403. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1


  • Chirep

Attached at Tab A is a memo from Secretary Rogers proposing that we now submit to the United Nations a resolution which specifically recommends that Peking assume the Security Council seat heretofore occupied by Taipei.2

As the Secretary’s memo makes clear, we have made a major effort to line up support for a dual representation strategy which did not explicitly involve the Security Council seat, at least initially. That effort has failed. Even such stalwarts as Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines have refused to co-sponsor such a resolution. In fact, after approaching 35 potential co-sponsors, we have only two firm commitments, Costa Rica and Guatemala.

It is now abundantly clear that there is not a prayer of maintaining the GRC’s membership in the United Nations unless our dual representation resolution provides the Security Council seat to Peking. That is dramatically illustrated by the following best estimate of how the General Assembly will vote on the three resolutions relevant to this issue.

Important Question Resolution For Against Abstain
If the DR covers the SC, we win: 60 50 17
If the DR does not cover the SC, we lose: 44 61 22
[Page 800] Albanian Resolution
If the DR covers the SC, we win: 50 55 22
If it does not, we lose: 63 41 23
Dual Representation Resolution
If it covers the SC, we win: 57 51 19
If it does not, we lose: 43 55 29

I hasten to add that these estimates are fragile, and may be optimistic. But they do indicate two salient facts: We cannot possibly win unless we face up squarely to the Security Council issue. We have a good chance of winning if we do so.

The question, therefore, is not whether the Secretary is right in stating that this course is necessary in order to maintain Taipei’s seat. He unquestionably is. The question is whether the possibility—and it is no more than that—of saving Taipei’s seat is worth the price.

There are three principal elements to be weighed, the domestic reaction, the international reaction, and the effect upon your trip to Peking.

Domestic. The right will undoubtedly be outraged at our sponsoring a resolution awarding the SC seat to Peking. That, however, needs to be balanced against their reaction if we handle this whole issue in such a way that Taipei is totally expelled from the U.N. Another consideration is the broader central sentiment in the country, which does not care particularly about the Security Council seat, but which does expect that Taipei’s U.N. membership will be preserved.

My own instinct is that the right is going to be critical, whatever we do on this issue, and that the only good defense is that we did what we had to do to save Taipei from expulsion.

International. We are thoroughly on the record with foreign governments as determined to save Taipei’s membership, and resigned not to stick over the disposal of the SC seat. If we do not behave in a manner consistent with that position, it will be widely believed that we have acted in bad faith, with the deliberate intent all along of sacrificing Taipei’s U.N. membership to the demands of Peking. The delays and indecisiveness inherent in our maneuvers thus far will come to be viewed as a deliberate strategy calculated to result in our own defeat. For this we will get little credit from those who want Taipei expelled, and considerable obloquy from those who share our desire to save Taipei’s membership in the U.N.

Taipei’s reaction to this move on our part is unknowable. They do not want us to do it. Yet they undoubtedly realize that it is necessary. In a narrow judgment call, I agree with Ambassador McConaughy that Taipei will probably acquiesce in our disposing of the Security Council seat in the dual representation resolution. In any event, I am certain of one thing. If in the end, we do not save Taipei’s membership, they will blame it on us.

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Relations with Peking. It is difficult to foresee how this issue will affect Peking. On the one hand, Peking is subtle enough to see that intransigence on our part has the effect of strengthening the drive to put Peking in, and Taipei out, of the U.N. On the other, Peking’s leadership is not likely to be reassured of our reliability or firmness if we “help” them in such a “duplicitous” way.

In any event, it seems clear that Peking is prepared to disagree with us on the U.N. issue without letting that disagreement interfere with the discussion of other issues. Undoubtedly, Peking is now confident that in time it will get what it wants in the U.N., with or without us. She is not, therefore, likely to attach cardinal importance to what we do now on this issue.

The Need for an Urgent Decision. This is one of those matters in which a delay is tantamount to a negative decision. The General Assembly meets in mid-September. All over the world policy decisions are being taken and delegations are about to depart for New York. We are about out of the time to persuade governments to stand with us. Once they make their decision, it may be possible to turn some around. But others will be irretrievably lost. And according to the estimates above, a switch of three votes will beat us on the Dual Representation and Albanian Resolutions, and a switch of five votes will beat us on the Important Question Resolution.

If you approve Secretary Rogers’ recommendation I strongly urge that you generate immediately the widest possible consultation with Congressional and political leaders to explain the situation which has led you to take this step. If the situation is presented squarely in its full bleakness: a choice between (1) accepting Peking in the Security Council but keeping Taipei in the U.N., and (2) the expulsion of Taipei from all U.N. bodies with Peking still getting the Security Council seat, I believe there will be considerable understanding, if not approval, of your decision.

On foreign policy grounds, I concur with Secretary Rogers’ recommendation. On domestic grounds, I am less certain, but inclined to believe that we could reduce the unfavorable domestic reaction by an energetic program of consultations. Moreover, if the effort to save Taipei’s membership succeeds, I think that to some extent it will serve as its own adequate justification.


That you approve Secretary Rogers’ recommendation.
That you authorize an immediate and intensive round of consultations with domestic conservative leaders, making maximum use of the Vice President, the Attorney General, and Secretary Connally.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 301, Agency Files, USUN, 1 June–30 September 1971, Vol. VII. Secret; Exdis. Sent for action. Kissinger’s handwritten comment on the first page reads: “Approved orally by President, September 7.” Much of this memorandum, including the predicted voting totals, is based on a September 3 memorandum from Wright to Kissinger, in which Wright wrote: “Because of our inability to bite the bullet now on the Security Council issue, we are perilously close to frittering away what ought to be a winning hand.” (Ibid., Box 285, Agency Files, Department of State, Vol. 13)
  2. Rogers’ September 5 memorandum is attached but not printed. Posts were informed of the new policy and strategy for the upcoming UN vote in telegrams 166117 and 166118, September 7, and 166140, September 9. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, UN 6 CHICOM)
  3. Neither the approve nor disapprove options under each recommendation is checked or initialed.