[Page 1063]

252. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Ambassador Huang Hua, PRC Mission to the UN
  • Mrs. Shih Yen-hua, Interpreter
  • Chinese Notetaker
  • Henry A. Kissinger
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff

Dr. Kissinger: You won’t believe this, but our car broke down at the airport.

Mr. Rodman insists on coming up here so he can see Mrs. Shih. [laughter]2

Ambassador Huang: He is one of your good students.

Dr. Kissinger: I wanted to review with you a number of things and also to review your latest communication, if that is agreeable to you.

Ambassador Huang: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: First, I plan to tell you what I plan to discuss in Moscow.

I’m sure your allies will raise this issue of the nuclear treaty. I want to inform you of where we stand and what I know will happen.

When they submitted this draft to me, I asked a number of questions, which were frankly very sarcastic. To my astonishment they handed me a reply yesterday, preparatory to my visit. My questions were:

  • —What if there is an attack on our allies in Europe? What is the effect of this treaty?
  • —Second, what is the effect of this treaty if there is a war among other countries with which there is no treaty obligation but which involve a US or Soviet interest?
  • —Third, what is the effect of the treaty in case of an attack by the Soviet Union or the US on a country whose defeat would affect the global balance of power?

Sarcastically I said, what if we wanted to move US troops into India?

[Page 1064]

You remember I mentioned this to you.

With respect to the first question, in the case of an attack on our allies, nuclear weapons could be used in their defense but not on the territory of the Soviet Union! I suppose this means that on the territory of allies of the Soviet Union they can be used. It was stated in a neutral form: “If such a situation arises, then both the US and USSR should proceed from the necessity to localize the use of nuclear weapons and undertake nothing that would increase the danger of our two countries mutually becoming objects of the use of nuclear weapons.”

In the second situation, with respect to the defense of countries towards which neither the Soviet Union nor the US has a direct treaty obligation, the use of nuclear weapons would be totally excluded.

With respect to the third situation, and I am quoting, “which the American side termed as seriously upsetting the global balance and to illustrate which a most hypothetical….”

Mrs. Shih: Slowly please.

Dr. Kissinger: I don’t want you to get the precise words [laughter], because I’m doing something irregular [laughter].

No, I’ll repeat: “In the third situation, which the American side termed as seriously upsetting the global balance and to illustrate which a most hypothetical example of introduction of Soviet or US troops into India was used—if we assume that nuclear weapons might be used, this would devalue our treaty. The treaty should exclude this possibility. Otherwise it would be totally pointless.”

They give a fourth example which we didn’t ask about: when one of our allies attacks one of the Soviet Union’s allies—in which case the argument will be they can use nuclear weapons against our ally!

What I will say is, we will undertake no mutual obligations. We will not make an agreement that implies a condominium. We will make no agreement which implies that only nuclear war is wrong but conventional war is acceptable. We will make no agreement which permits an attack by a major nuclear country against any other country or which limits our actions in that respect. But we are prepared to discuss universal measures to prevent war, which apply to all countries.

I do not expect that anything will occur, except a dilatory general discussion.

So I think your Government can know that the considerations you put before us have been taken seriously, and there will be no counterproposal by us of a specific nature.

I’m covering the topics that will be discussed there. Or do you have any questions?

Ambassador Huang: Last time you mentioned that the US side is considering a “general formula” as an answer to the Soviet Union. I [Page 1065]wonder if what you said just now constitutes your answer, or will there be another formula?

Dr. Kissinger: This will generally be our answer.

Ambassador Huang: And what is the implication of “universal measures to prevent war, that will apply to all countries”?

Dr. Kissinger: The implication is that one cannot consider a bilateral agreement not to use nuclear weapons unless there are conditions in which there can be no attacks by major countries against smaller countries, by nuclear countries against non-nuclear countries—in short unless there are conditions that guarantee universal peace.

My personal judgment is that this is now going to end the discussion. But if they want to pursue it, we will steer it in the direction of general principles like the Shanghai Communiqué.

But in any event I will discuss it with you after I return. We will not agree to anything there.

We cannot agree to the implication of this formulation that was handed to us under any circumstances, because it would in effect give complete immunity to the chief aggressor in every circumstance that concerns us—an attack on Europe, an attack on the Middle East, or an attack on China.

The reason for the formulation about which you asked me is to have a delaying method for the discussion; it may not be heroic but it will be effective. And it will shift the subject away from what we’ve talked about here. And indeed in view of this explanation there is no need for us to make a counterproposal.

Ambassador Huang: This is all I want to ask.

Dr. Kissinger: The next subject I will discuss is SALT.

We will discuss on this occasion the procedures and approximate timing for the next sessions of SALT: we are aiming for the middle of November.

On substance, the only subject that is likely to come up is how to make the interim agreement permanent, what measures would be required.

We will also discuss the European Security Conference and mutual force reduction in Europe, primarily from the procedural point of view. And the degree to which the two should be related to each other. I think I explained it to the Prime Minister once before. We are using these negotiations on mutual force reductions primarily as a device to keep the Senate from cutting our forces unilaterally. So we are thinking of a preparatory meeting at the end of January next year, to be followed by a conference in September, which we estimate to last at least two years.

Ambassador Huang: Two years.

[Page 1066]

Dr. Kissinger: The Conference. And if your Foreign Minister comes here for the UN General Assembly he can give me advice on dilatory tactics and we can perhaps stretch it out to three years. [laughter] Two years I can do on my own!

So we do not expect any major changes in our forces in Europe until late ’74 or early ’75, at the earliest. And as I told the Prime Minister, we are thinking in terms of ten to fifteen percent as the maximum.

We will also discuss the trade issues. The Soviet Union has now made a new proposal to us on settlement of its World War II debts which is more acceptable than the previous discussion. This will make it possible to negotiate other trade arrangements, and will make it possible to find the Soviet Union eligible for some credits. If this eligibility is achieved, it will still enable us to approve individual projects, as I explained to you once before. These issues are very technical and complex, and if you are interested I will explain them to you when I return. I don’t think they involve matters of high policy.

Each side of course is free to raise topics it wishes.

On Indochina—I think you know our views on this, and we will repeat the same views in Moscow.

This is all on our side on the Soviet trip. When I return here—I will return the evening of the 15th. I have to be in New York on the evening of the 19th, and I will be prepared to meet with you then to give you details. [He nods.]

I am going to Munich tomorrow. I had intended to attend the Olympics, but cannot now. But I will meet with the German leaders. I will see Brandt, Bahr, Barzel, Scheel, and Strauss. I will recommend to Brandt, whom I know very well, and to Scheel, what I told you—what our experiences with the People’s Republic have been and that from our point of view normalization of relations would be desirable.

I understand that Scheel is coming to Peking early in October.

Ambassador Huang: I’ve got information that the negotiations will start very soon, but as to the specific time I am not informed. The negotiations will start in the near future.

Dr. Kissinger: Knowing Scheel and knowing your side, I do not think he will tax your abilities excessively. [The Chinese laugh, and make comments to each other.]

Ambassador Huang: “Tax your abilities”—it is difficult to translate.

Dr. Kissinger: But you understand. [They nod.]

It is not yet announced, but I wanted to tell you I will stop in London on the way back for one day, to see Heath and Home. The next day I will go to Paris to meet with the North Vietnamese. And after the meeting with the North Vietnamese I will meet with President Pompidou and then I will return home.

[Page 1067]

On Vietnam, I have read your communication with great care.3 And I personally believe that your account of the events is correct, and we regret it. Our difficulty is we have found no way of making our investigation except by asking the culprits to do the investigating. We also have to point out that—we understand the location of your ships— but it is a different situation from what is found on your borders. And an inherently more dangerous one. But we have explained this before.

With respect to the general comment at the end of your paper, we agree with the Chinese view and we are prepared to withdraw all our forces. The obstacle is not the refusal to withdraw our forces but that the North Vietnamese are demanding that we solve their political problem for them. We will make another proposal to them when I meet with them next week, on which we have worked very hard and which we have had a great difficulty in getting agreement. I will give it to you on the 19th—for your information, without any request for doing anything. We do believe that the North Vietnamese are taking a very narrow view and that this is the best time for them to settle the war. And that continuing the war can only be in the interests of countries with expansionist desires. And in that sense it is not a purely Indochinese problem.4

Have you any questions?

“I have been asked to convey to you the following message for the Prime Minister in addition to our written note. There comes a time in international events when the long view must be taken. The United States side questions seriously whether it is in the Chinese interest to see the Indochina conflict seriously complicate the position of the United States Administration in light of all that it has done and is prepared to do in a global context. There are more fundamental considerations involved given this Administration’s constant awareness of the dangers of modern imperialism. Accordingly, the United States side hopes that the Prime Minister would carefully consider the problem of Indochina in a broader framework. The United States will continue its earnest search for a rapid conclusion of the war on a just basis for all parties. It is clear at this point that other countries, too, have a responsibility to help speed the end of the conflict whose continuation only serves to distort the international situation.”

[Page 1068]

Ambassador Huang: No.

Dr. Kissinger: The next issue is our meeting with the Japanese in Hawaii.

I have read with interest and astonishment some of the newspaper accounts which came from the Japanese side.

Ambassador Huang: You mean Prime Minister Tanaka’s press conference?

Dr. Kissinger: And Ohira’s. Both. You will soon have the pleasure of experiencing it yourselves.

We did not raise the issue of the Mutual Security Treaty’s application to Taiwan—at all. Nor did they. We did not raise the Sato communiqué of 1969—at all. And neither did they. So all the news stories that explained that we said Taiwan is as important to us as Europe—as NATO—and that they did not agree with us, are pure invention.

Given our experience with the Japanese press, we will explain our views on Taiwan to you, and not through third parties. And they will be consistent with the Shanghai Communiqué, and with the private understandings we have.

Our position—on which you can rely—is that we will place no obstacle in the way of normalization of relations between Japan and the People’s Republic. We have not asked them to delay their visit or the conclusions they want to draw from their visit. Our view is, within the framework of the communications you have sent us, we will not place any obstacle in the way of the policy that is developing unless it should take an anti-American direction—which we do not believe it has now. We believe that you conduct a long-range policy, and so do we. And we are not interested in the tactical moves that so fascinate the Japanese press.

There was also a news report that when I was in Japan I raised the issue of Korea. When I met the Foreign Minister there were ten other officials there, and when there are ten officials I say nothing.

But I shall watch the evolution of your relations with interest, especially the press relations.

Do you have any questions on this subject?

Ambassador Huang: No.

Dr. Kissinger: As a general proposition, I think in relations between us and Japan, I think it is important for both of us to not take advantage of tactical situations. We didn’t, you didn’t. This isn’t a comment on you. It’s our attitude.

I have only a few more items.

With respect to Senator Mansfield

[Page 1069]

Ambassador Huang: Regarding relations between China and Japan, our side has expressed its views in former messages.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, and they are satisfactory to us.

With respect to Senator Mansfield, we understand the question which was asked from Peking. And looking into the longer future, we can see the advantage of not having individual leaders come at your invitation. On the other hand, Senator Mansfield is one of the leaders of the Senate, and very well disposed towards Chinese policy. We would therefore be prepared to send him on an official mission, so it would not be your invitation but on a mission that we could define. We would have to define the subject in such a way that it does not concern immediate foreign policy decisions.

With respect to his seeing Sihanouk, I have talked to Senator Mansfield. He will leave it up to you whether there should be a meeting with Sihanouk. He will not request it. And if he were to see Samdech Sihanouk, he would not raise the subject of his talk. Which he could not do in any event in an official capacity, since it is not our official policy.

On a similar level, a Harvard friend of mine, Professor Galbraith,5 is now in China. And while he is a fanatical supporter of Senator McGovern and I do not share his political views, he is a very intelligent and good man, and I would appreciate any courtesies that could be shown. And if it could be mentioned to him that I mentioned his name, it would be a courtesy.

We will replace Ambassador Watson in Paris with a good man, after the election, and a man we can rely upon.

One other rather complex problem. We hear indirectly that there are some purchases of wheat from an American corporation in France which result in increased purchases here.6 We welcome this. But we have a concern about the publicity. We have the following choices:

  • —We could leave it in the hands of the private companies and not treat it as a governmental concern—but this leaves us with no control over the publicity.
  • —Or we could respond in a governmental capacity. But then there is the question of what to say and at what level. We will respect your wishes in this.

[To Rodman]: Make sure no cables on this go out. Tell Butz to keep his Department shut up. Have Haig do this.

I repeat: We have no interest in this except to be sure there is correct treatment of your concerns.

[Page 1070]

Ambassador Huang: On this question I have no instructions from Peking. I doubt whether the said trade item would be carried on.

Dr. Kissinger: We are not recommending it or the opposite. We are only concerned with [what happens] if it occurs. If it does and it is an indirect purchase, we will not volunteer anything in any event.

We will do nothing further if we hear nothing from you. There is no particular need for a response unless you need to.

While I’m gone, Mr. Lord and Commander Howe are with me on the trip. Peter Rodman and General Haig are in Washington. And we have immediate communications.

I’m keeping Peter home from Moscow so the next time I go to Peking he can go with me.

Ambassador Huang: I hear that General Haig is promoted.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, he will be made Vice-Chief of the Army.

Ambassador Huang: At the same time he will still be your assistant?

Dr. Kissinger: No, for two more months he will be my assistant. It will be a terrible loss to me. But I was instrumental in obtaining this for him. So it is for the good of the country.

Ambassador Huang: Please convey my personal congratulations to him.

Dr. Kissinger: Thank you. It will leave a big hole in my staff.

Those are all the items I have for you today.

Ambassador Huang: Do you leave today?

Dr. Kissinger: I leave tomorrow morning.

Ambassador Huang: I will report what you said to Prime Minister Chou En-lai.

I know how busy you are, so I won’t keep you any longer.

Dr. Kissinger: When is your UN delegation coming?

Ambassador Huang: In a couple of weeks.

Dr. Kissinger: You’ll have a vacation afterwards?

Ambassador Huang: I hope so. Will you?

Dr. Kissinger: We will be organizing a new administration.

Ambassador Huang: Are there any new developments in the Middle East?

Dr. Kissinger: I think until the election things will be fairly quiet.

I don’t think the Soviet Union knows exactly what to do. In fact I think precision of thought is not an attribute of anyone in the Middle East.

[The meeting adjourned with warm handshakes.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 850, President’s File—China Trip, China Exchanges. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Attached but not printed are talking points for this meeting.
  2. All brackets and elipses are in the source text.
  3. Huang Hua gave Peter Rodman two short messages on the evening of September 6. One message was a short inquiry about a possible visit from Senator Mansfield. The longer message reads in part: “From the U.S. messages [of August 28 and 30] it seems that the U.S. side thinks it has the right to blockade and bomb the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and attack vessels or vehicles of all kinds transporting supplies to Viet Nam. This stand cannot possibly be accepted by China.” The message continued: “We recognize that the U.S. Government has made investigations on all the incidents raised in the charges and protests lodged by us. But the answers have generally been words of regret from above but allegations from below that there was cause for raising the matters but no conclusive evidence after investigations.” The August 28 and 30 messages for the PRC and the message attached to Rodman’s memorandum of conversation with Huang Hua, September 6, are 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, Documents 152 154.
  4. Attached but not printed is a message delivered by Kennedy to Ambassador Huang in New York on August 28:
  5. Harvard University economist and former Ambassador to India (1961–1963) John Kenneth Galbraith.
  6. See Document 250.