Dang Lam for instance.
Dr. Kissinger: Well as I say, we can say our Secretary of State will sign both documents. That is in our control. Secondly, I have the strong impression that Minister Xuan Thuy will be able to persuade Madame Binh to sign for the PRG. I am not sure but it is my guess. [Xuan Thuy laughs] We will use our maximum influence, we will use very great pressure, to get Saigon to send its Foreign Minister. So I agree with you in principle, but I believe that once we agree, if we agree, we should put the Agreement into effect as rapidly as possible.
Le Duc Tho: Yes, it is a matter of course once the Agreement is signed we want it to become effective immediately. We may issue a statement about our respect for the Agreement.
Dr. Kissinger: I just was thinking of a way to avoid pretexts for delay. I have no reason to suppose that their Foreign Minister will not sign it.
Le Duc Tho: Yes, I think that the most logical way is to have the Agreement signed by the four Foreign Ministers.[Page 1249]
Dr. Kissinger: I agree with you but we should not write the Agreement in such a way that its legality depends on it. So we’ll get the legal people together on Article 23. I don’t think it is a problem.
Le Duc Tho: We will have the lawyers discuss this Article 23. But to my mind when the Agreement is signed by the four Foreign Ministers there is no problem in putting in the Article that it is signed by the Foreign Ministers, because the title of the signing contains already the rank of Foreign Minister, therefore if we put it in Article 23 that is no question.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, I think your suggestion is the best—Foreign Ministers for you and me and representatives for the other two parties.
Le Duc Tho: But if we put the Foreign Minister of the DRV, the Foreign Minister of the United States and then the representative of the Republic of Vietnam and the representative of the PRG, but in the signing if all of them will be Foreign Ministers then it does not coincide.
Dr. Kissinger: If it turns out that they are all Foreign Ministers we can change the paragraph.
Le Duc Tho: It is more correct to have all the four Foreign Ministers sign the Agreement because it involves also the prestige of the United States and the prestige of the DRV too, not speaking of the PRG. Because if for we two our Foreign Ministers will sign the Agreement and for the Saigon party it is signed by Pham Dang Lam . . .
Dr. Kissinger: I understand your point and I agree with it. I am simply pointing out—if the saboteur on your left will agree—if you write Foreign Minister and then the Foreign Minister doesn’t show up then there is no Agreement. I just want to be prepared for every possibility.
Le Duc Tho: I think that we have agreed on everything in the Agreement. Now there is only the signing. We should have a clear-cut discussion on that question and I think you should make an effort to decide this with the Saigon people.
Dr. Kissinger: We will make an enormous effort. But we have much experience with delaying tactics from both Vietnamese sides.
Le Duc Tho: Our side you mean?
Dr. Kissinger: Your side too—not this week. But at any rate we have much experience with delaying tactics from Saigon. In America it will be understood if we use pressure because Saigon will not sign at all. This will be well understood. But if the issue becomes who signs and if the Agreement doesn’t go into force because of the level of signing that will be more difficult.
Le Duc Tho: From the juridical point of view, the signing of such an Agreement like an Agreement on the war in Vietnam should be signed by the Foreign Ministers. I think we can’t sign the Agreement [Page 1250] if our party is the rank of Foreign Minister and your rank will be the Foreign Minister and in speaking for the PRG will be the Foreign Minister too, and we sign the Agreement with the Saigon party with the rank of Ambassador.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree with you and we will make the greatest effort to make their Foreign Minister sign. We will not even mention the possibility that it may not be signed by the Foreign Minister.
Le Duc Tho: I believe in your affirmation but then it will look peculiar if we have in Article 23 the two first parties will be Foreign Ministers.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, then we could have representatives for all. That is just what our paragraph says.
Le Duc Tho: It is not clear then.
Dr. Kissinger: In our paragraph it says “shall enter into force upon signature of a representative of the Government of the United States of America.” We don’t mention the level.
Le Duc Tho: But if we write this Article 23 with the word “representatives” for all of them, the Saigon people will invoke this pretext and refuse to send the Foreign Minister. Moreover, then afterward, after the signature, there will be the title of the signatory. It will include the Foreign Ministers. This will be correct. We can redo the text when we know and I think there is no difficulty in this and you maintain your views, Mr. Special Adviser.
Dr. Kissinger: I don’t want to make a big issue of it. I wanted to avoid the possibility of a last minute delay.
Le Duc Tho: I will not delay.
Dr. Kissinger: No, you will not delay. The point is if you write Foreign Minister and then at the last minute the Foreign Minister doesn’t show up, then you have a pretext for not having the Agreement go into force.
Le Duc Tho: So then it will not be signed. Because we have put in the Agreement the Foreign Ministers and the Foreign Minister doesn’t show up so it will not be signed by three parties only. So I think you will make an effort to have the Saigon Foreign Minister come and sign the Agreement and if so . . .
Dr. Kissinger: If so, then there is no problem.
Le Duc Tho: Then we have Article 23 right with the Foreign Ministers, and I believe in your promise. And I believe that you can make this effort and have the Saigon Administration . . .
Dr. Kissinger: You can believe that I will make the effort; I am not sure that I can succeed. But it isn’t a problem. Now I was just trying to foresee what could go wrong. So we will have the lawyers look at Article 23. In October it didn’t mention the title of who would sign.[Page 1251]
Le Duc Tho: In October this question was not discussed. But now we get to the signing, we should put Foreign Ministers. Now if the Saigon Foreign Minister will come to sign the Agreement, then we put Article 23 as we have proposed. But we believe, and we firmly believe, that you will succeed in your effort in having the Saigon Foreign Minister to come to sign the Agreement. Otherwise the Agreement cannot be signed, because it will look very peculiar if the Foreign Minister of the United States, the Foreign Minister of the DRV, the Foreign Minister of the PRG and Ambassador Pham Dang Lam.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but I am not familiar with any international agreement which specified who has to sign it as an obligation of the Agreement.
Le Duc Tho: Because if now after the signature the title will be Foreign Minister and above it we put representatives . . .
Dr. Kissinger: No, you don’t have to put above it representatives. We are really arguing about a very theoretical problem at this point. If the Foreign Minister signs it we can put anything we want into Article 23.
Le Duc Tho: But I think that it should be the Foreign Minister of the Saigon Administration.
Dr. Kissinger: I understand this. What I am saying is that it should not be written into the Agreement as a requirement for making the Agreement valid. This is a different thing.
Le Duc Tho: I think that if we put Foreign Minister it will become clear.
Dr. Kissinger: I understand it, but (a) it was not in the October draft, (b) you have had our Article 23 for a long time, and (c) I told you we would have our Foreign Minister. We don’t know it will be a problem. But to make the Agreement dependent on it is absurd.
Le Duc Tho: I think that the rank, the title of the signature, will reflect the responsibility in implementing the Agreement. Moreover it involves here the question of equality not only for the Foreign Minister of the DRV, but also the Foreign Minister of the United States. Has your country ever signed an agreement by your Foreign Minister with a representative of another country but much lower rank than Foreign Minister?
Dr. Kissinger: I would have to ask Mr. Aldrich whether that is true. I frankly don’t know whether that is true or not.
Le Duc Tho: In my view there is no signature of an Agreement by one party with a representative of much higher ranking than the other party.
Dr. Kissinger: Won’t the Special Adviser and I initial the Agreement? He has much higher rank than I.[Page 1252]
Le Duc Tho: It is settled that we will initial the Agreement.
Dr. Kissinger: I am not a member of the Politburo. You are much higher ranking than I am.
Le Duc Tho: But it is a different government organization. You are a representative of the President of the United States, of the Government of the United States, and I represent my government. And you are the head of the National Security Council.
Dr. Kissinger: When I initial, is the Special Adviser going to say “you are not yet sufficiently concrete?”
Le Duc Tho: But when you initial it is sufficiently concrete.
Dr. Kissinger: But you have seen the press reports that even though I am head of the National Security Council I have a revolution on my own staff. They think I am too soft to you.
Le Duc Tho: It is not true! It is a correct solution. If you propose a correct solution, we will propose a correct solution, then we can reach rapid settlement. I think that when the Agreement is concluded you will be praised by everybody. No one will blame you. If there is anything to blame, maybe there are some points that says that people will have to complain about you. Yes in the Saigon press, in the Saigon radio there are some articles criticizing you.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, let us agree that the Foreign Ministers should sign it. The U.S. will make a maximum effort to make the Saigon Foreign Minister to sign it. But let us find a formulation for Article 23 which does not give us a possibility for endless maneuvering.
Le Duc Tho: But if now the Saigon Foreign Minister does sign . . .
Dr. Kissinger: Then there is no problem. Then we write in Foreign Minister.
Le Duc Tho: I firmly believe that you will succeed. [Kissinger laughs] So it will be your last effort in relation to the Agreement, the final effort, because it is only the signing of it.
Now the Preamble of the copy signed by the four parties let me read. Because there will be a copy signed by the two parties but there will be a four-party signing. We will put in the Preamble [reading from Tab A:] “The parties participating in the Paris Conference on Vietnam, with a view on etc., agree on the following.”
Dr. Kissinger: I agree
Le Duc Tho: And then Article 23: “The text of the Agreement signed by the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the parties participating in the Paris Conference on Vietnam, together with the text of the Agreement with the same content and in the same terms as the text of this Agreement and signed by the Foreign Ministers of the DRV and of the Government of the U.S. constitute a single international Agreement [Page 1253] called a Paris Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam. This international Agreement comes into force as of the signing of the two texts of the Agreement as described above. All the parties concerned shall strictly implement this international Agreement and the annexed Protocols.”
Dr. Kissinger: Well, I doubt that we can accept those sentences which link these two documents together, because this will have the effect of making the GVN sign a document that includes the PRG. And it’s totally unnecessary, because it has all the provisions.
Le Duc Tho: So you mean by that that the copies signed then will not constitute the Paris Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam?
Dr. Kissinger: I don’t mind putting it in the document which we sign, but I think we should not say it in this document.
Le Duc Tho: So you propose then to delete this sentence? You would say then “together with the text of an Agreement with the same content and in the same terms as this text of the Agreement and signed on this same day by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs.”
Dr. Kissinger: That is the sentence I want to delete. The two party document we don’t mind saying what you had said, but in the four-party document it should be eliminated. I think if we keep raising substantive issues in every procedural clause we will never get finished. We already have a monumental task to get the procedure adopted without having this Article 23. We have a very simple Article 23.
Le Duc Tho: Mr. Special Adviser, I propose that the sentence you propose to delete regarding the constituting of this into a single international agreement I propose to have some time to consider it.
Dr. Kissinger: All right. Then we can also get our experts to look at it from a legal point of view. Have we finished this? So we have agreed on the two Preambles.
Le Duc Tho: On the two-party and on the four-party signing.
Dr. Kissinger: We are agreed. We have agreed that the Foreign Ministers should sign it, but we will have our legal people look at it again to see how it should be specified. And you will consider that one sentence and in the meantime I will discuss it with our experts.
Le Duc Tho: On the four-party?
Dr. Kissinger: Yes.
Le Duc Tho: But I would think that in the copies signed by the two parties, American and North Vietnamese, we should put Foreign Ministers.
Dr. Kissinger: That is fine. That is no problem at all.
Le Duc Tho: Four Foreign Ministers.[Page 1254]
Dr. Kissinger: Oh, four Foreign Ministers. Let me discuss with our experts and we will consider this.
Le Duc Tho: But we would like to maintain our views on that. Now the way to sign the agreement, I simply think that then the four Foreign Ministers will sign in the same line.
Dr. Kissinger: No, that would be impossible.
Le Duc Tho: Or in two columns: on one column the U.S. and the Saigon government; on one column the DRV and PRG. Just like in the two sides.
Dr. Kissinger: There are certain practical impossibilities and that I am certain will never be done.
Le Duc Tho: What do you mean by that? The practical things?
Dr. Kissinger: The practical impossibility is that the Saigon people will never sign it that way, and you must not keep piling new problems on us when we already have an almost impossible problem.
Le Duc Tho: In my mind I envisage the signing of the Agreement as not so complicated. Now we have an Agreement to be signed, it can be signed either on the same line or in two columns. The main thing is whether one agrees to the text of the Agreement. Since now we have agreed upon the text of the Agreement and the Agreement is to be signed, it will be signed in the same way.
Dr. Kissinger: First of all, Saigon has not agreed to the text of the Agreement, as you well know.
Le Duc Tho: But finally they have to agree to the text of the Agreement, otherwise the war will not be ended.
Dr. Kissinger: Secondly, the issue is whether in the form of signing the Agreement you should attempt to force a resolution of a political issue. Now we are making a big concession by having all the signatures in the same document. Our proposal was the easiest one, with three documents, but we accepted your proposal. But I think the signatures should be on four pages, or at least on two pages, and then they can be bound together in the same document.
Le Duc Tho: I would prefer to have them sign on one page because otherwise there will be great blank space left.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, we can sign in big letters. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: There is enough place for four signatures!
Dr. Kissinger: We can sign in big letters or on little pages! The Special Adviser just wants to make sure that we never publish the records of these meetings, because no one will believe we discussed problems like this. We have four pages and they are put together with a seal, bound together with a seal. It will make a beautiful document.[Page 1255]
Le Duc Tho: I think it is more beautiful to have the four signatures in one page because it is symmetric, you know. And you will save paper too.
Dr. Kissinger: We can put the signature in the center of the pages, and we will supply the paper.
Le Duc Tho: But we shouldn’t waste the paper.
Dr. Kissinger: We can have an understanding that the paper will be supplied by the U.S. It is the only possible way, and even that will be very difficult.
Le Duc Tho: I am short of a better way to sign them. When coming here I simply think that now we have an Agreement, then the Agreement will be signed by the four parties, so I think that you are thinking in a very complicated way.
Dr. Kissinger: That is true, but the Vietnamese are a very complicated people.
Le Duc Tho: Yes, but there are Vietnamese and Vietnamese. Nguyen Van Thieu is different from other Vietnamese.
Dr. Kissinger: Fond as I am of you, Mr. Special Adviser, I don’t call you uncomplicated. You didn’t get where you are by being easy to deal with, as the French found out before we did.
Le Duc Tho: Now regarding the signing of the Agreement, it is really that I was thinking of it simply, but you were thinking of it very complicated.
Dr. Kissinger: But I told you on Tuesday how we would have to envisage it. It is not going to be possible to get their signature on this basis. It may be possible to get two pages—one for us and the GVN and one for you and the PRG. That would save paper. That is a compromise.
Le Duc Tho: Make another effort and it becomes one page. You will save paper and it will be more convenient.
Dr. Kissinger: I don’t think that is possible.
Le Duc Tho: It is easy to have one page.
Dr. Kissinger: It is not easy or I would agree to it. Not if there are titles.
Le Duc Tho: I will think over it.
Dr. Kissinger: All right. Good. Now should we take a few minutes break and then go to the understandings.
[The group broke briefly at 11:14 a.m. and reconvened at 11:57 a.m.]
Le Duc Tho: Let me add a few words.
Dr. Kissinger: Then I will add a few words too.
Le Duc Tho: I let you speak first, Mr. Adviser.
Dr. Kissinger: That was the first mistake I made. [Tho laughs] On the Article 23 I have now had a chance to take legal advice. We can [Page 1256] agree to the language that makes these agreements a single whole in the two-party document but not in the four-party document. We cannot agree to the specification of Ministers for Foreign Affairs for this reason in either document: We have never signed an Agreement in which it was not left to each government to designate its representative, and secondly, specifying the Ministers will raise the whole question of recognition that we are trying to avoid. But we could agree to a two-page signature; that is, one page for us and the GVN and another page for you and the PRG. And we will agree that the Foreign Ministers will sign it.
Le Duc Tho: Now I think that regarding the document signed by the two parties, we have agreed that the Foreign Ministers will sign—the Foreign Minister of the DRV and Foreign Minister of the U.S. Moreover, under the signature, there is the title.
Dr. Kissinger: No question.
Le Duc Tho: Therefore, we should put the Foreign Minister because we think the title has been put and we put the Foreign Ministers. You have just said that in this you want to change.
Dr. Kissinger: No, it is no problem. But we do not want to put “signed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Vietnam and the PRG.” We want to say “representatives” in that case. That is right, on the signature you can list the title; there is no objection to that. And we don’t object to listing the Foreign Ministers in the text as far as the U.S. and DRV is concerned, in the two-party document.
Le Duc Tho: But in Article 23 of the four-party document, it will be the titles of the Foreign Minister of the U.S. and the Foreign Minister of the DRV.
Dr. Kissinger: That is all right. No one challenges that we have a Minister for Foreign Affairs. Except me. [Laughter] Can we say Secretary of State in our case? That is his official title. We don’t have a Minister of Foreign Affairs. We just want to give him his right title. It is the same function.
Le Duc Tho: It is no problem. Since the signatories will be Foreign Ministers, I think that we should put in Article 23 “Foreign Ministers”, because if we put “representatives” then the Saigon people may invoke the pretext of this Article to send a representative, not their Foreign Minister. Because I think in my mind since the text of the Agreement has mentioned about the four governments then the rank of the Foreign Minister has no importance in this. If doing as you propose, then finally our Foreign Minister will have to sign with the same rank as Pham Dang Lam, because if we don’t put in the agreement the Saigon Administration may send any representative they like.
Dr. Kissinger: I have looked into it in Washington, and almost every agreement we sign is signed by our Secretary of State and the [Page 1257] Ambassador of the country. So it is not unusual. Secondly, we anticipate that the Foreign Minister of Saigon will sign.
Le Duc Tho: It is something certain that we can’t sign with our Foreign Minister and Mr. Pham Dang Lam, because we have national prestige. I think it is the same for your country too. So we can’t accept that this leave a loophole here.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, but you can tell us this now and we take note of it, that you will not sign unless the Foreign Minister of Saigon signs. I will take note of that. I understand that no one can force you to sign, and we understand that, and that is your way of controlling whether the Foreign Minister signs. And I am even willing—you can give me a unilateral statement to that effect so that there is no possible excuse or misunderstanding.
Le Duc Tho: This is one thing. If the Saigon people base themselves on the Article, juridically speaking, and there is no certainty that their Foreign Minister will come.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, in October, there was no provision for anybody signing. It was just to be our two Foreign Ministers, and at that time Article 23 did not specify the rank.
Le Duc Tho: But at that time, the Agreement was not achieved at all and we did not discuss then Article 23 yet; but we agree only that the Foreign Ministers will sign the Agreement.
Dr. Kissinger: I thought you made a public declaration saying there had been an Agreement.
Le Duc Tho: But regarding the signing you and I agreed then that the Foreign Ministers will sign the Agreement. Only the question is that the Article, the final article, was not yet drafted.
Dr. Kissinger: My understanding was that the final article had been drafted.
Le Duc Tho: Moreover the situation then was not so complicated as it is now. Then in October you and I, we agreed, and we carried out the Agreement, but now there is the Saigon people that will try to undermine the Agreement.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, I remember that the Special Adviser told me at that time already that the Saigon people would try to undermine the Agreement. I don’t remember that his estimate of the Saigon people was particularly elevated at that time.
Le Duc Tho: I understand at that moment that I and you agreed on the thing and the Agreement would be carried out and implemented, and probably you thought at that moment too.
Dr. Kissinger: Certainly.
Le Duc Tho: And you thought that the Saigon people would implement the Agreement too, and probably at that time you mistakenly [Page 1258] thought that the Saigon people wouldn’t undermine. Probably you miscalculated.
Dr. Kissinger: You are right.
Le Duc Tho: Therefore if you draft the Article as you do now, the Saigon people will use it as pretext to undermine Agreement.
Dr. Kissinger: First of all, in the two-party document they are not obligated in any way. But there is no possibility that they will sign in the four-party document something that lists somebody as Minister of Foreign Affairs of the PRG in the text of the Agreement. And in every version of Article 23 you were given a standard version that spoke only of “representatives.”
Le Duc Tho: But in the document signed by the two parties we should mention the four Foreign Ministers, because there is nothing to do with the Saigon people in that document.
Dr. Kissinger: I will consider that. Let me think that over. But then in the document of the four parties we say “representatives” for all four parties.
Le Duc Tho: So in the two-party document signed by the two parties then we will mention the four Foreign Ministers.
Dr. Kissinger: I will consider it.
Le Duc Tho: In the document signed by the four parties, how will you draft it?
Dr. Kissinger: We will just use the word “representatives”, or you can say the Minister of the Foreign Affairs of the U.S. and DRV and representatives for the other two. The best would be “signed by representatives.”
Le Duc Tho: But we would maintain that we should put the four Foreign Ministers in the document signed by the two parties.
Dr. Kissinger: I understand and I will think that over.
Le Duc Tho: And then I will think over your idea regarding the document signed by the four parties.
Dr. Kissinger: My people are saying that I am beginning to think like a Vietnamese. But one of two is right—either you are beginning to think like an American or I am beginning to think like a Vietnamese. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: So we combine. But in any case you should say that whatever we write in Article 23 in the document signed by the four parties, if the Saigon people will not send its Foreign Minister we will not sign the Agreement.
Dr. Kissinger: I understand that.
Le Duc Tho: I think that now if you put in the Article 23 of the document signed by the four parties “representatives of the four parties [Page 1259] participating in the Paris Conference”, if you put that I would suggest that then the signing should be in the way I propose.
Dr. Kissinger: That is impossible.
Le Duc Tho: But if you put the four Foreign Ministers in the document signed by the four parties, I would propose the following way of signing: All the sheets of paper should be the same size.
Dr. Kissinger: You have been talking to Mr. Loi. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: And the two last pages. Then all the pages should be numbered, and on one page the two parties sign and on the other page the other party signs.
Dr. Kissinger: On, no the reverse side? Numbered consecutively so you can’t take the pages out.
Le Duc Tho: Yes. Yes.
Dr. Kissinger: But can it be signed in ink?
Le Duc Tho: We can’t sign it with pure water.
Dr. Kissinger: I thought you wanted blood.
Le Duc Tho: We have signed in blood. Now we should sign in ink.
Dr. Kissinger: The Saigon people will sign in invisible ink.
Le Duc Tho: If so, then you do not continue because they will sign in blood.
Dr. Kissinger: But let me understand. The pages get numbered and there will be two pages, one page for the DRV and PRG and one page for the U.S. and the GVN.
Le Duc Tho: In the same document?
Dr. Kissinger: Oh yes.
Le Duc Tho: And all pages should be numbered from page 1 to the end.
Dr. Kissinger: And then we write on it it has how many pages to make sure no one takes a page out. Is that right?
Le Duc Tho: [Laughter] Right. Because if the pages are not numbered then they can take out the page. So if you put the Foreign Ministers . . .
Dr. Kissinger: We can’t put the Foreign Ministers. It is just absolutely impossible in the four-party document. I will consider it in the two-party document but it is impossible in the four-party document.
Le Duc Tho: It is something certain that the document signed by the two parties should put that, because otherwise I will not agree, if above we put two governments and two Foreign Ministers and then we put representative. So I have expressed my view on that.
Dr. Kissinger: Now let me understand it. Provisionally you say you would be willing to say “representatives” in the four-party docu[Page 1260]ment and sign on two separate pages of a numbered document if I agree on the two-party document to list the four Foreign Ministers.
Le Duc Tho: Regarding the document signed by the two parties, there should be mention of the four Foreign Ministers. Regarding the document signed by the four parties, if you agree to put the four Ministers of the parties, then I agree to sign on two pages.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, that is impossible.
Le Duc Tho: And the sentence constituting an international agreement in the Paris, in the document signed by the four parties.
Dr. Kissinger: We can’t accept that either.
Le Duc Tho: So now I sum up. In the document signed by the two parties, there should be mention of the four Foreign Ministers. If you agree to that, then I agree that in the document signed by the four parties you will say that the Agreement will be signed by the representatives of the parties. It is an effort of mine to find out a solution.
Dr. Kissinger: And take out the sentence which makes them a whole in the four-party document.
Le Duc Tho: I will think over it. I will think how to rephrase, to word the sentence.
Dr. Kissinger: If you eliminate it you can spare your mental energies. It is a sign of good will on my part. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: You should think out how to correct this sentence. So now we have a clearcut decision as follows: In the document signed by the two parties there will be mention of the four Foreign Ministers. In the document signed by the four parties we will put, “This text of the agreement shall be signed by the representatives of the parties participating in the Paris Conference.”
Dr. Kissinger: And eliminate that sentence.
Le Duc Tho: As to the sentence, we will think over how to redraft it.
Dr. Kissinger: I will confirm it.
Le Duc Tho: We are consulting our experts.
Dr. Kissinger: We will confirm it after lunch—both of these. We both consult our experts and confirm it after lunch. I think it is a probable solution.
Le Duc Tho: But on this condition we will accept the way of signing as I have just proposed.
Dr. Kissinger: I understand.
Le Duc Tho: But I would like to reiterate in a very clearcut way that although we put Article 23 as I have just proposed, if the Saigon people do not send their Foreign Minister then we do not sign the Agreement.[Page 1261]
Dr. Kissinger: What do you have against Pham Dang Lam? We promise you that Mr. Lam will sign the Agreement! I understand it perfectly. I understand it very clearly.
Le Duc Tho: So we are almost settled on this question.
Dr. Kissinger: We have almost settled this question.
Le Duc Tho: Now regarding the signing ceremony, I think that we should sign at the same moment.
Dr. Kissinger: All 6 of us? I mean all documents?
Le Duc Tho: The two parties sign first and then the four parties sign in the same moment, but of course the two parties signing first.
Dr. Kissinger: But then what is the sense in having a two-party document at all?
Le Duc Tho: So you mean that there will be no signing by the DRV and the U.S.?
Dr. Kissinger: No, it makes some sense to have the DRV and U.S. sign at a separate moment, but I can see that the U.S. and the DRV sign in the morning and the four parties in the afternoon. And that way the Minister can get on television twice in one day.
Le Duc Tho: All right then. Now I think that there should be some ceremony regarding the signing. For the two parties we should let in the television, the cameramen, and the same thing for the four parties, because we should satisfy the journalists and we shall do the two ceremonies at Kleber Avenue.
Dr. Kissinger: Let me think about this. We have experts on all of this and I should consult them. I haven’t really given this much thought. But my worry is, when the Minister arrives . . .
Le Duc Tho: You are always consulting your experts.
Dr. Kissinger: But the Minister is so used to making certain kinds of statements at Avenue Kleber that when he walks in for two in one day it is no telling what he will say. He will arrive and he will say “The Americans are not serious,” and then when we sign and he leaves he will say, “This proves American bad faith.” [Laughter] Provisionally I accept it.
Le Duc Tho: So there will be two signing ceremonies, one in the morning for the two-party signing and one in the afternoon for the four-party.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, I don’t know if you want to have television. We shall see. We have to consult the experts for what the best time is.
Xuan Thuy: We will have flash.
Dr. Kissinger: But at any rate two ceremonies, provisionally one in the morning and one in the afternoon, or maybe one in the afternoon and one in the evening. I don’t suppose it makes any difference to you.[Page 1262]
Le Duc Tho: If two-party in the morning, four-party in the afternoon, there is no difference.
Dr. Kissinger: We will make a specific proposal. At any rate two ceremonies.
Le Duc Tho: I agree with you.
Dr. Kissinger: I can hardly wait for Madame Binh and the GVN Foreign Minister to meet. It should be at a good television hour.
Le Duc Tho: So provisionally we agree on this question then.
Dr. Kissinger: Provisionally, yes, if we eliminate that one sentence, put in “representatives”, have two pages, number the pages and put Foreign Ministers in the two-party document. All right.
Le Duc Tho: And on the ceremony, one in the morning, one in the afternoon.
Dr. Kissinger: Or one in the afternoon, one in the evening. I would like to discuss this with the public relations people, but provisionally one in the morning, one in the afternoon. At any rate two ceremonies.
Le Duc Tho: I agree.
Dr. Kissinger: All right. Now what should we discuss, Mr. Special Adviser?
Le Duc Tho: The understandings.
Dr. Kissinger: I thought we had them all settled.
Le Duc Tho: But it is because you have proposed further discussion, but I didn’t think there are many things left.
Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Rodman is so in love with these understandings that he doesn’t want to part with them. Let me—in order to move things forward—begin with U.S. Civilian Personnel Associated with Military Functions in South Vietnam. Let me read to you our proposed understanding. [Reads Tab B] “The U.S. affirms . . .” we have taken in effect your text. “The United States affirms that it will withdraw all its civilian personnel in South Vietnam working in the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam and not reintroduce them. The numbers of the above-mentioned civilian personnel will be reduced gradually, and their withdrawal will be completed within 12 months of the signing of the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam. Pending their withdrawal from South Vietnam, none of the above-mentioned civilian personnel will participate in military operations or operational military training.” This is the absolutely utmost effort and we cannot go any further. This goes beyond all reasonable limits and you recognize that this represents a major improvement in the Agreement for you.
Le Duc Tho: Now about the wording, it is similar to ours. We agree.
Dr. Kissinger: It is identical.[Page 1263]
Le Duc Tho: We propose the following and it is an effort on our side too. So I propose that the great majority of them will be withdrawn in 10 months and the remaining in 12 months.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree
Le Duc Tho: Finished then.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree.
Le Duc Tho: So we have a rapid settlement.
Dr. Kissinger: I told you we would have a rapid settlement. On “the Return of Vietnamese Civilian Personnel Captured and Detained in South Vietnam,” let me read you our statement, which is very similiar to yours: “The U.S. side reaffirms Dr. Kissinger’s statement of October 17, 1972, that the U.S. will use its maximum influence to secure the return of Vietnamese civilian personnel captured and detained in South Vietnam. In the framework of national reconciliation and concord between the two South Vietnamese parties, the U.S. will exert this influence to promote the return of the greater part of such detainees within 60 days of the signing of the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam and the return of all such detainees within 90 days as envisaged by the Agreement.” [Hands over Tab C]
If you would like me to put in my title too, it is all right. My father will like it. My father likes the Special Adviser on television. He scolds me for not settling faster. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: I agree with you.
Dr. Kissinger: All right. Now we have the question of Laos and Cambodia. First, let me say it is a very difficult matter for us because our President has said repeatedly that there must be a ceasefire in all of Indochina. And I have always tried to give you a correct assessment of our situation and recently you have even begun believing me. Not always. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: Always it needs some process to believe you.
Dr. Kissinger: That is true! No, it takes time to establish confidence.
Now I understand your difficulties in Cambodia. But the reality is that if the war in Cambodia continues after it is ended in Vietnam and Laos, it will affect in many ways—it will affect very unfavorably—our relationship, and it will affect the many ways in which we can make our influence felt. And it will certainly affect our military operations in Cambodia. I have explained this to you very often and I think we understand this problem.
Now in order to show our good will, however, and to take account of your difficulty, we agree to eliminate from the understanding those portions of the messages that we sent you that refer to our conversation. And we therefore accept your proposal to incorporate only your message. But we want to show in understandings also one paragraph of [Page 1264] our message to you that we have always given you, which is the last paragraph of our message. So what we are doing now is to incorporate your entire message of October 21—which is what you proposed—the reply of the President, and one paragraph from the President’s message.
And we incorporate also this period of no more than 15 days. Why don’t we give you the document in English. (To Engel: Why don’t you read him that end part of the document, which is uncontested. Engel reads) This is just to get the dates straight. Yes, because the article was renumbered. [Hands over Tab D]
Le Duc Tho: What is regarding Laos, I agree with you. But regarding Laos I would like to state that the DRV side has agreed with its ally. I agree to the time for the ceasefire and the period for the release of prisoners.
Dr. Kissinger: All right.
Le Duc Tho: We maintain the message that we have sent to you and the sentence in the reply of the President that he was satisfied.
Dr. Kissinger: The Special Adviser is very generous in maintaining our sentences. [Laughter] Is that a concession?
Le Duc Tho: It is a mutual understanding, but the sentence in the last paragraph of your message of October 20 says: “The United States reiterates its view as expounded by Dr. Kissinger on October 11, 1972, that if, pending a settlement in Cambodia, offensive activities are taken there which would jeopardize the existing situation, such operations would be contrary to the spirit of Article 15(b) [Article 20(b)] and to the assumption on which this agreement is based.”
Dr. Kissinger: But this is our view. We have said it repeatedly.
Le Duc Tho: But the title, your first paragraph, says: “The following is understood between the U.S. and DRV on the question of ending the war in Laos and Cambodia”.
Dr. Kissinger: If you want, you can change that. You can take that out, on ending the war.
Le Duc Tho: I repeat to delete “on the question of ending the war in Laos and Cambodia”.
Dr. Kissinger: If you prefer that. All right.
Le Duc Tho: I think that last paragraph, it is your view. It is your statement. You have a right to do that but we should not put it in the understanding.
Dr. Kissinger: But then we will hand it to you as a unilateral statement.
Le Duc Tho: All right.
Dr. Kissinger: Right. Then if we cannot have it there I would propose another understanding between us. It is really a matter of great importance to us.[Page 1265]
Le Duc Tho: You can make unilateral statement but you should not put it in the understandings.
Dr. Kissinger: No, I understand. I will make it a unilateral statement and we will rewrite it but I have another understanding [reads text at Tab E]: “It is understood between the United States and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam that, upon the signing of the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam, they will use their maximum influence to promote the achievement of a ceasefire between the opposing parties in Cambodia.”
Le Duc Tho: As I explained to you many times, this way of doing will make it more difficult. As I told you, once peace is restored in Vietnam and Laos we will actively contribute to restoring peace in Cambodia and we will act in this direction actively as far as we are concerned. So I think that we should not have another understanding on that.
Dr. Kissinger: But I find it difficult to see why it would make it difficult to say you would use your influence.
Le Duc Tho: When I say that I will actively contribute to restoring peace, I will carry out my obligation on that score. I will certainly do that. I can affirm to you I will contribute an active part to that purpose. And if you make an effort I think that is possible and in a rapid way.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, let us put it aside for the time being. That leaves what? Any other problem?
Le Duc Tho: Only the aircraft carriers.
Dr. Kissinger: I am always hoping that at some point age will catch up with the Special Adviser and his memory will start failing him. Well, we will make an understanding that if you will not station your aircraft carriers near America, we will not station our aircraft carriers near you.
Le Duc Tho: I don’t know when we will have an aircraft carrier!
Dr. Kissinger: I have a friend in the diplomatic service of an allied country who said the opposition party said if we want to ruin them we should send them two aircraft carriers and then they will have to spend their whole budget maintaining those aircraft carriers. So, as a sign of good will when our normalization has proceeded, maybe we will send you an aircraft carrier. [Laughter] That would solve the so-called problem of the so-called North Vietnamese forces in the future because you would need them all for the carrier.
Now on the aircraft carriers, let me review the history briefly:
On October 9, I told you that when the withdrawal was completed we would move our aircraft carriers some distance.
On October 11, I told you that in any event there had to be an exception for transit, that this could not be affected by this restriction.[Page 1266]
In your draft understanding of October 17 you said within 60 days of signing. In our message of October 20, we made no comment except to reiterate the exception for transit.
In our draft understanding of December 12 we reiterated the transit exception and specifically mentioned “North Vietnam”.
Now let me explain our problem. Our problem is, first, that we are engaged at this moment in a very complicated worldwide negotiation on the Law of the Seas. In this our position has always been that we will not accept restrictions. Secondly, any acceptance of a deployment distance affects not only Vietnam but other countries. And if you draw an arc from various points in Vietnam you will see the implications of certain distances as it affects other areas—not as it affects Vietnam. If we want to use our carriers in Vietnam these restrictions are without significance. They are primarily symbolic. We could move them closer faster, and the range of our planes is enough anyway. Now we can justify certain restrictions as an act of good will towards a country with which we have been at war. Although even that is extremely difficult for us, not as a practical matter so much as a symbolic legal matter.
So we have had to express this understanding in a somewhat complex way. We will do it in two parts. I will give you this understanding with respect to North Vietnam and then I will add an oral understanding with respect to South Vietnam. So let me read you the written understanding first: “In view of the prolonged hostilities which are now being brought to a close in Vietnam and in order to contribute to the relaxation of tensions between the U.S. and the DRV, the U.S. side states that, after the withdrawal of its armed forces from South Vietnam, it intends to station its aircraft at least 300 nautical miles from the coast of North Vietnam. This statement does not, of course, affect transit.” [Hands over Tab F]
Now let me add an oral understanding to this: After the withdrawal from Vietnam we will not station aircraft carriers closer than 100 miles from the shores of South Vietnam. And secondly, again as an oral understanding, we will tell you that after the signing of this Agreement we will move our aircraft carriers out of the Gulf of Tonkin even though we are not required to do it.
Does the Special Adviser read English now?
Mr. Phuong: Aircraft carriers will be removed from the Tonkin Gulf?
Dr. Kissinger: According to this understanding they don’t have to be moved for 60 days. But I tell you now we will move them out after the Agreement is signed.
Le Duc Tho: I feel that the war in Vietnam is coming to an end, therefore after the war in Vietnam the aircraft carriers should be pulled out to 300 nautical miles from the coast. It is something very logical.[Page 1267]
Dr. Kissinger: Well, when you get to know us better you will understand that for us to agree to anything in writing with respect to naval deployment is something totally unprecedented. We have never done it. We fought World War I on a matter of freedom of the seas, and this is a very emotional matter for us. And it is as a practical matter I can tell you we will sharply reduce the number of our carriers, and after peace is made this will not be a practical problem. As a practical matter, once fighting has stopped in Indochina we will not have aircraft carriers within 300 miles.
But you have a difficult problem with respect to Cambodia reducing things to writing. We have a very difficult problem with respect to our ships. It is much easier to do it as an act of good will than as a written document. I have given you an oral understanding, my oral assurances, plus the maximum we can do as a written understanding.
Le Duc Tho: Regarding North Vietnam I think that after the signing of the agreement then the aircraft carriers should leave at 300 nautical miles from the shore.
Dr. Kissinger: Let me check this tonight. I have to check this with our naval authorities. I will give it very sympathetic consideration. I am really not an expert on naval matters. We will certainly move them a clear distance from your shores.
Le Duc Tho: Yes. So regarding North Vietnam I think that you should write in the understanding that after the signing of the Agreement then the aircraft carriers should leave 300 nautical miles from the shores of South Vietnam. But regarding South Vietnam I agree with your oral understanding.
Dr. Kissinger: All right. I will confirm it tomorrow. I must check it.
Le Duc Tho: You should have done that for the whole of Vietnam.
Dr. Kissinger: Now that finishes the understandings. What happens to these understandings? We shouldn’t publish them.
Le Duc Tho: We shouldn’t publish them. And they should be respected, should be carried out, should be implemented by you. We see that the understandings are not signed agreements but we respect the understandings, and we both have obligation to correctly carry out the understanding.
Dr. Kissinger: That is right. That is my view also. Now with respect to publicity. We have not yet decided whether to submit this Agreement to our Congress but we will of course both publish it.
Le Duc Tho: The Agreement we will publish but the understandings are not published.
Dr. Kissinger: That is right. But our procedure is that when we have some understandings we give them in executive session, that is in secret testimony, to a few Senators from the Foreign Relations [Page 1268] Committee, usually the whole Foreign Relations Committee. They almost always keep it secret. For example, in the SALT agreement with the Soviet Union we had a number of mutual understandings and we gave those to the Senate Committee and it never was revealed. But there is this slight possibility.
Le Duc Tho: I am not well aware of your system of laws.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, when you visit us you will be.
Le Duc Tho: But regarding the understanding we have the obligation to carry out the understanding correctly and not to leak them.
Dr. Kissinger: Besides, my assistant here points out that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has a majority of people who are pro-Hanoi.
Now, on the unconditional return of U.S. prisoners, we still left it open whether we should have an understanding. How should we handle it?
Le Duc Tho: I have expressed my views regarding the American prisoners. It is covered by Article 8(a). We will carry it out.
Dr. Kissinger: And so will the PRG?
Le Duc Tho: The same. I can assure you.
Dr. Kissinger: So it is my understanding that they will not be linked regardless of what happens to 8(c).
Le Duc Tho: Not linked.
Dr. Kissinger: Not linked. All right, we will let it go then.
Le Duc Tho: Now we will have a break. I am hungry now.
[The group broke for lunch at 1:35 p.m. and resumed at 2:58 p.m. Thach, Sullivan and Negroponte joined the main meeting.]
Dr. Kissinger: [Noting that Xuan Thuy had not returned.] Have we lost the Minister? He is quiet. [Xuan Thuy enters] Do you have interview programs on Hanoi Radio? [Xuan Thuy laughs] We would like to appear on it, Sullivan and I.
This morning we finished the Agreement and the understandings. On the two-party Agreement we will have our legal people get together but we can substantially accept your Article 23. On the four-party Agreement we then have the word “representatives”, we have a new sentence which we have to agree to about the relation between the two documents, and we have signatures on two pages at the end, one page for the U.S. and GVN and the other has the DRV and PRG, and all pages of the document are numbered.
Le Duc Tho: From the beginning, from page 1.
Dr. Kissinger: In Arabic numerals. [Laughter] The Preamble. There is one point in the Preamble of the Two-Party document. It should be “The Government of the United States” and also “the Democratic [Page 1269] Republic of Vietnam acting in concert with.” I think that is a most precise phrase for what we are doing here.
Le Duc Tho: And the reason why we propose “with the concurrence of” is we both, particularly we two parties, we have been discussing the agreement but “with the concurrence of the two parties.”
Dr. Kissinger: But “in concert” suggests the same thing and it avoids a unilateral statement of dissociation of other parties from certain provisions.
Le Duc Tho: But we have the final article that all parties are in agreement.
Dr. Kissinger: That is fine. That is unchanged. And because of the four-party signature there is no problem anymore about implementing the Agreement.
Le Duc Tho: That is the reason why we would prefer the word “with the concurrence of”, because at the final article there is the obligation of the parties to implement the Agreement but not the discussion of the Agreement. The discussions have been made by the DRV and U.S. with the concurrence of the GVN and PRG.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, “in concert” conveys the thought that the discussions have been with the concurrence, too. But otherwise it will invite a statement about dissociating from the mention of the PRG and the Foreign Minister of the PRG. And since the GVN is signing another document which defines their obligation, I think it makes no practical difference to you.
Le Duc Tho: I have not understood the reason why you propose to replace “with the concurrence with” by “acting in concert with”.
Dr. Kissinger: You see if you have only a two-party Agreement then you want to say “with the concurrence”, because you would want to make sure that all the obligations are clearly assumed. But now we also have a four-party document in which all the obligations are assumed and which spells out the obligations and, therefore, the two-party document will invite less a formal dissociation from those provisions that involve some sort of recognition if it is made in the phrase “acting in concert with”. Why don’t we both think about this overnight?
Le Duc Tho: It is not yet clear to me.
Dr. Kissinger: It is a nuance of a difference.
Le Duc Tho: Please explain again your reason.
Dr. Kissinger: My reason is that I am trying to avoid a separate statement of dissociation from the Preamble and from the Article 23, and I am trying to find a formula which makes that less likely.
Le Duc Tho: So you propose “acting in concert with”?
Dr. Kissinger: I would like to consider it. I would like to leave it open, frankly, until tomorrow to see which is more efficient. It has no practical significance.[Page 1270]
Le Duc Tho: Because “acting in concert” may be understood as it is only “acting in concert” but not agreed to, because “agree with” is different from using “in concert with.”
Dr. Kissinger: No, it says “acting in concert have agreed”, and then in any event the four parties would sign another set of obligations which is identical. I suggest that the Special Adviser in concert with the two Ministers, and I in concert with Ambassador Sullivan and my most pedantic staff member, consider this overnight and make a final decision tomorrow morning. I do not believe that the fate of the Agreement depends on it.
Le Duc Tho: We always feel that “with the concurrence” is more proper because the DRV and the U.S. have been discussing the Agreement and how the GVN and PRG give concurrence.
Dr. Kissinger: No, but they give their concurrence by signing the four-party document.
Le Duc Tho: But also the words used in the Preamble should reflect this concurrence, because in Vietnamese when we use the word “acting” it mean action.
Dr. Kissinger: We don’t have to say “acting”. We can just say “in concert with”. We can leave out “acting”.
Le Duc Tho: But if you just use “in concert with”, for what purpose it is not clear if you use only “in concert with”.
Dr. Kissinger: “In concert with” does not require a formal action. There is no possibility of not concurring under those conditions.
Le Duc Tho: But in Vietnamese “concert” doesn’t mean anything.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, you probably use the musical word “concert”. [Laughter] Let us leave it open until tomorrow.
Le Duc Tho: Well, shall we put “acting in concert with and with the concurrence of”, then we will combine the two? [Laughter]
Dr. Kissinger: No, that is I am afraid not possible.
Le Duc Tho: So we should leave it “with the concurrence”.
Dr. Kissinger: Let me consider it and raise it again perhaps tomorrow morning. Except for this we consider the Agreement completed, we consider the understandings completed, and neither side should ask for any more changes.
Le Duc Tho: You have just told me that the work is completed and now you ask for a change.
Dr. Kissinger: Except for that one clause. So we have the following tasks left: The language experts should tomorrow compare the texts of the agreement and the understandings, just to make absolutely sure that we have the same texts. Mr. Loi should be excluded. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: But they should not add nothing new.[Page 1271]
Dr. Kissinger: I agree.
Le Duc Tho: But you have just recently told me that the agreement is completed, but now . . .
Dr. Kissinger: No, you still owe us something for Article 23. I told you I would let you know right after lunch on these paragraphs. So we have this, and then we have the protocols, and I think we should have a preliminary discussion on some of the issues of principle today, and perhaps continue tomorrow. And then we should clean up any work that remains on Saturday. And then we shall return Saturday evening. And as I told you, we will then send General Haig and we will stop the bombing as I told you privately. Sullivan, Aldrich and Engel will stay here to complete work on any of the protocols. And maybe Negroponte; we will have to see. And after Sunday Mr. Lord will join me again. He’s got a very important football game to attend. So until then he will be a little bit nervous.
Le Duc Tho: I agree with you, and we will discuss the protocols today and tomorrow, and on Saturday what is left, we will discuss on Saturday. And tomorrow afternoon there will be comparison of texts by the experts. And before your departure I will sum up everything.
Mr. Thach: Don’t go too far now.
Le Duc Tho: I will sum up everything, saying that the Agreement is complete, the schedule is so and so, you will be leaving on what day, you will announce on what day.
Dr. Kissinger: Exactly.
Le Duc Tho: So it is for confirmation, so that you will not change it after you return to Washington.
Dr. Kissinger: I must say I have not wasted these four years; I have the full confidence of the Special Adviser! Would you like to accompany me to America to keep an eye on me? Send the Minister. He can live in my apartment. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: Now on Saturday you will leave, but if there is something left in the protocols Ambassador Sullivan and Mr. Thach will continue the discussion. Moreover I will remain here.
Dr. Kissinger: I don’t know whether that is a sign of good will or a threat.
Ambassador Sullivan: Are you here to “don doc”? [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: To promote and to construct!
Dr. Kissinger: Now then, should we begin the discussion of the protocols this afternoon? And how long does the Special Adviser want to work?
Le Duc Tho: Shall we work until 4 o’clock?
Dr. Kissinger: Well, we will certainly settle all the protocols by that time! [It was 3:30 p.m.] I agree. Let us work until 4 o’clock.[Page 1272]
Le Duc Tho: We just raise the problems.
Dr. Kissinger: We will raise the problems, although I must say that we are very good at raising problems. We have demonstrated our ability. Should we invite the two saboteurs to present the issues? Or how would you like to proceed?
Le Duc Tho: You have not read the protocols? [Laughter]
Dr. Kissinger: I read them yesterday! [Laughter] I didn’t think he would agree to 200 members of the ICCS so quickly.
Ambassador Sullivan: Well, as you know, we are still working on the actual text of the protocols. We think we can solve most of the remaining problems except for five that we have outlined. But our further work may disclose that we have one or more additional problems. In any event we have identified five.
The first question is: How many protocols will there be? We suggest that there should be a protocol on ceasefire and the Joint Military Commissions, one on the International Control Commission, one on the captured and detained persons, and one on clearance of mines. You agree with all four of these but you wish to have a fifth protocol which will concern the U.S. contribution to the reconstruction of Indochina including North Vietnam. We have explained the reasons why we cannot make that a protocol but we have left the decision on it to the Special Advisers. [At this point Negroponte enters with Mr. Aldrich and Mr. Loi. After discussion, they return to the experts’ meeting.]
Dr. Kissinger: The first time in two years that Negroponte has carried out an order the first time I gave it.
Ambassador Sullivan: That is the first question that we have to consider. The second question concerns the inclusion of a provision for the Two-Party Joint Military Commission in the protocol on ceasefire. We take the position that this is a matter which must be negotiated between the two South Vietnamese parties. You take the position that we should negotiate on behalf of the two parties even if we don’t have their concurrence.
The third issue is the size of the International Control Commission and of the Four-Party Joint Military Commission. Associated with this is the location of the teams. However, Mr. Thach and I have agreed that for buffalo-trading purposes you only need to consider the size and he and I will agree on the location of the teams.
The fourth question that we have raised is the question of the method of fixing the ceasefire. We believe that the military forces should be located in their strength and their deployment and that the natural consequences of these two factors should define the areas of control of these two parties. You take the position that the area of control should be defined and that we should not have a provision for locating the military units by strength and deployment.[Page 1273]
Finally, we have an issue which concerns the competence of the International Control Commission to visit places of detention of captured and detained persons. We take the position that the Agreement calls for supervision and control of the return of these persons but not for supervision and control of their detainment. You wish to add a responsibility to the International Control Commission of supervising and controlling the conditions of the detainment.
Now these are the five issues we have identified until now, but we haven’t yet been through the protocols on mine clearance and captured persons.
Dr. Kissinger: I wonder whether the Special Adviser has any views on mine clearance.
Ambassador Sullivan: He is for it.
Le Duc Tho: I have.
Dr. Kissinger: Are you for it?
Le Duc Tho: We shall have our experts discuss it.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, we have brought an expert also.
Le Duc Tho: We have our expert coming here.
Dr. Kissinger: Our expert will talk to Ambassador Sullivan who will then talk to you.
Ambassador Sullivan: Mr. Thach and I now become spectators and watch the buffalo traders.
Mr. Thach: So we have agreed on the five outstanding issues.
Ambassador Sullivan: Was that a fair statement of the issues as far as the DRV is concerned?
Mr. Thach: Yes, but it is fair, but there is only one point. We have agreed that the outstanding question is the total number of personnel of the ICC. But we have not discussed the Four-Party Joint Commission, regarding the strength of the Joint Commission. But we have not yet agreed whether we should raise this question to the Special Advisers.
Dr. Kissinger: As I understand it, our view is it can be the same number as the ICCS.
Mr. Thach: This is a difference between Ambassador Sullivan and myself. Our point of view still differs regarding the machinery of the ICC and that of the Four-Party Joint Commission. Ambassador Sullivan thinks that the machinery of the International Commission should be equal, the same as the Joint Commission machinery; as for us, we think that the machinery of the Four-Party Joint Commission should be bigger than the machinery of the ICC.
Dr. Kissinger: Why do you want such a big machinery for something that will be abolished in 60 days?
Mr. Thach: The question here is not the question of the life of the Joint Commission but the question of the difference of the task of the [Page 1274] ICC. Although the life of the Joint Commission is only 60 days, the task, the responsibility of the Joint Commission is heavier, much heavier. While the ICC has an important task, important responsibility, but not so heavy as the task of the Joint Commission.
Le Duc Tho: I have a proposal now. The two Special Advisers have not yet studied it.
Dr. Kissinger: Out of friendship, I agree to that formulation—because I don’t want another Special Adviser to be in an isolated position. [Laughter] But I think we can settle the first of these questions and leave all the others until tomorrow. The first question is whether we should agree on a protocol on economic reconstruction now.
Le Duc Tho: We will settle this question and then we will leave until tomorrow.
Dr. Kissinger: And then we will leave until tomorrow. I know the Special Adviser won’t feel fulfilled unless he settles the question of the relation of the Four-Party and the Two Party Commission before he leaves. But let us discuss this issue of the number of protocols.
We cannot sign a protocol that is attached to the peace treaty for two reasons. One, it would have no practical significance because it depends on Congressional approval. And if it were part of the Agreement, as a protocol, the whole thing would have to be submitted to Congress and to its appropriations procedures and it would then delay the implementation of the Agreement. The third reason is that, as I have often said to the Special Adviser, we cannot really sign anything in the nature of reparations, and we have already gone very far by indicating our willingness in the Agreement. Also, I told you that when we begin discussing post-war relations, which we have undertaken to do within a week to 10 days of the signing of the Agreement, we will then reach an understanding on that question.
Le Duc Tho: So let me say a few words and then we adjourn. How this question is important to us is known to you, because I have spoken about it on many occasions. It is also part of the Agreement, and it is also part of our future relationship. I agree that it should not be a protocol attached to the Agreement, but we should discuss to find out some way to stipulate the great principles. It may be a kind of a protocol but between the two parties only, independent from the Agreement. And after that, when you visit Hanoi then we will discuss and it becomes an Agreement between the two parties.
Dr. Kissinger: Are you finished?
Le Duc Tho: This is how I envisage. I have given you a draft.
Dr. Kissinger: It keeps going up. Your charge is $500 million for six months and now another $500 million for two weeks.
Le Duc Tho: I bring this up to discuss tomorrow. But your recent bombing raids cause great losses. We will discuss it.[Page 1275]
Dr. Kissinger: I will not discuss it now. I have given you my general observation but I would like to make one other comment for your thinking. I have often said to the Special Adviser that the improvement of our relations beyond the provisions of this Agreement is in our view perhaps the most important result of this Agreement. We are very serious about this, because we believe that the future evolution in Indochina depends more on that relationship than on legal formulations of this or that clause. So we seriously want to establish a new relationship and we seriously want to participate in the reconstruction effort in your country. So the basic problem really is to find a way of doing it; it is not the principle. But it will be easier for us to be concrete when we visit Hanoi than it is now. But I am prepared to discuss it with you.
Le Duc Tho: We will discuss here the first step only, the big principles.
Dr. Kissinger: We are prepared to discuss the big principles.
Le Duc Tho: But of course we will discuss the relationship after the signing of the Agreement, because we should discuss also the setting up of the Joint Economic Commission and then we will come to the economic results of this. I agree with you that good relationship should be first. And we should envisage this relationship because this relationship will build up on this question. But in any case we will discuss the big principles.
Dr. Kissinger: Good. I am prepared to do that. So should we meet at what time tomorrow morning?
Le Duc Tho: Ten o’clock.
Dr. Kissinger: At Gif?
Le Duc Tho: Yes.
Dr. Kissinger: All right, and we will have our protocol people with us. If they have finished drafting should they meet here. They will continue drafting, and then tomorrow afternoon after you and I have finished we will have comparison of language texts and we will make those changes in the understandings which we agreed upon this morning. So we meet at ten o’clock tomorrow at Gif.
Le Duc Tho: The experts for the comparison of the text, at what time?
Dr. Kissinger: Whenever we finish in the afternoon—three o’clock. They stay behind. On our side it will be Mr. Lord, Mr. Engel and Mr. Negroponte, and maybe Mr. Rodman. And anyone on your side except Mr. Loi is acceptable. But as a sign of good will we will accept him. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: So the protocol experts will meet here.
Dr. Kissinger: Except for Thach and Sullivan.[Page 1276]
Le Duc Tho: And after when we meet at Gif the language experts will remain.
[The meeting adjourned at 4:00 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; on Tab D, see Appendix 3.
In Kissinger’s report to Nixon on the day’s meeting, he noted: “We finished the complete text of the agreement, including the provisions for signature.” With the final text in hand, Kissinger focused on obtaining the agreement of South Vietnamese President Thieu: “Our major problem now, of course, is Saigon. I believe the only way to bring Thieu around will be to tell him flatly that you will proceed, with or without him. If he balks and we then initial, there will still be 3 to 4 days between initialing and signing for the pressures to build up. I have already told Le Duc Tho that we would have to discuss the situation in this eventuality. In any event, if we once again delay the initialing or reopen the negotiations, we would not only jeopardize but certainly lose everything that has been achieved.” (Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. IX, Vietnam, October 1972–January 1973, Document 263)
Nixon replied quickly, in full agreement with Kissinger: “I also totally agree that we must go ahead with the agreement with Hanoi regardless of whether Thieu goes along or not. If we cannot deliver Thieu, we then obviously will have the problem of Hanoi’s reaction. In that event, there would be no Presidential announcement made on Thursday, January 18. Instead, we would have Haig delay his return so that there would be no pressure for an announcement until after January 20. Then, on January 22, I would make an announcement that we had reached an agreement in principle with the North Vietnamese and call on Thieu to adhere to it. I have already told Haig that he is to tell Thieu that we are not going to negotiate with him but rather that we will proceed and we are presenting this, in effect, on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.” (Ibid., Document 264)↩