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221. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1


  • Chou En-lai on the Bombings on Hanoi and Haiphong

Chou En-lai has now spoken out against the bombings of Hanoi and Haiphong, but in what can be considered very mild and minimal terms. Following a call on him on April 16 by the DRV Chargé in Peking, during which the Chargé presented Chou with a copy of an April 15 NLF/PRG Central Committee appeal, Chou made a brief statement (Tab A)2 containing the following points:

  • —He said that the Chinese Government and people “firmly support” the “just stand” of the NLF/PRG as contained in the appeal.
  • —He congratulated the “North Vietnamese people and army on the brilliant victories they have won on various battlefields.”
  • —He accused the U.S. of having embarked again on “the old track of war escalation,” including the bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong. However, this had failed before and would fail this time. It would only make the Vietnamese people, North and South, unite more closely to fight and defeat “the common enemy.”
  • —He stressed that the peoples of Indochina would never stop fighting nor would the Chinese Government and people cease to support them, so long as U.S. “aggression” continued. “Victory certainly belongs to the heroic Vietnamese people and other Indochinese people.”
  • —He pointed out that “if the U.S. Government really wants to solve the Vietnam question, it must stop escalating the war and pushing the ‘Vietnamization’ policy, and resume negotiations in Paris and seriously consider and actively respond to the seven-point peace proposal put forward by the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam and the elaboration of the two key problems in the proposal.”

Comment: Chou’s line on this occasion is essentially what it has been before3—things are going very well for the “people” in both the South and the North, final victory will certainly be theirs despite the U.S. stepped-up military measures, the Chinese will continue to give their support so long as the fighting lasts, but no direct Chinese role is required. Chou’s remarks were not responsive to the NLF/PRG appeal’s call on “brothers and friends to demand that the Nixon Administration… end its escalation of the war against the DRV and to more strongly support and help the Vietnamese people in their efforts to completely defeat the U.S. aggressors.”

As before, Chou did not mention the Nixon Administration, but spoke only of “U.S. imperialism.” He referred only in passing to the bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong, citing it as just another instance of U.S. escalation and not as a major theme.

From the emphasis Chou placed on negotiations, it would appear that the Chinese would prefer a political settlement of the war rather than a continuation of the fighting.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 295, Memoranda to the President, April 1972. Secret. Sent for information. A notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it. An April 17 covering memorandum to Kissinger indicates that Lord drafted this memorandum.
  2. Attached but not printed is the April 16 New China News Agency International Service report. Rodman was dispatched to New York on April 16 to deliver to the Chinese a 2-page message from the U.S. that reported that the DRV had cancelled the April 24 meeting. The message reads in part: “For the information of the Chinese side, the United States side is proposing to the North Vietnamese the following compromise: The United States is prepared to state that it will agree to resumption of the plenary sessions on April 27, 1972 if the North Vietnamese attend the private meeting agreed upon for April 24, 1972.” The message concluded that the “cavalier behavior of the North Vietnamese” had “forced the President to take certain retaliatory measures. A continuation of the North Vietnamese effort to impose a military solution on the U.S. must have very serious consequences. The President wants to reiterate that his fundamental objective remains a rapid end to the war on a basis just for both sides. His strong preference is for a negotiated solution and it is not by his choice that a resurgence of the conflict takes place.” The message and Rodman’s memorandum of conversation are in National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 849, President’s File—China Trip, China Exchanges. See Foreign Relations 1969–1976, vol. E–13, Document 121.
  3. Kissinger had sent a memorandum to Nixon on April 13 that discussed Chou Enlai’s views on Vietnam. Chou’s statement was prompted by the DRV’s April 11 statement, which was given to him by a DRV diplomat in Beijing. The April 11 statement was apparently prompted by DRV displeasure at the nature of the PRC’s April 10 statement on Vietnam. The memorandum to the President from Kissinger, drafted by Holdridge, concluded: “As indicated by the absence of references to the Nixon Administration, Peking is still trying to keep the Vietnam war separate from its relations with the U.S. There is no doubt, though, that Peking is ineed watching events in Vietnam very closely, and is concerned over the implications of the fighting on U.S.–PRC relations, particularly if heavy U.S. attacks on North Vietnam continue.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Box 525, Country Files, Far East, PRC, Vol. IV)