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[Page 80]

31. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • Conversation with the President Concerning China and U.S.-Chinese Contacts

PARTICIPANTS

  • The President
  • Mr. Henry Kissinger
  • Ambassador Walter J. Stoessel, Jr.

At the President’s request, I described to him the procedures we followed in Warsaw for communicating with the Chinese Embassy. The President asked if I could pass a message to the Chinese privately, and I assured him that I could do so by addressing a letter to the Chinese Chargé which would be delivered by an Embassy officer.

The President wondered what would happen if I attempted to talk directly with the Chinese Chargé at a diplomatic reception at one of the neutral embassies in Warsaw. I said I did not know but that I could certainly attempt to make such a contact. The President requested me to do so on an appropriate occasion following my return to Warsaw. If I was able to engage the Chinese Chargé in conversation I could say that I had seen the President in Washington and that he was seriously interested in concrete discussions with China. Any reactions from the Chargé to such an approach obviously would be of the greatest interest.

If the press noted my conversation with the Chargé and inquired about it, the President said I should be noncommittal in my comments, although I might say that the U.S. is interested in good relations with all countries. The President also remarked that, if I did see the Chinese Chargé at a reception, it might also be well for me to seek out the Soviet representative subsequently to keep things in balance.

The President commented that, in general, any person in a responsible position in the U.S. Government must realize that we should [Page 81]seek on a long-range basis to better relations with Communist China. We cannot leave that tremendous country and people isolated.

The President spoke of the reactions he had received on his Far Eastern trip to Brezhnev’s interest in a collective security pact in Asia. Of course, the Philippines and Thailand were opposed; Pakistan was also against such a pact, since they are playing up to the Chinese. The interesting thing for the President was that India and Indonesia were also opposed.

The President thought that countries in the Far East feared the possibility of a Soviet-U.S. cabal against the Chinese. A Soviet-U.S. “deal” would be bad enough in itself, but the Far Eastern countries see that it could also strengthen the Soviets to the extent that they might be able to take over China in the sense of controlling its policies and actions. If this happened, a Soviet-Chinese bloc would be created which would be dangerous to world peace and specifically to the neighbors of China.

The President noted that we had made a small gesture toward the Chinese lately and it was interesting that the Chinese had not rejected this out of hand. We could go further and put the Chinese on the same basis as the Soviet Union concerning trade. This was something which should be considered.

The President said that, of course, there are issues such as U.N. membership for Communist China which are of concern, but these are short-run political problems which will be resolved eventually. In our own interests we must be prepared to deal with China on trade matters and other things which are of concrete importance.2

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL CHICOMUS. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Stoessel. The meeting was held in the White House. Although Stoessel’s memorandum notes that the meeting began at 3 p.m., the President’s Daily Diary indicates that the President, Kissinger, and Stoessel met from 3:15 to 4:05 p.m. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files) According to another copy of the memorandum, Stoessel forwarded it through the Executive Secretariat to Kissinger on September 20. (Ibid., NSC Files, Box 519, Country Files, Far East, China, Vol. III)
  2. Based on instructions that he received in this meeting, Stoessel struggled to make contact with the Chinese in October and November, but there were few occasions attended by both U.S. and PRC diplomats. Stoessel’s letters to various Department of State officials concerning his contacts with PRC officials are ibid., RG 59, S/S Files: Lot 82 D 307, Walter J. Stoessel Files, China Talks (Warsaw). A meeting was finally arranged in early December (see footnote 2, Document 53).