48. 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
  • Luu Van Loi, Delegation Member
  • Trinh Ngoc Thai, Delegation Member
  • Pham The Dong, Notetaker
  • Nguyen Dinh Phuong, Interpreter
  • Two other Delegation Members
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Ambassador William H. Sullivan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
  • George H. Aldrich, Deputy Legal Adviser, Department of State
  • Minister Heyward Isham, Acting Chief of US Delegation to Paris Conference on Vietnam
  • Winston Lord, NSC Staff
  • John D. Negroponte, NSC Staff
  • David A. Engel, NSC Staff, Interpreter
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff
  • Miss Irene G. Derus, Notetaker

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, you make me turn left as I come in the door. I was thinking of turning right and going all the way around the room.

[Page 1344]

I changed a few pages in your Vietnamese text last night, Mr. Special Adviser, but it only concerned North Vietnamese troops. You won’t notice it until you get back home. [Laughter]

We have a long agenda of matters to discuss today, Mr. Special Adviser. We have kept our schedule scrupulously and we will of course attempt to do so today. However, before we get into the rest of the schedule and the other outstanding items, I have been instructed to raise the issue of the place and time of the return of the prisoners. I wonder whether you have that information, the place and method of the return of our prisoners, whether you have that information available.

Le Duc Tho: Yes, I will answer you.

Dr. Kissinger: Has everybody noticed the tie of the Minister? [Tho looks over at Minister Xuan Thuy, sees that he is wearing the red and blue regimental tie Dr. Kissinger gave him on October 9, and laughs.] The first time I saw the Minister with a wide tie. [Laughter]

Xuan Thuy: So this evidences that something new happens today.

Dr. Kissinger: That is right.

Le Duc Tho: Today in order to meet your requirements regarding the prisoners, probably I think my answer today will satisfy you completely. I will say that American prisoners will be returned in Hanoi; prisoners captured in North Vietnam will be returned in Hanoi. US medical service airplanes from the US will come to Hanoi to take them. Medical service, military medical service.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, medical evacuation planes.

[Page 1345]

Le Duc Tho: So, in a word, American hospital or medical evacuation planes will come to Hanoi to take over the American prisoners in Hanoi.

Dr. Kissinger: And how about those captured in Laos and South Vietnam?

Le Duc Tho: For the prisoners in Laos, maybe I will discuss with our friends but maybe they will return to you in Hanoi, too.

Dr. Kissinger: Just a little stretch of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. [Tho laughs] And South Vietnam?

Le Duc Tho: As to the prisoners captured in South Vietnam, a number of them may be returned in Hanoi. As to the remaining, we will discuss with the PRG to see whether they will be returned to you in South Vietnam or in Hanoi, to be convenient to you, because a number of them are far in the South. But these questions are easy to solve.

Dr. Kissinger: We haven’t had an easy question yet; we aren’t going to start this late! I think this is a satisfactory answer. And will you give us a schedule?

Le Duc Tho: After the ceasefire the two parties will discuss in details. In stages.

Dr. Kissinger: All right. We will give you a schedule of our withdrawals and you will give us a schedule of the prisoners.

Le Duc Tho: All right, Mr. Special Adviser. So we will discuss and agree upon schedule for the withdrawal of US troops, for the release and return of American prisoners, for the return and release of Vietnamese military prisoners.

Dr. Kissinger: Good. That takes care of that problem.

Le Duc Tho: But you are still owing me a problem.

Dr. Kissinger: 5 and 8(c). [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: Article 8(c) will be following you for a long time after the ceasefire!

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, I suspect I know what the problem is—the economic reconstruction. [Tho nods “yes” and laughs.] All the other issues I have I think can be settled very quickly, and then we can spend the rest of the time on the economic issue, if you agree. I think we can dispose of all other issues in less than an hour and then we have two hours to debate the economic problem.

Le Duc Tho: [Laughing] Mr. Adviser, I would like to discuss with you the economic question first because the other questions will be quickly settled.

Dr. Kissinger: [Laughing] That is exactly why I wanted to discuss it last. And that is also in conformity with our principle that the economic question will be settled after the Agreement is signed.

[Page 1346]

Le Duc Tho: We are dealing here with a number of principles first, because afterwards we have to deal with these questions in more detail.

Dr. Kissinger: On the economic problem?

Le Duc Tho: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: Oh, I agree and there is no problem about discussing it in principle. But there are a number of minor problems in connection with understandings and schedule and so forth, which I thought we should handle first and then spend the whole rest of the time on the economic note.

Le Duc Tho: I agree with you.

Dr. Kissinger: Good.

Le Duc Tho: It is a show of good will. [Laughter]

Dr. Kissinger: All right, Mr. Special Adviser, should I raise the issues that I have on my list, or how shall we proceed?

Le Duc Tho: Before you left the other day, there were four questions left that you raised to me. These four questions are, first, the healing of the war wounds; second, the convening of the International Guarantee Conference; third, the questions relating with your visit to Hanoi; and fourth, the initialing of the Agreement, the announcement of the initialing.

Dr. Kissinger: The announcement is settled now.

Le Duc Tho: The announcement is settled. Besides these four questions, I would like to raise another one. That is, after the signing of the Agreement, regarding the bilateral conference meeting. Have you any ideas about that? The two South Vietnamese parties’ meeting. Have you any ideas about this question so that we may prepare?

Dr. Kissinger: Our idea was initially we keep the Avenue Kleber participants in Paris. We will not have meetings of the four but we will have the participants here so they can get in touch with each other. After that we suggest they meet in South Vietnam, for example, Saigon; that they should meet as soon as possible in South Vietnam.

Le Duc Tho: I agree with you, Mr. Special Adviser. They will remain in Paris for a short period to have contact with each other and then they will meet in Saigon, South Vietnam. But what I would like to ask you, Mr. Adviser, is that after the ceasefire shall we fix a date for the two South Vietnamese parties to meet to exchange views on the procedural questions, on the contents of the meeting, and afterward they go to Saigon and meet with each other there?

Dr. Kissinger: We will be prepared to recommend this to our South Vietnamese allies. I will be seeing their Foreign Minister today and I will make that recommendation. I recommend we do not make a final issue of this until after Saturday. But we believe that this is a soluble problem and we will use our strong influence in that direction.

[Page 1347]

Le Duc Tho: So, Mr. Adviser, after the 27th then we will decide on a date for this meeting.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree and we shall raise the issue with them now and we shall pursue it after the 27th.

Le Duc Tho: Yes, and fix a date for the two South Vietnamese to get in contact with each other.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, next week some time, and then they should meet in Saigon.

Le Duc Tho: Moreover I have another proposal, Mr. Adviser, and this question I have talked about once or twice. That is the two South Vietnamese delegations—there should be some change of the leaders of the delegations because they have been talking with one another for so long. To create favorable atmosphere for their contact this should be done.

Dr. Kissinger: On both sides?

Le Duc Tho: Yes, on both sides?

Dr. Kissinger: We will discuss this with our allies. We frankly have never discussed this with them before.

Le Duc Tho: Yes, I raise the question with you and you will discuss with them.

Dr. Kissinger: We will discuss it with them and we will let you know. Does that mean that Madame Binh would leave Paris?

Le Duc Tho: [Laughs] Yes, on the two delegations if there will be change, then this possibility will happen.

Dr. Kissinger: I think it is safe to say that Paris will not be the same. [Laughter] All right, do you have any other problems?

Le Duc Tho: These questions I have raised to you extra. But actually we have only the four first questions.

Dr. Kissinger: All right. Well, I have a few other items, Mr. Special Adviser, which will not take long, including the ones you mentioned. I want to propose two minor understandings to you and I have to read to you an oral understanding about aircraft carriers. The first one concerns US aircraft carriers off the shores of South Vietnam. May I read it?

Le Duc Tho: Please.

Dr. Kissinger: [Reads from Tab A] “After the withdrawal of US armed forces from South Vietnam, the US has the firm intention of not stationing its aircraft carriers at less than 100 nautical miles from the shores of South Vietnam. This of course does not affect transit.” This is the same as our written understanding, this phrase.

Le Duc Tho: I agree with you.

Dr. Kissinger: The second concerns aircraft carriers off the shores of North Vietnam: “Immediately after the US and the DRV have signed [Page 1348] the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam, the US has the firm intention of moving its aircraft carriers out of the Gulf of Bac Bo, the Gulf of Tonkin, nearly 300 miles from the shores of North Vietnam. This of course does not affect transit.” This is just for 60 days, until the written understanding goes into effect. We have already talked to the Chinese; they will be just on the other side of Hainan Island. [Laughter] No, you will see this come about next week.

Le Duc Tho: I agree with you. The same as the other day.

Dr. Kissinger: It is the same, but we don’t give it in writing. It is an oral understanding. The one in writing for afterwards you already have. This is for the record.

Le Duc Tho: This has been agreed to.

Dr. Kissinger: In the spirit of confidence and good will that has grown up between us during these four years, the Minister [Thach] requested that I read it again for the record. It is at the request of the Minister. I had already said it the other day.

Now I would like to propose two other understandings. One has to do with the Special Adviser’s favorite subject of the International Control Commission. There is a slight discrepancy in the text between the protocols and the text of the Agreement. Not a discrepancy, but the text of the Agreement says that the International Conference will make definitive arrangements and the protocol does not refer to that, so I would like to propose an understanding to it that the protocol does not prejudice the right of the International Conference to make definitive arrangements—which the Minister has already orally agreed to. [Tho and Thach confer.] Let me read you the understanding. “Nothing in the Protocol to the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam concerning the International Commission of Control and Supervision shall prejudice the right of the International Conference to make definitive arrangements with regard to reporting by the International Commission of Control and Supervision, as stipulated in Articles 18(b) and 18(c) in the Agreement, and to agree upon the relationship between the International Commission and the International Conference, as stipulated in Article 18(h) of the Agreement.” [Tho and Thach confer while Dr. Kissinger reads.] Minister Thach, I am sure the Special Adviser knows these provisions by heart. [Hands over Tab B. Mr. Loi gets up to read it.]

Mr. Loi—will his statue be finished when I get to Hanoi?

Le Duc Tho: Yes, the protocol and the Agreement they will have been achieved by that time, then Mr. Loi will have a symbolic statue by that time. Have you any other understandings?

Dr. Kissinger: I have one other formal understanding. The Minister and the Ambassador discussed yesterday that we might do an under[Page 1349]standing with respect to Article 6 of the protocol on ceasefire. I think making an understanding with respect to Article 6 of the protocol on ceasefire, I think making an understanding with respect to that is going to raise more problems than it will solve. Therefore we withdraw the request with regard to that. But I would like to propose a simple understanding with respect to armed police, which I do not believe will raise any problems. Concerning Article 1, which is just a definition of what we mean by “armed police.” May I read it to you?

Le Duc Tho: Please, Mr. Adviser.

Dr. Kissinger: “It is understood that the term “armed police” as it is used in Article 1 of the Protocol concerning the Ceasefire in South Vietnam and the Joint Military Commissions means those police forces that are equipped with infantry weapons and placed under military command. That term does not include civilian police and civilian security personnel covered by Article 6 of that Protocol.” [Hands over Tab C] That is all we would like to propose. That is what it says anyway in the protocol.

Le Duc Tho: Mr. Adviser, have you any other proposals?

Dr. Kissinger: No, except “return to their native place.” But we do that at the end. Because I know it won’t present any problem.

Le Duc Tho: I shall see your proposal and I will answer you later.

Dr. Kissinger: Shall we go to other topics then?

Le Duc Tho: Please, Mr. Adviser.

Dr. Kissinger: I have one unilateral statement I want to make in connection with the protocols. We will leave that to when we get your comments on the other.

May I make a comment about Laos. We notice that the formal proposal of your side in Laos says that “The interested parties will proceed with the turnover of all military and civilians captured or imprisoned during the war, regardless of nationality, according to modalities adopted by common agreement. This exchange will begin and end at the same time as the withdrawal from Laos of all foreign troops and foreign military personnel.” We are operating on the assumption that this does not apply to American personnel and American civilians.

Le Duc Tho: Mr. Adviser, I have not understood.

Dr. Kissinger: This is in the Lao agreement. In the agreement between the two Lao parties there is this draft provision which I have mentioned, and they have agreed among each other along that line. We just want to make sure that this does not apply to American prisoners.

Le Duc Tho: Let me tell this in simple sentence only: Regarding American military and civilians captured and detained in Laos, we [Page 1350] have agreed with our Lao friends that all of them will be released. This release is not related to anything else.

Dr. Kissinger: All right, that is all I need to know. We need to say no more about it. Now we are encouraging our allies—our friends—to move rapidly, and we assume you are encouraging yours also.

Le Duc Tho: Before you left I told you about that question. There are two questions here. First, you have responsibility to persuade your allies and to bring the negotiations there to good results. And after the ceasefire they should strictly respect the ceasefire and not take advantage of the ceasefire and violate the cessation of hostilities. This will not do. And I think that you should insure that this situation should not happen. As far as we are concerned, we will do the same.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree. We will do this, and we have sent General Haig to Vientiane to accomplish both of these objectives and we will continue to do so.

With respect to the ceasefire, I would like to call the Special Adviser’s attention to the fact that on our new schedule it would mean that the latest date it would become effective is while I am in Hanoi, and that makes it particularly important that it will be scrupulously carried out—the ceasefire in Laos.

Le Duc Tho: Yes, I told you the other day the ceasefire will take place no later than 15 days.

Dr. Kissinger: Right. So it will coincide with my visit to Hanoi. So maybe we could take a little drive towards the Ho Chi Minh Trail and go sightseeing. [Laughter] Maybe the Special Adviser can drive with me along Route 7. [They confer.]

This is a new experience for Mr. Isham. He isn’t used to our informal methods.

May I make a comment about Cambodia? [They continue to confer.] If Minister Thach drafted it I don’t know if it will be better or a lot more complicated.

Le Duc Tho: So you have proposed today, Mr. Adviser, two understandings. First, regarding the American military and civilian prisoners in Laos, I have made the statement to you. It will fall within the period of 60 days for the release of American prisoners.

Dr. Kissinger: But that is already established.

Le Duc Tho: When we parted last time we said all the understandings have been settled. Now you raise new ones. So you are always putting forward some new things to be settled. It takes a lot of time.

Dr. Kissinger: No, the reason is these are understandings on the protocols, not on the Agreement, which we didn’t have before in complete draft when we met.

[Page 1351]

Le Duc Tho: But the protocol has been agreed between Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach. Regarding the armed police, this question has taken a great deal of discussion, therefore, I think we should abide by the protocol. Because if you define the armed police as those forces put under the military command, then you will want to separate this kind of police and to have other kinds of police to arm them and to use them. As to the civilian police and civilian security personnel, I think in every country those civilian police and civilian personnel may always carry pistols. Because the definition of armed police proposed by you here will lead to the armament of civilian policemen and security men. This is for the purpose of building up armed forces to repress the local population. As to that, there have been very explicit stipulations in the Agreement and in the protocol. The only thing to do is to implement these provisions. As to the civilian policemen and security personnel, in every country they carry pistols.

Dr. Kissinger: Except in England they don’t carry anything.

Le Duc Tho: I think that in America, in France, and in Vietnam, civilian policemen they will carry pistols.

Dr. Kissinger: Of course, this is not what the provision says. But for the sake of progress and as a sign of good will we will drop this understanding.

But how about the other one?

Le Duc Tho: I propose the following draft: “There is nothing in the Protocol to the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam concerning the International Commission of Control and Supervision which shall prejudice Articles 18(b), 18(c) and 18(h) of the Agreement regarding the arrangements made by the International Conference with regard to the relationship between the International Commission and the International Conference.” [They hand over Vietnamese text of the above.]

Dr. Kissinger: I will accept that, if you permit us to put it into English. I accept this, and should we try to just smooth out the English a little bit, but I accept the text of it. All right. Can I go on to the Special Adviser’s old stamping ground, Cambodia, now?

Le Duc Tho: Please, Mr. Adviser.

Dr. Kissinger: I want to inform you of the intentions of our friends. Within 48 hours of the signing of the Agreement, the Cambodian government will declare an end to all offensive operations. We will stop all air operations for 72 hours, and if there are no offensive actions by the other side we will not resume them. We will continue air operations in Laos until a ceasefire is reached, after which we will strictly abide by it.

I understand your problem. I am informing you of our position. We will also inform other interested countries of this position.

[Page 1352]

Le Duc Tho: So I take note of your information regarding Cambodia.

Dr. Kissinger: Right. Now with respect to the invitation to the members of the International Control Commission, I understand that the Minister and Ambassador Sullivan have agreed on a note. I want to confirm this. We will invite all four Ambassadors of the countries concerned to come to the State Department on Wednesday morning, Washington time, around 9:00 a.m., Washington time—that is 3 o’clock in the afternoon here—and hand them a copy of the Agreement and the protocols.

Le Duc Tho: So I agree what you have just confirmed.

Dr. Kissinger: I am just confirming. I think we will have [more]2 trouble waking up our Ambassadors at 9:00 in the morning than you have keeping yours awake at 9:00 at night.

The announcement of the initialing of the Agreement today. There will be no announcement of any kind until 10:00 o’clock tonight, Washington time. At 10:00 o’clock tonight, Washington time, which is 10:00 o’clock tomorrow morning, Hanoi time.

Le Duc Tho: Public announcement.

Dr. Kissinger: There will be a public announcement. The President will make it. It will be a very brief speech—five minutes. It will be a very conciliatory speech in which he speaks of, among other things, reconciliation with the people and government of North Vietnam. He will mention that it was done with the concurrence of our allies, unilaterally; it will not be in the statement as we told you. It would be useful if your side could adopt restraint also. Especially as we would like to keep the Saigon Foreign Minister here in Paris until Saturday. Our South Vietnamese allies have promised us also to make a very restrained statement.

At 11:00 o’clock tomorrow morning, Washington time, we will release the text of the Agreement and of the protocols.

I am just reviewing things we have agreed upon. This is agreed upon.

Le Duc Tho: The other day we agreed with each other that the publication of the Agreement, the protocols is at 9:00 o’clock.

Dr. Kissinger: But this was changed orally and you confirmed it.

Le Duc Tho: No, the change was about the publication of the pictures taken at the initialing.

Dr. Kissinger: No.

[Page 1353]

Le Duc Tho: So there must be a misunderstanding.

Ambassador Sullivan: There must have been, because the publication I was talking about was the publication of the documents. You will remember we had 9, then I went back to 11.

Dr. Kissinger: It is very difficult for us to do it at 9:00 o’clock; technically very difficult.

Le Duc Tho: Because there is a problem with Vietnam. It is too late. There are no broadcasts. So I propose . . .

Dr. Kissinger: Could we do it at 10:00 o’clock? We could handle 10:00 o’clock, but 9:00 o’clock is too difficult.

Le Duc Tho: [Nods] 10:00 o’clock.

Dr. Kissinger: And we release the pictures at the same time. I will give a briefing.

Le Duc Tho: Ten in the morning in the US will be ten in the night in Vietnam. They will be in bed already in Vietnam, sleeping.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.

Ambassador Sullivan: The Chinese are not in bed yet.

Le Duc Tho: Well, all right, Mr. Special Adviser, I agree with you that at 10:00 o’clock in the morning, Washington time, you will publish the Agreement. So I have taken into account of your difficulties.

Dr. Kissinger: We would have massive difficulty with our press, to get them up to read these things in the morning. This is our problem. I appreciate it, Mr. Special Adviser. 10:00 o’clock.

For your information, I will give a briefing on the meaning of this Agreement. It will be done at about noon. It will be done in a very conciliatory spirit. I will pay special attention to Chapter VI so that the Special Adviser’s handiwork will get due credit. [Laughter] Maybe he will read my briefing and know what we agreed to! It is necessary because in American it will be difficult to understand. It will be very factual, not polemical, and the spirit will attempt to lead us in the direction of a new relationship.

Now the International Conference. Because of the delay in my trip to Hanoi, I propose that we have the Conference open on February 26, so that we can exchange views while I am in Hanoi about the substance. Is that agreeable?

Le Duc Tho: So the opening session of the International Conference will be on the 26th of February.

Dr. Kissinger: If that is agreeable.

Le Duc Tho: I agree.

Dr. Kissinger: I propose that Minister Thach and Ambassador Sullivan work out a parallel note after the initialing, and I propose that we send this note next Monday the 29th. Is that agreeable?

[Page 1354]

Le Duc Tho: I would think that before sending the invitation note we should contact the governments that will participate in the International Conference to see how they will react.

Dr. Kissinger: Informally?

Le Duc Tho: Yes, by diplomatic channels, informally, to see what reactions they have, and then we will send the note of invitation.

Dr. Kissinger: All right. Then shall we say after the initialing we will contact the governments and on February 1 we will send the note?

Le Duc Tho: Is it possible that during your visit to Hanoi we will discuss the contents of the International Conference and after that we will send the note of invitation? Because it is not late then.

Dr. Kissinger: That is only two weeks before the Conference. Why don’t we say that we will both approach informally the governments concerned before February 1; then you and I will exchange messages to see whether we can send the formal invitation as late as February 10.

Le Duc Tho: Shall we exchange views on the content of the note of invitation?

Dr. Kissinger: Let me sum up. During this week, Minister Thach and Ambassador Sullivan will exchange ideas on the content of the note. Immediately after the initialing our two governments will informally approach the governments that are to be invited to the Conference to sound out their participation. We will extend the formal invitation.

Le Duc Tho: So about the note of invitation, that will be agreed upon by Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach.

Dr. Kissinger: We will send it after my visit to Hanoi, or during my visit to Hanoi. But I have only one other proposal—that we will try to obtain the answers from these governments by February 2, the informal answers. And then the Special Adviser and I will exchange ideas through our special channel prior to my arrival in Hanoi.

Le Duc Tho: So and during your stay in Hanoi then we will discuss the content of the International Conference and after that we send the note of invitation.

Dr. Kissinger: Exactly, but the date is set for the 26th. [Tho nods yes.]

The place of the Conference. We are still considering it, and we would like to let you know before the end of this week what our proposal is.

Le Duc Tho: About the place of the Conference?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, we are considering Washington. [Laughter] We appreciated the fact that you did not propose Havana.

Le Duc Tho: What is the level of the representatives to this Conference?

[Page 1355]

Dr. Kissinger: What is your idea?

Le Duc Tho: I think they should be Foreign Minister level.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree.

Le Duc Tho: I have another question for clarification. You will send me a message to roughly exchange views on the content of the International Conference and then we will discuss it in Hanoi.

Dr. Kissinger: I will send you our ideas before I arrive in Hanoi and then we will discuss it in Hanoi.

Le Duc Tho: I agree with you.

Dr. Kissinger: And if you have any ideas then you send me a message. All right? [Tho nods yes.]

Now shall we discuss the trip to Hanoi. We were prepared to arrive on the 8th, but I understand you prefer the 10th. So I agree. I propose the following joint announcement. It is a slight redraft of the one you gave us. “The US and the DRV have agreed that Dr. Kissinger, Assistant to the President of the United States, will visit Hanoi from February 10 to the 13, 1973, to discuss with the Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam the postwar relationship between the two countries and other matters of mutual concern.” [Hands over Tab E.]

Le Duc Tho: I agree with you, Mr. Adviser.

Dr. Kissinger: I propose we announce this on January 31 at 12:00 o’clock, Washington time. Or is that a bad time for you?

Le Duc Tho: It’s midnight in Vietnam.

Dr. Kissinger: Do you want to do it at 10:00 o’clock? That is the earliest we can do it.

Le Duc Tho: I agree, 10:00 o’clock.

Dr. Kissinger: That is the earliest our journalists are sober. Oh, is Loi a journalist?

Le Duc Tho: He was a journalist.

Dr. Kissinger: Now I have a memorandum which embodies our understanding of this visit. [Aide comes in with glass of medicine for Tho.] Whatever it is you are taking, I am going to start taking it after we agree. It obviously agrees with you. [Laughter] Will you tell me when I come to Hanoi?

Le Duc Tho: Sheer water.

Dr. Kissinger: In order to save time I will not read it to you, and perhaps the Minister can confirm it to Ambassador Sullivan tomorrow. It is essentially what we have agreed to previously. [Hands over memorandum at Tab F.]

Now I have pointed out to the Special Adviser, it will not be understood in America if I arrive in Hanoi before any prisoners have [Page 1356] been returned. So it would be important if the first group could be returned before I arrive in Hanoi.

Le Duc Tho: My intention is that our side of the schedule of release of the prisoners, when you arrive in Hanoi we will release an extra number.

Dr. Kissinger: That would be a very important gesture.

Le Duc Tho: It is your proposal.

Dr. Kissinger: It would be very well received in America. Here is some technical information about the airplane and it’s similar to what we have already given to you. [Hands over Tab G.]

Le Duc Tho: Only now we can put it in practice. [Laughter]

Xuan Thuy: But it would be difficult for the plane to land now because the runway is damaged.

Dr. Kissinger: We must have been aiming at a different airport because we never hit the airport we want.

Le Duc Tho: But the airport you intended to land on it was hit. Phuc Yen.

Dr. Kissinger: Phuc Yen.

Le Duc Tho: Phuc Yen. Gia Lam, too. But we will make an effort to repair it, to make it acceptable to the plane.

Dr. Kissinger: Of course. It will be a test of our friendship because the Special Adviser may make me land whether it is repaired or not.

Le Duc Tho: But I had the thought to have you land by parachute. [Laughter]

Dr. Kissinger: You can confirm these technical arrangements in the normal way with Sullivan. We will supply you a list of the people we will bring with us. Not all of them will attend all meetings. We would like to bring an official photographer with us, but you will see we will agree on the release of the pictures; neither side will release pictures except by common agreement.

Le Duc Tho: I agree.

Dr. Kissinger: We would appreciate it if you would send us any proposals of a schedule that you might have. The subjects we have mentioned in our note—we agree essentially with you: the details of the economic reconstruction, US/DRV relations, International Conference, and any other item either side wants to raise.

Le Duc Tho: I agree with you. These three items to be discussed, and besides that either side will raise any other questions.

Dr. Kissinger: And we will exchange ideas about the actual operation of the ceasefire and it would be—of course it goes without saying—that in the interval before my visit both sides should show great restraint in their propaganda towards each other and in their actions in Indochina.

[Page 1357]

On the January 27 signing ceremony, I think Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach should work it out. We are bringing our equivalent of Mr. Loi over here to work on the technical arrangements and he will be available starting tomorrow. He knows all the procedures that are required on our side. Do you want to keep the English copies overnight, too? Because some of our greatest successes we scored when we slipped pages into documents!

Le Duc Tho: So we have the agenda for the items to be discussed. As to your activity during your stay in Hanoi, I think that when you come we can discuss it.

Dr. Kissinger: But can you send me an approximate proposal? It doesn’t have to be very rigid.

Le Duc Tho: I can tell you roughly now.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.

Le Duc Tho: The items on the agenda, we will discuss, and then you will meet a number of our principal leaders to discuss all these questions. After this discussion then you may visit a number of places.

Dr. Kissinger: I will let you choose those.

Le Duc Tho: It can be agreed upon. I will let you decide whether you want it or not.

Dr. Kissinger: Scenic places—not places that are damaged.

Le Duc Tho: If you like it we can show you; if you don’t like it, then no matter.

Dr. Kissinger: And we have given you our general concerns in this memorandum which you can discuss with Ambassador Sullivan. We leave the program up to you. May I make this suggestion. I will be interested and delighted to see something of North Vietnam, but may I suggest that each day I am there there are some meetings, then some time for seeing things. It would not be good in America if we had all meetings together and then two days for sightseeing.

Le Duc Tho: And it will be more relaxing this way of working. Maybe we discuss in the morning and in the afternoon we will be sightseeing.

Dr. Kissinger: Good. And we will have the same schedule when the Special Adviser comes to America. [Tho laughs] And the two Ministers. We have already arranged a poetry recital for the Minister. [Xuan Thuy laughs] All right. We are agreed now on the schedule of announcements. So on the January 27 signing ceremony we need have no further discussion.

Simply to confirm, there will be preliminary talks about the Joint Military Commission in Paris after the initialing, and the advance party will arrive in Saigon on the 27th. After the signing. We better make it the 28th, after the signing here.

[Page 1358]

Minister Thach: 27th, after the signing.

Dr. Kissinger: After the signing, the 27th, Paris time; that is the 28th, Saigon time. We should take no chances for an incident. Let us do it immediately after the signing. Let us say the morning of the 28th. The ICCS will meet on the 29th in Saigon. And then the Special Adviser will be fulfilled. [Tho and Thach laugh]

The Two-Party Commission will grow out of the Four-Party Commission, and there will be a separate session of the two South Vietnamese members of the Four-Party Commission.

As for Avenue Kleber we will keep the delegations here. And then when I am in Hanoi we will discuss the future disposition, and we will consider your proposal about the delegations heads.

Le Duc Tho: Would it be possible that now you will exchange views with the Saigon people and we will fix a date for the two South Vietnamese to meet after the signing? And then we will discuss it again when you visit Hanoi.

Dr. Kissinger: They will meet before I visit Hanoi. They will certainly meet before I visit Hanoi. I said the future disposition of the Avenue Kleber forum should be discussed while I am in Hanoi.

Le Duc Tho: I agree.

Dr. Kissinger: We will mention it to the South Vietnamese government this week but we shall actively pursue it only after the signing. But I fully expect them to meet before I have been in Hanoi. Now I have covered all the points that I have.

Le Duc Tho: Right.

Dr. Kissinger: I have covered all the points I have.

Le Duc Tho: There is one left, the last one. I will never forget it.

Dr. Kissinger: Article 5. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: You have understood me.

Dr. Kissinger: I am afraid I never understand not to understand the Special Adviser. [Kissinger, Negroponte, Aldrich confer on the rewording of the understanding on the ICCS and International Conference. Kissinger reads Engel’s translation of the Vietnamese version.]

I just want to read this understanding; then we will get to the Special Adviser’s favorite subject. May I just read a slight redraft in English of that understanding? “Nothing in the Protocol to the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam concerning the International Commission of Control and Supervision shall prejudice Article 18(b), (c) and (h) of the Agreement with respect to arrangements the International Conference is to make for the relationship between the International Commission and the International Conference.” [As typed up and agreed, Tab H.] It is really almost the same, just slightly [Page 1359] different. I bet in Vietnamese it is exactly the same. It is really just a slight change in English.

Minister Thach: It is the same.

Le Duc Tho: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: Now that we are quickly at the end of our work, I have found a strange phenomenon, Mr. Special Adviser: You are always difficult but you are especially difficult with respect to unilateral American undertakings for which there is no reciprocity.

Le Duc Tho: No, actually speaking this would be beneficial to both sides.

Dr. Kissinger: Let me explain to you once again, Mr. Special Adviser, what our problem is. Our problem is that in matters of foreign policy which do not involve financial expenditures, the discretion of the President is relatively large. In matters that do involve expenditures the Congressional prerogatives are very jealously guarded. Therefore, we have to express ourselves in a more guarded language with respect to those issues. On the other hand, I want to assure you that we are taking this problem extremely seriously and we recognize that the stability in Indochina depends on the ability of our two countries to work with each other with trust and confidence and that this is an essential component of this relationship. So we have accepted a few of your suggestions, by turning this into a Presidential message and by accepting a few other words that you proposed. But it is very difficult for us to change the basic thrust of our approach.

Now what we may not have made adequately clear is that what we can do in concessional aid can amount to a very substantial amount. But to put down an amount grandly larger than we have put down would be total irresponsibility, because it is very unlikely that we could fulfill it. That would be almost 30% of our total aid bill to all the world. So here is the note [Hands over Tab I] that will be delivered to you on January 30. We have made it as a Presidential message.

Le Duc Tho: Mr. Adviser, let me express a few remarks. You are right when you said this is a matter of our concern. We are interested in it. And it will lay the foundation for the relationship between the two countries. But besides that, it is the question that we have had so many destructions after so many years of war, therefore the reconstruction of our country without repayment is a matter of course. So this work is the rehabilitation of our economy and the reconstruction. As you know, the destructions and the damages caused by so many years of war are very great.

Dr. Kissinger: Excuse me, I just received my instructions. [Colonel Guay enters and gives Dr. Kissinger an envelope.]

Le Duc Tho: After so many years of war, as you know, the losses are very great, therefore the amount of $3 billion is still not up to the [Page 1360] same level as the losses. Moreover, the grant aid you will give us is not only beneficial to us but also to the United States, too. So we propose $4.5 billion of grant aid. But $3 billion is too little. Therefore if you don’t agree to $4.5 billion at least it should be $4 billion. Besides this amount, as to concessional aid, I would propose that we would put “Besides this grant aid the two parties will agree on the form of the aid to be taken.”

As to the Congressional customs I understand that what you said has some legal aspects in accordance with your Constitution, but if we put in this paper this provision, then what you call grant aid may become nothing—it may be changed and it will no longer be an aid without payment—because you can use the American Congress to prevent what you are obligated to do. Therefore, on this question I think that you and I will have this understanding but this should not be written in the paper.

Dr. Kissinger: What should not be written in the paper?

Le Duc Tho: What is mentioned about Congress, the Constitution. So I propose that you and I, we understand that, but it can’t be written in the paper. Because if it is written in the paper then what is said about the grant aid may not come true. It may be fulfilled but it may not be fulfilled, too. So the grant aid we propose is something reasonable after so many years of war. It is not a very excessive proposal.

These are the few points I would like to raise with you in the message. But I have repeatedly mentioned it to you. To lay the foundation for the new relationship between us. It is the minimum things we should go about to create some mutual trust, mutual confidence. These are only a few proposals. Afterwards, we have to discuss the details, and there will be a Joint Economic Commission. So our proposal is something very positive because we propose that the Joint Economic Commission be set up one month after the signing of the Agreement. That is our desire to lay the foundations for a new relationship between us.

Dr. Kissinger: Let me make a number of comments. First, on the Constitutional point. It is a new experience for you to deal with the American political process, and no matter what we put in this paper, whether this sentence is in or out, Congress can stop any appropriation. Therefore, your fears that we might use Congress—you should consider two things: First, the Congress is controlled by the opposition party, and second, no matter what we write in this paper, if we wanted to cheat you . . . With the Congress we cannot make a legal obligation. In fact, the Congress feels so strongly about its prerogative that there is a law that says if any official of the United States agrees to the commitment of funds for which there is no Congressional appropriation I can go to jail for five years. [Tho laughs] And you don’t want [Page 1361] that before February 10, do you? I don’t want to disappoint you a second time!

But let me make this proposal, which is really the utmost I can do. We will delete this sentence from the note, and then we will give you an understanding which says the President will make the utmost effort to achieve these goals but that he is bound by the American constitutional provision. As a separate note.

Le Duc Tho: I propose you delete the sentence in the message, but I will propose you to have this sentence written again as an understanding.

Dr. Kissinger: That is right.

Le Duc Tho: Like this, the same sentence.

Dr. Kissinger: “The US wishes to point out that the implementation of the Commission and the obligations of each member will be . . .” All right, I agree.

Le Duc Tho: As to the amount, I have lengthily explained to you. Today we propose that it be $4 billion.

Dr. Kissinger: [Laughs] Let me say this. I believe that the concessional aid, which I understand Ambassador Sullivan has explained to you, could easily amount to $1 billion–$1½ billion over five years. So that you would have a total amount of about $4½ billion over five years. And I am prepared to put that in an understanding—that it is our estimate that the concessional aid could amount in the area of $1 and $1½ billion, so this could amount to $4½ billion. And if it is food grains there is in fact no repayment, so it is in effect grant aid.

Le Duc Tho: Let me propose the following as a practical thing: As to the amount of grant aid I propose $3.5 billion; as to the other form, it will amount to $1 billion or $1.5 billion. But the form of the aid will be discussed later between the two parties.

Dr. Kissinger: That is all right, but we don’t want to mention the sum.

Le Duc Tho: But $3.5—as to the other form of aid from $1 billion to $1.5 billion, we will discuss these things later as an understanding.

Dr. Kissinger: It is easier for us to go higher on the concessional aid. The difficulty is that $3 billion is about what we give to South Vietnam. Now it is almost impossible for us to promise . . .

Le Duc Tho: But the destructions of yours by so long years of war is great, so the amount we propose, $3.5 billion, is very moderate.

Dr. Kissinger: Believe me, this is not something in executive discretion. This is a matter of the gravest problem for us domestically, to obtain the necessary funds. You will have read in the newspaper that the President has impounded money appropriated for domestic pro[Page 1362]grams, and it is going to be almost impossible to explain why we give sums at all to a country with which we have been at war and with which we still don’t have diplomatic relations. $3 billion is higher than any sum any of our Treasury people knew about or have agreed to. They are still thinking in terms of what I gave you last year. [Tho laughs] I am serious.

Le Duc Tho: Last October you told me about $3 billion or more.

Dr. Kissinger: That included concessional aid, concessional aid of $1 billion to $1.5 billion. At that time concessional aid was included in the $3 billion.

Le Duc Tho: So let us figure $3.5 billion and then $1 billion more of aid in other form. We discuss. Because it is the lowest requirement we put forward in comparison to the destruction. We put in then for this $1 billion, it will be agreed between the two parties that this aid will be granted, in what form. You have spent hundreds of billions during this war, and it is wasted money. It is a very small amount of money in comparison to the expenditures of the war. Moreover, it lays the foundations for the relationship between our two countries, and I think it is the first step in laying the foundations and in laying mutual trust between our two countries.

Dr. Kissinger: You see, I could put down $10 billion; it doesn’t make any difference. This is our difficulty.

Le Duc Tho: So I think that what we have proposed here is some moderate requirements, and moreover it is a very small amount in comparison to the expenditures you have made during the war, and the expenditures during the war are wasteful money. So now you say that there will be $1.5 billion of aid in other forms; so I propose that you shift $½ billion to the grant aid and use the other sum of $1 billion.

Dr. Kissinger: We have more discretion with concessional aid. That is our difficulty. You see, with concessional aid we get a large sum and we have the discretion to apportion it; with grant aid we have to do it in each case independently. But wait until you have to deal with Otto Passman of Louisiana, who is Chairman of the Committee who makes these appropriations. It will be an experience for you which will make you think of me with nostalgia.

Le Duc Tho: So only proposal I am making is to shift $½ billion from aid of other form to the grant aid, because that will evidence your contribution to reconstruction of our country and to heal the wounds of war. And this amount is insignificant.

Dr. Kissinger: But that isn’t the point. Our problem is that we will have to ask for this money from the Congress, and frankly the Congress doesn’t care about North Vietnam half as much as it cares for its own states from which it is elected. And they will have a hell of a time [Page 1363] explaining to their constituents why they are not voting money for ourselves but for other countries with which we have been at war. So you are not perceived in America as you perceive yourselves. Let me give you an example. We have given South Vietnam $585 million in aid in grant-type aid from us a year, and we have put down $15 million more for you.

Le Duc Tho: Mr. Adviser, I am not satisfied with what you have been telling me on this question. I only think that the amount I propose to you is a moderate amount. I have been settling questions with you in a very easy manner and you are very difficult in this question.

Dr. Kissinger: [Laughing] Mr. Special Adviser, no one is ever going to accuse you of settling problems in an easy manner. It took me two years of negotiations before you even sat us down to a green table. Let me make what is the maximum possible—I don’t know whether it is possible. If we say $625 million a year, that would make it $3 billion $250 million, but more than that would be absolutely out of the question. I am not haggling. You will see, Mr. Special Adviser, when you deal with America what you will be up against.

Le Duc Tho: So I provisionally agree with you to this amount.

Dr. Kissinger: I give you my shirt, too.

Le Duc Tho: We will put it into the paper and we will discuss this later in Hanoi.

Dr. Kissinger: Why don’t you examine what your food needs will be, and discuss it with us when we come to Hanoi?

Le Duc Tho: To sum up, I propose to write in the message $3.25 billion as grant aid but I will discuss further with you on this question when you visit Hanoi. Other forms of aid consisting of $1 to $1.5 billion, we will discuss it and we will agree on it between the two parties.

Dr. Kissinger: Right; but we won’t write it in the note.

Le Duc Tho: But if you can write it in the paper it would be better.

Dr. Kissinger: I think we can achieve an understanding on it when we are in Hanoi. We will discuss it. You must give us some flexibility with our Congress. You can make me write a note which will totally destroy any possibility of getting anything.

Le Duc Tho: I agree with you. Now the aid under other forms will amount to $1.5 billion, but we will discuss the details, the modalities, when you visit Hanoi, but it will be written in the understanding here between us.

Dr. Kissinger: It will not be written.

Mr. Thach: Not written in the message but the understanding.

Dr. Kissinger: We will give you this message, minus that one sentence about our constitutional process. We will hand you a written [Page 1364] understanding without a message saying “in accordance with its constitutional provisions,” separate from the message. And then we hand you another piece of paper saying “the concessional aid could amount to the range of $1 to $1.5 billion, depending on the requirements in food and other matters.” And all of this will be handed to you on January 30. If we can get an appointment.

Le Duc Tho: There is one point, Mr. Adviser, we propose in the second understanding you will write “other forms of aid, the $1.5 billion, the modalities will be agreed upon between the two parties.” We don’t need the word “concessional.”

Dr. Kissinger: All right. We thought we could get a free port in Haiphong out of it.

Le Duc Tho: I propose to put the paragraph regarding the setting up of the Economic Joint Commission after the paragraph dealing with the principles, as we have proposed.

Dr. Kissinger: It is too late. I have thrown my text away.

Le Duc Tho: We have combined the two texts.

Dr. Kissinger: Explain that to me again, Mr. Special Adviser. I just want you to know that you have full responsibility for the fact that the schedule isn’t being kept. I don’t understand what you are talking about. Oh, I see. You would like our paragraph 4 to precede paragraphs 2 and 3. In other words, you would like to say “The Government . . .” That is all right. I agree. In other words you would like our paragraph 4 to become paragraph 2. You would like the amount to be the second paragraph. Is that correct?

Le Duc Tho: Yes, what I propose is that the paragraph dealing with the setting up of the Joint Commission will become point 3 and 4.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree. I have agreed with you.

Le Duc Tho: Another point, Mr. Adviser, I would propose “without conditions attached,” not “without political conditions attached.”

Dr. Kissinger: We can’t do that. It’s suicide for us. It’s total suicide.

Le Duc Tho: “Without conditions attached,” not the “political conditions.”

Dr. Kissinger: I understand that. I understood it the first time. We can’t do that. We can drop the whole phrase.

Le Duc Tho: [Laughs] So, “without conditions attached?”

Dr. Kissinger: I understood you the first time. We can’t do it. We can say “without any political conditions.” Or we can drop the phrase.

Le Duc Tho: If you put “without any political conditions,” then outside the political conditions there are other conditions. What conditions are there?

[Page 1365]

Dr. Kissinger: No, but for Congress we have to make some accounting of the money, how it is spent. If we say “without any conditions” the Congress is going to accuse us . . . There are no other conditions.

Le Duc Tho: So, Mr. Adviser, then I would propose in the understanding concerned with the $1.5 billion aid bill put the word “without any conditions.”

Dr. Kissinger: It is just suicide with our Congress. There has to be a formal agreement signed.

Le Duc Tho: Sullivan is a saboteur.

Ambassador Sullivan: I think he wants to spend the money on women and liquor. We won’t permit that.

Minister Thach: No we will use this money for useful purposes.

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, you will find that we will approach this reconstruction program in a constructive spirit. There is no point in doing it if we want to create a relationship of dependence.

Le Duc Tho: All right. So I agree with you now.

Dr. Kissinger: Right, Mr. Special Adviser.

Le Duc Tho: Now let me sum up. So now the grant aid will be $3 billion $250 million; then there will be an understanding on the $1.5 billion.

Dr. Kissinger: $1 to $1.5 billion, in that range.

Le Duc Tho: $1 to $1.5 billion of aid.

Dr. Kissinger: Just a few more buffalo.

Le Duc Tho: The two parties will agree on the modalities of this form of aid. There will be some things outside the paper regarding the sentence about the constitutional customs. Now, the order regarding the Joint Economic Commission.

Dr. Kissinger: Paragraph 4 will become paragraph 2.

Le Duc Tho: Point 2 becomes 3.

Dr. Kissinger: Point 2 becomes 3 and point 3 becomes 4. The old point 4 becomes 2; the old point 2 becomes 3 and the old point 3 becomes 4. The old point 5 remains unchanged. [Laughter] And if the message is more than one page we will number the pages and staple them together. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: I agree with you now, and you can put “without the political conditions attached.”

Dr. Kissinger: And now, unless I break my hand on the way to the bathroom, we can initial it. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: To phrase it cautiously, you can refer to objective necessities! [Laughter]

Dr. Kissinger: Can we take a five-minute break? A very brief break.

[Page 1366]

Le Duc Tho: And so you redraft that message and Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach will redo it once again.

Dr. Kissinger: I will send it to Ambassador Sullivan from Washington. You will have it Thursday morning. Maybe tomorrow. I may be able to send it from the plane. No later than Thursday morning.

Le Duc Tho: So Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach will have agreed to that beforehand, and then the message we have only to acknowledge it.

Dr. Kissinger: Exactly. It is imperative, though, that there is no publicity about this message. Let me explain one other thing. We will start this program with relatively smaller sums in order to get the principle established. The first time we go to Congress it will be only a part of a year. But that is only our internal problem. We will discuss it in detail in Hanoi.

[There was a brief break from 12:42–12:45 p.m. The group reconvened at the table at 12:45. The photographers and cameramen were admitted. The initialing of the Agreement began at 12:45 and lasted until about 12:55. When all the copies were initialed—The English and Vietnamese, the two-party and four-party versions, the Agreement and the protocols—Le Duc Tho and Dr. Kissinger made the following closing remarks.]

Le Duc Tho: Mr. Adviser, we have been negotiating for almost five years now. I can say this is now the beginning of a new atmosphere between us. It is also the first stone which marks our new relationship between our two countries, although the official signing ceremony will take place in a few days time. The restoration of peace is the aspiration of the Vietnamese people, the American people and also the people of the world.

So today we have accomplished our work. I talked to your Government through you and you talked to my Government through me. We, both of us, should not forget this historical day. Because it is a long distance and difficult way before we come to this, but now we have overcome all these difficulties. It is a subject for satisfaction between us, for you and for me. And the Agreement will be officially signed in a few days. I solemnly respect [sic] here to you that we will strictly implement the Agreement. I think that both of us should do the same, if lasting peace is to be maintained in Vietnam and in Southeast Asia.

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

Mr. Special Adviser, our two peoples have suffered a great deal. There have been many painful moments and much destruction. You and I have had the great honor of putting an end to this. It is something we can never forget.

But our work will not be complete unless we bring a lasting peace to the people of Indochina, and an atmosphere of reconciliation between [Page 1367] the people of North Vietnam and the people of the United States. I would like also solemnly to promise you that we will strictly implement the Agreement. Beyond that, we shall dedicate ourselves to the improvement of the relationship between our two countries. I think you and I have a special relationship and a special obligation in this respect. So our work today completes our negotiations. And I hope that we will be able to look back to this day as the point which marked the beginning of friendship between the people of North Vietnam and the United States.

Thank you, Mr. Special Adviser, Mr. Minister.

[The meeting ended at 1:20 p.m. After warm handshakes, the two delegations went outside together, posed together for the press in a light misty rain, and then departed.]

  1. 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 the International Conference Center, Hotel Majestic, Avenue Kléber. All brackets, except where noted, are in the original. The tabs are attached but not printed; on Tab H, see Appendix 3.

    Between January 13 and January 23, that is between the final two January Kissinger- Le Duc Tho meetings before the agreement was signed, Thieu decided to accept the agreement. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. IX, Vietnam, October 1972–January 1973 Documents 320, 322, and 329.

    After Kissinger had failed to get Thieu’s agreement in October, Nixon made Haig his chief emissary to Thieu. In trips to Saigon in November, December, and January, Haig delivered increasingly tough messages from Nixon, essentially ultimatums, that signaled irrevocably the United States’ intention to sign the agreement even if South Vietnam did not. Furthermore, if South Vietnam did not sign, it could not depend on future U.S. assistance. In response to this pressure, Thieu agreed. On December 19, 1972, however, he perceptively commented to Haig, when the latter delivered the penultimate ultimatum: “Given the realities of the situation, what I am being asked to sign is not a treaty for peace but a treaty for continued U.S. support.” Haig replied: “I agree with your analysis.” (Haig, Inner Circles, p. 331)

    With Thieu’s assent, Kissinger and Le Duc Tho could initial the agreement, paving the way for its formal signing by the U.S. Secretary of State and the Foreign Ministers of the Democratic Republic of (North) Vietnam, the Republic of (South) Vietnam, and the Provisional Revolutionary Government of Vietnam. The formal signing of both the four-party and two-party agreements took place on January 27 in Paris. The texts of the two agreements were identical except for the preamble and the signing paragraphs.

    Later reflections by the two U.S. principals, President Nixon as policy architect and chief strategist and Kissinger as chief operative and tactician, show how they viewed what had happened and what had been achieved. Nixon wrote: “I had always expected that I would feel an immense sense of relief and satisfaction when the war was finally ended. But I also felt a surprising sense of sadness, apprehension, and impatience. Sadness, because Lyndon Johnson had not lived a few extra days to share the moment with me and receive the tribute I would have paid him. [Johnson died on January 22.] Apprehension, because I had no illusions about the fragile nature of the agreement or about the Communists’ true motives in signing it. And impatience, because I was acutely aware of all the things we had postponed or put off because of the war.” (Nixon, RN, p. 757) Kissinger wrote: “As we approached a conclusion there was no longer in our group that elation which accompanied the breakthrough in October. The December negotiations had brought home to us the abiding mutual hatred of the two Vietnams.” Furthermore: “We had learned how thin was the veneer of affability of Hanoi’s leadership, whose single-minded quest for hegemony, we were certain, would continue after a settlement.” (Kissinger, White House Years, p. 1465) He added: “Le Duc Tho managed even on this solemn occasion to make himself obnoxious by insisting on ironclad assurances of American economic aid to North Vietnam.” (Ibid., p. 1472)

  2. Bracketed insertion supplied by the editor.