113. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Meeting Between the President, Ambassador Chow and Henry A. Kissinger

Ambassador Chow who is leaving his position to return to Taipei as Foreign Minister came in at what was originally a courtesy call but, because of the visit of the Ping Pong Team to China, has taken on added significance.2 Ambassador Chow began the meeting by thanking the President for his many courtesies and saying he wanted the President to know that he always understood that the President and I were the best friends of China in this Administration.

[Page 291]

The President said, “I want you to convey my warmest greetings to Generalissimo and Madam Chiang. We will stick by our treaty commitments to Taiwan; we will honor them. I said so in my State of the World Report.3 We will do nothing in the trade and travel field which is in derogation of friendship to your President and to Madam Chiang. On the other hand, we will take some steps in the next few days that are primarily to be seen as part of our world perspective, particularly vis-à-vis the Soviet Union.” [Note: The President said this because he thought it would be an unbearable loss of face for the Ambassador to begin his career as foreign minister having seen the President and not being warned of impending relaxations.]4

The President continued, “On the UN membership issue, some of our friends have deserted us. We are prepared to fight for you but we want to do it in an effective way. I have many proposals on various schemes such as dual representation. I will make this decision, not the State Department. Some people say, let’s find a clever way of doing it, but there is no clever way of being defeated. There is no change in our basic position, but there may have to be some adaptation of our strategy. We, however, before we make a decision want to talk to you. I am sending Ambassador Murphy to Taiwan; he is going there on business anyway, and the Generalissimo should talk to him as he talks to me. Taiwan and the UN is a fact of life for us and we will do nothing to give it up, but we have to be intelligent and we want to hear your views.”

Chow said, “We appreciate your special attention; above all, don’t spread the impression that all is lost.” The President then asked me to explain the choices on China representation, and I summed up the memorandum that I had written to him on the subject (copy attached).5 The President asked Chow for his analysis.

Chow said, “We could stick them out for Universality plus the Important Question.” I said, “Will the IQ carry and Universality lose?” [Page 292] Chow said, “No, this depends on how it is formulated.” He then raised this issue of the Senkaku Islands.6 It has to do with the protection of the Chinese Nationalist interests. If Taiwan can do that, then intellectuals and overseas Chinese will feel they must go to the other side. The State Department statement insisting that this is part of Okinawa has had violent repercussions. This will get a movement of overseas Chinese.7 The President said, “I want you to know that the relaxation of trade that we are planning is mostly symbolic; the important issue is the UN. We will be very much influenced by what the Generalissimo will think. As long as I am here, you have a friend in the White House and you should do nothing to embarrass him. The Chinese should look at the subtleties. You help us and we will help you. I want Murphy to bring his report personally to me. We will stand firm as long as we can, but we must have an army behind us.8

After an exchange of pleasantries, the meeting ended.9

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1025, President/HAK Memcons, Memcon—the President, Kissinger, and Amb. Chow Apr. 12, 1971. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. The President’s Daily Diary indicates that Chow met with the President from 11:31 a.m. to 12:05 p.m. and that Emil Mosbacher, Chief of Protocol for the Department of State, was also present. (Ibid., White House Central Files) The conversation was recorded by the White House taping system. The statements in quotations marks are actually paraphrases. (Ibid., White House Tapes, Recording of conversation between Nixon and Kissinger, April 12, 1971, 11:28 a.m.–12:41 p.m., Oval Office, Conversation No. 477–3)
  2. Shortly before Chow entered the room, Nixon and Kissinger discussed the visit of the U.S. ping-pong team to the PRC. Noted Nixon, “One interesting thing that we’re saying goodbye to him on the day that the ping-pong team, waited, you know, ping-pong team makes the front page of The New York Times.” Responded Kissinger, “They are very subtle though, these Chinese.” Nixon replied, “You think it means something.” Kissinger stated, “No question.” (Ibid.)
  3. Apparent reference to the “Second Annual Report to Congress on United States Foreign Relations,” February 25, 1971, in Public Papers: Nixon, 1971, pp. 219–345.
  4. Brackets in the source text. Shortly before Chow arrived, Kissinger reminded Nixon: “Mr. President, one more thing I want to mention, about the Chinese Ambassador. He’s going to be the Chinese foreign minister, and we’re going to announce the relaxation of our trade restrictions [with the PRC]. He’s going straight back to Taipei. I wonder whether you could just mention that to him, so that he doesn’t arrive there with a severe loss of face after seeing you and not having been told about it. Now this first group, there are actually three groups of relaxations. The first one is minor, the entry of Chinese, currency controls, bunkering, some shipping restrictions.” (National Archives. Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Recording of conversation between Nixon and Kissinger, April 12, 1971, Oval Office, Conversation No. 477–3)
  5. Probable reference to an April 9 memorandum from Kissinger to Nixon; see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. V, Document 344. See also Document 167 in this volume.
  6. Japanese-American negotiations over Okinawa sparked renewed Chinese interest in the Senkaku Islands (Taioyutai or Daioyutai in Chinese). Chow gave a 4-page aidemémoire to Green on September 16, 1970, outlining the ROC’s objections to Japanese sovereignty over these islands. (National Archives, RG 59, EA/ROC Files: Lot 75 D 61, Subject Files, Petroleum–Senkakus, January–September 1970) Shoesmith summarized reports of student demonstrations in Taipei against Japanese control of the Senkaku Islands and noted: “The Embassy believes that the initiative for the demonstrations has come from the students rather than the government. But the latter probably has given tacit approval out of reluctance to oppose the fruits of youthful patriotism and its own dissatisfaction over our China policy and oil exploration moratorium.” (Memorandum from Shoesmith t. Green, April 17; ibid., Lot 75 D 76, Petroleum–Senkakus, January–March 1971) There were also student protests in the United States and Hong Kong. The White House tape of the April 12 meeting indicates that Chow emphasized that the final disposition of the Senkakus should be kept open, and that this issue was a measure of the ROC’s ability to protect itself. He emphasized the symbolic importance of the islands. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Recording of conversation between Nixon and Kissinger, April 12, 1971, Oval Office, Conversation No. 477–3)
  7. After Chow left the Oval Office, the President remarked that Chow was correct on the need to consider the political views of overseas Chinese. (Ibid.)
  8. Nixon remarked that he would not raise the issue of the U.S. position in public, but, if asked, would say that it had not changed. He also emphasized that Murphy’s visit would be private, with no press coverage, and that Murphy would report to the White House, not the Department of State. Finally he urged Chow to be “mum” about the United Nations issue until after Murphy visited Taiwan. (Ibid.) The White House also wanted to limit speculation by U.S. officials concerning policy toward China. An April 14 memorandum from Kissinger to the Acting Secretary of State reads in its entirety: “In the wake of recent developments, the President has asked that all substantive comments by U.S. officials, including responses to formal press inquiries, background statements on and off-the-record remarks and guidance to Posts abroad, concerning U.S. relations with the Peoples Republic of China be cleared with him through my office.” (Ibid., NSC Files, Box 521, Country Files, Far East, China, Vol. VI)
  9. At the end of this sentence is a comment in brackets: “End of tape.” In fact the White House taping system continued, as Nixon and Kissinger discussed Chow’s visit, then welcomed Anna Chennault into the Oval Office for a short talk.