Vietnam, 1976


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Vietnam, 1976
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McGovern, George S ( George Stanley ), 1922-
United States -- Congress. -- Senate. -- Committee on Foreign Relations
U.S. G.P.O. ( Washington )
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Full Text
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2d Session I







S//^/i^ ,?,
e111111 'S -

MARCH 1976

Printed for the use of the Committee on Foreign Relations





JO HIN SPARK MAN, Alabama, Chairman

GALE W. McGEE, Wyoming
GEORGE S. McGOVERN, South Dakota
JOSEPH R. BIDEN, JR., Delaware

HUGH SCOTT, Pennsylvania

PAT M. HOLT, Chief of Staff
ARTHUR M. KUHL, Chief Clerk


Letter of transmittal---------------------------------------------- v
Conlusions and recommendations------------------------------------- 1
Humanitarian issues----------------------------------------------- 2
The Paris Agreement reconsidered------------------------------------- 9
A. A negotiated victory------------------------------------------- 9
B. The pattern of violations-------------------------------------- 10
C. Persistent compliance----------------------------------------- 11
D. The process of agreeing to aid---------------------------------- 13
The Political future of Vietnam-------------------------------- ------ 17
A. Internal developments---------------------------------------- 17
B. The bloodbath issue------------------------------------------ 19
C. Vietnam's international posture-------------------------------- 20

Digitized by the Internet Archive
in 2013


Washington, D.C., February 29, 1976.
Chairman, Committee on Foreign Relations,
U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C.
DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: Enclosed you will find a report on the trip I
undertook to Vietnam in January.
I left Washington on January 1, and visited Portugal, Pakistan,
India and Bangladesh before concluding my study mission with five
days in Vietnam. I will be forwarding to you separate reports on
Portugal and on South Asia.
My stay in Vietnam was too brief to permit a detailed evaluation
of conditions in that country, particularly since the time was divided
between Hanoi and Saigon. However I did have productive and in-
formative discussions with leaders in both Hanoi and Saigon. These
included, in Hanoi, the Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of
Vietnam, Pham Vin Dong, and Xuan Thuy, former Paris negotiator,
vice chairman of the Standing Committee and chairman of the For-
eign Relations Committee of the DRV.
In Saigon I was received at Independence Palace by Mr. Huynh
Tan Phat, president of the Provisional Revolutionary Government,
and I had several comprehensive talks with Mrs. Nguyen Thi Binh,
foreign minister of the PRG. In both North and South, I was accom-
panied by knowledgeable and helpful protocol officers and members of
committees for "Solidarity with the American People," who were pre-
pared to answer questions on a wide range of subjects. I was asked
upon my arrival what I wanted to see and what issues I wanted to dis-
cuss, and compliance with those requests was nearly complete. The
one exception was my interest in inspecting the "Hanoi Hilton"
where many U.S. prisoners of war were kept, and the explanation of
a lack of time seemed credible because the visit had been scheduled for
the day of our return from Saigon and the plane was delayed until
very late.
The trip had two primary objectives: First, to pursue America ii
humanitarian interests regarding missing-in-action personnel, Ameri-
cans in the South, and families which were separated at the end of the
war, and, second, to seek some sense of the political future and inter-
national posture of post-war Vietnam. These issues were the main
topics of conversation with all Vietnamese officials, and they are the
primary subjects of this report.

Our visas to enter Vietnam were granted through the embassy of
the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in Paris. The staff of the Foreign
Relations Committee. and Jan Novins in particular, provided indis-
I.4.e-able help in working out complex travel arrangements. In prepar-
uiiLr for our dis l.-ions in Vietnam, I received helpful information
from the Department of State and a detailed briefing and background
memorandum from the House of Representatives Select Committee on
Missing Persons in Southeast Asia. The Chairman of that Committee,
Congressman G. V. Montgomery of Mississippi, offered the full co-
operation of his Committee and its staff. I am most grateful to all of
those who helped make this a successful venture, and I extend special
thanks to tho-e who accompanied me to Vietnam: My wife. Eleanor;
George Aslhworth of the Committee Staff, my foreign affairs special-
ist. John Holum; my secretary, Pat Donovan; and Robert Shrum,
staff director of the Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs.
Through their expertise, independent inquiries, and careful notes, each
member of my party has made important contributions to this report.


For many years into the future Vietnam will be preoccupied with
mammoth internal tasks of physical reconstruction and political, eco-
nomic, and cultural consolidation. I think the United States has both
an interest and an obligation to wish them well in that enterprise.
American cooperation with the Vietnamese government, moving to-
ward normal relations, is by far the best way to resolve such humani-
tarian issues as accounting of Americans missing in action, the reuni-
fication of families, and other questions-which have remaniied iiiw-et-
tled for too long. Indeed, continuing the hostility and totally rejecting
the Paris Agreement amount to an abandonment of any specific legal
claim we may have on the MIA question. We have no real cause to
withhold recognition, to block Vietnamese membership in the Unitctd
Nations, or to embargo trade. We gain nothing from those steps. They
C'n only insult and offend tie government whose cooperation we must
have if we are to end the anxiety of so many American family ies.
The question of our relations with Vietnam also bears on our broader
international interests. We must have learned by now, particularly
after our experiences with the Peoples Republic of China and with
Cuba, that it is a self-defeating policy to wage economic and political
warfare against other countries simply because we disagree with their
ideology or because we consider that it was somehow unfair of their
new rulers to prevail over those we preferred. Especially in the case
of smaller countries, it is clearly not in our interest to force a heavy
dependence on a competitive power. Vietnam does not want domina-
tion by any external force, and it makes no sense to push then that
way. It will be counter productive to isolate them to the point where
they can have only ties that have strings.
Further, in the post-Vietnamni period both the Legislative and Execu-
tive branches have been evolving new principles for the conduct and
content of America's international relations. We are moving at dif-
ferent paces and from different directions, and it. may be soiie years
before we can point to a cohesive and coherent new policy. But there
is a growing recognition that we must abandon the old concepts of
ideological blocs, and begin to evaluate each country individually,
accounting for its nationalistic aspirations and its view of its proper
role in the world.
Vietnam is an eminently logical place to apply these new preceptiois.
Wartiiue rhetoric about i vindictive. bloo1dthirst" people \vaI trn;i-
,"ally wide of the mark, as many Aiueri,.ins suppom',l at the tie.
Well educated, highly civilized leaders of I)othb tlie 1)en,. '.tic Re-
public of Vietnam" and the Provisional evolutionary (Oovfrnment of
tlie South are anxious to heal both the inte"; ial and external wounds of



war, and they are determined to retain the independence which they
saw as the overriding aim of their struggle. Nowhere in the world,
and particularly among developing countries, can we really insist
upon a much better result. Accommodation there will bear fruit. And
at the site of our longest and most bitterly disputed war, it will also
demonstrate in a unique way that we have found once again the wis-
dom, sensitivity, and compassion for which we would like to be known.
As to specific steps, I recommend, first, that we abandon forthwith
the present trade restrictions and freezing of assets; that we formally
recognize the new Vietnamese government which will be established
after the nationwide elections expected during the first half of 1976;
and that we drop at the same time any further objection to a Vietnam-
ese seat in the United Nations.
Second, we should not lightly dismiss the Vietnamese contention
that the Paris Peace Agreement remains in effect. As I have de-
scribed in the body of this report, there is a strong legal and logical
basis for that view. It is supported by the conduct of the DRV and
PRG in the period between the signing of the agreement and the
collapse of the Saigon government. Further, beyond the implementa-
tion of Article 8(b) on those missing and presumed dead in Vietnam,
there are terms in the agreement-particularly bearing on the inter-
national conduct of Vietnam-which are firmly in line with U.S.
objectives and, indeed, with the hopeful expectations about Vietnam
which have been declared recently in major foreign policy addresses
by President Ford and Secretary Kissinger.
Acceptance of the continuing relevance of the Paris Agreement
would, of course, involve acceptance of an obligation for reconstruc-
tion aid under Article 21 of the Agreement. A strong moral, humani-
tarian and practical case for such aid can be made in any event. I believe
it is in our interest to contribute to the reconstruction effort, as we did
in Germany and Japan after World War II, regardless of the agree-
ment. But in any case, I have concluded on the basis of my discussions
there that the Vietnamese are quite flexible on the nature and amount of
aid they would regard as fulfillment of our obligations under Article
21. We should seek to reopen direct official discussions of all out-
standing issues-not only the MIA question but reconstruction assist-
ance as well-to learn what they have in mind. At the outset we
should indicate that we are prepared to join other countries with at
least a modest program of aid.

Article 8(b) of the January, 1973, Agreement on Ending the War
and Restoring Peace in Vietnam provides that-
The parties shall help each other to get information about those military
personnel and foreign civilians of the parties missing in action, to determine
the location and take care of the graves of the dead so as to facilitate the
exhumation and repatriation of remains, and to take any such measures as
may be required to get information about those still considered as missing in
The related protocol provides in Article 10(a) that-
The Four Party Joint Military Commission shall ensure joint action by the
parties in implementing Article 8(b) of the Agreement When the Four-Party
Joint Military Commission has ended it activities, a Four-Party Joint Military
Team shall be maintained to carry on this task.

Unlike the articles relating to the return of prisoners of war, the
Paris Agreement contained no deadline for an accounting for missing
in action personnel. Since the Four-Party Joint Military Commission
was to disappear after 60 days, once U.S. forces had been withdrawn
and POWs had been returned, the provision for a successor agency in
fact suggests an implicit assumption in the Agreement that an ac-
counting for the missing would take quite some time.
Even so, progress on the implementation of Article 8(b) has been
almost imperceptible in the three years since the Paris Agreement
was signed.
The Four-Party Joint Military Team was established as provided in
the protocol, and the United States began in April of 1973 to provide
to the DRV and the PRG lists of all missing personnel, including the
best available information on where and how each individual was lost.
Beginning in August of 1973, these computer lists were supplemented
by folders providing additional details on cases in which there was
persuasive evidence that either the DRV or the PRG would have
knowledge of the loss. Folders concerning a total of 107 personnel were
passed on between August, 1973, and February, 1975.
The DRV and PRG delegations accepted these materials, and they
have taken no steps to repudiate their obligations under Article 8(b)
of the Paris Agreement. However, by December of 1975, according to
material supplied to me by the State Department in preparation for
my trip to Vietnam, the only substantive progress was the return, in
March, 1974, of the remains of 23 American airmen who died in
captivity in North Vietnam.
The DRV and PRG delegations to the Four-Party Joint Military
Team withdrew in May of 1974. Article 16 of the Protocol on Cease-
fire and Joint Military Commissions provided that Commission per-
sonnel were to receive "full privileges and immunities equivalent to
those accorded diplomatic missions and diplomatic agents." Violations
of these provisions were cited by the PRG and DRV delegations as the
reason for their withdrawal. Since the demise of the FPJMT, efforts to
address MIA questions have continued through the Joint Casualty
Resolution Center and through the good offices of the United Nations
High Commissioner on Refugees.
In April of 1975 the North Vietnamese indicated that they were
prepared to return the bodies of three airmen who died in their crashes
in North Vietnam. However, discussions through the DRV embassy in
Paris broke down when the United States vetoed Vietnamese member-
ship in the United Nations. Members of the House Select Committee
on Missing Persons in Southeast Asia met December 6, 1975, with
Ambassador Vo Van Sung of the DRV in Paris, and on December 21,
members of the same Committee traveled to Hanoi and, while there,
received the bodies of the three airmen whose return had been offered
in April.
There has been recent attention to two other cases: Those of the two
Marines who were killed during the evacuation of Saigon in April,
1975. Senator Kennedy corresponded directly with the Vietnamese
on this matter, and I also raised it during my discussions in Saigon.
These efforts have been successful: Two aides to Senator Kennedy
traveled to Vietnam in late February and returned with the remains.


In contrast to this modest, progress, the United States lists 251S
American servicemen and 43 civilians who did not return from South
east Asia.' Of those, 1119 were killed in action or died in captivity, and
their remains have not been recovered. An additional 565 have been
presumed dead. Eight. hundred thirty-four military personnel and 27
civilians are -till listed as missing in action. None of these has been
accounted for to date.
At the level of official contact the U.S. effort to obtain an account-
ing for these people and a repatriation of remains was largely aban-
doned when the Thieu government collapsed in April of 19o75. My
trip could not be considered in that category, of course, since no
member of Congress can presume to represent the United States in
meetings with a foreign government. The informal government-to-
government discussions in Paris were terminated last summer over the
United Nations membership issue.
Further, the Secretary of State has made it difficult indeed for any-
one to argue for action on the MIA issue as a legal obligation. The
New York Times reported on November 14,1975, that Secretary Kiss-
inger regards the Paris Agreement as "dead." From the standpoint of
the Vietnamese the most relevant consequence of that position is, of
course, a repudiation of Article 21 of the Paris Agreement in which
the United States pledged to ... contribute to healing the wounds of
war and to postwar reconstruction of the Democratic Republic of
Vietnam and throughout Indochina."
Aside from rejecting that commitment the Administration cur-
rently maintains a position of active hostility toward the victors in
Vietnam. As previously noted, the United States exercised its veto
power over Vietnamese membership in the United Nations (though,
since the principle of nonadmission of divided countries-with the
parallel of Korea-was cited, the logic behind the U.S. objection will
disappear once Vietnam is reunited). The United States has also re-
fused thus far to recognize either Vietnamese government; hence, there
are no regular diplomatic channels through which humanitarian issues
could be pursued. And if the war has ended militarily, the U.S. con-
tinues to wage an economic struggle against Vietnam through trade
restrictions-placing that country in the same status as North Korea
and Cuba. Finally, Vietnamese assets in the United States have been
frozen. A total of roughly $70 million, primarily deposits in U.S.
banks, has been tied up by the Treasury Department, after consulta-
tion with the Department of State.
There have been recent verbal signals, and one tangible step, to
suggest that the Administration does not expect to hold a perpetual
grudl(re against Vietnam. In an address to the Economic Club of Detroit
on November 24 of last. year, Secretary of State Kissinger stated that
our relations with the new governments in Soultheast Asia ...
. will not hv determined by the past; we are prepared to look to a more
hip)t'fill future. The United States will respond to of good will. If those
zovirnmnent. show understanding of our eoncprns and those of their neighliors.
they will find us ready to reeiproeite. This will be especially the case if they
de(.al .onstriif iveiy with the ngiuish of thousands of Americans who ask only an
iP.onilIfing foPr tleiir loved ones missing in action and the return of the bodies
1 ThIp fl r inr lnirlp. pr,4nnnl mI. qln" In Laos and Cnmbodnl.n. The T T.. mntfptnfnrd
ifter the 1-iri, Ai-rr-r.nient wais .1jupi thlint Finep It eont-linoed provision, rolatinrz to fnreoin
troops in n'anihrlini and TLno,. It tlioref.rv obliged thi, DRV to neennnt for thip mi.ine In
those countries. Thi DRV d(, l:flin1 d :iin s'niieh rvsponIhility, but did n-ree seprntely to
assist In arranging the return of POWs from Laos.


of Americans who ("ied in Indoelhina. We have no interest to continue the Indo-
china war on the diplomatic front; we envisage the eventual normalization of
relations. In the interim we are prepared to consider practical arraLlugelents of
mutual benefit in such fields as travel and trade.
President Ford included the same fundamental sentiment in his
December 7 address on U.S. policy in the Pacific at the East-West
Center of the University of Hawaii in Honolulu:
In Indochina, the healing effects of time are required. Our poli-ies toward the
new regimes of the Peninsula will be determined by their conduct toward us.
We are prepared to reciprocate gestures of good will-particularly the return of
remains of Americans killed or missing in action or information about them.
If they exhibit restraint toward their neighbors and constructive approaches
to international problems, we will look to the future rather than to the past.
The one positive step toward reconciliation has been the decision,
disclosed by Secretary Kissinger to members of the House Select Com-
mittee on Missing Persons in Southeast Asia on November 14, 1975,
and amplified in the State Department briefing November 17, to
permit some shipments of humanitarian aid from private organiza-
tions. The policy against such aid was not reversed, but the Depart-
ment reevaluated and reversed an earlier objection to a shipment of
such items as fishnets, rototillers, and wood-screwmaking machines
by the American Friends Service Committee., an organization with a
long history of humanitarian involvement in Vietnam. Secretary Kiss-
inger reportedly told the members of the Select Committee that the
action was meant as a response to the Provisional Revolutionary Gov-
ernment's release of 9 Americans, mostly missionaries, who had been
taken prisoner during the spring, 1975, offensive in the Central High-
lands. Press accounts also indicate that the Secretary told the Com-
mittee that the United States was ready to open discussions con-
cerning the normalization of relations.2
In all my discussions with Vietnamese officials I tried to stress these
positive elements of U.S. policy as an incentive for moving ahead, not
only on the MIA issue but also on the exit of Americans who were
caught in Saigon when the Thieu government fell and of relatives and
dependents of Vietnamese who were evacuated. In Saigon. I presented
Madame Nguyen Thi Binh, Foreign Minister of the Provisional
Revolutionary Government, with a partial list of Americans known
to be in South Vietnam, and another list containing particulars on
Vietnamnese-some American citizens and others not-whose relatives
in the United States had contacted my office when they learned I
would be traveling to Vietnam.
I suggested that a favorable response on all of these concerns could
have a significant impact on movement toward a more satisfactory
relationship between Vietnam and the United States, and recalled
in particular that both the American people and American officials
had welcomed the return of civilian prisoners from the Southl alnd
the presentation of remains to the House Select Committee.
I also expressed the personal view that reconstruction aid did not
seen to be a practical possibility in the near future, especially in light
of the severe economic difficulties prevailing in the United States.
Noting the devastation of Vietnam, I pointed out that the war had
also been extremely costly to the United States--iln both spiritual n(ld
material terms-and that the experience hail contributed to a general
2 "Unit.d States ep;ady to Talk with'," New York 'Timne., Nov. 15, 1975.

public disaffection with foreign assistance of all kinds. I also ob-
served that in the future the question of reconstruction assistance
would probably be better received if it were raised not as a matter
of retribution for a nightmare most Americans would rather forget,
but instead as a positive development program based on mutual re-
spect and the provision of assistance to people who need aid and
can use it effectively.
I received no quarrel on the humanitarian issues. On the contrary,
both the DRV and the PRG believe they have a positive obligation to
account for missing persons and to return remains. Difficulties in the
process of search and identification were cited-Xuan Oanh, secretary
of the Vietnam Solidarity Committee with the United States, re-
minded me that they are also searching for thousands of their own
missing, and told me that he had personally conducted a search for
many months, without avail, for a member of his own family. But I
was told repeatedly that the process is continuing and that it will be
completed to the best of their ability.
Prime Minister Pham Van Dong responded positively on both the
question of accounting for missing persons and on reuniting families.
Our conversation, like most of the other substantive talks during the
stay in Vietnam, took the form of an opportunity for me to present at
some length the matters I wanted to discuss, followed by a point-by-
point response. I had asked for his view on three humanitarian issues-
on the MIA accounting, the reunification of families, and on the possi-
bility that some people who had been evacuated, including several who
had contacted me, might want to return to Vietnam if they could be
assured they would be received without recriminations. The Prime
Minister responded:
We are very much concerned with the three points you raised. There is no
difficulty with the first two. The third we will have to consider, but on principle
there will be no difficulty.*
In my presentation concerning missing in action personnel, I had
suggested that even a status report on the lists which had been supplied
would be quite helpful-a description of the status of their investiga-
tions, including, where appropriate, a simple statement that they have
no information. The interpreter translated the Prime Minister's re-
sponse to the effect that it was a good "idea." However, some time later
I was advised by Mr. Oanh that an important nuance had been missed,
and that the Prime Minister had actually indicated approval of the
"suggestion." Mr. Oanh stressed the difference between conceptual ap-
preciation of an "idea" and approval of a "suggestion," which implies
that actions will be taken. Therefore, I expect that there will be a fol-
low up on the question of a status report. Since there has been no sub-
stantive reaction to the lists which have been supplied, this would be
an important step forward.
I also discussed the MIA issue with Mr. Xuan Thuy, who serves as
Vice, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National Assembly
and Chairman of its Foreign Relations Committee. I had met Mr. Thuy
earlier in Paris in 1969 and 1971, where he was, along with Le Due
8I was subsequently told In Saigon by Madame Llnh Quy, press liaison in the PRO
foreign ministry, and by Foreign Minister Blnh, that requests for return to Vietnam would
have to be Investigated on a case-by-case basis because of a fear of subversion. However,
they also told me those who returned by chartered ship Inst year had all been reintegrated
Into Vietnamese society.

Tho, a principal negotiator for the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
In Hanoi in January he emphasized the overriding reason why the
Vietnamese parties regard themselves as obligated to account for miss-
ing personnel-because, in contrast to the position declared by Secre-
tary of State Kissinger, they contend that the Agreement on Ending
the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam, including Article 21 on re-
construction aid, remains a binding document. Xuan Thuy said:
We are very faithful to our signature. You just mentioned that the United
States is very anxious about the missing in action. That question is related to
Article 8(b) of the Paris Agreement. That article has been implemented by our
side. We are very much concerned about that article.
We are still continuing our investigations. But there is no reason on the one
hand the United States government just wanted to implement Article 8(b) ; why
if refused to implement other provisions.
In Saigon, Madame Binh, who I had also met before in Paris where
she represented the National Liberation Front and, later, the Pro-
visional Revolutionary Government, responded in a similar vein when
I inquired in particular about the two Marines killed during the evacu-
ation. I noted that Senator Kennedy had received correspondence re-
garding these men. The subsequent exchange, beginning with Madame
Binh's response, exemplifies the position we heard repeatedly in Hanoi
and Saigon:
Many people have given attention to this question. We have just heard of the
remains on the two U.S. Marines so we need time to investigate and find out
whether they are the American Marines. As a matter of fact, on those days a
number of people died-Vietnamese and Americans-so we have to find out
whether these two tombs are the remains of the Marines.
I asked whether, once they were identified, the remains would be
repatriated. She replied: "It is not our aim to keep them forever. That
is no problem. They belong to the American people."
I asked if the United Nations High Commissioner was assisting on
the identification, noting that they have access to technical resources
to identify remains. She responded that High Commission representa-
tives had asked for certain information on these ctses. Then she
Aside from the humanitarian matters involved, we must define the responsi-
bility of the United States government concerning this point. It is true that Mr.
Kissinger signed the Paris Agreement on behalf of the U.S. government. Mr. Kis-
singer said that the Paris Agreement is not binding now, but we are saying that
the Paris Agreement has been implemented on the fundamental pointLs. The Zl ree-
ment stipulates that the United States and other countries respebc-t the independ-
ence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Vietnam. By now the United
States, either winning or not, has been forced to respect that right. So it may be
said that the Paris Agreement has been implemented on this p-iint.
On the right of self-determination of the South Vietnamese people in the agroe-
ment, what we are doing now is the implementation of the right of self-determi-
nation of our people in the most complete way. I have just told you nliuit the
general elections throughout the country, and I think this is the lhe-t way to
realize the self-determination of the South Vietnanmese people. Priviously we pr1'-
posed to fix the time for the National Council of Re' onciliation :inil Con-'lrd to
hold the election. But Mr. refused. So we are talking this wa;y, anid : ifter
one year of liberation we will hold the election. But some articles have not been
Implemented. We need to have a discussion of these things.
When I raised with Xuan Th,,v the iss"eo of the'icans ,',,ii:n-
ing in South Vietniam and relatives and depenleiits of April, 1975,
evacuees, he Sulrrestcl that I Therefore I placed a major eiti,)lAsis on tlivese matters iln con'es:ltiol(s

wvith Madame Binh and with Mr. Huynh Tan Phat, president of the
Provisional Revolutionary Government. The responses indicated that
these questions are not necessarily linked to the Paris Agreement. I
asked President Phat if Americans and members of families in the
United States would be free to leave the country. He replied:
We will examine the cases, and if they are the husbands and wives of Ameri-
cans, we will create the conditions for them to meet . These people are vic-
tim.s of the war conducted by the warlike. There are not only Americans but
other foreigners who want to leave. We are considering the ways and means
to return them.
When I presented lists to Madame Binh she, too, indicated that there
was no fundamental obstacle of policy. The main problem is one of
administration-setting priorities for departure among residents of
various foreign countries, arranging transportation, all in the context
of serious problems of unemployment and economic reconstruction.
My party had flown to Saigon on the morning of Thursday, Janu-
ary 15, on the daily government flight. The schedule called for us to
leave again for Hanoi early the following morning. However, we were
told that the plane developed technical problems and the flight was
postponed until afternoon. The discussions with President Phat and
Foreign Minister Binh had been held late in the afternoon and in the
evening of the day before. While the aircraft was being readied for
departure, we found that the PRG had also been readying a response
to the list of Americans in South Vietnam that I had given Madame
Binh the night before.
Madame Binh met us at Tan Son Nhut and stated that "According
to the Senator's request, a number of Americans will be permitted to
She mentioned two names in particular-James Klassen and Joseph
Brickman- as being prepared to leave "in the near future," and she
said the PRG would continue with the rest of the list. She indicated
that arrangements for transportation would be made by her
This step, along with the generally positive response on providing
for the reunification of at least wives and husbands of people now
living in the United States, was not tied to implementation of the
Paris Agreement. I presume that is because they addressed concerns
which arose from new circumstances which developed after the agree-
ment and which were therefore not contemplated by its terms. At the
same, time these accommodations were plainly offered as a response
to my trip, which the Vietnamese saw as a gesture, however small, in
the direction of better U.S.-Vietnameso relations. I cannot predict
how much further they will go without a substantive response from
the United States.
Ge.sture3 on Miqsing in Action personnel-the delivery of remains
to the House Select Committee, whatever follow through there is on
my sig.estion of a status report, and the action on the two Marines
Milled during the evacuation of Saigon-must be seen in a similar
context. But beyond that, it is quite clear that the Vietnamese see their
obligation of MIAs as deriving from the Paris Agreement. Additional
gestures may lbe made. But it does not seem likely that a complete
:icomunting can be had in the absence of a serious reference to what
was estnblislhed in Paris three years ago.

Therefore it is worth reexamining in some detail the evolution,
implementation, violation, and presumed dissolution of the Paris
Agreement, with special attention to the Vietname-:e point of view.


It was too readily assumed at the time, and it is too easily accepted
in retrospect, that Vietnamese revolutionaries in 1973 and 1974 were
only biding their time and preparing themselves to violate the cease-
fire and take over South Vietnam by force. I think the opposite im-
pression would prevail if the situation there after the Paris Agreement
had been followed as closely as it was during the years of direct Ameri-
can involvement in the fighting.
I do not mean to suggest that the DRV and PRG, by accepting the
Paris Agreement, had thereby given up their goal of a reunified Viet-
nam. Rather they saw the agreement as a means of shaping an evolu-
tion toward the same ends without war. The agreement did, after all,
represent vital victories for their side.
Nearly 19 years after the Geneva Agreement, the United States
finally accepted the principle that Vietnam is one country and the
division of Vietnam along the 17th parallel was only a temporary
line of demarcation. We pledged to respect the "independence. sover-
eignty, unity, and territorial integrity of Vietnam as recognized by the
1954 Geneva Agreements on Vietnam." We pledged that the United
States would "not continue its military involvement or intervene in
the internal affairs of South Vietnam." And, as noted, we pledged
reconstruction aid.
The most meaningful gains were political. A strategy adopted in
June of 1969. when the Provisional Revolutionary Government was
formed, bore fruit in the Agreement's recognition of the PRG, along
with third force elements, as an equal of the Thieu government in
shaping the political future of South Vietnam. The Agreement guar-
anteed the PRG the right to join in the preparations for and the
administration of internationally supervised elections, a provision
which was-had the agreement been fully implemented-obviously
of far greater significance than the question of who would nominally
control the government of South Vietnam until the elections took
place. It is especially important to consider this point in the context
of the fact that the DRV and PRG believed-with apparently good
reason, in light of President Thieu's compulsion to lock up the mount-
ing third force opposition in 1973 and 1974-that Thieu's control was
highly fragile and that his government could not remain politically
viable for long without the war and without a substantial American
So in the context of the goals they had pursued for more than a
generation, the DRV and the PRG had good reason to seek scrupulous
enforcement of the Paris Agreement. President Nixon>s 1973 postiir-
ing about "peace with honor" tended to ob-cure the fact that the a'r2e,-
inent was hailed as a triumph in Hanoi and was entlniviastically (dis-
tributed by the DRV and the PPG. In contrast to P-esident "Nixons
port '"aval, Sot-'ry Kissinger's earlier referenu-,, to the Vi:.ic lnitel


States' need for a "decent interval" before reunification under Com-
munist authority was a much fairer description of the 1973 settlement.
But it was a valid assessment not only on the assumption that the
agreement would fail; it was also the most reasonable project if
the agreement, in all particulars, had been kept.

Continuous DRV and PRG support for the agreement from the
beginning was impressed upon me in Vietnam in January. But the
statements of Vietnamese officials only fleshed out the conclusions I
thought were apparent long before, on the basis of independent re-
ports. I argued strenuously in January of 1975 that the Thieu govern-
ment, not the DRV and PRG, had systematically violated and
thwarted the Paris Agreement, and that more arms aid to Thieu was
a way to sabotage the Paris Agreement, not sustain it.
In fact Mr. Thieu had repudiated the agreement at the outset. He
suppressed the text, ignored the political terms, and used political
propaganda to grossly misrepresent what he had signed. He prevented
establishment of the National Council of Reconciliation and. Concord,
and even outlawed the neutralists who were to have one-third of that
agency's power. He plainly recognized, as did his aspiring successors,
that the agreement entailed a considerable, and probably fatal, dimi-
nution of his power.
Of course the distasteful implications of the agreement did not alter
its terms or its binding effect on the United States and the Thieu re-
gime. So it was simply repudiated. The statement of Thieu's prime
minister, Tran Thien Khiem on August 1, 1973, is illustrative:
We will not let the Paris Agreement decide the fate of South Vietnam. Our
army is determined to decide the fate of South Vietnam. Today the world does
not rely on international law but on force.
Militarily, in actions which were passed off by such innocuous de-
scriptions as "jockeying for position," Saigon's forces went on the
offensive against PRG and North Vietnamese zones of control within
hours after the agreement was signed.
Admiral Thomas Moorer summarized the initial results in February
of 1974, stating that ARVN-
... have increased their control overall from 76 percent to 82 percent during
the past year. In other words President Thieu is consolidating his position, and
I think gaining more control ... the North Vietnamese... published a policy
indicating that they were going to concentrate on political action In an effort
to gain more territory, and not go forward with large-scale military activity.
They have openly published this track, and they have been following it.4
A Newsweek journalist who had been that magazine's Saigon bureau
chief published a careful analysis in January, 1975, in which he termed
Saigon the "more, guilty party" in the eventual breakdown of the
ceasefire. He saw three phases to Saigon's strategy: First, the period
from January to Dec-mtber, 1973, during which Saigon tried to elimli-
nai e smaller PRG zones of control and resettle refugees in contested
areas; second, the period from January to May, 1974, in which ARVN
took large-scale offensive operations under Thieu's instructions to "hit
4 "Depnrtment of Defense Appropriations for 1975," U.S. House of Representatives,
Department of Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, pt. I, p. 503.

them in their base areas"; and, finally, beginning in May, 1974, the
North Vietnamese decision to move militarily to regain lost land and
people and to undermine ARVN's military capability.5


As to the DRV and PRG, the author of this Foreign Affairs study
reported that "the Communists... were unprepared for-and stag-
gered by-the aggressiveness of the government's operation." The
article continued:
What is extraordinarily important in this military picture is, of course, the
degree of restraint shown by the North Vietnamese forces.
*** S S
... the North Vietnamese have chosen to stay inside the parameters of the
Paris peace agreements by generally not attempting to take land that was firmly
under the control of the South Vietnamese at the time of the ceasefire.
In my view this perceptive analysis fell down at a crucial point,
when the author attempted to divine the reasons for DRV and PRG
moderation. He cited potential problems in their aid relationship with
the Soviet Union and China, a possible politburo decision to postpone
the reunification goal for a time while rebuilding damage in the
North, and a faith in Hanoi that time was on their side because the
Saigon government would ultimately weaken from within. But all of
those answers incorporate to at least some extent an assumption that a
main Communist objective was an eventual military takeover of the
South. And each overlooks an answer which is both less complicated
and far more obvious: That the DRV and PRG position throughout
was to insist on compliance by all parties with all provisions, includ-
ing the vital political terms, of the Paris Agreement; that they con-
tinued to expect that the United States would pressure its ally in
Saigon to live up to the obligations imposed by the agreement; and
that when they finally did respond in 1974, their action was initially
most consistent with a desire not to abandon the agreement but to
insist upon compliance.
Such an interpretation carries with it the disquieting realization
that the United States still had the capability in 1973 and 1974 to
avoid the ultimate military defeat of the Saigon government, by
using aid leveicire or limitations on Thieu. merely to uphold the same
agreement which was called "peace with honor" when it was signed.
Of course such leverage was not employed.6

6 Maynard Parker, "Vietnam: The War That Won't End," Foreign Affairs, January
For a scholarly and compelling analysis of the Paris Ak.,',;iIrit and subsequent events
based on the issues that were at stake throughout the war, see D). Gareth Porter, "A
Peace Denied: The United States, Vietnam, and the Paris Agreement," Itnii.ii:i Uni-
versity Press, 1975. Porter marshall convirniing evident and argui,.*ntation for his
conclusion that the Nixon Adinistratlon. not the Thlieu government, blocked the Oc)tober
1972, signing of the nazreenint and thit the Adniinistration never intended that the
agreement would be implemented. Rather, he contends, the Paris settlement wa:is d'-i-n.I
primarily as a ch.mnge of tactics, within the Nixon Dictrine, to continue the wr.,-, ,.iion 4of
the war with Vietnamese ground troops, massive American military aid. iil unrestricted
American support from the air. Accrdi':g to Porter, the scheme was finally laid to rest
by the Wat(rt;ifte revelntiins and lbv Cungresional pr, hibitions a,;aluast a continlned U.S.
air war in Vietnami. He concludes thliat-
"The conflict ended in ciiiplite ,,litary victory for the PRG ratlir than in a ne-.,tiat',l
solution, because the Unilted sirtates to adjust its policy to the new baln i,,.1' forces
rellie.tinu tihe t':ict that the Uni,,il States ,l'arly would not al:';iin intervene wih i air jowe'r
in Vietnam. Kissinver anil Nixon ref,,-.d t, uqe their powr to force a political .:,ic nge
because they found it more c.,inoatilile with both ,lonetzIc political ni',ild :iTiil I'r,'ii'n
policy obje'eties to lose militarily while p laying the '.;iild ally' than to actively -l. ; a
political solution to bring an end to the war."


Even the events of the spring of 1975, leading to the final collapse of
Saigon can be squared with a DRV-PRG effort to enforce, rather than
bypass, the Paris accord. Their offensive was accompanied by offers to
negotiate toward a political result. There is substantial evidence that
they did not expect their attacks to end in a military takeover of Saigon
but that their primary motive was to exert a pressure for a change of
government in the South-to replace President Thieu with a leadership
that would be willing to abide by the Paris Agreement. The decisive
factor in the outcome was not the weight and breadth of the offensive
but the wholesale disintegration of Thieu's forces, especially around
key cities on the central coast. The abandonment of territory developed
its own momentum. Pursuing forces reportedly had a difficult time
keeping up with the retreat, often arriving in villages and cities as
much as a day or two after the defenders had left.
By that time it is, of course, understandable that in light of Thieu's
intransigence and unwavering U.S. support, DRV and PRG strategists
had given up any hope that the agreement could be implemented with
Thieu still in power in Saigon.
And the implication came through strongly during my January
discussions in Hanoi and Saigon that the "liberation" of South Viet-
nam was itself regarded as being carried out in the context of the
agreement. In the conversation quoted above (pp. 14-15) PRG Foreign
Minister Binh implied that it was the replacement of the Thieu gov-
ernment which had forced the United States to respect the "independ-
ence, sovereignty, unity, and territorial integrity of Vietnam" as
provided in the agreement. She stressed the forthcoming national elec-
tions, thwarted under Thieu, as fulfillment of the agreement's guar-
antee of self-determination.
In a more detailed conversation regarding the Paris Agreement,
Xuan Thuy told me that after the agreement was signed-
The White House continued to give more and more aid to the Thieu regime,
and the war went on. Thieu's troops made operations into PRG controlled areas.
We urged the American side to correctly implement the Paris Agreement. We
really wanted to have the agreement implemented, because it was we who first
offered the agreement. And we believed that if it were implemented correctly
it would be beneficial to both Vietnam and the United States and to the cause of
peace in the world. However, our appeal brought no results.
Finally we had to reassess the situation. We concluded that the United States
was not faithful to its signature and that it just wanted to deceive us. They just
wanted to withdraw the American troops and bring home the POWs, but not
to implement the other provisions.
It was our opinion that Mr. Nixon continued his policy in Vietnam on the
bnsis of the Nixon doctrine. And that led to a general offensive and to uprisings
of the people and army of Vietnam in the spring of 1975.
' Even just before the launching of the general offensive, we still thought it
would be better if the agreement could be implemented. But what the United
States had done showed clearly that even at the last moment the United States
would not implement it.
I asked Xuan Thuy if there were parts of the agreement they would
consider to be no longer binding; for example, did they anticipate
having international supervision of elections as provided in the
He responded that:
. Tho4e lprovisions no longer conform with the realities of South Vietnam
and Vietnam in general. We consider those provisions which are still in con-
forinity with reality. For example, Article 1 of the Paris Agreement,.. will exist


forever. Article 21, the United States still has an obligation to do that. When the
U.S. wanted us to implement Article 8(b), we have tried to realize that. But the
general election is now a totally internal affair.
Similarly, when I asked about the National Council of Reconcilia-
tion and Concord, Mr. Thuy replied that it had not been formed
. the situation in South Vietnam after liberation was quite different. It
changZed. If the United States government and Thieu had agreed to implement
the first agreement seriously, then there would have been formation of that
He cited the agreement again in referring to current plans for re-
unification. Those goals "conform with the realities of Vietnam and
conform with the guarantee of the agreement signed."
I was also told that at least within the spirit of the agreement, Third
Force members were included in the South Vietnamese delegation to
the joint meetings on reunification. News accounts had earlier con-
firmed that "at least seven known Third Force personalities" were on
the delegation, and also that there was a representative of South
Vietnam's Khmer community.7
Against the background of events in 1973 and 1974, I found these
descriptions of DRV and PRG support for the agreement to be con-
vincing, and far more credible than the more Byzantine speculation
we heard before. This interpretation does, of course, establish a strong
logical and historical framework for the present Vietnamese con-
tention that the Paris Agreement remains in effect. It is not a conten-
tion which can be casually dismissed.
Nor should it be. At a minimum, if we attach even the slightest im-
portance to the nature of our future relationship with Vietnam, or to
the humanitarian issues still pending, then at the very least we must
understand the basis for the current posture of the Vietnamese.

In the course of a general description of events immediately preced-
ing and immediately following the Paris Agreement, Xuan Thuy re-
vealed that there was also an agreement on a specific level of American
The October. 1972, draft agreement, he said, was cabled by Secretary
Kissinger to President Nixon. According to Thuy, Mr. Nixon
"answered that he would agree, and he made an appointment in
October that it would be signed."
Later he asked for the signing to be postponed for a later time, and he de-
manded that some agreed upon provisions be changed. We told thomi that they
could modify details but they could not, it was impossible, to modify the
In an earlier dinner conversation Xuan Thuy said Secretary
Kissingier had made a "definite commitment" to sinii the :.lrvemoent bv
tlie end of October, but that he "swallowed his promise. Thuv sa id tllhe
Secretary had been asked directly if he could spllak for Sniffon in
making that commitment, and he quoted the rcspoiine as "I would not
be here if I couldn't."
7NNyan Chandai. "Two Paths for a 'United' Vietiinain," Far Eaisterni IEconmic Irvlew,
Nor. 28S, 1975, p. 18.


When President Nixon requested a postponement in the signing,
Xuan Thuy said they received word from "confidential sources" that
the United States was, in fact, backing out on its commitment to the
agreement. That, he said, is why the DRV made its public annomunce-
ment that an agreement had been reached and that it was to be signed
by the end of October-so the public "would know an agreement was
made, and that it was not we who were blocking it."
When the negotiations broke up it was the North Vietnamese under-
standing, according to Xuan Thuy, that the teams were reporting to
their respective governments. Thuy was still in Paris meeting with
Ambassador Bruce when the December, 1972, bombing began. Le Diic
Tho had arrived in Hanoi barely two hours before.
During the Christmas bombing, Xuan Thuy said the White House
sent word that they wanted to meet again. But he recalled that "our
government said that we would only meet again under the condition
that the United States must stop the bombing." The bombing stopped
and the agreement was signed on January 27.
On the question of aid, Thuy said the first agreement included a
commitment on the part of the United States to "participate in the
healing of the war wounds and the reconstruction of Vietnam." Then,
at the time of the January agreement, Thuy said Mr. Nixon sent a
In his letter to Premier Pham Van Dong, Nixon said the United States would
participate in the healing of the war wounds in postwar Vietnam and would give
$3.25 billion in economic aid. He also proposed the establishment of a special
economic commission. We agreed.
However, after discussions in Paris, there was no result. We concluded that
the American side just promised reparations but in fact they didn't want to
implement the promise.
Information on this specific aid agreement had also been supplied by
Deputy DRV Foreign Minister Phan Hien to the members of the
House Select Committee on Missing Persons in Southeast Asia during
their December visit to Hanoi. The Nixon message, dated FebruaryT 1,
1973, was described as stating that the U.S. would contribute to the
reconstruction of North Vietnam "without any political conditions,"
that the U.S. contribution would be $3.25 billion over a five-year
period, with other forms of aid to be agreed upon by the two sides,
that details were to be reviewed by the two governments, and that a
Joint Economic Commission would be formed to complete negotia-
tions on the details of an aid agreement. Pham Van Dong responded
immediately with a message confirming all the points in thep Nixon
The Joint Economic Commission described in this exchange began
mpeting in Paris on March 15, 1973, and, according to information
supplied to the House Select Committee, it did prepare a draft
.. the Commission had actually reached agreement on the total amount of
grnnt aid to be provided . the percentage to be spent in the United States
(85 percent) and in third countries (15 percent), the list of commodities to be
pur-based over the entire five years, and the commodities to be purchased dur-
ing the first year.
. the United States was expected to play a central role In the reconstruc-
tion of North Vietnam, with the emphasis on industrial plants and commodi-
ties, infrastructure, and energy. The five-year plan provides for plants for pre-

fabricated housing, plumbing fixtures, sanitary porcelain ware, cement, sheet
glass, chipboard, synthetic paint, and a steel mill with an annual output of one
million tons. The contribution to energy development included a thermal power
station with a capacity of 1,200 megawatts, a high tension electrical equipment
plant with an annual output of 3,000 tons, and 20,000 metric tons of high tension
copper cable. In addition, the agreement included a provision of a vast array of
equipment for port reconstruction and water, road, and rail transport, and for
The Commission, including three delegates from each side, met until
President Nixon suspended U.S. implementation of the Paris Agree-
ment in April. It met again in June and July. But on July 23, when
the detailed aid agreement was scheduled to be signed, the United
States instead broke off all talks indefinitely.
The existence of the letter from President Nixon to Pham Van
Dong-and its existence has been confirmed by State Department
spoke- men in recent weeks-creates serious circumstantial doubts
about the Administration's assertions at the time that they had agreed
to no specific aid program in the context of the Paris Agreement. Be-
lieving that in retrospect requires acceptance of one of two highly un-
likely events: Either that President Nixon set the $3.25 billion figure
on his own and voluntarily forwarded the letter, or else that somehow
the two sides worked feverishly between January 27 and February 1
to agree upon the specific amount and the terms that were included in
the Nixon message. More likely the Nixon memorandum itself was the
product of earlier hard bargaining and an undisclosed understanding
reached before the Paris Agreement was signed. That, too, has been
confirmed privately by knowledgeable sources in the Administration.
In turn, the Nixon memorandum and the negotiating context de-
scribed by Xuan Thuy both undercut the Administration's claim-
which was wobbly enough at the time-that the Christmas bombing
produced major negotiating results for the United States. As Xuan
Thuy described it, the bombing halt was not a magnanimous gesture
on the part of the United States, but a North Vietnamese precondi-
tion to resuming the discussions. The bombing could not have long
continued anyway, because, at the same loss rates, the entire fleet of
B-532 bombers assigned to Southeast. Azia would have been lost in
about 90 days time. Then, as a consequence of the added damage in-
flicted upon North Vietnam, the Administration had to agree to a re-
construction aid figure much higher than anyone had supposed (no
specific aid figure was ever formally requested of the Congress, but
the sum discussed in widespread news accounts was $2.5 billion for
North Vietnam).
Further, the details of the aid discussions carried out pursuant to
the Nixon letter, and the existence of an actual draft aid agreement,
shed new light on the question of who was responsible for the even-
tual collapse of the ceasefire. Up until July 23, 1973, the Vietnamese
had every reason to believe that the Admiinistration planned to pro-
vide reconstruction aid. That was another strong incentiv-e for them
to maintain a purely defensive military posture. But on July 23, the
Nixon Administration broke off the aid talks, and seemed to bo add-
ing a new condition-a requirement that the Vietnamese somehow ar-
range a ceasefire in Cambodia-to the terms of the Paris Agreement.
s Staff Memorandum to House ,elect Committee on Missing Persons, Jan. 10. 1976.

This was also a deviation from the Nixon letter, which promised the
aid "without any political conditions." By the most knowledgeable
accounts, it was only then-when the Nixon Administration, as well
as the Thieu government, had demonstrated bad faith-that the Viet-
namese Communists began to prepare for a more aggressive military
response to ARVN incursions.9
I did not receive the impression in Hanoi that the disclosures on the
Nixon letter and the draft aid agreement were made to reflect the cur-
rent. North Vietnamese position on the amount of aid they would ex-
pect from the United States if the United States were to accept its
obligations under Article 21. That provision of the Paris Agreement
came up repeatedly in my meetings with both DRV and PRG officials,
yet the Nixon message was not mentioned by anyone other than Xuan
Thuy. Moreover, it was then raised not in connection with our discus-
sions of Article 21, but in the context of a description of the negotiat-
ing process in late 1972 and early 1973.
To be sure, the extent of the destruction to North Vietnam was
brought home forcefully. I was told that up until July, 1972, the ma-
terial loss amounted to more than $6 billion, exclusive of the Christ-
,mas bombing. We saw the Bach Mai hospital which we were told had
been bombed three times-June 27, December 19, and December 22-
in 1972. On the latter occasion, we were told, more than 100 bombs
struck, and 28 medical personnel were killed. The hospital has been
rebuilt since the war. but slides were used to demonstrate its earlier
condition. Our guides told us aid for rebuilding the hospital had come
from China, and that $1 million in private American contributions
h!ad been sent through Medical Aid for Indochina. We also saw sec-
tions of dike four kilometers from Hanoi which had been bombed
and rebuilt. The earliest attacks on the dikes were in August of 1966,
we were told, and then again in 1967, in 1968, and during the Christ-
nuis bombing in 1972.
The d(likes are obviously crucial not only in North Vietnamese agri-
culture but to prevent flooding of populated areas. We crossed the
two-kilometer bridge which handles motor, rail, bicycle, and foot
traffic across the Red River separating Hanoi from Gia Lam airport.
It had been destroyed three times during the war. We stopped in a
residential area, the Kham Thien District near the center of Hanoi,
which was described as the site of the most severe human losses in
the Christmas bombing-270 people killed on the night of December
26,1972. We were told that thousands of unexploded bombs still exist
in the rural areas of North Vietnam, and that they still cause oc-
casional fatalities. Premier Pham Van Dong described massive dam-
age to factories, communications and transportation networks, schools,
housing, and hospitals. Xuan Thuy said that if we had been there
in early 1973, we would have seen that all railroads and roads had
bjoen damaged and that all major bridges had been destroyed. He
reported that much has been restored, but not the railroads. New
s.hlool construction permits study in two shifts a day now, iniistead
of three.
9,.o "Th'ilnnd. Lnos, Cambhordlin, and Viptnnm: April 197.1." Staff Report. United
States S~en'itp ('iimiiiit(i.o on I.'rvein Rilantlons, Junp 11, 1973, for a description of the
DI:V/PIfG iiilitnary strategy until that time.


Notwithstanding these descriptions, I came away with the im-
pression that the North Vietnamese remain flexible on the size and
nature of any potential American aid program. Premier Pham Van
Dong put it in terms of the American people having "some part" in
rebuilding the country. He did not mention the Nixon memorandum
or the 1973 proceedings of the Joint Economic Commission: instead
he said that "The exact sum is not mentioned in the Paris Agreement.
but it is a matter of honor, responsibility and conscience."


The political reunification of Vietnam is moving ahead under the
terms of an announcement of November 9, 1975. Delegations of 2.5)
members each from the North and South met in Saigon November 15
through November 21, 1975, to establish more concrete plans for
reunification. They agreed that sometime within the first six month-
of 1976 nationwide elections would be held for establishment of a
single National Assembly. That Assembly will. in turn. adopt the
program for the complete political and economic integration of North
and South. They hoped to hold the election on April 30-the "libera-
tion" anniversary-but, PRG leaders cited possible problems in meet-
ing the. deadline. A census is underway to arrive at current population
figures, and the thorny problem of apportioning delegates within the
South must also be addressed, within the context of plans to encourage
relocation in the countryside of as many as possible of the people
who were brought to Sairon and other cities duirino" the war.
The elections will certainly lead to completion of the formal :';unifi-
cation of Vietnam for international purposes. There will be a ,nc'le
(a"pital (prnbaolal v Hanoi. although embassies in Sai on-incl.djir
the American embassy-have not been converted to alternative pur-
poses. presumably on the grounds that they may be needed perhaps
as consulates, by their governments again one day). There will li,
a single national administrative structure, and a single foreign policy
But. the long division of Vietnam. going back formally to 1954.
has left enormous cultural and economic difference". between the
North and the South. and they will not be fully reconciled s, n. The
distinctions were readily apparent even on a short visit to the two
principle urban centers of Vietn am. Hanoi with few autominbile-
and countless bicycles, is a relatively quiet, clean. a:nd a austere city:
Sna'.on is still a swarm with Hondas and cars. anil the atmn-,phre on
busy streets seems to be composed of as much ca'bon monooxide as air.
HIanoi lhas relatively few stores, and most stock basic coiiiioditi-.:
Sairon's main thorough fares are j:i-inied with -liop Zs. ph'arts. and
peddlers selling everything from finely m:,.de lacquer piece, to clheaap
trinket;, from Ameri'n cigarettes and -,la to 1ottle, of gasoline.
In Hanoi the street'- are filled with people, but thev all ..,'., to I o,
their way someplace or doing s, oething : in SiiLron 1 :11v P(.1,11'
appeared to be simply standing around (unen-plovm'nt ". to, Suith


is officially set at 2.5 million). Hanoi seems traditional and dignified;
Saigon is a mixture of East and West, and still has a gaudy, carnival
The cultural difference was exemplified by the musical entertain-
ment to which we were treated: In Hanoi we heard a mixed program
performed by conservatory students-European violin, piano and
cello, classical pieces by Chopin, Brahms, Lizst, and Shostokovich,
and traditional Vietnamese pieces played on sixteen-string and one-
string guitars. In Saigon we heard a band which had performed at
the Caravelle and Majestic hotels during the Thieu era. They per-
formed post-Liberation patriotic songs in swing and rock style, on
elect ric guitars, saxophones, horns, drums, clarinets, and violins.
Obviously there has not been an abrupt transformation of Saigon.
Compared to my last visit there in 1971, the main visual differences
I could detect were the absence of Americans and their partial replace-
ment by North and South Vietnamese troops, the presence of posters
and billboards with revolutionary slogans, and the omnipresent
pictures of Ho Chi Minh-including a very large painting above
the entrance to Independence Palace.
Nor, we were told, will there be a rapid transition. Currency has
been exchanged from piastres to dong, but a substantial amount of
wealth remains min private hands. Many major enterprises are still
privately run. Madame Binh told us there are five segments to the
economy: The portion that is privately owned, parts run by coopera-
tives, production through a mixture of State and private ownership,
collective economic centers, and the state economy. She said those five
sections "will exist here for some time." Others spoke of a twenty-year
PRG officials emphasized two major public priorities. One is to
repopulate rural areas, and President Phat conceded that, "It is not a
simple task. People want to stay in the city." Apparently some people
who had been relocated from Saigon simply came back. Now the
problem is being approached on a more deliberate basis, beginning
with the construction of new housing in villages and the reclamation
of farmland. A total of 500,000 people have been successfully re-
located thus far. As one result, Phat said South Vietnam is now self-
sufficient in rice production. They hope to begin exporting rice again
next year, reasserting the rice-surplus status they held before 1965.
Other major government objectives are to deal with drug traffick-
ing, to rehabilitate drug addicts, and to end prostitution. The philoso-
phy behind the approach in these areas is heralded in the names of the
treatment centers-centers for the rehabilitation of the "dignity of
young men" or the "dignity of women." Treatment of addicts in-
volves education, acupuncture, herbs, exercise, and fellowship, espe-
ciallv through music.
Aside from these most urgent tasks, the timetable for any signifi-
cant reconstitution of Saigon will likely be set by at least three inter-
dependent imponderables-the rate at which the vast quantity of
consumer items left over is either used up or worn out, the pace and
ultimate extent of relocation. and the rate at which the population
can 1)bo motivated toward revolutionary objectives. Though western
multi party democracy is out of place, officials in Saigon did appear

to be sensitive to the political and economic habits acquired during
the western presence in South Vietnam and to the dangers of attempt-
ing to change things too quickly. This is, of course, in line with the
premises long enunciated in North Vietnam, principally by Lao Dong
(Vietnam Workers) Party First Secretary Le Duan, that revolution
is an evolutionary process. When I asked Madame Binh whether she
foresaw a degree of independence for the South even after political
reunification, she replied:
I don't know exactly your meaning of "independence." Within the framework
of a unified North and South, there will be an understanding that certain deci-
sions about the nature of the economy and the government will be left to each
zone, so that they can proceed under policies that are best adapted to the local
conditions of the two zones.
From an American perspective any discussion of Vietnam's post-
war internal condition is, of course, incomplete without some account-
ing for wartime predictions that there would be a monstrous
"bloodbath" in the South if the PRG were ever to take control. Along
with the return of our prisoners of war, the avoidance of a bloodbath
did become, after all, the most frequently proclaimed rationale for
continuing the war long after most Americans had come to oppose it.
I obviously cannot document the seeming absence of widespread
reprisals or executions in South Vietnam. I cannot declare on the basis
of personal observation that these things did not occur. But I do have
some strong impressions on the subject. And they are based as much
on what I saw in Saigon, and on what I heard in discussions on seem-
ingly unrelated subjects, as on what was said in response to my spe-
cific "bloodbath" inquiries. These factors, together with a certain
amount of common sense, strongly support a conclusion that the
bloodbath theory was one of the great false alarms of all time.
As a practical matter, systematic reprisals would have required an
enormous administrative apparatus simply to locate and identify the
proper victims. If the Provisional Revolutionary Government li-z such
a capability, they certainly keep it well concealed. We were told. and
it seems quite plausible, that most of the administrative positions in
the government are still held by the same people who held them under
President Thieu. The PRG does hold what political power there is in
Saigon. But we saw no indication that they-or anyone-actually
controls or runs the city. For example, an inquiry on the source of
the gasoline we saw being sold by street vendors brought the admis-
sion, "We have no idea." We covered a great deal of Saigon by car,
and we walked through the market area on foot. There were sound
trucks broadcasting political messages. but there were no visible trap-
pings of an authoritarian State. We saw few policemen, and they were
not visibly armed. We saw few military uniforms in the central city.
Further, regardless of what their inclinations might be, the PRG
has a political need to be tolerant of past events. In Saigon, at last,
it is quite certain that they were in a minority when they arrived
last April, notwithstanding the evacuation of many of Thieu's closest
supporters. Possibly some urban dwellers were sympathetic, but most
were likely apolitical at be]t. The final U.S. withdrawal ind the


evacuation could only aggravate the economic plight of the hundreds
of thousands remaining who had grown accustomed to living com-
paratively well, off the fat of the American war presence and heavy
economic aid. Under those circumstances, any attempt at a bloodbath
would have outraged relatives and friends of the victims and would
have isolated the PRG from the population whose support it needs
to eons>lidate control and run the country.
PRG officials surely understand these realities. They understood
very well the causes of the weakness of the Thieu regime, upon which
they capitalized. They are not likely to repeat his mistakes and im-
pose a narrowly-based regime ruling solely by force. On the contrary,
as su-,,ested in my earlier references to their forecasts on economic
evolution, the entire thrust of the new government is to move steadily
but gradually, with due regard for public acceptance, to reshape their
sociotv. And leaders who had no qualms about a bloodbath would
certainly not tell visitors that relocation is a hard task because people
"want to stay in the city." An iron-fisted regime would simply make
people leave-as many of them were made to come to the cities in
the first place.
What do PRG officials themselves say on the subject of the blood-
bath? One guide scoffed at the idea:
If we executed the soldiers, every family would be affected. They were
drafted to fight the war. It was not their fault. Only a very few people have
been executed-former soldiers of the Thieu army who were bandits, saboteurs.
We have to make an example when we catch them red-banded.
We were told that there is a serious crime problem in Saigon. Part
of the reason is that they had no way of telling political prisoners
from common criminals, so all were released. There is also a death
penalty for major crimes, including treason against the new govern-
mnent. But tihe penalties apply to crimes committed since the PRG
assuned power, not to crimes committed before. Madame Binh de-
scribed their approach to those who had fought on behalf of the
Thieu government:
There were more than one million soldiers. For the rank and file soldiers, you
cnuld explain policy to them, and they are seen living with their families. For
the high ranking officers, they need some time to learn and to study because
they lhad greater responsibility during the war.
I asked if they had executed any of Thieu's top people.
Very few. A few were brought to the tribunals because they are the law
offenders. The robbers, the killers, the criminals. We executed a-few. Our policy
is very clear on this point. For those who committed crimes in the past but who
are now living normally as the other people, abiding by the law, we let them
live as other people, without discrimination. But those who are continuing their
activities against the people, against the law, we have to deal with them.
AMost. Aimericans would probably find a policy of forced re-education
offensive. We would reg ard their criminal penalties as very harsh.
1But we would hardly :call these practices a "blood1batli"-especially
not in co'niparison to the bloodbath that went on for so many years on
the thesis that. a bloo(l)ath would happen if it stopped.

Thie Tnited States will, of vo'irse, have little to say about the in-
tein:il dir.* ions, of Vielnami. We are far more conce-red about how

the reunited countivy will behave in international affairs, and particu-
larlk about how U.S.-Vietnam relations may develop.
The watchwords of the Vietnamep-. foreign policy declared to us
come directly from Article 14 of the Paris Agreement
South Vietnam will pursue a foreign policy of peace and independence. It will
be prepared to establish relations with all countries irrespective of their political
and social systems on the basis of mutual respect for independence and
sovereignty and accept economic and technical aid from any country with no
political conditions attached.
Similar sentiments were stated over and over again by officials in
both Hanoi and Saigon.
Mvy most extensive discussions on foreign policy issues were with
Premier Phalm Van D)ong. I asked him about relations with the Soviet
Union and with the Peoples Republic of China, and he refused to
comment on their differences:
We firmly maintain our line of independence and sovereignty. That line
requires that we have good relations with those two countries and those two
Vietnam is receiving aid from both the Soviet Union and China.
Conversations did tend to confirm the thrust of pr"ss accounts sug-
gesting that Soviet aid is more extensive and more closely integrated
into the five-year plan to be completed in 1980.10 But we heard no
hints of the traditional animosity toward China. When I asked
whether he thought we were prudent to continue pursuing detente,
Pham Van Dong brushed the question aside with the comment, "We
do not intervene in your internal affairs . We have enough to do
Cuba has also provided aid, in the form of an attractive tourist
hotel, the Thang Loi ("Victory"), on the shore of one of Hanoi's five
lakes. It was designed in Cuba and constructed by 500 Cuban workers,
who completed the project in September of 1975.
Vietnamnese trade is most extensive with other socialist countries-
bicycles, while manufactured in both Hanoi and Saigon, are also
imported from China, Czechoslovakia, and East Germany. Petroleum
comes from the Soviet Union, Algeria, and other Arab states.
At the same time there is a keen interest in moving toward good
relations with the United States. I think it is based on something more
than their desire for reconstruction aid.
I was frankly surprised at the lack of rancor, on the part of both
public officials and the populous. I asked Xuan Oanh about the lack
of voluntary (ldi-ussion of the incredible human losses experienced by
the Vietnamese during the war. Hie replied, sadly, that "you could
scarcely find a single family in the North or in the South that did
not have one or two members killed in the war." But, like his asso-
ciates, Mr. Oanh then emphasized that the Vietnamese do not blame
time American people for those lo-ses. They see it as the work of mis-
guided leaders-first the French, then the Americans. The extensive
physical damage, they say, is the result of "Nixonis bombliI.
This was 1,orne out in walks on the A'I mt. In 1aoi, -.1 c iallv.
people seemed genuinely intel-:ted and friendly. (In the SouSth tlie
most conmoln reaction to our lpn':-ence w(as obviolus iIcr'-edulity.)
Childhhren. all of whom study English in school, as well as Rla:ia alnd
10"Moscow E\p:ind.; Aid to Vietzninir.,,," The N.w York Tim,-. Feb. 1. 1976.


French, tried out their vocabularies, shouting "hello" from across the
Both Xuan Thuy and Pham Van Dong brought to mind a long-
standing Vietnamese admiration for American traditions. The
Premier noted that I had come to Vietnam in the year of the 200th
anniversary of the U.S. Declaration of Independence-a document
which Ho Chi Minh leaned on extensively in drafting a similar
declaration for Vietnam three decades ago. (I recalled that he had
changed one of the self-evident truths to hold that all "people," not
all "men," are created equal.) When I suggested to Pham Van Dong
that I hoped he could reciprocate my visit and come to the United
States, he said he was "waiting for something that will bring such
good fortune."
In the same positive vein, Xuan Oanh observed "We once stood
with the Americans." He recalled that--
Thirty years ago to the day before the last American left Saigon in 1975,
American officers parachuted into the Vietnamese jungle for a meeting with
Ho Chi Minh and General Giap, to plan a common strategy against the Japanese.
On the question of normal diplomatic relations, Pham Van Dong
said simply, "We are ready." The common U.S. interpretation has
been that the Vietnamniese will insist upon implementation of Article 21
as a precondition to normalization. Pham Van Dong did say that the
problem of reconstruction aid must be solved, but he said, "I do not
think that the raising of that problem will cause difficulty in terms of
normal relations." He continued:
While we are broadening our relations with other countries in the world, we
want to have that similar relationship with the United States. Why should we
not have relations with such an important country as the United States?
We also discussed trade possibilities. When I asked what com-
modities they might want to import, Pham Van Dong said there were
innumerable things and that the only question was what the Viet-
namese would have to pay. I asked whether they would welcome the
cooperation of U.S. oil companies in developing oil resources, and he
responded, "Of course. Why not?" This is one of the things he said
should be discussed at an official level.
In summary, it appears to me that no country should expect its
diplomatic, trade, or aid relationships to produce any significant in-
fluence over Vietnamn. either in internal or external affairs. After
struggling and suffering so long for peace and independence, they are
determined not to lose either.
At the same time, and in the same spirit that moves them to heal
the internal divisions which had them at war with each other barely
10 months ago, they are more than ready to lay their battle with
outsiders to rest, and to approach the future on the basis of mutual
interest and mutual respect.


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