55. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Pham Van Dong, Premier
  • Nguyen Duy Trinh, Deputy Premier and Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Le Duc Tho, Special Advisor to DRV Delegation to Paris Conference on Vietnam
  • Nguyen Co Thach, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Phan Hien, Member of DRV Delegation to Paris Conference on Vietnam
  • Tran Quang Co, Member of DRV Delegation to Paris Conference on Vietnam
  • Dinh Nho Liem, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Nguyen Dinh Phuong, Interpreter
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • William H. Sullivan, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs
  • Richard T. Kennedy, Senior NSC Staff
  • Winston Lord, NSC Staff
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff
  • David Engel, NSC Staff, Interpreter
  • Mrs. Bonnie D. Andrews, Notetaker

Mr. Kissinger: Are the saboteurs after us again? [Laughter]

Pham Van Dong: Mr. Special Advisor, this afternoon we shall continue to discuss the relationship between our two countries. We have studied your paper just lately. [US paper on Normalization of US–DRV Relations, Tab A.] Mr. Special Advisor, have you anything to add about this?

Mr. Kissinger: Mr. Prime Minister, we have summed up our views very concretely on this subject in the paper. I do want to say that it is our fixed policy to move as rapidly as we can towards normalization of relations with the DRV. We have indicated to you the steps which we believe it is appropriate to take. And, of course, we have discussed [Page 1465] other steps, such as the visit of the Special Advisor to the United States, which we have not specified in the paper.

Pham Van Dong: I agree to the direction designed by you, and we should maintain the present channels of communications. And it might be that we should have new relations, such as the Joint Economic Commission. This is a body which may have great importance because of its activities. And there should be economic relations between the two countries. There might be some relationship in traveling. And at the same time the Four-Party Joint Commission will no doubt become more consolidated and have better conditions for its activities.

Mr. Kissinger: But of course that will end in April.

Pham Van Dong: Right. But the other channels will be maintained.

Mr. Kissinger: They will be maintained.

Pham Van Dong: Therefore in your paper you gave us yesterday there was one proposition that in our minds is not necessary—that is the establishment of a liaison office—that is, because we have the present means of communicating and as soon as possible we will normalize our relations. I think that this way of doing things would be more normal.

Mr. Kissinger: That is entirely up to you. So we in any event propose that the missions in Paris that are attached to Avenue Kleber be abolished. We will in any event abolish our mission after the International Conference.

Pham Van Dong: It is all right.

Mr. Kissinger: But we will maintain the channels with which we are familiar. And we will establish the Economic Commission. Have you had a chance to consider where you think the Economic Commission should be located?

Pham Van Dong: We have not yet actually considered this question. I will answer you in a few days time.

Mr. Kissinger: Maybe Geneva, as I said this morning, would be the appropriate place.

Pham Van Dong: Geneva or Paris.

Mr. Kissinger: That means the French Foreign Minister will advise us both. [Laughter] We would never have settled the war without him. It is a possibility. But there will have to be visits of some specialists here and probably of some of your specialists in America.

Pham Van Dong: Quite right. It is a matter of course.

Mr. Kissinger: So, except for the establishment of the liaison office, is the rest of the paper in conformity with your general understanding? [They nod]

Pham Van Dong: Regarding this paper there is only the third paragraph. I read it: “For the time being, as has been agreed between [Page 1466] the two Special Advisors, the U.S. and the DRV delegations to the Paris Conference on Vietnam shall remain in place in Paris and shall remain in contact with each other.” I think that this third paragraph should be maintained.

Mr. Kissinger: Should be maintained? Are you saying this is the only paragraph in the whole document that can be maintained?

Pham Van Dong: I point out this paragraph because Dr. Kissinger said that after the Conference the mission should be dissolved, but now the paragraph said they should stay 60 days. This is all right.

Mr. Kissinger: All right. 60 days. I just wanted to expedite Minister Xuan Thuy’s return to his native place. [Laughter] Some North Vietnamese has to return to his native place as a result of this Agreement.

Pham Van Dong: Then after the third paragraph the two following paragraphs deal with the liaison officer.

Mr. Kissinger: I understand you are against that.

Pham Van Dong: In our view it is not necessary to have such an officer because we have other channels of communication. Then new relations will be established in view of the activities of the new Joint Economic Committee. If we say anything here it should be matters of principle. It should need further discussion later in detail. Then the following paragraph deals with the normalization of the relationship. We have been talking about this in principle already. In a word, these are the few remarks we have on this paper. We will redraft it again and talk later.

Mr. Kissinger: All right. Now, can we say a few words about the communiqué?

Pham Van Dong: We shall shift to the communiqué. If Minister Tho and Ambassador Sullivan have settled the question of International Conference; we can discuss that.

Mr. Kissinger: But they have not settled it, and we have to have a discussion of at least one aspect of the Conference. And this concerns the role of the Secretary General. It was one of the Special Advisor’s special contributions to the Agreement, [laughter] which we accepted as an expression of our good will and serious intent. [Laughter] And now, Mr. Prime Minister, that we have jointly achieved the participation of the UN Secretary General, we must come to some decision as to what to do with him. And that should be reflected in our invitation.

Pham Van Dong: On our part, we would like to make clear the following points. Probably you have known our point of view and our attitude regarding the United Nations and the Secretary General of the United Nations.

Mr. Kissinger: Not about the Secretary General. [Laughter]

Pham Van Dong: Therefore, I have not to speak lengthily about that question. But since the signing of this Agreement between we both [Page 1467] and the four parties, and in view of the other matters of concern, we think there should be the presence of the Secretary General at the International Conference.

Mr. Kissinger: To do what?

Pham Van Dong: In our view, as an observer. In our mind it is a positive thing. As the role of an observer, everyone knows what an observer does. It is a very major job he would have, [laughter] and I think that Mr. Secretary General will be pleased with this role. I would be pleased in whatever role I would have to do as an observer. [Laughter]

Mr. Kissinger: Mr. Lord is a student of the U.N. and his mother used to work there. He shudders when you speak, Mr. Prime Minister.

Pham Van Dong: Mr. Secretary General of the U.N. had the intention to call on us too, and if we have an opportunity to meet him I will tell him that.

Mr. Kissinger: Mr. Prime Minister, as you know, we did not propose the participation of the U.N. Secretary General. It was the contribution of the DRV to the membership of the Conference.

Pham Van Dong: You are right.

Mr. Kissinger: And among the less precise minds among my colleagues it was interpreted as a sign of a new realization of the importance of the United Nations on the part of the leadership in Hanoi. They were very moved. [Laughter]

Pham Van Dong: Dr. Kissinger has rightly said this. And I have added a few words as I have just done. I apologize to Dr. Kissinger. We should not be more royalist than the king.

Mr. Kissinger: The difficulty that we now confront is—nor was the proposal made that he be an observer, something for which he might have been very grateful three months ago—he is enshrined in the document as a formal participant. So now the question is that we as a founding member of the U.N. cannot take the position that having been invited he can only participate as an observer.

So now in fact there are only two practical solutions. In fact, I think there is only one practical solution. Theoretically the Secretary General could be a participant in the Conference like everyone else—which would prolong it as much as two days, since he likes to make speeches almost as much as the Foreign Minister of France. The other possibility is the one which Ambassador Sullivan mentioned to the Vice Foreign Minister this morning. It is that you and we are co-chairmen of the Conference and that the Secretary General is the principal executive officer of the Conference. This would in practice make him an observer, because he could act only with the approval of the two co-chairmen, and as moderator of the discussions he could not participate in them. [Page 1468] And we think this is the practical way to achieve the result which the Prime Minister proposes.

Pham Van Dong: [Laughs] I think we should further think about this question and we should discuss this with other participants of the Conference.

Mr. Kissinger: But it will affect the text of our invitation.

Pham Van Dong: Of course, of course. If I understand Dr. Kissinger’s views, the main thing here is that of the role of observer.

Mr. Kissinger: The practical role would be that of observer. His official title will be something like principal executive officer of the Conference. And under the direction of the two co-chairmen he would moderate the meetings, he would see to the distribution of the papers, but he couldn’t intervene in the discussions. It would be commensurate with the dignity of the office but it also meets the concerns of the Prime Minister.

Pham Van Dong: I would like to respond clearly our point of view. At the negotiations in Paris we came to an agreement to convene the International Conference. We think the task of the International Conference is as provided for in the Agreement. We have also discussed the composition, the participants of this Conference, and any participant to this Conference in our view has the same basis for participation. Generally speaking the participants are countries concerned with the problem, concerned particularly with the ending of the war and restoring peace in Vietnam. I think that for all these countries to participate in the Conference would be all right. But at that moment we also thought of the U.N., for the reason that we also had in mind the relation that the U.N. may have in this question, and the relation we had in mind is that the Secretary General of the U.N. would play the role of observer. Just his presence at the conference. This is one point. The second point is . . . I am not yet very clear about Dr. Kissinger’s view, but if I understand him correctly, the role of the Secretary General of the U.N. is the role of the General Secretary of the Conference, and after the International Conference he will play some role afterward too. If so, we would think this role will not be necessary. And in this connection we have consulted with a number of countries who will participate in the International Conference.

Mr. Kissinger: The Special Advisor equally enjoys making an agreement and then destroying it before it is implemented.

Le Duc Tho: I have created now one thing that has become complicated for many parties.

Mr. Kissinger: If I may say so, Mr. Special Advisor, if you had never mentioned it we would all have been much happier today. I was so eager to please you and you were so insistent. [Laughter]

[Page 1469]

Now let us be realistic here. First, the Agreement lists the Secretary General as a participant, not an observer, in the Conference. This is the assumption under which everyone has operated. [Tho gets up to leave the room briefly.] It is not fair that the Special Advisor should leave his own creation.

Pham Van Dong: But I think this is not a major question.

Mr. Kissinger: But I wanted to say something. Secondly, the Secretary General would be General Secretary of the Conference under the direction of the two co-chairmen. So he would not have an independent role. As to what role he should play after the Conference, that will be decided at the Conference. And I have the impression that in the absence of the Special Advisor your delegation will not fight for a continuing role. [Laughter]

Pham Van Dong: Actually we had thought of the Secretary General of the U.N., and I think it is very appropriate for the General Secretary of the U.N. to participate in the International Conference as an observer, for the following reason: It is an international conference, an international conference between the parties concerned in the ending of the war and the restoration of the peace. So in this case the General Secretary will participate in the Conference to witness the work of the Conference between the parties but not participate in the work of the conference.

Mr. Kissinger: Mr. Prime Minister, there are many theoretical reasons for the General Secretary’s participating in the conference. I even believe that history would have continued without turmoil if he had not been invited. But he was listed as a participant. Once having been invited he cannot be just an observer. As a founder of the U.N. we cannot say that he can only be an observer. There must be some dignified way he can be a participant. And secondly, if this isn’t settled we cannot agree on the joint chairmanship and we must find some other way of chairing the Conference. There must be some way of resolving this.

Pham Van Dong: The question of finding another system of chairing the Conference, it is another question and we will think about it. We have no special requirements.

Mr. Kissinger: Well, if you want the Secretary General to act as observer, it is up to you. We do not accept that proposition. We frankly would not have proposed it but we cannot be a party to humiliating him.

Pham Van Dong: I don’t see anything that would humiliate the Secretary General. And I disagree with the view particularly that this view comes from our part.

Mr. Kissinger: Well Mr. Prime Minister, had we ever had this pregnant thought we might have proposed a group and then on the [Page 1470] first day of the Conference invited the Secretary General as an observer, and there would have never been a difficulty whatsoever.

Pham Van Dong: Our intention to invite the Secretary General of the U.N. to participate as an observer was in view of the position I have expounded to you. And I think this is a position dignified enough for the Secretary General and it does no harm to the value of the Secretary General or the United Nations.

Mr. Kissinger: Well, we disagree.

Pham Van Dong: So then we should further think about this question and discuss it.

Mr. Kissinger: So what do we do about the invitation? In that case we cannot send out the invitations, because we cannot send him an invitation to participate as an observer. It would be contrary to the Agreement.

Pham Van Dong: So I think that that invitation should be sent as provided for in the Agreement, just like the invitation that is sent to the other participants. As to the role the Secretary General shall play in the conference, we still have time to discuss it. As I told you, on this question we have consulted with a number of friendly countries. We cannot change our position at will. We have to respect their views.

[Le Duc Tho returns to the meeting.]

Mr. Kissinger: I agree we must send the invitation. What do we do when he arrives? Will someone make the motion that the Secretary General is only an observer?

Pham Van Dong: On that subject we should have time for further discussion.

Mr. Kissinger: Then I propose that Mr. Thach and Ambassador Sullivan work out an invitation that will not mention any participants or the chairman or any particular role for the Secretary General; that we merely send out the invitations and consider it further. But I would point out that it would be rather unfortunate if we began the International Conference, which is supposed to promote reconciliation between us, with a brawl between us. So we should exchange ideas fairly rapidly. And if you have no objections, I will also discuss it with your friends when I visit with them later this week. In the spirit of reconciliation and concord.

Pham Van Dong: International reconciliation.

Mr. Kissinger: So we get those two gentlemen together. But before we let them go we have one other matter to discuss. You picked up a piece of paper.

Pham Van Dong: Just to take notes of what you said.

Mr. Kissinger: We have two communiqués. We have submitted a draft to you [Tab B] and you have just submitted a draft to us [Tab [Page 1471] C]. I have now enough experience with negotiators from North Vietnam to know that if I accepted your draft you would probably dismiss Minister Thach believing there was something wrong with him. But I would like to say I don’t think it fully meets the necessities of the situation, and I thought we should have some exchanges of views so that the Ambassador and the Minister can redraft it on the basis of more specific instructions.

Now first, let me explain what we attempted to do in our communiqué.

Some of the material is the same. But what we attempted to indicate is the positive direction and the fact that this could indicate a new departure. And therefore we concluded our draft communiqué with some common principles that should guide our relationship. And in fact we wanted to pick up, with some modifications, the five principles which the Prime Minister developed on our first day here, because we believe they are a good basis for a relationship. We do not insist that every specific principle mentioned be put exactly in this form. But we think there must be some concrete conclusion.

Now, as to the specific points. We mentioned the problems of Indochina somewhat more prominently than you did—which was not hard to do since you do not want to mention them at all! On the other hand, you mention the detailed allegation of violations, which we cannot put into a communiqué at all. We promised you we would investigate. But we cannot agree to a joint statement with you affirming it. So I believe that the specific allegations should be omitted, though I agree a reference to strict implementation of the Agreement is a necessity.

The first sentence of the first full paragraph does not reflect reality because we never discussed this problem in any detail. The rest of the paragraph is all right but too thin.

The next paragraph, about economic reconstruction: It is very unwise to say, “they have agreed to the main content” because this will immediately get us into a Congressional brawl, and as I said this morning, this is premature. But we can have a very positive formulation for this paragraph. It is our intention to have a very positive formulation.

This is all we have to say on your draft. This is our only comment on your draft. And if you agree with this approach, then perhaps Minister Thach and Ambassador Sullivan can work out mutual language that is a little more elevated than you have proposed.

On the principles, I am substantially in agreement with the views which the Prime Minister expressed the other day. And we can change these to conform to those of the Prime Minister. I am prepared to have Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach work out language.

[Page 1472]

Pham Van Dong: We are prepared to leave the subject to Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach to discuss it.

Mr. Kissinger: Ambassador Sullivan says he knows when he is not wanted in the room. So he is going to leave.

Pham Van Dong: So he has to shoulder a very difficult job. Mr. Special Advisor, I now propose a little break, and afterwards we will see if there are other necessary things; after that we will do it.

Mr. Kissinger: All right.

[The main meeting recessed at 6:20 and did not resume. Sullivan, Rodman, Thach, Hien, and Co departed to a smaller meeting room and discussed the invitation to the Conference and the communiqué until 8:00 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 are in the original. The tabs are attached but not printed.