215. Memorandum for the President’s File by John H. Holdridge of the National Security Council Staff1


  • Meeting with Mr. Marshall Green, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, on Thursday, March 23, 1972, at 4:00 p.m.


  • The President
  • Mr. Marshall Green, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
  • Major General Alexander M. Haig, Jr., Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Mr. John H. Holdridge, Senior Staff Member NSC
[Page 857]

Prior to hearing Mr. Green’s account of the trip which he and Mr. Holdridge had made to brief Asian leaders on the President’s visit to China,2 the President gave Mr. Green guidance on the line which he should follow for his appearance on “Meet the Press” March 26.3 Mr. Green should put the purpose of the President’s China initiative in the most positive light. The themes to mention were: the move could be a great historical landmark; we were acting not only in our own interests but in the interests of the friendly Asian countries, and in fact we were their spearhead; the Asian nations all welcomed the move and our allies were fully reassured as to its value to them and about continued U.S. support; the effort had to be made to see if relations could be improved with the PRC, even if this should not work out; there is now real hope for a peaceful future. The President suggested that Mr. Green might quote statements by Asian leaders welcoming the China initiative.

The President noted that if the question comes up of “why not wait until after Mao and Chou (who are 78 and 73, respectively) pass from the scene and then make the approach?”, Mr. Green should point out that changes in leadership do not necessarily result in a softer line from the new leaders. The President cited the successors to Stalin in the USSR as cases in point.

The President said that another point to stress was that the Nixon Doctrine should not be interpreted as a U.S. withdrawal from Asia, but rather as a means for the U.S. to stay involved.

The President stated that Mr. Green should also play down the Taiwan aspect as much as possible. He wanted Mr. Green to give [Page 858] minimal comment to the reaction on Taiwan, other than to cite what the ROC leaders said after his, Mr. Green’s, visit since the heat had died down on this issue and there was no sense in reigniting it.4

Mr. Green said that he would of course follow the President’s guidance. With respect to stressing the positive aspects of the President’s China visit, he had in fact used such an approach in talking to the Asian leaders in the countries he had just visited.

Mr. Green remarked that one theme which he believed had been effective was that the President’s China initiative offered a real hope for peace, and was particularly welcomed by the young people who had been turned off by the seemingly endless cold war.

The President talked at length on the philosophy which he had followed in making his China initiative. The move had to be made; we simply could not go on indefinitely in a hostile relationship with one-quarter of mankind, especially as the People’s Republic of China grew in military power. It was far better to be on the inside talking with the Chinese than on the outside looking in. Moreover, the move had to be now, at a time when the Chinese leaders needed us. We needed them, but they needed us too. Now, as a result, the international situation had become much more fluid, and the Soviet Union could no longer take Sino–U.S. hostility for granted in its policy calculations.

The President recalled that he had set forth his thoughts on this issue in the October 1967 Foreign Affairs Quarterly.5 Mr. Green said that the President had spoken in similar terms to him in Djakarta that same year, before becoming a candidate.

The President mentioned that the PRC leaders had apparently tacitly accepted his explanation of the restraining role which the U.S. exercised with respect to Japan. He had pointed out that without the presence of the U.S., the liklihood of Japanese rearmament was high, since it was extremely illogical for a nation to be an economic giant while remaining a military pygmy. The failure of the Chinese leaders to challenge this position strongly suggested that they accepted it. (Mr. Holdridge [Page 859] corroborated this impression—the Chinese leaders had not belabored the President in stating their own position, but apparently just made it for the record.)

The President asked Mr. Green for a run-down of the reactions to the China visit in Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Indochina, Thailand, and Singapore, as noted by Mr. Green during his recent tour.

Mr. Green said that in Japan, the Japanese leaders had been reassured by his visit and had no quarrel with the purposes and results of the President’s China trip (particularly on the score of there having been no secret deals). The problem was the effect of the trip on Japanese internal politics. In Indonesia, there was real racial hatred of the Chinese but understanding of the President’s purposes. There had been near-chaos in the Philippines, but this had quieted down after he had talked to President Marcos and Foreign Minister Romulo,6 and had backgrounded the press.

Continuing, Mr. Green observed that understanding and support of the trip had been greatest in the three countries of Indochina, where the leaders saw the outcome of the President’s China visit as possibly benefitting their own countries directly. In Thailand, Thanom, Praphat, Dawee, Pote Sarasin, and the King had all expressed their support, although they all were concerned about PRC support for the insurgency in Thailand.7 They felt they were under pressure. The King had been particularly strong on the need for continued U.S. aid to cope with the insurgency. Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew, a typical Han Chinese, had immediately seen the value of the China visit.

Mr. Green stressed that his swing through the area had brought out clearly the need for continued U.S. assistance to our friends and allies. We would be judged by our actions, not our words. The President agreed.

In conclusion, the President asked Mr. Green to put in a good word for Ambassador Watson if the occasion arose on “Meet the Press.” The line the President suggested was that we had full confidence in Ambassador Watson’s ability, and that while he would of course be dealing directly with the PRC Ambassador in Paris he would be operating in ways that all Ambassadors operate in such situations—carrying out instructions which were very carefully drafted by experts in Washington. Ambassador Watson had always been impeccable in his official performance.8

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, President’s Office Files, Box 88, Memoranda for the President. Secret; Nodis. According to the President’s Daily Diary, the meeting was held from 4:08 to 5:02 p.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files)
  2. U.S. allies were briefed about the China trip in Washington, or by Green and Holdridge, and not through individual Embassies. According to telegram 33189 to Moscow, Tokyo, Taipei, Saigon, Hong Kong, and Paris: “President has directed that there should be no comment of any kind on USPRC joint communiqué or explanatory press conference. You are directed to inform appropriate staff members of this immediately.” (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 US/NIXON) Nixon dispatched Green and Holdridge to meet with leaders in East and Southeast Asia immediately after the President’s trip. In a February 9 memorandum to Kissinger, Haig discussed the trip and noted: “I think it is an exceptionally good idea and one that we should pursue but only if John Holdridge or some other NSC member accompanies Marshall to insure that he hews to the desired line.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1330, NSC Unfiled Material, 1972, 4 of 8) Green’s mission was announced by the Department of State on February 16. (Department of State Bulletin, March 20, 1972, p. 440) Documentation on these meetings is in National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 US/GREEN). Holdridge also relayed backchannel messages directly to Haig; see footnote 4 below. Holdridge and Green visited South Korea, Japan, the Republic of China, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, South Vietnam, Australia, and New Zealand.
  3. Transcript of Green’s interview on the National Broadcasting Company’s Meet the Press news program is printed in Department of State Bulletin, April 17, 1972, pp. 571–577.
  4. Chiang Kai-shek cancelled their scheduled meeting, but Green and Holdridge did meet with Foreign Minister Chow Shu-kai, Vice President C. K. Yen, and Vice Premier Chiang Ching-Kuo. Holdridge noted: “All were concerned particularly over need for continued U.S. support for Taiwan’s economic development. My assessment is that leaders and people of Taiwan will try to make the best of situation, and with typical Chinese determination, will probably be able to get along quite well. Our relationship with them will continue, because they have nowhere else to go.” Holdridge’s summary of their meetings with leaders in the Philippines, South Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, and the Republic of China is in telegram 45662 from Saigon, March 6; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1036, Files for the President—China Material, China–general—Feb. 27–March 31, 1972.
  5. See footnote 3, Document 3.
  6. Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos and Foreign Minister Carlos P. Romulo.
  7. King Bhumibol Adulyadej; Chairman of the National Executive Council, Thanom Kittikachorn; Deputy Chairman, Praphat Charusathien; Director of Development, Agriculture and Communication Directorate, Dawee Chulasapya; and Director of the Economic, Financial and Industrial Directorate, Pote Sarasin.
  8. Apparent reference to an incident involving Watson that occurred on a flight between Washington and Paris.