61. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Le Duc Tho, Representative of the Government of the DRV
  • Nguyen Co Thach, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs
  • Phan Hien, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Col. Hoang Hoa
  • Dong Nghiem Bai
  • Pham Ngac
  • Nguyen Dinh Phuong, Interpreter
  • Two notetakers
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Ambassador William Sullivan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for E. Asian & Pacific Affairs
  • Ambassador Graham Martin, Ambassador-Designate to the Republic of Vietnam
  • Mr. William Stearman, NSC Staff
  • Mr. Peter Rodman, NSC Staff
  • Mr. David Engel, Interpreter
  • Mrs. Mary Stifflemire, Notetaker
[Page 1589]

Dr. Kissinger: It is symbolic there are always more people to the right than to the left of the Advisor. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: Now we both know what problems are left now.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.

Le Duc Tho: Yesterday evening, Minister Thach exchanged views with Ambassador Sullivan and we maintain our views regarding the format of the document, and Article 12, Article 11. Have you any further views?

Dr. Kissinger: Well, Mr. Special Advisor, on the format of the document I believe that Ambassador Sullivan yesterday made a significant effort by agreeing to follow the sequence which you proposed. And that is a very difficult thing for us to do. As I understand it, Mr. Aldrich and your associate are now comparing the text in the next room. And with respect to the format, I think we have done the utmost which we can do.

Le Duc Tho: I would like to say, Mr. Advisor, regarding the format of the joint communiqué, we believe that our views are correct because we have reached the Paris Agreement and this time we come here to review the implementation of the agreement and there should be no change to the Agreement. Yesterday I told you that only the time periods regarding the provisions of the Agreement are changed; because they have been violated, therefore we have put forward new ones. And we have no basic changes to bring about in the Agreement. Therefore regarding the opening paragraph of the joint communiqué we maintain the wordings of the draft we handed to you the other day. We will point out a number of concrete measures and specifically a number of new time periods regarding a number of provisions.

As to the implementation of the Agreement, it is the responsibility of all the four parties, but you and I have the main responsibility. Now a number of time periods provided for by the Agreement has been violated; therefore we set new time periods now. Therefore I think for this subject you and I can set new time periods as I have proposed. There is nothing changed to the Agreement which would need the discussion of the four parties to the Agreement. I have endeavored to avoid any differences which would bring about changes to the Agreement.

Regarding Article 11, it has been stipulated in the Agreement that as soon as a ceasefire comes into effect this Article 11 must be immediately implemented. As to Article 12, it is stipulated that the two South Vietnamese parties shall agree and come to sign an agreement within a period of three months. So it has been explicit in the Agreement already. Now the three months period is over; therefore we put a new time period of 45 days. So there is no change to the Agreement.

[Page 1590]

In the past when we negotiated the Agreement it was a very big question and there were many difficult problems, and we both negotiated the Agreement. The more reason now we discuss no new subjects as compared to the Agreement; we just put some new time periods to our document.

In brief, the problems and questions we have raised are basically the same as in the Agreement, only some new time period. Therefore, I think we both can settle those questions with the concurrence of the PRG and the Government of the RVN. Because there is no obstacle because we haven’t changed anything. These are my views, Mr. Advisor.

There are two questions of difference we are facing now. As to a few minor points of difference we will settle them later. For instance, the question of civilian detainees, you wanted to put the words to “do their utmost”. We wanted to delete the words “do their utmost”, but you have not agreed to that. Regarding the Joint Economic Commission, there is a time limit that the Commission should complete its work by June 15. We would like to propose also a date for the resumption of the work of the Commission so that on our side we can prepare for the meetings. Because it is a technical question, from Vietnam to Paris it will take four or five days to travel.

Dr. Kissinger: Well, if you don’t stop in Peking and Moscow to make our life more difficult, it can be faster.

Le Duc Tho: No, my stopover at Peking and Moscow sometime does you harm but sometime it does you good!

Dr. Kissinger: The latter has not been my experience. Do you know that Minister Thach was in Peking and refused to meet me?

Le Duc Tho: So, as I understand, regarding the joint communiqué there are only two major questions left and a few minor questions. And after the joint communiqué we will start with the understandings.

Dr. Kissinger: What are the two major questions, form and substance? [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: Here it involves questions of format and a question of substance too. If there are some new questions or some important questions and if you say that it is necessary to have the four parties meet again, I agree with you. But here it is not so big a question. It is only a question of time periods that have been violated and now we propose new time periods; so it is not something involving the four parties.

Regarding Article 11 and Article 12, it seems there are differences of views between us. Therefore we have proposed to stick to the Agreement. The only thing new is to bring about a time period of 45 days for signing an agreement on internal matters of South Vietnam.

[Page 1591]

Dr. Kissinger: Are you finished, Mr. Special Advisor?

Le Duc Tho: I have finished regarding the joint communiqué. Afterwards we will discuss the understandings.

Dr. Kissinger: Now, first, Mr. Special Advisor, I agree with you that we have made considerable progress, and that we have left as far as the communiqué is concerned primarily the question of format. And with respect to substance, I believe that our associates are now comparing it, and it may be that we really do not have such a big difference there. Because we have tried to reflect our understanding of last night’s discussions.

Let me say a word about format. In all our meetings we have had a somewhat unequal position in one respect. The unequal position is that you have usually arrived having already achieved the agreement of your allies, while we have had the privilege of negotiating with two Vietnamese parties simultaneously. And we have not yet decided which Vietnamese party is more difficult. [Laughter] We have decided which is more difficult, but they both use the same methods.

Le Duc Tho: But basically speaking, we are more difficult. [Laughter]

Dr. Kissinger: Objectively maybe, but subjectively, it isn’t easy to tell. [Laughter] Now we have to base our discussions here on reality. There are two realities. We would not be here if we did not want to bring about the carrying out of our Agreement. But, secondly, we cannot write in our communiqué that something is done with the concurrence of Saigon when that concurrence has not yet been obtained.

I want you to know, Mr. Special Advisor, that we are sending Ambassador Sullivan tonight to Saigon. He is leaving at 9 o’clock tonight by a special plane. And therefore we have only two possibilities really. We can proceed with this format plus an understanding between us that we feel obliged to do our maximum to bring about the implementation, or we can complete this work except for the beginning paragraph and meet again, say in ten days, after which perhaps we can say “with the concurrence of”. And a third possibility is that we convene a four-power meeting.

Now Saigon takes the position, that you are familiar with, that they do not officially recognize the two-party document, and therefore we cannot simply appeal to the two-party document. They take the position that the only official document they signed is the four-party document. Therefore, they will probably insist on turning this into a four-party communiqué. So those are our two choices—we can either follow this format and a private understanding, or we can finish the communiqué and defer its adoption for ten days until Ambassador Sullivan has gone to Saigon and we have had further discussions, and [Page 1592] then can write that paragraph. We have no objection to that paragraph as such.

As for the resumption of the work of the Joint Economic Commission, we agree that we should set a date, and you can give us a date a few days after the signing of the communiqué. Any date will be acceptable, except a Sunday. They could resume next Monday or Tuesday. Tuesday is better for us. But that is no problem.

Le Duc Tho: Mr. Advisor, please let me speak a few words. You say that there are two realities. I agree with you when you say that you come here with the desire to have good implementation of the Agreement. I realize that. And as far as we are concerned, we have come here when you interrupted the mine clearance operation, you interrupted the work of the Joint Economic Commission, and you continue the reconnaissance flights over the DRV, and you launched air raids against South Vietnam. This shows our good will and our desire in finding out measures to insure good implementation of the Agreement. And in the meantime we allowed the Joint Military teams about the graves of the dead—we allowed them to move in freely in North Vietnam to find out the remains of the dead. I say this to show that we too have good will and desire a solution.

But the second possibility is unacceptable to us, because this possibility is not realistic, because we do not do anything here to change the Agreement; we just put forward some deadlines that have been violated in the past and require that new deadlines be implemented now. Therefore there is no need to convene again the four-party conference because it involves nothing tantamount to a change of the Agreement.

The implementation of the Agreement is the responsibility of all the four parties, but here it involves only a number of time periods to be decided. Therefore, I think you and I can discuss and exchange views with our allies and come to a solution. There is no difficulty in this. In the past, in solving the problem of Vietnam, you and I have succeeded in reaching the Agreement. There is no reason that we will not succeed in this case.

We can’t accept the format of the document proposed by you because it is not only a question of form here but it is also a question of substance. Your intention is to deny any role of the PRG, not only in the written document but also in practice. The role that the Agreement has recognized. Therefore I don’t agree to your proposal, to your format proposed by you, plus an understanding, because the understanding will have no effect at all. Therefore, I think if you think it necessary to have an exchange of views with your allies and we will meet again in ten days time, I am prepared to wait ten days more and we will meet again.

[Page 1593]

Dr. Kissinger: Let me understand once again, Mr. Special Advisor, what it is you are not accepting. Because I don’t believe you have seen the new version that we have submitted to you. [Draft handed over in other meeting by Aldrich, Tab A.]

Le Duc Tho: It is being translated. I have not seen it.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. We have made an effort. We have given up the distinction between two parts of the communiqué and we have rather written it now as one, with an introductory paragraph that is very similar to yours except that it deletes the phrase “with the concurrence of”. But we have given up the distinction between two parts of the communiqué. So this is what I said earlier; we have made a big effort.

Le Duc Tho: But this is not fundamentally different from your previous approach. You have given up the division into two parts in the document, but you still divide into two categories of problems. So there is always a division of responsibility, first, the questions regarding the responsibility of the DRV and the U.S. and questions involving the responsibility of the PRG and the Saigon Administration. When we signed the Agreement we have put the sentence “with the concurrence”, and it was much more difficult than it is now.

Dr. Kissinger: It was also rejected.

Le Duc Tho: Now we only put new time periods because the previous time periods has been violated. There is no reason that the Saigon Administration disagree to that.

Dr. Kissinger: It is not a disagreement in substance, though I think the Special Advisor should never underestimate the ingenuity of Vietnamese to find obstacles in a document. It is also a question of sovereignty. And therefore apart from substance, if we proceed on the road that the Special Advisor suggests there is a good possibility that Saigon will insist that it will participate only in a four-party document which is the only document that it recognizes. And if we do it that way we might have to do what we did in January, namely, have a two- and a four-party document. Though perhaps you and I could negotiate the text.

Le Duc Tho: I always think that there is no need to convene a four-party conference. It will waste time. And there is nothing so big here, just to put forward some new time limits. You and I can decide it and talk to our allies. But the main responsibilities lie with us. If we change something in the Agreement we would need the four-party conference, but there is no change now. For instance, previously the ceasefire should have happened on January 28 but this date was not respected as the date for a ceasefire; so we put forward a new time, 24 hours after the publication, the issuance of this joint communiqué.

I remember after we signed the Agreement, you and I told each other that we will continue to hold from time to time meetings to solve such questions as may arise.

[Page 1594]

Dr. Kissinger: That was for selfish reasons, out of personal affection.

Le Duc Tho: Speaking of sovereignty, respect of sovereignty, of course you have to exchange views with your ally. The other day after discussing with you I had to meet Mr. Nguyen Van Hieu and discuss with him his views. In negotiating the Agreement, you and I could do that, and the Saigon Administration had to accept the Agreement. And now there is only a question of time periods. There is no reason that you can’t talk to them and talk them into accepting the time limit. You are not so powerless. I don’t think you are so powerless.

Dr. Kissinger: And we will do that. But we now have the substantive problem. Incidentally, your South Vietnamese brethren follow a different method each time I negotiate with them. In October they had people here who had no authority to make concessions; this time they have people here who don’t understand the Agreement so they can’t make any concessions. [Laughter] It is a great method.

Now then, there is no disagreement that we should bring about a concurrence with this document. But I want to be practical. My judgment is that if we go and get the formal agreement of Saigon we will have to follow exactly the procedure of January. That is to say, there will have to be a four-party signing—not necessarily a four-party conference, but a four-party document and a four-party signing. But in addition there can be a two-party document which has the phrase, “with the concurrence of”, signed by you and me.

Le Duc Tho: I think this way is all right.

Dr. Kissinger: Or else we can proceed this way. But we cannot write a document and say “with the concurrence of” before we have the concurrence.

Le Duc Tho: So please obtain the concurrence of the Saigon people, and then we will sign the document here, and the representatives of the Saigon people and the two South Vietnamese parties may sign here.

Dr. Kissinger: At Gif—or the other place? Or shall we meet at the Avenue Kleber?

Le Duc Tho: [Laughs] We will find out a convenient place.

Dr. Kissinger: We should allow two weeks for that. In that case I propose . . .

Le Duc Tho: It depends on your arrangement. But I don’t think it will need two weeks. It will need one week at most because it involves only a time period.

Dr. Kissinger: No, the problem I have is different. The problem I have is that President Nixon is meeting President Pompidou next week in Iceland. (Tho nods.) And they can’t make an agreement without the concurrence of their advisers. [Laughter] So, seriously, I have to be at that meeting, and I have to be with President Nixon for the preparation [Page 1595] of that meeting, because it is an important meeting to us. Otherwise I would come next week. I agree with you, it shouldn’t take two weeks.

Le Duc Tho: I really think, basically thinking, that if you and I agree to that, it is easy. But it is another thing if you wanted to create a job to do.

Dr. Kissinger: What do you mean?

Le Duc Tho: Because the conclusion of the Agreement was much more difficult. Because the only question involved here is the question of time period. The only point is the time period.

Dr. Kissinger: Well, I think we can settle it. It is really primarily now a procedural question. And then there is also, of course, the question of the Cambodian understanding.

Le Duc Tho: [Laughs] The understanding regarding Cambodia is another problem. We should finish the communiqué first.

Dr. Kissinger: The two presidents are meeting May 31 and June 1. I am now coming back tomorrow, which is the 23rd, and we leave Washington for Iceland on May 30. Ambassador Sullivan is going to Saigon and he will not be back before the 27th or 28th.

Amb. Sullivan: Or maybe later. [Laughter]

Dr. Kissinger: I am just trying to show you that we are not deliberately delaying. So I think realistically the 4th or 5th is the earliest we can really meet. The 5th is a little better for us.

Le Duc Tho: I agree. I understand you are engaged in the Iceland meeting with President Pompidou. I agree to June 5.

Dr. Kissinger: Now then, we should still settle the text while we are here and then we should arrange that perhaps we try to sign it on the 6th or 7th.

Le Duc Tho: So you will leave tomorrow?

Dr. Kissinger: I will leave tomorrow.

Le Duc Tho: I agree. I agree to this schedule.

Dr. Kissinger: You agree to it. And we will have to adjust the times of the various things though. But they will be the same time periods. And with this time schedule, the ceasefire can be compressed a little bit from the time of our agreement. If we sign on the 6th, it could be 24 hours after, say the 7th. And I propose also that perhaps Ambassador Sullivan come here 48 hours before we meet with Minister Thach to finish up. And then we would follow the same format as in January, that is, we would have one communiqué signed by you and me and another one signed by the four parties, with the same procedure as in January.

Le Duc Tho: But beside you and I will sign the communiqué, who will sign the four-party document?

[Page 1596]

Dr. Kissinger: I guess you and I, and our two friends. Vien and the two fellows, the two intellectuals, who are discussing the political future. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: One is the intellectual who reads out what has been written for him. [Laughter] It is all right. So one copy will be signed by you and I, and a second copy will be signed by you and I and Mr. Vien and Mr. Hieu.

Dr. Kissinger: Or we can just have the four-party one signed.

Le Duc Tho: If you want only one copy, then there must be the name of the four-parties in the Preamble.

Dr. Kissinger: See, here we go again. [Laughter]

Amb. Sullivan: What shape is the table? [Laughter]

Dr. Kissinger: So we can follow exactly the procedure of January: We have a two-party document which mentions the names in the Preamble, and then we will have a four-party document without the names. On separate pages. Signed on separate pages.

Mr. Thach: There is no name in the Preamble, only the name at the signature.

Dr. Kissinger: At the signature.

Le Duc Tho: This is a headache. [Laughter]

Dr. Kissinger: But also it is important, you have to understand, that because of the visit of Brezhnev to the United States the following week, I will have to leave on the 7th, so we have to do all this signing no later than the 7th. It gives us two days to meet, the 5th and 6th, and we sign on the 7th.

Le Duc Tho: I think we will have to complete the text. Now it remains only the way of signing.

Dr. Kissinger: Then we do not need three days. Then we can do it on the 6th. Whatever problems we have.

Le Duc Tho: Let me finish.

Amb. Sullivan: We shall see. [Not translated.]

Le Duc Tho: We can complete the text today and tomorrow, and we can initial the document tomorrow. And when you come, then we have to sign only. Because otherwise if you leave and when you return, then everything will be changed, and I am afraid that we can’t sign on the 6th; it is impossible to sign on the 6th. If you want to insure the schedule, the date of your departure from Paris, then we should complete the text here and when you go to Saigon it needs only to agree on the time period. When you come back we can sign on the 5th or the 6th. We will not repeat again the situation last year when we come back we have to renegotiate the text again. I have very deep lessons on this subject, lessons to me.

[Page 1597]

Dr. Kissinger: If I leave here and say that a communiqué is at hand, will that be all right? [Laughter] If I go to the press?

Le Duc Tho: So the text should be complete and there should be no change afterward. There will be left to Saigon about the way of signing only, and the time period.

Dr. Kissinger: Anyone who knows the Vietnamese must recognize there is no such thing as a simple problem for Ambassador Sullivan in Saigon.

Amb. Sullivan: I can take Thach with me on the plane.

Dr. Kissinger: Let me think about this initialling and I will talk with you about it after a break. I was going to say that when we leave here we can consider the text of the communiqué complete! But let me consider the form in which we want to do this. I recognize that we do not want to come back here and start renegotiating the whole thing. And I think it is in our mutual interest to follow the procedure of January, when we set ourselves a schedule that was met. But you remember when we left in January we told you that we would initial it on January 23.

We would like to take a break for a few minutes to discuss how to get a procedure of how to go from here. Can we take a few minutes’ break.

Le Duc Tho: Sure.

Dr. Kissinger: But I think we have made good progress this morning. We will make another film of another initialling. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: We are making progress backward. [Laughter]

[The meeting broke at 11:45 a.m. Dr. Kissinger and Le Duc Tho conferred privately in the living room, as follows:]

Le Duc Tho: As I said, it would be best if you and I could sign. It is just a question of time limits. You have had enough time to exchange views with Saigon since we began our meetings here. If you can’t agree to sign then we will agree on it eventually. Ambassador Sullivan will go to Saigon and when he comes back we will have the signature.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree. We should do the same as we did last time. We will send Sullivan to Saigon and we can then meet. In January we had 10 days between our last meeting and the initialling. So then we can have our meeting on the 5th and we can initial on the 5th and sign on the 7th—or on the 6th if you want, but just for safety’s sake, to give us another day.

I told you last time there would be no change, and there was no change between then and the initialling. But if we initial this now, Sullivan will have an impossible problem. But I promise we will not change it, and I will not trick you. There would be no sense in it. In October we were doing something totally new and unexpected. But [Page 1598] frankly speaking, yesterday we sent a very strong letter from President Nixon to Saigon so we will bring about the results as I told you.

When I leave we can say we have made very substantial progress and we will finish the agreement when I come back on June 5th.

Le Duc Tho: I have just looked at the text you gave us this morning. You have changed many points, especially Articles 11 and 12.

Dr. Kissinger: We have to discuss this. We don’t think we changed anything. Maybe there was a misunderstanding. If we follow our procedure we don’t need to appeal to the two sides, we will just state an obligation.

Le Duc Tho: Of course.

Dr. Kissinger: We will not say “should” but say “shall” throughout. We will just state it as it is in the Agreement. Concerning Articles 11 and 12 we thought we had an understanding, but maybe it was not clearly understood.

Le Duc Tho: If you and I can agree here, we should initial. Then you will go to Saigon and discuss it, because the only thing to be changed is the time limits. Only in this way can we say we have had results.

Dr. Kissinger: We can initial as between you and us, but we can’t commit other parties.

Le Duc Tho: All right, between you and me. Just to make sure there will be no change.

Dr. Kissinger: I like your confidence in me.

Le Duc Tho: You tantalized me last time!

Dr. Kissinger: No, not last time, the next to last time.

Le Duc Tho: Right.

[The formal meeting resumed at 12:25 p.m.]

Dr. Kissinger: Ambassador Sullivan tells me that Minister Thach agreed to everything while they were talking. All we should do is to move some deck chairs out into the garden and sit in the sun.

Amb. Sullivan: Mr. Thach has agreed to come to Saigon with me. [Laughter]

Mr. Thach: But you should not put me in Tan Son Nhut.

Le Duc Tho: Mr. Advisor, let me speak a few words more, and you may speak. As to the structure of the documents, I have expressed my views.

Regarding Article 11 and Article 12, I have just read your draft and I think it at variance with the Agreement. Because Article 11 of the Agreement stipulates very clearly about the democratic liberties that are to be implemented immediately after the ceasefire. As to the discussions by the two South Vietnamese parties about the political [Page 1599] problems of South Vietnam, the formation of the National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord, the decision on the time to organize general elections—all these internal matters of South Vietnam should be settled within three months. Now in your draft you combine Article 11 and Article 12 and you say that the South Vietnamese parties should discuss the internal matters of South Vietnam and settle them within 45 days.

So it is not in conformity with the Agreement. And you are unwilling to have the concrete words of Article 11. So you are unwilling to apply the democratic liberties in South Vietnam. You want to leave this question of democratic liberties to the two South Vietnamese parties to discuss and to settle. To my mind, in order to settle the problem between us I propose to stick to the words of the Agreement. We do not redraft the Article 11, we just stick to the words of Article 11. And regarding Article 12, we will change only the time period.

This is what I would like to add regarding the contents.

Now I think we should come to an agreement here, because regarding the text of the document we have to agree there are only two questions left—the format, the structure of the document, and Articles 11 and 12. If Articles 11 and 12 we stick to the words of the Agreement, and regarding Article 12 we just have a new time period, then we would have completed the text of the document.

Now there is only the opening paragraph. And if we put the opening paragraph as we propose, then there should be no appeal regarding the ceasefire. We would use the word “recommend.”

Dr. Kissinger: Not use.

Mr. Phuong: Not use.

Dr. Kissinger: It is always a mistake to agree too quickly with the Special Advisor. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: So we can complete the text here and we will initial it between you and me, to be sure that we have come to an agreement and you will not change it. And then Ambassador Sullivan will go to Saigon and we will maintain the opening paragraph, the structure. There can be no objection possible from Saigon except the time period.

Dr. Kissinger: You always underestimate your compatriots in the south! And you remember December, Mr. Special Advisor, when you were not prepared to settle. The capacity of Vietnamese to invent objections is infinite. That capacity has never been damaged, worn out or destroyed, or used up. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: You refer to past stories, past events, but at the time I lost my confidence in you.

Dr. Kissinger: In December?

Le Duc Tho: It is through practical experience.

[Page 1600]

Dr. Kissinger: Well, are you finished?

Le Duc Tho: I have finished.

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Special Advisor, first, with respect to the format. We can agree that the format of the two-party document should be essentially what you have submitted to us. And if there is a four-party document, it should follow the model of the January four-party document. And I think Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Thach should during a break draft the appropriate paragraph.

And my understanding is that if Saigon agrees to a four-party document that mentions the PRG in the Preamble, then we need only one document and not two.

Le Duc Tho: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: Otherwise, we have two documents, in [one of] which none of the South Vietnamese parties are mentioned except that on the signatory page the title and the government are mentioned and they are on two separate pages. All right. But that was exactly the procedure in January.

Now then, as to the other points that the Special Advisor made. With regard to format, in our new format we do not need an appeal or a recommendation, and I therefore agree that that should be dropped and that we should just follow the format of the original Agreement. I also agree, and I have instructed Mr. Aldrich accordingly, that we should drop the word “should” and we should just say “shall” throughout the document.

So, now we are only left with Articles 11 and 12. As I understand it, if you read paragraph 11 of our document [Tab A], it does not say that the parties shall discuss the democratic liberties. It says that the “right of self-determination should be implemented by the following measures,” of which (a) is “immediately after the coming into effect of the ceasefire the parties should achieve national reconciliation and ensure the democratic liberties,” which is exactly from the Agreement. We don’t say “they will discuss,” and I believe there is a misunderstanding.

Le Duc Tho: Regarding Article 11, we propose to repeat the words of the Agreement. Regarding Article 12, I propose that “in conformity with Article 12 of the Agreement the National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord consisting of three equal segments shall be formed as soon as possible.”

Dr. Kissinger: Give it to me again, will you.

Mr. Phuong: “In conformity with Article 12 of the Agreement, the National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord, consisting of three equal segments, shall be formed as soon as possible.”

Le Duc Tho: It is the wording of the Agreement. Another sentence: “The two South Vietnamese parties shall sign an agreement on the [Page 1601] internal matters of South Vietnam as soon as possible, and no later than 45 days after the entry into force of the ceasefire order referenced to in paragraph 3(a).”

Dr. Kissinger: The Special Advisor left out one of my favorite phrases here, which we worked on very hard, and that is why I know he did not do it intentionally: “and do their utmost to achieve this within 45 days.” Of course, you know, when two South Vietnamese parties do their utmost for something there is no limit to what they can achieve.

Le Duc Tho: If you want to put “utmost” that will be okay.

Dr. Kissinger: Only when Mr. Vien does his utmost. That will be something. He will read the Agreement when he does his utmost. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: He has done his utmost, but with no result whatsoever.

Dr. Kissinger: Without having read the Agreement.

Le Duc Tho: And if he does his utmost then he will be exhausted and you can’t force him to do anything.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but this was without having read the Agreement. [Laughter] “The National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord shall be formed as soon as possible. The two South Vietnamese parties . . .” Do you want to read that, Mr. Phuong?

Mr. Phuong: Then “the two South Vietnamese parties shall sign an agreement on the internal matters of South Vietnam as soon as possible and will accomplish this no later than 45 days.”

Dr. Kissinger: No, “do their utmost.” [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: But it is truly very talented to find out such a sentence.

Dr. Kissinger: We made a big effort. [Laughter] “The two South Vietnamese parties shall sign an agreement on the internal matters as soon as possible and will do their utmost to accomplish this within 45 days.” This is your text.

Le Duc Tho: So you delete the words “no later than”?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, “and do their utmost to accomplish this within 45 days.” It is as important as Article 18.

Le Duc Tho: Seriously speaking, whether there is these words “do their utmost” or not, if the two South Vietnamese parties are willing to settle the problem, whether or not with these words “do their utmost,” they will settle the problem. Otherwise even if there is no words to “do their utmost,” if they are unwilling to settle, they will not.

Dr. Kissinger: I think the Special Advisor is perfectly right.

Le Duc Tho: It is of substance.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree. Let me make a suggestion. I agree with the phraseology which you have just given us on the National Council [Page 1602] and on the internal matters. With respect to the democratic liberties I propose that we take the phraseology that we have given you but make a separate paragraph out of it, preceding the paragraph we just agreed on the internal matters. In other words, we make what is now (a) in our draft a separate paragraph called paragraph 11, so that it is clearly separated from the other two matters. It becomes a separate paragraph. It doesn’t become paragraph (a); it becomes paragraph 11. Then, what is now our paragraph 11 we make paragraph 12. We keep the introductory paragraph about “in conformity with Article 9” and we make your phrase about the National Council (a) and the phrase about the internal matters (b). [Both sides confer.]

Le Duc Tho: I would like to raise only one point. As to the redrafting, we will leave it to Minister Thach and Ambassador Sullivan. I would like to speak about Article 11. This is the article which the Saigon Administration has not done anything to implement, regarding the democratic liberties and national concord measures. Therefore I would like to repeat the contents of this article. There is no reason we have to drop the contents.

Dr. Kissinger: That is not quite right, because their press is quite free to attack me.

Le Duc Tho: This is another thing. If you insist on dropping this article, the content of this article, then we understand that you do not want to implement democratic liberties in South Vietnam. Therefore, in my view we should repeat the content of this article. This is the article which is the most violated. Only a few lines; it will take not much paper.

Dr. Kissinger: Considering that we have only two lines on Laos and Cambodia, which are two sovereign countries—divided into four zones.

Le Duc Tho: To use the words of Ambassador Sullivan, it is an iceberg—the top is too small and the bottom is big.

Dr. Kissinger: He said all of this without instructions. [Laughter] No, seriously, Mr. Special Advisor, as I told you, we are sending Ambassador Martin to Saigon to help bring about a strict implementation of the Agreement. And the fact that we are making specific reference to Article 11 and saying that the democratic liberties in it should be ensured means that we intend to have it carried out. So we believe there is no other article about which the specific provisions are mentioned in detail. And there I think that . . .

Le Duc Tho: There are many places where we repeat the wording.

Dr. Kissinger: But never the whole article.

Le Duc Tho: But it is the article which is the most violated in South Vietnam; therefore I think it is necessary to repeat the whole article.

[Page 1603]

Dr. Kissinger: But there are many articles that we think are being heavily violated, and if we get into this sort of debate we will write the whole Agreement again.

Le Duc Tho: But Article 7 has been repeated at great length.

Dr. Kissinger: But that is for your own protection. Because you tell me you are not violating it. But look at Article 20.

Le Duc Tho: If you want to repeat the whole Article 20, I agree.

Dr. Kissinger: Well then, we might as well write the whole Agreement again. And probably, knowing the perversity of the various Vietnamese parties, they will all refuse to sign it. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: I will maintain this idea.

Dr. Kissinger: Well then, should we leave it until June 5th?

Le Duc Tho: It is the words of the Agreement. There is no reason we should wait until that day. Just like Article 7, we have repeated the words; Article 8(b) we repeat the article. So whatever articles which you are interested in you want it repeated at length. Whatever you don’t like you don’t want repeated.

Dr. Kissinger: We are trying to avoid, as we discussed yesterday, to write a propaganda document for the two South Vietnamese parties who are doing their utmost at La Celle St. Cloud, and therefore we should state everything that concerns them in a general way so that their passions are not unnecessarily aroused.

In what we have proposed to you Article 11 stands separately and there is a separate obligation not subject to negotiation. And we think that that is a big effort on our side. While the others are left for negotiation.

Le Duc Tho: I can’t give you this concession. There are many other points where you demanded to repeat the article. And yesterday you agreed that you would stick to the words of the Agreement.

Dr. Kissinger: No, not really.

Le Duc Tho: We stick to the Agreement. We are not at variance with the Agreement. Because you and I are reviewing the Agreement, reviewing the implementation.

Dr. Kissinger: Well, we agree to saying that they shall ensure the democratic liberties of the people. We just don’t want to list every last one of them. We don’t just say “ensure Article 11,” we say “they shall immediately ensure the democratic liberties of the people.”

Le Duc Tho: We want to write in detail about Article 11, just as you have done regarding Article 7. You write the details about Article 7 very lengthily and you add something new to it. But I wonder why when we repeat the words of the Agreement you are unwilling to accept that. What is your intention there?

[Page 1604]

Dr. Kissinger: Our intention there is, as I told you yesterday, that this is a very serious dispute at La Celle St. Cloud, and if one of these points of dispute is discussed in very great detail while other points of dispute are barely mentioned, this creates a certain imbalance.

Le Duc Tho: Whatever article you want longer we can, but exactly as the Agreement says. I would agree with you, provided you don’t go beyond the Agreement.

Dr. Kissinger: Well, why don’t we just reprint the Agreement and sign it again? And we could just have a one-sentence communiqué saying “we reaffirm the Agreement, which is attached hereto.”

Le Duc Tho: So you agree with me that we should review the implementation of the Agreement. Now whatever articles of the Agreement that were not well implemented, then we should repeat more on that article. And we have to repeat those articles which are not being implemented in accordance with the Agreement. So it is not necessary to repeat the whole agreement.

Dr. Kissinger: But we have agreed, for example, on Article 20, which is a matter of great concern to us, simply to have a reference to its scrupulous adherence. And Article 15, we have also not insisted on repeating it, but just make a reference to it.

Le Duc Tho: If you say the Article 20 is an important article and you want to repeat the whole article, I agree with you.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but then we are in the ridiculous situation in which we are quoting the whole text of everything, and it will lose a great deal of its significance.

Le Duc Tho: Our intention is, since we come here to review the implementation of the Agreement, and those articles which are not being implemented, we have to repeat the articles and we should insure the strict implementation of those articles. There are points in the draft you have repeated the articles of the Agreement at length, but there are other points we have to repeat part of the article.

I can say that the South Vietnamese system at present, the Saigon Administration at present, does not ensure any democratic liberties. I don’t say all the democratic liberties, but a minimum, such as freedom of movement, freedom of work; they have not insured those liberties at all.

Dr. Kissinger: Well, first, I cannot accept the proposition that it is correct that none of the liberties are being ensured in Saigon. There is a very active press. I notice the Minister just wrote something down.

Le Duc Tho: I do not like to debate with you on the situation of the South Vietnam as you have conceived it. Because if we discuss this question there will be many things to be discussed between us. It is inconceivable to me that in such a political system you can say that there are freedoms in it. I maintain my views.

[Page 1605]

Dr. Kissinger: I thought that the Minister just wrote something down.

Minister Thach: This is your draft in Vietnamese translation.

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Sullivan is looking forward to meeting Mr. Duc. [Laughter]

Ambassador Sullivan: That is called “freedom of meeting.”

Dr. Kissinger: And he will then look back with nostalgia to his meetings with Minister Thach.

Le Duc Tho: Our views still differ on that point.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. We haven’t introduced yet one other paragraph, about “return to their native places.” [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: We agreed to drop this paragraph long ago. And this paragraph we agreed to, but not regarding democratic liberties.

Dr. Kissinger: With his usual modesty, the Special Advisor didn’t tell me at the time that this repeats exactly the North Vietnamese Constitution. And now that I know this, it presents additional difficulties for me to present it to Saigon. [The Vietnamese confer.]

Le Duc Tho: So we haven’t solved this question now. I propose another little break and have lunch.

Dr. Kissinger: All right. I think the Special Advisor will do anything to avoid a discussion of Cambodia.

Le Duc Tho: But I have talked with you on that question very lengthily. In the negotiations, in the private talks.

[At 1:20 p.m. the meeting broke for lunch. A sit-down lunch was served in an adjoining room, both sides eating together. Le Duc Tho pointed out that this was the first time the two sides had shared a meal in the DRV meeting place. The meeting resumed at 3:20 p.m.]

Le Duc Tho: So regarding the joint communiqué, the questions we are facing I have presented to you.

Dr. Kissinger: There is only one left, or am I mistaken?

Le Duc Tho: You mean Article 11 and Article 12?

Dr. Kissinger: Article 12 I thought we had agreed. So it is really only Article 11. [Tho nods yes.] We have got rid of our two saboteurs [Sullivan and Thach who had joined Aldrich in the other meeting] so we will settle it very easily.

Le Duc Tho: But we have a new saboteur [Mr. Hien].

Dr. Kissinger: He used to be the chief saboteur.

Le Duc Tho: Have you any other questions, Mr. Advisor?

Dr. Kissinger: No, I think that is the principal question that remains, and then we must turn to the understandings.

Le Duc Tho: I have expressed all my views regarding this principal question.

[Page 1606]

Dr. Kissinger: Well, I believe that since we are saying “they shall achieve national reconciliation and ensure the democratic liberties of the people, in conformity with Article 11,” it is really quite clear what we are talking about.

Le Duc Tho: No, I always maintain that it should be clearly defined.

Dr. Kissinger: The Special Advisor is terribly persistent.

Le Duc Tho: No, I only repeat the wording of the Agreement. There is no change at all.

Dr. Kissinger: But if we repeat the whole agreement it loses all significance. The mere fact that we say “ensure democratic liberties” and Article 11 makes it clear that we have special emphasis.

Le Duc Tho: But you have repeated all Article 7.

Dr. Kissinger: But Article 7 is not so serious because you are not violating it anyway. That was for your protection. [Tho laughs] It was a sign of good will.

Le Duc Tho: It is an article that both parties, all parties, have to implement.

Dr. Kissinger: But since you have already implemented it, it doesn’t really put any additional burden on you. [Laughter] We put it in to ease your mind.

Le Duc Tho: Yes, it is the same for Article 11. I propose it to be of more quiet mind.

Dr. Kissinger: But we can’t make all the concessions.

Le Duc Tho: But what have you conceded to me?

Dr. Kissinger: We gave you Article 7. [Laughter] You were very worried about the introduction of American military equipment. And we are making Article 11 a separate article. Our original proposal was to put it together with the other political paragraphs.

Le Duc Tho: But when you combined the two articles it is contrary to the Agreement. But when you separate the two articles you cut off something from the Agreement. [Long pause]

Kissinger: Should we let the two interpreters see whether they can settle it? [Laughter] We don’t really know what they are interpreting to each other. [Long pause]

Le Duc Tho: The two interpreters are jobless.

Kissinger: You know, it is going to be like “don doc”, we spent three days on it.

Le Duc Tho: The question of “don doc”, we solved it only before initialling the Agreement.

Kissinger: Well, shall we leave this for June 5th?

Le Duc Tho: I think that my view is correct. You are not willing to accept it, but I think my view is correct.

[Page 1607]

Kissinger: Your view is too concrete. I am not saying it is incorrect. I think it is inappropriate for the document.

Le Duc Tho: The concrete wording regarding Article 7 is also not appropriate for this document.

Kissinger: But you are so worried about the introduction of our military equipment.

Le Duc Tho: I don’t know whether you are worried or I am.

Kissinger: And on Article 20 we have accepted an abbreviated version. [Long pause]

Incidentally, we will not—this is not relevant to this—conduct reconnaissance activities between now and the time we meet again.

Le Duc Tho: I think that from now to the day we meet again in June there should be no reconnaissance activities, nor such actions as bombing or shelling in South Vietnam, because in my view it will set obstacles in the negotiations.

Kissinger: I agree. I promise it.

Le Duc Tho: Please pay attention to this because these activities in the recent period, such as the reconnaissance flights and bombings and shellings did not help our talks here. On the contrary, they created difficulties for our work. And I would like to ask to be assured whether we will meet again on June 5th and we will sign officially the document on June 7.

Kissinger: That is a firm commitment.

Le Duc Tho: Because I have to arrange my program.

Kissinger: This will be definite. We don’t have to settle it now, but if we settle on June 5 we should release the document on June 6 and then perhaps I would have to hold a press conference here to explain it. And then on June 7 we would sign it.

Le Duc Tho: And so if we sign the document on June 7, then all the time period will be delayed accordingly.

Kissinger: For the exact interval that we had foreseen this time. But we could have the ceasefire within 24 hours of June 7.

Le Duc Tho: I would like to ask you, in case we come to an agreement this time, shall we initial privately between you and I without publishing anything, tomorrow? And then after the return of Ambassador Sullivan from Saigon, then we will proceed only to the formal signing of the document?

Kissinger: I think it will be better if we initial on the 5th. But I will be glad to give you a statement saying that I consider the agreement settled between us subject only to consultation by Ambassador Sullivan. But I think it is formally better if we do not initial it until after the consultation is completed. And we could also say, when I leave [Page 1608] tomorrow—we could do one of two things: We could either at the end of our meeting both go outside and say to the press that we have made very great progress and that we will conclude when we meet next time, or I can say it at the airport and you could confirm it.

Le Duc Tho: What we would like is to have, you and I, an initialling of the documents. But you are unwilling. It seems to me that you are unwilling to initial the documents now.

Kissinger: Only as a matter of form.

Le Duc Tho: Therefore I am not sure there will be changes or not. That is why when you leave you will state anything you like, but I am not sure for myself that there will be no change at all.

Kissinger: From our side, or from your side?

Le Duc Tho: No, I am afraid there will be some changes from your side, not from our side.

Kissinger: No, I promise you there will be no changes, but it is difficult for us as a matter of form to initial something when we are sending somebody to do the consultation; that is a matter of delicacy. We did not change one comma between January 10 and January 23, or whenever we left in January—the 13th I think. But we sent General Haig to Saigon and we went through this format. And I promise you now, when we have agreed here there will be no change. And the consequence for our relationship, when we are aiming for normalization, would be very serious if I deceived you.

Le Duc Tho: So I no longer insist on our initialling the document.

Kissinger: But you can rely on my promise.

Le Duc Tho: But if so, I wonder whether the initialling on June 5 is necessary, or shall we go directly to the official signature?

Kissinger: It is up to you. The only advantage of initialling is that we can then release the text the next day. But we can also go directly to the signature. It is up to you. I will leave it to you. Whatever you want, we will do. We have no particular preference.

Le Duc Tho: So since we will not initial now the documents, please give me an understanding between you and I saying that all that we have agreed here and all the time periods we have agreed here will not be changed. Privately between us, you give the understanding to me; of course, because of my past experience we want this understanding.

Kissinger: Orally. If I do it in writing, I have to say “subject to consultations.”

Le Duc Tho: So we are not sure that you will not change it because it is a subject of consultations.

Kissinger: You mustn’t be so suspicious.

[Page 1609]

Le Duc Tho: But then how can I go with you to the press and say we have obtained substantial progress, or confirm what you will say when you leave?

Kissinger: Whether we both go to the press or not is up to you. It would make it more significant, but it is not essential. Or I can make a statement which I show you before I leave, and you can confirm it. But neither of us should say anything about the content and we shouldn’t give the impression that there are any disagreements, because that creates a climate that encourages other people to oppose us.

Le Duc Tho: If really what we will have agreed here will not be changed, then when you make a statement to the press I will confirm it. But in case there will be changes afterwards, then my statement to the press would not have any value.

Kissinger: But if there are changes afterwards you will of course express your point of view to the press. What good does it do me if I say now we have made significant progress and then next week I tell you I want a change and you attack me. It would be senseless. I am trying to avoid a situation on a disagreement. I have not found you easy to deal with when you felt yourself deceived.

Le Duc Tho: Frankly speaking, Mr. Advisor, we have been negotiating for a long time and, frankly speaking, on many occasions what we have agreed to do have not been well implemented, and on many occasions your promises have not come true. This is the reason why I think you should give me some things which increase my confidence. And this time we are negotiating once more and therefore you should make me have some trust in what we will have agreed here.

Dr. Kissinger: Well, I can promise you that as far as the United States is concerned, we will not ask for any further changes.

Le Duc Tho: But what about Saigon? If they insist on the changes will the United States support the changes?

Kissinger: It is very difficult for me to give you a document which, if you announce it and if it emerges before Ambassador Sullivan is even in Saigon and says we have the concurrence of Saigon before we did. That we cannot do. I promise you. I promised you in January and everything we promised in January we kept. It is not true that everything I promise you we have not kept, except at the end of October, where we faced very massive difficulties. We think it is essentially a formality.

Le Duc Tho: So now I propose the following. What we will agree here you will give me a promise on honor that there will be no change at all regarding the articles, the paragraphs, and regarding the time periods mentioned in the document, regarding the schedule, the date of the signature—nothing will be changed. Then I will accept that when [Page 1610] you make a statement to the press and I see your statement first, then I will confirm to the press.

Kissinger: Let’s do that.

Le Duc Tho: But will you make me the promise, as I have just mentioned?

Kissinger: Yes.

Le Duc Tho: So you put your honor on this? [Laughing]

Kissinger: Yes. My revolutionary honor. No, I will put my honor. We have dealt with each other a long time.

Le Duc Tho: I agree with you then.

Kissinger: But I will not admit it publicly that I gave you this promise.

Le Duc Tho: I understand.

Kissinger: And I will write out a statement which I will give you before I leave, and you confirm it, and then neither of us says anything until we meet again on the 5th. (Tho nods.) Or our friends.

Le Duc Tho: Yes. So I will make the same kind of promise to you just as you make the promise to me.

Kissinger: Good. That will be important.

Le Duc Tho: But I hope that this time, because we will have to meet each other again, I hope that in the next meeting we have we will not have to complain of each other.

Kissinger: No, I am sure not.

Le Duc Tho: Because I will keep my promise, but you should keep your promise too. Because I understand if I say something that will divert from my promise, this will have some adverse effects upon you.

Kissinger: The same is true in my case.

Le Duc Tho: So we will keep our promise.

Kissinger: Definitely.

Le Duc Tho: What problems do we have now? Shall we discuss them?

Kissinger: We have Article 11 and we have the understandings.

Le Duc Tho: Regarding Article 11, I maintain my views. Now, regarding the understandings, what do you have to say? And I will comment on it.

Kissinger: On Article 11, we will then have to discuss tomorrow.

Le Duc Tho: All right.

Kissinger: Let me consult for two minutes with Ambassador Sullivan on one point.

Le Duc Tho: All right.

[Page 1611]

[There was a short break from 4:05–4:10 p.m. Dr. Kissinger returned to the room. Before the group took their seats again, the conversation resumed across the table.]

Kissinger: I have to leave in 15 minutes. I have to see the French Foreign Minister.

Le Duc Tho: So you will go to meet the French Foreign Minister?

Kissinger: Yes, but we can talk maybe fifteen or twenty minutes. I can express some preliminary views on the understandings. We leave Article 11 until tomorrow and then we discuss the understandings. And then we should compare the text once again tomorrow; then Mr. Engel should work with Mr. Phuong on Thursday to compare the Vietnamese text.

Le Duc Tho: All right.

[The group then took their seats.]

Kissinger: Should we talk for a few minutes on the understandings? With respect to Laos, with respect to the first paragraph of your document [Tab B], we can accept it if instead of “their wish” we say “their strong desire”. You give us an opportunity to put this into better English. You won’t insist on your interpretation. There is no change in substance except for the words “strong desire.”

With respect to paragraph 2, it is, of course, not true. We have not been informed of this yet. [Laughter] And I know the Special Advisor and I would not want to state an untruth. And we should add a sentence saying that “the DRVN and the US will exercise their best efforts in that direction.” And now that we have a two-week delay and we can work informally with the parties, I think the period should be 15 days.

With respect to paragraph (b) we will accept it if this is a direct quotation from the Laotian Agreement, which we don’t have here. And we will accept paragraph (c).

So this is our view with respect to the understanding on Laos.

Are we going to sign these understandings this time.

If [the language] adds anything to the agreement we cannot accept it. [Stearman looks up the Laos Agreement.]

Le Duc Tho: It sticks to the agreement here. No, like the previous understandings we will not sign.

Kissinger: That is all right.

Le Duc Tho: “The DRV and the US will exercise their best efforts.”

Kissinger: That goes after (a).

Le Duc Tho: But the sentence, “The DRV and the US have been informed by the Lao parties that . . .” do you agree to that?

Kissinger: Well, have you been informed?

Le Duc Tho: No, we have based ourself on the Agreement on Laos and we have exchanged views with our Laos friends, so for one month [Page 1612] after the solution of the Laotian problem foreign troops will be withdrawn within 60 days. And this, the sentence “The DRV and the US have been informed by the Laotian parties,” that is to show respect for their sovereignty. It cannot be that the US and the DRV will do all these things.

Kissinger: All right, I understand. We will accept that sentence if after paragraph (a) you add our sentence about “best efforts.”

Le Duc Tho: I agree.

Kissinger: All right.

Le Duc Tho: At the end of paragraph (a).

Kissinger: Yes, between paragraph (a) and paragraph (b), as a separate sentence, standing alone. And I have checked; we accept paragraphs (b) and (c). Do you accept 15 days from June 7?

Le Duc Tho: No, I can’t accept that because it is related to our Agreement here. After we reach agreement here I have to return to Vietnam to exchange views concretely with our friends and not stay here.

Kissinger: Well, I have such experience with the Special Advisor’s persuasive powers that I can’t imagine that it will take him 30 days. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: No, it is stipulated in the agreement that the Government of Laos should be formed within 30 days. Therefore I put this in 30 days.

Kissinger: But that was 90 days ago. [Laughter]

Le Duc Tho: But I will tell you what we would like to have it formed as soon as possible.

Kissinger: Is that longer or shorter than 30 days?

Le Duc Tho: Less. It cannot be more than 30 days. To my knowledge there are no major questions left regarding the political problems.

Kissinger: Well then, why will it take 30 days?

Le Duc Tho: To my knowledge there are no great questions left, but they are negotiating concrete questions, and we can’t make recommendations on everything. They will decide these concrete things.

Kissinger: Well, I think we have to leave the number of days for tomorrow. Maybe we should say 17 days.

Le Duc Tho: If you want to leave it in blank, but I will maintain 30 days.

Kissinger: I am not finished yet on Laos. We would like a last sentence that says something like we had in the other understanding, that “the DRVN has been informed that there are no American prisoners held in Laos.”

Le Duc Tho: Is this regarding Cambodia?

[Page 1613]

Kissinger: Also Laos. Because it says about all persons captured and detained—if this ever becomes public, somebody may say, “What about Americans?” Just so that we can say paragraph (c) doesn’t apply to Americans.

Le Duc Tho: But the last time I told you that all American prisoners have been returned to you. Therefore there is no American prisoner left in Laos.

Kissinger: Our major problem here is when you say, “each Lao party has the obligation of getting and supplying information to the other party about the missing in action, irrespective of their nationality,” how about the American missing in action?

Le Duc Tho: So I put it “irrespective of their nationality” already.

Kissinger: Yes, but this means that first the prisoners have to be released and only afterwards will American missing in action be accounted for.

Le Duc Tho: I have not understood you.

Kissinger: Our point is that we would like American missing in action to be accounted for as quickly as possible.

Le Duc Tho: But I have to say as it says in paragraph (c), the same words as in the Laos agreement.

Kissinger: I understand this, but our concern is with the American missing in action.

Le Duc Tho: But there is the phrase “irrespective of their nationality” already.

Kissinger: I know, but the timing.

Le Duc Tho: But we have to stick to the agreement for Laos. We can’t change it. But I believe that they will exchange only a small number of prisoners only, between the two Lao parties.

Kissinger: We would like some understanding that you will cooperate with us in getting some accounting for our missing in action. That is a very important issue in America.

Le Duc Tho: The Lao parties will stick to the agreement. But we will take into account your views.

Kissinger: But could we have an understanding between us?

Le Duc Tho: There is no need for such an understanding.

Kissinger: Why not?

Le Duc Tho: Because it is the Lao affair. The affairs belong to the Laotians. If we make understandings regarding their affairs it is no good because those are concrete affairs. There are two major questions on which we can have understandings with you regarding Laos: First, the ceasefire; second, the withdrawal of foreign troops. That is the only questions; the concrete questions are the concrete affairs of the Laotians.

[Page 1614]

Kissinger: Let me say a word, because I have to go. I have to meet with the French Foreign Minister. About Cambodia—this understanding you have given to us is simply not at all acceptable and I think it should be our first item of business tomorrow.

Le Duc Tho: And I completely . . . Your draft you gave me is also totally unacceptable.

Kissinger: Well then, maybe we should see whether we can work out something in between.

Le Duc Tho: I feel it is difficult and I have no other understanding in mind for the time being. Because the understandings we have had in the messages I have sent to you, and the Agreement we have had on this question, that is what we have.

Kissinger: Yes, but they proved to be very unsatisfactory.

Le Duc Tho: But since we have been talking on this question of Cambodia a very long time and you understand our difficulty, therefore, the understandings can be at that level only.

Kissinger: It is very difficult for me to return to America and to call for the scrupulous implementation of everything except the Cambodian part.

Le Duc Tho: No, the Cambodian problem is a question of sovereignty of the Cambodians. I think the American people understand now that the Cambodian problem comes under the sovereignty of the Cambodian people.

Kissinger: But you are dealing with the American Government, so that is what you have to deal with. I don’t think you are an expert on what the American people understand.

Le Duc Tho: But what do you mean? I understand the American people . . .

Kissinger: You said the American people understand. I don’t know whether the American people know exactly where Cambodia is located. But the American Government . . .

Le Duc Tho: But they are opposing the US bombing in Cambodia.

Kissinger: Mr. Special Advisor, you have gone through that illusion now for five years.

Le Duc Tho: But on that I have no illusion at all. But on many things I have no illusion at all, and there are things we have taken for an illusion and then it has come true.

Kissinger: Well, I think we have to discuss the understanding on Cambodia tomorrow. We have to discuss Article 11, and I think that is all. What else is there?

Le Duc Tho: I have given you the understanding regarding 8(c). [Tab B] I have never forgotten it.

[Page 1615]

Kissinger: Yes, but not that form, it is unacceptable. But we can discuss it tomorrow also.

Le Duc Tho: There is no other solution, because you have made the commitment to me previously on that question. We have to stick to it.

Kissinger: We will discuss it tomorrow. Should we meet at 10:30 at our place tomorrow?

Le Duc Tho: All right.

Kissinger: And should we plan our agenda? I must irrevocably leave tomorrow night. I will plan to leave about 8:00 o’clock, so we can work into the afternoon.

Le Duc Tho: I agree.

Kissinger: So we meet at 10:30 at my place. Thank you for the excellent lunch.

Le Duc Tho: You gave me an excellent lunch too.

Kissinger: But you never eat anything!

Le Duc Tho: It is my diet!

[The meeting then ended.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 114, Country Files, Far East, Vietnam, Paris Memcons, May 17–23, 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting took place at 108 Avenue du Général Leclerc in Gif-sur-Yvette. All brackets are in the original. The tabs are attached but not printed.