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255. Memorandum From John H. Holdridge of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

SUBJECT

  • Transfer of Submarine to the Republic of China

Secretary Laird has asked your approval of the transfer of two submarines to the Republic of China (Tab B).2 Secretary Laird refers to your [Page 1088]memorandum of July 10, 1972 asking him to bring the question up again in September (Tab C).3

You told Ambassador Kennedy in your memorandum of last July 24 that we intended to honor the commitment which he made, on the President’s authority, to the ROC a year ago to transfer a submarine (Tab D).4 Secretary Laird, we understand, committed us to the Congress to transfer a total of two submarines to the ROC.

Secretary Laird states that the U.S. Navy has earmarked two active fleet submarines which would otherwise be retired for transfer to the ROC: the first for formal transfer on December 31, 1972 (although it would be available for ROC use in October), and the second on June 30, 1973. Although the first ROC submarine crew will be ready to begin training on the first craft this month, Secretary Laird states that the crew’s training in the current classroom phase of its course could be extended until late November. This extension would also require that we ask the ROC to delay the arrival of its second crew until late November, given the limited classroom facilities at the submarine school.

I recommend that we delay beginning the on-board phase of the first crew’s training until late November.

I also recommend we stipulate as a condition of the transfer that the ROC agree that the submarines are to be used for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) training only—the only military purpose for which either [Page 1089]the ROC or State and Defense have justified the transfer. (State’s memorandum at Tab C strongly recommends that we include this understanding.)5 If the Chinese agree to this stipulation but then go ahead to use the subs for other purposes, we will at least have on the record our word to them not to do so.

I believe we should ask State and Defense for draft press guidance to cover both the commencement of the on-board phase of the training as well as the formal transfers.

To derive maximum political benefit in the ROC, we could have Ambassador McConaughy upon his return to Taipei October 106 convey the news of the transfer to the ROC leadership, [2 lines of source text not declassified]. To avoid the risk of a leak within our own bureaucracy, I suggest that we inform Defense and State of our decision at the time that we instruct Ambassador McConaughy to deliver this message in Taipei.

At Tab A is a draft memorandum from you to Secretary Laird approving the transfer of two submarines under the conditions mentioned above.7

Recommendation

That you sign the memorandum to Secretary Laird at Tab A, the memorandum to be transmitted to Defense (with a copy to State) at the same time that Ambassador McConaughy is instructed to inform the ROC.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 523, Country Files, Far East, China, Vol. XI. Secret; Sensitive. Sent for action. Concurred in by Pinckney. Written by hand above Kissinger’s name are the words “Haig for.”
  2. Attached at Tab B but not printed is Laird’s September 13 memorandum.
  3. Attached at Tab C but not printed is Kissinger’s July 10 memorandum to Laird, in which Kissinger noted that the President “appreciates the problems involved in not proceeding at this time. He continues to believe, however, that the transfer should be deferred for a period of several more months, during which an evaluation could be made of additional political and military factors which might have a bearing on the matter.” The July 10 memorandum was in response to Laird’s June 16 memorandum to Kissinger requesting that the submarine transfer go forward. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Far East, China, Vol. XI) Laird was acting on the advice of Nutter, who outlined conflicts over obtaining approval for the submarine transfer, and recommended that Laird sign the June 16 memorandum. This memorandum and other documentation on the Department of Defense effort to supply the submarines, is in Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 330 77 0094, China (Nats), 400.137–800, 1972. See also Document 224.
  4. In a July 18 memorandum to Kissinger, Kennedy remarked that he had been asked about the commitment made to the ROC Government during the textile negotiations in 1971 to provide a submarine. See Documents 133 and 134. Kennedy noted: “As it turned out, the only item we made a firm commitment on to Taiwan was the submarine. As you recall, I cleared this explicitly with the President and was authorized to notify Chiang Ching-Kuo which I subsequently did personally.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 523, Country Files, Far East, China, Vol. X) Tab D, the attached memorandum from Kissinger to Kennedy, is dated July 27, not July 24. In it. Kissinger wrote, “You may be assured that the United States does intend to honor the commitment in this regard you made to then Vice Premier Chiang Ching-Kuo last year.” He added that this will occur in the “near future.”
  5. Also attached at Tab C but not printed is a September 28 memorandum from U. Alexis Johnson to the President.
  6. McConaughy did not discuss submarines in the October 13 meeting with Chiang Ching-Kuo, as the decision on their transfer had not yet been made. (Telegram 5181 from Taipei, October 19; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, CHINAT–JAPAN)
  7. Attached at Tab A but not printed is an October 16 memorandum from Kissinger to Laird.