202. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • John H. Holdridge, NSC Staff
  • Winston Lord, NSC Staff
  • Jonathan T. Howe, NSC Staff
  • Ch’iao Kuan-hua, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Chang Wen-chin, Director of Western Europe, North American, and Australasian Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Chao Chi-hua, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Chi Chao-chu, Interpreter
  • One Notetaker

Kissinger: I thought we would do two things—give you the supplementary information which I did not have the other day.2 I gave you numbers on motorized rifle divisions and tank divisions. Motorized rifle divisions have the following major items of equipment. You remember I mentioned that there are 186 medium tanks; 200 armored personnel carriers; 4 frog launchers; 144 artillery pieces. They are broken down into 54 mortars; 54 122mm howitzers; 18 152mm howitzers; 18 multiple rocket launchers; 28 anti-aircraft weapons; 45 anti-tank artillery; 1,178 trucks and tender purpose vehicles (fuel tankers). I will review some of these figures that seem low to me. The tank division has 310 medium tanks; 80 armored personnel carriers; 4 frog launchers; 18 mortars; 60 122mm howitzers; 18 multiple rocket launchers; 68 anti-aircraft weapons; 9 anti-tank artillery; and 1,108 general transportation that includes cargo trucks, vans, and tankers. On Soviet surface-to-air missile sites. I gave you the number of sites last time. Each SA–2 site has four double launchers. Or, eight missiles—two together like this (HAK shows with fingers). Each SA–5 site has six launchers.

I told you I would let you know about Soviet tactical aircraft in western Russia and Europe. The total number in eastern Europe and western Russia is 2,230 of which 1,000 are in western Russia and 1230 in eastern Europe. We estimated that about 1,000 could be shifted to these. Of course, in practice they can all be shifted. We think in a realistic scenario that the ones in western Russia could be shifted.

You asked about lend lease aid to the Soviet Union in World War II. It amounted in total to $10.8 billion. We have asked for reimbursement only for $1.3 billion which involves civilian-type vehicles. We did not ask for repayment on military equipment. The Soviets offered $170 million and they have now raised it to $300 million. For us at this point it is the principle. It has nothing to do with the money. Those are the figures. I think those were the questions you asked last time.

[Page 803]

Ch’iao: Thank you. We will report these figures to the Prime Minister.

Kissinger: One question. We will not volunteer information constantly but if we should learn of anything we think is of a special interest to you—this will happen most rarely. Should we give it to Ambassador Huang Hua? I am talking about military target type.

Ch’iao:3 In this connection I will reply to what I said I would reply to you when we met. Our secret channel will be through Ambassador Huang Hua and the open channel will be through Paris. And if we obtain any material through the open channel and if there is anything of substance, we will give the reply via the secret channel. And so that is fixed. We will not mention it again.

Kissinger: Can we mention that publicly?

Ch’iao: At a certain time when it is appropriate and when it is asked as you said in a very low-key way mention Paris.

Kissinger: Okay. I understand the Foreign Minister is seeing the Secretary of State tomorrow.4 He will no doubt be asked about the open channel—they don’t know about the secret channel. I think it would be best if you said it is still being considered.

Ch’iao: On the question of the open channel?

Kissinger: Just say it is still being considered and just let us know because then we can control the announcement in a very low-key way and do it in about a week or so. Otherwise it will become big fan-fare. I talked to the President about it and he thinks this is the best solution. Otherwise it will be on television and people will get in touch with your Embassy in Paris to see when they can get a visa. I think we should let things quiet down for a week, if you agree.

Ch’iao: We approve—a week or even longer.

Kissinger: Tell us when.

Ch’iao: I fully agree to these views, Dr. Kissinger. If the Secretary of State asks our Foreign Minister about this the Foreign Minister will tell him this is still under consideration. And we also approve that this [Page 804] news be revealed in one or two weeks time. And before you make that public we hope you will tell us through the secret channel.

Kissinger: Exactly.

Ch’iao: Because our Embassy in Paris must have a certain degree of preparation beforehand. Because people would ask it how are these contacts being made.

Kissinger: At what level should the contacts be made in your judgment?

Ch’iao: What is your view?

Kissinger: Why don’t the two ambassadors get together and work it out.

Ch’iao: That’s a good idea.

Kissinger: So what we will announce in about two weeks and we will let you know ahead of time is that Ambassador Watson and Ambassador Huang Chen in Paris will meet periodically to discuss these changes and other matters of common interest. Meet at irregular intervals— meet from time to time. How much advance notice do you want? Three days?

Ch’iao: It would be better if you can make it five days.

Kissinger: We will let you know at the end of the coming week what day we propose and it will probably be the end of the following week—Thursday or Friday.

Ch’iao: Alright. And when you tell us five days in advance you also will tell us the wording you are planning to use in this announcement.

Kissinger: We may not even make a formal announcement. We may just have Ziegler say it.

Ch’iao: It is not necessary to make a formal announcement.

Kissinger: It is a daily press briefing by Ziegler and he will say it at that time. So I will send you the approximate date. But it will not be necessarily word for word the same thing. We won’t say it is a joint announcement. We will just say we want to inform you that this has been worked out with the PRC. Is that all right?

Ch’iao: That is all right.

Kissinger: I will miss seeing your Ambassador in Paris. He is a very nice man.

Ch’iao: You will still have a chance to meet him.

Kissinger: I am sure. I also like Ambassador Huang Hua. I will see more of him. When you come we will have a dinner with Kraft.5

[Page 805]

Ch’iao: So that is resolved. And we will tell our Foreign Minister when your Secretary of State mentions that, we will say it is under consideration.

Kissinger: And you will let us know as quickly as you can through the usual channel. He hasn’t even a vague idea. Now shall we have a few words about Vietnam. We understand your position on Vietnam and we don’t want to embarrass you with respect to it. From your point of view it should be desirable that the war ends because any realistic analysis makes it clear that we are obviously on the way out of Vietnam and that we don’t need Vietnam as a military base. It is our analysis that the reason the war continues is because the Soviet Union encourages its continuation. We are speaking here frankly and not officially and we will not treat your discussion as an official discussion so I will tell you what we think.

Ch’iao: We are doing this as a general exchange of views on the matter of common interest and that is the spirit in which we will carry out these discussions, and so we certainly are not going to say anything on behalf of Vietnam nor are we conveying anything to them. Nor do you have that intention.

Kissinger: Nor with anybody else in our Government except the President. So that as General Haig already told the Prime Minister, we believe one purpose of the continuation from the Soviet point of view is to complete the encirclement of the PRC. In this respect, simply for your information, you may be interested to know the sequence of events about this eight-point proposal. I know you have said it is a fraud but it may be interesting that when Foreign Minister Gromyko was in Washington at the end of September after I had been in Peking the first time but before he knew I was going to Peking the second time, he asked whether they could transmit a message to Hanoi for us. Podgorny was then going to Hanoi. We then gave them a general outline of our thinking similar to what we gave to the Prime Minister when I was here at the end of October. They then told us that Hanoi wanted to discuss this so at least then they did not consider it a fraud. We then turned it into a formal proposal and sent it directly to Hanoi and not to Moscow. Hanoi then accepted a date for a meeting, which at least indicates they must have thought it was a serious proposal because otherwise they would have rejected it right away.

Then we announced our visit to Peking—the interim visit—and then afterwards things happened which you are familiar with. They accepted the meeting when we were here. I think the Soviets influenced them to turn in the other direction. I am just trying to give you our reasons for our analysis.

You asked me what do we want in Vietnam. It really is more interesting than it seems. It doesn’t make any sense for us to start the [Page 806] exchanges we have with the People’s Republic and at the same time try to maintain a permanent base in South Vietnam. And thus, any realistic assessment must come to that conclusion. On the other hand, we have never had a really serious negotiation with Hanoi. When we talk to Hanoi they do two things. They either repeat at great length their various struggles for independence which is interesting but not useful, or they read the list of demands we must do and then treat us as if we were students taking an examination.

I told the Prime Minister that certainly if Hanoi had discussed this with us in the spirit we have discussed Taiwan, we would have settled this very quickly. They have to understand that we cannot respond to an ultimatum—that is impossible. We can agree to a historical process and we have no interest in tricking them. They had a bad experience in 1954 but John Foster Dulles was a different person from what we are. At that time we were going into Asia, while now we are reducing our engagement.

So I must say Hanoi has wasted the opportunity of talking to me. As you know I have authority to make rapid decisions. It is a waste of time for them to have me hear the formal speeches that they are already making in the plenary sessions. Nor can I be interested in tricking them, because if they are tricked we have learned they will fight again and they will be 300 miles from South Vietnam and we will be 12,000.

It is a phony procedure to make a secret nine-point proposal and ten days later make a public seven-point proposal. We wanted to discuss the nine-point proposal and then they attacked us publicly for not responding to the seven-point proposal. Even you are in an odd position. You are publicly supporting the seven-point proposal which—I have a transcript of a meeting—which they have said that they don’t want to discuss, but they want to discuss the nine-point proposal to which we have replied.

I don’t want to waste time. I just want to use it to illustrate the difficulty. The longer the war continues the more they are forced to make demands we cannot meet, because the stronger the Government in Saigon becomes. So now on the one hand they want us out but on the other hand they want us to overthrow the government for them. We are prepared to withdraw and on the basis of what the Prime Minister said without leaving a “tail” behind. And then we are prepared to see what the evolution brings. We are prepared to limit our economic assistance if Hanoi limits the assistance it receives. We are prepared to have a serious, sincere and frank discussion in which we could look at their point of view and if they could have stated it in a way that is something other than a series of absolute demands. This is our general attitude but I would be glad to answer any questions you might have.

[Page 807]

Ch’iao: In raising this question it was not that I wanted to learn about your detailed process of your negotiations with them, because we have said on many occasions this is a matter for solution between you and Vietnam. The reason that I raised this question at that time was because there were many exchanges of views between the President and Prime Minister on this matter and because of our discussions and so that is why I wanted to know something about the fact why the war does not stop. And if you continue with your present way, most frankly speaking, we don’t think there can be an end to the war. And so under these circumstances we think it is not to your interest.

Kissinger: What is not to our interest?

6 We always said that so long as the war continues we will continue to give support to them.

Kissinger: We will not ask you to stop giving support to them.

Ch’iao: That we know.

Kissinger: But what is it about our actions that you think makes the war continue?

Thieu regime for South Vietnam is not a way out. In that way it can only make the war continue. Of course you have now already withdrawn one-half of your troops but you are not being able to cut off your tail.

Kissinger: Like what?

Thieu and his regime, then again you may have to return. That has been the history for more than twenty years and that has also been your experience in Vietnam. In the beginning you really did not have any wish to have military involvement. You got involved really without your being aware of it.

As for how you conduct your negotiations with the North Vietnamese, that is your business. You sometimes tell us what is happening— [Page 808] we on our side never made this request. And the reason we are having another exchange of views on this matter is because we want to know more about your views as to what is to be done because, as we see it, according to your present plan of action although you think you will be bringing about an end to the war by your present action we see it will not bring an end.

Even though we would admit the Soviet Union has her motives here we do not think that is the crucial question involved. As for the question of the Soviet Union wanting to encircle China, we do not attach importance to that. The war has already been going on for so long. As for us we continue to carry out our present line. And after your exchange of views between our Premier and your President you have made it very clear. This is just an exchange of views.

Kissinger: I think you understand our views. In our judgment what you said is not absolutely correct because we have offered the total withdrawal of our forces and they have not accepted it. And we have offered it either with political settlement or without political settlement.

Ch’iao: Well speaking rather frankly, our view is that your present line of action cannot bring an end to the war. The Soviet Union does have her motives here, but in our view what you are doing precisely offers an opportunity for the Soviet Union to promote the realization of her motives.

Kissinger: I think we have probably covered the subject sufficiently.

Ch’iao: Yes, because this does not involve only a localized matter but it involves a difference in our fundamental outlook. And so maybe a period will still be required before these matters will become more clear. This is just within the framework of an exchange of views.

Kissinger: Exactly. And then I would like to say something more in relation to the Communiqué which I mentioned this morning.7 First of all it is perfectly obvious that there is no question about victory or defeat in our talks we held in the past week because the truth of the fact is after the discussions we did arrive at an agreement in some matters and in others we did not. The President said that at the banquet. We could not make absolute assessments for who was the victor and who was defeated.

[Page 809]

points there was indicated a common direction or a common hope which did not involve Taiwan. So, here, too, it is obvious that as far as our side is concerned we will not say it only involves Taiwan because if that is what is said it won’t reflect it realistically.

This morning you did express the hope—not as a request—that our side will not make interpretations or shift the Communiqué in a way that would embarrass you. And then you further said you also hoped that China’s friends would not do that either. That’s rather vague. I can tell Dr. Kissinger very frankly that what some of our friends like Korea and Vietnam in their view think of our Joint Communiqué will be certainly not the same as what other ones think, and our policy with regard to them on that is we would not impose our will on them. That is for their own views.

So I must make this clear in advance otherwise it may give way to misunderstandings. Because we are only beginning our contacts and are probably not so very clear on our situation. And when I say our situation, I mean the situation of our relations with these friends of ours. It is really the truth, it is indeed, that on certain questions our views and their views differ, and that is quite natural. And as I said also before—we don’t only say it, we really do respect their views, although on certain matters our views differ with theirs. This is quite natural. So in view of what you said this morning that you hoped that we would say nothing about the Communiqué which would embarrass you, we have to make this understanding.

Of course, your situation is different from that of ours and we know that your Administration is even more complicated than ours. We have discussed that many times. And then from our side we will like to express the hope that the principal departments of your Government— that does not include the Congress and of course not the press—but the principal departments of your Government, White House, State, Pentagon, that they will adopt the same attitude as that openly advocated by your President, particularly towards the Communiqué, because we know the complexity of your government system.

Kissinger: Mr. Minister, we have called my deputy, General Haig and we have told him to tell all departments to keep quiet until I come back and to say nothing other than what I said in my press conference. After that I will do my very best to exercise discipline, but we don’t have our bureaucracy under the same control as you have. I think you will have noticed since my trip in July we have on the whole maintained rather good control.

Ch’iao: I agree to this estimate.

Kissinger: And we will continue to do our best. If you objected to something and there is time to let me know privately before you do something publicly it may be desirable. But we understand that sometimes you have to react publicly.

[Page 810]

Kissinger said we have a number of questions about what was said by your Department of State—but of course which we did not make public.

Kissinger: Can you give me an example.

Ch’iao: For instance, the statement that status of Taiwan remained undetermined and those matters that I first wanted to tell you in pri-vate. I am just talking about the direction.

Kissinger: I agree with the direction and we will carry it out scrupulously.

Ch’iao: This was a hope and no request.

Kissinger: We will on our part and in the spirit of the Communiqué unilaterally carry it out.

Ch’iao: In addition to this question about our friends, your question with respect to various speculations by the press where you do not refute them, this article—that comes under a broad heading. Here I should tell you very frankly that there are some of our friends of our war years who are opposed to the policy of improving relations between China and the U.S.

Kissinger: Some of your friends or ours?

Ch’iao: They may be both your friends and our friends. Just to be forward, that country I am referring to is the Soviet Union. Just look at how many articles they have written since you started the initiative in July. But up to now we did not refute any article and we should emphasize this. In fact you could say there will be accusations and slander and the main spearhead of that attack will be against us and possibly against the U.S. and under those circumstances it is possible that we will find it necessary that we must reply.

Kissinger: I was thinking more of comments to our press than comments to the foreign press.

Ch’iao: Yes, I know what you meant but in relation to the question which you raised, I raised this question to let you be prepared for any such possibility. So far that has not yet happened. But now that we have the Joint Communiqué that might become the object of their attack. And it is quite possible that circumstances will arise that we will have to reply to them. In our reply to them only we will mention their fundamental positions. But as for our comments on the Communiqué itself we will not say anything inappropriate and I think you should understand this attitude of ours for the whole course of our discussions, because the entire spirit that we have presented it in carrying out these discussions has been a positive one; that is, to progressively improve our relations.

Kissinger: We can’t lay down exact rules here. We have to do it on the basis of mutual trust. You have to understand that our enemies in [Page 811] America will portray this as surrender on our part and your enemies will try to put it that it is surrender on your part. It was a stalemate. We will say both tried to make progress at the same time.

Ch’iao: Just an exchange of views. Because even though we have started our contacts they are still in the preliminary stages and so it is beneficial if we are able to tell each other in advance our views of things we are thinking of doing. For instance, your informing us of your possible trip to Japan, and we are grateful to you and we understand it is something which you really could not avoid. But in telling us in advance it helps us to know about the situation beforehand.

Kissinger: It won’t happen before the end of March.

Ch’iao: That doesn’t matter.

Kissinger: No, no. I am just informing you.

Ch’iao: We have been quite prudent in doing this. Of course, we are also aware that there are matters of principle which are of great difference between us and we are not covering it up.

Kissinger: Mr. Minister, it has been a pleasure to work with you and I think the spirit in which we have dealt with each other is a good basis to build our future relationship. You have your principles which we won’t ask you to give up, but on the basis of frankness and mutual trust we can move towards closer cooperation. That is our policy and we will very carefully follow it. And look forward to seeing you in June.

Ch’iao: And I will be very happy to have an opportunity to offer our hospitality again. From my side there is nothing more to say.

Kissinger: Nor from my side.

Ch’iao: These discussions of ours on the Communiqué have been a very good beginning. Maybe you will rest some tonight. And then starting from tomorrow you will be unemployed and so will I.

Kissinger: My life will be ended. But I shall miss you and also his Grace.

Ch’iao: And then you must be the Pope because Cardinals are nominated by the Pope.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Country Files–Near East, Box 92, China, President’s Trip, February 1972, HAK Conversations, Dr. Kissinger’s Meetings in the People’s Republic of China during the Presidential Visit. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting was held at Kissinger’s guest house in Shanghai.
  2. Kissinger’s reference is not clear. Memoranda of conversation for his private meetings are ibid. Kissinger met with Chou En-lai twice on February 21, and once on February 25; with Ch’iao Kuan-hua on February 22, twice on February 24, five times on February 25, once February 26, and twice on February 27; and with Ch’iao Kuan-hua and Yeh Chien-ying on February 23. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–13, Documents 88106.
  3. A sanitized version of this conversation is in National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Country Files–Near East, Box 92, China, President’s Trip, February 1972, HAK Conversations, Dr. Kissinger’s Talks in the PRC during the President’s Visit, February 1972.
  4. Rogers met on the morning of February 28 in Shanghai. The memorandum of conversation is ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 US/Nixon. See footnote 1, Document 198 for a list of Rogers’ meetings while in the PRC.
  5. Reference is to journalist Joseph Kraft.
  6. Ellipsis in the source text.
  7. The final text of the Shanghai Communiqué is printed as Document 203.