35. Memorandum of Conversation, Washington, July 25, 1973, 5:04–5:28 p.m.1 2




  • Ambassador James Plimsoll of Australia
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • John Froebe, Jr., NSC Staff
  • Kathleen A. Ryan, NSC Staff Notetaker

Wednesday, July 25, 1973
5:04 - 5:28 p.m.

Dr. Kissinger’s Office
The White House

Mr. Kissinger: I have her [Miss Ryan] take notes to refresh my memory. They stay in the White House. Do you mind?

Ambassador Plimsoll: There is nothing to hide.

I thought it would be useful if I came to talk to you in order to prepare the groundwork. I don’t know what the Prime Minister is going to talk about naturally.

Mr. Kissinger: What does naturally mean? What subjects is he likely to raise?

Ambassador Plimsoll: The important thing is some sort of personal contact between the two men and confidence between the two—to trust one another.

Mr. Kissinger: I agree. However, that is not quite the situation today. On the other hand, I don’t want to say they distrust each other.

Ambassador Plimsoll: I think there is more distrust on your side than on ours.

Mr. Kissinger: You know our attitude.

Ambassador Plimsoll: We broke down the new government’s position on the [Page 2] resumption of bombing. It is too bad the settlement didn’t come a little earlier, or the new government a little bit later.

That was the first thing.

Mr. Kissinger: The principle thing.

Ambassador Plimsoll: Then oar ministers made a couple of statements.

Mr. Kissinger: There is no sense reviewing the whole record. But a warm feeling does not exist. Rationally we believe that Australia is an important country with which we want to be on good terms. I personally have never met the Prime Minister. I understand that he is a very attractive man.

Ambassador Plimsoll: He is an intelligent man. He has a weakness: sometimes he has a big mouth in letting some things come out before thinking.

Mr. Kissinger: What the President takes very badly to is when he gets the feeling he is being lectured to from a sense of moral integrity.

I remember when Michael Stewart came in to talk to him — with the best of intentions. He was leaving office anyway. He wanted to leave with the President his distilled wisdom. I have never seen such a disaster. John Freeman and I almost died knowing what the reaction would be. Then the government was voted out of office.

Ambassador Plimsoll: I can put that across to Whitlam without telling him it came from you.

Mr. Kissinger: Yes, it is better that you raise it. Let’s have the Prime Minister start off.

Ambassador Plimsoll: As long as there is no agreeing and disagreeing on specific points.

Mr. Kissinger: Couldn’t you just state your view, and the President can decide for himself if he agrees or not.

Ambassador Plimsoll: Our views are not far apart, as in SEATO.

Mr. Kissinger: We will probably want you to take a slightly more active role on Singapore.

[Page 3]

Ambassador Plimsoll: We are committed some more years — the Prime Minister agrees with his party.

Mr. Kissinger: Our basic view is that Singapore is more essential to your security than to ours. We are not going to brawl with you.

Ambassador Plimsoll: Our views are similar — and other places.

Mr. Kissinger: I think so. In relations with China there is not much disagreement.

Ambassador Plimsoll: I don’t see much problem.

Mr. Kissinger: Japan.

Ambassador Plimsoll: He will be interested in Cambodia. I have always felt a little edgy about the bombing. The Prime Minister avoided this lately.

Mr. Kissinger: The tragedy in Cambodia is that I had a negotiation all set. In my judgment we were almost certain to have a ceasefire. It is hard to offer to negotiate when they know that we are thwarted. Now negotiations are stopped until August 15.

Ambassador Plimsoll: It will unravel.

Mr. Kissinger: It is really the single most irresponsible action that I have seen. I was so confident that I told Congress we could stop the bombing by September 15. This has not been one of the most heroic periods of American history.

Ambassador Plimsoll: Yes, I can’t say anything on that either. The new government has been against military action.

Mr. Kissinger: We don’t ask them to [join in military action]. I am just trying to explain the situation.

Ambassador Plimsoll:Whitlam will be interested in Cambodia.

Mr. Kissinger: I don’t know now whether the Khmer Rouge have any plans to bring Sihanouk back in any capacity — except maybe as a figurehead.

[Page 4]

Ambassador Plimsoll: Is there any real interest in getting him back?

Mr. Kissinger: There is no interest if he becomes sort of dependent on the Khmer Rouge. We have no interest in getting him back. Prior to this we thought that he might be able to assemble a non-Communist government.

Ambassador Plimsoll: And Laos, you are a bit happy.

Mr. Kissinger: Yes, the end of the month.

Ambassador Plimsoll: Politically in Vietnam, what do you see? Mr. Kissinger: Nothing.

Ambassador Plimsoll: Will Thieu be able to start the political development on a more permanent basis?

Mr. Kissinger: He thinks that he has it on a permanent basis.

Ambassador Plimsoll: Does the political situation freeze the need to have a building up of roots in the administration?

Mr. Kissinger: I think he will. I feel we have gained two or three years of relative calm. I left the Agreement with an almost Korean-type solution, and all intelligence reports indicate that they [the Viet Cong] are beginning to have the expected troubles and morale problem and fewer supplies. Some of the uncertainty depends on us.

Ambassador Plimsoll: I suppose it still depends on whether they want something clearly demonstrated or a gradual infiltration.

Mr. Kissinger: If there is an open clash, I don’t think they can make it.

Ambassador Plimsoll: Korea — we may be interested in that. The United States and Australia are working together on that.

Mr. Kissinger: We consulted you before adopting the whole program.

Ambassador Plimsoll: I think that has worked very well. Do you see the Chinese moving towards action against the two Koreas?

[Page 5]

Kissinger: I have been talking to them. They haven’t rejected it or accepted it. I will get a clearer idea when I go there. I have put that off until after August 15.

Ambassador Plimsoll: Is there anything you see that the U.S. wants to get out of the visit?

Mr. Kissinger: I think your judgment is right. The fact of the meeting is what is important. The importance of the visit is that the men develop confidence in each other. We should get back to the confidential exchanges that we used to have with you — which doesn’t mean there should always be agreement. We recognize the importance of Australia on an intellectual level, and we are sure that you realize the importance of our bilateral relations. It is somewhat a psychological problem at the moment. They can have a humanly easy discussion on problems, if we don’t go about enumerating on what we agree and disagree. We will probably emerge with a ninety percent agreement on policies and one hundred percent on objectives. We will see eye to eye.

Ambassador Plimsoll: I don’t see any real question on foreign policy between the two. On Vietnam, I remember in the early days when those who are now complaining about the bombing were for intervention in Vietnam.

Mr. Kissinger: Yes.

Ambassador Plimsoll: This happened as early as 1945.

Mr. Kissinger: How long have you been here?

Ambassador Plimsoll: For three years, but I made a trip to the United States practically every year before that.

Mr. Kissinger: Clifford was the most bloody interventionist. In October 1965 when I was sent by Johnson to inspect the situation in Vietnam, I ran into Clifford. I told him that the way we were running the war, it was an inconceivable way of winning the war. Clifford was then head of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and a close friend and adviser of Johnson’s. He dismissed me as an intellectual, and said intellectuals should not be sent to Vietnam. I was involved in a negotiation in 1967. At that time most of the present doves were interventionists — now they are violently opposed. They thought we could win — including McGeorge Bundy.

[Page 6]

Ambassador Plimsoll: If the war had been fought differently. . .

Mr. Kissinger: If it had been fought the way the previous administration did.... As it is we achieved our objective — keeping South Vietnam from going Communist. Our opponents have obliterated the fact that the war in Vietnam has ended. And they say the war in Cambodia is a continuation of that war.

Ambassador Plimsoll: I think that Whitlam personally has done his best to fight the battle very hard on American defense installations. And he ran political risks and has carried the Party with him.

Mr. Kissinger: We are aware of that.

Ambassador Plimsoll: Our secret cooperation in intelligence has not been interrupted.

Mr. Kissinger: I have a personal problem with your Prime Minister because I didn’t see him. I don’t remember exactly what happened.

Ambassador Plimsoll: I don’t think he was insulted. You agreed to see him, the appointment was postponed twice and then finally cancelled.

Mr. Kissinger: I think we were writing the annual review.

Ambassador Plimsoll: When he left he did not seem upset. Then the newspapers got after it, that he didn’t see the President. But at the same time that the President couldn’t see him, he did see the head of a German opposition party. I told Whitlam the reason for this was that the U.S. wanted something out of the opposition party of Germany — not to destroy the agreement with the Soviet Union. That was a real reason.

Mr. Kissinger: That is right. I understand I am seeing Whitlam.

Ambassador Plimsoll: He is coming to see you before seeing the President. Ten o’clock Monday.

Mr. Kissinger: He will want to discuss the same sort of thing?

Ambassador Plimsoll: I should think so. He is an intelligent man, not just a glad chatter. As long as you treat him that way.

Mr. Kissinger: No problem.

[Page 7]

Ambassador Plimsoll: There will be no trouble. He knows your record over a long period of time and your contributions. I am giving him three dinners.

Mr. Kissinger: Is he staying that long?

Ambassador Plimsoll: Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Would you like to come to one?

Mr. Kissinger: Can I let you know? I have a friend in town. It would have to be Saturday or Monday. I will let you know tomorrow.

Ambassador Plimsoll: Another question is whether he is to see the Vice President. We have put in a bid to see the Vice President.

Mr. Kissinger: I will get it done. You want him to?

Ambassador Plimsoll: Yes. He saw the Vice President the last time he was here before, and would like to see him again.

Mr. Kissinger: We agreed to change the day.

Ambassador Plimsoll: ... of the speeches. The Vice President did see Andrew Peacock of the opposition party.

Mr. Kissinger: I saw some convoluted memoranda between my deputy and that of the Vice President’s. I will arrange it. I will let you know about the dinner.

[The meeting then ended.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 504, Country Files, Far East, Australia, January 1972–December 31, 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only.
  2. Kissinger and Plimsoll discussed Whitlam’s upcoming visit.