148. Minutes of the Secretary of Defense Staff Meeting1


  • Mr. Laird
  • Mr. Packard
  • Mr. Beal
  • Mr. Froehlke
  • General Westmoreland
  • Governor Chafee
  • Admiral Zumwalt
  • Dr. Seamans
  • General Ryan
  • Admiral Moorer
  • General Chapman
  • Lt General Vogt
  • Dr. Rechtin (for Dr. Foster)
  • Mr. Cooke
  • Mr. Henkin
  • LGeneral Taber (for Mr. Kelley)
  • Mr. Moot
  • Dr. Nutter
  • BGen Hayes (pending Dr. Wilbur’s arrival)
  • Mr. Shillito
  • Dr. Tucker
  • Mr. Buzhardt
  • Mr. Wallace
  • Mr. Baroody
  • Mr. Johnson
  • Mr. Solomon
  • Dr. Walske
  • Mr. Friedheim
  • Dr. Heilmeier
  • BGen Pursley
  • RAdm Murphy

[Omitted here is discussion of Laird’s recent trip to South Korea and Japan, manpower issues, and legislative affairs.]

[Page 461]

5. China Initiative

Mr. Laird felt that too many people were reading too much into the possibilities that would evolve from the President’s proposed trip to China. Many of these implications will be of great concern to the Department of Defense, and Mr. Laird cautioned that there will be a tendency for many groups to assume that the war in Southeast Asia is over. Mr. Laird stressed that it is important to relate the China initiative to the principles of the Nixon Doctrine, ie, strength, partnership, and negotiation. Mr. Laird said that in his experience, many people would tend to put too much faith into the outcome of one meeting. He mentioned that the Chinese could make some last minute demands which would make it very difficult for US in Southeast Asia. Mr. Laird said that the theme, from the standpoint of the Department of Defense, should be first that this is just one move in our overall efforts to negotiate an era of peace and second, that we must remember it is important to maintain strength during this period of negotiation. Dr. Nutter gave an analysis of our possible new relationship with the People’s Republic of China. He cautioned that it was very early to offer anything other than the very tentative analysis. He reminded the group that Peking has been conducting a diplomatic offense for over a year. Dr. Nutter also mentioned that a meaningful dialogue had developed on the subject of trade and travel after the President’s foreign policy report of February 1971.2 Dr. Nutter pointed out that Peking will seek a reduction of our military presence in the Western Pacific as a price for cooperation. Dr. Nutter cautioned that this may well have a very fundamental impact on the balance of power in that part of the world. He mentioned that various preliminary studies on the implications of this new situation had already been started by ISA, DIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

[Omitted here is discussion of the Middle East and Southeast Asia.]

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Office Files: FRC 330 76 0028, Chron, 16 June 1971. Top Secret. Prepared by Colonel James G. Boatner, USA. Laird also held his regular meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff on July 19 at 2:30 p.m. Although the minutes of this meeting have not been found, the talking paper prepared for Laird cover many of the same points as the staff meeting minutes. The talking paper states that “The price which Peking may demand for normalizing U.S.–PRC relations is a return by the U.S. to essentially a pre-World War II posture in Asia, with minimum presence and influence.” (Ibid., OSD Files: FRC 330 76 0197, 337 Staff Mtgs (JCS), 1971)
  2. “Second Annual Report to Congress on United States Foreign Policy,” February 25, 1971, in Public Papers: Nixon, 1971, pp. 219–345.