54. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Economic Reconstruction


  • Pham Van Dong, Premier
  • Nguyen Duy Trinh, Deputy Premier and Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Le Duc Tho, Special Adviser to DRV Delegation to Paris Conference on Vietnam
  • Phan Hien, Member of DRV Delegation to Paris Conference on Vietnam
  • Tran Quang Co, Member of DRV Delegation to Paris Conference on Vietnam
  • Nguyen Dinh Phuong, Interpreter
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Richard T. Kennedy, Senior NSC Staff
  • Winston Lord, NSC Staff
  • David A. Engel, NSC Staff, Interpreter
  • Miss Irene G. Derus, Notetaker

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Thach has left. If we can get the Special Adviser employed somewhere I think the Prime Minister and I can get things settled very quickly. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: Do you want to get rid of me too then?

Dr. Kissinger: Well, if you and the Foreign Minister would leave, I think we could come to an agreement very rapidly.

Pham Van Dong: Shall we begin now, Mr. Special Adviser?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, Mr. Prime Minister.

Pham Van Dong: Before we begin the one remaining question, that is the economic question, I have one point to raise to you, Mr. Adviser. Today I think it necessary to launch strong protest against the cruel treatment and base treatment that our officials participating in the Four-Party Joint Commission have continuously met in the last few days. We resolutely demand an end to these brazen and unbelievable violations of the Agreement.

Dr. Kissinger: Are there new ones in addition to those you mentioned?

Pham Van Dong: New ones. Continuous violations and the serious case happened in Pleiku. They organized hooligans and engaged in [Page 1450] violent acts and mishandling. At the same time there has been no improvement regarding the accommodations and the food, and according to the information available to us from a foreign journalist in South Vietnam, there appears to be mobilization [of this] by the Saigon authorities. I think it necessary to comment on the seriousness of this case. Yesterday Mr. Adviser said that when Ambassador Sullivan would go to Saigon he would arrange these things. Therefore, I think it necessary to recall this question again.

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Prime Minister, I can only repeat what I said yesterday. It is totally against the policy of the U.S. to impede in any way whatsoever or to discourage the work of the Four-Party Joint Commission. We believe that the members of the Four-Party Military Commission should be treated with the dignity and the respect which their position and their office requires. While I am in Hanoi I have difficulty communicating in detail and I can only communicate in a general way with Washington.

Pham Van Dong: I understand.

Dr. Kissinger: So Ambassador Sullivan will be instructed by me to take measures when he comes to Saigon on Wednesday, and I will take personal measures when I return to America next Tuesday—in fact Monday; it will be Tuesday your time.

Pham Van Dong: I appreciate the statement made by Mr. Special Adviser. Shall I have now to listen to Mr. Special Adviser’s views about the question we have to discuss today?

Dr. Kissinger: As I understand it, we have two items for discussion today: what we call economic reconstruction and what you call healing of war wounds, and after that, normalization of relations. The Foreign Office saboteurs are discussing the International Conference and the Communiqué [the Premier laughs], and when they have completed their work perhaps we will settle what issues they have not resolved.

Now I have thought a great deal of what I could usefully do here on the question of economic reconstruction. The Special Adviser has spoken out to me on many occasions with extreme interest on this question, and when I say on many occasions that means five times a day. I don’t know how the Special Adviser operates in the Politburo but in negotiations it is impossible to overlook a point that he has on his mind.

Now with respect to the economic reconstruction, healing of war wounds, or whatever you want to call it, I think our biggest problem is your lack of understanding of our government process. I am speaking very frankly. And I thought the most useful thing I could do here is to explain to you what we intend to do, and what we have to do in order to achieve our objective. As a question of principle the economic [Page 1451] contribution of the U.S. is not a difficult matter to deal with. What is important, however, is for you to understand what it is legally possible for us to do and what it is not possible to do.

So, for example, you have proposed to us on a number of occasions that we should deposit a certain amount in a bank, the total amount in a bank. That is impossible according to the American constitutional process where the money is appropriated every year.

We have prepared for you a little booklet which contains a series of papers which are relevant to an understanding of economic programs in the U.S.

It contains the following items:

—Over the last three years the difference between what we have requested and what the Congress has authorized, and between what the Congress has authorized and what it has appropriated in each item on foreign economic assistance. This is a fact.

—A paper on the American constitutional process with respect to how money is appropriated.

—A paper on what programs are now being carried out by the U.S. in other countries and through what mechanisms.

—Some ideas on how a program for the DRV could be put together, and then various papers, three papers, on various institutions that could be created.

—Then I have included here statements which both the President and I have made publicly to support the program, and a collection of Congressional statements dealing with post-war aid to Indochina and North Vietnam.

And maybe if the Special Adviser is forced to read all of this he can’t make as much mischief in Cambodia as he is obviously planning. I have three copies here. [Dr. Kissinger hands papers over to the other side. Tab A.]

Le Duc Tho: These are only papers for study?

Dr. Kissinger: This is for study, but they have a practical significance because we have to make some practical decisions on how to proceed. It is totally useless for us to discuss theories of why aid should be given, how it should be disposed of, because until we get the money there is nothing we can do about it.

Pham Van Dong: I apologize, Mr. Special Adviser. I am prepared to listen to all what you have said, and we will read all the papers you have given us and we will study it, but what shall we talk about today? I think that we will not have to talk about the governmental process in the U.S. And I should say that in the whole process of our negotiation we have never invoked some difficulty in the governmental process of our country as a pretext to demand some solution.

[Page 1452]

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Prime Minister, this isn’t a pretext; this is a reality. We have to be able to develop a concrete program and a concrete schedule, or we will be talking pure theory. And this is what I would like to discuss with you—how we can go from here to a concrete program. That is the purpose of my observation.

The first thing is, and you can ask friendly countries that have some experience with us, that the money must be appropriated on an annual basis by our Congress and it has to be appropriated twice. First, as an authorization and secondly, after it is authorized, the money has to be voted specifically. Incidentally if you don’t believe me, I recommend that you invite a Congressional delegation here and see what they say to you. You can pick anybody you want, though it should be the key people, but you pick anybody you want. I am trying to give you a fair and honest account because we want this, and if we can work together, we can obtain it.

So this is a period where every year the Congress has cut the appropriation. You can see that when you look at the figures I gave you. I won’t repeat it. For example, this year the Congress has refused to vote any new money and we are continuing to operate on the money of last year. This is why the last column is called “Continuing Resolution Authority”. Secondly, as you know, the President has refused to spend money for domestic programs that the Congress has voted.

Pham Van Dong: Why? What is the reason?

Dr. Kissinger: The reason is because he wants to limit inflation, and he thinks the Congress has voted too much money and produced too great a deficit. Now imagine the problem when we go to Congress and say that we will not spend the money for domestic programs but we will spend it in North Vietnam with which we have been at war until six weeks ago.

With all due respect, Mr. Prime Minister, the Congressmen you have met don’t represent anybody. And those who have to vote for this money happen to be totally different.

Now I want to tell the Prime Minister something else that we have decided, that no one in our government yet knows. We have decided to take the money for reconstruction for Vietnam out of our defense budget rather than out of our general budget where it usually belongs. Now this presents its own difficulties but—I am mentioning all these things to the Prime Minister not to create a pretext but to give him some feeling of the complexity of what we are up against.

Pham Van Dong: May I say this, Mr. Special Adviser.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.

Pham Van Dong: First of all, I would like to express my suspicion. I tell you this so that if you have any persuasion then please persuade [Page 1453] me. I will speak very frankly and straightforwardly to you. It is known to everyone that the U.S. has spent a great amount of money in regard to the war in Vietnam. It is said about $200 billion, and in conditions that one would say that the Congress was not fully agreeable to this war. When the war was going on then the appropriation was so easy [laughs], and when we have to solve now a problem that is very legitimate and then you find it difficult. We should not deem it necessary to go in the complete complexity, the forest of legal aspects. I feel it very difficult to understand. Of course, when one is unwilling then the legal aspect is a means to this end. And I will not debate that the money will be taken from which budget, and I don’t think it necessary to invite any personality to ask his views on that—for the only reason, and a correct reason, that it is your affair. We have no reason to interfere in it, and there is also no necessity to do that.

Now please let me add one more idea. This is something of my imagination. If I have now to persuade the American Congress, I will succeed in persuading the Congress.

Dr. Kissinger: You haven’t got a chance, Mr. Prime Minister. We have to do it for you. You couldn’t get $10.00.

Pham Van Dong: First, I will not be allowed to enter America. [Laughs] It is a supposition. Please.

Dr. Kissinger: Are you finished?

Pham Van Dong: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: You’re a very heroic people. You are also very suspicious people, and I can understand why you would be suspicious. You have not been treated especially kindly by history. On the other hand, there are some periods when it is essential to have a certain amount of trust. Now I recognize what the Prime Minister said has reasonable aspects. That is to say, it is true we spend a great deal of money on the war and not always with the easy agreement of Congress. But let me explain to the Prime Minister the differences in the situation.

First, the military budget of the U.S. is relatively large—very large. And within that budget the President as Commander-in-Chief has a great deal of flexibility as to how he allocates the funds. It is very difficult for the Congress to legislate specific activities in the military field because the subject is too complex and the budget is too large. Moreover, when there is a war going on, the Senate and the Congress evidently is very reluctant; they will talk a great deal, but they are very reluctant to take a vote in which they can be blamed for losing the war. It is an experience you have had. You have met many tigers who made great speeches here who disappointed you when they came back to America. So that is why the military budget is different from the economic budget, and strangely enough it is the small size of sums [Page 1454] in the economic aid budget which makes the Congressional control more in those. Nobody understands what $80 billion is, but when you talk about $3 billion everybody thinks he understands this and everybody thinks he can check every item. [The Premier laughs.]

Where incidentally do you have your tape recorder—in this flower? [Indicates a flower] Because if you play this recording to a Congressman I will be in great difficulty.

Moreover, even with the defense budget, which you may not realize, between the time we submit it and the time the money is voted, it usually takes over six months. Now in the second year of our program this is not a major difficulty, because you can always continue the old appropriation for a time until the new appropriation is voted, but in the first year when you start, it is always a problem because anything can happen until that first appropriation is voted.

Mr. Prime Minister, you are totally wrong when you assume that we are looking for a pretext. We recognize that economic reconstruction is an integral part of our understandings and agreements. We have absolutely no interest to trick you. We will make an energetic effort, and we will succeed, but we have to agree on how to do it and this is what I am trying to convey to you.

Pham Van Dong: Mr. Adviser, please let me speak more and then you will continue, Mr. Adviser. I apologize to you as I have to say this. If I were in your place, I would not do what you are doing right now because I do not think that it is really what you are saying. I do not think that it is so difficult. Secondly, if it were so difficult I would not be able to tell it to our opponent or interlocutor because I would be . . .

Dr. Kissinger: You would be what?

Pham Van Dong: Awkward. Because why should I present a difficulty on our part to refuse what I have to do? Therefore I feel it impossible to go into the complexity of the legal aspects. Because it is not our problem, and it is not necessary to do that.

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Prime Minister, what you would do in my shoes I have no way of knowing. What I must do I have to judge because we cannot do it without your cooperation, and I am trying to explain to you what kind of program, why we must develop certain kinds of programs. But if you don’t want to hear that, then tell me what it is you want me to say, and I will tell you whether I can say it or not. But we will certainly not advance this matter by discussing what you would do if you were in my shoes because you are not in my shoes.

Pham Van Dong: [Laughs] Now I will listen to you, Mr. Adviser.

Dr. Kissinger: What I am—if I can bother the Prime Minister for five more minutes with technical matters.

[Page 1455]

Pham Van Dong: Please.

Dr. Kissinger: Our assistance is given in various categories, and it is also given in two basic ways: either bilaterally or multilaterally together with other nations, either by a direct contribution to the country concerned or by putting it into some international fund together with the contribution of other nations. These are the two basic categories.

As to bilateral aid, we have the following categories which we have been giving in the past: there are development funds which are generally low interest loans and which are given for specific projects on a very long term basis. And they are used to finance the import of the commodities required for the particular development project.

Secondly, there is technical assistance which is used to support feasibility studies and advice to support the success of the particular project. Some of it can be used for such things as building bridges and roads.

Another category is food aid, that can be in the form of grants or in the form of loans, and this, as the term implies, can be used to finance the import of food for certain categories.

Fourth, and that is the category most applicable to you, there is what is called generally humanitarian assistance. This is in the form of grants that can be used to finance housing, roadbuilding—it is generally given for immediate human needs rather than longer-term development activities. It can be in the form of goods or it can be in the form of food, or it can be a combination of both. Now what we would have to do is to submit a special bill for humanitarian assistance for Indochina with a special category for North Vietnam in order to get this program started, and we are prepared to do this.

Now a total program should be ideally composed of a combination of all of these and that is what we want the Economic Commission to work out with your people.

In addition to these bilateral programs, there are a number of multilateral programs. There is the World Bank to which we are the largest contributor. There is the Asian Development Bank. There is the World Food Program.

In short, there is a variety of programs and mechanisms which we can use, and we have to work together to find out in which category to extend the assistance. You have to tell us what you want in the bilateral category and what you want in the multilateral category. You have to tell us—or it would help us if you could tell us, what is needed immediately, what is needed for emergency reconstruction and rehabilitation, what is needed for long-term reconstruction and development and what is needed in the category of food. Then we can [Page 1456] develop a coherent program. From our domestic point of view it would be easiest if the program could be handled in various categories but some of it could be done through multilateral institutions, some of it bilateral, and some of it in the form of immediate humanitarian assistance because this would diffuse the Congressional pressures.

Now we are prepared to set up this Economic Commission immediately and to go to Congress in April with a specific proposal and to put the whole prestige of the Presidency behind it. Until this has been done you should defer your judgment whether we are trying to be evasive or not. But we have to prepare it carefully, and above all jointly. Of course, we understand that you keep the final decision. Now the disposition of the funds is a matter that the experts should work out. It is easier for us if most of the money is spent in the United States, but I don’t want to get into that issue. Wherever you spend it, it will wind up in Japan anyway. They are getting ready to buy the world. [The Premier laughs] So that part of it which the Prime Minister mentioned yesterday, we will settle easily. We have made many studies of the problem. Our difficulty is that we don’t know your desires nor do we know your needs. We don’t even know whether you would rather deal with multilateral institutions or whether you would rather deal with us bilaterally.

Pham Van Dong: Now please, Mr. Adviser, let me answer you. As I said yesterday, today I would like to stress it again, that is we should have a clearcut agreement on the very important points I raise now. I base myself on one provision of Chapter VIII of the Agreement to raise it regarding the obligation of the US to contribute to the healing of the war wounds and to contribute to rehabilitating the economy which was destroyed. We should understand each other. There is an obligation, and what I said yesterday, and what I am saying today, I hope that you clearly understand what I have to say. When the two Special Advisers have agreed on a certain amount in Paris that is only one point. We should have now a clearcut attitude on it. This is what we would like to have—the free disposal, the free use of this money to buy goods from the United States. These goods are aimed at rehabilitating and developing the very important branches of our destroyed economy, that is, communication and transport, industrial factories and enterprises or agricultural works and public utilities, to bring population centers accommodation and housing. It is now an obligation of the US to contribute to rehabilitate and develop these establishments destroyed by the war. I will not go into the details of these installations, but in the Joint Economic Commission they will list them out very concretely.

So as to remove the aftermath of the war, the consequences of the war and to remove them to some extent, we should like that the US [Page 1457] will bring about a contribution, significant contribution, for this is, of course, a very important, very necessary problem. For the US, I think that you should also realize the necessity, the obligation and the significance of this work.

Do we agree on that? If so, we shall have the free use of the amount of money without conditions.

As to the amount of money, under what form it is given, I think that it is not important, this question. How the selling and the buying will be performed, it is not a difficult question, but it should be borne in mind that the amount that the US will reserve to this work will be divided into five years. How much for each year will depend on the decision of the Economic Commission. What is the general program for the five years? What is the program for each year? It is on the basis of the Economic Commission and on the basis of the amount. But I think that we should settle these questions here in a very explicit way so that the Economic Joint Commission can do its job.

And then we answer to the note of President Nixon [Tab B], and if we can agree on that here, so far as I understand there will be no basic difficulty with regard to the Congress. We know that many countries now have the intention to support us in healing the wounds of war and to rehabilitate our economy. They have also to have the approval of their Congress, but it is their affair.

Dr. Kissinger: But they won’t give you much money either.

Pham Van Dong: But for the US, if now you grant us an amount of over $3 billion, in comparison to your Gross National Product it is meaningless.

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Prime Minister, it would take too long to explain the objective domestic situation in America today to which you have mightily contributed.

Pham Van Dong: I understand.

Dr. Kissinger: So let me—are you finished, Mr. Prime Minister, or am I interrupting you?

Pham Van Dong: Please, Mr. Adviser.

Dr. Kissinger: The other countries . . . you will see when the program is started, you will probably find that with all the countries that you have had this sort of relationship, we will be the most unselfish. But let us wait for the future on that; that is not something to be discussed in this meeting. Let me answer your points concretely.

First, your point about free use. Before I get to this, I think it is very constructive that we do not decide in the abstract about the annual amount, but that we leave it to the Economic Commission to decide what amount is appropriate for each year.

Pham Van Dong: It is all right.

[Page 1458]

Dr. Kissinger: That is the correct way to proceed.

Le Duc Tho: But in accordance with your estimation.

Dr. Kissinger: Oh yes. Oh yes, without prejudice to the total amount.

Le Duc Tho: So naturally there will be some more, some less, in the annual amount but on the basis of your estimate, annual estimation.

Dr. Kissinger: That is right. I agree. I just think one should deal with it very practically. There may be several years when it is more than a fifth and some years it is less; it depends on what is needed. It should be done on a practical basis. I have no idea what is the right basis.

Pham Van Dong: That is quite right.

Dr. Kissinger: And I am not prejudiced about it. I have no view on the subject. Now let me turn to the free use which the Special Adviser mentioned only 834 times to me. [The Vietnamese laugh]

Le Duc Tho: This is how simply I understand. Since it is a grant and without payment as you said, then the money is in my pocket, in my hand; now it is free to use the money.

Dr. Kissinger: The Special Adviser knows a lot about clandestine activities in Cambodia and Laos, but not as much about economic matters. Let me talk to the Prime Minister about the free use as I see it. As I understand the Prime Minister, he said one could have a program in housing and for roads and for an industrial plant and for various categories. If the Economic Commission can make such a program then within each category there can be free use of the funds that will in no case be tied to any political condition.

Pham Van Dong: But this amount of money we have free use of, that means that we are free to use this amount of money to build whatever we like. The problem lies in this.

Dr. Kissinger: It has to be broken down into some categories.

Pham Van Dong: Right.

Dr. Kissinger: So if you say—suppose you say you want to build $50 million worth of houses. There is an agreement then in the Economic Commission. Then that is up to you how you do that and where you do that.

Pham Van Dong: So this is . . .

Dr. Kissinger: As long as you don’t build them in Laos or Cambodia. They have to be built in North Vietnam. I am just thinking of the Special Adviser’s special concern.

Pham Van Dong: So this example is all right.

Dr. Kissinger: That is how we visualize it.

Pham Van Dong: But we should give full examples. For instance, the communication and transport we have to rebuild; the harbors, the [Page 1459] ports we have to rebuild; the railways, our factories, our industries, all industrial centers have been seriously damaged.

Dr. Kissinger: The way to do that is to agree on the form for the rebuilding of railways and then the projects are administered by you; or you make a project for the rebuilding of harbors and then it is up to you. This is how we visualize it.

Pham Van Dong: But here we should exhaust our ideas because if we do not settle the question of principle here then it would be difficult for the Joint Economic Commission to carry out its job.

Dr. Kissinger: But I have given you our thinking.

Pham Van Dong: So let me make it clear. So we will decide some amount for the building of houses, some amount for communication and transportation, some amount for industry or plants and some amount for agriculture, and then some amount for public utilities, or for instance, food or other goods. So we decide this amount and this amount will be taken into the global amount and in each annual amount. Free use means also that we will use this amount of money to buy equipment, material goods from the US, mainly from the US. So the Joint Economic Commission will discuss it, but the use of this money is on our side.

Dr. Kissinger: The way I think it would work in practice is to arrive at a figure, say for harbors; it has to be based on some studies—some ideas, but once the money is set aside you can determine how to spend it for these projects. The money will be spent by the DRV, and it will be your money to spend for those projects which the Commission has agreed upon.

Pham Van Dong: And we will be also free to use this money to buy equipment in what company in the US.

Dr. Kissinger: That is up to you. I hope not from Cora Weiss. [Laughter] No, no, it is up to you. We don’t care.

Pham Van Dong: So it should be clearly said that we have the free use of this amount of money and this use of money is without conditions.

Dr. Kissinger: Within this general discussion that we have, that we put it by categories and projects and then you have the free use to spend the money and to decide the companies.

Pham Van Dong: And whatever we would like to buy.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but if it is a harbor you can’t buy a tank for a harbor. It has to be for the project that we agreed on.

Pham Van Dong: To buy a tank and send it to An Loc.

Dr. Kissinger: You can’t build a harbor in An Loc. It has to be on the sea. That is one condition. All harbors are built on the ocean.

[Page 1460]

Pham Van Dong: Following this idea, let me ask this now regarding the industrial field. We can buy equipment to build a power plant for instance, mechanical construction plants, mechanical production plants for instance chemical manure.

Dr. Kissinger: Fertilizer.

Pham Van Dong: Because these plants were destroyed.

Dr. Kissinger: No problem about any of this, except the Commission will want to establish some priorities. You can’t build them all simultaneously, but that is natural. But all of these are items which should present no difficulty.

Pham Van Dong: So these would be without condition, and you should not say without political condition because it implies that there will be economic conditions.

Dr. Kissinger: I sometimes think the French educational system has left a strong theoretical residue here. The conditions are as we have described. We agree on projects; we agree on programs; and within those you are free to dispose of the funds. If we agree, if the Economic Commission agrees on a mechanical fertilizer plant, we don’t agree on each plant but on a specific project. You can then dispose of that amount. This is as we discussed.

Pham Van Dong: But this program of reconstruction may be worked out by us and discussed in the Joint Economic Commission.

Dr. Kissinger: That is correct. We don’t want a veto over your program.

Le Duc Tho: So this is what I understand. The amount agreed to by you and I, so this amount is divided into each year. It depends on—some year it is more, some other year it is less, and then the Joint Economic Commission will discuss it in accordance with our requirement for industry, for transportation and communication, for public utilities.

Dr. Kissinger: And if they agree, then to carry out the project according to your policy. The projects are operated and run by you.

Le Duc Tho: Then the material and equipment we will decide to buy in which company in your country. So that is how we understand the use of the amount we will have.

Dr. Kissinger: That is correct.

Le Duc Tho: So we have clearcut agreement on the amount and on the use of the money.

Dr. Kissinger: Let me make a realistic point. If you consistently bought from companies that would charge twice as much as any other, this would come to people’s attention and they would wonder why you would do this. But having dealt with the Special Adviser and now [Page 1461] the Prime Minister, I do not believe that it will be easy for American companies to take advantage of you. But you make your contracts with the American companies; that is your business.

Le Duc Tho: So besides the amount you have mentioned in the note to send to our Prime Minister, there is $1 billion to $1.5 billion to be discussed within the Joint Economic Commission and granted in other forms.

Dr. Kissinger: Mostly food.

Pham Van Dong: All right.

Le Duc Tho: The first sum of money is reserved for reconstruction.

Dr. Kissinger: That is right. Now I think we have agreed now on these items. Now let me make a few points where you must help us. This can be carried out expeditiously. First, you should talk as little as possible about an American obligation, and you should never talk about “reparation.” Our possibility for getting this money is enhanced if we do it as a voluntary act, as I explained to the Special Adviser on innumerable occasions. We understand each other.

Pham Van Dong: I have a view to express. We do not use the word “reparation” but now I use the word “obligation,” and I stress on the obligation, moral obligation and honor. And we will speak about the fact much or little; it depends on the attitude of the US, and there are many ways of speaking it. There are very good ways, very fine and it will satisfy everyone, but there are also other ways of speaking of it.

Dr. Kissinger: We know those.

Pham Van Dong: [Laughs] So we should understand each other on that point.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but I am really talking from a practical point. When the Special Adviser comes to America I will introduce him to Senator [Representative]2 Passman who heads a committee this money goes through, and he will find that moral obligation and honor are difficult words for him to understand.

We should not, when we are starting this program in April, talk about a total amount because it will start an endless debate. You and we know what the total amount is, and if we don’t carry it out you will undoubtedly publish the note. You have to understand the hardest sum to get is the first year. Once that is done the principle is established and then it will be much easier.

Pham Van Dong: I understand.

Dr. Kissinger: But we stick by what we have said.

[Page 1462]

Le Duc Tho: And if you stick to the understanding you had with us, we will stick to the understanding we have with you.

Dr. Kissinger: Even Cambodia? [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: I have explained to you many times. I will promote it.

Dr. Kissinger: “Don doc” it.

Pham Van Dong: Another point you raise to me about the question of Japan. Have you any ideas about that?

Dr. Kissinger: The Japanese are always—you have many experiences with the Japanese. We have no objection to any dealings you have with the Japanese. You will find that their economic policy is more aggressive and more restrictive than ours. As I said, they are trying to buy Southeast Asia not having conquered it. [Tho laughs] I think now having some experience with North Vietnam, I think you can take care of your independence very well. [Tho laughs] So it is up to you.

Pham Van Dong: So on that score you can be confident in us. But as I said on the first day regarding the prospect of the whole area, we have some necessity in it and some interest in doing our utmost to have this. On the basis of independence, sovereignty, neutrality and peace.

Dr. Kissinger: We want no special position here, and we don’t object to whomever you want to deal with. I think that politically, having had this recent experience, we will want to remain in close contact so that there is no misunderstanding, but this is without prejudice to your relations with any other country. We have no objections to any other relations you may have. You have to be the judge of this.

Pham Van Dong: So it is clear now. But let me return to the economic question again. So the amount you grant us, we will reserve the greater part of it to buy good equipment in the US, but we would like to have a small amount of foreign currencies to buy goods from other countries.

Dr. Kissinger: That can almost certainly be arranged. That can be done. Let me ask a question, Mr. Prime Minister, and also make one other observation. First, we haven’t really settled on whether we should do this program on a multilateral or a bilateral basis.

Pham Van Dong: I think that mainly it would be bilateral.

Dr. Kissinger: It is all right. Then the Economic Commission can discuss if there are some projects that would be best on a multilateral basis.

Pham Van Dong: So the multilateral is in keeping with the ideas I have just discussed.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, we have no problem. Now we will nominate our members to the Joint Commission within two weeks. Or let us say two weeks after I return, which should be by March 4th.

[Page 1463]

Pham Van Dong: We will do the same.

Dr. Kissinger: Now may I make another suggestion here. We have said on March 1st, let us say March 4th. Secondly it is possible that the people—this is a new program for our people and there may be ideas raised which will be difficult in the light of what we have discussed here. In that case, Mr. Prime Minister, you or the Special Adviser should get in touch with me through the channel in Paris. [The Premier laughs] Don’t have a confrontation right away. Call my attention to it, and we will exchange views frankly and we will settle it in the spirit of our discussion here. But you remember this is a new thing for us, and our experts may not understand it completely. That is, I may not tell them everything. But it will be carried out in the spirit and in the substance of what we discussed. Now where should the Economic Commission meet?

Pham Van Dong: Have you any view on it?

Dr. Kissinger: We thought Geneva or Paris.

Pham Van Dong: Initially, on the first step, we will discuss it concretely later.

Dr. Kissinger: Initially where?

Pham Van Dong: In the next few days I will answer you, later.

Dr. Kissinger: That’s fine. We don’t have to know now—not Ulan Bator. It has to be convenient to both sides. Or in Pyongyang.

Pham Van Dong: Never mind. So we have settled one question this morning.

Dr. Kissinger: We settled only half of our question.

Le Duc Tho: It is a difficult question, but as I told you we will act in an active way in the direction of peace.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but not along the lines of what you said. That is impossible. It must be more concrete and realistic. [Tho laughs]

Pham Van Dong: Shall we adjourn now and resume at 5:00 to give you some time for a sightseeing tour?

Dr. Kissinger: That is fine. As long as it is this group that now has only my staff. The Special Adviser will explain that certain issues connected with the special channel we will not discuss this afternoon.

Le Duc Tho: I will meet you personally tomorrow morning. We will have some questions.

Dr. Kissinger: Right. It is just that there are some things we don’t raise in front of everybody. We will work with your protocol people on the time of our departure tomorrow. We want to delay it for two hours for convenience, to 11:00. We will work it out with your protocol people.

Le Duc Tho: So if we finish our discussions this afternoon, then tomorrow morning you and I will talk.

[Page 1464]

Dr. Kissinger: And then we leave the Guest House at 11:00. That gives us two hours in the morning. Good. 5 o’clock.

[The meeting adjourned at 1:03 p.m.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 113, Country Files, Far East, Vietnam Negotiations, Hanoi Memcons, February 10–13, 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting was held at the DRV President’s House. All brackets, except where noted, are in the original. The tabs are attached but not printed.
  2. Bracketed correction supplied by the editor.