169. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Chow Shu-kai, Foreign Minister, Republic of China
  • James Shen, ROC Ambassador to U.S.
  • Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • John H. Holdridge, Senior Staff Member NSC


  • Mr. Kissinger’s Visit to Peking, the UN Vote on Chirep, and U.S.–ROC Relations

Ambassador Shen asked Mr. Kissinger how his trip to Peking was. Mr. Kissinger said that he wished that he could inform his visitors that Chinese hospitality no longer existed on the Mainland, but he was, in fact, treated very well. However, he wanted to tell them on behalf of the President and of himself personally that he and the President couldn’t feel worse about the UN vote, and couldn’t understand why it had come so quickly. Why had this been? Foreign Minister Chow explained that the other side had wanted to exploit the atmosphere in the UN, which was favorable, and at the last moment had withdrawn a number of speakers. In addition, some of those who spoke had shortened their speeches.

Mr. Kissinger interjected at this point to ask how many people in Taiwan would receive reports of the present conversation. Foreign Minister Chow said that he would send the report only to President Chiang and the Prime Minister.

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Mr. Kissinger then went on to say that he had been given to understand that the vote at the earliest would be on October 29. He had heard from Ambassador Bush that the vote would probably be on the 2nd or 3rd of November, and under these circumstances he had thought that if he could come back and say he had been received well at the same time that the vote was being prepared, he could demonstrate that the vote had not been influenced by his visit and turn it into a plus. In fact, he had considered going to New York himself for this purpose.2 Therefore, he had been stunned when he had received word that the vote had taken place.3

Continuing, Mr. Kissinger explained that his second visit to Peking had been arranged last summer, but when the coincidence of the UN vote with the second trip became apparent, he had had a meeting with Ambassador Bush, who had said he couldn’t delay the beginning of the debate but could string out the proceedings—this was easy. He, Mr. Kissinger, personally didn’t know the situation in “that madhouse” (the UN), but thought that this would have been possible. He realized that the ROC could not agree with what we were doing with Peking, but the last thing we wanted was to have the ROC out of the UN. In fact, in February and March the President and he were sitting on everything concerning the UN vote so as to delay it as long as possible. Then, as the ROC knew, we had sent a special emissary to Taiwan. Mr. Kissinger indicated he had felt earlier that once the ROC’s position had changed, it would be done for.

Mr. Kissinger noted that it had never come into anybody’s mind that the UN vote would take place while he was in Peking. As he had told the Ambassador, whatever he had done, he had done openly. He was not the ROC problem; he didn’t want the ROC out of the UN, nor did any people deserve what had happened less than they.

Foreign Minister Chow asked, had Mr. Kissinger been surprised at the outcome? The Foreign Minister referred to Mr. Kissinger’s remark that once the ROC position had changed, it would be done for. Mr. Kissinger explained that he had meant maybe over the next five years, in which time many other things could happen. What he questioned was the strategical judgment which we had used, that is, was it right to move with so much publicity, rather than to work quietly with some centers so we could take a position not so visible out in front? Starting from early September, we might have talked to somebody like Lee Kuan-yew, who didn’t want the PRC in the UN.4

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Foreign Minister Chow expressed agreement, but noted that in Singapore’s vote Lee Kuan-yew had to go along with Malaysia.

Mr. Kissinger declared that he did not blame himself for being in Peking; his visit was ambiguous, and could have worked as much for the ROC as against it. Peking also found it troublesome, because the leaders there had to explain to their own people why they were talking to him at the same time we were voting against them at the UN. He did feel badly, though, about our tactics. Looking over the list of the countries who voted against us, it was hard to see why a miserable country like Guyana, which we could buy, voted against us. Mr. Kissinger observed that there was no sense in making a foreign policy issue out of this, and he didn’t want to be crude, but there were ways of handling this sort of thing. But when we went the diplomatic route, things were different. Take Lee Kuan-yew, for example; the only thing of interest about him was whether he would be left high-and-dry if we changed our position. Going through the list of those who voted against us, we had killed ourselves by using normal diplomatic channels. What he, Mr. Kissinger, deserved criticism for was that he had not supervised our tactics as much as he should. Two months ago he had asked Ambassador Bush for a list of those whom he thought would support us, and some countries clearly shouldn’t have been on it. For example, Cyprus, where Makarios has two nationalities to deal with; he couldn’t agree to dual representation. Mr. Kissinger remarked that he didn’t know what had happened in the case of Trinidad and Tobago, but he had felt that Belgium, also with two distinct elements in its population, wouldn’t vote for us even though it had been listed as doing so.

Foreign Minister Chow stated that Belgium had changed its vote at the last minute. Mr. Kissinger retorted that many countries had voted the way they intended to, but had made the judgment that if they were going to get the U.S. sore, it would be better to get us sore at the last minute. Returning to the question of whether he had been surprised at the outcome of the vote or not, Mr. Kissinger said that he had sent back a cable from Peking to delay the vote unless we were certain we could win, and when this cable had been sent on Wednesday night, he had thought we were indeed going to win. It should have been possible in this nut house to be able to find a means of delay. To be candid, he was really mad.

Foreign Minister Chow mentioned that the UN now had a weak President, who didn’t know the procedures. Mr. Kissinger said, yes, this was Malik,5 whom he knew. Foreign Minister Chow thought that [Page 581] Malik may have been scared and unwilling to offend people such as the Russians. There were, of course, many ways of bringing about a delay. Mr. Kissinger asserted that if he had been given the assignment, he could certainly have stretched out the debate. The last two days were too late, however. His instructions of September 29 were to get the vote into November. He didn’t care how, but didn’t have to rack his brain—it would have been possible to delay the Political Committee for a few days. The airplane business could have been gotten in (the hi-jacking of a 747 to Cuba), and a Security Council meeting convened. No one should say that we couldn’t screw it up; we had done so hundreds of times.

Mr. Kissinger added that when he had gotten the message about the vote he had been absolutely beside himself. He believed that if he had had a week in between, the situation would have been different. He didn’t know how he would have gone about it, but countries such as Guyana wouldn’t have played around. Keeping the ROC in the UN was something which we wanted, and which State wanted, but we had gotten the rug pulled out from under us at the ROC’s expense. Mr. Kissinger hoped that the Foreign Minister and the Ambassador would not report all of what he had said. Foreign Minister Chow remarked that there were no Chinese expressions to parallel many of the expressions used by Mr. Kissinger. Ambassador Shen said that the report of this conversation would be sent only to President Chiang.

Foreign Minister Chow raised the question of where we would go from here. Mr. Kissinger declared that we were not going to give up in Peking our defense commitment to the ROC.6 Foreign Minister Chow should tell his President and Prime Minister that this wasn’t going to happen, and that he wanted them to know this. As to where we would go from here, we would certainly maintain our usual cordial relations. If Ambassador Shen invited him to dinner and put this in the papers, he would be delighted.

Mr. Kissinger asked Foreign Minister Chow if he, himself, had been surprised at the vote. Foreign Minister Chow replied that, frankly, he had not been surprised—he had thought from the beginning that the trend was against them. Mr. Kissinger referred to the fact that one of those voting against the ROC was Botswana, a country of only 300,000 people. Foreign Minister Chow noted that the ROC had an Ambassador in Botswana, and also had sent an agricultural team there. Mr. Kissinger remarked that countries such as Botswana and Guyana drove him crazy—they had no business voting against us. We couldn’t do much about the Arab states, although countries such as Oman and [Page 582] Qatar probably didn’t know where China was. All these were countries which had leaped to his, Mr. Kissinger’s mind. Anyway, he hadn’t gone into our tactics, and had assumed that our experts knew what they were doing. He had suffered under the impression that he could get into this matter when he came back, and that we would come out ahead. If he had been able to say to the President that it was possible to be received in a friendly way in Peking while fighting it in the UN—.

Foreign Minister Chow noted that he didn’t know what was going to happen now, with Peking coming into the UN. He could see a ground-swell of resentment in the U.S., not only in Congress, but from the man-in-the-street. Mr. Kissinger agreed, observing that what got people mad was the behavior of African delegations after the vote.

Foreign Minister Chow indicated that with respect to the future relationships between the U.S. and the ROC, it would be most important for the ROC to strengthen its bilateral relations with the U.S. and Japan. He was relieved that Sato for the moment had weathered the storm. Mr. Aichi had left New York for home yesterday, but he didn’t know what to say to Sato because he didn’t know Sato’s future. Anyway, the vote of no confidence in Sato had been rejected. For the ROC, bilateral relations with the U.S. and Japan were of preeminent importance.

Foreign Minister Chow went on to say that there had to be a calm atmosphere on Taiwan so that there would be no sharp flight of capital or panic in the market. In practical terms, if the ROC could withstand the initial shock, keep the economy stabilized, and maintain industrial production, the ordinary people couldn’t care less whether the ROC was in the UN or not.

Foreign Minister Chow remarked that he was happy to see that the Senate had rejected the Cooper–Church Amendment and the repeal of the Formosa Resolution. Now, if the President could reaffirm the U.S.–ROC Mutual Defense Treaty at a press conference—. Mr. Kissinger promised that the President would indeed reaffirm the Treaty. Foreign Minister Chow said that there should be no doubt in the minds of the ordinary people on this score. Mr. Kissinger raised the possibility in addition that we might just have somebody ask if U.S. commitments to Taiwan had been affected by the UN vote, to which Ziegler or somebody else could say “no.”7

Foreign Minister Chow observed that even if Taiwan’s security was assured, the question of its economic viability remained important. [Page 583] They didn’t want a flight of capital and falling investments. At the moment, economic expansion was halted prior to the beginning of the new year, and if the flow of foreign investments was not resumed there would be difficulties. As long as they still had a stable environment in the Government and military, though, he was confident that the economic problems could be handled.

Mr. Kissinger informed Foreign Minister Chow that he had just talked to Governor Reagan, and the ROC had certainly made a deep impression on the Governor. Foreign Minister Chow went on to say that the ROC’s trade this year had been $400 million, and it still needed to trade with the Common Market countries. Mr. Kissinger asked if it was still possible for the ROC to trade with these countries, and asked about the possibility also of the ROC maintaining trade missions. Foreign Minister Chow said that they were trying to do this. They were not going to undertake rash measures against countries like Botswana. He had personally received the Foreign Minister of Botswana, who had been in New York himself, and had been told that, so sorry, the Botswana vote was a cabinet decision.

Mr. Kissinger informed the Foreign Minister that the President had done a lot on the ROC’s behalf. We had switched the Israeli vote, where people had said there was no hope. The President had also called Morocco and Mexico and others on the telephone and had written about ten letters. He himself had made about three or four phone calls. Mr. Kissinger added that he personally had gotten in touch with Prime Minister Heath, and had said that we understood the UK couldn’t work with us, but also should not work against us.

Again recalling the voting pattern, Mr. Kissinger recalled that Uganda, which had a Communist friend on its border, Tanzania, had voted against us. Why was this? Foreign Minister Chow mentioned that the other side had worked ‘round the clock and had wined and dined delegates; some had just simply been bought. Mr. Kissinger commented that two could play at that game. Anyway, it was a mistake not to look at the tactics. The Peking trip had not been a problem, not one country had changed its vote as a result. Mr. Kissinger added that he had thought the earliest the vote could have come was that same day, October 29. Foreign Minister Chow commented that we had lost momentum. One evening when the Soviet Mission had drawn the proceedings out the UN President could have called for a continuation the next morning.

Mr. Kissinger agreed, saying that we could have asked for adjournment. We then could have focused on the airplane hi-jack incident. In this madhouse if one didn’t pay attention to the New York Times, we could delay. In addition, October 25 was a U.S. holiday, and we certainly could have used this as a delay. Mr. Kissinger noted that he was [Page 584] speaking very candidly, and relied on the Foreign Minister and the Ambassador not to repeat what he was saying. He reiterated that he was very unhappy over the outcome of the voting. What we had done in Peking had to be done, because it fitted into our strategy, but our strategy was not to get the ROC out of the UN; rather it was to keep the ROC in. Did the Foreign Minister and the Ambassador think that we wanted a PRC delegation running around New York next week?

Foreign Minister Chow remarked that we had to defend Tokyo from pressures which were very heavy. With respect to Mr. Kissinger’s Peking visit, he was of course in a closed society but had he noticed anything? Mr. Kissinger replied that he had seen literally nothing. As far as he could see, Chou En-lai had the same assurance that he possessed before. He was the chief person with whom Mr. Kissinger had dealt, and there was no visible change in his appearance or position. Mr. Holdridge mentioned that the PRC had made quite an effort to put Mr. Kissinger and the members of his party on public display, suggesting that they wanted the people to understand that the policy of improving relations with the U.S. enjoyed official sanction.

Foreign Minister Chow asked if Mr. Kissinger had seen or heard anything of Lin Piao. Mr. Kissinger replied that, no, he had not; nor had he asked about Lin Piao. In response to a question from Foreign Minister Chow about the convening of the National People’s Congress, Mr. Kissinger stated that somebody had mentioned to him that it would be convened within the next year. Peking literally had not looked any different, and there had been no added military people in the streets. In fact, the military presence seemed less than had been the case in July.

Foreign Minister Chow returned to the subject of the UN voting and the question of getting a delay. Belgium had been very funny about this, and because the ROC was negotiating with the Belgians, they had delayed their announcement. They had tried to delay it somehow, but on the 25th couldn’t delay more. In a way they were quite decent, and if they had voted earlier could have voted for or abstained. Mr. Kissinger asserted that he had never had any illusions about Belgium. He had told his people more than two months ago he had never thought that they would vote for us. He had been stationed there at the end of World War II, and knew their leaders, some of whom had been students of his. With two big leftist parties, they just delayed so we wouldn’t be any madder at them than necessary.

Foreign Minister Chow declared that the ROC needed by hook or crook to stabilize its international relations. He referred to the King of Saudi Arabia as having gone all out for the ROC. Baroody was a clown, but the policy of the King was unquestionable. Foreign Minister Chow went on to say that in key centers the ROC had to arrest further [Page 585] erosion. Mr. Kissinger informed the Foreign Minister that Ambassador Shen and he were staying in close consultation. We couldn’t help the ROC too much openly, but could do a great deal behind the scenes. Foreign Minister Chow said that if there was evidence of U.S. support for the ROC, he hoped that after the initial period the shock would wear off. Mr. Kissinger assured the Foreign Minister that he would produce this evidence of support. The following week he would get a question put to Ziegler as to whether the UN vote affected U.S. support for Taiwan, and Ziegler would say no.8 The main thing that we should all do was not to attack each other. The ROC should do what it wanted to, but we would get this thing set next week, which was important for Peking to hear. If Ambassador Shen came to say that he had problems with certain countries, we would look into them. Foreign Minister Chow indicated that he was not planning to return to Taiwan too soon, in order to try and have a clearing period. He was not going to engage in a post-mortem.

Ambassador Shen wondered when the President’s next press conference would take place, to which Mr. Kissinger said that the President would repeat our support for the ROC, but we would also get a statement out the following week. This matter should not be left unsettled, and if the Foreign Minister and the Ambassador agreed, we would come out with something on Monday or Tuesday.8 The President would raise it again in his press conference.9

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 522, Country Files, Far East, China, Vol. IX. Secret; Sensitive. The time of the meeting is taken from Kissinger’s Record of Schedule. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–1976, Record of Schedule) Chow and Shen also met with Rogers, Pedersen, Green, De Palma, and Moser at the Department of State on October 29. The 4-page memorandum of this conversation is in National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, UN 6 CHICOM.
  2. Kissinger’s handwritten addition to this sentence reads: “while in Peking.”
  3. Kissinger’s handwritten addition to this sentence reads: “was [unintelligible].”
  4. Kissinger wrote next to this sentence: “and promised him advanced warning if we changed our position. He could care less about all our legal arguments.”
  5. Reference is to Adam Malik, Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs and President, 26th Session of the UN General Assembly.
  6. This sentence was underlined in an unknown hand.
  7. Attached but not printed were memoranda dated November 3, 11, 12, and 13 from Janka to Ziegler, requesting that he make explicit the U.S. treaty comitment to the ROC. On November 13 Janka wrote to Kissinger that Ziegler had not yet made the statement promised to the ROC officials. This issue was revisited on November 15; see Document 172.