Administrator’s note


It has been more than  39 years since the last U.S. troops left the Republic of  Viet Nam (RVN) in compliance with the signed Paris Peace Accords.  And it’s has been 37 years and one month since the RVN fell into the hands of the North Vietnamese Communists (NVC), a by-product of this doomed agreement.


The fall of the RVN was a result of various global and domestic political factors.  Adding insult to injury, four star North Vietnamese People’s Army General  Van Tien Dung, a textile worker in Ha Noi, North Viet Nam who joined the communist party in 1945 and was promoted by Ho Chi Minh to two star general in 1948 without any officer or military training, shamelessly trumpeted this event as a “Big Spring Victory” in his 1976 book published in Ha Noi.  Here, the Communist General used this publication as a springboard to arrogantly and falsely boast; “A year has passed since the general attack and uprising in the Spring of 1975 that achieved complete victory, totally defeated the aggression war and the neo-colonial rule of the American imperialist and liberated the entire South Viet Nam . Shortly after the Communist victory, “liberated Vietnamese” in the millions fled the South in terror to avoid living with their new Northern masters; filthy, cruel oppressors bent on opportunistic revenge. And following the defeat of the American imperialists, the so-called “victors/liberators” promptly led the country into abject poverty and widespread starvation. Unable to withstand the dying economy, corrupt  leaders representing this group of "victorious misfits" hypocritically begged American Imperialists for help.  Had America not lifted the embargo in 1994, Viet Nam would not be what it is today. In all likelihood, instead of becoming billionaires through blatant corruption, the lecherous idiots in the politburo would be treasonous Communists on trial for the ruination of their country! 


On Memorial Day 2012, I write “The Truth of the so-called Big Spring Victory” to respectfully pay tribute to my brothers-in-arms, all those who had served in Viet Nam to help us defend Freedom and Democracy, and also to set the record straight. Here are the facts!





The Truth of the so-called “Big Spring Victory”

by Hoi B. Tran


In July 1976, the People’s Army Publisher compiled all stories that the communist general Van Tien Dung had recounted to the People’s newspaper and published a book titled Big Spring Victory.  The book’s veracity is quickly established in the introduction.  Fraught throughout the book with typical communist propaganda, the publisher ignominiously wrote;  “The book Big Spring Victory was published to help us understand clearly the serious leadership, the lucidity, the determination, the flair of the Party’s Central Politburo and the Party’s Military Central Committee, policy and excellent art of war of our Party, at the same time encouraging our military and our people to bring into play the heroic tradition, enhance the pride, the belief, go forward to achieve many more new victories for the cause of defending and building socialism for the whole nation.”  And right from the preface, Dung falsely boasted: “A year has passed since the general attack and uprising in the Spring of 1975 that achieved complete victory, totally defeated the aggression war and the neo-colonial rule of the American imperialist and liberated the entire South Viet Nam.”  Concluding his distorted preface, Dung asserted;  “This book is also timely aimed at rejecting all wrongful theories, reactionaries by those who distort history, those defeated invaders and the traitors who fabricate story to defend their miserable failure and belittle the victory of our people.”


As history bears witness, the publisher and Dung foolishly thought that this book full of valueless propagandistic verbiage would be accepted as truth with the passage of time. Not even 36 years is enough time to make General Dung’s gibberish or the communist party’s ranting seem even remotely credible. The truth about the struggle between the Nationalist and the Communists from 1954 to 1975 would no more be hidden than the injustices the Communist Party in Ha Noi attempted to hide in their blatant violation of the Paris Agreement and subsequent barbarous invasion of the Republic of Viet Nam (RVN) after deceivingly signing the Agreement in Paris on January 27th, 1973. 
Albeit desperately seeking to avoid culpability, the Communists  used the ruse of the necessity of  forcibly invading the RVN under the cover of fighting the American imperialist to “liberate the South.”   After the war ended, Viet Nam became terribly destitute.  The economy entered a dire situation that Marxism – Leninism and the peak intelligence of the communist party in North Viet Nam could not resolve.  The Nationalist Vietnamese who evacuated to foreign countries to avoid communism had to send monies and gifts home to help their relatives and friends who were left behind.  People from the South to the North of Viet Nam realized clearly that the United States of America (U.S.) had never invaded South Viet Nam to impose a neo-colonial rule as propagated by the party.  And people all wished the Americans would return to Viet Nam so their lives could be better.  Without the financial help of expatriate Nationalist Vietnamese living abroad and the U.S. not lifting the 1994 embargo thus prompting domestic investing,  it would be a foregone conclusion the communist regime could stave off terrible poverty and starvation in Viet Nam.  The former slogan of the Party “Fight the American to save our country” has clearly surfaced as a dirty ruse used for propaganda.  Because the Party and the people of South and North Viet Nam have been begging the Americans to return “To Save the Country”.       


While writing this essay, some of my Vietnamese brothers-in-arms suggested that we should forget the past.  With fanatical nationalistic ideology they like to just leave the past conflict ambiguously so that in the future, the Vietnamese people would be famous as history would record that Viet Nam had defeated the French and destroyed the American Imperialists. I respect the fantasy idea of these friends; however, I could not be in cahoots with the North Vietnamese communist leaders to distort history.  Being Vietnamese I am very proud about our history in regards to our ancestors fighting foreign aggression.  I used to proudly recount to my American co-workers glorious Vietnamese military victories our forefathers achieved in successfully defeating the brutal aggressors from the North.  Conquerors like Toghan, Kublai Khan and many more had suffered defeat by famous, brilliant Vietnamese generals. I am proud of my ancestors for they had truly fought foreign invasions with their genuine patriotism and with their own tactics, strategy and logistics.  However, I cannot be proud about the North Vietnamese communist leaders who do no other than distort and lie!!!


One truthful fact that history cannot deny is the fact that had the Japanese not overthrown the French on March 9, 1945, the Viet Minh (abbreviated name of the Vietnamese communist in the forties) would not have driven the French out of Viet Nam.  But the leaders of the Viet Minh deceitfully claimed that it was themselves that restored independence for the country.  Adding to this chicanery, the Communists manipulated their 1954 victory at Dien Bien Phu to dupe the people as if they single-handedly defeated the French.  In reality, the Viet Minh were assisted by myriads of Chinese communist advisors and massive logistical supplies despite intentionally concealing this.  With the advice from two Chinese communist generals Wei Guo-qing and Li Cheng-hu, Vo Nguyen Giap launched “human wave tactics  to attack Dien Bien Phu.  Yet only in the first three days, from the 13 to the 16 of March, General Giap grilled 9000 of his soldiers among them 2000 killed (1). Including the so-called Big Spring Victory that general Dung arrogantly boasted could not be viewed as a glorious victory.  Truthfully it was only a natural outcome when the U.S., ally of the Republic of Viet Nam, altered their foreign policy.


In terms of America's disengagement from the war, enduring  further  casualties was no longer tolerable to a now two decade long war weary  public.  With Detente and Sino American rapprochement as an end game in huge corporate profits, the former goals of Communist destruction in Viet Nam became irrelevant.  The U.S. cut military aid to the RVN while the North Vietnamese communists received maximum logistic supplies from Red China and the Soviet Union to conquer the South by force.  In the event of dire shortage of military supplies, not only the RVN but any Armed Forces of any other country in similar circumstance would be tied down.  The balance of military power and logistics of the parties in war were too lopsided.


One undeniable painful reality is the RVN suffered many disadvantages since the U.S. involved directly in the war in South Viet Nam.


- In terms of the just cause, the U.S. offered the North Vietnamese communists

  an opportunity to use the slogan “Fight the American to save our country” to

  deceive people in North Viet Nam.


- Psychologically, American people were shocked with heavy military casualty

  and the cost to support half a million U.S. soldiers at high U.S. standard (2).


Additionally, the presence of the U.S. MACV Headquarters in South Viet Nam appeared to have almost stripped away the autonomy in making tactical, strategic decision of the war from the RVN.  The RVN was never allowed to conduct any operation in the air or on the ground by themselves in North Viet Nam. Following the clash between the U.S. and the communists in the Gulf of Tonkin on August 2, 1964, the U.S. decided to conduct limited retaliatory air strikes in North Viet Nam.  After the U.S. retaliatory bombardment, on February 8, 1965 the Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF) was allowed to fly strike missions in North Viet Nam for the first time but very restricted.  The VNAF had no authority to select the target for the strike and the U.S. would not allow the VNAF to fly past the 19th parallel.  Even the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy had no authority to make decision.  All vital targets, new or old, must have the approval from President Lyndon B. Johnson himself before the strike (3).  This writer had flown many strike missions, day and night, in North Viet Nam but had never been allowed to fly past 19th parallel.  Not too long afterwards, the VNAF was totally banned from flying air strike in North Viet Nam.  Aside from having no autonomy to conduct the war, the RVN was detrimentally affected by the liberal news media and our U.S. ally’s domestic political turmoil.  In my personal opinion, if the U.S. only equipped the Armed Forces of RVN with modern weaponry, increased the military strength to the necessity level and only played the role of advisor, the outcome of the war could have been different.


In the past two decades, innumerable U.S. top secret documents related to the war in Viet Nam have been declassified.  The one among many extremely important documents revealing how it affected the fate of the RVN was the “Memorandum of Conversation” of the meeting on June 20, 1972 in Beijing.  In this meeting, Dr. Henry Kissinger, National Security Advisor to President Richard M. Nixon, and Prime Minister Chou En-lai discussed many global issues and specifically to resolve the war in Viet Nam.  The 37-page document below shows the power and the influence of world superpowers.  From page 1 to page 26, the U.S. and Red China discussed relationship between countries and global security.  From page 27 to the last page, Kissinger and Chou En-lai specifically discussed plan to resolve the Indochina issue. 


Taking advantage of the 1969 Sino-Soviet border conflict, the U.S. wished for rapprochement with Red China.  Re-establishing diplomatic relation with Red China would help the U.S. to end the war in Viet Nam, get all prisoners of war back, resolve antiwar movement in America and also have the benefit to exploit the huge market in the mainland.  With intent to re-establish diplomatic relation with Red China, Kissinger told Prime Minister Chou:  if we can live with a communist government in China, we ought to be able to accept it in Indochina”.  In addition, Kissinger also indirectly promised Chou En-lai:  So from the time we came into office we have attempted to end the war. And we have understood, as I told you before, that the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam is a permanent factor on the Indochinese peninsula and probably the strongest entity.  And we have had no interest in destroying it or even defeating it.  After the end of the war we will have withdrawn 12,000 miles.  The Democratic Republic will still be 300 miles from Saigon.  That is a reality which they don’t seem to understand”.  Obviously, this is a statement of a superpower.  And this is also an eloquent, forceful refute that exposes the shameless argument, distortion and lies from the leaders of the communists in North Viet Nam who intentionally tried to trumpet a victory that was planned and handed out to them by the U.S.


Furthermore, I returned to Ha Noi in the summer of 1998 to visit my mother after 44 years of separation.  During this period I had the opportunity to meet some retired high-ranking people’s army officers and numerous Ha Noi residents in their early sixties. Among these officers some had fought in the Dien Bien Phu battle.  After having visited Saigon these officers were very surprised seeing that the South was so prosperous.  According to their opinion, South Viet Nam was ahead of North Viet Nam by a few decades, they were not impoverished and uncivilized like the party propagated.  The majority of Ha Noi’s residents revealed to me that in the 1972 Christmas season, if the U.S. continued bombing for a few more days, Ha Noi would have to accept any conditions imposed by the U.S. 


As a former soldier of the RVN resettled in the U.S. in May of 1975 at the age of forty, I retired in 2003 after 28 busy years working to rebuild my life in America, my adopted country.  I devoted my time in retirement to learn and comprehend more about the Nationalist/ Communist struggle of the past.  Millions of my brothers-in-arms and I have offered 22 of the best years of our lives to defend a sacred ideology; protecting freedom and democracy of the RVN.  Throughout the length of the struggle, the RVN had heroically destroyed many general attacks mounted by a group of bellicose communists from North Viet Nam. Regrettably, towards the last days and months of the war, global politics and domestic political in America overshadowed our sacrifices making our goal not achievable.  More than three decades have gone by, I have suppressed the hatred of the communist soldiers.  In the final analysis, a great majority of these soldiers were only victims of a totalitarian, vicious and brutal regime.  Furthermore, as soldiers, they had to follow military orders.  I have no resentment toward the U.S. because the U.S. had to protect the political and economic interest of 300 million American citizens.  I also do not blame Henry Kissinger for he was only a man executing an assigned policy.  But I deeply resent and despise the leaders of the communist party in North Viet Nam for they were the culprits that steered the country into the bloody war resulting in the dead of millions of compatriots from both North and South. Theoretically and realistically, North Viet Nam was totally independent after the Geneva Agreement signed in 1954.  In South Viet Nam, at the request of the RVN, French forces withdrew completely from the South on April 28, 1956.  During the struggle against French colonial rule, the communists had used the slogan Independence - Liberty - Happiness to mobilize patriotism from the people.  And the people, regardless of old or young, male or female, rich or poor, had enthusiastically sacrificed for the great cause. Therefore, when Viet Nam had achieved its independence, even with two different political regimes, Ho Chi Minh should have focused to realize the two remaining goals; Liberty and Happiness for the people in North Viet Nam.  On the contrary, Ho Chi Minh and his cronies had always contrived to conquer the RVN while the people in the RVN were living peacefully in Liberty and Happiness.  If Ho Chi Minh were a true patriot who loved his compatriots and directed all resources and efforts in rebuilding the North, it was certain that both regions, South and North, would have been very prosperous.  I realize that it is late to recount old story, however, I am of the opinion that it will never be late to utilize honest facts in order to preserve the accuracy of history.


The above mentioned “Memorandum of Conversation” is rather long and covers many global issues.  Some of these global issues may be irrelevant to the Viet Nam conflict negotiation.   Below you will see from page 27 to the last page that recorded the discussion between Henry Kissinger and Chou-En Lai regarding the Indochina issues.  After reading this document we will all see what Dung said in the preface of his book was totally fabricated, a blatant lie.  Additionally, the so-called “Big Spring Victory” that he arrogantly bragged, in reality, was only a hand-out given by the U.S. after having settled with his major patron, Red China for bigger political and economic goals.  It was Van Tien Dung and the People’s Army Publisher who truly are culpable for distorting history.  Any reader interested to read the entire 37-page document, please go to the below link: 


(1) New Perspectives on Dien Bien Phu by Pierre Asselin. Volume 1, No 2 Fall 1997


(2) Apprentice of War - Memoir of a Marine Grunt by Gary L. Tornes.  Page 247, Base pay: $155.00. Combat pay: $75.00. Overseas pay: $45.00. Total gross: $275.00.  This was 1967.

Based on Global Financial Data in Aug 1965, the official rate in the RVN was: US $1.00 dollar = $118.00 VN piastres. At this rate this US Marine was paid US$275.00/Month which = $26.550VN piaters/Month in 1967.  A Major, pilot in the VNAF was paid $65.000VN piaters a month = US$550.85. This includes fly pay and for a family with wife and 3 children.


(3) The Air War Against North VN. The USAF in SE Asia 1961-1973. By the USAF, 1984.

Chapter IV, page 1. “The president retained such firm control of the air campaign against the North that no important target or new target areas could be hit without his approval.”      
















PARTICIPANTS:                               Prime Minister Chou En-lai

                                                             Ch’iao Kuan-hua

                                                                   Vice Foreign Minister

                                                             Chang Wen-Chin, Assistant Foreign

                                                                   Minister (second part only)

                                                             Tang Wen-sheng, Interpreter

                                                             Chi Chao-chu, Interpreter

                                                             Two notetakers


                                                             Dr. Henry A. Kissinger,

                                                                   Assistant to the President for National

                                                                   Security Affairs

                                                             Winston Lord, NSC Staff

                                                             John D. Negroponte, NSC Staff


DATE AND TIME:                           Tuesday, June 20, 1972, 2:05 – 6:05 p.m.


PLACE:                                              Great Hall of the People, Peking











(Below is the discussion and negotiation on the future of the Republic of Vietnam between Henry A. Kissinger, President Richard M. Nixon’s National Security Affairs Assistant, and China Prime Minister Chou En-lai.  From page 27 to the end page 37).


Want to manipulate matters.  That is their feeling – I don’t know their reason for this.


Dr. Kissinger: It is not our intention. We have no intention of forming a condominium – it would take an extraordinary circumstance for us to do this. It is not our intention to create a condominium. We do have the intention of building walls against expansionism, either political ones or physical ones. Our primary concern with local conflicts is when a big power attempts to exploit for its own ends.


Prime Minister Chou: In the Soviet objections to our communique with you it appears that they particularly expressed objection to this common principle: “Neither should seek hegemony...” Do they think that was directed against them?


Dr. Kissinger: They didn’t say, but they seem to think it might be directed against them. We took the position it was directed only against countries that want to establish hegemony. I had an interesting query from India – I don’t know whether you did. They said that since the Asia-Pacific area didn’t include India, what we were saying was that we agreed to Chinese hegemony over India (laughter).


So I told them this was not true. I hope you are not offended.


Prime Minister Chou: India is a highly suspicious country. It is quite a big country. Sometimes it puts on airs of a big country, but sometimes it has an inferiority complex.


Dr. Kissinger: It’s been governed by foreigners through most of its history.


Prime Minister Chou: Yes, that might be one of the historical factors. And an additional one that there are such big competitions in the world.


Now let’s go on to the Indochina question – I would like to hear from you.


Dr. Kissinger: The Prime Minister said he had some observations he would like to make to me. Maybe we should reserve the places and let him talk first.


Prime Minister Chou: These are questions on which there are disputes, and we would like to listen to you first to see your solutions of the problem.

Dr. Kissinger: Is the Prime Minister’s suggestion that after he’s heard me I will be so convincing the disputes will have disappeared, and there will be no further need for him to make observations?


Prime Mininister Chou: I have no such expectations, but I do hope the disputes will be lessened.


Dr. Kissinger: I will make our candid assessment. I know it doesn’t agree with yours, but I think it is useful for you at any rate to understand how we see the situation. And I will take the situation from the start of the North Vietnamese offensive on March 30.


I believe that I have explained to the Prime Minister what our general objectives in Indochina are. Ib is obvious that it cannot be the policy of this Administration to maintain permanent bases in Indochina, or to continue in Indochina the policies that were originated by the Secretary of State who refused to shake hands with the Prime Minister. It isn’t... we are in a different historical phase. We believe that the future of our relationship with Peking is infinitely more important for the future of Asia than what happens in Phnom Penh, in Hanoi or in Saigon.


When President Johnson put American troops into Vietnam you will remember that he justified it in part on the ground that what happened in Indochina was masterminded in Peking and was part of a plot to take over the world. Dean Rusk said this in a statement. You were then engaged in the Cultural Revolution and not, from my reading of it, emphasizing foreign adventures.


So that the mere fact that we are sitting in this room changes the objective basis of the original intervention in Indochina. For us who inherited the war our problem has been how to liquidate it in a way that does not affect our entire international position and – this is not your primary concern – the domestic stability in the United States. So we have genuinely attempted to end the war, and as you may or may not know, I personally started negotiations with the North Vietnamese in 1967 when I was only at the very periphery of the government, at a time when it was very unpopular, because I believed there had to be a political end to the war.


So from the time we came into office we have attempted to end the war. And we have understood, as I told you before, that the Democratic Republic


of Vietnam is a permanent factor on the Indochina peninsula and probably the strongest entity. And we have had no interest in destroying it or even in defeating it. After the end of the war we will have withdrawn 12,000 miles. The Democratic Republic will still be 300 miles from Saigon. That is a reality which they don’t seem to understand.


Prime Minister Chou: What they are paying attention to is your so-called Vietnamization of the war.


Dr. Kissinger: But they have a curious lack of self-confidence. What have we tried to do? Let’s forget... they are masters at analyzing various points and forgetting the overall concepts. We have attempted to separate the military outcome from the political outcome so that we can disengage from the area and permit the local forces to shape their future. Curiously enough, the North Vietnamese have tried to keep us in there so that we would do their political work for them.


Last May 30, for example, we proposed that we would withdraw all our forces if there were a ceasefire and the return of prisoners. May 31 it was, not 30. Where would the North Vietnamese be today if they had accepted this? In a much better position than they are. But they didn’t accept it. Why? Because they want us to overthrow the government and put their government in. We are not negotiating. I am trying to explain our thinking. The practical consequences of our proposals have been to get us out; the practical consequence of their proposals have been to keep us in.


They have asked us... there’s only one demand they have made we have not met and cannot meet and will not meet, no matter what the price to our other relationships, and that is that we overthrow ourselves the people with whom we have been dealing and who, in reliance on us, have taken certain actions. This isn’t because of any particular personal liking for any of the individuals concerned. It isn’t because we want a pro-American government in Saigon. Why in the name of God would we want a pro-American government in Saigon when we can live with governments that are not pro-American in much bigger countries of Asia? It is because a country cannot be asked to engage in major acts of betrayal as a basis of its foreign policy.

Prime Minister Chou: You say withdrawal of forces. You mean total withdrawal of Army, Navy, Air Forces, bases and everything?


Dr. Kissinger: When I was here last year the Prime Minister asked me that question. I told him we wanted to leave some advisors behind. The Prime Minister then made a very eloquent statement on the consequences of what he called “leaving a tail behind.” Largely as a result of that, we, within a month, changed our proposal so it now involves a total withdrawal of all our advisors in all of the categories which the Prime Minister now mentioned. We are prepared to withdraw all our forces.


Prime Minister Chou: How about your armed forces in Thailand?


Dr. Kissinger: We are not prepared to remove our armed forces from Thailand, but under the conditions of ceasefire we would agree not to use these forces in Vietnam. And they would certainly be reduced to the level they had before this offensive started if peace is made.


To explain what I mean by this act of betrayal, even though I know this is somewhat painful, Mr. Prime Minister, but I want to explain: If when I first came here in July the Prime Minister had said, “we will not talk to you until you overthrow Chiang Kai-shek and put someone in there we can accept,” then, dedicated as I am to Sino-American friendship, we could not have done it. It would have been impossible. The secret to our relationship is we were prepared to start an evolution in which the Prime Minister has expressed great confidence. Such an act would totally dishonor us and make us a useless friend of yours, because if we would do this to one associate we would do it to anybody.


But to return to the question about Thailand. In every important decision, as we discussed, there are at least two aspects, the decision and the trend. At the dinner the other day with those five Americans the Prime Minister referred to the 1954 situation. And in 1954, whatever happened, whatever document we signed, the reality was that Secretary Dulles was looking for excuses to intervene, because he was convinced there was a Chinese communist conspiracy to take over Asia. We are looking for the opposite excuses.


Prime Minister Chou: The outcome of Dulles’ policy was the conclusion of a number of pacts and treaties, but now you want to abide by them. Isn’t that a continuation of his policy?

Dr. Kissinger: It is on one level. But on the other, when we make an agreement in Indochina, it will be to make a new relationship. If we can make it with Peking why can we not do it with Hanoi? What has Hanoi done to us that would make it impossible to, say in ten years, establish a new relationship?


Prime Minister Chou: If after you withdraw and the prisoners of war are repatriated, if after that, civil war again breaks out in Vietnam, what will you do? It will probably be difficult for you to answer that.


Dr. Kissinger: It is difficult for me to answer partly because I don’t want to give encouragement for this to happen. But let me answer it according to my best judgment. For example, if our May 8 proposal were accepted, which has a four-month withdrawal and four months for exchange of prisoners, if in the fifth month the war starts again, it is quite possible we would say this was just a trick to get us out and we cannot accept this.


If the North Vietnamese, on the other hand, engage in a serious negotiation with the South Vietnamese, and if after a longer period it starts again after we were all disengaged, my personal judgment is that it is much less likely that we will go back again, much less likely.


Prime Minister Chou: You said this last year too.


Dr. Kissinger: Last year if they had accepted our proposal it would now have been a year. If the North Vietnamese could transform this...


Prime Minister Chou: You said last year after you have withdrawn and the prisoners of war have been returned then as to what happens then, that is their affair. In principle you mentioned that.


Dr. Kissinger: In principle we are attempting to turn... it, of course, depends on the extent to which outside countries intervene. If one can transform this from an international conflict in which major world powers are involved, to a local conflict, then I think what the Prime Minister said is very possible. But this is our intention and since we will be making that policy, it is some guarantee.


Now, the difficulty has been that, for very understandable reasons, the North Vietnamese -- for whom as I have said to the Prime Minister many times, I have great respect – are acting out the epic poem of their struggle for independence through the centuries and particularly re-enacting their experiences of 20 years ago.


Prime Minister Chou: If we counted from the end of the Second World War, 27 years, and President Ho Chi Minh died for this cause before it was conpleted. President Ho Chi Minh was a revolutionary, but also a humanitarian and a patriot. I was well acquainted with President Ho Chi Minh. I had known him for 50 years. I have joined the Communist Party now for 50 years and knew him 50 years.


Dr. Kissinger: I never met him, but I knew a Frenchman in whose house Ho Chi Minh lived. In fact, I sent that Frenchman to talk to Ho Chi Minh in 1967 -- that’s how I became involved in Indochinese affairs.


Prime Minister Chou: Mr. Salisbury has also been to Hanoi. But he being a correspondent is in a different position from you.


Dr. Kissinger: It is the one place I have not been secretly.


Prime Minister Chou: That shortcoming might be the reason it hasn’t been solved yet. Maybe if you had been there you might be more clear about the situation.


Dr. Kissinger: I am clear about the situation. It’s the solution I am not clear about.


Prime Minister Chou: You have a new expert. Mr. Smyser had intestinal troubles.


Dr. Kissinger: But he recovered just before you served Peking Duck. (laughter)


Prime Minister Chou: He is still with you?


Dr. Kissinger: No, he went back to the university for a year, but he will come back after the year.


Prime Minister Chou: This system of yours is good, to have your staff go away to a university for a year and then come back.


Dr. Kissinger: I don’t think Smyser will work again on Vietnam problems. Maybe there won’t be Vietnam problems to work on any more.

Prime Minister Chou: Not necessarily. The Saigon problem is really too much of a headache. And this is one of the bitter fruits left over by Dulles which is not yet solved. It was a tragedy created by Dulles and you are even now tasting the bitter fruits of that.


Dr. Kissinger: I agree with the Prime Minister that what we face now in Vietnam is a tragedy.


Prime Minister Chou: You could shake yourselves free from it.


Dr. Kissinger: No. It depends on what the Prime Minister means by shaking ourselves free. The withdrawal we can do; the other demands we cannot do. Let me complete my analysis of the situation.


I recognize the problem is objectively extremely difficult, and I admit we have demonstrated for 20 years that we do not understand Vietnamese conditions very well, but the North Vietnamese Government has also made a solution extremely complicated.


First, I have negotiated 13 times now... eight times with Le Duc Tho; five times with Xuan Thuy. What is the primary use when I negotiate? My primary use is to be able to go to the essence of the problem and to get a big decision made – that is my primary use in these negotiations. I am useful for big decisions, not for a series of little moves. The little moves should be done by the diplomats.


In the 13 meetings I have had with them they have engaged me in a petty guerrilla war in which we were acting on the level of middle-level lawyers in which we were looking for escape clauses in particular phrases. Time and again I have said to Le Duc Tho – I know this is painful for you incidentally, Mr. Prime Minister, and I know you are a man of principle who will stick to his allies, but I am trying to explain – let us set an objective, say in six months we will do this and that, and then we will find a tactical solution. And time and again they have rejected this. Time and again they have done so for essentially two reasons. One is that their fear of trickery is such that they spend more time working on the escape clauses than on the principal provisions of any agreement. And it forces them to demand immediately what we might be prepared to have happen over a period of years.

And secondly, the nature of their strategy. What is their strategy? Their strategy is to pursue a military campaign designed, on the one hand, to undermine the Saigon government, which I understand, and on the other hand, a combination of a military and psychological campaign designed to undermine the American government, and that we can never accept. They have never been able to make up their mind whether they want to settle with us or to destroy us, or at least to put us in a position where we lose all public support. And therefore, they will make no concession, or have up to now made no concession, to me or any other American negotiator, because they are afraid that if there is the solution of even the most minimal problem, we will then gain the public support and therefore they will not gain their principal objective of undermining our public support to paralyze us.


This is the real reason that the May 2 meeting between me and Le Duc Tho failed. When they thought they were winning, their real strategy was to show the American people that there was no hope, and therefore to force us into a dilemma where we had no choice but to yield to their demands. This is why they deal with us about the prisoners, not through the government or the Red Cross, but through American opposition groups whose significance they don’t understand at all.


Prime Minister Chou: But it wasn’t right for you either to raid their prisoner of war camp.


Dr. Kissinger: Well, first of all, I think that’s a different proposition, and I would be glad to debate this with the Prime Minister, but I am not saying every move we have made in the war has necessarily been right. I am saying we are facing a situation now which needs solution. But I admit – though I don’t in this case – but we have made mistakes. This is why now they are making a tremendous issue about resuming plenary sessions, and yet any thoughtful person realizes that it doesn’t make any difference whether there are plenary sessions when we have nothing to talk about. Until there is a program to negotiate at the plenary sessions, they are pure propaganda and mean nothing.


We are prepared to resume plenary sessions just to finish that particular issue, but they will fail certainly if we do not get a new basis for negotiating, and if they do not change their tactics. We attempt – and the Prime Minister will have his own judgment on this -- we believe that in dealing with other countries if one does not deal with a country morally and honorably, even if one gains tactical advantage, one loses in the long run. But it is difficult to negotiate if one is engaged with a country which is subverting your authority.

Now, let us talk about the North Vietnamese offensive. Without that offensive we would have withdrawn more and more troops, and more and more aircraft. We had no intention whatever of increasing the scale of our military activities. On the contrary, we would progressively have reduced them. But the North Vietnamese offensive put us in a position in which they wanted to use the fact of an election in the United States to blackmail us into meeting a demand which we cannot meet. We can meet all others, but not that.


Now, what is the situation today? I know what has to be said in propaganda, but it is my judgment that the North Vietnamese offensive is effectively stopped and has no military prospects this year. They have not succeeded in generating this tremendous protest movement in the United States, despite the people who walk around with Vietnamese flags, which is not many. At the time of Cambodia there were 200,000 protesters in Washington, and they couldn’t stop what we were doing. After May 8 they tried to get 200,000 and they got 5,000.


So where are we? The only hope for the North Vietnamese is a victory for McGovern in November. We do not believe that this will happen. The latest polls show the President 20 points ahead of McGovern.


Prime Minister Chou: Even if McGovern were to be elected, could he get rid of Thieu?


Dr. Kissinger: I am not sure.


Prime Minister Chou: Not necessarily.


Dr. Kissinger: Not necessarily.


Prime Minister Chou: My view is the same as yours.


Dr. Kissinger: And don’t forget we will be in office seven more months.


Prime Minister Chou: That is another matter. Even if he were to be elected would it be possible for him to give up supporting the Saigon regime?


Dr. Kissinger: It is easier to talk about it than to do it.


Prime Minister Chou: It is a pitfall which was created by you which is difficult for you to get out of.

Dr. Kissinger: That is true.


Prime Minister Chou: Whether it be President Nixon or McGovern or Ed Kennedy. Even if you were to be President it would be difficult. But it is a great pity you are not qualified.


Dr. Kissinger: Let us run Miss Tang.


Prime Minister Chou: Even she could not get out.


Dr. Kissinger: If she ran and made me her advisor maybe we could do something together.


Prime Minister Chou: One knot tied into another, and most disadvantageous.


Dr. Kissinger: That is true. But the forces that would elect McGovern would bring about a reorientation of American policy not only on Vietnam, but certainly on the subjects of the Soviet Union, India, Japan, as you can read in the New York Times editorial. I don’t have to explain. If you read the tendency of the New York Times, when I threatened to cancel the Moscow summit, for example, or during the India situation when it was impossible to get them to print any other point of view, even in the new columns, you will get some feeling for the reality of what would happen if that happened. I will speak realistically. Everyone is in favor of a Sino-American relationship. There is no fundamental opposition to this any more. But the practical consequences that people are prepared to draw from it and the actual decisions they are willing to make other than sentimental affirmations or cultural exchange, that will differ enormously.


And therefore, any intervention in our domestic politics has two consequences. First, it forces us to react much more violently than we would have in normal circumstances, and second, it has consequences which go far beyond Vietnam and therefore make it much more general problem than just the Vietnam problem.


And therefore, we believe that the war must now be ended for everybody’s sake. If the war continues, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam will surely lose more than it can possibly gain. Its military offensive has stopped; its domestic situation is difficult; and we are forced to do things to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam that go beyond anything that is commensurate with our objective. We don’t want them to be weak. And I see no prospect for them to reserve the situation. And we want to end the war because it requires now and effort out of proportion to the objectives and because it involves us in discussions with countries with whom we have much more important business.


If we could talk to them the way we talk to you, Mr. Prime Minister – I don’t mean in words but in attitude -- I think we could settle the war. As a practical matter, we think the quickest way to end it now is on the basis of ceasefire, withdrawal, and return of prisoners. That’s the least complicated and leaves the future open. We are prepared in addition to declare our neutrality in any political contest that develops and in terms of foreign policy we are prepared to see South Vietnam adopt a neutral foreign policy.


We can also go back to our proposal the President made last January 25 and which was formally presented on January 27, and perhaps modify this or that provision and that involved political discussions also. But in practice, political discussions take forever. And the practical consequence of any political solution is either it will confirm the existing government in Saigon, which is unacceptable to Hanoi, or it will overthrow the existing government in Saigon, which his unacceptable to us. And it is almost impossible to think of a possible compromise between these two.


So we should find a way to end the war, to stop it from being an international situation, and then permit a situation to develop in which the future of Indochina can be returned to the Indochinese people. And I can assure you that this is the only object we have in Indochina, and I do not believe this can be so different from yours. We want nothing from ourselves there. And while we cannot bring a communist government to power, if, as a result of historical evolution it should happen over a period of time, if we can live with a communist government in China, we ought to be able to accept it in Indochina.


The Prime Minister caught me on a particular loquacious day. (Laughter)


Prime Minister Chou: So let us conclude today. As for tomorrow morning, I will first consult our Vice Chairman, Yeh Chien-ying, and then maybe tomorrow morning you will have some discussions with him. I heard that you would like to have a picnic at the Summer Palace.


Dr. Kissinger: I was asked what I wanted to see in addition to the Forbidden City. I said I thought the Summer Palace was so beautiful I would like to see it again. But the idea of a picnic is an addition which is charming but was not suggested by me. It is an idea of your protocol department. But work comes before picnics.