62. Memorandum of Conversation1
- Le Duc Tho, Representative of the Government of the DRV
- Nguyen Co Thach, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs
- Phan Hien, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Col. Hoang Hoa
- Nguyen Dinh Phuong, interpreter
- three notetakers
- Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
- Ambassador Graham Martin, Ambassador-Designate to RVN
- George Aldrich, Deputy Legal Advisor, Department of State
- William Stearman, NSC Staff
- Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff
- Miss Irene G. Derus, notetaker
The group gathered in the living room for a short informal session before meeting around the conference table. The meeting began at 10:43 a.m.
Le Duc Tho: I wonder why it takes ten days for Ambassador Sullivan to prevail on Saigon.[Page 1617]
Kissinger: Has Minister Thach drafted a welcoming statement for him [Sullivan] in Saigon?
Thach: I am waiting for his return here to know what is on his mind in Saigon.
Kissinger: I explained to you why I can’t come back next week. Due to President Pompidou.
Now we have a number of outstanding issues.
Le Duc Tho: Before you speak please, Mr. Adviser, let me speak a few words. This morning there was a report that there was a proposal from the Saigon Administration that the four parties to the Paris Agreement would issue an appeal signed by all of the representatives to the opposing forces in South Vietnam that they should put an end to the hostilities. The military spokesman of Saigon.
Kissinger: Excuse me, where did they do this?
Le Duc Tho: The proposal was made by the Saigon side at the Two-Party Joint Military Commission. The proposal was about the ceasefire, about the delimitation of zones of control, the determination of the positions they occupied before January 27, the deployment of the Two-Party Joint Military Commission, the regional Commission and the local teams; that is to say, roughly just like what we have been discussing here.
We agreed yesterday that what we discussed here should not leak out, should not be revealed. But now the Saigon people reveal those things immediately the day after we discussed them, those points we have not completely agreed on, or we have agreed but we have not signed. And you recommended to me not to reveal the substance before we signed it.
So what you told me yesterday, today they have no longer value at all. Ambassador Sullivan is going now to Saigon. It will not be necessary for him to agree on anything with the Saigon people, although he will have some things to discuss with the Saigon people, but the main things it is not necessary for him to try to prevail over the Saigon people. I just would like to bring this report to your knowledge, Mr. Adviser.
Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, I am not familiar with this particular incident, and I do not know exactly what Saigon has proposed. What I am familiar with is that on Monday evening, after our meeting, President Nixon sent a letter to Saigon urging the schedule that we had tentatively agreed upon on the other document. Now it is possible that in order to save their own position the South Vietnamese made some proposals thinking there would be a communiqué this Friday issued by you and us.[Page 1618]
Secondly, it does not seem to me outrageous to make proposals in the Two-Party Joint Military Commission which is designed for that purpose.
Thirdly, we have sent a telegram yesterday, after the change in our schedule, stressing the imperative need of secrecy and no leakage; that was sent yesterday afternoon after the end of our meeting.
So it is up to you what consequences you want to draw from it. We have kept our promise. We have tried to carry out our understanding and we have no knowledge exactly what it is that Saigon proposed. We started using our maximum influence starting Monday night, and there could have been a confusion about the sequence of events.
Le Duc Tho: So this fact is we think that the main power is in your hands, and it is alleged that you have to discuss with the Saigon people, and each fact added to the previous one make us draw such conclusions. I just bring this fact to your knowledge so that you pay attention to this.
Kissinger: Well, I will pay attention to these things. But I think now we have been negotiating four years—I mean it simply will not do any longer that almost at every meeting the Special Adviser accuses us of lying to him or of not carrying out our promises or he needs special assurances. I think he understands, or he should understand, that we have a difficult situation. We are trying to carry it out the best we can under fast-moving circumstances and complex communications and we are doing the best we can. It is up to him to believe it or not to believe it. But we are keeping our promises and we are keeping to the schedule and to the agreement I made with him yesterday.
On Monday night we were talking about a two-party document and with a different form of “shall” and “should.” On the assumption that we might complete that by the end of this week, we took immediate steps communicating with Saigon. Yesterday we changed to another mode of procedure which is to follow exactly the sequence of January 27th, creating a new situation. Also, yesterday there were still certain objections that we were facing. Inevitably it was a difficult situation. We agreed on the need for some delay. We had to switch these arrangements very rapidly and inevitably certain conditions can arise under these conditions, but that does not justify these constant accusations of untruths.
Le Duc Tho: It is not true that at every meeting I accuse you of untruths and of not keeping your promises, but always after some specific event, some specific fact, I raise this fact to you and I say that you did not keep your promise or you did not say the truth. It is really, it is the experience we have got throughout the past five years of negotiating with you. We have no ideas about delay; it is up to you. Maybe ten days or fifteen days or twenty days, we have no ideas about that. But I just want to point out the way of doing only, because if you [Page 1619] want to delay I can’t tell you not to delay. If you want to expedite the affair, I can’t tell you to delay. But as far as we are concerned any way will do.
Kissinger: We have told you exactly . . . First of all, I don’t think it is appropriate for the Special Adviser, while he is negotiating with me, to say that he has had five years of experience of untruths on our side. If he has that complaint, then perhaps he should arrange another form of negotiations. So I think this is an inadmissable statement on his part.
Secondly, we have carried out everything that we have discussed in this negotiation. We showed you a way to make it a two-party document, which we could have carried out by the end of this week. That was our first assumption. It would have meant deleting the phrase “with the concurrence of,” which we did not have at this time. We then changed the format, and for that reason, as well as for the fact that we did not yet have the concurrence of Saigon, it seemed to us better—in order to avoid a repetition of events of last October—to have a delay for Ambassador Sullivan to go to Saigon, and then to meet again as soon as possible after the meeting of the two Presidents in Reykjavik. What possible motive could we have to have Saigon make an announcement at the Two-Party Military Commission on a day that you and I agree that there should be a delay? You always mention the difficulties we have had, but you should also remember the many occasions when we used maximum pressure to carry out our agreements. I regret that the South Vietnamese made this proposal, with which I am not familiar, and of which I didn’t know. And if you think about it for three minutes you will recognize that it served no American purpose. I also deplore the statements which you have made. I take note of your protest, which has some justification, and we will send a message to Saigon to make sure that the same thing does not happen again and to make sure this matter is not pursued further in the interval. That is the best I can do right now.
Le Duc Tho: Please, Mr. Adviser, let me speak a few words in this connection and then we shift to another subject. The reason that I mention about the experience we have got through our five years of negotiation, it is because on many occasions there have been promises from your part and then those promises were not kept. I do not want to recall here all the promises or all the facts, but only whenever there is such promises that were not kept, only at that time I raise the question to you.
As to the delay, we have no idea about that. You can delay what time period you like. We have no ideas for it and I agree with that. What I wanted to say is that any delay should be well grounded, well justified, and I can agree to any delay, but the delay should not be used as to hide other intentions, other ideas.[Page 1620]
Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, I think we have pursued the subject enough now, but let me say this. The advantage of the delay, as I see it, is that it enables us to make precise preparations for bringing about a signature of the document close to the form in which you wanted it. That was unattainable by this weekend. It has the other advantage from our point of view, to speak frankly, that in the interval we will be able to get Ambassador Martin confirmed by the Senate so that he can go to Saigon shortly after we sign this document and help bring about its strict implementation. So our only intention has been to bring about an agreement that when we sign it this time can be implemented reliably and does not lead again to an endless discussion. And it prevents the situation of one of our representatives sitting in Saigon with a timeclock running against him and with no possibility of affecting events, which happened last October. We have no other intention.
As I explained to you on many occasions on this visit, normalizing relations between your government and ours is one of our principal objectives. The chief significance of this document is that it gives a basis to make another start, to make a fundamental change in our relationship. Because the individual clauses are not much different from the Agreement, but it gives both of us a chance to start a new relationship. Once we normalize our relations and once we no longer think of ourselves as enemies, then the whole psychological climate in all of Indochina will change. This is the most important result of what we are working on here. And it would be foolish for either of us to jeopardize that relationship by little tricks. Although there might be others who may have an interest in creating that impression. That is what we should always remember, that the normalization of our relations is the principal goal, and these clauses are only means to that objective.
Le Duc Tho: I have nothing to add to the views you have just expressed. The other day I told you in the same lines, and that is the reason why I have come here to negotiate with you. But definitely we should not reiterate this fact a second time. And next time when we meet we should discuss about the normalization of our relations, the means to bring about this normalization, and not this.
Kissinger: I know when the Special Adviser started smelling from that bottle we were going to have a brawl. [Laughter] Outside. I agree with you.
Le Duc Tho: [laughs] Now let us tackle our subject.
Kissinger: Give me one minute to complete this telegram to Saigon. If you think I use strong language to you, you should see what I am saying there. [He reworks Aldrich draft and approves message at Tab A.]
Now I have the following list. You have asked us for a Preamble and a final clause. We have some disagreement about Article 1. There [Page 1621] is some disagreement about the time for the mine clearing. We have some disagreement about Article 15, 8(c) and 11. We have briefly to discuss Laos, and we have brought you a proposal for how we might handle the Cambodia problem. That is still not satisfactory. And we have to discuss your understanding on prisoners. Those are the issues that I have.
Le Duc Tho: You are right.
Kissinger: Here is our proposal for the four-party document. On the two-party document we accept your preamble, just putting it into slightly different English. This is our proposal for the Four-Party document. [Hands over Tab B] And if Saigon agrees to having the PRG mentioned, we will have only a four-party document.
Le Duc Tho: One document signed by the four parties.
Kissinger: As I understand it, our agreement is as follows: We will either have a two-party document which says “with the concurrence of” and a four-party document without mentioning the parties except on the signature page, or we will have a four-party document which lists the parties in the preamble and then we have only one document.
Le Duc Tho: You are right. But if the document will be signed by two parties, who will sign it? If the document will be signed by four parties, who will sign it?
Kissinger: If it is signed by two and four, then you and I can sign the two-party document and you and I and the two South Vietnamese representatives here can sign the four-party document. If there is a four-party document only, we just have you and I and the two South Vietnamese parties.
Le Duc Tho: I agree.
Kissinger: So we would have to have two ceremonies, or one, that day, depending on how it comes out. We have to agree where to do it. I propose the American Embassy [laughter]. Notre Dame [laughter]. Maybe Avenue Kleber if you want to do it. It is up to you.
Le Duc Tho: We will repeat the former events.
Kissinger: Avenue Kleber. I have in my office a little case in which I have the Special Adviser’s and my initials to the first agreement. When you come you will see it. So we will put this into it next to it.
Now in order to help you, perhaps we should give you our draft understanding on Cambodia and you can get it translated while we talk. [Aldrich hands over Tab C]
Le Duc Tho: For the opening paragraph [of the communiqué] roughly it is like this but we will leave it to the experts.
Kissinger: Let me repeat. We will meet on the 5th. I propose that Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach meet no later than the 3rd, [Page 1622] meet on the 3rd and 4th, so that any remaining difficulties can be taken care of. Is that agreeable?
Le Duc Tho: I agree.
Kissinger: And maybe if there are unusual difficulties, even the 2nd.
Minister Thach: The second.
Kissinger: Definitely, the second.
Le Duc Tho: I agree, the second.
Kissinger: All right, fine. [To Aldrich:] The trouble is that means I won’t see Sullivan after because I’ll still be gone.
Le Duc Tho: But there is the final clause for the two-party document. I will give you the draft.
Kissinger: Why don’t Minister Thach, Mr. Aldrich, and Ambassador Sullivan work it out? There won’t be any problem. We will follow the precedent of January.
Le Duc Tho: Yes, we follow the precedents of January.
Kissinger: Yes, that won’t be any problem.
Le Duc Tho: We will follow the precedent of January and Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach will go into the details on the 2nd.
Kissinger: On the second. We may send you our version of it before the second so that you can study it. But I see no difficulty. And there may not be one—it may be that Saigon agrees to a four-party one, but we will see. We have another text. [To Minister Thach who is reading to Tho:] What are you translating, Mr. Thach? Cambodia?
Minister Thach: Yes, Cambodia.
Le Duc Tho: As to the opening paragraph and the final paragraph, we leave to Minister Thach and Ambassador Sullivan. Now, regarding other issues, what are your views, Mr. Adviser?
Kissinger: We have never really had a discussion formally about Cambodia and it is a very important part of this negotiation.
Le Duc Tho: I propose that we should finish our joint communiqué first and then we come to the understandings. Because there should be some order in it.
Kissinger: In other words I guessed wrong. All right. But we have to understand that this is an essential component for us. Let us go through the agreement then. We have for your convenience, we have an English text with brackets for the disagreed parts. [Hands over 2 copies of the draft communiqué, Tab D] Shall we turn to Article 1?
Le Duc Tho: Yes.
Kissinger: The disagreement is whether we should say “aerial reconnaissance over” or “reconnaissance activities against”. We have to follow the phrase “aerial reconnaissance over” because “reconnaissance [Page 1623] activities against” includes methods which we are employing with respect to strategic arms limitation and if we accept “reconnaissance activities against” we will jeopardize activities which have nothing to do with North Vietnam. We can’t give you advantages which are not enjoyed by your ally. Because if you ask me again about Soviet missiles, we won’t be able to answer you if we have to give up our satellites. This is our concern, which does not affect the Democratic Republic.
Le Duc Tho: We maintain the wordings of our understanding.
Kissinger: I understand that, but we can’t accept that in a signed document.
Le Duc Tho: So I provisionally give you this concession, but you should make concession to me on other points.
Kissinger: But it doesn’t affect anything in the DRV! I will then send you some pictures of Moscow taken from a satellite.
Le Duc Tho: But you have made photographs of Moscow too?
Kissinger: Yes. From a satellite, not from an airplane.
Le Duc Tho: Your satellite didn’t see pictures of tanks?
Kissinger: You want to see pictures of tanks? When I come on June 5 I will bring you pictures of tanks. Of elephants camouflaged as tanks.
Le Duc Tho: But these pictures of tanks can be taken anywhere.
Kissinger: But you will recognize the place. You will have been there. There is a big sign that says “Route 7.”
Le Duc Tho: Photographs of tanks and trees and shrubbery can be taken anywhere.
Kissinger: You have got a point there. But at any rate these are different photographs. These are from airplanes, but we know where they were taken.
Le Duc Tho: Then the tanks sent to An Loc city, why did you not see them?
Kissinger: It may be that you sent tanks this time that we didn’t see. I don’t exclude that you send more than we know!
Le Duc Tho: If you can’t take photographs of these tanks, then what evidence can you give to say there are some?
Kissinger: We have other information.
Le Duc Tho: But your intelligence service is confused. [Laughter]
Kissinger: Let us separate two things. It may be that some things we cannot prove publicly but we know nevertheless to be true, and our mutual relations will be affected by what we know to be true, not by what is being said publicly. So if massive violations of Article 7 continue, it will have a serious effect on our relations.
Le Duc Tho: As I told you the other day, if now the war is ended then no problem arises about Article 7.[Page 1624]
Kissinger: All right. Shall we go to Article 2? Article 2. The disagreement is still whether it should be thirty days or twenty-five days. Let me make this proposal to you. For today I can go no further than to say thirty days, but to give you an understanding that we will make a very great effort to do it in twenty-five days. Now that we have more time, I will go back and talk to our Navy people in Washington and then by the time Ambassador Sullivan comes back here I can reduce it to twenty-five days. It is purely a technical question here, not a negotiating question.
Le Duc Tho: But in fact you have prolonged too much the mine clearing operation. Now we propose a time limit of twenty-five days and there is a discrepancy between our proposal and your proposal of only five days. But what is important is that you should respect the time we have agreed here, whether it is twenty-five days or thirty days.
Kissinger: This is why we want to make absolutely sure. We will respect the time limit.
Le Duc Tho: And you interrupt the operation in midway and you repeat the interruption a second time. This will be the last time.
Kissinger: Twice. I agree. Of course, this is assuming everything will be carried out. But I agree that there will be no further interruptions. I was just discussing a problem with Mr. Aldrich which I think Minister Thach and Ambassador Sullivan should settle. We should have in the preamble a mention of the fact that what follows the preamble in the basic agreement, so that people know why we do it in this way.
Le Duc Tho: All right.
Kissinger: No problem. That is right. It is a minor thing. Now we come to paragraph 4.
Le Duc Tho: We want to remind you in this paragraph, that is, the paragraph regarding the ceasefire.
Kissinger: Which paragraph, 3?
Le Duc Tho: I would like to refer to the date of the ceasefire. I would like to recall the following sequence. On June 5th we will meet again and we will initial the joint communiqué.
Kissinger: You want to initial it? You hadn’t decided yesterday.
Le Duc Tho: It is up to you.
Kissinger: All right. I have no objection.
Le Duc Tho: All right, we will initial. Then on June 6th, we will publish the joint communiqué, on June 7th the official signing ceremony and the two parties will issue a ceasefire order.
Kissinger: Twenty-four hours.
Le Duc Tho: And twenty-four hours thereafter the ceasefire order will become effective. So we would like to add one more sentence that [Page 1625] “the ceasefire order should be issued at the same time of the signing ceremony.” We just fill out the blank here.
Kissinger: We just fill in the blank for the time of signing. Yes. We agree. It doesn’t change the text, it just means that we put in as the time of the order the time of the signing.
Thach: But at the same time it is the time for issuing this order.
Kissinger: That is what I mean. The ceasefire order will be issued at the same time that it is signed. If I know our Vietnamese friends, we better make it the time of the signing of the four-party document. I agree. Let me give you this. [Dr. Kissinger hands over the draft of the ceasefire order, Tab E.] This is the draft of the ceasefire order, which we think is agreed.
Le Duc Tho: I agree. There should be a reference to Article 2 and 3 of the Agreement, to make it clearer.
Kissinger: Which provisions, the basic document?
Thach: Of the protocol. This is referring only to Article 2 of the Protocol, but actually there should be reference to Articles 2 and 3 of the Paris Agreement to make it clearer.
Kissinger: We agree. The one consolation I have is that Mr. Sullivan will have a harder time tomorrow than I had today.
Le Duc Tho: [laughs] But it is different between you and I and Mr. Sullivan and the Saigon people.
Kissinger: First of all, not as much as you think, and secondly, Mr. Duc is a Harvard graduate.
Le Duc Tho: Your student then? [Laughter]
Kissinger: No, no. Then paragraph 4, the issue is whether it should be . . . As I understand it, Minister Thach raised two issues yesterday: one, whether this should be a separate article, and second, concerning the last line. He is doing it only for bargaining purposes, so I propose we return to the original draft.
Le Duc Tho: What do you mean, return to original draft?
Kissinger: To what they agreed on the other day.
Le Duc Tho: It is not true. We maintain that this sentence be maintained in this paragraph, but I told you the other day that as to the wording we should discuss.
Kissinger: I think you said that he had some minor changes, nothing of substance.
Le Duc Tho: In fact there is no substantial change.
Kissinger: Well, there is a deletion.
Le Duc Tho: So the sentence will read “In conformity with Article 15, military equipment may transit the demilitarized zone only if introduced into South Vietnam as replacements pursuant to Article 7 of the [Page 1626] Agreement.” So when we say “pursuant to Article 7 of the Agreement,” it means it must go through the designated points of entry and it has been referred to in the previous paragraph, (b).
Kissinger: The Special Adviser is very proud of himself. “Article 7 of the Agreement.” And we have to add “and Article 7 of the Ceasefire Protocol,” because that is the only one that talks about designated points of entry.
Le Duc Tho: And Article 7 of the Protocol?
Kissinger: Of the Ceasefire Protocol.
Le Duc Tho: Regarding Article 15. I read it: “In conformity with Article 15, military equipment may transit the demilitarized zone only if introduced into South Vietnam as replacements pursuant to Article 7 of the Agreement and Article 7 of the Ceasefire Protocol.”
Kissinger: Yes, and I accept provisionally—with the understanding that this principle is applied to other articles where specificity may be in line.
Le Duc Tho: I would like to tell you before hand that you should not link this paragraph with the paragraph dealing with Article 11 of the Agreement.
Kissinger: I never mentioned Article 11!
Le Duc Tho: You can put “pursuant to Article 7 of the Agreement and Article 7 of the Ceasefire Protocol” or you can put “pursuant to Article 7 of the Agreement and then only by direct route to a designated point of entry.” Any way you could do it. Either form is all right. Whichever you prefer.
Kissinger: I see. Are you trying to build a diagonal route across the DMZ?
Le Duc Tho: The question is whether the provision will be implemented or not. Whether in a direct way or zig-zag way, this is not a principle.
Kissinger: I once had a plan for defending South Vietnam. It was very complex, but it was very clever.
Le Duc Tho: You mean McNamara’s line? [Laughter]
Kissinger: I thought that if we could dig a canal around it [South Vietnam], since we have experience in defending off-shore islands, we would do better. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: A frogman can approach it. There are many means to do that.
Kissinger: All right. We accept and say “and through a designated point of entry.”
Le Duc Tho: All right.
Kissinger: All right, does that finish paragraph 4(c)?[Page 1627]
Le Duc Tho: And without separate paragraph (c).
Kissinger: I don’t think that is fair to Article 15, on which we worked so hard. [Laughter] I think we should keep it a separate paragraph.
Thach: Yes, a separate paragraph but not a subparagraph (c).
Kissinger: Oh, you want to take the letter out. I see. All right, separate paragraph.
Le Duc Tho: But 8(c), you should not delete it! All right, now we are at paragraph 5(b), we propose the following . . .
Dr. Kissinger: Now when we settle that, we will be back to Article 11. On Article 5, our proposal is to say “do their utmost,” and then to give you the same understanding we had last time. This is in conformity with the Agreement.
Should we say “from today” or “from the day of signature of this document?”
Thach: Today is not today! [Laughter]
Kissinger: Well, I know it wasn’t today but should we say “today” in a formal document?
Le Duc Tho: I agree to delete the words “do their utmost.” [Laughter]
I agree to keep the word.
Kissinger: Oh, to keep! Will you explain to the Special Adviser what he interpreted? You have our understanding [Tab F].
Le Duc Tho: It is the same wording as the previous understanding. I add only the improvement of the detention regime.
Kissinger: I agree to the improvement of the detention regime, and we will see to it that Ambassador Martin makes a special effort in that direction.
Martin: You are going to give me the maps.
Kissinger: Well, you gave me something but it’s not too detailed. For example, there was one prison where you said there were 10,000 people; we will have that checked immediately. We think there are only 3,000. We will support an impartial investigation of each of those installations to get their numbers.
Now, Mr. Special Adviser, you are under a misapprehension about what I said in Hanoi. While I was in Bangkok the Saigon Government informed me that they would release 5,000 prisoners—not 5,081 but 5,000. So I told you 5,000. Secondly, they claim they have released those 5,000—I am just saying what they tell us—and they have offered to supply the lists of those 5,000 and have the International Control Commission confirm that they have been released. This is all the information that I have.
Le Duc Tho: So whether they have released them or not, the point is that now all persons that are being held should be released as you [Page 1628] promised me. Therefore, I agree to delete the sentence “the return of 5,081 persons as stated by Dr. Kissinger on February 11 in Hanoi will be carried out immediately.” So suppose now they have been released, then no problem arises; but suppose they haven’t been released, then they are still in jail. Then we have this understanding, so the major part shall be released in the thirty days and the other in the remaining fifteen days.
Kissinger: All right, and we will phrase it in the same way as we did in January. I agree to the principle.
Le Duc Tho: It is the same words as our understanding in January.
Kissinger: Not in the English text, maybe in the Vietnamese.
Le Duc Tho: In English too.
Kissinger: The English text says, “The U.S. will exert this influence to promote the return of the greater part of such detainees within sixty days and the return of all such detainees within ninety days.” Now we just say thirty and forty-five and with the same English. We agree to exactly the same understanding as last time. And we agree to use the additional paragraph about human treatment. That is new but we agree to add it. That was not part of the understanding. It is in the Protocol, but it is not an understanding between us. But we agree to make it an understanding.
Le Duc Tho: We hope that this time our understandings will be scrupulously carried out. And I do wish that Ambassador Martin, when you go to Saigon, you will see to the strict implementation of the understanding.
Kissinger: He is very mean.
Le Duc Tho: And I hope that between Dr. Kissinger and I we should not—this is an important sentence—have to make an understanding the third time.
Kissinger: I understand.
Le Duc Tho: You understand, but do you agree with it?
Kissinger: I will do my utmost; I agree to the hope. All right, we are now at paragraph 7. We accept our old proposal. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: No, we resolutely maintain this Article 7. If you don’t accept this paragraph it means that you are unwilling to specify the democratic liberties, so that they will not be implemented in South Vietnam.
Kissinger: No, it means we don’t see that there needs to be a detailed description of one paragraph when all of the others have been summarized.
Le Duc Tho: Buy why regarding Article 7 of the Agreement do you want to put in everything—the point of entry and so on—but with [Page 1629] this article you are not willing to accept the details? As I told you, this is the article which has been most violated in South Vietnam, even the freedom to carry out their toil, their work and earning their life, they are not allowed to do so.
Kissinger: We are not saying they shouldn’t do it; we are saying referring to Article 11 makes it perfectly plain what democratic liberties we are talking about.
Le Duc Tho: But we would like to specify which are those freedoms.
Kissinger: I know what you would like, but we think this will have the great danger of unbalancing the document.
Le Duc Tho: But there are paragraphs dealing with other articles that bring about an imbalance too, because the paragraph you have written to deal with the question of missing persons is much longer than the paragraph dealing with Article 11. If you speak about imbalance. And the paragraph you have written to deal with the question of missing persons is much longer than the paragraph dealing with Article 11. So why do you speak about imbalance? Moreover we only repeat the wording of the Agreement, in the words of the Agreement.
Kissinger: Yes, but that is what we did elsewhere too.
Le Duc Tho: No, you definitely should put in Article 11.
Kissinger: No, we cannot agree to putting in Article 11.
Le Duc Tho: Then I cannot accept your position. [Both sides confer.]
Kissinger: Maybe we should put it aside for the time being and complete our other work and then come back to it.
Le Duc Tho: I propose another point. I propose to delete your point 6, that is, the paragraph dealing with “in conformity with Article 9.” I propose to delete this paragraph because if you want to maintain this paragraph then you should add another paragraph after the paragraph on ceasefire; that “the U.S. will not continue its military involvement or intervene in the internal affairs of South Vietnam.” Before point 4. Then point 6 may be maintained.
Kissinger: The difficulty that we are facing now is that yesterday this was agreed. The only thing that either Washington or Saigon believe is still disagreed are the items we have in brackets here. If now I come back and say there are new provisions, this makes an impossible situation.
Le Duc Tho: I will reply to this question. When agreement is reached between you and I then I will accept, but Minister Thach cannot replace me, therefore when agreement is reached by the experts . . .
Kissinger: That is technically true; legally that is true. But practically that is extremely difficult.
Le Duc Tho: Minister Thach cannot replace me to solve this question. I repudiate Mr. Thach’s position.[Page 1630]
Kissinger: [to Minister Thach:] Do you want to sit over here, Mr. Thach?
Le Duc Tho: And he cannot replace and sit on your side. This is a sentence dealing with principles only. But if you want to maintain point 6 then I have to add another paragraph dealing with the U.S. stopping its military involvement and intervention. Moreover, here we review the concrete articles and find out the means to implement the articles; otherwise we have to repeat all articles dealing with U.S. commitments, DRV commitments, the U.S. has made. This sentence is a commitment by both the U.S. and the DRV, but we wanted to delete it.
The purpose we have in mind here is to review the implementation of the Agreement and to find out, to decide on measures to be taken to insure a strict implementation. If we look at the complete joint communiqué, then we see all of the points are measures that have been taken. There is no point dealing with your commitments or our commitments.
Kissinger: When we reviewed at the beginning of our meeting the outstanding issues and listed them, this point was not mentioned. You agreed with me what the outstanding issues were.
Le Duc Tho: No, I did not express my views. It is a new one I have added.
Kissinger: I propose a five-minute break. I will go out and say to the press that the Special Adviser has repudiated the Minister in everything he said yesterday. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: But speaking of right of power or authority, I have the authority to repudiate Minister Thach’s views.
Kissinger: I have no doubt of your authority.
Le Duc Tho: But when agreement is reached by you and I, then no one has the authority to repudiate it.
Kissinger: The President has the authority to repudiate me. But it will not happen. I promise you that the President will not repudiate me.
Le Duc Tho: And I am sure my government will not repudiate my views too.
Kissinger: Shall we take a five or ten minute break and then finish this?
[The meeting breaks at 12:45 p.m. Dr. Kissinger and his staff confer walking back and forth on the lawn in back of the house. The meeting resumes at 1:25 p.m.]
Kissinger: All right, Mr. Special Adviser, we have discussed this problem. One, we maintain paragraph 6. Two, we will be prepared to quote Article 11 if it is clearly identified as a quotation. Three, there should be some reference to Article 13 which we are drafting, and [Page 1631] which we will have Mr. Aldrich discuss with Mr. Thach. And all of this is within the framework of a satisfactory understanding on Cambodia.
Le Duc Tho: A little while ago you wanted to put Article 13 of the Agreement in point 8 of your document.
Kissinger: We propose it as (c) of Article 8. Just one sentence. We would say “In conformity with Article 13 of the Agreement, the two sides will accomplish as soon as possible the reduction of military effectives and the demobilization of troops.” [He hands over Aldrich’s handwritten draft of the sentence.] We should give it to the interpreter since Thach is repudiated.
Le Duc Tho: What is not in conformity with the Agreement I will repudiate. What is incorrect I will repudiate.
Paragraph 6 is unacceptable to us. If you maintain it you should put in the U.S. commitment to stop this military involvement and not to interfere in South Vietnam. All these are commitments. If you refuse to put the U.S. commitment regarding military involvement then I omit also the commitment in paragraph 6. All these are commitments. In the document we review the specific questions, we review specific articles for implementation. We do not refer to the principles in the Agreement. For instance, the principles were the U.S. respect the independence of the peoples of Vietnam, the U.S. will stop its military involvement in South Vietnam, its intervention in South Vietnam. We do not want these points in the document. All this joint communiqué points out the specific measures to be taken for the implementation of the Agreement. So this is our position: If you put in your paragraph 6, then I have to add the previous paragraph.
Now regarding the democratic liberties, if now you accept it but you link it with the question of Cambodia, that will not do.
No I will tell you about the Cambodian problem. From the very beginning of the negotiation before on the peaceful solution of the Vietnam problem, your original intention is to settle the whole problems of Indochina at one time. But I refused it; I said the Vietnam problem should be settled separately, the problem of Laos should be settled separately, the problem of Cambodia should be settled separately, without linking one to the other. And during the course of our negotiations you agreed to settle the Vietnam problem by means suitable to Vietnam, Laos by means suitable to Laos, and the same for Cambodia. Therefore we have settled Vietnam’s problems separately, Laos separately and Cambodia separately. Therefore I think that those questions should not be linked to each other for bargaining purposes.
Now we have reached an Agreement. We have to implement the Agreement. But if you want to discuss with me about Cambodia, it is another problem.[Page 1632]
Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, the practical matter is whatever we call it—whether we call it linked, or not linked, or separate—that is a question of semantics, which I am glad to handle any way you want. The realities of the situation are that if we are going to be able to implement what we have agreed with each other, then we have to face the realities each side has. We cannot have a situation in which one side exerts unremitting pressures. The result will be that key points of the Agreement will not be implemented again. I have told you for many months what our requirements are. We have given you a draft understanding on Cambodia which lists only what we can do, what is in our control. It is not going to be comprehensive in America and elsewhere why that cannot be agreed to.
Le Duc Tho: First, I would like to raise a principle first. In our negotiations the Vietnam problem and the Cambodian problem shall not be linked with each other. My intention is that Article 11, the freedoms, liberties should not be linked with the Cambodian problems for bargaining. We have peacefully settled the Vietnam problem; we have peace in Laos; there is no reason that we don’t have peace in Cambodia. But our difficulties are known to you. The solution, the settlement of the Cambodian problem comes under the competence of the peoples of Cambodia, the competence of the Royal Khmer National Union Government. How can you and I settle on their behalf? For instance, in your draft you raise the question of the ceasefire. But the fighters now in Cambodia are Cambodians themselves. The Cambodians are an independent, sovereign people. How can you tell me to settle the Cambodian problem? This is a reality. I have talked privately with you lengthily on this problem. I do not want to repeat it again. But your approach is incorrect, first because you link this question of Cambodia with the writing of Article 11 regarding the democratic liberties. Now I never make pressure on you.
Kissinger: You do so well without it that it is hard to conceive what you would be like if you put pressure on me.
Le Duc Tho: You have been making pressure on me all the time, but I have come here this time again to negotiate with you. Before my coming here you have interrupted the mine clearance, you have stopped the work of the Joint Economic Commission, you have bombed South Vietnam, but I have come here to talk with you. So who is making pressure on whom?
So I propose that we should finish the joint communiqué first, and then we will deal with the Cambodian and Laos questions. Whatever views you would like to express I will discuss with you.
Kissinger: We are not linking the Cambaodian question to Article 11. We are linking an understanding on Cambodia to the whole possibility of proceeding on this basis. This is a fact. This is not pressure.[Page 1633]
Le Duc Tho: Even now if you link the Cambodian problem with Article 11 here, and if you say that if we do not satisfy your requirements regarding Cambodia then you will not accept this Article 11 . . .
Kissinger: I didn’t say Article 11.
Le Duc Tho: Even if we do not satisfy your requirement regarding Cambodia then you will not solve the questions we are facing here, then there is no solution. I cannot do otherwise. The problem depends on the competence of Cambodia.
Kissinger: It has always been clear that the understandings are part of the general agreement.
Le Duc Tho: We have settled with you the Agreement, and besides the Agreement the understandings. But with regard to the understandings there is a capability beyond which we cannot go. There is nothing that should be beyond our capability.
Kissinger: That is why we put nothing in this draft understanding that is beyond our capability. Because it affects primarily the outside forces.
Le Duc Tho: So you have raised the question of Cambodia for the past few years throughout our negotiations, throughout the conclusion of the Paris Agreement, during your visit to Hanoi—but I have always explained to you regarding Cambodia that we can do nothing other than what we have written and talked to you. If now you ask me to settle the question of Cambodia as in the draft you have given us, I can tell you that even if we don’t sign the joint communiqué with you we cannot settle it. We can’t do that although I do want, I do desire to sign it. But the problem is complicated. It is not as simple as you think. It involves the independence and the sovereignty of the Cambodians. It must be solved by the Cambodians. You, like me, will contribute to the settlement only; we can’t fix the point as you have mentioned in the draft. We are prepared to bring our contributions to bring peace to Cambodia. We have no other meaning. As I told you on many occasions, once the Vietnam has been peacefully settled and once the Laos problem has been peacefully settled, it is our earnest desire to see Cambodia have peace also. We don’t want that the war be continued there.
So you have driven me into an impasse.
Kissinger: So what do you propose concretely?
Le Duc Tho: Regarding the joint communiqué?
Kissinger: In general, how do we proceed now?
Le Duc Tho: So I propose that we will have finished the joint communiqué and then we will discuss the understandings regarding Laos and Cambodia. Regarding the understanding on Laos, whatever you want to add I am prepared to discuss with you. Regarding Cam[Page 1634]bodia, I have explained to you that we can’t do otherwise. If you maintain your position then no solution is possible.
Kissinger: Well, we may then have to delay and meet again in two weeks after we have both studied the situation.
Le Duc Tho: I agree. I can tell you that even now we can’t sign this joint communiqué. I can’t agree to your proposal regarding Cambodia because it is the sovereignty of the Cambodians. We can’t speak on their behalf. I tell you this very openly, very straightforwardly. If now you interrupt the discussion of the joint communiqué because you want us to satisfy your position regarding Cambodia, then we can’t do otherwise. Because we can’t settle the problem of Cambodia as you proposed.
If you want to delay it two weeks to discuss the joint communiqué, it is up to you. But I can tell you frankly and straightforwardly that because of our desire to settle the problem we have come here, but you raise problems that lead to the impossibility of a settlement.
Kissinger: Why is it impossible for you to agree to do something that is required for you to do by Article 20 of the Agreement, namely to withdraw your forces?
Le Duc Tho: We will carry out Article 20 after there is a solution in Cambodia, just as was done in Laos.
Dr. Kissinger: That is a violation of the Agreement too. There is nothing in Article 20 that says “with the agreement of their allies” or “after the conclusion of a political settlement.” Article 20 says that “Foreign countries shall put an end to all military activities in Cambodia and Laos totally withdraw from and refrain from reintroducing into those countries . . .” It doesn’t say anything about that there has to be a political settlement first or that it is conditional. It is not a condition: it is not tied to anything. It is an unconditional obligation.
Le Duc Tho: There is no provision in the Chapter to decide the withdrawal of troops by what and what date. You are not realistic in dealing with the problem. You should be realistic if a solution is to be found. I have told you on many occasions, the problem of Laos should be settled differently from the Cambodian problem, and so is the Vietnam problem. Regarding Laos I can have an understanding with you with the agreement of our allies. So we are in a different condition. But the Cambodian problem is different. If we should settle as you proposed, then the problem becomes more complicated and more difficult.
Kissinger: Well, maybe we should have a quick lunch and attempt again to discuss for a little bit afterwards, and then we can decide what to do.
Le Duc Tho: I agree.[Page 1635]
[The group broke at 2:00 p.m. for lunch and resumed at 3:30 p.m.]
Kissinger: I have a concrete proposal, Mr. Special Adviser. You begin by signing the understanding on Cambodia! But as a sign of good will you can remove your troops in 15 days.
But let me make a proposal to end this impasse. We will accept Article 11, simply quoting the other one. We will say: “The two South Vietnamese parties shall implement Article 11 of the Agreement, which reads as follows:” and then just quote it. We will agree to drop paragraph 6. But we will propose that we begin paragraph 8 as follows: “Consistent with the principles of Article 9 which affirm the South Vietnamese people’s right of self-determination,” and then the rest of Article 8. So it isn’t a new principle and it is not an undertaking by the U.S. and DRV. Then we have (a), (b), and (c), including the reference to Article 13. Then for stylistic reasons we have to move the phrase “In conformity with Article 12 of the Agreement” to the end of paragraph (a).
Le Duc Tho: Let me make a comment now. Regarding Article 11 we agree to our formulation that you have agreed to.
Kissinger: As a sign of good will!
Le Duc Tho: As to the sentence “consistent with the self-determination of the South Vietnamese people”, you put it in a place that it will cover subparagraphs (a), (b) and (c), and that will not do. It is possible to delete paragraph 6, but to put it in this place will not do.
Kissinger: No, there is a big difference, Mr. Special Adviser. Paragraph 6 says “that the US and DRV reaffirm their undertaking to respect the South Vietnamese people’s right of self-determination”. Now it is quite conceivable to us that you do not want to make a new commitment to a principle when no other principle is being reaffirmed. We think this is an argument which we can understand. But all we are saying now is something that is already in Chapter IV of the Agreement; it begins with Article 9 which states the principles. So we are saying the implementation of Articles 12 and 13 is consistent with the principles of Article 9. We make no reference to the US or DRV.
Le Duc Tho: I propose the following: “Consistent with Chapter IV regarding the implementation of the South Vietnamese people’s right to self-determination: (a), (b), (c).”
Kissinger: What is wrong with “the principles of Article 9?” I don’t understand it.
Le Duc Tho: I have no objection to the principles of Article 9 but all these points are covered by Chapter IV. All these points are covered by Chapter IV. If you speak about only Article 9, then only (a) and (b) are covered by Article 9. But if you speak of the whole chapter then (a), (b) and (c) are covered by the whole chapter; that is to say, the [Page 1636] formation of the National Council, the settlement of the internal affairs of South Vietnam, and the question of armed forces in South Vietnam.
Kissinger: I am always grateful to the Special Adviser for trying to improve my draft. I know it is the only motive he has, in that simple, straightforward, direct mind of his.
Le Duc Tho: Straightforward and serious.
Kissinger: Serious, yes; straightforward, no. He approaches every objective via the Ho Chi Minh Trail [laughter]. Now read me that thing again.
Le Duc Tho: “Consistent with Chapter IV of the Agreement regarding the exercise of the South Vietnamese people’s right to self determination: (a), (b), (c).” (c) is the subparagraph dealing with the armed forces in South Vietnam and written just as in the Agreement, Article 13.
Kissinger: Just one second.
Le Duc Tho: I propose “in conformity with” or “consistent with”.
Kissinger: No, we have to have “consistent with Chapter IV.” Let me make a suggestion. If we say “consistent with Chapter IV of the Agreement regarding the South Vietnamese people’s right of self-determination and the principles of Article 9.”
Le Duc Tho: Or the following: “consistent with the principles regarding the right to self-determination mentioned in Chapter IV.” “Consistent with the principles for the exercise of the South Vietnamese people’s right to self-determination mentioned in Chapter IV.”
Kissinger: Can we say something stronger than “mentioned”. [Laughter] I mean “affirmed” or “stated” in Chapter IV.”
Min. Thach: “Reaffirmed.”
Kissinger: We just mention this in passing, I know you take it terribly seriously.
Le Duc Tho: “Stated.”
Kissinger: “Consistent with the principles for the exercise of the South Vietnamese people’s right to self-determination stated in Chapter IV of the Agreement.” Then there is a colon. Do we disagree on the colon? [Laughter] We agree on that. Can we just make sure we have the same text? Let me read what it says. Eight.
Thach: No, it is now seven.
Kissinger: Or we could leave six and say, “wrung away from Mr. Kissinger by Special Adviser Le Duc Tho.” Or “deleted by Special Adviser Le Duc Tho who refused to consent to unanimity.”
Le Duc Tho: We will have it in an understanding.
Kissinger: 7(a). I notice the Special Adviser’s health immediately improves when he has wrung a concession out of us. “(a) The National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord consisting of three [Page 1637] equal segments should be formed as soon as possible, in conformity with Article 12 of the Agreement.” We are moving it only because of the colon. Actually we don’t have to move it now.
Le Duc Tho: I agree.
Kissinger: “(b) The two South Vietnamese parties shall sign an agreement on the internal matters of South Vietnam as soon as possible and shall do their utmost to accomplish this within 45 days from today.”
Le Duc Tho: I agree, “do their utmost.”
Kissinger: The vision of all Vietnamese doing their utmost is more than I can stand. The strain will be too great. (c) You are forgetting about (c). “The two South Vietnamese parties shall as soon as possible accomplish the reduction of military effectives and the demobilization of troops in conformity with Article 13 of the Agreement.” And they shall then return to their native places. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: Because this is a matter of contention, therefore, I propose to stick to the words of the Agreement.
Kissinger: What is the wording?
Le Duc Tho: “(c) In conformity with Article 13 of the Agreement the questions of Vietnamese armed forces in South Vietnam shall be settled by the two South Vietnamese parties in a spirit,” etc. Then quote all the things of Article 13. “The two South Vietnamese parties will accomplish this as soon as possible.”
Kissinger: Why don’t we say “The two South Vietnamese parties shall implement Article 13, which reads as follows:” and then just quote it.
Le Duc Tho: I agree.
Kissinger: OK. We are finished with the agreement. You don’t want to add “return to their native places.” [Laughter] Where will they go when they are demobilized, just for my information? To visit their families in Cambodia?
Le Duc Tho: They know the way they will go. [Laughter]
Kissinger: Another thing. We could just have a joint appeal by Hanoi and Saigon saying “Everybody go home,” and see where they would go. All right. Now does that settle the outstanding issues in the agreement, I mean in the communiqué?
Le Duc Tho: It is completed now.
Kissinger: All right. Then I propose that Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach meet on the second. First of all, tomorrow Mr. Engel and Mr. Phuong meet to conform the Vietnamese text. Where, Rue Darthe?
Le Duc Tho: Rue Darthe.
Kissinger: Rue Darthe. Anything you cannot settle that is left open will be done on the second. Because I will take Mr. Aldrich and Ambas[Page 1638]sador Martin home with me. So any disagreements will have to be settled between Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach.
Le Duc Tho: As to schedule, I propose the following change: Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach will meet on June the 2nd. I have agreed. But when we meet again, I propose the 6th of June, because I have reviewed my program and I want one day delay.
Kissinger: Are you planning to take Sa Huynh on the 7th of June? [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: Then the communiqué will be published on the 7th of June and then we will sign it on the 8th of June. So the date of the ceasefire order is also the 8th.
Kissinger: I agree.
Le Duc Tho: 24 hours thereafter, that is to say on the 9th, the ceasefire will become effective.
Kissinger: Now should we have, in that case, the two saboteurs meet on the 3rd if we are going to delay our meeting? I prefer this schedule because it gives me a chance to talk to Mr. Sullivan after I return from Iceland. [They nod yes.]
All right. Now we have then to settle the understandings.
When Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach meet, just to avoid controversy, they will fix the deadlines for the work of the various groups. And they will use the interval foreseen if the agreement had been signed on May 25, in other words 20 days more or less for the Economic Commission, and they will be authorized to fix it. It was June 15; we had said June 15 for the Joint Economic Commission. It should now be June 28th. June 30th.
Le Duc Tho: It should be the 26th.
Kissinger: Why 26?
Thach: I had agreed with Ambassador Sullivan that four days after the signing of the communiqué then the Economic Commission will resume, and then the Economic Commission will resume on June the 12th and then we have to complete its work on the 27th.
Kissinger: All right. What day in the week is the 12th? It is the middle of the week, that is all right. I agree. If I had Vietnamese blood I would fight for an hour and make it June 28th. We will make it the 27th. So this is completed.
Now we have Laos and Cambodia. We are talking about Laos. Or is the Special Adviser going to go to Cambodia?
Le Duc Tho: If you wish to tantalize me, then you speak about Cambodia.
Kissinger: We have agreed on the understanding as to prisoners, which will be the same as the old one except for the time period of 45 days and another paragraph about humane treatment.[Page 1639]
Le Duc Tho: I agree.
Kissinger: Now with respect to the draft understanding on Laos. [Tab G] I think we have agreed on Article 1, substituting “strong desire” for “wish”. I have really one or two word changes which I think should be settled by Sullivan and Thach, such as where you say “current negotiations now going on”. I think we should say “current negotiations” and leave out “now going on”. It is purely stylistic.
Le Duc Tho: Yes, I agree.
Kissinger: And say “between the two parties concerned in Laos”, I think it is better to say “between the two Lao parties” because who are the concerned parties?
Le Duc Tho: I agree.
Kissinger: Paragraph 2. Since you have accepted 15 days, I think that is now satisfactory. Would the Special Adviser like to make a comment on that?
Le Duc Tho: Yes. I propose 30 days to be in conformity with the agreement on Laos. But we will try to do this as soon as possible. I have been following up the negotiations in Laos, but I just wanted to draw your attention to the fact that the Vientiane side have gone beyond the agreements on Laos on a number of provisions. Therefore, I would like to draw your attention to this fact. So you can put 15 days or 20 days; we can agree with our allies. But what is important is that they should make an effort to come to a settlement.
Kissinger: I agree.
Le Duc Tho: Because we have experienced in the past that we set a time limit but they do not make any effort to settlement.
Kissinger: But now, Mr. Special Adviser, I think we have to.
Le Duc Tho: Therefore you and I should make an effort this time.
Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, I am sending Sullivan to Vientiane from Saigon in order to use his influence. But it is our impression, first of all, that your side spends an exorbitant amount of its time in Sam Neua.
Le Duc Tho: Our allies have gone long ago. Since April 27 already.
Kissinger: Secondly, it is our understanding that the biggest hangup now concerns the Vice Prime Ministership, which was not provided for in the agreement.
Le Duc Tho: I know that.
Kissinger: And that was not in the agreement.
Le Duc Tho: But the difficulty is that regarding a number of other provisions the Vientiane side have gone beyond the signed agreement.
Kissinger: For example?
Le Duc Tho: Therefore, I think that they should now stick to the text of the agreement for a second time.[Page 1640]
Kissinger: All right. To the extent that that is a problem, we will look into this. What specifically are your problems? Can you let us know?
Le Duc Tho: On a number of military questions, for example, the question of the International Commission of Control, the question of the dissolution of the “special forces” in conformity with Article 4 of the agreement, then the question of the determination of the location of the troops but not the area of control. Then the Vientiane side demand that foreign troops be withdrawn by May 22, 1973.
Kissinger: Well, we have certainly missed that one.
Le Duc Tho: According to the agreement the troop withdrawal must be after the political solution only. Another question, they demand that the International Commission will operate with authorities beyond the agreement signed in 1973. Yes, in the agreement actually there is no mention about the Vice Premier, but when Souvanna Phouma talked with Mr. Vongvichit, Mr. Phouma told Mr. Vongvichit, as an understanding that there would be a Vice Premier. So the Pathet Lao insist on a Vice Premier.
Kissinger: That is not Souvanna’s recollection. [Laughter] And therefore, he insists that there should not be a Vice Premier. Tell me, Mr. Special Adviser, can you remember all these Laotian names? [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: I don’t remember them all! So after our meetings here I will send a message back, so that our friends will push forward for the settlement of the Laos question.
Kissinger: And then can we say 15 days?
Le Duc Tho: I think that we should put one month, to be in conformity with the agreement.
Kissinger: That was February 23.
Le Duc Tho: Then we will make a big effort. It would be better in this way. If I accept your proposal of 15 or 20 days and don’t make a big effort, no solution is possible.
Kissinger: The difficulty is that you now have over two weeks and, you certainly have communications with the Pathet Lao, so from now you really are asking for 45 days. So when we say 15 days from June 8, that is over 30 days from today.
Le Duc Tho: This is a way of speaking of yours, Mr. Adviser, but we should take some as a landmark. And every agreement we have here takes the date of the signing of the communiqué as the landmark.
Kissinger: I am perfectly content . . .
Le Duc Tho: It will take some time to carry out these things.
Kissinger: I don’t object to using June 8 as a time mark, but we can take 15 or 20 days from that date.
Le Duc Tho: So I would like to stick to the agreement that 30 days after the signing, the governments . . .[Page 1641]
Kissinger: That wasn’t an agreement, that is a proposal. The obligation was 30 days from February 23. Without our understanding they would be under an obligation to come to an agreement next week.
Every time we have a difficult issue for you you ask for an understanding; every time there is a difficult issue for us you won’t give us the understanding.
Le Duc Tho: No, we don’t want a delay on this question, but we have to agree with our allies. We have to stick to the Laos Agreement.
Kissinger: There is no Laos agreement that is relevant to this. The Laos agreement was February 23rd, not 30 days from the time you and I sign an agreement on some other questions. They are in violation of the Agreement now.
Le Duc Tho: It is not the Pathet Lao which violates the Agreement, it is the prolongation of the negotiations between the two parties not coming to a settlement. So to show my understanding of your problems, I will count from June 1—30 days counting from June the 1st. It is 23 days. So we have much time in advance already.
Kissinger: By June 30th?
Le Duc Tho: Counting from June 1st.
Kissinger: Now you are going to say they will settle on June 31st. [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: So July the 1st.
Kissinger: If you start on June 1, they have to sign by June 30th.
Le Duc Tho: July the 1st, counting from June the 1st. Then it should be settled by July the 1st.
Kissinger: You know we can play games here, but you do understand the interrelationship of various matters here. So why don’t we say “will be achieved by July 1st at the latest?”
Le Duc Tho: I agree.
Kissinger: All right, “by July 1st at the latest.” You don’t want to say 30 days after June 1st? No one will know why you say June 1st, including yourself.
Le Duc Tho: I agree.
Dr. Kissinger: A few more concessions like this by you and we will be negotiating in Bangkok.
Le Duc Tho: Maybe some time will come when we have to negotiate in Bangkok.
Kissinger: The Special Adviser once told me he was going to head north to his ancestral home. Now, “the U.S. and the DRV will exert their best efforts in that direction.” We added that.
Le Duc Tho: I agree.[Page 1642]
Kissinger: That is a separate paragraph, unnumbered, as part of paragraph (a).
Le Duc Tho: I agree. The lawyer beside you [Aldrich] makes difficulties.
Kissinger: Paragraph (b) we accept, and we will just make sure it is consistent with the text of the agreement.
Le Duc Tho: It fits the agreement.
Kissinger: Those are the only modifications we will make, if it is consistent with the text of the agreement.
Paragraph (c), we also have to check to make it consistent with the agreement.
Now I want to record my understanding, Mr. Special Adviser, of what I think Minister Thach and Ambassador Sullivan have agreed to. I don’t want Minister Thach to be disavowed again. My understanding . . . [An aide brings in Tho’s medicine.] Not before we discuss Cambodia!
Le Duc Tho: I have to drink before we discuss.
Kissinger: Our understanding is that we can apply Article 8(b). We can claim that it applies to all of Indochina, because there is no geographic limit stated. You will not accept this publicly but you will not contradict this publicly either. And you will be helpful to us in this respect.
Le Duc Tho: We will do this say to help you in Laos.
Kissinger: Yes. Is this a correct understanding of what Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach have discussed?
Le Duc Tho: But in Laos. Minister Thach has told Ambassador Sullivan that we will help you to coordinate with our ally in Laos in getting information about the missing in action in Laos. As to those in Cambodia, we will wait until after the solution and we will deal with this question.
Kissinger: You don’t understand the point I am making.
Le Duc Tho: Have I well understood you, that when you make a statement about this question for the whole of Indochina, we will not state it?
Kissinger: You will not contradict it.
Le Duc Tho: We will say nothing about it.
Kissinger: But without saying so, you will help us. We have an understanding on your honor that you will help us.
Le Duc Tho: We have to cooperate with our Lao friends. As to the statement you will make for the purpose of public opinion, we will say nothing.
Kissinger: Yes, but also for the purpose of reality. If you will help us. It will be helpful if you give us your assistance without making a [Page 1643] public statement about it. You have often told me you could do things that are not written down.
Le Duc Tho: I agree. But I have to add that we have to cooperate with our Lao friends because it is their sovereignty.
Kissinger: I understand. Now we would still like a sentence from you which I don’t understand why you can’t give us—which says that “the DRV has been informed that there are no U.S. prisoners being held in Laos—that all the prisoners held in Laos have been released.” It would be very important for us.
Le Duc Tho: I have acknowledged to you that all of them have been released.
Kissinger: Then why can’t you write it down?
Le Duc Tho: In the March 24 message to you. We will base ourselves on this message—March 26. Have we finished?
Kissinger: We have Cambodia.
Le Duc Tho: Have we finished all the problems?
Kissinger: Now Cambodia. I told you.
Le Duc Tho: There is only one question left, the Cambodian problem.
Kissinger: Yes. You reaffirm your message of March 26?
Thach: March 28.
Le Duc Tho: Yes.
Kissinger: 1973. All right.
Le Duc Tho: Now we have finished everything.
Kissinger: We have not finished Cambodia.
Le Duc Tho: We will have to remain here until midnight.
Kissinger: In that case I must tell you that we cannot proceed without some understanding on Cambodia. We can defer it for two weeks; we can both think; Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach can talk; and we can both think on what to do. We will try to be constructive. You will try to be constructive. And we will leave it with good will for the meeting of the two gentlemen.
Le Duc Tho: I agree with you. We will then discuss.
Kissinger: But we must both make a very serious effort.
Le Duc Tho: We will make a serious effort, but not as you have proposed.
Kissinger: No, you may have a more ingenious idea. We are open-minded.
Le Duc Tho: Yes, but not such a kind of flexibility as demand immediate ceasefire and immediate troop withdrawal.
Kissinger: No, but we can talk in terms of some time limits the way we have on other problems. And you know the problem perhaps [Page 1644] better than we; perhaps you can think of a solution. But we must have an understanding.
Le Duc Tho: I have expressed all my views in this connection. But I agree to let Minister Thach and Ambassador Sullivan further discuss this subject.
Kissinger: With the understanding that you and I come to an understanding on June 6th.
Le Duc Tho: Yes, we will further discuss it. But I can’t make you any promise now, because the two conditions you gave me I am sure they are impossible. But I agree that Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach will discuss further.
Kissinger: Now I am leaving tonight, Mr. Adviser, and unless you repudiate Mr. Thach’s attacks against me again in the press I would like to read to you what I propose to say. I will read you what I propose to say. I will change it if you suggest. I will say no more. Nor will I say any more in America, nor will any other person say any more in America. We would like the same promise from you.
Le Duc Tho: I agree, please read.
Kissinger: [reads draft statement at Tab H]: “I have today concluded a week’s meeting with Mr. Le Duc Tho. We met for some 30 hours and there were another 15 hours of technical meetings between Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach. The purpose of the meetings was to bring about a strict implementation of the Paris Agreement. They were conducted in a constructive and positive manner. Significant progress was made. Ambassador Sullivan is now in Saigon to discuss the results with the Government of South Vietnam. I am returning to Washington to report to the President. Mr. Le Duc Tho and I will meet again on June 6. We have every intention of concluding our discussions during the next series of meetings.”
Le Duc Tho: I agree with you.
Kissinger: You agree?
Le Duc Tho: Yes. And if I am asked then I will confirm this.
Kissinger: Should I arrange for you to be asked? I will arrange for you to be asked. I will give you a text. [He hands over a copy.] We just added a little bit.
Le Duc Tho: And I will answer them that the statement made by Dr. Kissinger is correct. Roughly in the substance.
Kissinger: Can I say when I make this statement that I have the impression that the North Vietnamese side is prepared to confirm the substance of these remarks?
Le Duc Tho: I agree.
Kissinger: Good. I gave Mr. Thach another five hours with Ambassador Sullivan.[Page 1645]
Le Duc Tho: Yes. I will confirm the statement. Please tell the press that you think the North Vietnamese may confirm, and please get some journalists to ask me this question.
Kissinger: I think the easiest way when I make this statement is to say I believe the North Vietnamese are prepared to confirm the substance of these remarks. And then you can say that you agree that this was a correct statement. [Tho nods yes.] And then neither side give any explanation or background, or anything else about this or any other part of it.
Le Duc Tho: Yes. When you told me to do something I always abide by it.
Kissinger: This is true, and I owe it to the Special Adviser to point out this leak by the Herald Tribune of which I have complained, I have now found out from whom it came. It was a Vietnamese neutralist who was in contact with your allies, not with you or the Vietnamese delegation. [Minister Thach nods his head no during Dr. Kissinger’s remarks.]
No, I know the name. And after my complaint to the Special Adviser his information became much less reliable. But it did not come from the North Vietnamese side.
Le Duc Tho: What I wanted to say is what I told you. I respect my words. And I think that you should do the same, because otherwise if you give explanations to them, I will give explanations. If you leak things, then we will leak things and that could be endless developments.
Kissinger: We will not leak either. I have to do one thing. I have to tell you honestly. I have to tell Senator Fulbright that we are close to an agreement so that he will confirm Ambassador Martin so that we can send him from here directly to Saigon on June 8. Because I think it is important.
Le Duc Tho: Yes, but please tell him clearly that agreement is on Vietnam only.
Le Duc Tho: Now before concluding, please let me speak a few words.
We have been negotiating with each other for a long time now. I can say that it has been fairly arduous for us two to come to reach the Agreement on Vietnam. But there has been serious developments in that situation over the past three months, and therefore you and I have to meet again here. Now we have come to a further step of agreement. Though the agreement this time is not so important as the Paris Agreement, but it has its significance and importance. And this agreement this time is the result of our common efforts of us both. Our purpose [Page 1646] is to have the Agreement strictly implemented, and on this basis the strict implementation of the Agreement, we lay foundations for the normalizations of relations, long-term normalizations of relations. This is our objective and it is also the objective you often affirmed to me. Now so this time we have come once again to agreement. We have fixed up a schedule for signing. I have no other desire than to see the schedule come true, and we abide by this schedule.
Now you will make a statement to the press and I will confirm your statement. I think we cannot do anything contrary and deceive public opinion. This is your responsibility and it is my responsibility. So it is my wish that we will bring about a good solution. And on this basis we will bind up our mutual trust, not only between our two peoples but between both of us. And no doubt the relations will last for a long time between our two peoples, but not only our two peoples but between you and I personally.
Therefore, I expect that we will meet again and we will sign the joint communiqué. And we get good results in our work. I have finished.
Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, we have been meeting together for four years, under sometimes very difficult circumstances, but always with the objective to bring peace to Indochina and peace to our two peoples. We did some historic work last year and finally brought it to a conclusion over many obstacles. We could do so because we took into account each other’s necessities. Now again we have had to meet after some months, in order to preserve the Agreement that we have made and to bring about its strict implementation. And we have met this time, even more importantly, to lay a very firm basis for the normalization of the relationship between our two countries. If we can succeed in doing this, and to move from here to normalization and from normalization to friendship, then this meeting here could turn out in retrospect to be as historic as our meetings last October and January. This is our firm resolve, and this is why you will not experience any surprises between now and the time we meet next. But in the interval we both should look at each other’s necessities on the outstanding issue. [Tho smiles.] And I will meet you in the spirit of improving our relationship with the firm intention of carrying through what we have agreed on, and not only to sign it but to implement it scrupulously. So that we can soon fulfill my desire of welcoming the Special Adviser to the United States, together with our other colleagues.
Now I only want to say we look forward to seeing you on June 6th. Shall we say 11 o’clock at Gif? But if you want to meet here, that is fine too.
Le Duc Tho: At Gif.
Kissinger: All right. The food is better at Gif!
[The meeting then ended.]
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 was held at La Fontaine au Blanc, St. Nom la Bretèche. All brackets are in the original. The tabs are attached but not printed.
After this last meeting in the round, Kissinger sent a summary to Nixon. “Yesterday,” he told the President, “I concluded six days of negotiations in Paris with Le Duc Tho. We have agreed to meet again in Paris on June 6 to conclude a signed communiqué, the text of which is now agreed, as well as several private understandings. Ambassador Sullivan has gone to Saigon to explain the draft communiqué to President Thieu and obtain his concurrence, either to signing it as a four-party communiqué, or to our signing it with the DRV and stating in the communiqué that we are doing so with the concurrence of the GVN. The single, outstanding issue between us is Cambodia. I made it clear to Tho that we would not be prepared to sign the communiqué unless we receive a satisfactory understanding on this subject. The time between now and June 6 should permit us to exert pressure on North Vietnam concerning Cambodia through the Soviets and Chinese. The prospect of a final meeting on June 6 should also help us deter rash Congressional action with respect to Cambodia in the interim.”
On the central issue of Vietnam, as opposed to the important but secondary ones of Laos and Cambodia, the text of the draft communiqué constituted, according to Kissinger, “a clear net gain for our side.” Furthermore, no cost attached to these gains. That is, he continued, “we had to agree to resume compliance with the Paris Agreement in those areas where at the end of April we had cut off compliance to put pressure on North Vietnam—i.e., stop aerial reconnaissance over the North, resume mine clearance, and resume the meetings of the Joint Economic Commission. In other words, we gave up nothing of substance.” (Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. X, Vietnam, January 1973–July 1975, Document 59)↩