232. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Prime Minister Chou En-lai
  • Ch’iao Kuan-hua, Vice Foreign Minister
  • Chang Wen-chin, Assistant Foreign Minister
  • Wang Hai-jung, Assistant Foreign Minister
  • Chi Chao-chu, Interpreter
  • Tang Wen-sheng, Interpreter
  • Two Notetakers

Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

Winston Lord, NSC Staff

NSC Staff

Prime Minister Chou: You saw John Fairbank this afternoon.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. He gave a very enthusiastic report about China— the intereseting comparisons between the new and the old China.

[Page 943]

Prime Minister Chou: And I especially asked him to mention both the good points and the bad points when he spoke about his visit to China, because I said it would not do to mention only the good points.

Dr. Kissinger: The only bad point he mentioned was that you were not yet sending people to Harvard (laughter).

Prime Minister Chou: We are willing to go but we would not like to stay for a long period as the first step. But he wants us to station permanently people there as the first step.

Dr. Kissinger: I have scolded him about this. We have suggested the best way to start would be to invite some Chinese scholars for a week and see how that works out, at some conference at some guest house. There we have the least danger of some incidents. And then they go home and a few months later other people can come.

Prime Minister Chou: One or two weeks?

Dr. Kissinger: Or two weeks.

Prime Minister Chou: That is a good way. And we can begin to use that method to get to know things. And then you will find that there might be some topics that are worth deeper research. And perhaps there might be some fields in which it might be worthy to exchange material or data about. And it may be finally we would be able to find out in that way whom it seems to be worthy to let to remain to study what problems. Otherwise, I could only let your student go there, but he is not very familiar about Chinese conditions.

Dr. Kissinger: Which student is that? (Prime Minister Chou points to Chi (Laughter)).

I would not recommend as a friend that you start by sending people for a year. Harvard has too many complicated influences. This procedure is much better.

Prime Minister Chou: Yes, it seems that the President’s Assistant has higher designs than ordinary men.

Dr. Kissinger: Professor Fairbank has designs on the Vice Foreign Minister. (Prime Minister Chou laughs)

If he fires too many empty cannons that may be the place to send him. (Prime Minister Chou laughs) Two points of information about yesterday’s discussion. When we were in Moscow, the Soviet leaders urged the President that he send me on a visit in the fall, and we have up to now avoided an answer, but I have no doubt that the invitation will now be renewed. We will not make a decision for several months. I just wanted to tell you where it stands, and if we do it, we will let you know well in advance.

With respect to Vietnam, I told the Prime Minister yesterday that we had proposed a private meeting for June 28 and that we had not yet received their reply. We have now received their reply to the effect [Page 944] that Le Duc Tho and Xuan Thuy will not return to Paris until the end of the first week of July. They propose a plenary session on July 13 and a private meeting on July 15 and (at this point Prime Minister Chou sends Wang Hai-jung out of the room and she returns in about two minutes) we will consider this, but I think it is reasonable to assume that some negotiations will start—if not then, in that general period. But the important thing, of course, is not the start of negotiations but the substance.

(Prime Minister Chou and Miss Tang have exchange in Chinese)

These are the items…2

Prime Minister Chou: Perhaps you have already read the news reports to the effect that your Secretary of Defense has spoken in the Congress as a witness about the approval and the ratification of your treaties and agreements with the Soviet Union. He spoke in the Senate. And he also mentioned that in order to get the treaties and agreements ratified, it was necessary to increase the U.S. defense budget.3 And therefore I found that your words were quite right yesterday, and we appreciate the straightforwardness of your Secretary of Defense in putting all the things on the table.

And there is also news that the Soviet Union has engaged in quite a number of experiments on nuclear weapons in order to raise their knowledge of the subject, since the signing of the agreement and the present day.4 And therefore it seems that there are at the same time limitations of strategic armaments and the continuation of experiments and development in nuclear arms.

And you also mentioned when you met with Ambassador Huang Hua the words I said during one of our meetings about these things. Actually when we met for the first time I said something about such matters. The thought which I expressed belonged to Chairman Mao Tse-tung, and therefore your burdens are still very heavy it seems.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, the agreement does stop numerical competition but not technological competition, and it would be extremely dangerous for everybody if we stop while the others continue.

The Prime Minister undoubtedly understands also that the Foreign Relations Committee has to approve the treaty, but the Armed Services Committee approves the military budget, and while the majority [Page 945] of the members of the Foreign Relations Committee are critical of Secretary Laird, the majority of the Armed Services Committee support Secretary Laird and he will have no difficulty passing his budget.

Prime Minister Chou: But Senator Fulbright, I believe, is Chairman of your Foreign Relations Committee, and he is in favor of the treaty.

Dr. Kissinger: He is in favor of the treaty and opposed to the budget.

Prime Minister Chou: But your Armed Services Committee will support the budget.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. It is already supported in the House and will most certainly be supported in the Senate.

Prime Minister Chou: And that is why he said that he doubted very much if Senator McGovern were elected he could cut the military budget of the U.S. by one-third. How could he do so?

Dr. Kissinger: A President could do so if he was absolutely determined to do it, but it would create enormous imbalances in the world.

Prime Minister Chou: Yes, and we are just reaffirming what we said yesterday. So perhaps by then if he wants to do that he will have to ask you to be his Assistant or adviser in such affairs so that you can explain to him that it won’t do.

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Prime Minister, it is extremely unlikely that such a thing would happen. It would require extraordinary mismanagement during the next three months to bring it about.

Prime Minister Chou: General Wheeler, your Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has already been in office for two terms, I think. Is that office affected by the Presidential election?

Dr. Kissinger: It is Admiral Moorer. He has been in office only one term, which is two years. That term is up at the end of this month. We are re-appointing him, and we will submit his name either during this week or early next week, and he will be re-appointed for two years regardless of who the President is. (Prime Minister Chou nods)

Prime Minister Chou: It already is in the papers that he was nominated.

Dr. Kissinger: It was supposed to be approved by the President on Monday. I did not know. My office sent it forward to the President on Friday, and I just did not know how quickly it would be acted upon. He will be appointed. I did not see our papers. The Prime Minister is ahead of me.

Prime Minister Chou: We probably give our press release excerpts from the foreign press very late to you.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, I did not see it.

[Page 946]

If I may tell the Prime Minister something in strictest confidence about personnel changes. We will appoint my Deputy as Vice Chief of Staff of the Army in September, and he will also be in office effective late in October, and he will be our link to the military.

Prime Minister Chou: Who?

Dr. Kissinger: General Haig.

Prime Minister Chou: I don’t think your present Chief of Staff’s term is yet up.

Dr. Kissinger: The present Chief of Staff Westmoreland is retiring July 1, and we will appoint General Abrams from Vietnam as the Chief of Staff, but speaking frankly, since General Haig has direct access to us, he will be the decisive person.

So quite a few people who have been involved in the normalization of relations are winding up in key positions—General Walters and General Haig.

Prime Minister Chou: Walters?

Dr. Kissinger: Walters in Paris.

Prime Minister Chou: As for the U.S.-Soviet talks, we don’t have much to say because we have all along held the position that we are in favor of your being able to relax your relations with the Soviet Union if possible, and we think that if possible it would be a good thing.

Because you remember that upon your first visit Chairman Mao had asked me to tell you that we hoped that your President would visit the Soviet Union first so that the Russians would not get the feeling that if China and the U.S. were coming closer it would be impossible for the U.S. and the Soviet Union to come closer. Because they are extremely hysterical about such matters. That is one point. That, you might say, could be the main point.

But as for disarmament, we have always said that would be impossible. The utmost that could be achieved would be to have some limitations on certain points while others went up and became inflated, and it now seems that our views were correct.

And since it has now been declared that there must be a race in the world on long distance nuclear submarines and long range bombers, etc. and also certain products that would be turned out in 1978 must begin to be prepared now, it seems that others will be compelled to go forward.

Ch’iao: Impelled to go forward.

Prime Minister Chou: And in speaking in this sense, I doubt whether the Soviet economy will be able to shoulder the burden that is increasing in an unlimited way. And, of course, under these circumstances the credit becomes a very important thing for them. And I believe that on such matters you know much more than we do, because [Page 947] you have been to the Soviet Union and also studied economic matters and therefore in this field you have a more profound knowledge than we do.

Dr. Kissinger: With respect to the weapons in 1978, the Soviet Union has increased—has doubled—its capacity to produce submarines, and we had actually stopped for four years producing any. But we are now producing an entirely new type so that if we were not to do this we would be overwhelmed with numbers.

We must convince the Soviet leaders that it is too dangerous for them and indeed beyond their capacity to challenge us to a race in both quantity or quality, since our productive capacity is at least three times theirs.

With respect to credits it is a very difficult problem. Because on the one hand we would like to strengthen the peaceful elements in the Soviet Union. On the other hand there is the danger that we are making possible for them the sort of competition they could not otherwise sustain (Prime Minister Chou laughs).

Prime Minister Chou: It is a dilemma.

Dr. Kissinger: To some extent we can regulate this if we give credits by the kind of projects to which we give credits, but this is not particularly effective because if you free these resources from one area they can use their own resources for others. (Prime Minister Chou laughs.)

We are now studying the problem, and we are trying to find the way if we give credit to do it in a way where we can control the rate and where we can turn it off if their political behavior becomes threatening either against us or against countries whose survival we consider essential.

We will approach this, Mr. Prime Minister, entirely as a political problem and not as a commercial problem.

Prime Minister Chou: I understand that. But it seems that with the increase of inflation throughout the world there are certain countries that will want to try to float loans in a way of gaining interest. And there is no way to stop them from doing this.

Dr. Kissinger: But you don’t get much interest from the Soviet Union.

Prime Minister Chou: But we do not want to have any relations like that. We have repaid all our debts, and we will never want to ask for debts from the Soviet Union again. But only I will have to add the condition to it that I added yesterday—to the word “never.” That is, the condition I added yesterday was, as long as the present type of leadership continues in the Soviet Union. But with regard to this question perhaps I shouldn’t add that condition.

Dr. Kissinger: The preferred rate of the leaders of the Soviet Union is below the rate of inflation so they are getting the money for better [Page 948] than nothing. They are making a profit even on the capital, not to speak of the interest. (Prime Minister Chou laughs and nods.)

Prime Minister Chou: How can things that are only in the interest of one side be done?

Dr. Kissinger: It won’t be done. If that doesn’t change, it won’t be done.

Prime Minister Chou: We only have to see and to watch the present manner in which the Soviet Union is conducting its affairs so that you can see that when one wants to both compete and to ask for loans and get profits all at the same time—when one wants to get all the good things into one’s hands at the same time—one cannot avoid crises at the end. Only I am not speaking about crisis immediately.

Dr. Kissinger: Nor can this inspire confidence.

Prime Minister Chou: And it seems that from your experience in your work and your dealings with the Soviet Union you perhaps find that it is better to have the documents prepared beforehand—before you begin to discuss this matter with them or to have a meeting with them. Is that so?

Dr. Kissinger: My experience is that it is essential to have the documents prepared and that it is essential to have the agreed documents checked several times. (Prime Minister Chou laughs.)

Prime Minister Chou: Yes, and it was only because you had prepared all the documents beforehand that you were able to sign so many agreements with them this time.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, that is so. You remember we gave you the outline before we went to Moscow.

Prime Minister Chou: But it seems that there are three documents that could not avoid small alterations at the time of the meeting: the declaration of principles, the SALT agreement, and the communiqué. You could not avoid small alterations when…I don’t believe you could have every final word all hammered down before the meeting.

Dr. Kissinger: No. The declaration of principles was substantially composed… no, the declaration of principles was in outline completed before the meeting, and I gave the outline to your Ambassador. We then had to adjust it in Moscow.

Prime Minister Chou: Yes, and you also mentioned yesterday that when they first put it forward there were certain points on which you did not agree.

Dr. Kissinger: When they put it forward on my visit it included many features that would have involved an indirect form of pressure. I would think, especially on the People’s Republic, along the lines that I described to you yesterday.

[Page 949]

And it was true also of the communiqué that there was a section urging signature of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. We rejected this already in April, but they raised it again in Moscow and we rejected it again which is, as your Vice Foreign Minister knows, a very physically exhausting process. (Prime Minister Chou nods.)

On the agreement on the limitation of strategic armaments there was a very prolonged discussion, even in Moscow, in which we went through agreements in the evening and they were withdrawn the next morning; and which contained a number of unilateral proposals; and which ended only when at 4:00 o’clock on the morning of Friday I said that there would not be an agreement, and at 11:30 they accepted our proposals.5 You see, it was a very rational discussion (laughter).

Prime Minister Chou: You mean the unilateral statements?

Dr. Kissinger: No, there were a number of issues.

Prime Minister Chou: You mean the unilateral statements, not the limitations?

Dr. Kissinger: I don’t want to bore the Prime Minister, but they wanted to cut certain missiles… certain missiles they wanted to keep and therefore they said they were not strategic missiles and were outside the agreement. But since they could turn in old missiles for new ones they keep them…so that for missiles that were not counted in the inventory to begin with they could then build new missiles when they scrapped them. (Laughter) And we obviously could not accept this.

And so there were very many discussions, and there was another issue in which they said the size of a silo could not be significantly increased but they would not tell us what they meant by the word “significantly.” So we insisted that a fixed percentage be given, 10 to 15%, because otherwise they could have put big missiles…replaced smaller missiles with big missiles and not violated the agreement. They finally agreed to this but it was a very long discussion. It was finally settled.

We had foreseen the agreement would be signed Friday night; then I said it could not be signed under the conditions; and then at 11:30 they accepted our proposals on these issues.

Prime Minister Chou: Was it only then when the representatives of your two countries came to Moscow from Helsinki?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. I did not let the people come from Helsinki to Moscow until we had achieved an agreement in principle, because I did not want our experts running around Moscow negotiating with the [Page 950] Russian experts and creating total confusion. (PM Chou laughs.) I did not want our experts to give away our position in their desire to win the Nobel Prize. (Laughter.)

Prime Minister Chou: Would you like to take off your coats—it is so warm. Is it all right with the American lady?6 (All take off coats.)

And in one word, you will understand why it is that the Chinese–Soviet boundary negotiations which began on 11 September 1969 and have been continuing for almost three years now still haven’t been able to reach an agreement on the provisional agreement that had already been formally agreed to.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand it very well.

Prime Minister Chou: As for the concrete terms of that, we have discussed it when your President came, so it is now still hanging in the air.

I would like to say something about the war in Vietnam and the question of Indochina.

This is the question that was unfortunately left down from history and is being very difficult to resolve. And the Vietnamese and other Indochinese peoples have undertaken something that has now become a test for them. But this is at the same time something that is also a test to both your present Administration and also the next.

And probably Mr. John Fairbank has already told you that I have on more than one occasion openly said that we believe that the Geneva Agreements of 1954 were not honest agreements and that we were taken in at that time. We admit our mistakes and would want to be able to rectify them.

And that is why there is a certain clause in the U.S. statement that is contained in the Sino-U.S. Joint Communiqué that draws my attention. It probably was ratified by your President, but also it might have been the masterpiece of Dr. Kissinger—that is, that no country should claim infallibility and each country should be able to re-examine its own attitudes for the common good. And we would want to implement that and to do that faithfully. We have on more than one occasion admitted our mistakes to the Vietnamese. Perhaps it might be said at that time among the socialist countries the role played by the Soviet Union was the greatest, but China was the one that was the closest to Vietnam and the rest of Indochina. And that is why this time we are showing complete respect for the sovereignty of Vietnam, whether it be on their positions on the battlefield or towards their positions at the [Page 951] negotiating table. In other words we only have the obligation to support them but not the right to interfere in their affairs.

But, however, the quantity of our assistance to Vietnam cannot be compared to your assistance to Saigon, and that is also a fact that was noted by Senator Mansfield back in 1968. And he was already by that time the leader of the ruling party in the Senate, of the majority party, and therefore it cannot be said that his words were exaggerated at that time. And you also admit that this has been our consistent stand.

Dr. Kissinger: I know it is true that your support has been less than ours. I don’t dispute that.

Prime Minister Chou: And it now seems that your present Administration is determined to withdraw from Vietnam and the rest of Indochina and to try to create an environment in which policies of neutrality are practiced. And such an outcome can only come off the negotiation table and not out of the battlefield. Because if you try to settle the matter on the battlefield that will inevitably give rise to resistance. Because the situation is one in which the U.S. first sent in military advisers and then raised the situation to the level of special warfare and then escalated to regional warfare; this whole escalation was the result of actions done by previous, former U.S. administrations.

And with regard to the war in Vietnam, no matter what treaty you may cite, this sending of troops has been unjust and these are actions which no one can defend. And this situation can in no way be compared to your treaty obligations with other countries or other areas into which you have not yet sent troops, unless you view all the areas or countries with which you have treaties as being relations which are entirely the same as your relations with Saigon. And even if you view all those treaties as official treaties, if mistakes have been committed, then you should be prepared to reexamine your own attitudes and to rectify the mistakes.

And you have always been expressing your praise for the attitude taken by the Chinese government in taking the negotiations step by step. That is not wrong, but that is because the state of war does not exist between our two countries.

You mentioned the day before yesterday that you read later on the records of Chairman Mao’s talk with President Nixon, and he had mentioned in the talk in the beginning on the items that were later discussed during the next five or six days, and this was also a point that was mentioned by our Chairman. And following the advice of your words I re-read the records this morning, and it was your President that first mentioned this matter. Of course, Chairman Mao first mentioned that no state of war existed between our two countries and it was not necessary to have a state of war exist between our two countries.

[Page 952]

And your President also mentioned that China was not a threat to the U.S. and the U.S. was neither a threat to China. Chairman Mao also mentioned that we neither threatened Japan nor South Korea, and I added a word there that we did not want to threaten any other country. And proof of this point can be found in the fact that we have only done little nuclear experiments on the basis of self-reliance. We do not want to compete in this field.

Therefore I think that President Nixon and also Prime Minister Heath have been correct in pointing out that China is only a potential strength and it cannot be known yet whenever that strength will appear, and we know our own age and you also probably have pointed out that we probably will not be here in the 21st Century. You have the hope of being here at that time. We do not. Those seated at this side of the table have the hope. Those on the other side I cannot be sure about, but on your side all of you have the hope.

So the matter is very clear. We will not be a threat to you. And not only are we not a threat to you—take the case of Indochina. If an end can be put to the war then in Cambodia, Sihanouk will ultimately be the head of state. And in Laos the head will be King Vatthana. That is the man of prestige in Laos. Perhaps you have not seen the King of Laos. I have met him. He is a very honest man.

And in both these two countries their characteristic of neutrality will be more pronounced and in South Vietnam at least for a time it will be neutral. As for the outcome of the election I cannot vouch for that, but the situation will not change very quickly. And you know that we will not reach our hands out to that area. You are very clear on that. And that area will become in a certain sense a kind of a buffer.

As for countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines and so on, these countries would like to embark on a road of neutrality. They have asked our opinion on such matters, and we support them in doing so. Of course, there will also be the problem of mutual respect. All other countries must also respect them and not interfere in their internal affairs. We believe that this is a good tendency that is also beneficial to the relaxation of tension in the Far East. If this is to be achieved, not only our two countries but also the other two big countries in this area and the other countries in the west must not try to seek domination in this area. Only this is a complicated issue. But at least, if our two countries can have common comprehension of the matter then that will be beneficial towards relaxing the tension in the Far East.

So what is the question that we now face? The question is that the U.S. Government now feels that if it should let loose of the situation there and discontinue to pay attention to that area, then that would be losing face. And what will be the result? We have to come back to our [Page 953] discussion during your first visit—that is, if such kind of face worries are to be maintained then the war will not be able to be stopped. And then the result will not be what you want nor be what we want. The war will continue along its own laws of development; there are certain things that cannot be decided by human will. But the result will be that there are certain people who will be happy about this. I believe that in one of my messages I mentioned that point, and those were true words.

Although you have heard from certain people that we are the ones who are commanding affairs in that area, how is it possible that we should be doing that? And to be honest and frank, if we were the commanders we would not fight in such a way. You are clear about how the war in Korea was conducted. And your President Eisenhower, after just being elected, went to Korea to see the situation with his own eyes, and he understood the situation. You know that finally in June 1953 we wiped out four divisions of Syngman Rhee, and we broke through in the center of the line. At that time the U.S. agreed to put its signature to the ceasefire. And by that time Stalin had already passed away and Khrushchev also agreed to the ceasefire. Since both these two sides agreed to a ceasefire, we also put our signature to the agreement.

You will recall that during your President’s visit we had a discussion in the guest house in Villa 18, where your President was staying, in which I mentioned the question of the Chinese volunteers in the Korean war and how they were maltreated and the disgraceful role that India played.7 I will not say anything more about that today because it makes me too sad to mention such matters.

So the present situation is one in which with the turn of one’s hand the matter could be settled. But you are continuing to stay now, and you are pegged down to a point that you say that you cannot give up a certain government. Actually that government was set up by yourself. It was also mentioned in the Sino-U.S. communiqué by the U.S. side that in the absence of a negotiated settlement the U.S. envisages the ultimate withdrawal of all the U.S. forces from the region consistent with the aim of self-determination for the countries of Indochina. Your attitude at the time of the drawing up of this document—that was in October last year—seemed to be more pronounced than your present one. Do you have to insist on drawing the strings of the bow so tightly and to persist in continuing the war?

And also you continue your bombing and blockade of the northern part of Vietnam. There is an old Chinese saying, “since the people are not afraid of death, how can you try to scare them with the thought [Page 954] of death?” I would not want to engage in emotional discussions. But what you are doing now is an equivalent to a provocation against us because you now only leave the continental route as the only remaining route to Vietnam. Do you think we can watch people dying without trying to save them? If a country sent its forces to Canada or Mexico, and the situation developed into a similar stage, would you be able to sit there with your hands folded and refuse to try to save them?

Both your President and yourself are very clear, especially yourself who has come to China now four times, that our country is not a country that wants to expand abroad. We cannot even finish our own things… what should be done in our own country. And, of course, our strength at the present time cannot be compared to that of the Soviet Union. But do you think that in giving assistance to Vietnam we would not be able to grit our teeth and to use all our strength to assist them? And you should attach importance to the fact that it is not easy for our two countries to establish certain relations…

Vice Foreign Minister Ch’iao: Attaching importance to the relations which has paved the way…

Prime Minister Chou: Because your bombing and your blockade are not directed against the Soviet Union. They are directed against China, because you are bombing us. I would like to show you some pictures later on. We have photographs of the two bomb shells that fell onto our territory. It is marked in English that they are anti-tank bomb clusters, that have a cluster of smaller bombs inside. It includes nearly 200 small bombs inside. There is no question that those were U.S. Navy bombs. It can be seen very clearly that from the various routes that were taken by those airplanes that the flight routes all finally ended in the sea. They finally went back towards the sea. But you will know that we have exercised extreme restraint on these matters. The incidents that occurred on the 4th, 9th and 10th of June, we all dealt with them in the way of giving you internal private notification. And General Haig’s reply to the incidents of the 10th and 11th was extremely quick. He telephoned us in the afternoon.8

Dr. Kissinger: At my instructions from Tokyo.

Prime Minister Chou: And you probably also could foresee by that time that something would also happen on the 11th and that is why we haven’t yet raised the incident that occurred on the 11th.

And before that, before your President’s announcement of May 8, on the 7th, your airplanes also bombed two Chinese merchant ships that were at that time anchored near the island of Hon Ngu of the Democratic [Page 955] Republic of Vietnam. You said that you had already launched an investigation with regard to this but perhaps the final result will be given to us at a later time.

So why isn’t the Soviet Union a target? Because they ran away. (Dr. Kissinger laughs.) One of their boats was damaged by your armed forces, but the Soviet Union did not make that public. The DRV made it public for them. Therefore we feel that such a course of action will not win the sympathy of the people of the world.

And that is why I posed the question yesterday that if you withdrew your armed forces and no political resolution could be found to the issues, and hostilities broke out again, what could you do? Of course, not hostilities between the U.S. and regional forces but hostilities between the liberation forces in Vietnam and the Saigon government. I asked what you would do in that event, and you found it very difficult to reply.

That is why the Vietnamese envisage a settlement that includes both the military aspect and the political aspect at once. We believe there is reason in their seeking such a solution and therefore we support them. Therefore, if the question of the government, no matter whether it be called a coalition government or a government of harmony, is not settled, and discussions on this do not bear results, then a peaceful situation will not be able to be brought about in the southern part of Vietnam, and therefore in the event of your withdrawal from that part of Indochina, hostilities between the two Vietnamese sides would break out again. On the other hand, if political agreement can be reached, then that would have a binding force on all. And that is also to say that the attitude that that government would take towards the U.S. would be more friendly because the political agreement would be an agreement in which you also had made a contribution. You also mentioned last July that it was easy to solve all the other points of the 7-point proposal put forward by Madame Binh, and you even expressed your appreciation of certain points of her proposal.

Dr. Kissinger: We even accepted most of them…which did not keep her from publicly demanding for six months after we had already accepted five of her seven points that we respond to her seven points.

Prime Minister Chou: Because your proposal did not answer the fundamental question and therefore it was a proposal that could not be realized.

Dr. Kissinger: But it was a response.

Prime Minister Chou: Because you said that there could be two governments, and the present government was one that Vietnam would not accept and a government that would be proposed by the Vietnamese would be a government that you would not accept, and therefore your two positions were opposed to each other. That is why a [Page 956] means should be found and a solution should be found that could be agreeable to both sides. This should be a government that could be accepted by both sides and that also would include the forces of all sides … of various sides; and also a government that would not be antagonistic to the U.S. and would take a comparatively friendly attitude toward the U.S.

As to the future, that is looking a few years ahead for a period that might be agreed upon, that might be defined, if after a period of a certain time through general elections Vietnam would choose to take the socialist road, that would be something else. As for socialism in the present world, there are many various kinds of socialism. From the point of view of philosophy you have long seen that point as a point that John Foster Dulles did not see. As to what kind of socialism that South Vietnam would choose if it would turn to socialism in the future, I cannot say, and yet you are so afraid of that. Anyway, I won’t see that, because they have already declared that it will be only after a certain period of time that Vietnam would seek to be reunified. Yet you are so fearful and so sure that the government that would emerge would be a communist government. And through your contacts with us you would know that it is not an easy task at all for a country to truly build up socialism and to thoroughly eliminate exploitation and to also eliminate the ideology of the exploiting classes. Chairman Mao has mentioned that the Cultural Revolution will have to be carried out many times.

I do not agree with your prediction for Germany. How could Germany be turned into a country like Finland? It is impossible. I seem to have more confidence in the Germans than you do. They wouldn’t want to be a Finland. As for the other two possibilities, there might even be a different, third possibility. That is why I said that Germany was at the crossroads.

Dr. Kissinger: What is the third possibility?

Prime Minister Chou: To continue to remain split.

Dr. Kissinger: Oh, yes. I start from that assumption. I was talking about West Germany alone.

Prime Minister Chou: It is impossible for West Germany to become a Finland. I have been to Germany for only one year and Mr. Ch’iao has been to Germany for three years. And we all of us seem to have more confidence in Germany than you, the American sitting across from us who was born in Germany. And as for East Germany, it is more than Finland—it has already become a kind of dependency, but it is impossible for West Germany to become that. As for the other two possibilities, they exist. Therefore as to the future development and prospects, why should you take so much care about that?

Dr. Kissinger: What country are we talking about? (Laughter)

[Page 957]

Prime Minister Chou: We are turning back to Indochina.

So what is bad in relaxing the tension in the Far East for a time and to having a period of neutrality in this area? I am tempted more to agree to the attitude you took when you were drawing up the communiqué. Because otherwise there are things that would not be able to be realized. And therefore we might as well solve the military and the political aspects together and to set up a good relation that would be able to continue for a certain period of time—for several years. And perhaps in the words of your President, you might be able to attain a generation of peace, or in my words, a generation of relaxation.

Otherwise, if the issue of Indochina is not resolved, then that will affect the settlement of the Taiwan issue. It would also affect the two sides in Korea that wish to co-exist peacefully. That will also inevitably affect the direction of Japan. And Southeast Asia will continue in an upheaval, and relaxation will not be able to be realized in that area either. I don’t know whether you noted that or not, but there can be seen a tendency towards relaxation—it can be seen from the recent meeting that was held of the Asian Pacific Council in Seoul. I don’t think South Vietnam participated in that. I believe there were nine countries that formally took part. I believe the nine units that participated were—officially— South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. And there were three that might be called observers. They included South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

They especially applauded the visit of your President to China and the Soviet Union which was conducive towards the relaxation of tension. I was greatly taken aback upon reading that report because I wondered how they could have put in the matter of your President’s visit to China. So finally I decided that it must have come out of the hands of Aichi and the Foreign Minister of South Korea and perhaps Mr. Romulo might have taken part too. They said that your President had visited Peking and Moscow; I said that was illogical because the communiqué itself was issued in Shanghai. They had no other way to say it than that. They had to make some conciliations. They could only write it that way. And because Taiwan has now changed its so-called Foreign Minister,9 and he knew it would not have been easy to oppose that issue, he probably kept comparatively quiet and if Chow Shu-kai had taken part, he probably would have created a scene and the others would not have listened to him. So the present Foreign Minister thought it would be more intelligent to keep quiet. That does not mean [Page 958] that I appreciated the statement issued by those nine units. I only mean that this tendency has drawn our attention.

So why is it that one should get tangled up in the single knot of Indochina? Especially in view of the fact that all these nine units have expressed appreciation for your President’s visit to China, although Taiwan probably did not appreciate it, but it probably could not refrain from acquiescing.

Dr. Kissinger: I had the pleasure of talking to their Ambassador, and they would not have recommended it if we had asked them to. (Chou laughs.)

Prime Minister Chou: Of course. And therefore, with regard to the issue of Indochina, we feel it would be better if you adopted an attitude that was more directed towards a settlement of the issue. Otherwise you will be placing a difficult question before us. Because you know that we would like to see a relaxation in the tension, and by doing that you are delighting the Soviet Union. You are giving them an opportunity to heap abuse upon us. They already are doing that.

After you completed your visit to the Soviet Union we kept quiet because we did not think it was necessary to create a commotion, and we also were not opposed to that. Even after the visit we only issued a very short news report—an objective report. We issued no comment.

Dr. Kissinger: We noticed that with appreciation.

Prime Minister Chou: But after your visit here they heaped abuse upon us, saying that we did not assist the Soviet Union in assisting Vietnam. There is no such thing. They are trying to pile all the burdens and the responsibilities of assistance onto our shoulders; including the things that they want to send into Vietnam, they also send them to us.

Therefore I do not understand your policy, and, according to what you told us during your visit last July, your subjective desire was to settle the issue, but it seems as if the objective tendency is to follow the laws of development that govern the war. So what are you going to do about that? What can we do about this situation? I can only ask for your opinion.

Dr. Kissinger: Let me make a number of observations, Mr. Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Chou: I wanted to get your comments. That is why I said all this. Otherwise, how can we have a discussion and for what other purpose would we welcome you to come to China? Because you know this is one of the steps that must be taken to normalize relations between the U.S. and China.

Dr. Kissinger: I am fully aware of that. First, in connection with incursions into Chinese territory. We have investigated them all, and I have this book here of the investigation. As you know, since we had [Page 959] to make these investigations through military channels and since the military are not eager to admit a mistake, I have to confess that the results are sometimes inconclusive. Our military claim, and I don’t say this to be vague with you, that perhaps there is some inadequacy in your radar, and I mention it only so that if this were true, and I don’t ask for a reply today, it might have some consequences to you in other areas and therefore might be important for you to look into. (Chou laughs.) I am not saying this for a defense.10

Prime Minister Chou: I know.

Dr. Kissinger: There is no doubt that if bombs fells on your territory it was not caused by the imperfection of your radars. And if you could let me have the pictures, I would want them, not because I question you but so that we can take appropriate disciplinary measures when we return. At any rate it cannot be the intention of our government, in the light of all of our discussions, to challenge the sovereignty of the People’s Republic or to engage in provocations against the People’s Republic.

And therefore we have issued new instructions which would avoid the possibility of mistakes by keeping our planes further from your territory.

Prime Minister Chou: We can make a present of those pictures to you.

Dr. Kissinger: Thank you. Give me the coordinates also, where these bombs fell and the time and the date.

Prime Minister Chou: You mean the bombs that fell in the morning of the 10th?

Dr. Kissinger: Exactly, and the exact place.

Prime Minister Chou: It was just south of the town of Ping Hsiang, near a railway station.

Dr. Kissinger: How many bombs?

Prime Minister Chou: Two anti-tank bomb clusters.

Dr. Kissinger: We can only extend our apologies. There is no excuse. There is no explanation. (Prime Minister Chou is handed maps.)

[Page 960]

Prime Minister Chou: This is the map of the intrusion.11 The coordinates are not here, but I can give them to you later. I will get the English also marked on it in the future. (Points to map.) This was the route which the aircraft incursion on the 4th of June took. It came in like that and went out. You know there is some difficulty with our boundary because it moves out—it protrudes a bit, so perhaps it is difficult for people to remember. That is Ping Hsiang and that is the Aikou railway station. So this is the road in Vietnam that you bombed and you went up to [town]12 which is nearer and that is the reason for the first intrusion on the 4th. On the 9th there were three groups of intrusions. One came in here and went out there. One came in first here, went out, and then came in again and went out there.

Dr. Kissinger: There is no possibility that any of these were North Vietnamese planes? If they are fighting up there.

Prime Minister Chou: We have the type. I think maybe perhaps all of them are F–4s. This was the bomb of the plane that bombed our territory on the 10th.

Dr. Kissinger: Where did the bomb drop?

Prime Minister Chou: (Points) Here. (Chou takes pictures.) That is the panorama of the Aikou area. This is where one of the bombs fell. We will mark the place. That is what was marked on the bomb. That was a whole picture of the shell.

Dr. Kissinger: Which is the 4th of June? Can I have these pictures?

Prime Minister Chou: Yes, but I will ask them to put some marks on them where exactly the bombs fell. We will give the whole thing to you later after we get the coordinates in English. So we will leave it at that.

Dr. Kissinger: I have all these reports from our military people about these. Of course they deny everything, and I can read them to you, but I don’t know what good it would do.

Prime Minister Chou: Maybe you could read a paragraph. For instance, what do they say about the 10th?

Dr. Kissinger: Bombs on PRC structures. The PRC charged that two planes entered into the PRC airspace with guns in the area of Pingshan (?). They just refute the charge. CINCPAC Air Force has confirmed that the 7th Air Force had no aircraft operating above 21 degrees north latitude in North Vietnam within four hours of either side of the time period in question. Why don’t you read it yourself (to the interpreter) [Page 961] to the Prime Minister? That would be easier. If you can understand his English you are better off.

Mr. Negroponte is shocked. He doesn’t understand my method of operation. They don’t teach this in the Foreign Service Institute. (Chou laughs)

Prime Minister Chou: This is a more convenient way of conducting things.

Dr. Kissinger: Here. This is all of it.

(Miss Tang reads document at Tab A to Prime Minister Chou.)13

Prime Minister Chou: There are a lot of small bombs that were included in the cluster.

Dr. Kissinger: Well since they have denied that they have dropped a cluster it is not very fruitful to discuss what was in it. (Chou laughs)

Prime Minister Chou: Maybe they would like to see it.

(Miss Tang continues reading.)

Dr. Kissinger: (To other interpreter who is copying from document) If you could avoid making a word for word record of it, it would help me.

(Interrupting Miss Tang:) This is a very long military report. Here is the Laird version of it. (Dr. Kissinger hands over sanitized Secretary Laird report, attached at Tab B.)

Long Beach radar?

Dr. Kissinger: That is the cruiser from which these planes are launched. That is an American cruiser that keeps track of all our planes.

(Miss Tang reads more, then stops, puzzled.)

Dr. Kissinger: What is it in English?

Long Beach radar fixes.

Dr. Kissinger: The Long Beach picked up some airplanes that were moving at a speed of 192 miles, and the argument is that none of our planes fly that slowly.

[Page 962]

(Miss Tang continues reading.)


Dr. Kissinger: I don’t know. I just noticed that myself. I will ask Commander Howe. But at any rate it is after the event. I will find out and let you know. (Note: It was misprint that should have read “post” for “post-strike.”)

Dr. Kissinger: (After Miss Tang finishes reading document) I won’t argue this point. I also have longer reports on them by the Secretary of Defense. The major point is it is not authorized. It is not encouraged, and we have given new orders which in our judgment should prevent it by keeping the airplanes a further distance from your territory.

Secondly, the purpose of our actions was not to provoke the People’s Republic. As a matter of fact, before we took the decision on May 8 we foresaw that one objective result of that decision might be to strengthen the influence of the People’s Republic in Hanoi, and we did not consider that a disadvantage.

As we have told you on previous occasions, we have no interest in encouraging the spread of Soviet military presence all around your borders and therefore to the degree that the Soviet Union has withdrawn some of its influence from North Vietnam and you have increased yours, we did not intend that as a provocation to you.

Third, I am not sure whether I understood the Prime Minister correctly when he spoke about “gritting your teeth” and giving assistance. I remember that the Prime Minister told the President that unless the People’s Republic was attacked, was directly attacked, it would not use its military forces in Indochina.

Prime Minister Chou: But we must continue the transportation and our people will die in that course.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand.

Prime Minister Chou: Transportation by ships, by cars, and even by shoulder poles or train. Since you have cut off all other routes we still have to send things. Because you know that our two countries, that China and Vietnam are linked by both land and water and sea, and you know that we cannot just sit here and see them lacking food, because you know that you are now attacking even their food supplies. The two boats—more than two—that you attacked that went to the [name] Island and another the [name].

Dr. Kissinger: I know what you mean.

Prime Minister Chou: The Honshi ships including the ships that were attacked, all the [name] ships that went to those two islands were carrying grain and you could see the grain being carried off the ships. The new island and the Honla Island. So this will inevitably incur the death of large numbers of people.

[Page 963]

Of course, the Soviet Union will not go there to try to send supplies in (Chou laughs). It is very clear. What you meant by saying that our influence had increased in North Vietnam could only be that our assistance had increased. But originally before that our assistance was already greater than that given by the Soviet Union because they only gave certain military assistance while we gave all-round assistance including all kinds of commodities. Anyway, if you continue the bombing that will inevitably incur more deaths. And to try to solve the question by killing people will not bring about a settlement.

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Prime Minister, this gets me to the most important problem. It is in a sense absurd that you and we should have tension over an area from which we are attempting to withdraw and which you are not attempting to enter.

Prime Minister Chou: It is absurd.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree also with the basic objective of the Prime Minister that we should try to create an area of relaxation of tension. I also agree with the Prime Minister that neutrality of many of these countries can be achieved through an understanding between our two countries at least. Because if we both showed a strength and if we both oppose outside intervention, it will be very difficult to have outside intervention.

So we are in the curious situation, and finally I agree with the Prime Minister that a continuation of the war will have the consequence in Southeast Asia, in Korea, in Japan and unfortunately on our relationship, that he predicts and for no sensible objective. What then is the problem? In our view the problem is the inability of a government that has fought 30 years, or 27 years, to think in political terms, and its impatience to settle everything in one negotiation and in one time period. And couple that with a certain pride that they want to be able to say that they can defeat the U.S.

Prime Minister Chou: It cannot be put that way. It is you that has compelled them to fight like that.

Dr. Kissinger: Well, it is our different interpretation.

Prime Minister Chou: Because you imposed armed forces into that area, and then you armed the Saigon regime.

Dr. Kissinger: But we are talking about the current situation. We have withdrawn 500,000 troops.

Prime Minister Chou: That I admit.

Dr. Kissinger: And we want to withdraw the remainder.

Prime Minister Chou: And since you have withdrawn your troops to its final remainder, then why do you want to leave that “tail” there and try to expand the war with the tail?

Dr. Kissinger: But the Prime Minister knows, because I told him yesterday, that we are prepared to withdraw the tail. If the Norh [Page 964] Vietnamese accept a ceasefire we will withdraw all our forces in return for our prisoners.

Prime Minister Chou: Does that mean that your air and naval forces would also withdraw?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.

Prime Minister Chou: So then since you will have by that time withdrawn all your forces and have all your prisoners of war repatriated, then if the political issue cannot be solved and a civil war breaks out again, you shouldn’t go back to take care of that. Because we wouldn’t take care of that, so what reason is it for you to go back to take care of that situation?

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Prime Minister, you have more experience in international affairs than I so you know there are certain situations in which it is very difficult to give a formal answer, because one does not want to create a legal obligation for what may be taken care of by reality. I believe if a sufficient interval is placed between our withdrawal and what happens afterward that the issue can almost certainly be confined to an Indochina affair; and if there is no other outside intervention. From your own analysis of the American situation it should be self-evident that in a second term we would not be looking for excuses to re-enter Indochina. But still it is important that there is a reasonable interval between the agreement on the ceasefire, and a reasonable opportunity for a political negotiation.

Prime Minister Chou: The present regime in Saigon is receiving large quantities of U.S. armed military assistance, and therefore it is not possible that the Saigon government will recognize a reasonable settlement that might be the outcome of negotiations between the Vietnamese people.

Dr. Kissinger: I am not certain that in the absence of American forces and of the American air and naval power the Saigon government might not prove to be more reasonable in negotiations.

Prime Minister Chou: They have their own armed forces, and they have blind confidence in their own armed forces. And they also are convinced that although you have left, if even you may not go back in, you would not resist giving them the military assistance that they wanted.

Dr. Kissinger: We offered last year to limit military assistance to South Vietnam in the same proportion that North Vietnam limited assistance it received in the military field.

Prime Minister Chou: So the outcome of your logic is that the war will continue?

Dr. Kissinger: No, the outcome of my logic is that for the time period… I am not trying to win debating points because I agree with [Page 965] the Prime Minister that we have a difficult problem to settle. The outcome of my logic is that we are putting a time interval between the military outcome and the political outcome. No one can imagine that history will cease on the Indochina peninsula with a ceasefire. And I believe that if the North Vietnamese had confidence in themselves they should have a better chance this way than through a continuation of the war.

The Prime Minister referred to what President Eisenhower did in Korea. If we had that opportunity, we would settle the war very quickly.

Prime Minister Chou: The situation was different.

Dr. Kissinger: Of course.

Prime Minister Chou: Because at that time the people in South Korea had not arisen. So there was only the two sides. North Korea was the one side and South Korea was the other. So there was a tie between the strength of the two sides and that settled the issue. And as a result we withdrew all our Chinese peoples’ volunteers in 1958, but you haven’t responded to this yet. The situation that prevailed in that time was different.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree with the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister also said that the issue is that we do not want to give up a certain government. That is not correct. What we will not do is ourselves to overthrow the government. We will agree to an historical process or a political process in which the real forces in Vietnam will assert themselves, whatever these forces are.

Why should we be afraid of socialism in Vietnam when we can live with communism in China? (Chou laughs)

Prime Minister Chou: That is the point that I don’t understand.

Dr. Kissinger: And therefore what we are trying to do, Mr. Prime Minister, and what is not against your own interests, is not to end this war with an act of betrayal. We do not want to overthrow this government. We will agree to a process in which the people of South Vietnam have an opportunity to express themselves. That we can agree. But we cannot agree to ourselves overthrowing them.

Now we have made some political proposals. I have not mentioned them only because they will lead to very complex and therefore very time-consuming negotiations. We have offered elections which would be supervised and run by commissions in which all three parties are represented. And we have offered that President Thieu would resign a month before the election and if extending this period somewhat would make the problem of the Democratic Republic somewhat easier we can do that probably.

So there is a possibility for a political negotiation. The reason we cannot accept this government of national conciliation is because its [Page 966] objective consequence will be to overthrow the existing government and bring into power—it is a very thinly disguised formula for bringing into power the DRV. And therefore we believe that the most rapid way of ending the war would be to concentrate on the military issues and permit us to disengage from Indochina, and after that permit the local forces to work it out, either through negotiations or other means.

Prime Minister Chou: You mean the local forces in Vietnam?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.

Prime Minister Chou: But if the issue cannot be solved at the present existing negotiation table then the local forces will continue in conflict. This can almost be said to be certain.

Dr. Kissinger: Then at least the outside forces will be disengaged.

Prime Minister Chou: You mean there should be a ceasefire during the period of time in which the negotiations are being held?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.

Prime Minister Chou: I think that that probably could not be done. Would the Saigon government—regime—agree to that?

Dr. Kissinger: At this moment with great reluctance, because they believe they are winning, but we would see to that.

Prime Minister Chou: You could only see to that by continuing to give them arms and assistance.

Dr. Kissinger: We would certainly not increase our arms and assistance during a ceasefire, and we would almost certainly reduce the quantity during the ceasefire. Since less equipment would be destroyed, we would almost certainly reduce it…

Prime Minister Chou: For a time.

Dr. Kissinger: We are not…it is senseless to believe that we are looking for an excuse to be permanently involved in Indochina.

Prime Minister Chou: But according to our experience in China, although a ceasefire may have been signed before the civil war broke out again in China, we had documents and usually even had agreements and both sides signed the agreements, but later on when Chiang Kai-shek felt that he had strength to launch a civil war he went on.

Dr. Kissinger: The Prime Minister explained to me once that if Chiang Kai-shek had observed the ceasefire in 1946 he might have lasted six years longer.

Prime Minister Chou: The question was that his subjective desire would not allow him to abide by its agreements. He thought that he could do it. That is the same case with you.

Dr. Kissinger: I believe that the danger of Thieu breaking the agreement is much smaller than the danger of the Democratic Republic [Page 967] breaking the agreement. Because if Thieu broke a ceasefire there would be a good chance that he would lose American support.

Prime Minister Chou: It is very difficult to say that. I cannot answer for them.

Anyway, in a word, why is it that the DRV insists on having a political settlement at the same time as a military settlement? It is because they believe that if the political side can be resolved, that would be better, truly towards relaxing the tension in Indochina, and also better towards solving the question for the time being.

Dr. Kissinger: If I may make one suggestion for the Democratic Republic, and in which your advice to them could be helpful since they are so suspicious of us. They should look not just at the words of the agreement but at the trend. No matter what the words of the agreement in 1954 would have been, Secretary Dulles was determined to go into Indochina. No matter what the words of the agreement in 1972, or whenever this Administration makes it, there is no reason for us who are seeking to normalize relations with you to remain in a position of tension with Hanoi. When we were attempting to build barriers against you, there was one policy. But now that we believe that your vitality is a factor to peace in the Pacific, why should we build barriers to you in Indochina, and if not building barriers in Indochina what is our interest there either one way or the other? So after the agreement is signed the value will be that there will be an increasing American disinterest in Indochina.

Prime Minister Chou: That is to say that there should be a political solution to the question. But as for your proposal, what the DRV believes your proposal to be is an attempt to set up a Thieu government without Thieu. Because you remember that they held so-called elections a year before, and if elections of a similar type are still to be held then he will be the outcome again. And therefore the question of political settlement will have to be discussed between your two sides, because we are not very clear about the concrete details and specific organization matters, and therefore we do not wish to enter into any detailed discussion on this. I expect that you will say that the new government you propose is not a new edition of Thieu. But they will say that what will be the outcome of an election that is held in a situation in which Thieu’s military forces are in control of the areas in which the elections are held; and also in their having superior forces in that area it will not be possible for a true coalition government that includes the three sides to be elected.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand their point.

Prime Minister Chou: And the country of Laos is a precedent, because in that country we even had an international agreement at that time. But finally if they wanted to phase certain people out they still phased them out and the situation turned into a civil war.

[Page 968]

Dr. Kissinger: I believe a political solution will be much easier 18 months from today than today if we can get the war stopped. But we are prepared to discuss political negotiations also, but I predict it will end as badly as all previous negotiations for the reasons I gave you yesterday.

Prime Minister Chou: Oh. Did not you say there was a bit of hope?

Dr. Kissinger: In the negotiations? It depends. We are prepared, and we have offered, to go systematically through all of their points if they are willing to go systematically through ours to see if we can find a reconciliation. That will be our attitude. We believe that the war should be ended this year, because a continuation of the war runs counter to all the positive tendencies that we have described; and it will involve a degree of interference in our domestic politics which is becoming intolerable; and which will strengthen those forces whose practical convictions are against the policies I have…

Prime Minister Chou: Your previous sentence was illogical.

Dr. Kissinger: Why?

Prime Minister Chou: First of all, what strength of force does North Vietnam have to interfere in your domestic politics? You have interfered in their domestic politics to such a degree that it is becoming disgraceful, and they have no way of interfering in your domestic politics. For instance, I don’t believe that if McGovern would come to office he would be able to solve the question. Did not you read the interview between Chairman Mao and the President?

Dr. Kissinger: Oh, yes.

Prime Minister Chou: I also read it. And it seems to me that if you were willing to settle the issue then, it would be comparatively easier for you to do it than for McGovern.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but why should we not be willing to settle it? We have accepted every proposal. There is one we cannot accept, and I have told you we will not accept. But we will accept…

Prime Minister Chou: So things will remain in a stalemate and the war will continue.

Dr. Kissinger: No, we will try to find a way of dealing with it.

Prime Minister Chou: (laughs) But you just now said that your next meeting would be the same as the previous meetings were.

Dr. Kissinger: It depends with what attitude the North Vietnamese approach us. They have never yet dealt with us on any other basis except through ultimatum.

Prime Minister Chou: You say that they don’t understand you. I think that you don’t understand them either.

Dr. Kissinger: It is probably true. I agree with you.

[Page 969]

Prime Minister Chou: I believe you entered political life from a previous position of carrying out research on issues, not like us who began to take part in the revolution from our youthful days. And if you can understand that, then you perhaps will be able to understand how Vietnam which has been fighting for nearly 30 years, 27, from out of such bitter experiences have been tempered to the extent that if the issue is not settled the only thing that remains for them is to resist and to resist to the end. Because their environment, the land on which they live, is a long strip, and if you are going to cut it in two how can they agree to that?

The situation is different with regard to Taiwan. They are boasting they have a population of 15 million. If it is counted as being 15 million, then on the mainland we have 750 million so we can afford to wait and to wait to persuade those 15 million. Isn’t that so? So it is easier for us to…

Dr. Kissinger: I understand.

Prime Minister Chou: For this it is easier for our two sides, for our minds to meet on this matter. But you cannot ask the Vietnamese to do that. To ask for that would be unfair. You have a population of 220 million, maybe 230 million, but they only have something a bit more than 30 million, and since you admit that your predecessors did commit political errors, why could you want to take a bit of the responsibility? You said that in your part of the communiqué.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, I remember.

Prime Minister Chou: That no country should claim infallibility. And you should be familiar with the spirit in which Chairman Mao conducts affairs, and I would never say that we would claim infallibility. Never have I heard him say that.

Dr. Kissinger: No, but we are not claiming infallibility either.

Prime Minister Chou: That is why… the mistake was not begun by you—why are you not willing to take a bit of the responsibility?

Dr. Kissinger: We are taking a great deal of the responsibility; we have withdrawn a lot of our forces.

Prime Minister Chou: Algeria was a problem of France, but finally since Algeria should be allowed to become free, France did that. Since you are seeking a generation of peace, why do you obstinately remain in this place and are so unwilling to let it go? You also know that we have no ambition whatsoever in Vietnam, and you also know that we do not wish to dominate Vietnam; they would not accept that nor do we have such a desire at all. Since you consider them to be a heroic people, then you should assist to fulfill their desire to be independent. It seems to me that the honor that would result from doing this would be much greater than what would result in continuing to [Page 970] destroy their land until they were finally torn to tatters, but still remain to resist.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but I think we are getting off the basic issue because there is no sense in attempting to persuade us that we should not stay in Vietnam, since I have told the Prime Minister that we intend to leave Vietnam. The only issue is whether the change should result from a political process or from American decision. We would like to start a political process by which the Vietnam people are finally free to determine their own fate. That is the only issue. The North Vietnamese have asked us to set up their government by political action. That is the one thing we cannot do. That is the only issue. We want to leave. We do not want to stay. We do not want to tear apart North Vietnam. We were forced into it this year. We are not obstinately staying in Vietnam. It is contrary to what we want to do. We should not spend most of our time in Peking talking about Vietnam. (Chou laughs) It is contrary to what we really want.

Prime Minister Chou: But if we say nothing about this here and you go back and implement your old policy then the war will continue.

Dr. Kissinger: No. I appreciate the discussion, but we would like to have a situation in which it became unnecessary.

Prime Minister Chou: So let us leave that situation alone for a time. So the question will arise if the war will continue, then our two countries should try to attempt to still maintain relaxation in our relations.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree.

Prime Minister Chou: So we must try to find the means to do so. If you continue your bombing like you have, that will become very dangerous. You were saying that Vietnam is interfering in your internal domestic politics while you are bombing their country—do you not consider that to be interference in their internal politics? It is interference to such an extent that it cannot but give rise to sympathy in the other countries of the world.

It is time we know each other’s basic policy. Before coming you read the records of the meeting between Chairman Mao and the President. And this morning I specially took it out to read it twice. I also re-read our communiqué. These documents should be considered to be our basic stance, and both our common points and our differences come out very clearly in them. And the tendency is to seek relaxation of the general situation, and first of all, in the Far East, isn’t that so?

Dr. Kissinger: That is right, and that is our basic settled policy.

Prime Minister Chou: And the possibility of this happening is greater than otherwise. And during your present trip to Japan you also have been persuading your Japanese friends that a relaxation would be better for them too.

[Page 971]

Dr. Kissinger: Exactly. That was partly a result of our discussion.

Prime Minister Chou: And so if the Soviet Union itself all alone wants to create a tense situation how can they do that? That is why they are now trying to create a great atmosphere of relaxation in Moscow. In Moscow they are saying to their people that China is doing this or that, but in our country they are trying it by stories of relaxation and… That is not what we do. If there is tension, there is tension. If there is not, there is not. We don’t mix it up.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 97, Country Files—Far East, China, Dr. Kissinger’s Visit June 1972, Memcons (Originals). Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. This meeting was held in the Great Hall of the People. Kissinger sent a brief synopsis of this meeting to Haig on June 21. (Ibid., NSC Files, Box 1139, Jon Howe—Trip Files, HAK’s China Trip, June 1972) See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–13, Document 143.
  2. All ellipses are in the souce text.
  3. In June 1972, The New York Times published articles almost daily on arms control and the defense budget. See Bernard Gwertzman, “Senators Indicate Support at Arms- Accords Hearings,” The New York Times, June 20, 1972, p. A–3.
  4. Apparent reference to Laird’s secret testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, as reported in Bernard Gwertzman, “Laird Discloses Soviet MIRV Test to Senate Panel,” ibid., June 9, 1972, p. A–12.
  5. Documentation on these negotiations is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXII.
  6. Apparent reference to one of the American notetakers.
  7. Document 199.
  8. See footnote 2, Document 230.
  9. Foreign Minister Wei Tao-ming was replaced by Chow Shu-kai in 1971, who was replaced by Shen Ch’ang-huan in 1972.
  10. Moorer reported to Laird in a July 9 memorandum that a second investigation had been conducted, but concluded again that no U.S. aircraft entered PRC airspace and “The only plausible explanation for the few MK–118 bombs to have been dropped in the vicinity of the PRC village of Aikou, if in fact the PRC facts are accurate, is that one of the aircraft had a high altitude inadvertent release.” Laird forwarded Moorer’s memorandum to Kissinger on July 11. (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, ISA Files: FRC 330 75 0155, Comm. China 1972, 000.1) On July 11 Laird also informed Kissinger that he had met with the JCS to work out procedures to ensure that U.S. aircraft did not penetrate PRC airspace. (Ibid.) This information was given to the PRC on July 26; see Document 243.
  11. Not found. Documentation on alleged intrusions and communications between the White House and the Department of Defense is in Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 330 75 0155, 373.5, Communist China.
  12. All brackets are in the source text.
  13. Tabs A or B are probably an undated report entitled “10 June Allegations (Bombs on PRC Structures” and a copy of a June 16 memorandum from Laird to Kissinger subject: “PRC Allegations and Possible Airspace Intrusions.” Both are in National Archives. Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 851, President’s File—China Trip, Memcons, HAK China Visit, 19–23 June 1972. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–13, Documents 136 and 137. Messages and memoranda concerning alleged intrusions into PRC airspace or territorial waters are in National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials. Kissinger Office Files, Box 97, Country Files–Far East, China, PRC Allegations of Hostile Acts (ca. 1972).