Learn about the beta

230. Memorandum From Richard H. Solomon of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

SUBJECT

  • PRC Foreign Ministry Statement Attacks U.S. on Vietnam Bombings

Two days after another official protest from Hanoi of June 10 in response to U.S. air raids of June 6 and 8, the Foreign Ministry in Peking has now issued a strongly worded statement supporting Hanoi and suggesting in terms not heard for some time that China’s security is being threatened by the U.S. bombing. While Peking’s statement toned down much of the political invective in the Hanoi version (for instance, Peking did not attack the President by name, only “U.S. imperialism”), the bombing was described as a “grave provocation against the Chinese people.”

In the first interlinking of the matter of China’s security with the Indochina war since the Lam Son 719 exercise in early 1971, Peking asserted that the U.S. “has steadily expanded the sphere of bombing up to areas close to the Sino-Vietnamese borders, threatening the security [Page 911]of China.” And for the first time in months it was noted that China and Vietnam are “closely related like the lips and the teeth.”

In a most unusual final paragraph, which seems directly addressed to high Administration officials, the statement asserts that “U.S. imperialism should know that the heroic peoples of Vietnam and the other Indochinese countries are by no means alone in their struggle.”

Despite the verbal escalation in this statement, it does not imply that the PRC will take any action against the U.S. or challenge our evolving relationship.

The timing and tone of the official protest can be accounted for at a number of levels of interpretation:

  • —It may very well reflect PRC concern about our interdiction campaign, which has U.S. planes bombing only minutes away from their border, if that far.2
  • —Hanoi may have needled the Chinese for a stronger statement, given the low-key nature of recent PRC protests.
  • —The Chinese almost certainly feel that they have been put into an embarrassing predicament now that their efforts to normalize relations with us are so clearly contrasted with our interdiction campaign against Hanoi. As with the Chinese blast at the U.S. delivered at the Stockholm conference—where perhaps they did not want to appear less militant than the Swedish Foreign Minister—PRC officials may have felt the time was overdue for a statement reaffirming their anti- imperialist credentials.
  • —Finally, this statement and the Stockholm attack may be seen as an effort to “set the record straight” for all parties concerned in advance of the coming visitation.

The PRC Foreign Ministry statement is at Tab A.3

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 525, Country Files, Far East, PRC, Vol. IV. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Sent for information. Kissinger and Haig initialed the document.
  2. On June 5, 10, and 11, NSC staff members traveled to New York to receive PRC protests about the intrusion of U.S. aircraft into their airspace on June 4 and 9 and the bombing of a border town on June 10. Memoranda of conversation are ibid., Box 849, President’s File—China Trip, China Exchanges. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–13, Documents 131133. In a June 9 memorandum to Kissinger, Rear Admiral Daniel J. Murphy responded to the June 5 allegations, ascertaining that “all available evidence indicates that the claimed border violation did not occur, and that Chinese radar tracking error was the most likely cause of this incident.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 849, President’s File—China Trip, China Exchanges) On June 11 Haig telephoned the PRC representatives in New York to affirm that the U.S. Government was investigating these complaints. A June 12 message for the PRC declared that an investigation of the June 5 allegation was “inconclusive” and the June 10 allegation was under investigation. Concerning the June 11 allegation, the message apologized for “this inexcusable incident” and promised to “take disciplinary action against the personnel responsible for this flagrant violation, however inadvertent, of strict standing orders.” Haig’s memorandum of record, June 11, and message dated June 12, are ibid., Kissinger Office Files, Box 97, China, PRC Allegations of Hostile Acts. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–13, Documents 134135.
  3. Attached but not printed.