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Digital Archive International History Declassified

October 04, 1966

TRANSCRIPT OF DISCUSSIONS WITH REPRESENTATIVES OF THE CHINESE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC AND THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF THE SOVIET UNION AFTER THE VISIT OF THE ROMANIAN DELEGATION TO VIETNAM (BEIJING)

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    This document is the transcript of a discussion between Zhou Enlai and Ion Gheorghe Maurer, which included the topic of the continuing the North Vietnamese armed struggle while also entering into negotiations, the suggested unification of Socialist Bloc countries in their policies toward Vietnam, and Soviet military aid to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
    "Transcript of Discussions with Representatives of the Chinese People’s Republic and The Communist Party of the Soviet Union After the Visit of the Romanian Delegation to Vietnam (Beijing)," October 04, 1966, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, ANR, Fond CC al PCR, Secţia Relaţii Externe, Dosar 129/1966, file 1-21. Translated by Larry L. Watts https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/122583
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Transcript of Conversations of Ion Gheorghe Maurer and Paul Niculescu-Mizil with the Chinese P. R. leadership comrades on the occasion of the return from D.R. Vietnam

Beijing, October 4, 1966

On behalf of the Chinese P. R. the participating comrades were: Zhou Enlai, member of the Permanent Committee of the Political Bureau of the C. C. of the Chinese C. P., Premier of the Council of State; Chen Yi, member of the Permanent Committee of the Political Bureau of the C. C. of the Chinese C. P., Vice-Premier of the Council of State, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Zhao Yiming, candidate member of the C.C. of the Chinese C. P.; Qiao Guanhua, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, as well as Yu Chen, director in the Foreign Affairs Ministry of the Chinese P. R.

The discussions began at 1630 hrs.

Cde. Zhou Enlai: Have you rested?

Cde. I. Gh. Maurer: Yes, because the last nights were rather short. I think that we can begin the discussions; as the guests always have the first words, I’ll start.

We are very happy for the possibility of having this conversation with you, in the course of which we would like to relate the discussions with the Vietnamese comrades and, to some degree, the conclusions that we have drawn from these discussions.

As you know, during the last period we have had a series of contacts with the representatives of a series of countries, in the framework of visits at the governmental and senior governmental level. We have had a series of contacts along party lines with a whole series of parties of diverse countries, especially during the visits by the representatives of those parties to our country.

As is normal, within all of these meetings one of the subjects discussed was the Vietnamese problem, because this is a problem that worries us all and interests the entire socialist world – the socialist countries and the communist and workers parties.

All of these things were taken apart and analyzed within the leadership of our party, which enabled some reflections. Our task was to bring these reflections to the knowledge of the Vietnamese comrades and to yours.

Because we know that the position of various communist parties and various socialist countries is not always sufficiently clear, we felt the need to begin with the reaffirmation of our party’s and state’s position. Although we have every reason to believe that the Vietnamese comrades, like you, know it, nevertheless we thought that it was not a bad idea to reaffirm it. We explained that the essential point of this position is the fact that we consider that the armed struggle cannot end except on the condition that the Vietnamese people are assured their right to liberty. This is even more the case since the evolution of the war in Vietnam demonstrates that with all their military superiority the Americans cannot win militarily in Vietnam; that precisely these failures that they have registered in their diverse military actions are at the origin of the diverse forms of escalation that have taken place in the evolution of the war in Vietnam. Thus, the military activity of the Vietnamese people must continue and intensify until there is certainty that the right to decide their own destiny is assured.

From this point of view, the struggle of Vietnam is not longer the struggle of Vietnam; it is the struggle of all of the socialist countries. They have the right and the duty to aid this fight materially, morally, from the political point of view, and diplomatically, through all forms. We explained that our party is of the opinion that if from the military perspective the Vietnamese people have obtained successes in the struggle against American aggression, nevertheless the entire socialist camp, all of the socialist countries, including Vietnam, have done enough in regard to the action that must be undertaken from the political and diplomatic perspective in order to support the struggle of Vietnam; that if from the American military perspective, through the entire course of its evolution, registered failures, from the political perspective we have the impression that they have developed a series of actions that have introduced confusion in the judgment of matters in various countries and, because the confusion over these matters is favorable to them, they have created if not certain military advantages then certain eventual political advantages; that it is necessary therefore to conduct the fight on this terrain as well and to seek to put an end to the political attempts of the Americans, just as their military attempts are beaten.

We explained to the Vietnamese comrades that in the framework of the contacts that we have had with the governments of diverse socialist countries, some even part of the Atlantic alliance, thus not having a third world or neutral character, so to speak, we could discuss about the Vietnamese problem very broadly with our interlocutors. Of course, these discussions have not appeared in any decisions, or joint communiqués, but we could analyze in the appropriate form and present within the framework of these discussions our way of viewing the problem of Vietnam, underscoring the aggressive character of the American war, the series of errors of judgment that the Americans have made in developing these actions and in their successive realization, showing the danger that this represents for the peace of the world and the obligation that we all have to request of those in whose hands must stand and stands the possibility of making things right, that they should thus guide the Americans to leave from there. I must tell you that in all of these countries we found very much understanding for this manner of presenting matters. In no country, besides Switzerland, did the governments and peoples with whom we discussed take the side of the American government. From these discussions we could draw several conclusions, namely:

First, that privately the people with whom we discussed have realized that the Americans are not right, that they have committed an unjust act. More than that, that they have committed a damaging act, which perhaps will be paid for not only by the Americans but also by them and that, truly, something must be done in order for this conflict to be resolved. We met with a favorable disposition towards the struggle of the Vietnamese people and a certain desire to find a modality of acting in order to see an ending to this conflict.

Viewing matters in a rather confused manner, people were sensitive to the American action, especially to the offers of discussion that the Americans make, asking themselves and asking us as well, why don’t the Vietnamese want to discuss? Why do they reject any discussion whatsoever?

Analyzing all of these things at home, we have arrived at several reflections that we communicated to the Vietnamese comrades and which are the following:

Of course, the principal mode of struggle in order to determine an end favorable to the resistance against aggression is the armed struggle. The armed struggle cannot cease until the moment in which the Vietnamese people are certain that they can decide their own destiny, thus at the moment when the Vietnamese people are guaranteed that those four or five points fixed by the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam can be achieved. Until then, to speak about ceasing the armed struggle means to weaken that struggle and, in an objective way, to betray it; even if subjectively you do not want to do that, and you have the best intentions, objectively speaking you end up doing so.

We said that, this being the condition, without ceasing in the least little bit the armed struggle, on the contrary, intensifying the armed struggle, demonstrating the intention to continue conducting the struggle even more powerfully, we should take this weapon out of American hands, no matter how weak it may be, saying: You want to sit and talk, so fine; we fight and talk if you want. This tactic, in the final analysis, was applied before: discussing and at the same time fighting with arms in hand. This tactic was even applied by the Vietnamese in the struggle they led against the French colonialists, it was applied by the Algerians in their fight against the French; even though [the French had] evident military superiority, and despite the fact that the French obtained important military successes, it helped them to win the struggle nonetheless.

We said that under the given conditions, today is the moment to employ such a tactic. Carefully thought out and realized, it would help to strengthen the support that Vietnam receives from the non-socialist states; it would strengthen that part of American public opinion that no longer looks upon this war with a kind eye, clarifying things even in the U.S.A. for a series of people who do not have a clear idea about the realities; it would clearly help – if approached cautiously and with calculation – in exposing the true positions of the Americans, while making much better known the position and the objectives of the struggle of the Vietnamese people. In this way both the Vietnamese people and the Vietnamese army will be strengthened in their fight, in their decision to win with arms in hand, and the more this truth will be known better by the American soldiers, the more it will undermine their fighting ability because, more and more, they will understand that they are not fighting for a just cause.

We calculated that it is appropriate to do this at the current moment, and due to the fact that the danger of expanding the war is growing powerfully. This danger is of a nature to create among the ranks of the non-socialist states, and even among the ranks of the socialist states, a state of greater confusion over the truth about this conflict. This confusion could undermine the sympathy that Vietnam currently enjoys, even among those states, and thereby strengthen the political position of the aggressor. It seemed to us that this moment must not be lost to say very clearly, you want to talk, very well, let’s talk, however, [we’ll be] continuing the military fight as a condition for resolving the problem in conformity with the interests of the Vietnamese people and with justice generally speaking.

Certainly, it is up to the Vietnamese especially to appreciate when the most appropriate moment to resort to such a tactic is at hand.

We explained, however, that we are of the opinion that the moment exists now

That would be, in succinct form, the reflections that we presented to the Vietnamese comrades.

How did the Vietnamese comrades respond to us? They indeed recognized that this idea is very serious and very useful, that it corresponds to the experience of the peoples’ revolutionary struggle. They even recalled the fact that the victory at Dien Bien Phu was achieved only one day before the first meeting of the Geneva Conference. Recognizing, as did we, the necessity of not putting down their weapons until they obtained the guarantee of the right of the Vietnamese people to decide their own destiny themselves and underscoring their decision of not ceasing the armed struggle until they have certainty regarding this, they have also recognized, together with us, that we have not conducted a sufficiently coordinated and effective political and diplomatic struggle, thus permitting or possibly permitting, from this perspective, the United States of America to register certain successes in the political domain, facilitating their maneuvers, and making it easier to create confusion in very many minds; that, therefore, the political and diplomatic struggle, in parallel with the armed struggle, must be seriously intensified; they appreciated that, within this struggle, the tactic that we submitted for reflection by the Vietnamese comrades must be examined very seriously in the near future, but that this moment, according to their position, is not the moment to use the tactic.

Thus, we noted common points of view in all of the principal problems of the drama that is developing and we observed that we do not think the same way regarding the opportunity of applying this tactic immediately.

Of course, our agreement was noted on other points in connection with the same topic. For instance, on the necessity of undertaking some very serious activity at the UN, in order to block the adoption of a resolution by the United Nations Organization on the Vietnamese issue, about the intensification of actions for explaining the problem internationally, so that more states see more clearly the aggressive character of the American actions, and the just character of the war that the Vietnamese people conduct for the defense of their most sacred rights. We noted together that even within the socialist countries there is not a very clear view on all of these problems; that even here work must be done in order to make these problems known. For instance, we have the impression – and this was shared also with the Vietnamese comrades – that there are people in the socialist countries who do not believe in the possibility that the Americans can be stopped from winning victory, that there are people who believe that the military and economic superiority of the Americans is so great, that if they will intensify the military effort then they will finally destroy the Vietnamese resistance, that, therefore, they have the possibility of obtaining a military decision. These are several examples, but there are very many matters that are insufficiently clear in the heads of people within the socialist camp. From this appears the need to conduct work to elucidate all of these matters, not only among the non-socialist countries, with whom we have or could have contacts, but even within the discussions among ourselves, between the socialist countries.

That was the first issue.

There was a second issue after that, in connection with some initiatives taken by the Hungarian government with regard to the convocation of a gathering of European socialist states for coordinating the assistance that must be given to Vietnam. We responded to this suggestion that we do not consider it opportune to convoke such a gathering except with the condition that it should be agreed with Vietnam and on the condition that all of the socialist states that assist Vietnam should participate, because in the absence of these two conditions the gathering would not only be useless but could have negative consequences.

On this occasion we also found out that Janos Peter, the Hungarian foreign minister, was in Vietnam and spoke with the Vietnamese comrades about a conference, on the Vietnamese problem, of the foreign ministers of the socialist countries, a conference about which we had not been informed.

Cde. Zhou Enlai: Thus a global conference of the ministers of foreign affairs of the socialist countries?

Cde. I. Gh. Maurer: We do not know exactly, because we found out about this in the discussions with the Vietnamese comrades.

And, finally, we also discussed, exchanging ideas, about the necessity of finding nonetheless a form of coordination between the socialist countries that give assistance to Vietnam. We explained to the Vietnamese comrades that, in our opinion, the relations between China and the Soviet Union on the issue of the assistance accorded to Vietnam hinders the realization of this assistance in the most efficacious and voluminous form and we explained our decision that during the discussions with you we would relate this aspect. Too often we have met with affirmations [from within the bloc] of the sort that: “the help that we have sent does not arrive in time,” that “it is held up by the Peoples Republic of China,” and seeking a form of coordination on this issue, lacking these sorts of recriminations, from one side and the other, it is certain that we could give this assistance more efficiently.

To this the Vietnamese comrades responded to us that they have known our point of view for some time – something which is perfectly true – and that they recognize that it would be better if some kind of coordination existed, adding that we should also try, just as they try, to achieve this.

And that, comrades, presented succinctly, is how the discussions we had with the Vietnamese comrades on October 3 and in the afternoon of October 4 developed. I have made a summary of the discussions that we had with the Vietnamese comrades, because we thought we would share exactly the same suggestions, the same reflections with you during our conversations.

Of course, a series of other problems were also discussed: for example, the opinion about the proposals of U Thant; the conclusion that as much as possible must be done to achieve the cessation of bombing against North Vietnam, unmasking, from this point of view, an aggression that has an even more evident character than the aggression of the United States of America in South Vietnam and a series of other problems.

Cde. Zhou Enlai: What, from what you know, is the international diplomatic reaction towards U Thant’s proposals?

Cde. I. Gh. Maurer: We have not discussed the U Thant proposals on the international plane, because we did not want to discuss the Vietnamese problem with our interlocutors in any framework other than that requested by the Vietnamese comrades, thus, that of the withdrawal of American troops. Because if we discussed the value of some proposals for ceasing military actions before the existence of a guarantee of the right of the Vietnamese people to decide its own destiny is assured, then we would undermine the policy of Vietnam. The reflections that we shared with them are not reflections that we have discussed with our non-socialist interlocutors. These are matters that we discuss amongst ourselves, those who are interested in a favorable resolution of this war. Within the discussions with the representatives of the non-socialist states we presented, we analyzed and argued the position of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam; with representatives of the socialist countries we have not discussed this problem. The first country with which we have discussed  it was Vietnam, and the second is yours, and, on the return, we will stop in Moscow where we will make a short presentation of these things, there placing emphasis on the common conclusions that we reached with the Vietnamese, that is of the necessity of continuing the military actions up until they have secured the achievement of the essential objectives they pursue, the realization of the right of the Vietnamese people to decide their own fate alone, the necessity of intensifying political and diplomatic activity for clarifying matters, for exposing the true positions of the U.S.A. and, certainly, we will explain our point of view regarding the tactic about which we have reflected, what the Vietnamese point of view was, as well as the fact that we considered the declaration made by the Vietnamese comrades as satisfactory, that this point of view is very serious and that they will analyze it in very short order, in order to find the most appropriate, most prudent form for realizing such a tactic.

Cde. Zhou Enlai: We thank you for the briefing made by comrade Maurer regarding the principal issues of your discussions with the Vietnamese comrades.

We agree with your sentence that the armed struggle of the Vietnamese people against the American aggressions is not only about the interests of the Vietnamese people, but also the interests of all peoples in the entire world, in the first place of the peoples in the socialist countries.

[…]

The bulk of military assistance accorded by the Soviet Union has been transported on our rail lines. This fact was proven by the declaration of the Vietnamese government. Moreover, it was not only transported, it was transported for free. This can be proven by our Romanian comrades as well. We have helped many Eastern European countries transport their assistance for Vietnam at no cost, in conformity with the agreements we have reached jointly. Due to the declaration of the Vietnamese government, the rumors that we are creating difficulties in the transport of Soviet assistance for Vietnam stopped for the moment, however, after a while these rumors were heard anew. You also have heard them.

In reality the military assistance accorded by the Soviets to Vietnam is very limited; the material they accorded Vietnam is not what is necessary, and that which is necessary is not accorded.

[…]

We have transported their materiel no only on the railway but we have also permitted the transport of this materiel by air on an ad hoc basis. We have recently had another such case of this.

[The Soviet] ships that transport materiel to Haiphong only transport general purpose oils. When American aircraft come the ships fly the Soviet flag. We view this as an expression of political submission, because the bombing of North Vietnam is very clearly an illegal action. If the Americans bombard Soviet ships, this action would not represent anything else except a basis for unmasking the acts of war of the Americans. A protest by the Soviet Union against these provocations would have a very great echo in the world. For example, Chinese ships transporting materiel to Haiphong were bombed by the Americans but our protests do not have as great an effect as a protest from the Soviet Union. The flying of the Soviet flag by the Soviet ships represents nothing else than an action through which it recognizes that the bombing is legal and that their ships request to be spared. Our ships were equipped with cannons and machine guns. If the American aircraft come we hit them and shoot them down. Some of our ships were sunk. Recently, a ship of ours was bombed by the Americans and was sunk. The commander of the ship and his entire crew were wounded; they swam over 10 kilometers and were saved. The commander of the ship participated at the festivities organized for our national day; I personally met with him.

I do not recall if I told you in Bucharest that we have joint maritime navigation undertakings with Poland and Czechoslovakia. The Polish and Czechoslovak leaders of these enterprises advise the Chinese navigators that, in case these ships should meet with American military vessels, they should stop and salute the American control of their ship. These are not actions of a socialist state. Even the capitalist states defend their international position.

[…]

A second question to which comrade Maurer referred regarded the fact that even in the condition of the long-term continuation and extension of the war there is the possibility of conducting some negotiations concurrently. Of course, in this regard there are precedents, not only the example of the anti-French war and victory at Dien Bien Phu, and the example of Algeria but also that of the war in Korea. At a certain moment they began peace negotiations while continuing the war. Even in the civil, revolutionary war against the followers of Chiang Kai Shek, we had not closed the door to peace negotiations. The problem is under what conditions and at what moment these negotiations take place, and who decides regarding them.

Regarding the conditions, just as comrade Maurer has also said, in the first place the Americans must recognize in principle the position of D. R. Vietnam government regarding the Four Points and the position of the National Liberation Front in the Five Points, to withdraw from Vietnam along with the troops of the satellite states; to recognize the National Liberation Front as the only legitimate representative of South Vietnam, to recognize the key element of the position of the government of the D. R. Vietnam and of the National Liberation Front, namely, that the Vietnamese problem must be resolved freely only by the Vietnamese people themselves.

Regarding the opportune moment for negotiations, just as the leadership of the Vietnamese Workers Party and of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam have affirmed, now is not the opportune moment. The last time we had a conversation with them they affirmed this. And as comrade Maurer said, they reaffirmed this.

Regarding the right to decide regarding the decision on peace negotiations, certainly that depends on both parties; the aggressor and the country fighting against the aggressor. The right to decide on the negotiations belongs to the Workers Party of Vietnam, the government of the D. R. Vietnam and the National Liberation Front. We, the socialist countries, do not have this right; we only have the obligation of according assistance.

A third issue: there now are many phenomena. For example, there is the action on the part of Hungary. The Foreign Minister of Hungary passed through our country when he was in Vietnam. The Premier of Czechoslovakia also passed through here when he was in Hanoi. Personally, I did not meet with them. They neither informed us nor were we interested in the content of their conversations with the Vietnamese comrades.

In our opinion, all of these actions, plus the actions undertaken by the Western countries have no other purpose than that of exerting pressure on the Workers Party of Vietnam and on the government of D. R. Vietnam, intervening in the decision of the leadership of the D. R. Vietnam to fight until the end. Their efforts in reality pursue no other aim than to sell the American manufactured peace negotiations and to undermine the relations between China and Vietnam in order to please the Americans. If these delegations or persons desire to transit our country and if the Vietnamese government invites them, then we permit them to pass through our country. We do not try to discover the content of their discussions nor do we request them to have conversations with us. That is also valid for the visit of Shelepin this year, before the bombing cessation.

This spectacular action will probably be repeated this year on the occasion of the Christmas holiday, because during the dry season from November until May, the Americans will make other attempts. This season they will repeat the artifice of ceasing the bombing as blackmail to force peace negotiations on the one hand, while on the other they will send new military troops into Vietnam. In this season they will open new ports, new lines of communication, and they will prepare the battlefield.

In our opinion, beginning in September the actions for beginning peace negotiations have intensified and in the next three months they will intensify even more, hitting their point of culmination, probably, during the Christmas holidays. If their peace negotiation artifice will fail, the war will be intensified to an even greater degree. The Vietnamese comrades told us that they are prepared for that.

In conclusion, between the socialist countries, between China and the leadership of the Soviet Union there is no speaking of unity of action; they are situated in a diametrically opposite position. That is the first problem.

A second problem relates to the peace negotiations. The opinion exists that in the final analysis peace negotiations cannot be avoided. However, this depends on the conditions, on the opportune moment, on the right to decide regarding them. All of this does not depend upon us; it depends only on the leadership of the Workers Party of Vietnam, and on the government of the D. R. Vietnam. This is also the current position adopted by the Workers Party of Vietnam, by the Vietnamese government and by the Vietnamese people, and we support them.

A third problem relates to the actions of exercising pressure on Hanoi. These are actions initiated directly or indirectly by the Soviet Union. Those invited by the party and government of the D. R. Vietnam will be permitted to pass through our country. Of course, there will be exceptions. For example, if U Thant wanted to go to Hanoi officially, as UN Secretary General, we would have to think about it to preserve our position, because both the Vietnamese and ourselves oppose a UN intervention in the Vietnamese problem. In general, the actions in this sense in the West are undertaken in the name of some persons, peace militants, in the name of some peace commissions and committees, as, for example, from India and from Canada.

A fourth problem, related to the assistance accorded to Vietnam. We act in conformity with the understandings that we have reached. In this problem there can be no talk of unity of action whatsoever. Vietnam has not request us to inform the Soviet Union about the content of our assistance nor would we agree to do so even if they did.

Given that, we believe that our current position is the only just position that we could adopt, and only by adopting this position can we expose the action of betrayal by the Soviet Union, constituting a secure rear behind the front, a powerful support for the Vietnamese people in the struggle they conduct against the American aggressions. We will be prepared when the Americans extend the war over the territory of China to annihilate the American aggressors.

Regarding the opportune moment for the peace negotiations: we should wait for the Americans to be beaten and to recognize their failure. Taking the decision in this regard is a right of Vietnam and not of ours.

We are very glad that comrade Maurer, passing through Beijing, briefed us on the content of the discussions with the Vietnamese comrades. We were convinced that you would brief us. It was necessary for us to explain to you our position very openly.

Please transmit our greetings to the leadership of the Romanian Communist Party, to comrades Nicolae Ceausescu, Chivu Stoica, Emil Bodnaras, Gheorghe Apostol and the other comrades.

Regarding the relations between our parties, between our countries, they are friendly, they are good and they continue to develop. Last time when you passed through Beijing you said that we must develop our relations. We desire to exert efforts in this sense.

Cde. I. Gh. Maurer: I thank comrade Zhou Enlai above all for the open character of the discussions that we had today. We fully share the opinion expressed by him that this proves the seriousness of our ties of friendship. Even if it can happen that we do not think the same way, on a certain issue, between us such matters must always be stated honestly, openly, clearly and this contributes, I believe, to the strengthening of friendship between us, because it increases the respect that one owes to the other.

Certainly, regarding the relations between our countries, the desire is held in common: that of developing them; we are convinced that this desire is justified not only because of sentimental motives but, above all, because of political interests. Our friendship is in the final analysis a condition of the success of progress in the entire world. It is not the only condition, of course, there are also others, but it is one of the conditions. Aside from this, we are convinced that the development of our relations is of a nature to assist us, both one and the other, in the effort that we make to construct a new society.

We have the task of requesting you to transmit to comrade Mao Zedong the expression of our warmest wishes for health and to all of the leadership of your party and you personally, comrade Zhou Enlai, from our leadership of the Permanent Presidium – because only the Permanent Presidium knew about our departure.

This was a profitable discussion; each presented their opinion. We will present these matters to our party leadership, who will analyze in minute and extensive detail the result of the mission with which we were entrusted and we are convinced that the discussions that we had both with you and with the Vietnamese comrades will contribute to the establishment of our position, in the sense that we seek that it should be the most appropriate. I thank you in the name of comrade Niculescu-Mizil and myself.

Cde. Zhou Enlai: And I thank you for your information, and I will transmit the conclusions to our party leadership.

Please, likewise, transmit our health wishes to the comrades at home.

The discussions ended at 1930 hrs.

Stenographer Constantin Mateescu

Typist Victoria Pristavu

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