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[Page 1029]

243. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Jonathan T. Howe, NSC Staff
  • Ambassador Huang Hua, PRC Ambassador to the United Nations
  • Mrs. Shih Yen-hua, Interpreter

There was a brief exchange of amenities at the beginning of the conversation.

Dr. Kissinger: I have a number of items I would like to discuss with you, and Commander Howe has some answers to questions that were asked during earlier sessions. The Ambassador’s English is getting so good that you get a double chance in these conversations.

Ambassador Huang: It is said that is supposed to be the advantage of an interpreter. You can bring an interpreter next time [said jokingly].2

Dr. Kissinger: It wouldn’t do me any good since I still wouldn’t be able to understand the Chinese.

I will discuss one major thing, but first I want to discuss items of somewhat lesser importance.

Secretary Peterson is in the Soviet Union now meeting on commercial matters. The U.S. side wants to keep the Chinese side informed of what they are doing in Moscow. In essence, there are three subjects being discussed: settlement of lend-lease; finding the Soviets eligible for credits, which depends on settlement of lend-lease; and the possibility of Most Favored Nation status. These subjects were discussed at Moscow [Summit] and therefore, in that sense, they represent nothing new.

The Soviet Union is extremely interested in a large-scale American investment in Siberia, particularly to support natural gas development. The U.S. policy is that if the lend-lease is settled we will find the Soviet Union eligible in principle for credit but reserve a determination on each individual item. Therefore we will maintain control. We will not give a flat sum. We will require individual requests. On the natural gas issue it is not our present intention to extend government credit. We will leave this to private companies.

[Page 1030]

The U.S. is prepared—I have said this before—to put the PRC on the exact same footing as the Soviet Union. So anything we do for the Soviets, that opportunity remains for the PRC.

On the question of natural gas we constantly receive inquiries from American companies concerning drilling offshore. We want you to know that we would be willing to put you in touch with recognized operators, including some companies that are not so well known, if this is of interest. This is entirely up to you. This is all I have on the Peterson visit. Do you have any questions or comments?

Ambassador Huang: No questions.

Dr. Kissinger: Secondly, I have been asked by Senator Mansfield to intercede on his behalf concerning a possible return visit to China. He would like to leave on our election day and get there three or four days later, I guess, for an individual visit. This will give you some idea of his estimate of the outcome of the election. But I wanted you to know that we do not insist that it be matched by a Republican, and if you don’t do it we would understand it.

Mrs. Shih: You said, “not insist that this visit be matched by a Republican”?

Dr. Kissinger: We believe that there are recognized reasons why he should want to go and therefore we would not insist as in the past that both political parties be represented. It might be best if discussion about Senator Mansfield is kept in this channel. He doesn’t want to be embarrassed about publicity concerning his plans during this campaign.

Ambassador Huang: Well, we will convey this.

Dr. Kissinger: Of course.

Another matter concerning visits—Congressmen Boggs and Ford were very happy about their visit to China.3 I understand they have talked too much on their return. But I warned you before they left that they are not as discreet as Senators Mansfield and Scott.

With respect to Mr. Schroeder, as it turned out, I didn’t see him because his visit here was canceled. I want your authorities to know that we are still going to carry out what I indicated to the Prime Minister concerning a cooperative spirit. This was mentioned in Peking. I’ll see him in September and I will encourage him in the direction that the Prime Minister and I discussed.4

[Page 1031]

On Vietnam matters there are three items. First, with respect to the intrusions on Chinese territory we have a number of reports and I will ask Commander Howe to go over them with you. There is one covering memorandum from the Secretary of Defense which I wanted to read to you. [Dr. Kissinger then read the sanitized memo from the Secretary of Defense at Tab A.5 In reading the memo, he explained that CINCPAC meant Commander in Chief Pacific and also explained that he was reading what Secretary Laird said in his report. He also noted that the attached report was from the Acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs since the Chairman was up in Alaska. Dr. Kissinger also noted that Commander Howe should read the follow-up report on the June 10 incident.]

This will not satisfy you but it will let you know that we will make a very serious effort to find out as well. At any rate, I believe these new measures will make it impossible for these incidents to occur. None has occurred since July 10 except one which I will mention to you in a minute.

With respect to the so-called buffer zone we do reserve the right if important military targets develop to penetrate it, without of course going into PRC territory. But we will not approach the PRC borders. Our normal procedures are not to approach PRC territory within a certain distance.

Ambassador Huang: Have you now doubled that distance?

Dr. Kissinger: It was 10 miles. Now we have gone to a greater distance.

You have not mentioned it, but I wanted to inform you about an incident which occurred on July 15. [Dr. Kissinger explained that a pilot had intruded into Hainan Island at 150006Z. He asked Commander Howe to explain what Zulu time was.]

As soon as the pilot saw land he turned and exited the area. I apologize for this incident. We are reporting it based on the new procedures. [Page 1032]It was not a military plane, or I mean not a combat plane. It was a tanker.

We have a difficulty about your ships off Vietnam which we wanted to mention to you. We have given strict orders not to damage your ships but, as you know, we are going to attempt to prevent the transfer of their cargoes. There have been four incidents in the last month where your ships fired their weapons at our planes without being attacked. Your ships apparently have machine guns. I can show you pictures. It does make it difficult for us not to respond if our planes are shot at. Commander Howe will give you details of the firings and the times.

With respect to a recent article carried by NCNA commenting on the bombing of dikes, I understand you are under certain necessities to support your ally publicly, but I want your government to understand it is not our policy. If it was our policy the damage would be much more extensive. We do not exclude that occasionally a bomb has hit a dike. We think that probably has happened but no dike has been breached by American bombs and it is not our policy to bomb dikes. We can survive occasional press attacks, but I wanted you to be aware of the facts in making your judgment. I wanted you to know what the facts were; for your own information I wanted you to know the facts. (This sentence was in answer to the interpreter’s request for a clarification of the last phrase of the previous sentence.)

I have two other points. One concerns Korea. For many reasons we prefer to avoid a Korean debate in this year’s General Assembly. We do not think it is helpful to have a direct confrontation between our two countries if it can be avoided, particularly if your eloquent Vice Foreign Minister comes to head your delegation to the General Assembly, [The Ambassador smiles] although Mr. Bush’s boiling point is higher than that of Mr. Malik.

Secondly, we want the negotiations between North and South Korea, which we believe are a good result of our relationship, to have a good opportunity to develop.

Ambassador Huang: Do you mean our bilateral relations?

Dr. Kissinger: I think that relations between Peking and Washington helped start negotiations between Pyongyang and Seoul.

Thirdly, I wanted to tell you if we avoided a debate in the UN this time we would use our influence to bring about a dismantling of UNCURK. This would have to be an understanding.

How is the senior Vice Foreign Minister? He and I spent many nights together. If he comes you and he will have to come to a dinner with me [Ambassador Huang smiles]. He has already agreed.

Ambassador Huang: Well, as to whether our Foreign Minister comes, we haven’t received any instructions. If he comes he will be very glad to meet you.

[Page 1033]

Dr. Kissinger: Our two ambassadors will talk in Paris. They can discuss these other issues. [To Commander Howe:] I don’t see what we can contribute here on this. (Referring to suggested item on trade and exchanges.)6

One other matter concerns our relations with the Soviet Union. I want to discuss it on a particularly confidential basis. You are the only government with which we have discussed it and in our government only the President and I and my close associates know about it. You remember, I believe, it was you I told that the Soviet Union proposed to us a nuclear non-aggression treaty. This is a treaty containing an obligation not to use nuclear weapons against the other. We avoided this with the argument that it did not cover other countries and did not prohibit the use of nuclear weapons by super-powers against other countries. They have now made a new proposal to us on a very confidential basis, so we must again point that out. Now it has a provision— actually three major provisions—the rest is technical:

  • —The first is that the U.S. and the Soviet Union will not use nuclear weapons against each other.
  • —If others use nuclear weapons the U.S. and the Soviet Union should avoid using them against each other.
  • —Third, that this treaty does not affect existing alliance obligations of the Soviet Union and the U.S. In other words, nuclear weapons can be used in defense of allies.

When this was presented to me, I asked the Soviet Ambassador if we attacked India would it bar the Soviet Union from using nuclear weapons in defense of India. He said yes. We obviously have no intention of attacking India. I was only raising a hypothetical point. The Soviet interpretation is that if a super-power attacks a third country not covered by the treaty, others can’t use nuclear weapons in defense of the country not covered by the treaty.

Ambassador Huang: What you said was that if the U.S. attacks India the Soviet Union will not use nuclear weapons because India is not covered by a treaty of alliance.

Dr. Kissinger: That is right, it is not covered by a treaty of alliance.

Ambassador Huang: What is the U.S. attitude?

Dr. Kissinger: First, as I have told you, you know of course what I was really saying, India is of no strategic value to us. In case of an attack on the PRC we want to reserve our freedom of action, not because we have an obligation but because we are convinced that international peace requires it. We will not accept the distinction between countries covered by the treaty and countries not. We will not have [Page 1034]two different categories of military conflict. We are looking for a formulation that expresses nuclear non-use as an objective rather than as an obligation. We would appreciate having your reactions before we reply to the Soviets.

Ambassador Huang: We will report this back.7

I have another question. Is it the U.S. intention to extend the treaty to include other nuclear powers?

Dr. Kissinger: So far we have not agreed there would be a treaty at all. We would like to have it in a form that would include other powers.

Ambassador Huang: Is that all about this question?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. That is all about this.

Ambassador Huang: I ask you this because this involves disarmament at the 27th General Assembly. These two items remain on the agenda for the 27th General Assembly. It seems that the Soviet side is ready to fix a date and set up a preparatory organ. We don’t agree to such a proposal.

Dr. Kissinger: What forum are you talking about?

Ambassador Huang: The World Disarmament Conference proposed by the Soviet Union.8

Dr. Kissinger: We are in no hurry.

Ambassador Huang: How would the U.S. deal with the question in the General Assembly?

Dr. Kissinger: We will treat it in a most dilatory fashion. We will do our best to prevent any concrete results without opposing it directly. This is our general strategy, but I have not looked into our tactics. Our [Page 1035]general policy is not to participate in any move to isolate you and to avoid disagreements with you if possible. It really depends on how many empty cannons the Vice Foreign Minister has. This is all I have. Do you have anything for me?

Ambassador Huang: I appreciate what you have told me and I will put it to my government. I suppose you know our stand on the question of Korea.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. We are talking about this.

Ambassador Huang: We welcome the new developments in Korea. We consider it a good beginning. The Korean side hopes the UN will create favorable conditions for an independent Korea. That is why we participate in inscription as a co-sponsor of the item on the agenda for the General Assembly. After such a long time since the armistice the UN ought to terminate the role of intervention in Korea. The presence of UNCURK in Korea is increasingly an irony of the UN. If the UN can extract itself from this embarrassment it will be favorable overall.

Dr. Kissinger: But not necessarily in 1972, from our point of view.9

Ambassador Huang: I have exchanged views with Ambassador Bush on this question.

Dr. Kissinger: Did Ambassador Bush initiate this?

Ambassador Huang: We had a general discussion of the agenda of the 27th session. We touched upon this question.

Dr. Kissinger: What did you conclude?

Ambassador Huang: Ambassador Bush said we could discuss this at a later period.

Dr. Kissinger: That’s what he is supposed to do. I am glad we have one ambassador who carries out his instructions. You don’t have this problem.

I left Washington early this morning and I have not seen the Ambassador’s report. [Turning to Commander Howe]: Have you seen it?

Commander Howe: Yes. I have a copy.

Dr. Kissinger: Let me see it. [Dr. Kissinger then read the reporting cable to himself.]10

I hope you will consider this question—you probably know, in fact I know you do, that I met with the North Vietnamese last week and will meet with them next week. I am sure they will keep you informed, but if the Prime Minister has any questions on the negotiations we will [Page 1036]be happy to answer them for you.

Ambassador Huang: Do you have anything to convey to the Prime Minister?

Dr. Kissinger: We are approaching the negotiations with an attitude to bring an end to the war. We have taken seriously many of the things the Prime Minister said to us in Peking. We will make some proposals, including political proposals, but we have not yet gotten them in final form.11

Ambassador Huang: Is there any progress?

Dr. Kissinger: I thought I detected some Chinese advice as to the method of proceeding. Their behavior this time was much more polite than at any previous period [said lightly]. Their initial discussions were substantially procedural. We took the first step toward negotiations. The two positions were laid side by side and explained, and so it could be said we made procedural progress. This had never been done before. We will know in two more meetings; I will be able to tell better then how it will go.

[Mr. Kissinger then excused himself and asked Commander Howe to go over the additional information. Mr. Kissinger remarked that the Ambassador would be having some very interesting newspaper reading over the next three months and the Ambassador responded that he had had some interesting evenings recently watching television.]

Commander Howe then proceeded to review the following documents:

  • —Sanitized version of the July 12 report of the Acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to the Secretary of Defense concerning allegations contained in the Chinese note of July 10, 1972 (Tab B).12
  • —Secretary of Defense’s covering memo and follow-up report from the Chairman, JCS, to the Secretary of Defense, concerning the June 10, 1972 bombing incident (Tab C).13

Commander Howe reiterated what Dr. Kissinger had said, that the Chinese might not be entirely satisfied with the findings and noted that Dr. Kissinger had directed that further investigation be made into the June 10 incident as a result of the report. In reading portions of the reports, [Page 1037]Commander Howe explained some of the military terms and clarified that these were reports to the Secretary of Defense from the military commanders.

—Detailed information on the four incidents in which Chinese ships fired at U.S. aircraft (Tab D).14 [Commander Howe omitted any reference to the fact that no damage was caused to U.S. aircraft.]

Around 7:15 the meeting concluded and Commander Howe apologized for the length of the session, but indicated that each of the very detailed explanations in the reports was relevant to those investigating the incidents.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 850, President’s File—China Trip, China Exchanges. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Talking points for this meeting are ibid.
  2. All brackets are in the source text.
  3. Congressmen Hale Boggs (D–Louisiana) and Gerald Ford (R–Michigan) visited the PRC for 10 days in late June and early July. See Document 223.
  4. At an August 4 meeting in New York, Huang Hua read the following message to Kissinger: “First, the Chinese side appreciates Dr. Kissinger’s indication of a desire to promote contact between China and West Germany. During Mr. Schroeder’s visit to China, he conducted useful talks with the Chinese side. Mr. Schroeder expressed the desire of various quarters concerned in West Germany for the establishment of diplomatic relations with China at an early date, and the Chinese side responded positively to this. As the West German government has no relations with the Chiang Kai-shek clique, it is possible for China to establish diplomatic relations with West Germany.” The memorandum of conversation, August 4, is in National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 850, President’s File—China Trip, China Exchanges. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–13, Document 148. Schroeder was in the PRC July 14–28. West Germany and the PRC announced the establishment of diplomatic relations during a visit to China by Foreign Minister Walter Scheel October 10–14, 1972.
  5. Attached but not printed is Laird’s July 16 memorandum. He noted: “The alleged incidents have been investigated by CINCPAC and the component commanders. As in previous cases, no evidence has been found so far to support either allegation [June 20 bombing of a PRC fishing vessel and July 5 violation of PRC airspace].” See ibid., Document 149.
  6. See Document 242.
  7. At their August 4 meeting in New York, Huang Hua read the following message to Kissinger: “First, the Chinese side considers the Soviet proposal to be nakedly aimed at the establishment of nuclear world hegemony. Secondly, the Soviet proposal only stipulates that the Soviet Union and the United States should not use nuclear weapons against each other or allies. This is obviously an attempt, following the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to go a step further and monopolize nuclear weapons, maintaining nuclear superiority and make nuclear threats against countries with few nuclear weapons, non-nuclear weapons, and countries in which the production of nuclear weapons is barred, and force them into spheres of influence of either this or that hegemony so that the two hegemonies may have a free hand in dividing up the world and manipulating the destinies of countries of the world at will.” Other points in the message emphasized that U.S. acceptance of the Soviet proposal would violate the principles of the Shanghai Communiqué and that the problem of nuclear weapons could only be solved through an agreement to ban the use of such weapons. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–13, Document 148.
  8. For information on the non-use of force and permanent prohibition of nuclear weapons and the World Disarmament Conference, see Yearbook of the United Nations, 1972, vol. 26 (New York: Office of Public Information, 1975), pp. 1–20; and Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume V.
  9. At their August 4 meeting in New York, Huang Hua informed Kissinger that “we hope the U.S. side will reconsider its idea of postponing discussion of the Korea question until the 28th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.”
  10. Not found.
  11. At their August 4 meeting in New York, Kissinger provided Huang Hua with a 12-point proposal from the United States to the DRV and a 12-page opening statement for talks in Paris. Copies were attached to the August 4 memorandum of conversation. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–13, Document 152.
  12. Attached but not printed. A complete set of PRC protests and DOD responses from mid-1972 is in National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 97, China, PRC Allegations of Hostile Acts (ca. 1972). See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–13, Document 153.
  13. Attached but not printed. See ibid.
  14. Attached but not printed. See ibid. Murphy provided this information to Kissinger in a July 13 memorandum. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 526, Country Files, Far East, PRC, Vol. V)