Learn about the beta

182. Editorial Note

Officials in the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the White House were concerned that no reconnaissance or related activities against the People’s Republic of China (PRC) complicate President Nixon’s trip to China. In a January 3 letter to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Thomas Moorer, U. Alexis Johnson pointed out that Deputy Secretary of Defense Packard had agreed in November 1971 to “hold all surface and air surveillance activities at least 12 nautical miles (NM) from the PRC-claimed Woody and Lincoln Islands in the Paracels Group.” Johnson stated that the PRC had issued a warning on December 24 alleging that a U.S. naval vessel violated its territorial integrity. He noted that the ship had not come within 12 nautical miles of the islands themselves, but that the PRC claim was based on “the straight baseline method between the islands, that is drawing a line between the islands and marking off the 12 NM limit from that line.” Johnson asked: “if it would be feasible for our ships, at least for the time being, to avoid entering the claimed area around Lincoln and Woody Islands, it would [Page 637]avoid the problem of additional ‘serious warnings’ in this period before the President’s visit to Peking.” (National Archives, RG 59, Bureau of Diplomatic Security: Lot 96 D 695, U. Alexis Johnson Files, Chrono-Official, January 1972)

In early January Kissinger approved monitoring potential GRC activity and the proposal that, “If there is any increase in noise level, have State request McConaughy to approach Chiang Ching-Kuo and emphasize that sabotage activities such as those alleged to have occurred in Kwangtung during October would be unhelpful to President Nixon.” Kissinger wrote: “Let’s decide this when it happens.” The memorandum from Jessup to Kissinger and attached CIA reports are in National Security Council, Nixon Intelligence Files, Subject Files, China. On February 12, McConaughy reported to Rogers that “As instructed Ambassador made representation to Vice Premier Chiang emphasizing need for full GRC cooperation in safeguarding good atmosphere for President’s visit to PRC and supplying us with any information that might have even indirect bearing on security of President or environment of visit. Ambassador noted that we expected ChiComs to maintain non-offensive posture during period which should make it easier for GRC to do same. Ambassador made clear he was referring to action by GRC sympathizers on mainland, coastal activity by GRC armed forces, or even moves in places remote from cities President will visit that would put GRC in position to be plausibly blamed for untoward incident.” McConaughy concluded that Chiang gave “categorical assurances that GRC would refrain from any actions of an offensive or provocative nature.” (Telegram 712 from Taipei, February 12; ibid.) No incidents were reported around the time of Nixon’s trip to the PRC.