• U.S.

The Nation: The Talks: A Viet Cong View

4 minute read
William Rademaekers and Murray J. Gart

AS the showdown negotiations between the U.S. and the North Vietnamese resumed last week, TIME Chief of Correspondents Murray Gart and European Correspondent William Rademaekers were ushered into the suburban Paris headquarters of Mme. Nguyen Thi Binh, the intense, austerely handsome head of the Viet Cong delegation to the peace talks and Foreign Minister of the Provisional Revolutionary Government. Speaking slowly and deliberately, Madame Binh, 45, set out her authoritative views of the approaching peace settlement in a rare and lengthy 90-minute interview. Among her most interesting comments:

WHY A SETTLEMENT NOW. Eighteen years have passed since the Geneva agreements [of 1954] should have ensured peace. In those 18 years the Americans have tried various strategies. The latest of these—Vietnamization—met with heavy setbacks. We want peace and independence in South Viet Nam, but if the Americans continue their plans for war, we are also prepared to continue.

THE DELAY IN THE NEGOTIATIONS. We made great efforts to reach peace negotiations, and are indignant at the unjustified attitude of the U.S. in refusing to sign the agreement at the [Oct. 31] date agreed upon. Our position remains that the agreement is fair and applicable and opens a new page in the relations between the U.S. and ourselves. There is no reason for delay. The reasons put forward by the U.S. are artificial and unacceptable. Kissinger and others give reasons such as “the difficulties in Saigon with Thieu.” But the U.S. is trying to delay the signing of the agreement to intensify deliveries of weapons to strengthen the government of Saigon and continue the policy of Vietnamization. It has not given up the erroneous policy that led to the present state of things.

TROOP WITHDRAWAL ISSUE. We reject this allegation [that there are some 100,000 to 145,000 North Vietnamese troops in the South]. This story has been, and continues to be, a pretext for the U.S. to commit aggression in South Viet Nam. We receive wholehearted support from North Viet Nam as from other countries, but the people’s liberation forces in the South are under the Provisional Revolutionary Government. To demand the departure of these forces is to demand the elimination of the P.R.G. This is totally unacceptable. This is an issue between the P.R.G. and the Saigon government, and discussions on the reductions and demobilization of armed forces should take place in the postwar period.

SUPERVISING THE CEASEFIRE. What is important about a cease-fire commission is not how it will function but what the attitude of the U.S. will be. What does the Nixon Administration want now? Does it want to impose a regime on South Viet Nam or does it want to accept the facts? It is clear that the agreement reached will open the way for a democratic process to enable South Viet Nam to proceed on its own road of independence and self-determination. As we have already said and continue to say, we do not want to impose a Communist regime on South Viet Nam.

RELATIONS WITH THE THIEU GOVERNMENT. If the U.S. respects the agreement after it has been signed, the Vietnamese people will be able to discuss with each other and solve internal problems together. Not only the people of South Viet Nam but also the majority of members of the Saigon administration and the army favor peace and national concord. By accepting the administrative Council of National Concord [which will organize elections during the transitional period following a cease-fire], the P.R.G. accepts that Thieu’s government will represent some portion. To be more correct, we recognize the realities in South Viet Nam, and among these realities is the fact that there exist two administrations, two armies and other political forces.

SETTLING THE POLITICAL ISSUES. Our desire is to see an early establishment of a definite government to represent the two administrations. Therefore, we hope that there will be general elections within six months. That would be reasonable. The agreement calls for the two parties to settle their internal problems within three months. We will do our utmost to see that this is achieved, but the U.S. and Saigon have their share of responsibility.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com