286. Background Press Briefing by the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

Mr. Ziegler: We are going to do the session this morning on a background basis. You can attribute it to “White House officials.” You can directly quote “White House officials,” unless Dr. Kissinger says to you that it is on deep background, and then you should not quote him directly.

We will have a transcript for you to read after the briefing.

There are two announcements before we go to Dr. Kissinger. I have stated the ground rules to you and know you will abide by them.

On Monday,2 President Nixon will have a meeting with the bipartisan leadership at 8:30 in the morning. Then at 10:00 o’clock on Monday, President Nixon will meet with his full Cabinet. The purpose of the meeting with bipartisan leadership and the Cabinet is to discuss the recent events which were announced last night.

With that, I think we can go directly to Dr. Kissinger. I believe he would like to go directly to your questions.

Let me again repeat the ground rules. Dr. Kissinger’s remarks this morning will be on Background, as I indicated to you.

Dr. Kissinger: Let me say one thing, and then we will go right to questions.

I will not be able to go into substance other than some of the surrounding circumstances, and I hope you will be patient with me if I don’t speak as fully as I would like to.

[Omitted here is discussion of Kissinger’s secret trip to China; during this exchange, Kissinger reported that the Soviet Union had been “notified ahead of time,” i.e., before the announcement on July 15.]

Q. Is it likely that the President’s journey will include a visit to the Soviet Union on the same trip as China?

Dr. Kissinger: The President’s view on a meeting with the Soviet leaders has been frequently stated. It is one that, of course, he has always been, in principle, willing to undertake. It would seem to me that the occasion of a visit to Peking is not the best to also visit Moscow. [Page 839] The issues to be discussed between the two countries are too various. But in principle, we are prepared to meet with the Soviet leaders whenever our negotiations have reached a point where something fruitful can be accomplished.

Let me make one other point: Nothing that has been done in our relations with the Peoples Republic of China has any purpose or is in any way directed against any other countries, and especially not against the Soviet Union. We are taking these steps because we cannot imagine a stable, international peace in which a country of 750 million people is kept in isolation. We believe that by improving relations with the Peoples Republic of China we are contributing to peace in the world, and therefore are contributing to all nations.

[Omitted here is further discussion of Kissinger’s secret trip to China.]

Q. Do you expect the President might go to the Soviet Union before he goes to China?

Dr. Kissinger: I don’t want to speculate about any prospective trips. It would seem to me more logical that the trips would be taken in the order that they are announced, if indeed there is a trip.3

[Omitted here is the remainder of the briefing, including a review of the ground rules for attribution.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 499, President’s Trip Files, Reaction to China Initiative, Press, Misc., July 1971 [Part 2]. No classification marking. Excerpts from the briefing are also printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume I, Foundations of Foreign Policy, 1969–1972, Document 93.
  2. July 19.
  3. In their coverage of the background briefing, the New York Times and Washington Post both reported that, according to “White House officials,” the President was still interested in a trip to the Moscow—but not before his trip to Beijing. Neither, however, reported Kissinger’s assertion that the opening to China was not directed against the Soviet Union. (John Herbers, “Nixon Is Expected to Visit China Around End of Year; To See Both Mao and Chou,” New York Times, July 17, 1971, p. 1; and Carroll Kilpatrick, “Formal Relations Not Likely by Then,” July 17, 1971, Washington Post, p. A1)