185. Transcript of a Telephone Conversation Between President Nixon and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

K: Mr. President.

P: Henry, are you in New York or here?

K: No, I’m here.

P: What’s new? Anything this morning?

K: Nothing of very great consequence. In fact, there’s nothing really going on. The Chinese keep needling the Russians where they put indications that they were easing their terms and diplomatic relations with us, half implying that maybe Taiwan wasn’t a complete obstacle.

P: Yeah, I saw that.

[Page 538]

[Omitted here is discussion of press relations, Vietnam, and China.]

[K:] The China story of course is very big and very favorable to you—everywhere.

P: The thing I feel is this. You will probably see Dobrynin Tuesday,2 right, maybe Monday.

K: If he comes back. He comes back either tonight or Wednesday night. Those are the only two flights they have this week. It’s just barely conceivable that this China thing kept him back a few days for reassessment. But I will see him either tomorrow or Tuesday—

P: What I was thinking is this. I don’t know just quite how it would work. I would delay your meeting with Bogdan 3 until after you see him.

K: All right.

P: Or have you already set it up.

K: No, no.

P: Let me tell you why. After you see him we may want to play a very different game. Let’s suppose, for example, running it out—let us suppose that we get a straight cutoff. You see what I mean. Then instead of diddling around with this sort of thing we might go immediately to the highest level. Do you see what I am getting at?

K: Oh yes.

P: I don’t mean on the—this time we would have to play that kind of a game and knowing the Asians the way they operate—well they will go like molasses on things of this sort. In a moment like this they just might bite for the whole thing. Do you see what I mean?

K: Right.

P: So rather than wasting anything with telling Chou En-lai that we would like to have Mansfield and Scott received and the rest. Let’s just wait.

K: I think that is a good idea.

P: Now he is our best contact isn’t he, the Bogdan?

K: We would have to think about that.

P: I was thinking—

K: Bogdan is better than Pakistan right now.

P: What I was thinking was—well—are we sure of that?

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K: Yes.

P: What I was thinking of was how secure are their lines?

K: They always send a messenger.

P: OK, that’s fine. I was going to say if they will send a messenger that’s good. They will send a messenger to Bucharest?

K: Right.

P: Good. Otherwise we could send somebody to Bucharest.

K: Another way of doing it is when I go talk to the North Vietnamese I talk to the Chinese Ambassador in Paris.

P: Yes.

K: And get it set up that way.

P: You see what I am getting at. We may as well play our little games. So just forget what I told you to do about Bogdan right now, OK.

K: Right, Mr. President.

P: I don’t think it is going to play that way. I think that the Russians—

K: No, no, they are going to come.

P: They are going to come. But you know what I mean is if we now have got—we are playing for very high stakes and we have very little time left and we can’t diddle around, with the Russians or with anybody else. OK.

K: Right Mr. President.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 29, Home File. No classification marking. The transcript was prepared from two tape recordings of the conversation, which were “brought in” on April 19 and typed on May 7. A typed note on the transcript of the second tape indicates that it was a continuation of the first.
  2. April 20.
  3. Corneliu Bogdan, Romanian Ambassador to the United States. After the President’s visit to Bucharest in August 1969, the White House used the Romanian channel—in particular, Bogdan in Washington—to send messages to Beijing. See Kissinger, White House Years, pp. 181, 191, 703–704.