The chief Vietnamese negotiator at the Paris peace talks that led to the end of the Vietnam War lashed out at his American counterpart Wednesday, saying that Henry A. Kissinger had lied about alleged North Vietnamese violations of the 1973 peace treaty and had tried to evade responsibility for the breakdown of the pact.
Le Duc Tho, now a member of Vietnam’s Communist Party Politburo, launched a 15-minute tirade against Kissinger, U.S. national security adviser and secretary of state under Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford.
The 74-year-old Tho, speaking at a news conference through a translator, said that at the conclusion of the Paris talks, he implored Kissinger to “please don’t distort the truth” about the negotiations when he wrote his memoirs. However, Tho continued, he understood “that if he did not distort the truth, he would not be Mr. Kissinger.”
Tho and Kissinger were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 for negotiating the treaty, which enabled the United States to end its military involvement in Vietnam but did not bring peace to the then-divided nation. Kissinger accepted his prize; Tho declined.
On April 30, 1975, little more than two years after the treaty was signed, North Vietnamese troops swarmed into this city, then called Saigon, and toppled the South Vietnamese regime.
Tho complained of “misrepresentations” by Kissinger both during and since the Paris peace talks. Specifically, he criticized Kissinger for accusing Hanoi of violating the treaty in its military drive on Saigon.
“I want to let the truth answer for itself,” Tho said.
He blamed the South Vietnamese government for treaty violations and for keeping the hostilities alive by harassing cease-fire monitoring teams in an effort to eliminate the rebels’ “liberated zones,” which were permitted under the pact.
Little Chance of Ties
Tho said Kissinger displayed his “resentment against Vietnam” in a recent series of articles and that the former secretary of state “blames others for the loss of the south but does not accept any of the blame himself.”
In response to questions, Tho said he sees little chance of establishing diplomatic links with the United States any time soon because Washington is not as interested as Vietnam is in normalization.
“I can see no signs, no indications of any possibility to normalize in the immediate future because normalization is a two-way process,” he said.
Other Vietnamese leaders in recent months have been stressing their hopes for better U.S.-Vietnam ties. Western diplomats in Hanoi say the Communist government sees a “U.S. card” as a way to ease Vietnam away from over-dependence on the Soviet Union, as well as to end a virtual embargo of Western aid.
However, the government has not been willing to meet two U.S. conditions for normalization talks: the end of Vietnam’s six-year-old military occupation of neighboring Cambodia, and more cooperation by Hanoi in the search for remains of American servicemen missing in action in Indochina.
Tho denied charges that Vietnam is dangling the prospect of better cooperation in the MIA search as bait to lure Washington into normalization. However, he appeared to contradict his country’s own foreign minister, Nguyen Co Thach, who last month said that diplomatic ties with the United States are a precondition for progress on the MIA question.