316. Memorandum of Conversation1

    • Huang Chen, PRC Ambassador to France
    • Tsao Kuei Sheng, First Secretary of PRC Embassy
    • Wei Tung, Secretary to the PRC Ambassador
    • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
    • Major General Vernon Walters, Defense Attaché, U.S. Embassy, Paris
    • Winston Lord, NSC Staff

Ambassador Huang: You arrived last night?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.2

Ambassador Huang: You had a good rest?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. I have come to France secretly eleven times by five different methods. I am going to write a detective story when I am through.

Ambassador Huang: You have very intelligent methods.

[Omitted here is discussion of Kissinger’s upcoming trip to China and of a recent interview with Huang Hua, Chinese Ambassador to Canada, published by Tad Szulc in the New York Times.]

Dr. Kissinger: I wanted, in line with my conversation with Prime Minister Chou En-lai, to inform you about some new developments in our relations with the Soviet Union. You can be sure that we will be meticulous about keeping you informed. The Prime Minister will remember that I spoke to him about negotiations going on at that time with the Soviet Union, concerning attempts to try to lessen the dangers of accidental nuclear war. It now seems probable that within the next two weeks we will complete/initial a draft text of an agreement on this question.

[Page 947]

The Peoples Republic of China is the first country we are informing of this. We will talk to other countries and our allies, including France, later this week. I would like to give you, Mr. Ambassador, for the government of the Peoples Republic of China the general provisions of this agreement. They are as follows:

  • —Each side, that is to say the Soviet Union and the U.S., will improve its organizational and technical procedures to guard against the accidental or unauthorized use of nuclear arms under its control.
  • —Second, each party will notify the other immediately in the event of an accidental or unauthorized incident regarding accidental detonation of nuclear weapons which could risk the outbreak of nuclear war.
  • —The parties will notify each other immediately in the event of detecting unidentified objects if such occurrences could create the risk of nuclear war between the two countries.
  • —Each party will notify the other in advance of any missile launches which will extend beyond its national territory in the direction of the other party.
  • —In other situations involving unexplained nuclear incidents each party will act so as to lessen the chance of misinterpretation by the other party.

These are the principal provisions, and I want to add a few additional items of information for the Prime Minister and for the Government.

The Soviet Union is attempting to get us to agree to make the agreement applicable to other countries also. For example, they have asked to include a clause inviting other countries to participate in the agreement. Secondly, they have asked us to include a clause in which we and the Soviet Union have an obligation to report about events in other countries similar to events occurring between the two countries which must be reported in this agreement. In other words, we have to report about you and the French.

We have refused both of these proposals. We cannot prevent the Soviet Union’s making unilateral declarations to that effect, but we shall under no circumstances associate ourselves with it. We will make agreements with the Soviet Union only on subjects of direct concern to our two countries, i.e., the Soviet Union and ourselves.3

As I told your Prime Minister, we are prepared to sign a similar agreement, on a bilateral basis, with the Peoples Republic of China, but we shall not propose it publicly, and we shall leave the initiative to the Prime Minister.

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[Omitted here is a brief paragraph describing a short break for refreshment.]

Dr. Kissinger: I have a few other things to talk about. The reason I go so fast is because I have another meeting later about which you might hear later.4 (Ambassador Huang laughs.) I think the Ambassador is better informed about my activities than anyone else, certainly better than our Ambassador.

As I told the Prime Minister when I was in Peking, there is a possibility, a probability, that there will be an agreement between the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States about access procedures for Berlin. This is a highly technical negotiation which has no direct implications for the Peoples Republic of China, but if you want I will, throughGeneral Walters, let you know the general provisions. This leads to a final point—I would be glad to answer any questions now if you wish on Berlin.

Ambassador Huang: I have listened with great attention to what Dr. Kissinger has said and will transmit it to our Government.

Dr. Kissinger: This leads me to another point which I’ve already discussed with Prime Minister Chou En-lai when I was in Peking. As you remember, Prime Minister Chou En-lai said that the Peoples Republic of China would welcome a meeting between the Soviet and American leaders and asked my views on that subject. I told Prime Minister Chou that, prior to my coming to Peking, we had told the Soviet leaders that after we made some specific progress in negotiations we would be disposed to have a meeting with them. I said that we had told this to the Soviets before going to Peking, and I told Prime Minister Chou when I was there.

I am certain that they will now propose a meeting to us. I want to inform you that we will not have a meeting with the Soviet leaders before we have a meeting with the Chinese leaders. I have already informed you about that. We may announce the meeting before going to Peking, but that meeting will not take place before a meeting with the Chinese leaders. If we announce the meeting, we will give you a week’s advance warning before the public announcement. It is not yet certain, but it is very possible.

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Now let me make a general observation. Since my visit to Peking it is the obvious Soviet strategy to give the impression that they can outmaneuver the Peoples Republic of China by seeming to come much closer to us because they can offer us much more. We understand this strategy. We made a fundamental decision before we visited Peking to put our relations with the Peoples Republic of China on a new basis. We are not affected by these maneuvers. I am prepared to discuss our relations with the Soviet Union fully and openly with the Prime Minister when I am in Peking, and in the meantime I will inform him through you. (Ambassador Huang nods.)

Ambassador Huang: That means that during your next visit to Peking you will discuss this with Prime Minister Chou and keep informing him through me in the meantime?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. That is we will make sure that you will confront no surprises. On any actions that we take that we believe affect your interest, we will want to know your views.5

[Omitted here is discussion of an upcoming meeting between the President and the Japanese Emperor, the situation in South Asia, and arrangements for Kissinger’s trip to China in October.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 849, For the President’s Files, China Trip/Vietnam, China Exchanges, July–October 20, 1971. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting was held at the PRC Embassy. Drafted by Lord on August 19. In a covering memorandum to Kissinger, Lord noted: “The President has already read your memorandum summarizing this session.” Kissinger approved the memorandum of conversation “for the files” on August 28. For the full text of the memorandum of conversation, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–13, Documents on China, 1969–1972, Document 17. An August 16 memorandum from Kissinger to the President describing his meeting with Huang Chen is printed ibid., volume XVII, China, 1969–1972, Document 155.
  2. According to his Record of Schedule, Kissinger left the White House at 11:22 a.m. on August 14. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76)
  3. An August 5 memorandum from Kissinger to Nixon on the accidental war agreement is printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXII, SALT I, 1969–1972, Document 188.
  4. After his meeting with Huang Chen, Kissinger met Xuan Thuy at the North Vietnamese Residence in Paris. During the meeting, Kissinger submitted an eight-point proposal for a settlement in Vietnam. “But when we got down to business,” Kissinger later recalled, “it became evident that this series of talks had deadlocked.” (Kissinger, White House Years, p. 1035) See also Loi and Vu, Le Duc ThoKissinger Negotiations in Paris, pp. 201–207. A memorandum of conversation and summary memorandum for the President are printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume VII, Vietnam, July 1970–January 1972, Documents 236 and 237.
  5. After his return to Washington, Kissinger briefed Nixon by telephone on his trip to Paris. The two men also discussed their plans to announce a summit with the Soviets: “P: What are you going to tell Dobrynin tomorrow? K: I am going to tell him that we accept for May 22nd and want to announce it on September 15th. I have a draft [announcement,] which I will show you tomorrow. P: I think that would be very good. And that is a good time to tell him too.” Nixon added: “It will be interesting to see Dobrynin’s reaction tomorrow. Of course, he won’t be able to speak for the government but his reaction will have some influence on them. Say, ‘Now, look, we want to nail it down, we don’t want any crapping around now. September 15th and that’s that.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 11, Chronological File)