46. Memorandum of Conversation1
- Le Duc Tho, Special Advisor to DRV Delegation to the Paris Conference on Vietnam
- Xuan Thuy, Minister, Chief DRV Delegate to Paris Conference on Vietnam
- Nguyen Co Thach, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs
- Trinh Ngoc Thai, 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
- Winston Lord, NSC Staff
- David A. Engel, NSC Staff, Interpreter
- Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff
- Mrs. Mary Stifflemire, Notetaker
[Prior to beginning the general meeting, Dr. Kissinger and Le Duc Tho met privately for five minutes.]
Le Duc Tho: You should endeavor that tomorrow you will be able to leave.
Dr. Kissinger: I must leave tomorrow.
Le Duc Tho: And if there is some questions left regarding the protocols I will remain here and push them.
Dr. Kissinger: Push?
Le Duc Tho: You remember the word “don doc” very well. [Laughter] I told him already [motioning to Vice Minister Thach].
Dr. Kissinger: So today we go through the protocols. Then our experts will compare the texts of the understandings and then tomor[Page 1277]row we review whatever difficulties may still remain and agree finally on the schedule. [Tho nods]
Now with respect to aircraft carriers, as a sign of good will . . . the understanding requires only to go into effect after the withdrawal is completed. But as a sign of good will, we will move our aircraft carriers a considerable distance beyond the shores of North Vietnam close to the line that we have agreed upon, after the signing. [Tho nods] But we can do this only if there is no announcement and no publishing.
Le Duc Tho: No, I will not. The understanding will not be published.
Dr. Kissinger: Good. I just wanted to inform you of this.
Le Duc Tho: We will only record the understanding and not publish it or announce it.
Dr. Kissinger: Right, and what I have just told you is a unilateral statement.
Le Duc Tho: And regarding South Vietnam, your oral statement you will keep.
Dr. Kissinger: It will go into effect after the withdrawal.
Le Duc Tho: I agree with you. I agree.
Dr. Kissinger: But we will show restraint in the whole period. We will not put an aircraft carrier into Saigon [Tho laughs] or where people can see it from the shore.
Now, we have brought along what we think should be Article 23 of the two-party [Tab A] and Article 23 of the four-party signature [Tab B]. I frankly have not yet been able to get a conclusive opinion on the Preamble and I will talk to you later. But I propose today we talk about the protocols, and discuss this tomorrow after the language experts have discussed it—Article 23. [Hands over Tabs A and B. The DRV studies them.]
Le Duc Tho: We will consider your views here and we will discuss them tomorrow then.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree. Now I don’t want to deprive the Special Advisor of what I know he has been looking forward to all these weeks—a full discussion of the protocols [Tho and Xuan Thuy laugh]. Should we wait for the saboteurs?
Le Duc Tho: Let us discuss.
Dr. Kissinger: I would be glad to put him on a telephone.
Now first, we have four issues left with the protocols—the size of the International and the Four-Party Commissions, the status of the Two-Party Commission, how to fix the ceasefire, and the rights of the International Commission under Article 8(c) with respect to the prisoners. And there may be one on expenditures.[Page 1278]
Le Duc Tho: Besides that we would like to discuss the bilateral protocol outside of the agreement regarding the U.S. responsibility for healing the wounds of war in North Vietnam.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, we discussed that yesterday. That is the reason I did not mention it. But I agree to discuss it. I mean, in principle. I noticed Mr. Brezhnev has already announced that we have reached an agreement.
Xuan Thuy: He is guessing, like the journalists.
Dr. Kissinger: We haven’t told him anything.
Xuan Thuy: He expresses his hope, and so does President Pompidou and Foreign Minister Schumann.
Dr. Kissinger: Schumann we tell less than anything.
How should we proceed, Mr. Special Advisor?
Le Duc Tho: What items do you like to discuss first?
Dr. Kissinger: Should we discuss them in the order in which I mentioned them, the size of the International Commission and the Four-Party Commission first?
Le Duc Tho: All right. Your views now. The two experts have put forward different views.
Dr. Kissinger: Our view is that the number we gave is a reduction, a substantial reduction of the original proposal, which in turn was a reduction of my very first proposal. And it seems to us that if these teams operate in seven regions and 42 other locations, plus ten border posts, that our figure of about 2,000 is a realistic figure. And we of course would be prepared to have the same number for the Four-Party Commission.
Le Duc Tho: In my mind the task of the International Commission is less than the task of the Four-Party Joint Commission. The task of the Four-Party Joint Commission is heavier; this commission is directly involved in the tasks of the localities and everyday tasks. And moreover this commission is directly involved in the settlement of many questions of the locality. Therefore as a principle I think that the number of personnel in the Four-Party Commission should be bigger than that of the ICC. Moreover, in accordance with the determination of the task of the ICC and the Four-Party Joint Commission as determined by the experts, then we say that the task of the Four-Party Joint Commission is heavier than that of the ICC.
Dr. Kissinger: I need a new set of experts. [Laughter] Because our conclusion was the exact opposite.
Le Duc Tho: So we still have very different views.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, first of all the Four-Party Commission, unless I misinterpret you, will stop operating after 60 days. [Tho nods] So it [Page 1279] is difficult to reconcile the idea of their heavy responsibilities with their short life. But it may be that what attracts the Special Advisor is their short life. [Tho and Thach laugh]
Le Duc Tho: I propose the following discussions. I think that in the International Commission the personnel may be divided into three categories: The first category is the representatives of the member countries in the International Commission; the advisers, the staff officers, the composition, the members of the teams. As to such personnel as communications personnel, code, cipher personnel . . .
Dr. Kissinger: I would like to see a cipher that includes Indonesian and Hungarian.
Le Duc Tho: . . . interpreters, transport personnel, it is a second category.
Dr. Kissinger: There are some people who think Hungarian is a code by itself. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: And this is the first category and the second category. And the third category is the guards. So I propose that you and I will discuss only the number of the first category. As to the second and the third, we will leave them to Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach.
Dr. Kissinger: All right. What is your proposal?
Le Duc Tho: I propose that we will discuss the first category of personnel. As to the second and third we leave them to Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach, because the first category is the responsible members of the Commission. Because these will be put into teams.
The other day we propose 500 persons for all categories. In our view the first category will account for 300 and the second and third for 200. The number you propose, 2000, include all the three categories, but if we speak of the first categories only the number given by you is roughly 1,000.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, it would be closer to 1,400–1,500.
Le Duc Tho: So, according to your calculation it is roughly 1,400.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, in the first category.
Le Duc Tho: So in my mind the 500 persons of the ICC, the first category will account for roughly 300.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, we think that is much too low. Could I have your idea also, so I can think about it, of the Four-Party Commission? I suppose you break that down the same way, I mean into three categories.
Le Duc Tho: We also divide them into three categories. And the first category will account for roughly 1,500.
Dr. Kissinger: Plus one Viet Cong division in Saigon to guard them. [Vietnamese laugh][Page 1280]
Le Duc Tho: No, not so much. Only one section!
Dr. Kissinger: I am trying to show good will! So, in the Four-Party Commission the first category requires 1,500. So that is a ratio of five to one. And what is the total number, would you think? Would you care to make it about 2,500 for the Four-Party Commission?
Le Duc Tho: Approximately 4,000.
Dr. Kissinger: [Laughs] No one will ever accuse the Special Advisor of starting too low.
Ambassador Sullivan: It is a very big buffalo.
Le Duc Tho: And you will put up a statue like Mr. Loi.
Dr. Kissinger: That is why he wanted me in Hanoi later, because the statue isn’t finished yet. Well, with respect to the International Commission, category one in your calculation represents 60% of the total number. Then if the same ratio is used for the Four-Party Commission, if category one is 1,500 the total number according to your calculations should only be 2,500.
Le Duc Tho: You see, the ICC, besides the number of personnel coming from the member countries, they can use Vietnamese nationals for support personnel.
Minister Thach: So the number of personnel we mentioned here does not include the Vietnamese nationals employed by the ICC.
Dr. Kissinger: Should they be employed as code clerks? [Tho laughs]
Minister Thach: For the code personnel they should use their own.
Le Duc Tho: Moreover the Four-Party Joint Commission will need some number of guards because there is still a hostile atmosphere. It is different from the ICC immediately after the war. So I feel there are three reasons why the number of personnel of the Four-Party Joint Commission should be bigger than the ICC: First, the task is heavier. Second, all the personnel should be Vietnamese—the cooks, the transport personnel, etc., all Vietnamese, the guards Vietnamese. As to the ICC, besides the personnel brought from their countries they can use Vietnamese nationals, and where the ICC team is located then the guard, the security, is insured by the local authorities. Therefore in any case the number of personnel of the Four-Party Joint Commission should be bigger than that of the ICC.
Dr. Kissinger: And if they don’t behave themselves the local authorities will no longer be responsible for their security!
Le Duc Tho: In any case they should be assured about security. Because the Four-Party Joint Commission should have some guard, some small number.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but you do not list the number of Vietnamese employees as part of the composition of the International Commission, do you? But separately.[Page 1281]
Ambassador Sullivan: No.
Le Duc Tho: Right. We have not yet included the Vietnamese nationals serving in the ICC in this number.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but I think we should begin with a global figure and then worry about the details of guards. We are in no position to do that here.
Le Duc Tho: It is a matter of course, because we should discuss here only the responsible people, the members of the team, the members engaged in control and supervision only. This is the first category only. So for the first category you propose 1,400. I propose 300.
Dr. Kissinger: May I ask you a question that fascinates me? How do you divide 1,500 by four? [Vietnamese laugh]
Le Duc Tho: This is roughly like that. We are discussing.
Dr. Kissinger: I just want to make sure, because I know how conscientiously you take your obligations and you might supply half a DRV man. [Tho and Thach laugh] I know we have proposed 1,400 and you have proposed 300, so I don’t think we are in complete agreement. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: So I propose the following. You will reduce your number and I will increase my number, and we will meet gradually.
Ambassador Sullivan: You make a great effort; we will do the same.
Dr. Kissinger: We still have a philosophical problem, which is the relationship between the 1,500 and the 4,000. Let me say this. I will accept the principle that the Four-Party Commission should be somewhat larger than the International Control Commission. But not five times larger. [Tho laughs]
Le Duc Tho: So what is the ratio you propose?
Dr. Kissinger: We recognize that you may need more support and guard elements in the Four-Party Commission as opposed to the International Commission.
[Both parties conferred.]
Ambassador Sullivan: Fish traders. [Laughter]
Dr. Kissinger: We could perhaps try—it would be very difficult—but 1,100 in the first category for the International Commission.
Le Duc Tho: So with the second and third categories it would amount to nearly 2,000.
Dr. Kissinger: Somewhat less, about 1,700.
Le Duc Tho: 1,600 then.
Dr. Kissinger: About 1,600. 1,600—1,700. That means 274 and a quarter Poles. No, it is 275 from each country [in the first category].
Le Duc Tho: So we propose 300; now you have reduced it to 1,100. Then I think that we do not agree to 500 then.[Page 1282]
Dr. Kissinger: And split the difference.
Le Duc Tho: For the first category. [Kissinger laughs] But if now 500 for responsible people and if we add to them the support people, then it becomes 800, 700.
Dr. Kissinger: It is impossible to find 125 responsible Poles. The Special Advisor has already made an impossible condition because there are no 125 responsible Poles. [Vietnamese laugh]
Le Duc Tho: No, you see if now we propose 500 responsible people, with support people it then becomes 700 or 800, so it is nearly half of your number. In the International Commission under the 1954 Geneva Agreement for the whole of Vietnam there was less than 400.
Dr. Kissinger: But that agreement was much less complex.
Le Duc Tho: For all categories amount to 700 or 800.
Dr. Kissinger: But this is much more complex.
Le Duc Tho: But that is the reason why we have doubled the number. But a manifold increase, because the less than 400 personnel for the former ICC included all three categories of personnel, but here there is 500 responsible people.
Dr. Kissinger: I must say—for the course the Special Advisor and I will jointly teach about diplomacy I must point out how he operates: I first reduce 300 of our number. They then disappear completely, and then we negotiate the difference between 300 and the new number. [Laughter] In another hour it will be a sign of good will if the Special Adviser maintains his original number. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: No, I should frankly tell you that the number we propose is fairly enough, really enough, because if we add the support number to these 500 it would be 700 or 800. So your number, 1,100 plus 500, is too much.
And it is a big number already, because in the former commission the number of responsible people for the whole of Vietnam was about 200 only. Moreover the Canadian Government had just stated that they would need only 50 people for its delegation.
Ambassador Sullivan: I have answered that several times. They said when the ceasefire went into effect they would expect to have 50 people on the ground immediately and then they would build up to the other size.
Minister Thach: Let me explain to you what I read in the press, that the Canadian Foreign Minister said that Hanoi wants a small International Commission.
Dr. Kissinger: I don’t know where he got that idea.
Minister Thach: In the Canadian Government’s view the Canadian Government thinks that it can meet the intention of Hanoi by setting up [Page 1283] a small International Commission. Therefore 50 people of the Canadian Government is sufficient for . . .
Le Duc Tho: And I think if according to Ambassador Sullivan if they intend bringing 50 people in the very beginning and afterward they will build up gradually, that mostly they will treble this number and it becomes 150.
Dr. Kissinger: Does that mean you have just accepted 600?
Le Duc Tho: No, the Canadians propose 50 persons for all three categories.
Ambassador Sullivan: You must have been reading this in Nhan Dan.
Dr. Kissinger: But they never know what they will find in Nhan Dan when they open it in the morning. [Laughter] Well, we have two problems. First, the relationship in the size of the category 1 personnel between the Four-Party Commission and the International Commission. And the relationship between the percentage of the category two and three within each commission. With respect to category one personnel we had proposed equality between the two commissions, and you had proposed that the support personnel in the International Commission be about 40% of the category one personnel—of the total. Two-thirds of the category one personnel. But in the Four-Party Commission you have advocated a larger proportion. Because despite the atmosphere of national reconciliation and concord you think you may require more guarantees for the Four-Party Commission than for the International Commission. [Tho laughs]
So in order to make some progress and before we go back to the numbers, let me first talk about the ratios. We will agree that in the Four-Party Commission the category two and three personnel can be the same number as the category one personnel.
Minister Thach: You do mean that category three will equal category one; category two will equal category one?
Dr. Kissinger: Categories two and three together will equal category one. While in the other commission, in the International Commission, category two and three will be only two-thirds of Category one. So then secondly as to the ratio of category one personnel in both . . . I just want to prove to the Special Adviser that I can make any subject very complicated. [Laughter] And if your Politburo reads these protocols I want them to have to think. [Tho laughs] So I am trying to point out that I have made a concession to you by giving a larger percent of category two and three. It actually makes sense, Mr. Special Advisor, if you will let me continue. [Tho and Thach confer] I am not through with my proposal. So then my next proposal is that we have proposed that category one personnel be the same in each between the International Commission and the Four-Party Commission.[Page 1284]
So now I propose, to take into account of your view, that the Four-Party Commission can have 25% more category one personnel than the International Commission in category one. And that the category one of the International Commission be 1,000. That would make the total International Commission about 1,600 and it would make the Four-Party Commission 2,500. It would mean . . . Mr. Sullivan asks whether he could sit on your side of the table because he doesn’t understand it. [Laughter] It means that they have 1,250 category one and 1,250 support. That makes it 2,500. We have 1,000 plus—about 1,600.
Le Duc Tho: So we have agreed on the ratio between the different categories for the International Commission.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, and for the Four-Party Commission. He always pockets immediately.
Le Duc Tho: Because for the Four-Party Joint Commission the guards and the support personnel account for a big number. It is the practical situation.
Dr. Kissinger: The Hungarians need a special group of cooks for the goulash, while you can use Vietnamese cooks. Well, what ratio do you propose for the Four-Parties?
Le Duc Tho: We would propose that for each category, all the categories are equal. Category one ratio one; category two ratio one, category one equal number.
Dr. Kissinger: But that is more than you started with. You started out with 1,500 personnel in category one and 4,000 altogether. So you have increased your ratio.
Le Duc Tho: Moreover the number of personnel of the Four-Party Joint Commission, you still give a too small discrepancy, 25% smaller. We would like to propose that there should be three times bigger.
Dr. Kissinger: On that basis.
Le Duc Tho: That is to say the International Commission will have 500 for category one, then the Joint Commission should be 1,500 for category one.
Dr. Kissinger: And 4,500 altogether. You have just increased it by 500. You started out by asking for 4,000. After hours of negotiations, as a sign of good will, you have asked for 4,500! [Laughter] Secondly, after hours of negotiation you have decreased the ratio but increased the number. I propose we exchange Mr. Thach for Mr. Loi. [Laughter]
But first, the figure of 500 is too small. And we think the figure of 1,000 is realistic.
Le Duc Tho: This is too many, too much. Because if you add them to the category two and category three, then it would amount to 1,600 or 1,700.[Page 1285]
Dr. Kissinger: But that is 300 less than we proposed.
Le Duc Tho: But we have increased by 200. Because if we propose 500 category one then plus the other personnel it would be 800, or more than 800.
Dr. Kissinger: But 800 is not possible.
Le Duc Tho: 820.
Dr. Kissinger: How do you arrive at 820? 40% of 500 is 300; 60%—no, it is 800.
Le Duc Tho: Plus category two and category three.
Dr. Kissinger: Thach has now increased the Four-Party Commission to 7,000.
Le Duc Tho: No, not so much.
Minister Thach: About 9,000—900 already.
Le Duc Tho: I think that we have proposed a rather big number.
Dr. Kissinger: 800 as the total figure is just . . .
Minister Thach: 820.
Dr. Kissinger: You are wrong. I hate to tell you, Mr. Vice Minister, the ratio of 300 to 500 is actually the same as 500 to 800. I don’t know where you got 20 from. And also we can’t accept three to one of category one and two—categories two and three.
Le Duc Tho: Now I will state my third proposal and the last one. This is all the three categories, all the three categories, the total number of the ICC personnel is 1,000. So in comparison with the 1954 International Commission it is three times bigger. As to the Four-Party Joint Commission we maintain our view because it needs much bigger number of support personnel and guards. You should take into account of this practical situation.
Dr. Kissinger: That is four to one.
Le Duc Tho: 4,000 and 1,000.
Dr. Kissinger: Let me consult with my colleagues for five minutes to see whether we can make a counterproposal. Let us take a five minute break, and we will then make our final proposal. Ambassador Sullivan and I will point fingers at each other outside for the press.
[There was a short break from 11:40 to 11:55.]
Le Duc Tho: So the cold probably helps you find out the new figure.
Ambassador Sullivan: I still don’t understand his mathematics.
Dr. Kissinger: I am glad I have Sullivan with me.
Le Duc Tho: Frankly speaking, the figure you gave is too big. Now as to the Four-Party Joint Commission. I reduce now the number from 4,000 to 3,500.
Dr. Kissinger: I wanted to make this proposal for your consideration. We will agree that the ratio of category one personnel on the Four-[Page 1286]Party Commission be 50% larger than on the International Commission. And we propose that the number of category one personnel of the International Commission be 800 and that the total be 1,250 to 1,300. Then the number of category one personnel in the Four-Party Commission can be 1,200, and we would agree to a total Four-Party Commission of 3,000. So we would have given you nearly three to one, and we would have reduced our figure very substantially.
Le Duc Tho: So we maintain that the Four-Party Joint Commission, the total number would be 3,500 and then the International Commission, the total number is 1,100. You should take into account of our situation regarding the support personnel.
Dr. Kissinger: I am dividing all these figures by seven and multiplying by 3½ and then I will put the figure into a horoscope and see what happens. [Laughter] It is very difficult when the ratio between these two becomes very large. But let me propose—and if we can’t accept this I would have to go to Washington—1,200 for the International Commission and 3,200 for the Four-Power Commission.
Le Duc Tho: So we would now, for the final decision, we keep the International Commission personnel to 1,100 but the ratio will be three for the Joint Commission, that is to say the Joint Commission will have 3,300.
[Colonel Guay arrives with a message for Dr. Kissinger.]
Ambassador Sullivan: Washington says hold out for 2,000.
Dr. Kissinger: It says 5,000.
Le Duc Tho: Maybe, or it says reduce drastically the number then.
Dr. Kissinger: [Reads message] Can I take one minute? It is a different issue. It is just in case I have to give an answer.
Le Duc Tho: I agree.
Dr. Kissinger: It is a different problem.
Le Duc Tho: Not about the agreement.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, it is about the agreement, but on a different issue. But technical matters. It doesn’t affect . . .
Le Duc Tho: This is a final proposal, 3,300 and 1,100.
Dr. Kissinger: Let us consider that for a moment. And don’t appeal to Sullivan. I make the decision.
[Dr. Kissinger and Ambassador Sullivan go outside for ten minutes.]
Dr. Kissinger: Okay. This had nothing to do with . . . but I will discuss it with you later.
To show you what a great diplomat Ambassador Sullivan is—I won’t tell him the result. During our first two visits here I briefed the South Vietnamese. So Sullivan fell asleep while I was briefing them. [Page 1287] [Laughter] And it was very disconcerting to see his head go down on his chest and then go up. So I forgot what I was saying. So on this trip he is doing the briefing. So yesterday he fell asleep while he was briefing. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: So I think on this question of total number of personnel, already you proposed 3,200 and we proposed 3,300, and therefore the ICC you propose 1,200 and we propose 1,000.
Dr. Kissinger: We will accept 3,300 for the Four-Power Commission if you accept 1,200 for the International Commission.
Le Duc Tho: 1,150.
Dr. Kissinger: Let us settle at 1,200 and 3,300. The last 50 will be very short. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: So I propose seriously 1,150, to keep the ratio three to one.
Ambassador Sullivan: That doesn’t keep the ratio.
Minister Thach: Roughly.
Dr. Kissinger: That means 392½. Can we say 1,160?
Le Duc Tho: All right. To have a round figure.
Dr. Kissinger: 1,160 makes it 390 for each country.
Le Duc Tho: Yes.
Dr. Kissinger: All right.
Le Duc Tho: So we have solved a big question then.
Dr. Kissinger: When I have to explain to the press why it is 390 for each rather than 400 . . .
Le Duc Tho: Let us shift to another question.
Dr. Kissinger: All right. The next is the status of the Two-Party Commission.
Le Duc Tho: I think that regarding the Two-Party Joint Commission there has been a stipulation in the basic agreement to set up the Four-Party Joint Commission and the Two-Party Joint Commission. Therefore, I think that we should have a protocol on the Two-Party Joint Commission—just the principles—and leave to the two South Vietnamese to talk out the details.
Dr. Kissinger: We agree. Has Minister Thach seen this?
Minister Thach: Not yet. [Ambassador Sullivan hands him Tab C. Mr. Phuong translates into Vietnamese.]
Dr. Kissinger: We agree that we should just have the principle because otherwise we will delay the agreement.
Le Duc Tho: Let me propose the following. The first point I would like to raise is that the members of the two South Vietnamese parties should meet before the ceasefire just like the four parties should meet [Page 1288] before the ceasefire, to set up the Two-Party Joint Commission. Therefore I would propose after the initialing of the basic agreement the two South Vietnamese parties should meet. But pending that final agreement that the Vietnamese parties in the Four-Party Joint Commission should form the Two-Party Joint Commission, they will provisionally simultaneously carry out the task of the Four-Party Commission but at the same time the two South Vietnamese parties carry out the tasks of the Two-Party Joint Commission until it is to form such Two-Party Joint Commission. So it is more convenient what I propose.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree with the second part of what you say, that is, how the Vietnamese element of the Four-Party Commission should work until the Two-Party Commission is formed. That is a reasonable way of proceeding.
Now let me give you my frank opinion on the meeting of the Vietnamese parties between the initialing and the signing. I will speak to you openly. The procedures we have discussed yesterday are already going to be very difficult. But, as I told you yesterday, we are making already a big effort in this direction, and I think we can make progress. Now I think it is best if between the initialing and the signature there are not too many new elements introduced that could create excuses for delay and create new suspicions. And frankly, I do not see that the advantage of having those two sides meet before the signing is worth the disadvantage of the risk that either side may say something that will cause a delay or give an excuse for delaying. In fact I frankly think that between the initialing and the signing there should be the absolute minimum of contact between these two parties, in order to get the signing done. But I agree that immediately after the signing the two parties will meet. And I frankly do not even think the Four-Party Commission should meet before the signing. I think we should initial and then there should be nothing. Then there should be the signing, and then you and we can bring pressure on having things work smoothly. It is in our common interest. It is not an issue of principle.
Le Duc Tho: I agree with you. I think that after the ceasefire, 24 hours after the ceasefire, then the four parties should meet to discuss.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree.
Le Duc Tho: And the two South Vietnamese parties should meet to discuss, to set up the Two-Party Joint Commission.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree.
Le Duc Tho: But pending the setting up of the Two-Party Joint Commission, then the two South Vietnamese elements of the Four-Party Joint Commission should function as the Two-Party Joint Commission. Then the two South Vietnamese elements will simultaneously carry out the tasks of the Four-Party Joint Commission and the Two-Party [Page 1289] Joint Commission, and at the moment when the Four-Party Joint Commission completes its tasks then the two South Vietnamese parties will continue to function as the Two-Party Joint Commission. This is convenient. So we have solved this question.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree completely. And Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach will adapt the paragraphs we gave you to express this thought. We will not spend more time now.
Ambassador Sullivan: It just needs one more paragraph.
Dr. Kissinger: This is what we attempted to do, but we consider it settled and the Minister and the Ambassador . . .
Le Duc Tho: Another question—detention camps.
Dr. Kissinger: On my list I have fixing the ceasefire next. But I am prepared to discuss the detention camp problem also. On the ceasefire, the difference as I understand it—at least the theoretical difference—is that we are proposing that the units and the locations be designated, and that the ceasefire be established through the location of the units. On your side—to make our position clear—we do not care what designation you give this unit. It does not have to be your own designation. You can just say Unit A is in this location and we do not insist that you tell us what you call this division.
Your point of view, as I understand it, is to do it by area. But I believe there is no practical difference, because in order to determine the area you have to determine the location of the forces. So I think we will arrive at the same outcome. Isn’t that right?
Le Duc Tho: Let me explain to you how we conceive the question. In the agreement there is a stipulation on the definition of area of control. And in this area of control there is the location of the troops. Therefore we stand for the definition, the determination of the zone of control. Moreover at the conference on Laos in Geneva this is the way adopted at that conference. So it is more practical to do in this way. Moreover in the agreement we have the clear stipulation on this question to say that the definition of area of control and then the definition of the modalities of stationing. Therefore in my view with the stipulation in the agreement, so in the protocol we should put this sentence. And then we have just the sentence in the protocol, and then after the ceasefire the Four-Party Joint Commission will discuss this question and determine the zone of control. Here it is very difficult for us to discuss and to decide how the zone of control should be determined. I think that for military men they will have more practical discussions. I think that the military men will have more practical discussions than we. So if now Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach discuss to see where are the location of troops, where are the zone of control, they cannot do that. So let us agree on this principle only.[Page 1290]
Dr. Kissinger: I understand the Special Advisor’s basic point. And I agree with his thinking. We are not in a position here to determine the exact location. Therefore may I make this suggestion? First, there are two basic problems. One is how to handle units which are in direct contact with each other to prevent them from starting the war again. That is not disputed. There should be a meeting of commanders to make practical arrangements. Second, with respect to the question of how one goes about implementing the agreement, we can agree to repeating in the protocol the basic sense of the agreement. If you can agree to one sentence or two sentences that say: “In determining these areas the commanders will be guided by the stationing of troops and the location of forces,” something like that. This is in practice what will happen anyway, and then we just have a very simple paragraph.
Le Duc Tho: So I propose the following. In the protocol we will have a sentence reflecting the stipulation, the basic agreement, as I have just proposed. Then we will add another sentence that the Two-Party Joint Commission and the local commanders will discuss and will determine the areas controlled by each party and the modalities of stationing of troops in the spirit, in accordance with the stipulation mentioned in the agreement. The local commanders will help the Two-Party Joint Commission in carrying out this task and to facilitate the tasks of the Two-Party Joint Commission.
Dr. Kissinger: But not by moving their troops so they can see better what the terrain looks like. [laughter] But seriously, I can accept this if we can add one sentence that in making this determination they will be guided by the location of forces, disposition, etc. so that they have some criteria. How else are they going to do it?
Le Duc Tho: They will have to carry out the stipulation of the agreement. First, to determine the areas of control, second to decide the modalities for the stationing of troops.
Dr. Kissinger: But in that case we don’t need a protocol. I agree with that. I just want to add one sentence—rather than our long paragraph—that in making this determination they will be guided by the strength, location and the deployment of forces.
Le Duc Tho: So I propose that the Two-Party Joint Commission will, together with the local commanders, discuss, determine the criteria for the determination of zone of control and modalities of stationing. This is the spirit of the agreement.
Dr. Kissinger: The trouble is, if you don’t give them some criteria they will still be arguing in 1976. And in fact I wanted to propose writing into the agreement the provision that our next Presidential election should be conducted without an offensive in Vietnam. We are so used to it now. [Tho laughs][Page 1291]
Le Duc Tho: I think that we can’t determine the criteria here. I think that military men and the Two-Party Joint Commission will determine these criteria to be more appropriate. They have to discuss how to determine the area of control. They have to discuss and determine the modalities of stationing.
Dr. Kissinger: But military men have the tendency of discussing areas of control by seizing it. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: No, after the ceasefire that should stop!
Dr. Kissinger: I will have to consider this.
Le Duc Tho: Now let us shift to another question then.
Dr. Kissinger: All right—detention?
Le Duc Tho: Yes. Ambassador Sullivan told Minister Thach and agreed with him that there should be the control by the International Commission of the detention camps under Article 8(a) and 8(c). I think this is correct and proper, but afterward Ambassador Sullivan retract from that and . . .
Dr. Kissinger: Probably blaming me.
Le Duc Tho: And said there should be control of the detention camps from which the prisoners will be returned. So what is your view now, Mr. Advisor? I think this is the question of the return of the prisoners but also it involves some humanitarian questions too. Moreover this is applied to all the parties.
Dr. Kissinger: Can the Special Advisor explain to me just what does he mean by this “control?” The agreement provides only for the return of prisoners in a certain way. So this aspect of it clearly should be put under international control.
Le Duc Tho: This is what we did under the 1954 Geneva Agreement. We allowed the commission to inspect—[Mr. Phuong corrects the translation]—inspect, [not control,] the detention camps of the two parties. And in the past you repeatedly asked for the inspection of the American prisoners’ camps in North Vietnam.
Dr. Kissinger: But I don’t remember that we were extremely successful.
Le Duc Tho: Now we will put it to success, that.
Dr. Kissinger: I am reading Chapter VI again. I forget who wrote this chapter up. It is longer than all the rest of the agreement. Mr. Loi?
Le Duc Tho: Mr. Loi? [Laughing]
Ambassador Sullivan: As a foundation for his statue.
Le Duc Tho: As now you refer to Chapter VI, then I should open the agreement again because I don’t remember it! Which is the purpose of Chapter VI? What chapter is it?
Dr. Kissinger: Well, our view is that you are raising two different issues. During the war we asked for the inspection of prisoner camps [Page 1292] to see whether the provisions of the Geneva Conventions were fulfilled. And so we were not asking for any new obligation. Now we believe that the control provisions of this agreement apply only to the obligations that exist under the agreement. The obligations of this agreement under paragraph 8(a), 8(b) and 8(c), are for the release of certain categories of prisoners. And therefore we believe that this aspect of it, namely the return of prisoners, should be under international control. And under, of course, the control of the other organs. Therefore we believe that the control provisions should be in terms of the requirements and the obligations of the agreement, and that is what we are trying to accomplish.
Le Duc Tho: So I think that the tasks of control and supervision by the International Commission is mentioned in the agreement regarding 8(a) and 8(c). Therefore I agree with you that they will control the place of detention from where the prisoners would be returned. But I would like to add another sentence, the following paragraph.
Dr. Kissinger: Paragraph?
Le Duc Tho: Sentence. “The Red Cross of the four member countries of the International Commission and the Red Cross of the four parties participating in the Paris Conference will send joint teams to inspect all places of detention to help improving the living of its captured and detained people.”
Dr. Kissinger: This is a new problem for us because we had not previously been aware of your enthusiasm for the Red Cross. [Tho and Thach smile.]
Le Duc Tho: So what is your view? I think that if the Red Cross people do this task it is proper.
Minister Thach: Ambassador Sullivan told me yesterday that it is the Red Cross which does this task. It is more proper.
Ambassador Sullivan: No, what I said yesterday was that the prisoner of war camps . . .
Dr. Kissinger: We are grounding him.
Ambassador Sullivan: The prisoner of war camps that contain the persons under Article 8(a) should be inspected both in North and South Vietnam by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which had this task under the Geneva Conventions, which we had both signed. They are currently doing this in South Vietnam. It has nothing to do with this agreement.
Le Duc Tho: Now for convenience purposes, I propose now the Red Cross of the four members of the International Commission will inspect the detention camps, but we delete the rest of the parties participating in the Paris Conference. It is more suitable, for humanitarian purposes, and only during the period of the return, the 60 days or 90 days.[Page 1293]
Dr. Kissinger: I knew he would reopen 8(c). [Laughter] He has been under such great self-control.
Le Duc Tho: If we propose the Red Cross, then it is humanitarian.
Dr. Kissinger: Let me state my point of view. I have great sympathy for your objectives. I think that the conditions in prisons should be humanitarian. We have no interest in anything else, and we don’t want to give the impression that we are encouraging anything else. So, frankly, I agree with your objective. But now we have a problem of concluding the agreement. And this in fact introduces a new consideration and a new obligation that is not part of the original agreement. And we have in our protocol a phrase, which we support, that prisoners should be treated humanely in accordance with Article 3, I think, of the Geneva Convention on War Victims. We have the phrase “captured and detained Vietnamese personnel shall be given humanitarian treatment in accordance with Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1945 on the Protection of War Victims.” And that reflects our strong conviction.
Le Duc Tho: Yes, there is such a sentence in the protocol, but for the implementation of this provision I think that inspection by the Red Cross of the member countries of the International Control Commission is nothing difficult.
Dr. Kissinger: But, you see, it will raise a very profound issue of sovereignty to put something that is not in the agreement under an international inspection. That is my concern. I am really concerned about speeding the signature. I am not concerned with your objective. Ambassador Sullivan and I have discussed this. Ambassador Sullivan and I agree with your objective. We want to make sure that the prisoners are treated in a humanitarian fashion, so you should not misunderstand our concern.
Le Duc Tho: In the Korean War they have done the same thing. The Red Cross of the two parties inspected detention camps. In 1954 we did the same with the French and we inspected the detention camps too.
Dr. Kissinger: I understand your objective and we are talking about only one sentence now. Can we keep it until tomorrow morning? [Tho nods yes] And we will see whether we can make some proposal.
And that means that tomorrow morning we need one sentence on ceasefire and one sentence on this. But now, we have not yet discussed the POW protocol.
Le Duc Tho: Right.
Dr. Kissinger: And it is really one of the greatest importance to us. It is very difficult for me to return to the President and say with respect to the bombing, for example, without being sure that there are no issues of principle left.[Page 1294]
Le Duc Tho: Which principle then?
Dr. Kissinger: I just want to make sure whether it is possible after our meeting this afternoon, while the language experts meet, whether Ambassador Sullivan and Mr. Thach couldn’t meet to go over the text to make sure there are no major unresolved issues. The drafting we can leave in detail until later on the prisoner one.
Le Duc Tho: I think that there is no big question of principle here, because in the agreement there is the provision 8(a) and the President of the United States’ statement that all American prisoners should be returned. We will fulfill this. And American military and civilian prisoners are not linked at all to Vietnamese political, Vietnamese civilian detainees. This is a great principle. So now, for the return, we will respect the timing, the period. All prisoners will be returned.
Dr. Kissinger: But couldn’t the two just review the protocol after the meeting this afternoon?
Le Duc Tho: I agree.
Dr. Kissinger: And I will think overnight on seeing whether we can make some suggestion on your point of concern with respect to conditions in the camps. Is the Special Advisor going anywhere? [Le Duc Tho was putting away his papers.]
Le Duc Tho: So we have finished two questions now.
Dr. Kissinger: No, I have one more.
Le Duc Tho: We solved the question of the total strength of the ICC, of the joint commission. As to the details Ambassador Sullivan and Thach can discuss. Second, we have solved the question of the Two-Party Commission. Now only remains the question of the control area and then the Red Cross question. And then on the protocol on prisoners, Ambassador Sullivan and Thach will confer. I have stated to you the big principle regarding the prisoners. I propose now to adjourn to have lunch.
Dr. Kissinger: All right.
Le Duc Tho: And after lunch you still owe me on the healing of the wounds of war.
Dr. Kissinger: That is right, and one more on the protocol on expenditures.
Le Duc Tho: We will base ourselves on the agreement.
Dr. Kissinger: There is nothing in the agreement. [Tho laughs]
Thach: Have you read the protocol on Laos regarding this question? We worked it out.
Dr. Kissinger: I have one consolation. My successor eight years from now will have to meet with the Special Advisor and try to understand what we agreed to here. [Laughter] And since we change and Mr. Thach goes on forever, I pity my successor.[Page 1295]
What is our concrete proposal on the expenditure?
Ambassador Sullivan: Our proposal is that the commission shall have the right to make up the budget and that the four parties will contribute in accordance with certain shares and the commission members will have a certain share. Their proposal is that the four parties determine the budget—or, in short, that Hanoi has a veto.
Dr. Kissinger: I think our proposal is logical, reasonable, and just. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: And you have made a great effort. [Laughter]
Dr. Kissinger: In accordance with objective reality. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: So I will propose a little break now and after that we will exchange views.
[There was a luncheon break at 1:22. A meal (including caviar) was served to the U.S. side in the meeting room, while the DRV side repaired upstairs. Le Duc Tho came down alone about 10 minutes before the meeting resumed and held a private session with Dr. Kissinger.]
[At 2:50 p.m. the North Vietnamese returned to the meeting room, along with a photographer, who took several still photos of the group around the table. Then cameras were set up and a film was made for about 5 minutes.]
Dr. Kissinger: You notice how my assistants are pushing themselves in front of me? Somebody better get control of the Minister though. [Laughter] He is a great television star.
Le Duc Tho: So it is the first time we have photographer at the meeting together.
Dr. Kissinger: That’s right.
Le Duc Tho: So it is an enduring evidence of our progress.
Dr. Kissinger: That is correct.
Le Duc Tho: So I am certain that with our effort tomorrow you will be able to leave.
Dr. Kissinger: I will leave and I am certain that we can keep to the way agreed in the schedule. There can be no unexpected development.
Le Duc Tho: Then I can say that I provisionally believe you. [Laughter]
Dr. Kissinger: I hope there will be no unilateral interpretations before the signing.
Le Duc Tho: Yes, after we have initialed the agreement then we should interpret the agreement.
Dr. Kissinger: I would wait until after the signing. And we will have to do some briefing, but I will keep it very restrained.[Page 1296]
Ambassador Sullivan: I want you to be sure to send me a copy of the picture when I am shaking my finger at you. I don’t think you will publish that. [Laughter]
Xuan Thuy: We have not begun filming when you finger him.
Ambassador Sullivan: Yes, just a flashlight—no film yet. It is already destroyed. That is self-destruction. That is part of the Article on dismantlement.
Dr. Kissinger: I hope you notice—one of my staff members pointed out—how we have already started the dismantlement of the Danang Air Base.
Le Duc Tho: I heard about that.
Dr. Kissinger: It was a joint operation.
Le Duc Tho: And they have caused rather big losses at Danang.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, they are always most accurate when they hit the wrong target. If we had aimed for the French Embassy it would have taken us three weeks to get it.
Le Duc Tho: But I think that the pilot, sometimes they are mistaken in targeting.
Dr. Kissinger: Sometimes there is a mistake and sometimes a plane gets hit and then it drops its bombs so that it can fly faster. And that is I think how the accidents happen. [Tho nods] But about the Danang Air Base I have no explanation.
Ambassador Sullivan: Article 5.
Dr. Kissinger: That’s where they started from as far as I know.
Le Duc Tho: I thought that they did it purposefully.
Dr. Kissinger: You never make allowance for incompetence. I don’t know what they were aiming at, do you? [to Sullivan]
Xuan Thuy: But has the investigation come to findings?
Dr. Kissinger: Maybe, but I haven’t seen it because I haven’t been back in Washington. I will tell you on the 23rd. It will be the first item on the agenda.
Le Duc Tho: I read about that in the press.
And after our meeting, then the experts will meet here.
Dr. Kissinger: The language experts will meet here. We have a shortage of interpreters, so if Minister Thach and Sullivan maybe you could go over to the other place together. That might be the best solution.
Le Duc Tho: We have very few English interpreters of the English language.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, if Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach go to the other place then we can handle the translation. And that is what they should do.[Page 1297]
Minister Thach: You will be going to St Nom?
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, and then Rodman, Lord and Engel will stay here. That leaves me without any assistants. [Camera crews start working.] Is this going to be a documentary? Is this black and white, or color?
Le Duc Tho: Color.
[Photographers finished at 3:00 p.m.]
Le Duc Tho: Now, please let us shift to the expenditures of the International Commission.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes.
Le Duc Tho: Please express your views.
Dr. Kissinger: Our view, without going into technicalities, is that the International Commission should have the right to set its own budget and that it should not be dependent on the veto of any one of the parties, because any one of the parties could abolish the Commission by refusing to approve its budget.
Le Duc Tho: Under Article 18(h) of the agreement . . .
Dr. Kissinger: [Laughs] I knew it.
Le Duc Tho: [Reading] “The four parties agree immediately on the organization, means of activity and expenditures of the International Commission.” Because in my mind if now the International Commission decide on its budget and then all the parties have to afford money to fulfill this budget, then that will not do.
Dr. Kissinger: It’s a good form of economic aid for Hungary. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: No, in my view I think that the International Commission will decide its budget but submit this budget to the four parties, and the four parties will approve the budget, and it is up to the Commission to expend the money in the budget.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but what if the four parties don’t approve the budget?
Le Duc Tho: I think then in the common interest the four parties have to accept the budget. The question is only whether the budget is too much or too little only. Because it will be very difficult if the spender decides the amount to be spent, and if the contributor have to afford the amount decided by the spender.
Dr. Kissinger: But the members of the International Control Commission have to contribute part of the expense themselves.
Le Duc Tho: But they will have only to contribute 2% only.
Dr. Kissinger: But on the other hand it is very difficult to maintain that the Commission has any independent status if any member can veto its budget—if any of the parties that it is supposed to control can veto its budget.[Page 1298]
Le Duc Tho: But the ICC will discuss and decide on its budget. But the contributors will have to decide on whether they can give the contribution. It cannot do if the International Commission will spend any amount it likes. And I think that this question has been decided in the agreement already. We would have to implement it. But as to how to facilitate the work of the Commission, we can agree with you on the means of activity of the commission. As to the budget we feel it difficult to agree with you.
Dr. Kissinger: Let me make the following proposal: that in case of a disagreement between the Commission and the parties about the budget, the old budget continues. We will agree on the first budget—the four parties. And if your concern is that then the next year the Commission asks for too much, then we say there is a disagreement and the old budget continues until there is an agreement.
Le Duc Tho: Yes, so we will follow the old budget that has been agreed to by the four parties.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes.
Le Duc Tho: All right. Agreed.
Dr. Kissinger: Now, Mr. Special Advisor, how will we get the first budget—in a spirit of conciliation and good will?
Le Duc Tho: I think that the four parties have to agree on the budget.
Dr. Kissinger: Well then, let’s do that next week.
Le Duc Tho: Because it reflects the serious implementation of the agreement.
Dr. Kissinger: I think that is reasonable.
Le Duc Tho: I agree with you.
Dr. Kissinger: I am beginning to enjoy dealing with the Special Advisor. Just when I am getting used to him we sign the agreement. It is almost not worth it.
Le Duc Tho: So now of the five points we have to resolve, we have resolved three today. So I propose that we will finish the two tomorrow.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree.
Le Duc Tho: So now regarding the healing of the war wounds. I have expressed my views on this question at length in October. You have known our views. I think that it is an obligation of the United States to reconstruct our economy and to rehabilitate our economy after the war. I agree with you that this is not a protocol attached to the agreement, but it is something between us two independently of the agreement and this will reflect the relationship we have after the war. So I would like to propose now we will have a provisional bilateral protocol not attached to the agreement. And when you visit Hanoi we will discuss this in detail and we will come to a concrete agreement. [Page 1299] I think that this protocol now will include only a number of principles. We have drafted this protocol mentioning a number of principles. I would like to hear your views.
Dr. Kissinger: Can I see the protocol?
Ambassador Sullivan: Yes, I have it.
Dr. Kissinger: Oh, that is the one. I thought you had a new one.
Le Duc Tho: No, we gave you one.
Dr. Kissinger: But that had a sum in it.
Le Duc Tho: A new one, which supersedes the old one in December. Only basic principles. [Dr. Kissinger reads Tab D, DRV draft of January 10.]
Dr. Kissinger: You consider $5 billion a principle? [Tho laughs]
Le Duc Tho: I will discuss it with you. Previously we agreed on the rough amount of $3 billion, but the recent bombings created a great deal of material and human losses. We can say that the losses caused at that time was one-third of the damages caused since the resumption of the bombing. This is our proposal and we will discuss it. And I think that the $5 billion amount is something reasonable.
Dr. Kissinger: And logical. [Tho laughs] You should try that before a Congressional committee sometimes. But let me explain our difficulties. First, just looking through this protocol. Your saying that something is not a protocol attached to the agreement does not necessarily make it so. Where you say “in implementing Article 21, Chapter VIII, of the Agreement,” that clearly makes it part of it. I mean, I just give you as an example. Now Article 1, “the contribution by the Government of the United States is made without conditions attached,” that is all right. But “without repayment,” that is technically impossible, although we can arrange the payment in such a way that it has no very immediate consequence. It is very difficult to put into an agreement but in practice this can be handled.
Now Article 2, for the reasons we gave you, is impossible.
Article 3, “the contribution of the government is used for the reconstruction of installations damaged during”—we can say “for the economic development of Vietnam.” And even the word “reconstruction.”
Article 4, the mechanics of how we should contribute this, this is really something we should discuss. We have some ideas on this subject. And we are not sure that this is necessarily the best way of doing it. This we should discuss. I may give you a paper tomorrow of a possible approach to it.
Article 5 in principle is agreeable. Article 6 we have no trouble with.
Now the question is how do you visualize getting this signed? Who is supposed to sign it, and when?[Page 1300]
Le Duc Tho: I think that since the two Foreign Ministers will be available here, they will sign privately—separately. They will sign separately from the signing of the agreement. Separately between them.
Dr. Kissinger: For the reasons we gave you, and frankly for availability of Congressional . . . anything we do will have to be voted by Congress. Now Congress in our judgment will not vote anything for what looks like reparations. But we are quite sure it will be prepared to vote some considerable sums for reconstruction, if it is in the context of our new relationship.
Now as I told you yesterday it is in our own interest that our postwar relationship be done on a positive basis, and we realize that this reconstruction program is an important element in it, a key element in it. So in practice you will not have any major difficulties with it—any difficulties with it. The problem is how best to proceed. I would rather give you a statement, which is not signed, of our intentions in this respect, in the form of an understanding. Because this will have absolutely no legal force even if we were to sign it.
Le Duc Tho: We think that since we have concluded the agreement and in the agreement there is a provision regarding the healing of the wounds of war in the DRV, therefore I think that we both here should preliminarily agree on some principles of this question, and then afterwards we will discuss them in detail. And then when I raise this question, I put it in the framework of the normalization of the relationship between the DRV and the US. Moreover, the reconstruction of North Vietnam and the healing of war wounds in the DRV is thought about, is put in this framework. And even when the war is still going on, the war is not ended yet, there are many countries which are not socialistic countries and they have collected money up to hundreds of millions to help us without repayment at all. And moreover, in our previous conversations on many occasions, you told me that the U.S. would contribute roughly $3 billion without repayment. I think this is one of your responsibilities after ten years of war. And when I put in the draft protocol the words “without repayment,” I only repeat your words. And the amount you suggest to me is roughly $3 billion. Now I speak this amount because of the recent damages, losses, and we can discuss—the recent bombing.
Dr. Kissinger: $2 billion worth? I did not know it was that effective.
Le Duc Tho: Because if you count the losses, the human beings that were killed or wounded, then there was no amount that can heal this.
Dr. Kissinger: We have several problems here. I told you from the beginning I did not even want a reference to it in the agreement. The Secretary of State cannot sign such a protocol on the same day and in the same context that he is signing an agreement to end the war.[Page 1301]
Le Duc Tho: If now you disagree to such a document, then what form of agreement would you suggest and when would it be signed?
Dr. Kissinger: What I would suggest is: I would give you a statement tomorrow of an understanding of what we intend to do. I am trying to proceed practically, so that you can actually get the money. What would work best with the Congress is if I give you an understanding tomorrow. Then when I am in Hanoi, set up an economic commission. If then that economic commission within a very short time makes a specific recommendation of a sum which we could privately have an understanding on, then you would have a very good chance of an enthusiastic support. And we have no interest here in cheating you, because we know how much in our relationship depends on it and it is in our own interest. But as a practical matter this is the best way to proceed.
Le Duc Tho: Now the war in Vietnam was waged over ten years, and I think that if now the war is ended you have some responsibility to contribute to the reconstruction of the DRV. I think it is some natural responsibility of yours, because even countries not waging this war have contributed rather considerable sums to help Vietnam, but now the war in Vietnam has lasted over ten years causing so many destructions and damages to our country. Therefore I think that it is an obligation of yours to contribute to the rehabilitation of North Vietnam. So your statement does not satisfy me at all. Once you referred this question to me by the end of 1971, and recently you referred to it once again. And the paper I gave you just mentioned a number of principles only. As to the specific amount I propose to you, you once again suggest to me a concrete amount. But this amount I put in the paper for discussion, for the purpose of discussion.
As to the document, if you disagree to that then we can discuss it and we should have some official paper, some kind of official paper mentioning the principle and then we will discuss the principle later. And I put this question in the framework of our new relationship; in this spirit of thinking about our future relationship I have raised this question.
Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Advisor, there is no question that we will contribute to your economic reconstruction. There is also no doubt in my mind that within a very short time we will be the largest contributor to your reconstruction. But this is a difficult psychological problem for us as well. We don’t disagree with you as to the outcome. But our people have been fighting the war. We still have prisoners in your country. It would not be understood if we make a formal obligation as part of a settlement to end the war.
Le Duc Tho: Now you have misunderstood me. I do not want it to be a part of the agreement at all.[Page 1302]
Dr. Kissinger: No, I understand, but if it is signed by the Secretary of State on the same day that he is signing the agreement to end the war and on a trip that he has made specifically to sign that agreement, that distinction would never be understood. And since our Congress has to vote this money we have to find procedures which make it most probable. Now what I would like to do is to give you tomorrow a statement of our intentions, a written statement of our intentions.
Le Duc Tho: If it is agreed to a protocol, can we have an exchange of notes between us both, both of us?
Dr. Kissinger: Let me draft a statement and then see in what form we use it. But it is really in your interest. First, no matter what we put in such a statement, even if we sign this protocol—you ask any American expert you have—if we don’t want to do it we can prevent the Congress from passing it. But we wouldn’t have to try to prevent them. They would do it automatically. But I am telling you we want to do something. I have told you many times that the best guarantee for this agreement is an improvement in our relations. The best way to turn away from war is to reconstruct the countries of Indochina—although I understand some of your neighbors think you are going to be too efficient in that. So we have every intention of doing something substantial. It is our firm intention, and now the question is how we can most efficiently implement it. And in order to implement it most efficiently it is important to create the best possible atmosphere for it in America. And let me consider tonight how to do it and I will make a specific proposal to you.
Le Duc Tho: I agree to that but let me ask you a few words before we adjourn.
Dr. Kissinger: Please.
Le Duc Tho: We envisage your responsibility to heal the wounds of war in our country after over ten years of war is an important question, and I have expressed my views on that subject on many occasions already. The implementation of the carrying out of this question will be important to the implementation of the agreement and to our future relationship.
Dr. Kissinger: I understand.
Le Duc Tho: Therefore I think that for the time being if we can’t make a protocol on that question then at least we should have some exchange of notes reflecting the principles of this question. It is the least we should have. I will pay attention to what I have told you.
Dr. Kissinger: I understand what you are saying, Mr. Special Advisor.
Le Duc Tho: And I would like to add also that on the basis of this exchange of notes then we will discuss it in detail when you go to [Page 1303] Hanoi. And on the basis of this note too, on the basis of these principles mentioned in this note, we will prepare for everything to be discussed when you go there. And after we have agreed on many other questions then we can come to an agreement.
Dr. Kissinger: Let me first say we have no difficulty with your basic principle. We recognize the close relationship between the efforts of reconstruction and the future stability of Indochina. And it is our intention, I can repeat again very seriously, to make a major effort. But you should pay attention to the framework of peace within which this is conducted, that makes it important for us to prepare our public opinion correctly. And it is with this in mind that I will try to phrase and put before you a document. We can then decide whether to make it an exchange of notes or how to handle it. I don’t exclude an exchange of messages; that is possible if we phrase it properly.
Le Duc Tho: So we will discuss it tomorrow.
Dr. Kissinger: Good.
Le Duc Tho: And on the basis of these principles . . .
Dr. Kissinger: But not on the sum. No sum can be mentioned.
Le Duc Tho: And on the basis of your agreement in October then we will discuss in detail in Hanoi.
Dr. Kissinger: All right.
Le Duc Tho: As you said to me on that question by the end of 1971 and once again you said it in this year, 1972, and on the basis of these assertions we consider it as an element of our negotiations here. So whatever you will put in the paper it is something significant. And it is an exchange of notes, I understand that.
Dr. Kissinger: But I have always said that it had to be separated from the agreement itself and in more than just a technical way. And you will see, when you come to understand us better, that this is done in your interest as much as in ours. We would like to be in a position when we present this agreement to the Congress not to have to discuss the specific issue of economic assistance. But to make all the preparations to implement the economic assistance. We know you consider it an integral element, and we know how much depends on it. And you will have no problem with us on the practice of it. We are really now talking about the form. We will be very serious about it.
Le Duc Tho: As to the procedure in your Congress of how you will deal with it practically, it is another matter. Here I would like to say that we want in some form an exchange of notes, and in this note there will be mentioned the principles of this question as I have told you and some specific amount that you have mentioned to me. On the basis of this we will carry out the question. But moreover we will have to discuss this question when you visit Hanoi and then we will discuss [Page 1304] this question in detail and how to proceed. Because without this note of principle and specific amount then how we should prepare to implement this?
Dr. Kissinger: All right, let me consider this and find some way of meeting some of your concerns. But you please keep in mind that the end result we are agreed upon; it is really a question of how to do it.
Le Duc Tho: Yes, I agree then. If you agree to these principles, then the simplest way to do is to have an exchange of notes and to record what we have agreed to and on the basis of this note we will proceed.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, let me think about how to do this because this is something we will have to testify to when we ask for the money.
Le Duc Tho: And I take note that you said you would pay very great attention to this question.
Dr. Kissinger: I will pay very great attention.
Le Duc Tho: And even so, the simplest way is to have some exchange of notes because without it there is no evidence of your serious intention.
Dr. Kissinger: Well, this is what you think, but it is important how we present things to Congress. Because things we do by executive action have no problem with formality, but things that have Congressional action attached to them will involve a great deal of testimony and therefore we have to think about how to do it in a very concrete way. And therefore we will make specific proposals to you. But you have been very certain that we are paying great attention to what you are saying.
Le Duc Tho: You are always referring to the American Congress. But we have discussed this question as early as October 1971 and you told me very concretely in this question and then you referred to it again in October 1972, and I have explained to you on many occasions that this question is related to many important questions in the process of our negotiations of the agreement, and I think that the best way to do is to have a note from you and on the basis of this note we will have further proceedings.
Dr. Kissinger: Let us look at the note tomorrow. There is no sense to discuss it now theoretically. It is one of the few questions where we agree. I don’t deny what I said to you in October. I maintain it.
Le Duc Tho: Tomorrow we will discuss it, but before that I would like to remind you that you should pay great attention to this question. And once we have completed the agreement, once we will open up a new period in your relationship, this is the one question which will evidence whether really we have a new relationship or not.
Dr. Kissinger: I agree completely.
Le Duc Tho: I propose now we adjourn and meet again tomorrow.[Page 1305]
Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Advisor, there are many things you know better than I do, but handling the American Congress, I don’t think your training has prepared you before. It cannot be done by guerrilla methods. [Vietnamese laugh]
Le Duc Tho: I am always thinking that you have already had something in mind on this question. The American Congress should have already something in their mind on this question.
Dr. Kissinger: The American Congress never has anything in its mind, and our problem is not to put anything in their mind until we are ready or they will give us the wrong answer. Study sometime the complicated maneuvers that were needed to get the Marshall Plan, and the Marshall Plan was with European allies. But let me draft a note tonight and show it to you tomorrow. Maybe you will be delighted with it. [Tho laughs] And I am certain in any event that of all the provisions of this agreement—this is not a provision of the agreement—this will certainly be in full operation within several months in a very satisfactory way and this will present us no difficulty—if you have a minimum of confidence and let us manage it. This is the easiest part of the agreement to implement if we do it the right way, and the hardest if we do it the wrong way. There is no problem with it if you let us do it our way. I should make clear it is not the easiest part of the agreement—the easiest part of the relationship.
Le Duc Tho: No, it is not correct to consider it as part of the agreement; if so we would have put it as a protocol, but we put it in the framework of the relationship. Therefore I would propose to put it as a note between us.
Dr. Kissinger: I think I understand the Special Advisor.
Le Duc Tho: At least a note. Tomorrow we may conclude our negotiations. But if we leave this question also I am very dissatisfied.
Dr. Kissinger: I wouldn’t want to have the Special Advisor dissatisfied. There is no telling what he or the Minister would say on television. [Tho and Xuan Thuy laugh] But Mr. Special Advisor, you must have on some questions a minimum of confidence. And let us discuss it again tomorrow. I repeat to you, it is a question that will be settled satisfactorily as our relationship develops. It will be the first item on our agenda.
Le Duc Tho: But if we can reach what I have just said it is also the first step of our good relationship.
Dr. Kissinger: I think I have understood the Special Advisor.
Le Duc Tho: At what time shall we meet again?
Dr. Kissinger: May I suggest perhaps 9:30, just in case there are any problems? And then we discuss this issue, whatever emerges from the language discussion, and we have to look at the Preamble and [Page 1306] Article 23 just to be absolutely sure we have it right in the agreement. And the two issues in the protocols. The schedule, just to review it.
Le Duc Tho: Then in the initialing and the official signature.
Dr. Kissinger: We will do as we discussed, on the 23rd initialing, official signature on the 27th.
Le Duc Tho: So we have agreed. But tomorrow we will repeat everything again to be certain that the agreement will be signed by two parties and by four parties, one in the morning, one in the afternoon. We will repeat everything to be sure.
Dr. Kissinger: What I find so moving is that after four years of contact the Special Advisor has total confidence in me.
Le Duc Tho: And we also have to discuss how the Kleber session will be wound up.
Dr. Kissinger: Yes, and for the Minister we will produce all our Ambassadors whom he destroyed, with their medical advisors. We will wheel them in in front of the Minister.
Le Duc Tho: Because after the initialing and after the signature of the agreement you should discuss how the Paris conference should be wound up. Minister Xuan Thuy said we should have a meeting here and all Ambassadors should be present, and then we will be prepared to wind up.
Dr. Kissinger: That would be a moving confrontation. The Conference would go on forever because then they will never agree to wind it up. They have never agreed on anything else.
May I suggest one other thing? Perhaps the experts should also come to our place tomorrow. We have the extra room so that we could shift back and forth quickly. So everybody comes.
Le Duc Tho: All right.
Dr. Kissinger: I think perhaps on Kleber, that is a good idea. We will wind it up sometime shortly after the signing. [Xuan Thuy laughs]
Ambassador Sullivan: Maybe we can blow up the building. Public property.
Le Duc Tho: But how to wind up.
Ambassador Sullivan: Saboteurs.
Le Duc Tho: And the Ambassador and Mr. Thach should also discuss how to inform the member countries of the International Commission when they will be present on the spot.
Dr. Kissinger: Now as to transportation you will go separately.
Le Duc Tho: Separately.
Dr. Kissinger: And have you agreed whether you will both smile or you will both look serious?[Page 1307]
Ambassador Sullivan: There is no peace out there.
Dr. Kissinger: I am going to leave Mr. Lord and Mr. Engel. I will take Mr. Rodman with me.
[The meeting ended at 4:15.]
- 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 108 Avenue du Général Leclerc in Gif-sur-Yvette. All brackets are in the original. The tabs are attached but not printed.↩