56. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Le Duc Tho, Special Adviser to DRV Delegation to the Paris Conference on Vietnam
  • Nguyen Dinh Phuong, Interpreter
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Winston Lord, NSC Staff
  • David Engel, NSC Staff

[Le Duc Tho presented Dr. Kissinger with some pictures of the visit. Dr. Kissinger said that he would send him some of the American pictures.]

Dr. Kissinger: Shall we cover a few points that I have? (Le Duc Tho nods yes.) First a technical point. You have to tell us after your negotiating group is abolished in Paris with whom we should communicate and we will tell you who will deliver our messages. For the time being it will be the same person.

Le Duc Tho: Let me answer you immediately.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.

[Page 1473]

Le Duc Tho: After the dissolution of our Delegation in Paris if there is anything, Colonel Guay will call to the Delegate-General. He will meet the Delegate-General whether there is a verbal or written message. And the Delegate-General will convey it to me. That is the habitual channel.

Dr. Kissinger: Is that the habitual channel?

Mr. Lord: Yes. Mr. Vo Van Sung.

Dr. Kissinger: Good. We will continue that.

Le Duc Tho: If we meet each other, where should it be?

Dr. Kissinger: We can make a proposal. Of course, Paris is convenient for me, but it doesn’t have to be Paris. We can decide that from case to case.

Le Duc Tho: All right. But it is too long to Paris for me. It takes four days.

Dr. Kissinger: We can meet in Hawaii or Tokyo.

Le Duc Tho: Yes. We will consider it. In any case it should be a shorter distance for me. We will decide that.

Dr. Kissinger: We will decide on a case to case basis. Either side can propose a meeting when matters are very urgent. Otherwise we will meet when you come to the United States in the summer. Will you come through Europe?

Le Duc Tho: For the time being I don’t know. You see foreign planes only have . . .

Dr. Kissinger: You don’t have to have a plane in America. We can take care of your travelling inside of America, or you may bring one to America.

Le Duc Tho: But I don’t know the itinerary. From Vietnam to America, what is the shortest route?

Dr. Kissinger: Actually it is the same distance if you go through Europe to the East Coast or through Alaska. I think it is shorter to go to Alaska and then to Washington.

Le Duc Tho: But before reaching Alaska where do I go?

Dr. Kissinger: China. Probably you go from China directly to Alaska. It is a six hour flight.

Le Duc Tho: And from Alaska to Washington, how many hours more is that?

Dr. Kissinger: We are talking about jets. It’s about eight hours. We can take care of you once you are in America. You can take your plane if you want to.

Le Duc Tho: That is covered.

Dr. Kissinger: We will take care of it. Or you can go to Hawaii, and we will take care of you from there. It’s about eight hours from here. From Hawaii it’s about eleven hours to Washington, ten or eleven.

[Page 1474]

Le Duc Tho: So we go straight from Washington to Hawaii.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. In about ten or eleven hours.

Le Duc Tho: There is no stopover?

Dr. Kissinger: We can fly you directly. But you may stop if you want to on the West Coast.

Le Duc Tho: To go from Hanoi to Hawaii do we go to China first or directly from Hanoi to Hawaii?

Dr. Kissinger: You can go from Hanoi to Hawaii. You don’t have to go to China. You can go from Hanoi to Guam to Hawaii. We can arrange transportation. We can probably arrange it even from Guam which is about five hours.

Le Duc Tho: I think in the future we should establish some airlines. We will think of it now for convenience on our mutual visits.

Dr. Kissinger: Another thing if you go on commercial airlines you go from Vientiane and Bangkok or Hongkong. We can make it very easy. The technical matters are very easy. You will be very comfortable. You tell us any specific request that you have.

Let me just take a minute again about Laos. First, we are counting that there will be a ceasefire on the 15th.

Shall we have Ambassador Sullivan sit in on some of this or would you rather talk alone?

Le Duc Tho: I will talk to you about these points.

Dr. Kissinger: Then on your proposal there will be a political settlement within thirty days and a total withdrawal no later than ninety days. We want to consult our friends. The proposition is that the withdrawal should start from the ceasefire, in some time period after the ceasefire is what our understanding said.

Le Duc Tho: Yesterday we exchanged views with our allies. We will have a political settlement within thirty days. The troop withdrawal will be completed within a period of thirty days to ninety days. I think it will not take as much as thirty days for the completion of the political settlement. We will endeavor to complete it before that date.

Dr. Kissinger: It is a matter of very great import for us.

Le Duc Tho: I understand. But the political settlement we understand should come in the overall agreement in which there is a provision regarding troop withdrawal. But you should persuade your ally, and we will persuade our allies that they come to an agreement before thirty days. Yesterday I reviewed the problem, and I think that in principle they have agreed on many important questions.

Dr. Kissinger: Souvanna insists, and we agree with him, that there cannot be a new neutral faction now. He is head of the neutralists.

[Page 1475]

Le Duc Tho: So you express your views. I think we should leave it to the two Laotian parties to discuss, and you will encourage and persuade them. Let them discuss.

Dr. Kissinger: They should discuss, but you should understand our view.

Le Duc Tho: I understand through these discussions.

Dr. Kissinger: Above all let them settle. We don’t want them to discuss it for four years.

Now Cambodia. (Le Duc Tho laughs). We can’t accept it that we must settle this with Sihanouk. Let Cambodian problems be negotiated among them. We will encourage our friends. And again, if the war continues in Cambodia, and if your forces stay in Cambodia, this will make normalization very difficult. I have expressed my views but I have again been told by the President to make sure to stress it. And I understand what you were saying at the breakfast table that sometimes things are not very concrete but can still happen.

Le Duc Tho: I was speaking generally, but not specifically about Cambodia.

Dr. Kissinger: I was certain you were talking about Cambodia.

Le Duc Tho: You always have Cambodia on the mind.

Dr. Kissinger: I have shifted. I used to have the Ho Chi Minh Trail on my mind.

Le Duc Tho: Now the Ho Chi Minh Trail is settled. There is a ceasefire in Laos now.

Dr. Kissinger: It is important to try not to take advantage of each other because it will lead to serious consequences. You remember I told you in Paris for many years not to press us too hard and this is the same here. (Le Duc Tho laughs)

Le Duc Tho: I wonder whether you want to put pressure on me or I on you.

Dr. Kissinger: I mean in military things.

Le Duc Tho: But you use the term, military pressures, on me.

Dr. Kissinger: After you started it. If you do not start an offensive we will not use military pressures. We had no intention of doing anything in 1972.

Le Duc Tho: We always oppose your military pressures.

Dr. Kissinger: In 1972 when you started your military offensive we were not making military pressures. After you started the offensive we made a great deal of pressure.

Le Duc Tho: Now if we review past events then it will take a long time.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree. It is important you understand us. When speaking privately it is right to say, as I said to the Prime Minister, [Page 1476] that you have two choices. You can use the Agreement as conciliation or you can use it to continue pressures against us. If you use it to continue pressures, then soon we would be in confrontation. If you use the Agreement to improve our relations we will work at it very intensively and with great conviction.

Le Duc Tho: The other day we told you, and it conformed exactly to your view in words, that we had to implement the Agreement strictly.

Dr. Kissinger: In spirit, also.

Le Duc Tho: Yes. And through action.

Dr. Kissinger: Exactly.

Le Duc Tho: The action is more important. When there is violation of the Agreement then we will use the Agreement as means to counter violations of the Agreement with the view to maintaining strictly the Agreement. And we are resolute in doing that.

But as for the Cambodian problem, we told you that if the Cambodian problem were like the Lao problem we would have settled it.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but you must make a major effort and you must do something about your troops there. How can we go to Congress when you have troops everywhere and say yet we must normalize relations with you?

Le Duc Tho: The point is now how to come to negotiations in Cambodia. Then everything will be settled. The difficulty does not lie on our part but elsewhere. This is the context.

Dr. Kissinger: I have the impression that if you tell your troops to leave that they will obey your orders. Your troops are very well disciplined.

Le Duc Tho: But there are complex relationships with allies. We can’t suddenly leave there. Objectively you understand that. Our interest is to push forward negotiations. Frankly speaking, privately we discussed how to persuade our allies to enter into negotiations when Sihanouk was here. We spoke a great deal to him.

Dr. Kissinger: I believe he spoke a great deal to you, too.

Le Duc Tho: You should see the situation. Look at it in a general way. We settled the Vietnam problem with you. We discussed with our allies in Laos to settle the Laos problem. We have a big broad program of economic reconstruction. There is no reason to keep our troops in Cambodia.

Dr. Kissinger: I think you understand our concerns. We expressed them.

Le Duc Tho: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: I think you will find the means. We will make an effort on our side with our friends.

[Page 1477]

Le Duc Tho: I have told you on many occasions. We now settled the Vietnam problem. We have settled the Laos problem. It is in our interest to have some negotiations about Cambodia. We have no interest in continuing the war because if we did so we would not have settled the Vietnam problem and the Laos problem.

Dr. Kissinger: There is a problem about your forces in Cambodia. The problem will become serious in April and May when we go to the Congress with our program.

Le Duc Tho: I understand your concern, but you should also understand our objective difficulty because we ended the war in Vietnam and Laos. Why would we want to continue the war in Cambodia? There is no point.

Dr. Kissinger: Well, what we can’t accept is that you use your troops to bring about a political solution in your favor.

Le Duc Tho: No, that’s not true. It depends completely on our allies. I understand your concern, and I have explained to you our difficulty.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but you will consider my points again very seriously.

Le Duc Tho: If now I accept your proposal to study the points, then when we meet again you will ask me what study you have made of the points. It is difficult for me to answer you. You should understand that. I think the difficulty lies with the political questions and not the military question.

Dr. Kissinger: Certainly I’ll ask the results of your study. As long as you have troops there you are violating Article 20b of the Agreement.

Le Duc Tho: When there is negotiations in Cambodia and a settlement there, then we will withdraw our troops immediately. But there are no prospects of a settlement at all.

Dr. Kissinger: But that means there are no prospects of your withdrawing your troops, which is a direct violation of Article 20b.

Le Duc Tho: I have explained to you lengthily yesterday. My interest in calling on you was to talk with you and remind you of some questions. You raise these questions again. And there is a long discussion about it. As I told you this question is very complex, difficult.

Dr. Kissinger: But you should have no illusions that we will ever accept your position on this.

Le Duc Tho: It is your right.

Dr. Kissinger: And it will have serious effects on our relations if the war there continues, and if your troops remain.

Le Duc Tho: I understand you. And I do not want anything else than to implement the Agreement strictly so that our relationship remains good. But this question is very complicated and difficult.

[Page 1478]

Dr. Kissinger: I think we have explained each other’s point of view.

Le Duc Tho: I understand.

Dr. Kissinger: U.S. prisoners. We would appreciate it if you would give us some information about those people whose case histories we gave you.

Le Duc Tho: We will strive to have full information.

Dr. Kissinger: On those which we gave you pictures.

Le Duc Tho: But I tell you that in this connection you should have full confidence in me. This is a political question and also a humanitarian question. This is how we Vietnamese are. At the very beginning of our negotiations I told you that we would agree with our allies that whatever prisoners they hold they will release. Please think, what reason is there to keep behind 15 American prisoners? What reason do we have? What reason to do harm to our relationship? And we have to feed them.

Dr. Kissinger: If you could give us whatever information you have about those cases I brought with me—we know they were captured at one point. (Le Duc Tho gets a message and reads it.)

Le Duc Tho: We will do our utmost to get any information available and let you know.

Dr. Kissinger: If you can give us any other information on MIA’s, and if you can do it rapidly, it will make a very good impression in America.

Le Duc Tho: We will do everything possible. But regarding the rapidity, you should understand the conditions of our country. There are jungles and forests and mountains. Sometimes it is very difficult to find out information. You understand that during the war that sometimes it takes a whole year to find out.

Dr. Kissinger: As rapidly as possible would make a very good impression.

Le Duc Tho: I will promote this, “don duc”.

Dr. Kissinger: I am not speaking officially—I have been asked by Japanese newsmen that some Japanese newsmen may be held prisoners. It is not my official responsibility. Do you have any information?

Le Duc Tho: Where were they captured?

Dr. Kissinger: I think in Cambodia.

Mr. Lord: Yes, in Cambodia.

Le Duc Tho: I will try to find out.

Dr. Kissinger: And you will let me know.

Le Duc Tho: Japanese journalists. We will get whatever information we can get.

[Page 1479]

Dr. Kissinger: I would appreciate it.

Le Duc Tho: In Cambodia.

Dr. Kissinger: In Cambodia.

Le Duc Tho: Myself, I don’t know whether there are Japanese journalists captured or not.

Dr. Kissinger: On implementing the Agreement, my understanding is that on February 14th, that is tomorrow, they will issue instructions for the observation of the ceasefire at the Joint Military Commission. They will propose discussion of it and then instructions will be issued to observe the ceasefire.

Le Duc Tho: I agree. I was going to tell you about this. We should put an end to all these things.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, I agree. We issued instructions to our members. We will also agree on legal points of entry for the two parties.

Le Duc Tho: Yes. Regarding violations of the agreement, Premier Pham Van Dong and myself have explained to you lengthily. Now in South Vietnam if peace is to be maintained, it depends on South Vietnam. If lasting peace is to be preserved, it depends on the South Vietnamese. Strict implementation of the Agreement is essential. Because there are violations of the Agreement by the troops now of the Saigon Authorities. They are repressing people and preventing them from leaving concentration camps and preventing them from moving freely. And the democratic liberties we mentioned in the Agreement, they don’t ensure them at all. If so, there will be clashes between the two parties. Once there are clashes happening, clashes have a law and then gradually develop. It will be difficult to maintain the peace then because the two military forces are still in front of each other and also the working methods should be changed, the working means, the accommodations.

Dr. Kissinger: We will look into this and do our utmost to improve it. We will look into all of your complaints. We cannot accept 175 trucks entering South Vietnam and you simply assert that these are for civilian goods. They must come through legal points of entry under the international supervision as the Agreement provides.

Le Duc Tho: I explained to you that in the liberated regions of the PRG they need supplies and therefore we need to send these. Let them decide points of entry and then go through there.

Dr. Kissinger: Then, we are very concerned about 300 tanks. You can’t send these legally into any of these countries.

Le Duc Tho: Premier Pham Van Dong has responded to you about these tanks.

Dr. Kissinger: What do you think he said? I am not sure I understood his answer.

[Page 1480]

Le Duc Tho: You didn’t listen to him.

Dr. Kissinger: Can you repeat it so I can review it?

Le Duc Tho: Premier Pham Van Dong said that what proof do you have and to what end?

Dr. Kissinger: We have proof.

Le Duc Tho: I told you that you might see tanks, but they were on the spot beforehand.

Dr. Kissinger: Why do they keep moving south?

Le Duc Tho: I am frankly speaking.

Dr. Kissinger: If it continues, it will make Article 7 implementation impossible. Then we have to give tanks to the other side to equalize what you do, and we are right back to where we started.

Le Duc Tho: You are always raising these points, but there are so many violations in South Vietnam—repression, and shelling of people, and democratic liberties not being assured in South Vietnam. As far as we are concerned, we respect the Agreement. We have never introduced new tanks into South Vietnam.

Dr. Kissinger: We will also observe Article 7 strictly.

Le Duc Tho: We will do so.

Dr. Kissinger: A word about Thailand. Will you withdraw your troops to their native place?

Le Duc Tho: Where?

Dr. Kissinger: From Thailand.

Le Duc Tho: How can we? Only American troops are there. We should have asked you to return American GIs to their native place.

Dr. Kissinger: They are very concerned about your training of guerrilla movements in the northeast.

Le Duc Tho: No, there is none. These are Thai. We have nothing to do with that. Moreover, in Thailand there are a number of Vietnamese residents and some participate in it.

Dr. Kissinger: We want to send them back to their native place.

Le Duc Tho: We will negotiate. We’ve had negotiations about repatriation.

Dr. Kissinger: You will settle this directly—repatriation?

Le Duc Tho: There have been negotiations.

Dr. Kissinger: I know they are prepared to continue them.

Le Duc Tho: When they raise the problem, we will consider it. We should have demanded the withdrawal of American GIs from Thailand. Now you ask me for the withdrawal of Vietnamese residents there. Once there is peace restored, you should reduce your troops there.

[Page 1481]

Dr. Kissinger: I don’t want to take the Special Adviser’s time on economic reconstruction. We have a paper for you to consider on how the U.S./DRV Economic Committee could work (he hands it over).

Le Duc Tho: So this is after our discussion yesterday.

Dr. Kissinger: Please give us your view. It’s the mechanical operations of the committee.

Le Duc Tho: We will answer you.

Dr. Kissinger: I think it will conform to yesterday’s discussion. I want to summarize. By March 4 we will nominate our members, and we should agree on a joint announcement to implement the Commission around March 4. We think maybe there should be three members from each side.

Le Duc Tho: We will answer you. That seems too little. Four or five.

Dr. Kissinger: That is up to you. We are willing to have four or five.

Le Duc Tho: Four or five.

Dr. Kissinger: Fine. There’s no problem on our side.

Le Duc Tho: Because there may be a man for each specialty or each aspect.

Dr. Kissinger: That is no problem. You can, of course, invite experts to join. We will approach the Committee with attentiveness. Frankly speaking, on our side it is easier to control three members than five. (Le Duc Tho laughs.)

We can always bring in the experts. Our attitude will be to make the Commission a rapid success. We will approach it very positively.

Le Duc Tho: So that is our desire, too. I think it’s good. Our direction is clear.

Dr. Kissinger: As we discussed with the Prime Minister yesterday, on the use and definition of funds, I think we can do a very effective program.

Le Duc Tho: Are you finished, Mr. Kissinger: You have too many questions.

Dr. Kissinger: I have just a very few things. (Le Duc Tho laughs.) You told me you had nothing.

Le Duc Tho: I have something. Nothing to be settled.

Dr. Kissinger: On the International Conference, I would just like to say that we should settle as much as possible beforehand. It is not good if we have a confrontation there.

Le Duc Tho: I agree.

Dr. Kissinger: Your Prime Minister will understand that our Secretary of State may not know every detail of every discussion, so if he says something inconsistent with our discussion, check with me. We must keep a cool head.

[Page 1482]

Le Duc Tho: So we have agreed on a date for the International Conference, and the level of participation, and the site.

Dr. Kissinger: We have also agreed on the invitation.

Le Duc Tho: We have agreed on the invitation?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. We have not agreed on the Chairmanship.

Le Duc Tho: Or the content.

Dr. Kissinger: You owe us an answer. We have given you a proposal. You have to give us an answer. You owe us an answer on the Secretary General and the Chairmanship.

Le Duc Tho: There are two questions—the content and the Chairmanship of the Conference.

Dr. Kissinger: And the position of the Secretary General. I’m just reviewing this. You can’t settle it now.

Le Duc Tho: The problem of the Secretary General is the same as the problem of the Chairmanship.

Dr. Kissinger: Not exactly. If you make him Chairman, that will take care of it.

Le Duc Tho: But I should tell you that we consulted our allies, the Soviet Union and China. In their mind the content of the Conference is simple, too. We will further discuss about the role of the Secretary General with our allies. No one agrees that he should be the Chairman of the Conference.

Dr. Kissinger: The problem is that when you say the result should be simple, we have to define what we mean by simplicity. We have given you our proposal, and if you will let us have yours.

Le Duc Tho: We have to solve three questions in two or three days time, because February 26 is close.

Dr. Kissinger: That is correct. You can contact me through the regular channel, and they will connect with me in Peking. Or if you want your Ambassador in Peking to bring me something . . .

Le Duc Tho: Both ways are possible.

Dr. Kissinger: We will leave it to you. Make sure if the Ambassador in Peking delivers something, it’s in English, because we won’t have Mr. Engel with me. Otherwise, deliver it to Paris, and it will come to me.

Le Duc Tho: When will you leave Peking?

Dr. Kissinger: On Monday, the 19th, and I will go straight back to Washington. I’ll be back in Washington on the 20th. The Communiqué we’ve agreed will be at 10:00 tomorrow night.

Le Duc Tho: I agree.

Dr. Kissinger: At 11:00 a.m. in the morning Washington time, we will announce that 20 POWs are being released.

[Page 1483]

I also wanted to say something to you about our general policy as we normalize relations.

Le Duc Tho: You will announce the release of POWs, and we will acknowledge it.

Dr. Kissinger: But tonight. We will do it at 11:00 this morning.

Le Duc Tho: And you will send a message to the Four Party Joint Commission.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, and you will too.

Le Duc Tho: To discuss the release of the 20 prisoners.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree.

I wanted to say one general thing to you about our attitude. We will make a very serious effort to normalize relations. We will do this very honestly and very openly. We will not do things behind your back with other countries. If we engage in acts we think affect you, we will keep you informed so that confidence can develop, and if we practice this for some time, we will soon be on an entirely new basis.

Le Duc Tho: I would like to remind you of one thing. We must be resolute and seriously implement the Agreement. For our part, we will definitely do that, and you should also do that, and also tell South Vietnam to do that as well. Whatever, the Agreement should be seriously implemented. That is the basis for mutual confidence. It is the highest, most important basis for our direction, as I told you and the Prime Minister has explained. We must look at the whole process of negotiations.

Dr. Kissinger: We will do our utmost to implement the Agreement. We have already used our influence in a number of directions, as you already know.

Le Duc Tho: I have a few questions; not so many as you have. The first question is about the removal of mines. The removal of mines at Haiphong, if it lasts 70 days, it’s too long. The mobilization of means take 30 days and the operations take 40 days. That will be too long. And in the other places, it will take 6 months. And you will finish one place before shifting to another place. You have a lot of means; please mobilize them. You have sufficient means so that all operations can be completed in three months, and in Haiphong in 1 month. It is a problem of means and operations. And in other places, that should be completed within 2 to 3 months. Particularly in the rivers. It is your responsibility. That mainly lies with you. You should cooperate with us in completing the operation.

You see, we frankly can tell you that we have individual means to remove a number of them. You have machines. You have not seen the courage of our people as they do these operations. What we want is your modern means to speed up the operations, but these operations [Page 1484] will help put confidence between us, a better relationship between us. You will see; we will release the prisoners. You have to stop the bombing and shelling of North Vietnam in the ceasefire and you must remove the mines. We will release the prisoners fairly and yet you delay the mine removal.

Dr. Kissinger: We don’t delay. It is a very difficult task. We had to bring ships from the West Coast to your waters, but we will look into it very carefully. I’m no expert. I have to study this myself. I will communicate with you next week to see what is possible.

Le Duc Tho: It should be speeded up. No one thinks that these operations should last six months. Whatever we do with you, we keep our word and expedite implementation. So regarding the removal of mines, you should have the operation completed more quickly than 70 days for Haiphong.

Dr. Kissinger: We can do it only as fast as possible. Some mines are very complicated.

Le Duc Tho: We study all the mines, all kinds of mines. We have studied them—I frankly tell you—by hand. In many places the ships can go now already. What we want is your responsibility to speed up the operations.

Dr. Kissinger: Frankly, I just don’t know enough about it. I’ll have to look into it. I’m under the impression that we are making a very serious effort. I will talk to our Naval people, and I will communicate with you at the end of next week. I don’t know enough myself.

Le Duc Tho: You should promise that it will be done with greater speed.

Dr. Kissinger: I can’t promise what I don’t know. I will talk very seriously and do my best to speed it up.

Le Duc Tho: You don’t promise an exact date for completion, but you will look into it.

Dr. Kissinger: That is right. That I promise you.

Le Duc Tho: Removal of mines regards North Vietnam. On the prisoners, we have released them fairly from North Vietnam.

Dr. Kissinger: We stopped everything we promised you. The removal of mines is a technical problem.

Le Duc Tho: Now I provisionally believe you will speed up the removal of mines.

Now, the second problem. Article 8c again. You said Saigon told you about 5,000 prisoners. There is nothing about it.

Dr. Kissinger: I will check with Sullivan. We made a major effort before I came here. I said I had an obligation morally, and I was told Friday that they would release 5,000 this weekend. I will let you know [Page 1485] in three or four days. I wanted to do it as an act of good will. Frankly, I don’t understand what has happened, but the PRG should submit its list also, so the negotiations can start.

Le Duc Tho: So you should strive to do that. You told me.

Dr. Kissinger: I will. I promise you.

Le Duc Tho: Secondly, they should be returned and not just released, because they can announce they were just released, but no one knows it if they are really released or not.

Dr. Kissinger: I will ask Sullivan to do it. On all these matters, I will write to you next week when I return.

Le Duc Tho: I have finished my work. I have some criticisms towards you, too.

Dr. Kissinger: I thought you would let me leave in good spirits.

Le Duc Tho: It is the lightest criticism only. What we discussed here and what we agreed to keep secret, we should not reveal it. The other day you revealed leaving behind civilian personnel. You said you would leave them behind in certain areas. Secondly, you revealed the understanding about the prisoners in Laos.

Dr. Kissinger: Let me explain. Our bureaucracy didn’t know anything at all about the understanding on the civilians. We wanted to make clear that we were not going to keep them there indefinitely. I didn’t say there was an understanding. I just said that we intended to withdraw them. And on the Laos POWs, it was a very special case. We are under so much pressure from families, I agree with you; we should keep our understandings secret. And we must keep our discussions secret.

Le Duc Tho: Regarding American civilian personnel, you said that we agreed with you that they can be left behind.

Dr. Kissinger: What I said is that the Agreement provides what categories go and what do not go. I was talking about the Agreement, Article 5.

Le Duc Tho: It’s a private understanding.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand your point, and I will be especially careful.

Le Duc Tho: You leak secrets very often.

Dr. Kissinger: I never leak secrets. When I do something, I do it publicly.

Le Duc Tho: You said it publicly, but it’s a private understanding.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand your point. I wasn’t talking about an understanding. I was really trying to explain the Agreement, Article 5.

Le Duc Tho: In Article 5 there is no mention of civilian personnel.

Dr. Kissinger: But I was asked how about American civilians; so I said those will be permitted to stay, but they will be reduced.

[Page 1486]

Le Duc Tho: But there wasn’t any question put to you. I read it carefully. There was no question about civilian personnel.

Dr. Kissinger: I don’t have the transcript. I take what you say very seriously. I will be especially careful.

Le Duc Tho: Over the last few days, and especially yesterday and today and before yesterday, the information we receive and the press releases that we have received, the spokesman of the U.S. State Department said that after the withdrawal of U.S. forces, the U.S. will send to South Vietnam from 5,000 to 10,000 civilian personnel.

Dr. Kissinger: That is total, absolute, stupid nonsense. I tell you now we will not send additional civilian personnel to replace military personnel.

Le Duc Tho: Please read the information of the last few days.

Dr. Kissinger: You must understand the following: I will be very honest. I can control what the White House says. I can control in a general way what the Departments say. Every once in a while they say stupid things, especially when I’m out of the country. I can’t do anything about it until I return in a very effective way.

Le Duc Tho: For that reason yesterday the PRG issued a statement protesting against this. You’re probably not yet aware of it.

Dr. Kissinger: No, I will get that on the plane.

Le Duc Tho: Please check.

Dr. Kissinger: I don’t have to check. We will not send civilian replacements for military personnel. I know. I can tell you.

Le Duc Tho: I provisionally believe you. Please look into it.

Dr. Kissinger: I will look into it, but the facts are that we are not sending additional civilians to Vietnam. Maybe a few in the economic field, but that’s permitted.

Le Duc Tho: There’s no problem in the economic field.

Dr. Kissinger: But not to replace military personnel. Absolutely not.

Le Duc Tho: Please pay attention.

Dr. Kissinger: I will, but there is no need to worry about this.

Le Duc Tho: The problem is you read explanations of the Agreement at a press conference. I have not misrepresented the Agreement.

Dr. Kissinger: I haven’t either.

Le Duc Tho: The explanations I read before the press conference. I checked everything to make sure it was correct, so that there was no particular advantage to us and disadvantage to you. Frankly speaking, in the statements drafted by experts, some parts unilaterally benefitted us, and I told them that this would not do. In your press conference, at some places it was not correct.

[Page 1487]

Dr. Kissinger: I can’t believe that.

Le Duc Tho: I read your transcript.

Dr. Kissinger: I didn’t agree with every word of your press conference, either.

Le Duc Tho: Regarding the explanation of the Agreement, I understood it honestly. President Nixon and Ambassador Sullivan also publicly said that the Government of the Republic of Vietnam, the Saigon Administration, is the only legitimate and authoritative government in South Vietnam. I understand that, legally speaking, you still recognize the Saigon Administration and support it, but practically we are negotiating with the PRG for so many years and actually there are two governments in South Vietnam. And in the Agreement also there are two governments in South Vietnam. So when you say this we have to reply by saying that the PRG is the only authoritative representative for South Vietnam. Therefore, we are always clashing with each other. We should try to moderate these.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand your point. In a speech the President had to say that. That was part of the agreement with Saigon. But I understand your point.

Le Duc Tho: You see, I myself had not intended to raise this point. But if the other side says this, then we have to say something.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand that we should show restraint on this point. I understand what you are saying. Because it makes attention.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand your point.

Le Duc Tho: You said the members of the National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord will be equally chosen. You said that North Vietnamese forces should be reduced in South Vietnam; that is not said in the Agreement. When you spelled out Article 7, you said that you will continue to give military aid to Saigon depending on the military activity, depending upon the supply of weapons by the other side.

Dr. Kissinger: I?

Le Duc Tho: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: First, on Article 7, we should understand exactly what we mean when I said we would give military aid depending upon replacements. If the activity is high, there will be more replacements. If the activity is low, there will be less replacements. On the members of the Council, I thought this was our understanding, in a paper which the Special Adviser gave me in October. (Le Duc Tho laughs.)

Le Duc Tho: There’s understanding about that.

Dr. Kissinger: You gave me a paper that you wanted me to sign.

Le Duc Tho: Those are bygones now. I would like to remind you so I promise you when I explain the Agreement, I will be very moderate.

[Page 1488]

Dr. Kissinger: But I was very moderate, too.

Le Duc Tho: You said things very correctly, but you had a few other points as well.

Dr. Kissinger: I will keep this in mind.

Le Duc Tho: Moreover in our discussions, there are many things to be kept secret. They shouldn’t be revealed. They might create complications, such as on our relationship.

Dr. Kissinger: It is in our interest. We have never revealed important matters. I will talk to the press probably on the 21st. I will speak very constructively.

Le Duc Tho: The understandings shouldn’t be revealed.

Dr. Kissinger: Nobody knows. They shouldn’t be mentioned. On your trip, let me know who you want to see, anyone you want; what programs you want us to arrange; whether you want some time without a program and without an escort. I don’t think I want to be present when you and Cora Weiss meet. (Le Duc Tho laughs.)

Le Duc Tho: Let you and her meet.

Dr. Kissinger: Let me know about food and medical things.

Le Duc Tho: Please think what time would be appropriate for the trip.

Dr. Kissinger: I think the second half of June or July.

Le Duc Tho: Whatever time is convenient.

Dr. Kissinger: And we can discuss how you come. It’s probably best to start in Washington and then take a trip.

Le Duc Tho: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: I will take the Special Adviser to Hollywood. I specialize in that.

Le Duc Tho: All right. Show me whatever you like.

Dr. Kissinger: You will be sensational. I won’t let the unmarried members of the group come; they might get too excited. Like Mr. Phuong . . . oh, he’s married.

Le Duc Tho: About the program. From now until that date there will be many developments. We will see what issues have to be discussed. We will review the situation.

Dr. Kissinger: I think what we should do is to have formal discussions in Washington. Maybe you’ll want to take a trip in America. That is up to you. Just to see something. Then maybe we could meet again in Washington. Or we have a White House in the West near Los Angeles. We can meet again to review things.

Le Duc Tho: Alright.

Dr. Kissinger: Tell us if you want to come to Hawaii and what you need. Just give us the technical information. What you need to [Page 1489] communicate, or if you want to communicate through other friendly embassies. It’s up to you.

Le Duc Tho: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: The Soviets can tell you because they have experience with travel in America. It is up to you. Whatever you want.

Le Duc Tho: I have in mind this—if my trip to America is to discuss some problems that are not very important, then while I make a tour around America, there is no need to keep liaison with my country. Maybe during my stay if there are important matters, I will have to communicate. So we will think about our communications.

Dr. Kissinger: Also so they can communicate with you.

Le Duc Tho: I don’t want to communicate through friendly embassies.

Dr. Kissinger: That’s not a good idea. I don’t like it either. I never do it.

Le Duc Tho: We will do it directly.

Dr. Kissinger: You can do it through Paris. You tell us what you want.

Le Duc Tho: Can we have a radio operator?

Dr. Kissinger: You can bring a radio operator. You’ll have to tell us what frequency you wish to use, because our frequencies are allocated to radio stations. Those are technical problems. They are easy. You can bring a radio operator and equipment. But you have to tell us the frequency, and then we can clear a frequency or tell you to use another.

Le Duc Tho: Technically, I’ll answer to you.

Dr. Kissinger: They will be very easy problems.

Le Duc Tho: So we’ll have March, April and May, and still the end of February. In these four months, many things can happen.

Dr. Kissinger: We will exchange views and then review everything when you come.

Good, Mr. Special Adviser.

Le Duc Tho: Now you should prepare to leave.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. We must get things together.

Le Duc Tho: Whenever we meet, there are always many problems.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but we are solving them.

  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 in the Government Guest House. All brackets are in the original.