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130. Message From the Premier of the People’s Republic of China Chou En-lai to President Nixon 1

“Premier Chou En-lai sincerely thanks His Excellency President Yahya Khan for most rapidly transmitting the three messages from President Nixon.

“Premier Chou En-lai has seriously studied President Nixon’s messages of April 29, May 17th and May 22nd, 1971,2 and has reported with much pleasure to Chairman Mao Tse-tung that President Nixon is prepared to accept his suggestion to visit Peking for direct conversations with the leaders of the People’s Republic of China. Chairman Mao Tse-tung has indicated that he welcomes President Nixon’s visit and looks forward to that occasion when he may have direct conversations with His Excellency the President, in which each side would be free to raise the principal issue of concern to it. It goes without saying that the first question to be settled is the crucial issue between China and the United States which is the question of the concrete way of the withdrawal of all the U.S. Armed Forces from Taiwan and Taiwan Straits area.

“Premier Chou En-lai welcomes Dr. Kissinger to China as the U.S. representative who will come in advance for a preliminary secret meeting with high level Chinese officials to prepare and make necessary arrangements for President Nixon’s visit to Peking.

“Premier Chou En-lai suggests that it would be preferable for Dr. Kissinger to set a date between June 15 and 20th for his arrival in China, that Peking may be the location and that he may fly direct from Islamabad to a Peking airport not open to the public. As for the flight, he may take a Pakistan Boeing aircraft or a Chinese special plane can be sent to fly him to and from China, if needed. The talks plus the [Page 333]flights on both ways will probably take three or four days. If there is the desire to use his own telecommunication equipment on a temporary basis during his stay in Peking he may do so.

“As it is difficult to keep Dr. Kissinger’s trip strictly secret, he may well consider coming for the meeting in an open capacity. If secrecy is still desired the Government of the People’s Republic of China will on its part guarantee the strict maintenance of secrecy. When the talks have yielded results, the two sides may agree to a public announcement to be made after the meeting, if it is so desired.

“As for other details, they may be discussed and arranged through President Yahya Khan directly with the Chinese Ambassador.

“Premier Chou En-lai warmly looks forward to the meeting with Dr. Kissinger in Peking in the near future.”

I3 notice from the above message that the Premier has given an alternative for an open meeting between himself and Dr. Kissinger. Knowing Dr. Kissinger’s desire to maintain strict secrecy which fact I have been impressing upon Premier Chou En-lai, the above message is indicative of the Premier’s acceptance of the secret meeting for which he has given guarantee. The rest will depend upon U.S. and Pakistan maintaining secrecy.

As regards arrangements on our part, I have discussed with the Chinese Ambassador and propose as follows:

(a)
Dr. Kissinger arrives on a D Day
(b)
After a 24 hour stop in Islamabad and a meal with me, he will ostensibly make a trip to a place not open to public in the Northern region. In actual fact, a Pakistan Boeing will carry him along the Northern route direct to Peking up from Islamabad. The time of flight will be approximately seven hours. On completion of the mission, Dr. Kissinger will return to Islamabad to resume his onward journey.

If Dr. Kissinger would find it helpful, I am considering sending a high level Pakistani with him to Peking.

  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. No classification marking. An identical handwritten copy of this message is attached. It was probably prepared by Hilaly. Kissinger met with Hilaly from 9:06 to 9:24 a.m. on May 31. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–1976, Record of Schedule) At that time, he apparently made Kissinger aware of the incoming message but did not yet have the actual text. The two men met again on June 2 from 8:10 to 8:30 p.m. (Ibid.) According to a notation on another copy of the message, it was “transcribed from handwritten document handed to HAK by Hilaly, 6–2–71, 8:10 p.m. Taken to Pres.” This version did not include the comments from Yahya at the end of the message. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1031, Files for the President—China Material, Material Concerning Preparations for First China Trip by HAK, July 1971)
  2. See Documents 122, 125, and 126.
  3. “I” refers to Yahya.