chapter  3
27 Pages

Fighting and negotiating

Henry Kissinger was anxious to resume his negotiations with Xuan Thuy after their last meeting on 27 September 1970. Towards the end of January 1971, he conveyed his intentions to the North Vietnamese via the usual procedure – first through the Soviet Ambassador to the US, Anatoly Dobrynin, who in turn passed on the verbal message to the Soviet Ambassador in Hanoi, Serbakov, who in turn relayed it to Pham Van Dong. In his verbal message, Kissinger undertook to withdraw all US forces from South Vietnam within a specified time limit without demanding a reciprocal withdrawal of North Vietnamese forces from South Vietnam. However, he insisted that Hanoi must observe a ceasefire during and for a limited period after the US withdrawal. Kissinger gave the assurance that the US would not interfere with whatever took place in Vietnam after that agreed period. Pham Van Dong’s response, which was conveyed through Ambassador

Serbakov on 3 February 1971, reached Kissinger on 23 February 1971. In his reply, Dong said that Kissinger’s proposal contained nothing that was new. However, he neither rejected Kissinger’s suggestion for another private meeting with either Xuan Thuy or Le Duc Tho nor suggested any date for the meeting. Dong’s non-committal response must be seen in the context of three developments that occurred round about the time Kissinger made his overture.