65. 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
- Colonel Hoang Hoa
- Dang Nghiem Bai, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Pham Ngac
- Tran Quang Co
- Nguyen Dinh Phuong, Interpreter
- Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
- Mr. Ronald L. Ziegler, Press Secretary to the President
- Ambassador William H. Sullivan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Ambassador-designate to the Philippines
- Ambassador Graham A. Martin, Ambassador-designate to the Republic of Viet-Nam
- Mr. George H. Aldrich, Deputy Legal Adviser, Department of State
- Mr. Lawrence S. Eagleburger, Deputy to the Assistant to the President for National Security Operations
- Mr. William L. Stearman, NSC Staff
- Mr. Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff
- Mr. Richard S. Thompson, Department of State, Interpreter
- Miss Irene G. Derus, NSC Secretary
Kissinger: I think, Mr. Special Adviser, we should not take Mr. Ziegler along anymore. Nothing has gone right.
Le Duc Tho: The journalists are waiting for Mr. Ziegler.
Dr. Kissinger: Instead they always get Mr. Thach. Should I start or would you like to start, Mr. Special Adviser?
Le Duc Tho: It is up to you who starts.
Kissinger: Well, I see you have something written down.
Le Duc Tho: I have written down that there are two possibilities. [Laughter]
Kissinger: Maybe I should talk first because I am the guest, and because I know the Special Adviser will speak last in any event.
Le Duc Tho: You have guessed right!
Kissinger: And shall we proclaim a non-aggression treaty before we start and conduct our conversation in a calm manner today?
All right, let me speak first, then.
We face a very difficult and very regrettable situation, in the sense that Saigon has refused to sign the document as it stands despite three personal appeals from the President.
Now you have two choices in thinking about this. The first choice is to think that this is a plot. The second is that we now have a common problem. I cannot deal with the first possibility, so let me deal with the second.
I say you and we have now a common problem and the problem is as follows: You and we have agreed on a communiqué. We maintain the text of this communiqué, and unlike October we are not asking now for changes in the text of the communiqué. So we are not supporting the request for changes. Now on this analysis, we have four possibilities before us. Let me present to you the pros and cons of these four possibilities as I see them. And you can . . . you will, of course, make your own decision.[Page 1696]
The first choice is that both of us accept the changes recommended by Saigon. I repeat, I am not asking for these changes. I am simply presenting them. In effect what Saigon wants is to substitute for the political articles; that is to say, for Article 9 of the communiqué, the entire text of Chapter IV of the Agreement. And secondly, they want to delete—I repeat, I am presenting it, I am not asking for it.
Le Duc Tho: But please repeat.
Kissinger: They would like to substitute for the political articles of our communiqué, that is to say for Articles 9 and 10, the entire text of Chapter IV of the Ceasefire Agreement. You see we are already quoting Article 11 and Article 13. They also want to quote Articles 9 and 10 and 12. They want to quote the entire Chapter IV.
And secondly, they want to delete from paragraph 11(b) the references to “areas controlled” by each of the sides and leave it up to the two sides to determine the location of the teams. I will give you the text they want. Simply for intellectual completeness. So that you have the full picture. It reads as follows: “Pending an agreement on their definite location, the headquarters of the Regional Two-Party Joint Military Commission and the teams of the Joint Military Commission shall be located close to their present sites and close to the headquarters and teams of the ICCS. Once the delineation of the areas of control and modalities of stationing of the two South Vietnamese parties has been determined in accordance with Article 3(b) of the Agreement, the Two-Party Joint Military Commission shall agree on definite locations for its teams.”
Those are the major changes requested by Saigon. They would make possible a rapid signing. No, I am not asking you—let me present the four possibilities. I have told you we are not asking for it; we are presenting it.
The second possibility is that you and we make this a joint communiqué between the DRV and the United States, with a joint appeal to the parties that they should adhere to it. The communiqué could then be signed or unsigned, and we would undertake to see to the observance of the provisions. The advantages would be that our positions would have been made clear. The disadvantages are that we would not have a four-party signature, which we had requested.
Let me give you possibility three—and of course the advantage of the second course is that all the provisions of the agreement would go into effect immediately.
Possibility 3: We initial the communiqué today. We announce we have reached agreement in substance but we announce that we have recessed to permit the solution of some procedural difficulties. In that case, we would attempt to change the situation with respect to Saigon [Page 1697] and remain silent in the meantime. We would be in touch with each other and accomplish the solution of the procedural difficulties in the most rapid time possible.
Solution 4 is that we simply recess the talks, without any agreement and without any commitment.
We are willing to follow any of these possibilities. We regret this totally unexpected turn of events. Our willingness to commit ourselves publicly to this document now and to initial it proves our good faith. We are asking nothing additional from you and, therefore, there is no question of pressure. And we will not ask anything additional of you.
So this is the difficulty we now face for which I would like to express our regret. I don’t know whether the Special Adviser wants a brief recess to consider this problem.
Le Duc Tho: I can answer you immediately.
Kissinger: And of course I am willing to listen to any other possibilities.
Le Duc Tho: There is only one possibility for me. Therefore, I can answer you immediately without any further thinking because we have foreseen all possibilities. I am not surprised by any possibility. I have prepared documents to speak to the press, frankly speaking. I have prepared for all possibilities. But why there is such procrastination by the Saigon people and you support it.
I received information this morning that Saigon launched an offensive on June 6 against Binh Long and Dinh Thuong. They mobilized the 5th Division; they bombed and used artillery fire and they fight very energetically and they prepare to launch an attack against Route 13. Therefore the Saigon Administration wants some prolongation, with your support. Therefore I tell you this, that if they launch an offensive in this area we will attack another point. They attack this point; we attack another point. We will not let ourselves be in a passive position by these attacks. If they want to prolong these talks to carry out this plan, this will not do.
Now regarding the four possibilities you have raised, our view is as follows: We only accept this one possibility. It will be as follows: Now you and I will initial the document that we have agreed upon, both two-party version and four-party version. Now because we still have two holidays before us, Sunday and Monday will be holidays, then Tuesday will be the official signing—the two-party signing and the four-party signing. And now we should initial the document and announce the fact and announce on what day and at what time the document will be officially signed. Besides this possibility we will accept no other possibility, and if you disagree to the possibility I have just presented to you, then we will have to interrupt our talks. And [Page 1698] the possibility I have depicted to you is the possibility you proposed yesterday. If now this possibility proves to be impossible, then we will interrupt the talks.
So this is my brief statement I have to make to you. Because in my view all the problems have been settled between us; there is nothing left, so there is only this one possibility. I don’t know any other possibility, because everything has been agreed to and if more changes are to be brought about, it is impossible. The two changes that you propose to the content of the joint communiqué and to the way of signing, it is tantamount to changes in our agreement. If so, you have driven the situation to a point where I don’t see any other way out.
Ambassador Sullivan went to Saigon and on his return we have settled those changes with you already. Now more changes are made, so to what end? So all the possibilities you propose are wrong, and we firmly refuse it. We have come here with good will and the desire to settle the problem, but you have not shown such an attitude of good will.
I have this brief statement to make and I have said it very calmly. I have patiently listened to the presentation of Mr. Adviser about the possibilities. Because, you see, the purpose of the meeting here is, we have to review the implementation of the Agreement and to find out measures to be taken to insure strict implementation of the Agreement. So we have been talking very roughly, for one month now. We, you and I, have 9 days of private meetings, 5 days of meetings between the experts. If you review the joint communiqué, it is similar to the Agreement; it is nothing different from the Agreement and the protocols. There is only a number of time limits for implementation. And that work has taken so long a period to achieve. I frankly tell you, Mr. Adviser, that even if now you agree with me to have the document signed this time, I am not very glad, because there is no major problems and it has taken us so long.
Now we are faced with one problem—both of us. Whether we will insure strict implementation of the Agreement to engage in the path of normalization of our relationship and to direct ourselves toward peace, or shall we continue the war? The other day Mr. Adviser said that we should base our normalization of relationship on the strict implementation of the Agreement, and I agree with him. If both of us agree to that course of action, then we should act quickly. There is no need for such procrastination. I can tell you that even if you further prolong these talks, the situation will not change. I have enough patience and energy to talk with you. You can prolong these talks years after years, and I am prepared to do that with you. But the thing is that we should come to a solution.
What is the purpose of this prolongation? No solution will be brought about, the situation will not change, and we have understood [Page 1699] each other very well. The move you are just playing, I have understood that. Therefore, so it is up to you whether you want a settlement or not. So if you want a settlement in the way you have depicted the other day, it is up to you, because we have been talking with each other so long we have a rather long negotiation, we have understood each other’s views. I don’t deceive you, Mr. Adviser. Even the understandings we had with each other, we have never broken them. Besides the Paris Agreement, we had with you an understanding on Laos, on American prisoners in Laos, and we have settled this question with the agreement of our allies. But the many understandings you have with me you have not responded to it.
Now the Agreement is being violated. The Saigon people continue the fighting and we will continue the fighting, because they do not want peace. What shall we do now? We have foreseen the eventuality of reaching no solution, no settlement with you. Now if we can’t come to a settlement this time, what the situation will be? There will be two possibilities. If a settlement is reached now, then we will engage in a way of normalization more rapidly, in our mutual interest. And, on the contrary, if no solution is possible, then we have envisaged what violations you can come to and what action you can take against us. I have thought about it. First, you will carry out again aerial reconnaissance over the DRV and then we have to counteract these activities by fighting back. We have no other alternative, because our country is a sovereign one, and if foreign airplanes intrude into our air space we have the right to fight back. Actually I have also thought that if no settlement is reached here you will continue to delay the mine clearing operations. But frankly, I tell you, and the other day I told you already, that every channel is accessible because we let our ships, our boats go on these channels and let the mines explode. Some of them may be sacrificed but other ships will follow safely. We have done that. Please think of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. You have dropped millions of tons of bombs, but the trucks continue. The same for the mines on our rivers and waterways. The third action you can take is that on the economic questions you will not carry out your obligations under this article of the Agreement. And you should have done that. We are going to demand that from you.
Kissinger: You are getting away again, Mr. Special Adviser.
Le Duc Tho: You have to carry these out. Let me finish, because this is what we envisage. Vietnam is a poor country indeed, but we are a poor country, but we are a hardworking people. We have our two hands to let us. Without your contribution we have assistance from elsewhere. As human beings we have to find out ways to live on. It is our desire to have normal relations with you but you are unwilling to do that, then we have another course to take. We have to [Page 1700] live on. And now as regarding South Vietnam, we do want peace in South Vietnam, but if the Saigon people want the fighting then we will fight. Because when you brought in a half million American troops, we got to fight you. Now if the Saigon forces want to fight them, we are prepared to cope with them. We appealed to them to observe the ceasefire and we appealed to them to adopt peace, but they are unwilling.
So I have foreseen those eventualities. If we come to reach a solution, but what other course of action can we take? You do not want to agree with me. It is the only course left to me. So you have presented a number of possibilities to me, therefore I do want also to present to you a number of possibilities in our mind. I do not want that this situation will happen, but it does not depend on me only. But since you are unwilling to do it, how can we do it? So I have finished my views, Mr, Adviser. I have told them to you in openess and frankness.
Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, we have been meeting together for four years and there has been a certain inequality in our relationship. It is an inequality produced by the fact that I have listened with some patience to accusations about our good faith while I have never made accusations about your good faith.
Le Duc Tho: You have the right to make comments.
Kissinger: I appreciate the sincerity of the Special Adviser granting me this right.
Le Duc Tho: So we are fully equal, and whatever views I express, you have the right to comment.
Kissinger: Which I am doing if he doesn’t interrupt me.
Now at a time in which we have many other problems I have come here twice for an extended period, to settle with you the problem of normalization of relations between us and the implementation of the Agreement. It takes a particular complexity of intellect to assume that I would spend nine days in discussions with the Special Adviser, that Ambassador Sullivan would talk for five days with Minister Thach, that Ambassador Sullivan would be sent around the world, and that we interrupt a great deal of our other activities, only to tell you on the last day that we are meeting insuperable difficulties. If we had wanted to procrastinate we could have followed the model of the Special Adviser in December and prolonged the negotiations earlier this week when Mr. Thach and Ambassador Sullivan were discussing the document. It would have been very easy to do it then. After all, the Special Adviser managed to hang us up for 12 days in December on three clauses, and I have learned a little bit from him.
Secondly, I must say it is a particular form of insolence to maintain that you have no influence on your allies in Cambodia, representing [Page 1701] maybe 40,000, with an army of maybe 40,000 people, and with a special concern for their sovereignty, while we have an unlimited influence on a country of 17 million with much larger armed forces, and to be accused that we are plotting all their actions. It is absurd to argue that you have kept all the agreements and all the understandings when the meeting was requested by us precisely because the implementation of the Agreement with respect to Articles 7, 15, 20 and many others, was grossly deficient. We are willing to remedy the deficiencies that you complain about, but if you tell us that you are going to observe the Agreement in the future the way you observed it in the past, then we have very little incentive to do anything with you.
So now we have reached a difficult point, which we did not seek. Its consequences can be what you describe, or maybe we can think of some others. But the consequence we most would want is to normalize our relations and to bring about an implementation of the Agreement. We are not procrastinating for any offensives. We are not procrastinating at all.
This is my answer to what you have said, and now I would like to consult with my colleagues about what precise answer to give to your concrete proposition. I recommend we take a 10 minute break.
Le Duc Tho: Please let me speak a few words to answer you. It is equality between us.
Kissinger: But you have spoken twice already!
Le Duc Tho: But since you have spoken I have to reply.
Kissinger: Please go ahead.
Le Duc Tho: You said you got experience in December, but myself I have got ample experience from you and I don’t think it necessary to recall all these experiences. And when our relations are normalized and when you have gone out of the Administration, I will speak to you about this, to give you some things to think over and to write your books, as you like. The fact in December is that we don’t want to prolong. What is the reason for our desire to prolong these? For you to bring B–52s in to bomb our country? We foresaw it that time, the possibilities. We knew that when no settlement is reached, then always you follow it up by military pressure. This is the experience we got throughout 7 years of negotiations with you. Therefore, this is not a surprise.
Kissinger: It only seems like seven; it is actually only four.
Le Duc Tho: [Laughs] Therefore we were prepared when your planes came; we were prepared to fight them back. But it is not for prolongation to have these bombs. But as I told you then, there were problems. I had to return and exchange views with our leaders. Before I left I very frankly told you that.[Page 1702]
As to the accusation that we violated the Agreement, I don’t accept that. The fact is that in order to have an agreement implemented, both sides have to implement the agreement. If one side doesn’t respect and implement the agreement, there is no obligation for the other side to implement it. Therefore, in the future if we want the Agreement to be strictly implemented, then both sides have to respect strictly the Agreement. So it is my wish that we will have the Agreement strictly implemented and leading towards the normalization of our relationship. It is a correct and a wise orientation. We are prepared to adopt this course of action. But it is up to you.
I propose now a break for you to exchange views with your colleagues.
Kissinger: Could I ask one clarifying question, so I can prepare for all eventualities? What does the Special Adviser mean by interrupting the talk?
Le Duc Tho: When I say interrupt the negotiations, it means that if we can’t reach a settlement now then we will have to stop this series of negotiations. This series of negotiations are considered to be concluded. We have to say goodbye and to leave.
Kissinger: And what will we say?
Le Duc Tho: I will make such statements as we deem it necessary, and you will do the same. Because we can’t settle the problem now. Because it is our desire to reach a settlement and I have come here, but you are not willing to sign the points we have agreed to, and now so many changes you propose.
Kissinger: Well, Mr. Special Adviser, I am sure you will speak of me with the affection you feel for me.
Le Duc Tho: I will say nothing regarding you personally. Since we begin negotiations I have never spoken anything regarding you personally.
Kissinger: I have only spoken favorably of the Special Adviser. He has become a big star in America through me. Why don’t we make a joint statement blaming Sullivan and Thach? [Laughter]
Le Duc Tho: And even whenever our press or our radio say some things inappropriate in your regard, then I instructed them to stop.
Kissinger: But you always put a time limit on it.
Le Duc Tho: It is something worthy of remembering in our five years of negotiations.
Kissinger: Four. It seems like five but it is only four. All right.
Le Duc Tho: But if we count from the day you met Mr. Mai Van Bo.
Kissinger: True. Then it is six. All right. Let us take a brief break. Should Minister Thach join our deliberations? Sullivan never makes a move without Thach.[Page 1703]
[The meeting broke at 12:53 and resumed at 1:22 p.m.]
Kissinger: Were you listening in with your earphones to our conversations? We were trying to speak into that lamp.
Le Duc Tho: We don’t do that. Technically we are not in a position to do that. We only listened by our ears.
Kissinger: But the French Communist Party is willing to do this. I think they can give you technical assistance.
Le Duc Tho: I have listened directly from you!
Kissinger: Mr. Adviser, my colleagues and I have considered your proposal and here is our suggestion.
The only possibility for a chance of a signature on Tuesday is to follow the procedure which I will now suggest to you. We are prepared to initial the document now, both the two- and the four-party document. We are prepared to state publicly that we have agreed in substance and that only some procedural questions remain. And we will announce that Minister Thach and Ambassador Sullivan will meet at 4 o’clock on Monday to resolve these procedural difficulties. We will in the interval make another massive effort in Saigon to obtain their agreement to sign on Tuesday. This effort will certainly fail if we announce today that we will sign on Tuesday.
Ambassador Sullivan will tell you at 4 o’clock on Monday whether our effort has succeeded or not. If our effort fails, you have our initialed document and we recognize that you will interrupt the negotiations. But if you want a signature and not a propaganda effort, then you must let us inform Saigon that we have initialed the document and you must give us 48 hours to bring about the agreement for the signature. But, I repeat, I am prepared to initial both the two- and four-party document now. That is the utmost of good will that I can show. Because that is the only thing within my capabilities for today.
Le Duc Tho: Your proposal sounds a little complicated and tortuous. It tends to prolong. But we have agreed on everything. Ambassador Sullivan went to Saigon already, so why is there such a prolongation? It can be said definitely that the proposed modifications by Saigon we will not accept.
Kissinger: We are not asking for modifications. We are prepared to initial the document as it now stands.
Le Duc Tho: Therefore, what is the purpose of the meeting between Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach Monday?
Kissinger: So that we can inform you officially of whether it is possible to have a signing on Tuesday, and to work out the procedures for the signing. There is nothing further to discuss and nothing will be discussed.[Page 1704]
Le Duc Tho: But you have been asking the Saigon people about their views for the last few days, and yesterday Ambassador Sullivan told Minister Thach that you were waiting the answer from Saigon.
Kissinger: That is correct.
Le Duc Tho: And you have a great deal of means of communication.
Kissinger: True. But the only possibility is that if we inform Saigon that we initialed the agreement and they know no changes are possible, and if Saigon knows you have an initialed document from us, they may decide not to stand alone.
Le Duc Tho: I find it difficult to understand that there has been so much exchanges of views between you and Saigon and why now these exchanges of views are not completed. And you have permanent liaisons with Saigon. Yesterday Hoang Duc Nha made a statement in Saigon.
Kissinger: Who made the statement?
Le Duc Tho: Hoang Duc Nha.
Kissinger: My friend. You and he should get together. He thinks I am even more devious than you do. What was the statement? I haven’t seen it.
Le Duc Tho: Hoang Duc Nha said that the Saigon Administration was prepared to sign a document agreed upon by Dr. Kissinger and Le Duc Tho, and he has been following very closely the negotiations between us daily. So at the same time Hoang Duc Nha denies the previous statement of the Saigon press.
Kissinger: Look, Mr. Special Adviser, it is senseless to debate this. Mr. Nha made this statement in order to retract the statement they made Thursday. What it means is they will sign the document if you make these changes. I tell you now, if you can produce Saigon to sign this document you are welcome to try it. I can tell you that we received this morning the official answer from President Thieu to President Nixon’s refusing to sign it. Now you have to decide whether you can give us 48 hours to change their mind, in return for our initialing the document and publicly committing ourselves to it. But we cannot announce the fact of initialing until after we have met on Monday, so that then you can do with it what you want. And since you have in any event proposed to sign on Tuesday, it involves no delay in signing. Either we tell you Monday at 4 that we can sign or we can’t. If we can, we will sign on Tuesday. There will be no further requests for delay in signature.
Le Duc Tho: Yesterday Ambassador Sullivan told Minister Thach that today, this morning, he would inform us whether Saigon can accept to sign or not, or whether the signature will take place on Tuesday or not, and today you repeat also the same postponement.[Page 1705]
Kissinger: No, I am making a different proposal. I am telling you what has happened. I am telling you we will make one more effort, and as a sign of our good will I am offering to initial the document, which is something Sullivan did not do yesterday. If you want to break up on this issue, you can break up on this issue. We are at the limit of our capability. We are willing to initial the document, to tell Saigon that at the President’s instructions they have until Monday afternoon to decide whether they will sign on Tuesday and if they don’t, you will make statements appropriate to the occasion and we will make statements appropriate to the occasion.
Let me be precise. We received the answer from Saigon this morning. The answer was negative unless we made changes. And maybe Saigon believes that since we have made a few delays and since we have not initialed the document that then changes are possible. If now we initial the document, it is possible Saigon will believe it is no longer possible to change the document. I can not promise you they will sign it, but I can promise you I will initial the document today, both the two- and the four-party. If you wish to reject it, you reject it.
Le Duc Tho: Let me speak a few words and we shall have a break. Let me ask you this question, Mr. Adviser. If now you and I initial the document, can you assure me that after the initialing there will be no further change to the document?
Kissinger: I can.
Le Duc Tho: If now after the initialing there will be new proposals for changes, what is the use of initialing? And, if after the initialing there will be new proposals of changes and there will be no official signature, then what is the use of initialing? Because everything, according to you, depends on Saigon. Then your signature and my signature have no value at all, just like a promise only. And then you will say that Saigon disagreed with you. And then what we will say to the press will be a lie. It is a fact.
Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, if we initial the document we are saying to you we don’t ask for further changes and that we are prepared to sign the document as it stands. That is the legal significance of an initialing. And if we follow your procedure of initialing and announcing that we will sign on Tuesday, it still doesn’t mean anything because if Saigon refuses to sign, we still won’t be able to sign. So we are prepared to initial and thereby give you our promise that no further changes will be sought by us, and that the only subject to be discussed by Sullivan and Thach is either informing you that Saigon still refuses to sign or informing you that Saigon has agreed to sign, in which case the only thing to discuss is the procedural matters of the signing ceremony and whatever has to be done to the document to make it legal.[Page 1706]
Le Duc Tho: Let me speak one more sentence. It appears that Saigon is leading you now and you are not leading Saigon. It is some reverse logic, contrary to the facts.
Kissinger: Mr. Special Adviser, I have given you the reality. Now you can act on the basis of abstract theory or you can believe my reality. The worst that happens as a result of our procedure is a delay of 48 hours. If we now step out and say we will sign, then we can’t sign. We have given you the procedure that in our judgement is the only possibility that there can be a signature on Tuesday. If we follow your procedure, it involves the same time period but with no assurance that anything will be signed. We have done it in the knowledge that if we initial this document and joint communiqué, you have our initial to make the situation more complicated. Now if you want to make abstract speeches on the relationship between Saigon and Washington, then I will only say that at least we are being led by a more formidable force than the Cambodian insurgents.
Le Duc Tho: [Shaking his finger] The two relationships are different, the relationship between you and Saigon and the relationship between we and our allies. But we should not debate this.
Kissinger: It is fruitless to debate this. We are in a dilemma. Whether you believe it or not is entirely up to you. I do not enjoy the position in which I find myself. We are now at an impasse in which we have offered you what is in our judgement the only possible way to obtain a signature. And I must tell you honestly—I don’t want to mislead you—I do not think the chances are excellent. But it is the only chance we have.
Le Duc Tho: I propose a 15-minute break and then we shall come to a rapid decision.
Kissinger: Can you turn the microphones the other way for that purpose, so we can hear your discussions?
[The meeting broke at 1:50 and resumed at 2:07 p.m.]
Le Duc Tho: I have a brief statement. I don’t believe that there is differences between you and Saigon. Even if there is some differences to some extent, Saigon is in your hands. The Paris Agreement was much more difficult, but Saigon had to follow you. Now the joint communiqué has the same content as in the Agreement and the protocols.
But since you have made this proposal I would accept 48 hours delay and to have until Monday to persuade Saigon. And we don’t need an initialing now. And then on Monday Ambassador Sullivan will meet Minister Thach on Monday, and then we will do both the initialing and the signature on Tuesday. So Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach will meet on Monday again and if the signing is possible [Page 1707] on the 12th, then you will come on that day for both the initialing and the official signature. And now as to the statement to the press, I will say nothing now. I will only say that now the meeting is postponed until Monday when Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach meet again. So we will make only such brief statement to the press. We will not say anything about the result of our talks.
Kissinger: Let me make a suggestion. I think you have made a very reasonable proposal. However, because of the visit of Brezhnev I have to go back to the United States tonight and it is very difficult for me to say absolutely nothing. So I would propose that I would say that Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach are meeting on Monday to work out the remaining procedural matters. And the reason is that if we have many stories of substantive differences it will encourage Saigon to be obstinate, and it is better not to create the impression in Saigon since we have already delayed twice. Now you have to believe me for the next 48 hours, at least provisionally. It is best for us to adopt a procedure that is the best for us to get the agreement of Saigon. The best situation for Saigon is to believe that there is a very substantial disagreement between you and me; then if the negotiations break up we will be again in the situation of October. The best situation is to leave the impression that there is no substantial difference between us, so that if the negotiations fail, it will be clearly Saigon’s fault. To us it makes no great difference, but I am looking now for the way which would be most likely to be successful.
Le Duc Tho: Here I would like to say that we should not deceive public opinion. When you left last time I agree to your statement because really we made progress, but now the obstacles is from Saigon because they proposed so many changes. So in two days time there will be two possibilities. It may be that you and I will sign the document, initial and officially sign the documents on June 12. It may be that we cannot come to an agreement that on Monday Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach meet again and don’t come to any agreement, and then we have to interrupt the talks.
Since everything has been agreed to, therefore I think the 48-hour delay is the limit because we have agreed on everything already. It is enough time for you to exchange views with Saigon. So when Ambassador Sullivan meets Minister Thach again, then there will remain two possibilities: Either Saigon will agree or they will not. So I suggest that we will announce that Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach will meet again on Monday. It is adequate. No need to add anything less and no need to say that they discuss the procedural matters.
Kissinger: All right.
Le Duc Tho: So we will just make this sentence of the statement: “Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach will meet again on Mon[Page 1708]day.” If you will say that you will return here on Tuesday it is better, but if you don’t make this statement of your return, it is all right. I agree that there will be 48 hours delay for your exchanging your views with Saigon.
Kissinger: Why don’t we . . .
Le Duc Tho: And if you say anything else I will deny it. [Laughter] Because you raise too many matters of difference this time. Last time we agreed on everything; now you raise too many new matters and if you say there is not anything left it is not true.
Kissinger: Well, then Sullivan can raise a few points again. No, that is all right. Can we interrupt another five minutes? I would like to consult with my colleagues. It is mostly practical details. I accept what you are proposing. First, you accept the delay of 48 hours. I do believe that we have provisionally agreed, but let me consult with my colleagues and see what the procedure will be. Let us interrupt for five minutes. Can I say we are not meeting tomorrow so that you can observe Pentecost?
Le Duc Tho: But if I will observe Pentecost, as you propose, I will say that I will break off to have peace. We don’t want a war. Is that all right?
Kissinger: That is all right. I won’t deny that.
[The meeting broke at 2:20 and reconvened at 2:32 p.m.]
Le Duc Tho: So have you found out any other strategems so we can sign everything now?
Kissinger: I wish I was as devious as the Special Adviser thinks I am.
Le Duc Tho: The Special Adviser has many more maneuvers than I.
Kissinger: I once said to the press that I have unified Vietnam in a common distrust of me. Saigon is convinced that I am plotting against them with the Special Adviser; you are convinced that I am plotting with Saigon against you.
Le Duc Tho: Which is right and which is wrong then?
Kissinger: Can 40 million Vietnamese be wrong? [Laughter]
Mr. Special Adviser, I agree to the proposal that you have made. I shall leave tonight. At the airport I plan to say the following: “I am returning to Washington because of some matters connected with the visit of Brezhnev that require my attention. In the meantime, Ambassador Sullivan and Minister Thach will continue the discussion. I plan to return to Paris on Tuesday.” That is all I will say. And I will answer no questions and make no comment.
Le Duc Tho: I agree with you.
Kissinger: And let me urge that both sides take special care not to let out any information about the substance.[Page 1709]
Le Duc Tho: We will never do that.
Kissinger: I saw that my friend, Jonathan Randal had something about the substance of the agreement today, which he didn’t get from us. You can be sure that nobody in this Administration speaks to the Washington Post!
Le Duc Tho: The press in Washington and in Saigon have spoken on many points in the joint communiqué. I don’t know where the leaks come from, but from our side no one has said anything.
Kissinger: You have been very careful, I agree. No, I am not complaining.
Le Duc Tho: You have to admit that.
Kissinger: I agree. I hate to think what would happen to these talks if the Special Adviser and I didn’t like each other so much, we might accuse each other of bad faith.
Le Duc Tho: If no settlement is possible, I think it is evident that there is lack of good faith.
Kissinger: Shall we call the French and tell them there will be no signing today at Avenue Kleber?
Le Duc Tho: You should inform the French.
Kissinger: We will. Well, we are here so why don’t you do it? Why don’t you do it on behalf of both of us? You see, Minister Thach becomes a new man when he can be porte-parole for both sides.
Le Duc Tho: So everything is done now. I propose we shift to the dining room and we consider that we have adjourned today. I told you the other day, settlement or no settlement, I will shake your hand when you leave. I will stick to my word.
Kissinger: And I will watch your other hand. I will stick to my word also.
Le Duc Tho: It is always my hand.
[The meeting adjourned at 2:40 p.m. Everyone moved to the dining room for lunch.]
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 124, Country Files, Far East, Vietnam Negotiations, Camp David Memcons, Joint Communique May–June 1973 [3 of 3]. 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.↩