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26. Memorandum From Lindsey Grant and Hal Saunders of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

SUBJECT

  • Pakistan: Mediation in Sino/US Relations2

Two communications from Jim Spain in Rawalpindi may be worthy of your review:3

Tab A: The Pakistanis are working in the belief that President Nixon told President Yahya that the US wished to seek an accommodation with Communist China and would appreciate the Pakistani’s passing this word to Chou En-lai and using their influence to promote this. Yahya is apparently debating whether to call in the Chicom Ambassador to convey the message or whether to wait until he sees Chou Enlai, probably some months hence.

Tab B: Spain believes that in retrospect, reports of Nur Khan’s views of Communist China—including Nur’s midnight talk with you in Lahore—seem to indicate that the Pakistanis were delivering a message which the Chinese wanted us to hear to the effect that they regard the threat to them from the USSR as more imminent than from us and that they would react sharply.

Spain may be over-reading the Chinese intention to communicate specifically with us via Nur Khan. They have been expressing their concern at Soviet behavior widely enough; Nur Khan just happened to be in China when the Chinese leaders, legitimately, are absorbed with the Soviet problem. He himself made clear to you that he did not bear a message from the Chinese, and the only indication that the Paks themselves may think that the Chinese were talking for our benefit is a [Page 70]remark by the Pak Ambassador in Peking. (This all of course leaves the Prague story still tantalizingly in the air.)4

Whether or not President Nixon actually intended to encourage President Yahya to an effort at mediation (and only he of course can answer that), we are inclined to believe that Yahya’s efforts will do us no harm and may actually do some good. They will underline the sincerity of US interest in improved relations, even if (as is most likely) the Chinese do not respond in any way.

There are several practical dangers in letting the word get around that we have asked others such as the Paks to pursue a détente between US and Communist China. All of them are manageable.

a.
We may generate excessive expectations as to what is negotiable, with consequent fears in Southeast Asia, and with pressures from some quarters of US opinion to go further to show good faith to the Chinese. At this point in history, the Chinese do not seem to harbor any illusions that they could use us effectively against the Soviet threat by seeking a rapprochement, and most other Chinese objectives must be won against us rather than with us, so we have little reason to expect that present US bids will pay off in the near future.
b.
We will make the Soviets nervous.
c.
In the UN context, any reports of a US willingness to improve relations with Communist China always generate rumors that we are slackening our support for the Republic of China, with a danger of erosion of the vote on the Chinese representation issue.

The first of these problems fades quickly with time, and can be met by reiterating our assessment that the Chinese are unlikely to seek better relations in the short term.

The effect of Soviet nervousness is moot. We have already decided to show them that we are capable of dealing with China, anyway.

The third problem is particularly topical, with the UNGA coming up shortly. It can probably be best met by making explicit what has been implicit for eight years: that our objection is to any effort to seat the Chinese Communists at the expense of the GRC. This line is itself justified by

  • —the long-term need to place ourselves in a position from which we can move to accept Chinese Communist membership.
  • —the need to show consistency with our position that we do not seek to isolate China.
  • —the fact that this line is much more acceptable to most other countries than is a continued opposition to Chinese Communist entry.

Pressures for Chinese Communist entry into the UN will mount if China continues to move toward a more subtle and less doctrinaire foreign policy. Even from our own standpoint, Chinese Communist entry would have its advantages as well as its disadvantages. Moreover, we would be in a stronger tactical position fighting for the GRC’s right to stay than in trying to resist Chinese Communist participation. It is also quite possible that we would eventually lose, in any case, or that the GRC would refuse to remain in a UNGA which invited the Chinese Communists in. In either case, the diplomatic defeat for the US would seem much smaller if we had been seen not as opposing Chinese Communist entry but as trying to save a place for the GRC.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1320, NSC Unfiled Material, 1969, 9 of 19. Secret; Exdis. Sent for information. Grant signed for himself and Saunders. Kissinger wrote on the memorandum: “This is to be strictly WH matter. I want no discussion outside our bldg. Has Hal talked to Hilaly[?]”
  2. See Document 20.
  3. Tab A is an August 16 letter from James W. Spain, Chargé d’Affaires ad interim in Pakistan. Tab B is an August 7 letter from Spain; an August 1 memorandum of conversation of a meeting held in Lahore among Kissinger, Spain, Saunders, and Deputy Chief Martial Law Administrator Air Marshal Nur Khan; and [text not declassified]. All attached but not printed.
  4. Apparent reference to a series of stories that surfaced in Prague in mid-July that connected Romanian-American talks to Sino-American rapprochement. (Telegram 1812 from Prague, July 10, and telegram 1863 from Prague, July 15; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 7 US/NIXON)