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Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969–1976
Volume XVIII, China, 1973–1976, Document 1


1. Memorandum of Conversation11. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 94, Country Files, Far East, China Exchanges, January 1–April 14, 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only.

  • PARTICIPANTS
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Winston Lord, NSC Staff
  • Huang Hua, PRC Ambassador to the United Nations
  • Mr. Kuo, Notetaker
  • Mrs. Shih Yen-hua, Interpreter

Ambassador Huang: Happy New Year.

Dr. Kissinger: I have been calling on your Ambassador in Paris. I don’t know whether he sends you reports.

Ambassador Huang: Yes, I understood that.

Dr. Kissinger: I never know how much he understands because we have to communicate with a combination of French and English. (Ambassador Huang laughs) His French interpreter is very good, but mine isn’t.

Ambassador Huang: I don’t believe it.

Dr. Kissinger: It’s true.

You probably realize this, but you have completely seduced Joseph Alsop. He has written articles like Harrison Salisbury did from the Soviet Union. I don’t know whether you have read his articles. They have been very fair.

Ambassador Huang: Yes, I have read part of them, particularly his articles on his visit to Yunnan Province. That was a renewed visit of his; he had been there once before to the Province.

Dr. Kissinger: He told me when he came back that this was the greatest experience in his 41 years of professional journalism.

I wanted to see you principally to hand you personally a letter from the President to Premier Chou En-lai which he wanted to give you since it was not possible for me to be in China at this time. There is very little about Vietnam in it so that is not its principal … (Dr. Kissinger hands over the letter at Tab A and Ambassador Huang scans it.)

Ambassador Huang: It’s quite a long letter. It is three pages single-spaced.

Dr. Kissinger: It attempts to summarize our view on our relationships.

Ambassador Huang: We will promptly convey this.

Dr. Kissinger: I wanted actually only to discuss two other matters with you. One, there is a great deal of speculation because of the appointment of Mr. Moynihan as Ambassador to India and also because of some of the overtures India has made to the United States. We want you to know, first of all, that until January 20th it is difficult for us to control everything that is being said by the State Department. But there will be no significant change in our policy toward the Subcontinent without prior discussion with you, and the essential elements of policy which we discussed with the Prime Minister still remain. In the next weeks we will make some shipments of arms to Pakistan, and after our new Ambassador comes to Iran we will do it on a more systematic scale. We simply wanted you to know this.

The only other subject … two other subjects. First, as the President says in his letter to the Prime Minister, if the Prime Minister is still interested, the President is still prepared to send me to China after the Vietnam negotiations are concluded, for a general review of the international situation before we are too far along in the second term. If the Chinese side wants to make a specific proposal, we would make every effort to make it possible, maybe toward the end of February or early March.

Now the last subject I wanted to mention to you is the Vietnam negotiation which I will start again next week. Now we have an understanding for your difficulties in this matter, but it is also a matter of extreme difficulty for us. It is simply not true that we are looking for a pretext not to sign the agreement. We feel quite frankly that your allies have courage, but they lack wisdom.

Our basic problem is that as a great power we cannot simply betray an ally, but we are prepared to make an agreement, even if our ally disagrees, which meets certain absolutely minimal conditions for us. You remember when we had dinner with the Vice Minister I told him that we thought we would sign on December 8 or 9. When we met your Ambassador in Paris we told him we wanted to sign by December 22.22. At a dinner on November 13, 1972, Kissinger told Qiao Guanhua, PRC Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, that he sought to complete the Vietnam negotiations by December 8 or 9. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–13, Document 166. During a late night meeting on December 7, 1972, Kissinger told Huang Zhen, then PRC Ambassador to France, that the United States had proposed a schedule that would allow the signing of a Vietnam treaty on December 22. See ibid., vol. XVII, Document 269. So it really is not true that we are holding up the agreement. The Vietnamese side has invented obstacles faster than we can remove them.

For example, let me cite one minor problem, and I don’t ask you to judge its merits. (To Lord) Did you mention the question of the word “destroyed” in your presentation?

Mr. Lord: No, I did not, although I mentioned that they raised several new issues on the last day.

Dr. Kissinger: For example, with regard to military equipment, there is a provision that says that destroyed, damaged, worn-out or used-up equipment can be replaced. It has always been in there. On the last day of the last negotiations, when things were already not going well, the Vietnamese said that the word “destroyed” had to be taken out. When I asked why, they said you can’t destroy something without damaging it. We had already given this language to Saigon as well as to our colleagues in Washington. I wouldn’t care about the sentence if it hadn’t already been in there. But for me to say that we spent the last day discussing whether one can destroy something without its being damaged won’t make a good impression. It does not give an impression of seriousness.

I don’t want you to get involved in the drafting details of this nature. (Ambassador Huang smiles.) I use it only as an example. The reason I am talking to you is that I read some speeches made last week in Peking, and I understand your necessities.

Mrs. Shih: Understand …?

Dr. Kissinger: That you have certain necessities as well. Because I pay special attention to my old host Marshal Yeh Chen-ying. (Ambassador Huang smiles.) But that is not the issue.

We have offered the North Vietnamese to sign the agreement as it stood on November 23 with one additional modification. These are all things that had already been accepted. We are not asking for anything new, and if this is done then we have the moral basis to take very strong measures against Saigon, including cutting off aid if they don’t agree. (Ambassador Huang nods slightly.)

But if the negotiations fail next week, I cannot possibly commit myself to be kept in Paris another two weeks and dealt with as frivolously as last time. We sent to you the transcripts of some of these meetings so you must have your own judgment, which I may say is more than we have done for our colleagues in the Foreign Ministry. So I hope you won’t publish these some day.

If the negotiations now fail, we will abandon the October Agreement completely. We will not then continue to negotiate on the basis of the October Agreement. We may seek another basis of a more bilateral nature, but it will certainly not be the one we now have.

Now the consequences of this … we cannot believe, if we look ahead to the next four years … it is our conviction, as I told you before, that by 1973 when the new rocket program of your northern ally is completed, we assume certain consequences could follow, we don’t know in which direction. Certainly we don’t believe these weapons are being built in order to make your friends easier to deal with. What we would like to do—if it were not for the war in Vietnam—what we would like to do is to accelerate the normalization of our relationship with you and accelerate our relationships with Western Europe, and I believe for the same reasons you are accelerating your relationships with Western Europe. You have been long enough in the U.S., and you will have some judgment as to which people in the U.S. hold these convictions, and they are not very many. Therefore, the obvious consequences of discrediting the authority of the White House will go far beyond Vietnam, and conversely to get it finished would accelerate and enable us to concentrate on matters we consider to be of real priority.

We have no interest in a permanent presence in Indochina. Why should we? The decisive events in Asia will occur far north of there, and the hegemonial aspirations will not come from Washington in that area. But it is important that the American people not be so disillusioned by any events in Asia that we will be paralyzed with respect to what are the crucial events.

So if these negotiations fail, our attention will continue to focus on Indochina. We will not accept these pressures either domestically or internationally, and it will be over issues that are not essential for the major developments of the future. Conversely, if we can coexist with Peking we can certainly coexist with Hanoi. Our major concern in Indochina, which is not a central feature of our policy anyway, would be to cooperate with those who want to prevent other hegemonies from being established there.

This is simply our philosophy. I wanted the Prime Minister to know. The next two weeks will be very important. I took the liberty of asking to see you today because I am leaving Sunday and I will not be available the next few days. I also thought it might be important for the Prime Minister to have our thinking.

These are the major things I wanted to mention to you. I don’t think you have instructions to give a long reply. (Ambassador Huang laughs.)

Ambassador Huang: We will report what you said to Prime Minister Chou En-lai.

Dr. Kissinger: I also have a very selfish reason—if you can convince your allies to settle by the 10th, then we can still see one of the performances of the acrobats on the 11th. (Ambassador Huang laughs.)

Ambassador Huang: They won’t leave until the 13th.

Dr. Kissinger: From Washington? I thought they would be there three days. (There was then some discussion on when the acrobats would be in Washington. It has become clear subsequently that Ambassador Huang meant they would be physically in Washington through the 13th; as the U.S. side thought, they would perform only on the 9th through the 11th.) If they are still there on the 13th I will certainly see them. But in any event I want you to know that they will be given a very warm welcome, and my office will contact them when they get there to see if there is anything to be done which will make them more comfortable.

Ambassador Huang: First, about the visit of our acrobatic troupe to the U.S. We appreciate the meticulous arrangements made by the National Committee for US-China Relations and the New York City Center as its host organization. New York is the third city the acrobats have been visiting, and we have been very satisfied with the results of the visit.

Dr. Kissinger: They are a spectacular success everywhere.

Ambassador Huang: They have been given a very warm welcome for the performances, and the acrobats have been encouraged because they feel that they have done their share and made their contribution to promoting understanding and friendship between the American and Chinese peoples. We believe that they will leave the United States with satisfaction for Latin America. And in this respect we also appreciate Dr. Kissinger’s consideration, attention.

Dr. Kissinger: There are two other matters I might mention to you. We have a memorial service for President Truman in Washington.33. Harry S. Truman died on December 26, 1972. Foreign dignitaries attended a memorial service for him that was held at the Washington National Cathedral on January 5, 1973. There is a certain category of visitors that the President sees—everyone who is President or Vice President of a country primarily. We have just been informed that Taiwan is sending its Vice President, so the President may see him for 15 minutes. So this has no significance. This is a protocol matter. Everyone of a certain rank is received as a courtesy by the President, only 15 minutes each.

Secondly, I wanted you to know for your own information that the Soviet Union has proposed June for the return visit of Brezhnev to the United States. We have not yet given a definite reply. We said that we will discuss it in February, but we will let you know when anything definite is arranged.

Ambassador Huang: About the Paris talks, I would like to convey a very serious piece of news. If the U.S. side truly wishes a settlement in the forthcoming private sessions, this opportunity should not be missed. It is hoped that serious reciprocal negotiations will be conducted and then fruitful results can be expected.

Dr. Kissinger: If there is a serious attitude on the other side, we will make every effort to settle it. We would like to end the war for the reasons which I have explained to you, and we will make a major effort to do so.

Is this news based on the visit of Le Duc Tho to Peking?

Ambassador Huang: I can’t explain it. The last sentence of the message wishes Dr. Kissinger a happy New Year.

Dr. Kissinger: Thank you very much. I appreciate it. When I come to Peking, or through some other formula, we will be prepared to discuss Cambodia with you as I pointed out to the Prime Minister.

It is always a pleasure to see you, Mr. Ambassador, though it is not frequent enough. (Ambassador Huang smiles.)

Ambassador Huang: This evening our acrobatic troupe performed in New York City.

Dr. Kissinger: I didn’t think carefully enough—maybe I should have arranged to see them here.

Ambassador Huang: We are very sorry we were late because many representatives to the United Nations were present, and also some American friends.

Dr. Kissinger: I understood that you were the host and couldn’t leave. Anyway, it’s such an unusual event for me to be here first.

(The Chinese then got up to leave and there was brief small talk about Mr. Alsop’s enthusiasm concerning China before the Chinese left to take their own car back to their Mission.)

Tab A
Letter From President Nixon to Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai
44. No classification marking.

Washington, January 3, 1973.

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

As my second term in office begins, I would like to review with you some of the major questions that affect our two countries. I am writing this letter in lieu of Dr. Kissinger’s meetings with you which I had hoped would be taking place during this period but which have had to be postponed due to Vietnam developments.

In looking back over the past four years no international development carries more significance than the reestablishment of communications and the launching of a new relationship between the People’s Republic of China and the United States. It is with great personal warmth as well as historical sense that I recall my visit to your country and my frank exchanges with Chairman Mao and yourself. Let me take this occasion to reiterate that the further improvement of relations between our two countries remains one of the cardinal principles of American foreign policy.

I believe we can take satisfaction in bilateral developments since February. A good beginning has been made in people-to-people contacts and exchanges in various fields. We should expand and accelerate these efforts which are already making important contributions to mutual understanding and friendship between the Chinese and American peoples. In addition, we should continue to build on the first foundations which have been laid for meaningful Sino-American trade.

On the governmental level, I believe the candid dialogue between Dr. Kissinger and Ambassador Huang in New York has served well to set forth our respective positions on major issues. In my coming term I propose we maintain this productive channel as the channel for all matters except technical issues which would continue to be discussed in Paris. These exchanges, I believe, should be supplemented by occasional personal visits which allow a more thorough and direct exposition of our policies. To this end I am prepared to accept your kind invitation and to send Dr. Kissinger to Peking as soon as the war in Vietnam has been ended through a negotiated settlement for a full review of Sino-American relations and world developments.

As you know, we have consistently fulfilled our undertaking to keep you apprised of U.S. attitudes and policies on all issues of major concern to the People’s Republic of China. I intend to continue this practice which I consider to be in our mutual interest. For example, you have been aware that the United States places no obstacles in the way of improved Sino-Japanese relations which we believe will contribute to peace in the Asian and Pacific region. We in turn have noted the restraint with which you have conducted your policy toward Japan. Elsewhere in the Far East, we favor the first steps toward more communication and less tension in the Korean peninsula. While this process should be left to the two Korean parties, it can only benefit all those who seek greater stability in the region. Our two governments have been in close contact with respect to South Asia, and we will continue to share with you our policy intentions toward the Subcontinent. In particular I want to assure you that any change in well-established U.S. policy toward the Subcontinent will be first discussed with the People’s Republic of China. In our discussions with our allies in Western Europe we have made clear our positive attitude toward their increased communication with you.

As far as direct U.S.-Chinese dealings are concerned, I would like to reaffirm our intention to move energetically in my second Administration toward the normalization of our relations. Everything that has been previously said on this subject is hereby reaffirmed. Dr. Kissinger will be prepared to discuss this fully when he visits Peking.

We remain firmly committed to the principles of the Shanghai Communiqué,55. The Shangai Communiqué, issued on February 27, 1972, is printed in Public Papers: Nixon, 1972, pp. 376–379. See also Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XVII, Document 203. including those that deal with aspirations for hegemony and spheres of influence. We believe that a vital and strong China is in the interest of world peace.

In short, a promising framework has been established in the past couple of years. But it is clear that the war in Indochina impedes the kind of further progress that so surely would benefit both our countries. We have kept you fully informed of developments in Paris in recent months, and as Dr. Kissinger will speak to this subject at some length with Ambassador Huang, I will not dwell on it in this letter. No one familiar with the recent record can in good conscience dispute the fact that the United States has made maximum efforts to restore peace in Indochina. We hope at long last to achieve that goal, but this will require from Hanoi a seriousness that was as absent in December as it was evident in October. The central question remains whether it is not in the interest of us all to bring this war to a rapid conclusion and thus remove the major obstacle to many constructive developments in international relations. This is the U.S. attitude. It will shape our approach to the negotiations which resume next week.

Mrs. Nixon joins me in personal greetings to you and Madame Chou and wishes for a healthy and prospering 1973.

Sincerely,

Richard Nixon

1 Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 94, Country Files, Far East, China Exchanges, January 1–April 14, 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only.

2 At a dinner on November 13, 1972, Kissinger told Qiao Guanhua, PRC Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, that he sought to complete the Vietnam negotiations by December 8 or 9. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–13, Document 166. During a late night meeting on December 7, 1972, Kissinger told Huang Zhen, then PRC Ambassador to France, that the United States had proposed a schedule that would allow the signing of a Vietnam treaty on December 22. See ibid., vol. XVII, Document 269.

3 Harry S. Truman died on December 26, 1972. Foreign dignitaries attended a memorial service for him that was held at the Washington National Cathedral on January 5, 1973.

4 No classification marking.

5 The Shangai Communiqué, issued on February 27, 1972, is printed in Public Papers: Nixon, 1972, pp. 376–379. See also Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XVII, Document 203.

Persons