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MEMORANDUM

THE WHITE HOUSE


WASHINGTON

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ME ORANDUM OFCONVERSATION

PARTICIPANTS: Nguyen Phu Duc, Special Assistant to President


Thieu
Pham Dang Lam, Chief of GVN Delegation to
Paris Peace Talks
Tran Kim Phuong, Ambassador to the U.S.
Nguyen Xuan Phong, Deputy Chief of GVN
Delegation to Paris Peace Talks
Vuong Van Bac, Ambassador to the United Kingdom

Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the


President for National Security Affairs
Major General Alexander M. Haig, Jr., Deputy
Assistant to the President for National Security
Affairs
Ambassador William Sullivan, Deputy Assistant
Secretary, Department of State
Ambassador William Porter, U. S. Chief Delegate
to the Paris Peace Talks
Hayward Isham, U. S. Delegation to the Paris
Peace Talks
Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff

DATE AND TIME: Friday, November 24, 1972


7:30- 8:45 p.m.

PLACE: Library
Ambassador’s Residence
41, rue du faubourg St. Honor
Paris

Lam: Saigon gave us this


Ambas ador memorandum to give you which
indicates our instructions. [Hands over the memorandum at Tab AJ

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Kissinger: ThankDr. you. [Reads it] I have seen Le Duc Tho this morn
ing and told him what I told you yesterday I would tell him, and I also
requested a meeting for my delegation and me for tomorrow afternoon - -

to which he agreed. In the light of this reply I will now ask him for a
private meeting at 10 o’clock tomorrow, and I will request a postponement
of the full meeting for one week. If there is a breakdown, the cons e
quences for your government will be disastrous, and you will bear full
responsibility.

I also want to read you a message I have received from the President, of
which I will give you a copy:

November 24, 1972

"I have checked today as to the attitude of the leading Demo


crats and Republicans who support us in the Senate on Vietnam.
In preparing them for the consultation which must take place
once agreement is reached we have informed them of the key
elements of the October 8 agreement: the return of our POWs,
a ceasefire, and a formula under which Thieu remains in power
and all South Vietnamese have an opportunity to participate in a
free election to determine what government they want for the
future. The result of this check indicates that they were not
only unanimous but vehement in stating their conclusions that if
Saigon is the only roadblock for reaching agreement on this basis
they will personally lead the fight when the new Congress recon
venes on January 3 to cut off all military and economic assistance
to Saigon. My evaluation is that the date of the cut-off would be
February 1. They further believe that under such circumstances
we have no choice but to go it alone and to make a separate deal
with North Vietnam for the return of our POWs and for our
withdrawal.

"These are men who have loyally supported us on November 3,


Cambodia, and Laos, and May 8. They have great affection for
the South Vietnamese people and great respect for President Thieu
personally, but they point out that the votes in the Senate this past
year for appropriations for support of the effort in Vietnam have
been won only by great effort and by very small margins. They
also point out that this time the House cannot save appropriations
because the Senate would block any House move to restore funds

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which, incidentally, in view of the makeup of the new House,


is highly unlikely, by simply letting the appropriations bill die
in conference.

"This message, unless you have strong feelings otherwise,


should be immediately passed on through the South Vietnamese
negotiators to Thieu. Tell him the fat is in the fire. It is time
to fish or cut bait. We do not want to go it alone. I personally
want to stand by Thieu and the South Vietnamese Government
but as I have told him in three separate messages, what really
counts is not the agreement but my determination to take massive
action against North Vietnam in the event they break the agreement.
The North Vietnamese troops in the South mean absolutely nothing
in that eventuality. If they had no forces there at all and I refused
to order air retaliation on the North when infiltration started to
begin, the war would be resumed and the outcome would be very
much in doubt.

"You must tell Tbieu that I feel we have now reached the cross
roads. Whether he trusts me and signs what I have determined
is the best agreement we can get or we have to go it alone and
end our own involvement in the war on the best terms we can get.
I do not give him this very tough option by personal desire, but
because of the political reality in the United States it is not possi
ble for me, even with the massive mandate I personally received
in the election, to get the support from a hostile Congress to
continue the war when the North Vietnamese on October 8 offered
an agreement which was far better than both the House and the
Senate by resolution and directive to the President during this
last session indicated they thought we ought to accept.

"Tell Thieu that I cannot keep the lid on his strong supporters in
the House and Senate much longer. They are terribly disturbed
by what they read and hear out of Saigon. It is time for us to
decide to go forward together or to go our separate ways. If we
go separate ways, all that we fought for, for so many years, will
be lost. If, on the other hand, he will join us in going forward
together on the course I have laid out we can, over the long pull,
win a very significant victory.

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"The third option of our trying to continue to go forward together


on the basis of continuing the war is simply not open. The door
has been slammed shut hard and fast by the longtime supporters
of the hard line in Vietnam in the House and Senate who control
the purse strings."

[Dr. Kissinger then hands them a copy.]

This is all I have to tell you. I will see Le Duc Tho at 10 o’clock in the
morning and seek a postponement of one week. If he refuses a negotiation,
we have no choice but to go our own way. If he accepts a negotiation you
have one week for consultations.

If you wish to get in touch with me before 10 o’clock, you are free to do so.

Bac: DoAmbas doyou


r think he will accept?

Kissinger: I don’t
Dr. know. It is fifty-fifty. You give us no choice.

Duc: Did you giveMr. him our November 19 proposal about withdrawal
of North Vietnamese troops and demobilization in two phases? What was
his reaction?

Kissinger: I told Dr.him. He said there were no North Vietnamese in


the South and the only forces are southerners or the sons of southerners who
regrouped in the North. I told you yesterday this was an absurdity. I told
him today that it was a lie, which we went along with only because it has
the advantage of not claiming any North Vietnamese right to keep forces
in the South. It is the principal subject we have discussed. Out of
twenty hours of conversation with him we have spent almost sixteen on
this. The only context in which we can discuss it is the withdrawal of
some troops in MR-i. As I have told you I think this is a bad deal for
you. The prisoners you have are a tangible reality; the withdrawal of a
few troops is not, because they can easily reinfiltrate not legally but
--

practically.

If the provisions on Laos and Cambodia and the DMZ are maintained
they cannot maintain their forces in the South. If these provisions are
not kept, adding an additional provision that is not maintained won’t help.

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The only context in which they are willing to nelgotiate is in the context
of demobilization, and in negotiation with the PRG. There is no chance
whatever that they will go beyond this.

What do my colleagues think?

Haig: That would


General be tantamount to surrender.

Kissinger: They Dr.tell us that they have given up their demand for the
immediate resignation of President Thieu and the installation of a coali
ti.on government, and stripped their political demands to nothing.

Duc: You say theMr. agreement is a surrender for them, but there are
a number of obligations for the United States and South Vietnam, but what
obligations are there for North Vietnam?

Kissinger: The ceasefire,


Dr. respect for the DMZ, Laos and Cambodia,
and a political process. In all other negotiations they have constantly
demanded the resignation of Thieu and a coalition government. As a
result of this agreement, the legitimacy of the GVN is established, the
possibility of unlimited American aid is legally maintained for the post
war period, and the possibility of strong American action to defend the
agreement is preserved. I told President Thieu that we should treat this
as a joint victory. You have managed to turn it from a victory into a set
back.

If the President who has supported you all alone, all along
- - has lost
- -

his patience as this letter indicates, imagine how the others are.

You [Ambassador Phuong and Mr. Dud can come back with us if you like.
We are trying for a 4:00 p.m. departure.

Duc: I tried to get


Mr. here earlier.

Kissinger: If there
Dr. is another negotiation or not, you have run out of
time. I will leave Friday morning for Paris again.

Duc: Whatever the Mr. decision President Nixon has to take, we remain
grateful for all your help, particularly Vietnamization, which has suc
ceeded. But for us to accept an agreement that does not explicitly deal
with the North Vietnamese troops, our Government could not explain to
the people.

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Kissinger: I will Dr.ask him for one week. If he accepts you have a
deadline. If he refuses, the negotiations are at an end and the conse
quences described in the President’s letter will take place.

You have had seven weeks to work with us.

Duc: The North Mr.Vietnamese troops do not have to be mentioned by


name, but the agreement can refer to a general comprehensive formula.

Kissinger: "Non-South
Dr. Vietnamese forces." We have submitted
every single change you wanted, but the limit to what they will agree to
is maybe "demobilization on a one-for-one basis" and to have the Council’s
members "appointed equally by the two sides. ‘ Maybe they will withdraw
some forces out of MR-l in conjunction with release of civilian prisoners.
Maybe they will accept this, maybe they will refuse.

Duc: You think their


Mr. refusal is unreasonable?

Kissinger: We have
Dr. to look at it from our point of view. For four
years, by maneuvering and manipulation, we have managed to keep the
Congress from passing resolutions requiring United States withdrawal in
exchange for our POWs. This was my nightmare. On October 8 I thought
that their acceptance of our proposal plus your enthusiastic support would
make the American people so proud of what we had achieved that they would
enable us to support your government. Imagine now the attitude of a Mid
westerner who reads every day that we are accused of betrayal. If it is
portrayed as a worthless agreement, how can the American people support
it?

What is your protection? Your protection is our unity. Your protection


is our enthusiastic support. You won’t be able to wave a document at
them, whatever is in it. The North Vietnamese fear is whether the B-52s
may come again; if we convince them of this, the agreement will be kept.
If we can’t convince them of this, all your 69 changes mean nothing.

We think we are watching a suicide. You are losing your public support.
Why did we want an agreement in October, in November and flow? The
election meant nothing. If we got it now it would be our success. If it
happens next March, every liberal newspaper in the country would think
it had brought it about.

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It has to be an agreement that you say is a success.

If we had wanted to sell you out, we had more opportunities for this.
We have fought for four years and sent you another billion dollars of aid.

Due: We never said


Mr. it was a sell-out.

Kissinger: That Dr.is the impression you are giving in America.

Due:You say theMr. best guarantee is not a scrap of paper but your
willingness to retaliate. I am not arguing with this. But if there is no
provision about the North Vietnamese troops, on what basis could you
retaliate?

Kissinger: In theDr. agreement there are the following provisions:


respect for the DMZ, respect for Laos and Cambodia, a ceasefire, a ban
on the introduction of military personnel into South Vietnam, and military
equipment on a replacement basis. In addition, there is the unilateral
statement we gave you yesterday in which we announce that we do not
recognize any right of North Vietnam to keep troops in the South. And in
his speech announcing the agreement, the President would say that if there
is any violation we would respond violently.

Imust tell you, the next thing our opponents will do is try to undermine
any remaining obligation of ours to you. The more we disagree, the easier
it is for them.

Lam: You Ambas ador said you have gotten no response at all from
Saigon. I am obliged to be more precise, because I have transmitted to
you Saigon’s responses. Saigon’s decision not to respond concretely is a
choice, a decision between accepting the agreement or not accepting the
agreement. If it does not deal with the two main questions it is a difficult
choice for us, to weigh. the pros and cons.

Kissinger: I understand
Dr. your motives. You are in a difficult position.
The argument is not between you and me. The argument is now exactly
as the President put it. This is now the case. We have told you since the
end of October where we should go. We have been on a confrontation
course when we should be cooperating. There is no other choice any more.
If the talks break down the consequences will follow. If there is one more

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meeting either we will have your answer or we go unilaterally. We will


do our best to get another meeting. But I can add nothing to the Presi
dent’s letter. It explains the situation, what we have to do, and why we
have to do it. It will destroy you and all we have done. Al?

Haig: MutualGeneral confidence between us is the key and this has broken
down.

Due: No,we still Mr.maintain confidence in you.

Kissinger: Not actively.


Dr.

Due: The disagreement


Mr. is because Vietnam is an important problem
for you but a vital matter for us.

Kissinger: If youDr. say your vital interests are ruined, they will be
ruined. The agreement is better than anything we thought we could achieve
or than Congress was willing to support. Look over the Congressional
debates: did any of our supporters ever argue that your government had to
be maintained or that military aid had to be maintained or that anything had
tO be done for Laos and Cambodia? The only issue was withdrawal for
prisoners and the question of a ceasefire.

Bill,you testified before Congress. What is your reading?

Sullivan: Ambas ador I told Ambassador Phuong the very same thing in
Washington two weeks ago, exactly as the President said. I want to say
three things. If you had driven out the North Vietnamese you would, of
course, be in a different position in a ceasefire. Secondly, an agreement
that does not limit your sovereignty and includes provisions that prevent
the reintroduction of the NVA and keeps your prisoners .

Kissinger: We hope.
Dr.

Sullivan: Ambas ador W had this on October 22. Le Due Tho looks at
this not as a North Vietnamese but as a leader of the Lao Dong party, and
he has to worry about his cadre in the South. The only thing he can point o
to Madam Birth or to Nguyen Huu Tho is the leverage of their troops.

So you ask,is there any realism in North Vietnamese forces being per
mitted in a ceasefire situation while preserving the principle that they

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must withdraw? I say yes, because there is an opportunity to negotiate


them out, using the leverage of the prisoners which President Thieu has
always said could be a minor problem.

If you face this situation saying "We don’t have confidence in ourselves and
don’t have confidence in the U. S. to back us up,!’ then how can we have
confidence in you? Many leaders in Congress lost their offices, defeated
because they supported you.

Kissinger: AllottDr. lost, and Margaret Chase Smith and Jack Miller.
These are serious losses. They had seniority and stood by us.

We kept the war going by always keeping North Vietnam in the position of
looking unreasonable on issues that Americans could understand, like over
throwing an ally. But even that would not last beyond next year.

There is another fact. We cannot keep all our carriers there beyond Jan
uary because of the operation of the military establishment.

Sullivan: Ambas ador You have the example of South Korea. In 1953 Syngman
Rhee did not like the agreement and did not trust us. But we have kept every
commitment to South Korea, and today South Korea is in the strongest posi
tion and North Korea has come to them and done things they have always said
were contrary to their principles.

Kissinger: Let’s Dr.face it. A unilateral deal will be,only our prisoners
in exchange for our withdrawal.

Sullivan: Ambas ador The military aid bill won’t come up until about June.
On economic aid we never got a bill last year, only a continuing resolution.
Therefore we have to submit new bills on January 3. They may never come
out of Committee.

Due: Let me discuss


Mr. the troops. North Vietnam violated the agree
ments they made on Laos.

Sullivan: Ambas ador A piece of paper.

Due: They did not


Mr. keep it. They won’t keep this one.

Sullivan: Ambas ador Do you know this? Because the 1962 agreement was
forced upon them by Khrushchev. They violated it from the first moment.

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But this time I am convinced it is different. One part of my mind says


you can never trust them, and there is plenty of experience with that, but
another part of my mind says it is different now.

Kissinger: Let me Dr. make a more fundamental point. We have no more


time for debate. We do not believe you can start another round of discus
sions. There is no more time for working groups and memoranda. The
President will tell you the same. Hopefully Le Due Tho will agree to
another meeting. Hopefully, we can bluff him with a threat of air attacks
-- which we did. By the latest by next Thursday, we will have a common
position or we will go alone.

Due: I did not mean


Mr. to start a debate but you say we should try to
portray it as a victory.

Kissinger: You have


Dr. made it hard for yourselves now.

Due: But it says Mr.nothing about the big issue of North Vietnamese troops.

Kissinger: I would
Dr. point to the demobilization provisions. I would say
that we had repelled North Vietnamese aggression. I would claim victory.

Due: We repelledMr. the offensive but the North Vietnamese troops are
there.

Kissinger: The North


Dr. Vietnamese troops are in small enclaves and
along the DMZ. You turned it into a formidable force by talking about it.

Due: Though there Mr. is nothing in the agreement that gives them the
right to stay there, in Vietnamese eyes it is there indirectly. You and all
our allies have to leave. It mentions three Indochinese countries .

Kissinger: The ‘three"


Dr. is out.

Due: But the intention


Mr. is there.

Kissinger: It is up
Dr. to you to say it is four.

Due: The agreement


Mr. talks about "the question of Vietnamese forces in
South Vietnam." The word "South" is suppressed but the two South Viet
namese forces are .to discuss them.

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Kissinger: Dr. a good point.


That is

Hag: *It is a Gengood


eral point but it is no longer pertinent. We have got
a problem. We can no longer afford this. The key is the kind of support
we gave you on May 8. You are depriving us of the ability to support you.

s ador is incredible that you are on a march to disaster


Porter: AmbaIt
instead of marching with us.

Kissinger: Look Dr.at October 26. You all misunderstood what I was
doing. I was preventing President Thieu from being isolated. I was saying
that the concerns are ours, not just yours. Or else you would have been
killed. It would have been easy to say that President Thieu was the one.

And then we see your press attacking me.

Due: No. Mr.

Kissingr: We know
Dr. who Nha is. We know it is instigated from the
Palace.

After October 26 liberal members of the press called me and General


Haig and didn’t believe what was in it. They accused me of lying because
North Vietnam could not have agreed to it. Everything they had been writing
before then assumed that a coalition government would have to be imposed.
The left cannot accept that this is a good agreement becauseif so,it was all
worthwhile. So the left attacks it. The right, which isn’t all that unhappy
with the agreement, watches you, and now they won’t support the agreement.
You are getting support now only from left wingers who are using it not
because they support you, but to attack us. But you wait until the talks
break down. Then you will see that all the people who joined some of the
criticism you have made are not your friends.

The choice isn’t between this agreement and the continuation of the war. It
is between this agreement and a Congressional cut-off of aid. We don’t like
it. Your choice is to join with us or destroy yourselves. These are facts.
I tried to tell you this in Saigon. General Haig tried to tell you this in Saigon.

Haig: One other


General thing is not understood. At present Hanoi is licked,
defeated.

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Due: Militarily, Mr.not politically.

Kissinger: Militarily
Dr. and politically, because the cadres know what
they fought for. When I first told Le Due Tho our proposal for a ceasefire
some years ago, he laughed: "Did we fight for twenty years to stop fight
ing? We have fought to bring about a political solution. The objective of
war is victory." Yet now he is pushing for a ceasefire without a political
settlement. His cadre know what this means. The fruit of ten years of
revolutionary war is a eeasefire with your government still there.

They are pleading with us for economic aid. Do they think they can get
economic aid from us if they are fighting our ally?

Due: Economic aid


Mr. is not a sufficient incentive.

Kissinger: Their Dr. objective is to destroy you. But North Korea’s


objective is to destroy South Korea. The key isn’t what the intention is.
In peace, over five years, which Vietnam will advance more economically?
North Vietnam will always want to destroy you unless you wipe it off the
map. We are not children. Our common objective is to prevent it. That
is what we are onthe brink of totally joepardizing.

Due: Suppose weMr.demanded that the whole Hanoi politburo had to resign
and the government had to be dismantled and then new elections held. And
then we dropped this demand. This would not be proof of goodwill.

Kissinger: You are


Dr. partly right. But to the American people . A
. .

poll was taken during the campaign which asked: "Do you support the GVN
if the resignation of President Thieu is the only obstacle to a settlement"?
Only eight percent said yes.

Due: President Thieu


Mr. has argued for mutual withdrawal at Manila and
at Guam.

Kissinger: He hasDr. done it courageously, but we have run out of time.


I will be back here leaving Friday morning.

Due: I shall come.


Mr.

Kissinger: The President


Dr. will see you on the day of your arrival.

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Due: I assume I Mr.can be there on Monday or Tuesday.

Sullivan: Ambas ador That is cutting it fairly close.

Kissinger: That Dr.is your business. We offered you a ride on our plane
and thought it was accepted. But it is up to you.

Do not believe that by protracting your arrival it will change by one hour.

Due: No, we are Mr. not. I need instructions from President Thieu on
what I am to say to President Nixon.

Sullivan: Ambas ador Can’t you await them in Washington?

Due: I am under Mr.instructions to await them here.

Dr. playing a delaying game with an inflexible schedule.


Kissinger: You are
Any time you use is your own.

I would appreciate, in view of the importance of this, you may want to stay
a few minutes and go over with General Haig and Ambassador Sullivan
what we have conveyed to you, just to make sure you have understood what
we have said.

Phong: We think Mr.we got it.

Kissinger: It is up
Dr. to you.

Due: Can you have


Mr. another working session with them on the issues
we raised?

Kissinger: No. ItDr. will break up. The only way to avoid a breakup is
to delay a week. If I go back on the issues .

Due: Does he maintn


Mr. "an administrative structure of three equal
segments"?

Kissinger: ThereDr. may be a failure of communications. We gave him


a new Vietnamese word and we will insist on it. He did not reject it, but
I cannot be sure. But we think we can get "three equal segments equally
appointed by the two sides."

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Due: Can you tellMr. us by tomorrow what his decision is on it?

Kissinger: I frankly
Dr. think it is better not to negotiate tomorrow. It
would be a great mistake. If he gives you it "administrative structure"
he will ask for something back.

Our only hope is that at the last session we say: "This is our position.
We concede on this and insist on that. This is our final offer." If we ask
for things one at a time, he will come back one at a time. If they really
want peace they may agree.

Phuong: Ambas ador One thing I would like to ask. Yesterday you talked
about three options. What happened to Article 8c? Is it in or out?

Kissinger: ArticleDr. 8c we want in. Of the three options, option one


was to reject the whole thing. This is not realistic. Option two is to
drop Article 8c if they withdraw 100, 000 of their forces.

Phuong: Ambas ador Yesterday that was option three.

Kissinger: Yes, Dr.you are right. I tried that with Le Due Tho today.
He laughed. The other option, our preferred ones is to say: we maintain
Article 8c; we add the phrase "appointed equally by the two sides" to the
political chapter we add "demobilization on a one-for-one basis" and "the
parties will do their utmost to accomplish this within three months"; and
we have an understanding with them to have you release some prisoners in
return for some withdrawal from MR-i. So our preferred one, which
yesterday was option 2, would keep Article 8c.

Phuong: Ambas adorThe withdrawal would be a small one.

Sullivan: Ambas ador In proportion to your release of their prisoners.

Kissinger: We have
Dr. not up to now agreed to have "three equal segments."
That would be our concession.

There is one thing: in the Laos and Cambodia chapter they have rejected
the phrase about "the principle that Indochinese forces shall stay within
their frontiers." We might try we can think if we have a week
-- using --

some phrase without the word "troops," such as "the Indochinese countries
will not use military pressure against each other."

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Incidentally, when we reminded him about demobilization and "return to


their native places," he denied he ever said it.

Good. I will meet with you again tomorrow.

[After closing pleasantries, the meeting ended.]

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A November 24 1972
N VIT.NAM CONG.FIOA
de Ia Rpublique du Vi&-Nam
31. AVENUE RAYMOND P0INcARE
PARIS 16’

UL. KLE. 40-36


KLE. 40-67

MEMORANDUM

Reference to our meeting with Dr. Kissinger on November 23,


1972, the content of which was immediately conveyed to the
Government of the Republic of Viet-Nam, our Delegation has
just received instructions from our Government to communicat
the following to Dr. Kissinger.

It is now clear and obvious that the North Vietnamese side


does not sincerely want to seek an honorable and equitable
settlement of the war based on the right to seif-determinati
of the South Vietnamese people.

That is the reason why the North Vietnamese side refuses to


settle in a satisfactory manner the problem of the North
Vietnamese troops in South Viet-Nam and rejects all our
proposals aiming at removing ambiguities about the nature
and the function of the Council of National Reconciliation
and Concord.

Furthermore, the North Vietnamese side is raising issues


which have already been resolved.

Given the serious situation created by the intransigeant


attitude of the North Vietnamese side, the Government of th
Republic of Viet-Nam strongly feels that the matter now
facing our two Governments is not to offer other concession:
or to take new initiatives but to make the North Vietnamese
side realize that it must display genuine good will and a
conciliatory attitude.
-2-

The Government of the Republic of Viet-Nam thinks that the


decision, which is now called for on our part, is of a highly
strategic nature which goes much beyond the framework of the
current negotiations.

The survival of 17 million South Viet-Nanidepends on the


decisions which will be taken by our two Governments one way
or another.

We consider it extremely useful for the US Government and the


GVN to consult each other on all aspects and implications of
the current situation before taking any decision.

Since vital issues are at stake, the Government of the


Republic of Viet-Nam believes that new efforts must be made
to convince the North Vietnamese side to resolve the
outstanding issues so that the draft agreement can be
finalized and to make it acceptable to all the parties.

Sincerely,

PHAM- DANG LAM


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