19. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State (Richardson) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Changes in Regulations Relating to China

As I told you on the phone,2 our people who are most knowledgeable on the subject have considered other actions, including cultural exchanges, we might take relating to China of a more modest [Page 50] nature than what we had previously planned. I am afraid there is not very much other than the following:

Authorization of Tourist Purchases. We both agree, and I understand that the President is also amenable, that we still go ahead with the changes embodied in NSDM 17,3 paragraph (2), to permit tourists to purchase Chinese Communist goods in limited quantities for noncommercial import into the United States.
Authorization to Export Food Grains. We might modify paragraph (3) of NSDM 17 to provide only for export of food grains rather than food of all types, agricultural equipment, chemical fertilizers and pharmaceuticals. This would be a more modest step, which is not entirely new, since President Kennedy offered in 1961 to consider the export of food grains to China. U.S. reaction was favorable but Peking denounced the move as hypocritical. Decision on food grains now would have the advantages of being a humanitarian gesture and a move welcomed by our grain producers who are excluded by our own regulations from a large potential market. It would merely offer the Chinese access to a commodity already available from other countries. It is unlikely that Peking would respond at this time by shifting purchases to us rather than buying from present trading partners.
Removal of Travel Restrictions. We could eliminate our existing restrictions on travel. In addition to China, however, these restrictions also cover North Korea, North Vietnam, and Cuba. This is a complicating factor, and I would prefer that we consider the whole question of these regulations when they come up for renewal in mid-September.4

I have had some second thoughts on the variation of this that we discussed, namely, a blanket authorization for travel to China of Congressmen, students, scholars, and journalists looking toward the possibility of exchanges in these categories. I fear that this proposal, tagged [Page 51] onto the first two, would undermine the effects we seek. As a matter of fact, we have been validating passports for virtually anyone going to China for any purpose other than simple tourism. Congressmen, academicians and journalists (plus Red Cross representatives and medical scientists) are among those who almost always have their passports validated and whose travels are among the 300 we have approved. I fear that the blanket authorization for these categories would be interpreted, particularly by the knowledgeable public, as a gimmick unless we expect the Chinese to respond, which they almost certainly would not do. Moreover, we could again be faced with the question why we are not doing this for the other countries to which travel is now proscribed. This would put too much of a political pall on this measure and on the whole package. I would rather that we deal with this and other aspects of the travel problem also in the context of the termination of the travel restrictions in September.

To sum up, I think we can go ahead immediately with the first and, hopefully, the second proposal. I believe the third would muddy the waters and detract from the other two. In any event, I understand that we would move on the other elements of NSDM 17 at an early appropriate time.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 519, Country Files, Far East, China, Vol. II. Secret; Sensitive. Richardson forwarded the memorandum to Kissinger under cover of a July 17 note, in which he urged that the Republic of China be given at least 24 hours notice of the changes, and that Bryce Harlow contact key Congressmen. (Ibid.) A handwritten comment by an unknown hand at the bottom of the note indicates that it was “handled orally.” On July 21 David Dean, Political Counselor at the Embassy in Taipei, informed Frederick Chien, Acting Director of North American Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, of the impending changes to FAC and passport regulations. (Telegram 2684 from Taipei, July 21; ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, FT 1 CHICOMUS) See also footnote 5, Document 17.
  2. Not found.
  3. Document 14.
  4. In March 1969 Richardson had favored immediately lifting the travel restrictions, but was told by Rogers to wait for White House approval. Rogers stated that he intended to revisit the issue in September. (Record of a telephone conversation between Richardson and Rogers, March 12 and March 14; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Richardson Papers, Box 104, Under Secretary of State, Telephone Conversations, March 1969) On September 15 the Department of State announced that travel restrictions to China, Cuba, North Korea, and North Vietnam would remain unchanged for the time being but would expire after 6 months. (Department of State Bulletin, October 27, 1969, pp. 362–363) On March 16, 1970, the Department of State published the same announcement about travel restrictions but added a short statement: “With respect to mainland China, however, we follow a more liberal policy [than for Cuba, North Korea, or North Vietnam] of passport validation and give validation for any legitimate purpose.” (Department of State Bulletin, April 13, 1970, pp. 496–497) See also Document 35.