154. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Laird to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • A New China Policy and the Search for Peace in Asia

The President’s continuing efforts to improve relations with the People’s Republic of China, most recently evinced by his dramatic announcement of July 15th, have won wide support at home and abroad. The Department of Defense is ready to assist in every possible way in these efforts of great significance to the peace and security of Asia and the world community.

To permit the Department of Defense to provide the most effective support of the President’s efforts, we must be cognizant of, and participate in, the planning concerning politico-military matters of major concern to this Department.

Because of the continual emphasis in the various media of official expression in the People’s Republic of China on United States military deployments in East Asia as a manifestation of hostility toward the PRC, it is anticipated that this subject will be of central concern in considerations affecting normalization of relations between the US and the PRC. Such matters as the size and nature of our future military presence on Taiwan, adjustments in our political and military relationships with other nations in Asia (particularly Japan), alternative means for accomplishing essential military functions which adjustments in our strategic posture may require, reassessment of certain aspects of the Military Assistance Program for Taiwan, and the requirement for training of additional China specialists in the Services are among the areas of potential concern. Timely and adequate consideration of these and related matters, not only by this Department but also by all agencies [Page 474] and individuals involved in planning our future course in Asia, appears essential to the President’s efforts to lessen tensions and normalize relations between ourselves and the People’s Republic of China.

In anticipation of some of the major concerns which must be addressed, I have taken the following steps to survey Defense assets, analyze our current strategic posture, prepare for certain adjustments that may be required in this posture, and assure this Department’s responsiveness to possible future requirements:

The Joint Chiefs of Staff have been requested to provide their views concerning, first, the estimated impact on US security interests of the removal of the US military presence from Taiwan and second, the alternative means for providing for the essential functions relating to US and allied theater posture in the event such military presence was removed from Taiwan. I expect to receive and analyze the Chiefs’ response shortly.
In view of the significance of certain intelligence functions performed on Taiwan, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have also been asked to include this dimension in their assessment.
The Defense Intelligence Agency has been directed to inventory language capabilities and China expertise in the Services in anticipation of expanded requirements for qualified personnel.
We are undertaking a reassessment of certain aspects of the Military Assistance Program for Taiwan, as well as addressing a possible requirement for SIOP-related adjustments.

In addition to such anticipatory concerns and others of a reactive nature in response to specific requirements which may be levied on the Department as planning proceeds, I feel strongly that the Department of Defense has major participatory interests in support of the President’s undertaking. For instance, I believe that recent developments have added to the importance of securing a favorable resolution of the future status of the Micronesian Trust Territories and lend a new urgency to the next round of negotiations on this subject.

Most important in the near time-frame, of course, is the effect on Southeast Asia. We must look not only at the feasibility of some form of diplomatic breakthrough in Laos, but also at the possibility of significant progress in Paris or elsewhere regarding Indochina as a whole. We may also wish to consider urging Saigon to take new initiatives (trade, mail, etc.) to normalize contacts between the two Vietnams.

Finally, my just-concluded trip gave me the opportunity to see the concern of Japanese leaders that they will be left behind or by-passed by USPRC negotiations. I remain convinced that maintenance of a relationship of trust and cooperation between our country and Japan is of the utmost importance, requiring full, frank, and timely discussions on a continuing basis. The possible removal of the US military presence from Taiwan makes our Japanese bases, especially on Okinawa, almost indispensable.

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These are some of the concerns of the Department of Defense as the President addresses the challenge of normalizing our relationship with the People’s Republic of China. I urge that the President call on the Department for the support we stand ready to provide in any manner most useful to him.2

Mel Laird
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 522, Country Files, Far East, China, Vol. IX. Top Secret; Sensitive. Prepared by Colonel Paul Murray (ISA). An early draft was returned to ISA on July 23, as Laird wanted a more explicit and definitive memorandum. (Memorandum from Pursley to Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense Armistead I. Selden, Jr.; Washington National Records Center, RG 330, ISA Files: FRC 330 74 0115, China, Rep. of, 1971, 000.1) The final draft was forwarded to Laird’s office on August 3. (Memorandum from Selden to Laird; ibid.) According to a memorandum for the record prepared by the NSC staff, Kissinger, at a meeting on July 28, gave a brief overview of his meetings in the PRC to Laird, Pursley, an. Admiral Murphy. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1025, Presidential/HAK Memcons, Kissinger, Sec. Laird, Gen. Pursley, Adm. Murphy and Gen. A. Haig, July 28, 1971)
  2. Froebe forwarded the memorandum to Kissinger on August 28 under a covering memorandum. Kissinger’s reply, drafted by Froebe on September 10, reads in full: “I have noted the Department of Defense’s various points of interest described in your memorandum of August 13 regarding our planning of U.S. efforts to improve relations with the People’s Republic of China. I appreciate very much your offer of the Department’s support as we move forward toward normalizing relations with Peking. I assure you that the Department of Defense will be kept apprised of and consulted on these matters whenever appropriate.” (Ibid., Box 522, Country Files, Far East, China, Vol. IX)