108. Memorandum for Record of the Senior Review Group Meeting1


  • Senior Review Group Meeting of 12 March 1971, on NSSM 69, US Nuclear Policy in Asia and NSSM 106, US China Policy2


  • Dr. Kissinger—Chairman
  • Mr. John Irwin, Under Secretary of State
  • Mr. U. Alexis Johnson, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
  • Mr. Marshall Green, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (present for consideration of NSSM 106 only)
  • Mr. David Packard, Deputy Secretary of Defense
  • Mr. Armistead Selden, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA)
  • General William Westmoreland, JCS
  • Lt. General Cushman, Deputy Director, CIA
  • Mr. Philip J. Farley, Deputy Director, ACDA
  • Mr. Frank Shakespeare, Director, USIA
  • Various Deputies and Assistants


NSSM 69—US Nuclear Power in Asia3

Dr. Kissinger posed three levels of issues presented by the NSSM 69 study:

The degree of reliance to be placed on strategic forces4 to counter conventional threats in Asia, considering the growth of PRC nuclear capabilities and our choice of strategy.
The degree of reliance on tactical nuclear weapons to counter conventional threats, with consideration given to location and quantity of deployment.
The posture and employment of General Purpose Forces.

Mr. Packard agreed that this was a fair statement of the issues and made the point that the situation with regard to the PRC was different in that we have nuclear superiority. Further, we are not likely to be in a position to counter PRC aggression with conventional forces. Thus, in the Asian situation, there is greater reliance on nuclear weapons for deterrence, for countering the threat of nuclear attack, and against conventional attacks. Deterrence in Asia implies the use of strategic forces different from other areas. Tactical weapons can also be used in a strategic role, i.e., bombers, fighter bombers, and the like.

There followed a discussion of PRC nuclear capabilities and the potential of the PRC nuclear arsenal to present problems to our use of nuclear weapons. Dr. Kissinger asked if we could employ “battlefield” nuclear weapons without attacking PRC strategic weapons, since the disparity in nuclear strength might cause the PRC to consider any use of nuclear weapons by us as an attack on PRC strategic capabilities. Mr. Packard replied that for the present, we should combine any use of nuclear weapons with pre-emptive strikes against PRC nuclear capabilities.

Dr. Kissinger noted that there were several places in the study where the JCS warned that our nuclear capabilities against the PRC should not be at the expense of degrading SIOP capabilities, to which Mr. Packard replied that our capabilities should be increased so as to prevent such degradation.

The discussion then turned to the weapons deployment levels necessary in Asia. Mr. Packard reiterated that we must maintain the capability to use tactical nuclear weapons and to execute pre-emptive strikes. Mr. Johnson and Mr. Irwin stated that there was agreement that we must maintain a capability but the issue was at which level to maintain such capability. They advanced the thesis that as US conventional force levels in Asia were reduced, the level of deployed nuclear weapons should be similarly reduced. Mr. Packard observed that, in general, tactical nuclear weapon levels should conform to the presence of conventional forces, except for weapons delivered by aircraft. General Westmoreland stated that we must maintain the capability to fight a war if necessary, and that war games show that the use of nuclear weapons would be necessary against major aggression in Asia.

This led to a discussion of the validity of the estimates of enemy attack capabilities used in the war games, the degree to which the use of tactical nuclear weapons would reduce the requirement for conventional [Page 271] reinforcement, the use of nuclear weapons in Korea and elsewhere, the degree of warning we might expect of a major attack, and related issues.

Dr. Kissinger concluded this portion of the discussion with the statement that the necessity for a tactical nuclear capability was established, but the question was where it should be based.

Mr. Packard stressed the importance for deterrence of a visible, ready for employment capability. [1 line of source text not declassified]

In response to Dr. Kissinger’s observation that the Department of State had a different opinion from a political point of view, Mr. Johnson said that State had no problem with the deployment of the F–4 squadrons, [1 line of source text not declassifed] in Korea.

Mr. Packard said that he tended to agree but that the JCS had a different view which he was in the process of discussing with them and, in any case, [2 lines of source text not declassified].

[2 paragraphs (6 lines of source text) not declassified]

Dr. Kissinger then said that the NSSM 69 study was not complete enough to be forwarded to the NSC. An analysis was required, similar to that conducted regarding NATO, of the relationship between strategic, tactical nuclear, and general purpose forces, and how they should be employed in Asia. Another look should also be taken at the projected threat.5 He stated that a working group should be constituted to conduct the analysis and that he would be in touch with Mr. Packard on this matter in the next few days.

NSSM 106—US China Policy

Prior to addressing NSSM 106, Dr. Kissinger announced that the Secretary of State had requested an NSC meeting on NSSM 107, UN [Page 272] Membership and US China Policy. It was agreed that the meeting would be on Thursday, 25 March 1971.6

Dr. Kissinger then stated that the U/SM 91 study on trade and travel with Communist China was in the hands of the President.7 With regard to relaxation of travel restrictions, there were some problems raised by the Justice Department regarding validation of passports, but no other discernible problems. As for relaxation of trade controls, the President would probably want to take it in small steps.

Dr. Kissinger then asked about the status of the ACDA paper on Arms Control Talks with the PRC which was mentioned in the NSSM 106 study.8 Mr. Farley replied that it had already been forwarded to the Under Secretaries Committee. When Mr. Irwin indicated no knowledge of the matter, Dr. Kissinger said that he would inquire further.

Dr. Kissinger then opened the discussion of NSSM 106 by addressing the five options pertaining to US military presence on Taiwan.9 It was quickly agreed that Options 2 and 3 calling, respectively for the increase in US non-combat and combat military presence on Taiwan were not viable options in the current political climate.

Dr. Kissinger then addressed Option 5, which calls for the removal of US military presence from Taiwan, contingent upon a renunciation of force agreement in the Taiwan Strait Area between the US and the PRC, while retaining re-entry rights and maintaining our defense commitment to Taiwan. Dr. Kissinger asked if the Warsaw Talks were to resume, could we agree to remove our military presence from Taiwan if the Chinese Communists agreed to a renunciation of force?

Mr. Packard stated that the Department of Defense is concerned that the position of Taiwan in our total Asian posture has not been adequately addressed.

Dr. Kissinger asked if the Interagency Group had looked at what forces we have on Taiwan and how they got there. When the DOD Annex of the study was mentioned as containing information on personnel [Page 273] strengths and functions,10 Dr. Kissinger stated that it did not give the right kind of information. What was needed was a grouping of forces into those required for the defense of Taiwan, those associated with Vietnam, and those performing other functions which could be relocated or phased out.

Mr. Green pointed to the necessity of reducing our strength on Taiwan along with our reduction elsewhere in Asia in accordance with the Nixon Doctrine. He pointed to an apparent tendency to shift more military presence to Taiwan as we phase down elsewhere in Asia.

Dr. Kissinger again returned to the question of removing US forces if the Warsaw Talks are resumed. [2 lines of source text not declassified].

Mr. Packard made the point that our dispositions in Asia were predicated upon existing policies and strategy. If there were a major change in policy, adjustments would have to be made.

Dr. Kissinger once more asked if it is a tenable position to remove forces from Taiwan if a renunciation of force agreement could be achieved.

In response to a query by Mr. Irwin as to how much our capabilities would be degraded if our military presence on Taiwan were removed, General Westmoreland replied that as long as the PRC was a threat, Taiwan would be an important piece of real estate.

Mr. Green stated that removal of our military presence from the Taiwan Strait Area was the only meaningful thing we can do to bring about any kind of a relationship with Peking.

Dr. Kissinger then asked if State could produce an examination of just what a renunciation of force agreement would entail. He then asked if DOD would produce a study showing the impact on our capabilities in Asia of the removal of US military presence from Taiwan.11

General Westmoreland asked if the retention of MAAG was visualized, to which Dr. Kissinger replied that this was part of the question.

[Page 274]

[1 paragraph (4 lines of source text) not declassified]

General Westmoreland cautioned that reduction in or removal of our military presence on Taiwan may require backtracking in our phasedown in Japan and Okinawa.

Note: A study directive will be forthcoming on the above mentioned DOD and State supplementary studies.

After a brief and inconclusive discussion of options concerning the GRC legal position and the future status of Taiwan,12 the meeting was adjourned.

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Top Secret Files: FRC 330 76 0207, Asia, 471.61, 1971. Top Secret; Sensitive; Limdis. Prepared by Colonel Paul Murray on March 18 and approved by Armistead Selden (ISA). According to Kissinger’s record of schedule, the meeting took place from 3:07 to 4:40 p.m. A short, handwritten note appears at the bottom of the page: “Interesting—worth reviewing.” A notation on the memorandum indicates that Laird saw it on March 22. Two other records of this meeting exist. One, written by Gathright of the Department of State’s Executive Secretariat, is in National Archives, RG 59, S/S Files: Lot 80 D 212, National Security Files, NSSM 69; and the other is ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–112, SRG Minutes, Originals, 1971. According to the NSC record, the meeting was held in the White House Situation Room. The NSC version is virtually a verbatim record of the meeting.
  2. NSSM 69 is Document 18 and NSSM 106 is Document 97.
  3. In a March 9 briefing memorandum to Kissinger, K. Wayne Smith noted: “This study has a long and tortured history. It was initiated in July 1969—almost 20 months ago—and responsibility for it was given entirely to OSD (ISA).” He added that the “basic study” was completed in July 1970, and agency comments were received by September. After discussing some of the disputes in drafting the report, both inside DOD and among other agencies, Smith wrote: “DOD after being given complete responsibility for the study almost two years ago, has again failed to come up with a document that is substantively and bureaucratically ready for Presidential consideration.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–053, SRG Meeting, Nuclear Policy for Asia, (NSSM 69) 3/12/71)
  4. A handwritten note, apparently by Laird, describes “strategic forces” as “nuclear.”
  5. On March 30 Kissinger sent a memorandum to Irwin, Packard, Helms, Moorer, McCracken, and Shultz requesting further work on the response to NSSM 69. Kissinger essentially repeated questions 1–3 in the record of this meeting. He asked for the information by May 25 and expected that the Defense Program Review Committee would review the reports in June. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, NSC Files, Senior Review Group, February–August 1971) The NSC did not review NSSM 69 in 1971. On December 14, 1971, Kissinger noted that the December 8 meeting of the DPRC had agreed that further work was required on the response to NSSM 69 before submission to the NSC. (Memorandum from Kissinger to Helms, Johnson, Packard, McCracken, and Shultz; National Archives, RG 59, S/S Files: Lot 80 D 212, National Security Files, NSSM 69) A 61-page executive summary of the October 1971 draft NSSM 69 report is ibid.
  6. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. V, Document 342.
  7. See Document 111.
  8. See Document 109.
  9. The five options were set forth in Section IV of the draft response to NSSM 106 (Document 97), which is not printed. They are: “1. Maintain present levels and composition of US military presence now on Taiwan. 2. Increase US non-combat military presence on and use of Taiwan. 3. Increase deployment of combat forces to Taiwan. 4. Decrease US military presence on and military use of Taiwan, while preserving reentry rights and retaining the contingency command and current advisory presence. 5. Contingent upon PRC willingness to agree to a mutual renunciation of force in the Strait area, remove all US military presence from Taiwan and the Strait area, except for a small liaison group on Taiwan, while retaining reentry rights and maintaining our defense commitments to Taiwan and the Pescadores.”
  10. See footnote 1, Document 110.
  11. Kissinger sent a memorandum on March 17 to Irwin, Packard, Moorer, an. Helms, requesting information on force levels in Taiwan and a possible renunciation of force agreement with the PRC. He requested that he receive these reports by March22. (National Archives, RG 59, S/S Files: Lot 80 D 212, National Security Files, NSSM 106) Document 110 details the Department of Defense response. Eliot forwarded a 6-page paper entitled “Renunciation of Force Agreement with PRC” to Kissinger on March24. (Ibid., Central Files 1970–73, POL CHICOMUS) The NSC staff distributed the paper to the Vice President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and the Director of Emergency Preparedness on the same day. (Ibid., S/S Files: Lot 80 D 212, National Security Files, NSSM 106)
  12. Reference is to options set forth in Section IV of the draft response to NSSM 106 (Document 105), which is not printed. The four options are: 1. “Continue our present policy of maintaining diplomatic relations only with the GRC, keeping silent about its claim to be the government of all of China, but making clear that we deal with the PRC on matters of mutual interest.” 2. “State publicly that the question of which government is the legitimate government of China is not one which the US can decide and that we regard this issue to be a matter for peaceful resolution by the parties directly involved.” 3. “Make public statements to the effect that we do not support the GRC claim to be the government of all China, but recognize it as the de facto government of Taiwan.” 4. “Publicly support GRC claim to be the legitimate government of all China.” NSSM 106 was discussed briefly during the National Security Council meeting of March 25; see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. V, Document 342.