128. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger
  • M. and Mme. John Paul Sainteny
  • Brig. General Alexander M. Haig
  • W. Richard Smyser, NSC Staff
  • Winston Lord, NSC Staff
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Substantive portions of the luncheon conversation centered on Vietnam and China. Following are the highlights of M. Sainteny’s observations.

[Omitted here is discussion of Vietnam.]


Mr. Sainteny said the following:

  • —The US moves concerning China were good, and we were now on a good path.
  • —With the Chinese, if you knock on one door they will open another one. Thus, while the Chinese Ambassador in Paris had merely transmitted Dr. Kissinger’s note without comment, M. Sainteny believed the approach through him had been very efficacious with respect to recent events.2
  • Chou En-lai has been clearly in charge since the Cultural Revolution, with Mao now being old.
  • —The Chinese will blow hot and cold in their dealings with us. We should multiply our gestures toward them to show our good will; he cited as an example that his company wished to sell helicopters to the Chinese, but were prevented by COCOM restrictions because an American license was needed for certain parts.

Dr. Kissinger said that M. Sainteny could tell the Chinese that the US will look positively at these trade questions. We will be freeing some trade items, although we cannot guarantee to free them all and will not release any with military significance.

After Lunch

After lunch, M. Sainteny remained for further private conversation with Dr. Kissinger. During that conversation he asked Dr. Kissinger whether he could tell Ambassador Bruce and Xuan Thuy that he had occasional contact with Dr. Kissinger. Dr. Kissinger said that he could tell those people.

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Dr. Kissinger asked M. Sainteny whether we could use him to get a message to the Chinese very fast if we needed to. M. Sainteny said he thought he could get to the Chinese quickly enough to deliver any urgent message, and that he would be pleased to do it.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1031, Files for the President—China Material, Exchanges Leading up to HAK’s Trip to China, December 1969–July 1971. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. The meeting was held in Kissinger’s office. Sainteny, Kissinger, Lord, and Smyser also met from 2:40 to 3:15 p.m. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–1976, Record of Schedule)
  2. Kissinger on January 12, which was translated by Smyser for Kissinger on January 18: “Acting on your letter of November 9, I had a conversation with my friend on December 23 during which I was able to set forth our project. Although he received the idea with a certain reserve, my interlocutor transmitted it to his board of directors. This board has so far apparently not made its response known. I shall not fail of course to keep you informed.” Kissinger’s response, drafted by Smyser, reads: “It was a great pleasure to hear that you are making progress. We wish you and your family a very Happy New Year, and we look forward to hearing from you again.” Sainteny’s letter, Smyser’s translation, and the response to Sainteny are in National Archives. Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1033, Files for the President, Miscellaneous memoranda relating to HAK’s trip to PRC, July 1971.