175. Response to NSSM 1411

[Omitted here is the table of contents.]



The PRC will combine three elements in its multilateral diplomacy. It will make common cause with the less developed world and attempt to marshal sentiment against “superpower domination” and “collusion”. Yet, since the PRC is in fact a big power with interests that differ from those of the small countries, it will in some cases act pragmatically and take stands that substitute ideology to practical interest. Finally, sooner or later the PRC will, like everyone else, find it necessary to engage in some logrolling in order to accomplish its objectives. We expect the first of the elements will be the most prominent for some time.

The combination of Third World leadership aspirations with pragmatism is the essence of the Chou line which emerged victorious after the Cultural Revolution. It would take a major internal change in China to alter those essentials of PRC policy.

The PRC’s immediate political objective will be to make sure that the ROC does not remain in any UN-related organizations or participate in international conferences. It will press for international recognition that Taiwan is an integral part of China and will insist that the ROC cannot take part in international organizations or conferences under any name. At the same time, there may be a wide range of organizations and conferences in which it will choose not to participate actively. These may include for the foreseeable future the international financial institutions.

Although it may hold back until it can appraise the results of the President’s visit, we can anticipate a major PRC effort to isolate the US on the Taiwan question within the UN and possibly gain UNGA approval for a resolution recommending the end of the US “occupation” of Taiwan.

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It is apparent that the PRC is not yet familiar enough with the issues and tactical problems to engage itself actively on all subjects before the UN and in international conferences. It will therefore enter multilateral diplomacy slowly, sending representatives to selected agencies and conferences where it sees clear opportunities to pose as the friend of the weak against the strong, or to achieve specific national interest objectives. Examples include the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE) and conferences on the environment and law of the sea. The PRC may refuse to participate in organizations or conferences in which participation would tend to compromise its non-superpower image or would conflict with already announced PRC policy: e.g. disarmament conferences limited to militarily significant countries.

Given its desire to become the leader of the “Third World” and its antagonistic posture vis-à-vis the US, USSR and Japan, the PRC will be especially radical on colonial and economic development issues, placing ideology and propaganda ahead of practicability. Similarly, it will press for radical disarmament measures, both to embarrass the US and USSR and, when necessary, to protect itself against lesser measures which would interfere with its own nuclear aspirations (much as the French have done). In a number of cases, we can expect that disagreements between the PRC and the USSR may impede progress toward desired goals (e.g. disarmament) or may add more heat to already difficult situations (e.g. Southern Africa). This will add to our difficulties, but in some cases it could also afford us opportunities since commonsense solutions offered by us will contrast better with unworkable, propagandistic Communist proposals.

Yet in the long run, to succeed in the leadership role it seems to be intent on asserting, Peking will have to demonstrate that multilateral diplomacy can, with PRC participation, produce results and reach agreements more satisfactory to the Afro-Asian states than those reached prior to PRC entry into the UN. Therefore, although we anticipate that PRC statements will continue to reflect a sharp tone whenever there is a tempting ideological target, the need to achieve results should eventually force the PRC to adopt more pragmatic bargaining positions and become more willing to reach compromise settlements, especially when such settlements are acceptable to the Third World.

We do not know to what extent the PRC intends to use international forums for negotiation of Asian problems. In this paper we discuss only the problems and opportunities in connection with possible UN discussions of the Korea and Taiwan issues, and more briefly Viet- Nam and Cambodia. PRC attitudes toward Japan will also be a problem for us in the multilateral context, but are not discussed here. It must be noted, however, that the entry of the PRC into the UN makes [Page 606] the Japanese goal of a permanent seat on the Security Council more difficult to attain.

What we ourselves do in the UN and related international bodies should be designed in general to:

  • —facilitate an early and active participation by the PRC in a wide variety of UN activities where its presence is inevitable or where a basis for cooperation with it exists;
  • —discourage the PRC from looking at these institutions from a purely political and propaganda point of view and try to engage it in substantive discussions of mutual advantage;
  • —preserve a place for the ROC on the international scene, at least as a party to economic arrangements.2

Peking’s participation in the UN offers some potential opportunities to further US policy objectives. While at first Peking is likely to crowd the Soviets toward more radical positions, the PRC may also in some cases tend to push the Soviets closer to positions taken by other major powers. For example, if Peking should endorse the more radical Arab positions on the issue of a Middle Eastern settlement the Soviets may find it advisable to work for more realistic solutions in keeping with the mainstream of Arab policy.

In the field of arms control, even though its initial contribution is likely to be largely propagandistic, the participation of the PRC could lead to its engagement in mutually advantageous arrangements, for instance on non-proliferation.

Peking’s participation also creates at least a theoretical possibility for reexamining the original UN concept for peacekeeping, centered on the role of the Military Staff Committee. While it will take time to establish Peking’s interest in formal peacekeeping measures, we may find it useful ultimately to explore the feasibility of revitalizing the UN Charter’s original peacekeeping concept. Even if this proves impossible, we shall want to see if Peking’s presence enhances the possibility of moving the Soviets toward agreement on reasonable arrangements for consent-type peacekeeping missions.

It goes without saying that if Peking displays an interest in UN discussions relating to population, drug abuse, and environment, these discussions should also benefit from the PRC’s presence. It may take some time to determine Peking’s stance on this array of issues, however.

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Perhaps the most interesting possibility opened up by Peking’s participation is that of some form of UN political mediation between India and Pakistan. On the assumption that none of the five permanent SC members will see its interest served by an outbreak of major hostilities between India and Pakistan, the Security Council could perhaps play a role in preventing major hostilities and promoting a political settlement in East Pakistan. Peking’s link with Pakistan will balance Moscow’s with India and might conceivably establish a basis for a UN effort in which the five Permanent Members could help restrain Indian military moves while permitting a political solution in East Pakistan.

No difficult policy choices have surfaced in preparing this paper.3 The problems are essentially tactical, how best to obtain PRC cooperation in particular cases, how best to deal with expected troublesome PRC actions, how best to protect some remaining ROC positions without a major expenditure of diplomatic capital. Common sense usually suggests the limits within which the answers will have to be found. It is clear that we must soon consult with the PRC on the next UN Secretary General. We shall have to deal with them when the India/Pakistan and Middle East issues are discussed in the UN. Tactical decisions will also soon have to be made on how to open the door for PRC participation in the discussions of arms limitation and oceans policy.

[Omitted here are 46 pages of text divided into the following sections: On-Going Negotiations (Arms Limitations, Ocean Problems, Peacekeeping, and Outer Space); Political Issues (Korea, Middle East, India-Pakistan, Southern Africa, Taiwan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Micronesia, Specialized Agencies); Economic and Social Issues (Environment, Drug Control, Other Economic and Social Questions, and Red Cross Conference); and Institutional Arrangements (PRC and ROC Adherence to Conventions, UN Finances, Secretary General, and PRC Personnel in UN and Specialized Agencies).]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, S/S Files: Lot 80 D 212, National Security Files, NSSM 141. Secret. The response was submitted by De Palma, Chairman of the Ad Hoc Working Group for NSSM 141, on December 3. A December 3 note in the file by Herz stated: “The NSC Staff has agreed that NSSM 141 should be regarded essentially as a briefing paper.” The NSC staff distributed the paper on December 7 with a covering memorandum that stated that it would be discussed at a Senior Review Group meeting on December 8. No meeting was held however. (Both ibid.) NSSM 141 is printed as Document 171.
  2. Note: The evolving US/ROC relationship is the subject of a separate study. Pending availability of that study, which will provide the basis for decisions about defending the ROC’s position in multilateral organizations, we assume that we will wish to keep the ROC engaged in multilateral diplomacy where it is reasonable and feasible, but without a great expenditure of diplomatic capital. [Footnote in the source text. See Document 208.]
  3. On December 22 Wright, with the concurrence of Kennedy and Holdridge, suggested to Kissinger that he issue a NSDM that “instructs the bureaucracy to deliberately eschew progress on the issues, in so far as this is constructively possible, until the President’s visit has clarified the new US–Chinese relationship, and perhaps provided a better basis for cooperation than that which now appears to exist.” Kissinger did not issue the NSDM. Wright’s memorandum and the draft NSDM are in National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1036, Files for the President—China Material, China—general—November 1971–February 26, 1972.