358. Meeting Among President Nixon, Secretary of State Rogers, and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

[Omitted here is discussion of dual representation strategy and possible support from other nations for the ROC in the United Nations.]

Nixon: Frankly if we start out fresh, we would put, I mean, Communist China in the UN, right?

Rogers: Um, hmh.

Nixon: And, we wouldn’t dream of letting Communist China take over 15 million Taiwanese any more than we’d let North Korea take over South Korea. That’s another point.

Rogers: That’s another point.

Nixon: And a defense treaty and all the rest.

Rogers: This doesn’t relate to our relations with Taiwan at all, this is just representation in the UN.

Nixon: Could I suggest a line, which you could do? [unclear] How, first what is … we’re talking now on the 27th of May, how long will you be, until you are back? You’ll be over 2 weeks in Europe?

Rogers: No, 10 days.

Nixon: Ten days. Well, of course, the time, and incidentally, I think you should handle it pretty much yourself on a very very close basis, indicating that we have reached a position. You can say that we have talked, you know what I mean? And that we frankly are examining our position. We tend, we are examining our position at this point, and you are trying to determine … now I wonder if you can do that. I’d just, or perhaps [unclear] on the British before they say, “You put them all on that basis.”

Rogers: Yeah, I can’t do it.

Nixon: Well [unclear exchange]. What I meant is, could you put it up in this term. I know you’ve got to have something to say to them. Could you say to them, “Look here,” because, you see, since you’ve returned, we’ve had [Robert] Murphy come back. And Murphy has [Page 692] said that Chiang says that they’d [accept] two China provided we give them the Security Council seat. We can’t do that, it won’t work. Nobody can guarantee the Security Council seat.

Rogers: [unclear]

Nixon: Well, he didn’t understand. Anyway, that’s done. The point I made, we now know Chiang’s position, which is very clear. And he’s, he says, “Either go down fighting, or I’ll take two China but you’ve got to give me a Security Council seat.” Well, we can’t do that. But on the other hand, knowing now what our problem is there, could you give us the time [unclear], because I think time is going to be extremely important in terms of…I’m going to have to, on this one, if we make a move on the two China thing, I’ve got to move on the right wing myself. I’ve got to get Walter Judd in and talk about this issue. I may be able to do something with him. But I want to do it by, I want to be able to move now. I think if you could, if we could confirm [unclear], discuss with the various…I figured you could discuss this matter for this period of time, then come in and, I realize you probably already have. But there’s still, it’s further along and it’s crystallizing all over the bullets. I think that’s, that would then allow me to have the chance to sort of figure out how exactly to do it. I wouldn’t want to have, for example, on your trip, I wouldn’t want to have the whole thing come out. The United States has changed its position and is trying to develop the support for it. I think it’s premature to do that. When we change the position, I think that we ought to try to involve … I’d like to compose a message. I’m not concerned about [unclear]. We’ll take the heat on the international stuff. You can handle that. But I’ve got to handle these domestic people—the hardliners in the House and Senate, some of the columnists, and people, frankly, who are part of the China Lobby, which is still a considerable group. I think that if you can get a verdict in the next couple weeks, if it were to come out that the U.S. has actually changed its position and is consulting with its allies to get support for a new position, that would be very difficult. If, on the other hand, you can discuss it in a way that we, you were trying to explore the position that they would take, in other words, here are the options, where will you end up? Having in mind the fact that in the final analysis we will have to take a position one way or the other. Could you do that? Can you handle it that way?

Rogers: I don’t think that’s [unclear].

Nixon: You see, the things seeping out is what I’m concerned about. I’m concerned about having to come out because [unclear] I don’t want them to descend on me like a pack of little jackals and I have to say, then I’ll have to lie to them, and [unclear] lie to the press conference and say, “Oh no, we’re not considering, we haven’t decided anything yet and so forth.” See what I mean?

[Page 693]

Rogers: I don’t see how there’s any problem with me. I think it’s going to be a problem of, as far as our policy is concerned, because so much has gone on with the delay that no policy is going to succeed. In other words, other nations are making, they’ve been waiting for us to tell them.

Nixon: Yeah. Well now wait a minute. Let me ask you, when we talk about delay, I’m not talking about a delay of 2 months. I’m talking about a delay of [unclear].

Rogers: [unclear] talk to him about it? I know, you know, [unclear]. The present course as agreed to by everybody is disastrous, even Chiang Kai-shek. So what we’re talking about is suicide as far as they’re concerned. I mean, it’s doomed to failure. And they know that and everybody that talks about the subject knows that. Really what we’re asking them is, “Do you want us to go down in defeat in this way or would you rather have us try something else?”

Nixon: Well, what you’re suggesting is that, what you would like to do, or what you would recommend is that you go over and—

Rogers: What I’d like to do is to—

Nixon: See, if you do that, that will get out [unclear exchange]—

Rogers: I don’t have to when we get there, but I, what I think we ought to do is to decide now what we want to do. Then I think all, whoever we want to talk to, the Walter Judds and the others, put it on the line. And say, “Look it, are you prepared, do you want us to go down to defeat this way? We don’t think this is a good thing for Chiang Kai-shek and for us.” Now they’ll all have to come to that conclusion.

Nixon: I think the way we ought to handle that is, the best way to handle that, probably it’s the best way anyway, remember you’ve got to have [unclear]. You do not feel, now wait a minute, leaving out the Walter Judds and the rest for a moment. What I’m getting at is what is going to come out between now and the next couple of weeks? What is going to come out is that, this is a, this isn’t, even announcing two Chinas is a monumental decision. And it is a monumental decision, it’s a helluva news story.

Rogers: Oh, sure.

Nixon: Now, if that comes out in a way, that well, that the United States is privately or secretly discussing the, is trying to enlist support for the two China thing, it seems to me that that’s, I’d rather, I think maybe the proposition of doing it through a speech, as you suggested, at a later time, more frontally [unclear] is better than doing it through consultations. See my point? You see what I’m afraid of, you talk to the British and you talk to the French or all these other people, now this is the way to do it. I think when it’s done, it ought to be done in an orderly, [unclear exchange]. I had a feeling myself, I don’t know, it’s just a thing, Bill will do this and it’s the kind of a thing that he ought to handle.

[Page 694]

Kissinger: Well, he could, I don’t see, he could do the consultation and still give the speech in July.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: I mean, he wouldn’t—

Rogers: Well the President’s giving [unclear]. I’m not, see, everybody knows we’re talking about [unclear] all over the world.

Nixon: That’s true.

[Omitted here is more debate, but Nixon’s decision is to wait for any public announcement. Rogers reviews his position on the need for consultations on a possible U.S. policy change. Nixon wants it handled in a way that emphasizes that the decision has not yet been made. “It’s a problem we’re considering and consulting with allies.” Rogers wants to say that the United States is leaning in one direction because “we know we’re going to lose.”]

Nixon: I said, “Here is the proposition. We examined the situation. It appears that we are certain to lose if we consider the present course. For that reason, we are seriously considering this proposition.” What do you think of it?

Rogers: That’s the way I feel.

Nixon: How’s that sound, Henry?

Rogers: That’s what I think.

Nixon: Don’t you think that’s good?

Kissinger: Yes.

Nixon: “We’re seriously considering it.”

Kissinger: That’s right.

Nixon: What do you think [unclear]? And as you go down and then, you can—

Rogers: Now, in other words, [unclear] we can sort of get a count now that we find out the number of votes. But in the meantime, I think we should start talking to [unclear].

Nixon: Yes, I know. I know. Well, my inclination with them is to hit them pretty hard and frontally, when it’s due, just before it’s done, and then just say, “All right. The [unclear].” I think if you, the trouble is, you see, you hit them over a period of time though. I know this will hurt extremely well. What happens? They go home and they [unclear], and they talk about it and the rest, and then they gin up a lot of columns, and raise hell, letters and all that sort of thing. I’m inclined to think, once we decide, I like the idea of decisive motion, decisive motion. We get them all in, we hit them and say, “Here we go.” Henry, you know some of these people there? [unclear]

Kissinger: Just to be the devil’s advocate and express [unclear], on this one I go back and forth. [unclear]

[Page 695]

Nixon: [unclear]

Kissinger: It’s really a very close vote. What would we lose if we delayed another 6 weeks without having a vote?

Rogers: Well, we’d lose a lot of votes. We’d get a lot of people [unclear]. What do we gain by it? Aren’t we just sort of—

Kissinger: Well—

Rogers: [unclear]

Nixon: That’s really—

Kissinger: Well, no. [unclear] We cut 6 weeks off the public discussion.

Rogers: Oh, no. We need the public discussion. The public discussion is [unclear]. Allows us to get nations to support us.

Kissinger: Well now—

Nixon: He’s referring to public discussion on that.

Kissinger: Taking also the fact that [unclear] this new position.

Rogers: [unclear] You think that’s the way to look at it, if you do what you’re doing you’re going to die? Do you think we should state our position? How can they [unclear]? Even Chiang Kai-shek recognizes this. [unclear] Everybody knows that what we’re doing, our present course is doomed to failure. So how can anybody be unhappy if you say, “Well, should we try something else?”

Kissinger: Why would you try something else 6 weeks later? I mean, to whom did he [unclear]?

Nixon: What we’re talking about basically is a moot question in a sense but [unclear] come down to is this. That I think that it would be best just to, [unclear] that we should, after you completed that process [unclear]. But, I think the idea, Henry, of building the thing that the ABA is building—

Kissinger: But that speech offered—

Nixon: I think his idea—

Rogers: By that time we’ll know the vote [unclear] too. [unclear]

Nixon: I think if he makes the announcement there, and he can make it there. But then that also, it also will [unclear] that much of a crack in the door in other words. And I’m considering it from this standpoint. That then we can evaluate the events and so forth.

Rogers: I would like it—

Nixon: But you think [unclear]—

Rogers: Well, I think it will hurt you. I really do think it hurts you. I think it’ll—

Nixon: You mean get rolled?

Rogers: I think you’ll get rolled. I think your conservative friends [Page 696] will think that it’s a terrible defeat and you followed a policy that’s doomed to failure.

[Omitted here is discussion of the view of other nations on UN representation and NATO forces in Europe.]

[Rogers left the meeting at 4:09 p.m.]

Kissinger: I don’t see the sense of urgency that Bill feels, because it’s a purely tactical embarrassment we are suffering from not having a position. But this way is the best we could get out of it.

Nixon: [unclear]

Kissinger: It’s my own, you know, it isn’t worth overruling the Secretary of State on it. I think tactically the best would have been just to keep it hushed up for another 2 months.

Nixon: He doesn’t think he can do that.

Kissinger: Well I think he believes that—

[Omitted here is brief discussion of the President’s schedule.]

Kissinger: I suspect they’re going to sell the living bejeezus out of it.

Nixon: What?

Kissinger: I suspect they’re going to sell the living bejeezus out of it.

Nixon: Oh, sure.

Kissinger: What I find so interesting in the State Department is that they have no strategic sense. All they worry about is their personal embarrassment and not having a position. So now they can [unclear]—

Nixon: That’s the whole point, that is, of his concern was that I’ve already told them that I don’t have any position. Well Christ almighty, so we’ve got no position, just go out and say so. Goddamnit, I do it every day in a press conference. But, or every week.

Kissinger: Well, he follows [Marshall] Green’s advice. It isn’t, he doesn’t, but it’s, it’s really … We can handle it.

Nixon: Let him go. As a matter of fact we can handle it. After all, Henry, there is a lot of discussion about the two-China thing. It’s probably what we’re going to end up with. [unclear] I am greatly tempted to stand on principle and get rolled and get them out. I am concerned about one thing: we’ve got to think very selfishly. But—

Kissinger: But another way of getting rolled, Mr. President, is to delay our position as long as possible. Then, fairly late, go to a two-China position and then lose on that. Then we’ve done everything.

Nixon: Well—

Kissinger: But that’s—

Nixon: But that’s another thing. The main thing—

[Page 697]

Kissinger: It’s really not important enough.

Nixon: When you go to two-China, that’s going to appear awfully reasonable to a hell of a lot of people.

Kissinger: Oh, yeah.

Nixon: Awfully reasonable.

Kissinger: Actually, the way he’s formulated it now is better.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: If he then gets off the universality one which will drive everybody, will drive the German situation. He just says “Communist China in by majority vote; Taiwan expelled only by a two-thirds vote.”

Nixon: [unclear]

Kissinger: Then we don’t make a general principle. And that we can, I think—

Nixon: I like that formula, the expulsion by two-thirds vote. And that [unclear], but I’m going to pull this. I want to know what the hell our problem is in the domestic politics before we do it. And I also will have to determine whether or not I am announcing it myself or have him do it. I think there is much to be said for letting him do the announcement.

Kissinger: Yeah.

Nixon: It’s a technical matter. There’s a hell of a lot of people who are going to say we’ll get the credit for it anyway.

[Omitted here is discussion of Mutual Force Reduction in Europe.]

Nixon: Now on the China thing, we’re back exactly around the time he needs.

Kissinger: That’s right. Because—

Nixon: Now if the China doesn’t come back, they should be back—

Kissinger: They’ll be back within 10 days to 2 weeks.

Nixon: You think so? Has Yahya delivered the message?

Kissinger: He delivered the message on May 19. It took 5 days. I’ve now got a good channel, but I told his Ambassador to send it by pouch, didn’t want it on a Pakistan wire. I’ve now set up a wire to Karachi for our Ambassador, which goes only through Morris. Nobody knows it. And it’s got a special code, which only Haig knows, so even Moorer can’t read it. And which only, and so now we can deliver messages in 24 hours. It took 5 days to get there, then it took, then Yahya was in Lahore so he didn’t deliver it until the 19th. So they’ve only had it for 7 days. And my guess is that they’ll reply the first week of June.

Nixon: You think they’ll reply in the positive or negative?

Kissinger: Almost certainly, yes.

[Page 698]

Nixon: There’s a lot of things in there about a Presidential visit and all that kind of stuff.

Kissinger: We offered them a Presidential visit. We told them I’d be authorized to arrange the visit of a public emissary if it was thought useful; it’s hedged a little bit. And—

Nixon: In addition to a Presidential visit?

Kissinger: Yeah, in addition to a Presidential visit. And for them, Mr. President, after all, they are revolutionaries. But you think of this peasant, former peasant, Mao, the Great March, and then the President of the United States comes to Peking at the end of his life. That’s—

Nixon: Well that’s why this former [unclear] Brezhnev has god-damn well got to decide whether he wants to come or not. And—

Kissinger: I think that, Dobrynin again this morning talked about that trade deal, that $500 million trade deal.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: We just don’t have enough information to act on it.

Nixon: Well, but he didn’t raise the summit. He never raises it does he?

Kissinger: No.

Nixon: Well, he must have a reason you know.

Kissinger: Well, no. They are very cute. They figure you’re very eager, so they figure they’re first going to make you pay on Berlin. Then they’re going to make you pay on trade, and after that they give you the summit.

Nixon: What the hell are we going to talk about there?

Kissinger: But I think, well, we can have, we need the summit for a number of reasons. It will discipline them during SALT.

Nixon: Yeah. Well, we’ve got to have, we need the summit for the reason of getting the deal on SALT.

Kissinger: That’s what I mean.

Nixon: So then we’ve got to hammer them.

Kissinger: And, we can—

Nixon: Did Dobrynin say he’d let Semenov know that he’s not going to screw around on that final announcement?

Kissinger: That’s right. That’s right. I can always try a little deal. He said, “Can we talk the first 2 weeks about India only?” I said, “Anatol, let’s not horse around. If we want an agreement, you need some face saving thing, you want to talk about ABM for a week, that’s one thing. But essentially it has to be concurrent.” And if you read the letter, it says “to be discussed before,” so we know what we have. And I have tapes of conversations.

Nixon: Oh, I know. Yes. But anyway—

[Page 699]

Kissinger: So what I think we should do is, it’s playing dangerously, it’s living dangerously, but that’s how you’ve got where you are in foreign policy and in other things too. The thing to do is to tell, in my view, is to tell Dobrynin in early June, “We’ve reviewed our state of relations, things are now moving on a number of fronts, either you can commit yourself now for a summit in September, or we won’t have one this year.”

Nixon: Will that appear too eager?

Kissinger: That’s less eager than just sitting there waiting for them.

Nixon: Sure.

Kissinger: And then if they turn us down, Mr. President, then I would drag our feet on trade, on Berlin, for at least, yeah, I’d certainly on trade drag our feet. Otherwise we’ll have given them almost everything they need and they don’t need the summit any more.

Nixon: Well we’re going to drag, trade, hell I’d never sign another goddamn thing for them.

Kissinger: My feeling, Mr. President, has been that I gave them an ultimatum on their exchange of letters.

Nixon: I know.

Kissinger: [Llewellyn] Thompson would have had a heart attack.

Nixon: I know. And incidentally, we’re going to be, but can we still drag on Berlin?

Kissinger: Yeah. I just cabled to Rush for Christ sakes not to settle this too quickly.

Nixon: Does he know this? You’re sure he understands it?

Kissinger: Oh, yeah. For all these reasons, we should not let them control the pace of events if you’re willing to forgo the summit in September.

Nixon: Sure.

Kissinger: But I think we, that wait through the next week would be—

Nixon: Are we going to have a summit at all with the Russians? You got a deal with the Chinese, we’ll go to China earlier. Why not?

Kissinger: It also has the advantage that then we know where we stand.

Nixon: You notice the hard-line the Chinese are taking on Taiwan. Predictable, right?

Kissinger: Yeah.

Nixon: The Nineteenth Province and all that sort of crap?

Kissinger: Yeah.

Nixon: [unclear]

[Page 700]

Kissinger: Oh, I know. No, what they have asked from us up to now—

Nixon: Basically, to remove the Sixth Fleet.

Kissinger:—is to remove our military forces from Taiwan. If they would help us make peace in Vietnam—

Nixon: We’ll do it.

Kissinger:—we could do it early in your new term.

Nixon: Just put it in the terms, “Yes, we will do it. We made a private [unclear] to do so.”

Kissinger: But Taiwan, except for the sentimental thing, is really the least significant American [unclear].

Nixon: I’m afraid it is. I’m sorry.

Kissinger: It’s a heartbreaking thing. They’re a lovely people.

Nixon: I hate to do it, I hate to do it, I hate to do it, I know. And they’ve been my friends. [unclear] I still think, I can’t believe Bill is right when he says the Koreans don’t care, Kishi doesn’t care, and the rest of them don’t care about Taiwan.

Kissinger: Totally wrong.

Nixon: Somebody is selling him a bunch of shit.

Kissinger: Totally wrong. Totally wrong. Your instinct is absolutely right.

[Omitted here is discussion of the media.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Oval Office, Conversation No. 504–13. Secret. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon, Kissinger, and Rogers met from 2:42 to 4:09 p.m., and Kissinger and Nixon spoke alone until 4:26 p.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files) The editor transcribed the portions of the conversation printed here specifically for this volume.