The Secretary of State has sent you a recommended position and proposed
instructions for the February 20 Warsaw meeting with the Chinese
Communists.2 I have edited these instructions slightly to
remove polemics and in one case to eliminate an implication that we
might be prepared to remove our presence from Formosa. The instructions
cover a number of continuing problems with Peking, such as the question
of Americans held prisoner by the Communists and our desire for an
understanding with Peking on assistance and return of astronauts. They
also cover a broad range of contingencies that might arise during the
The principal issue facing us is the basic posture we should adopt at
Warsaw. The attached memorandum (Tab A) discusses the four broad options
open to us. As edited, the State Department instructions (Tab B) fall
basically within the third option, namely to indicate our willingness to
enter into serious negotiations with Peking, make proposals on
scientific exchanges, and invite specific proposals from the
Right now, the third option has several advantages: (1) it would cause
less concern to the Republic of China, presently very sensitive because
Canada and Italy are moving to recognition of Peking; (2) it [Page 11] would reduce the risk that other
countries might misinterpret any initiative on our part as marking a
fundamental change in China policy in response to, or in connection
with, Canadian recognition of Peking; and (3) it avoids prejudging U.S.
China policy before the National Security Council undertakes its full
dress review in late March.
That you approve the instructions at Tab B.
Washington, February 11,
Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for
National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon
On November 15, the U.S. proposed deferring the next Warsaw meeting
until next February after being unable to obtain any answer from the
Chinese Communists on their intentions with respect to the scheduled
November 20 meeting. The Chinese responded on November 25, much more
promptly than usual, with a letter and subsequent press release
proposing the talks for February 20. In contrast to communications
over recent years, the Chinese reply was less abusive and revived an
old Chinese proposal for a joint declaration of adherence to the
Bandung Conference five principles of “peaceful co-existence.” This
proposal was loosely linked to the usual Chinese Communist demand
for U.S. military withdrawal from Taiwan. There have been other [Page 12] indications of a Chinese
interest in returning to a “softer foreign policy” emphasizing state
relations rather than being revolution-oriented. While there is no
evidence Peking is seeking a détente with us, it is clear that
Peking wishes to resume some form of dialogue with us at Warsaw.
Speculation as to possible Chinese Communist motivations focusses on
- Internal difficulties, which continue, may increase the
desire for an easing of external relations;
- The continuing Paris peace talks coupled with the
declining military fortunes of the North Vietnamese;
- As a reaction to increased Sino-Soviet tensions;
- As an effort to explore the views of the new
Administration of President Nixon;
- As an effort to probe for softness in U.S. positions,
particularly in our relations with the Republic of China on
An additional factor to take into account is that there may be
divided counsel in Peking on relations with the United
States—although there is no evidence of a fundamental shift of
attitude towards the U.S. in the Warsaw talks proposals or in
subsequent propaganda. At a minimum, we have a retreat from
extremist positions taken during the height of the Great Cultural
As a first step to test Chinese Communist intentions, we have
proposed that the locus of the talks be shifted from a building
provided by the Poles to either the U.S. or Chinese Embassy where
Soviet/Polish eavesdropping will not be possible. Any serious talks
with the Chinese are foreclosed by the present building. The Chinese
have rejected this proposal but left the door open for discussion of
it at the February 20 Warsaw meeting. In addition, we have been
informed that the Chinese Communists will be represented by their
Chargé in Poland, in the continued absence of Ambassador Wang.
(Almost all Chinese Ambassadors were called back to Peking many
months ago for “re-education” during the height of the cultural
revolution. They have not been returned.)
U.S. China Policy
In the past, the debate on China policy has focussed on the questions
of recognition and UN representation,
and U.S. tactics were built around proposals to expand contacts with
the mainland. The debate on recognition and UN representation is essentially, in my view, a
fruitless exercise given the opposition of both Chinas to any
two-China policy—although we will constantly be faced with the
problems in preventing an erosion of the Republic of China position.
Similarly, efforts to expand contacts with the mainland have brought
no response although they have the value of signalling our interest
in a broader relationship [Page 13]
with Peking. We have one more major play to make in this string—the
offer to resume non-strategic trade with the mainland.
The Warsaw talks offer an opportunity to shift the focus of our
policy: to seeking a modus vivendi with the Communist Chinese which
provides greater stability for East Asia, (a) without abandoning our
commitment to Taiwan or undermining its position, or (b) damaging
the interests of our Asian allies, principally Japan. More
specifically, our policy would be directed towards seeking specific,
self-enforceable arrangements with Peking which give some substance,
and not lip service, to “peaceful co-existence.”
Alternative U.S. Positions at Warsaw
At Warsaw, four broad options are open to us.
At the one extreme, we could indicate that we are prepared to
negotiate a normalization of relations with Peking based on an
agreement for peaceful relations between the U.S. and Communist
China and noninterference in the affairs of other countries. The
proposal might be sweetened by an offer to resume non-strategic
trade. The Chinese Communists would, however, be informed that our
proposal is without prejudice to our relations with and commitment
to the Republic of China. This approach, explicitly emphasizing
normalization, would represent a basic change in U.S.
policy—although we have been implicitly moving in this
- A normalization of relations on this basis, accepted by
Peking, would accomplish a shift in relations with the U.S. from
an ideological confrontation to state relations and a shift in
Peking’s policy away from political warfare directed against
other Asian and less developed nations.
- The proposal, even if not accepted, would encourage elements
within the Peking leadership who may be arguing that the U.S. is
not a hostile force and that serious efforts should therefore be
made to reach an understanding with it.
- If not preceded by a probing of the mainland position, the
Chinese Communists might interpret the proposal as “softness” on
- The proposal, even if not accepted, could cause a crisis of
confidence in Taiwan and seriously upset the Japanese Government
which is trying to hold the line against both conservative and
left-wing pressures for a more conciliatory policy towards
- The proposal is likely to lead Japan and other countries to
try to get out in front of the U.S., with some countries quickly
recognizing Communist China and others moving to change their
position on UN
To sum up: Given the low probability of an
affirmative Peking response, this alternative involves considerable
risks without prospect of immediate
The U.S. could indicate that we are prepared to enter into serious
discussions or negotiations with respect to our policies with the
exception of our commitment to Taiwan. This proposal might be
combined with a specific offer or hint of our willingness to review
our military presence in the Taiwan area if the Chinese renounce the
use of force to settle this dispute.
- This proposal would represent a move to greater flexibility on
our part and a positive invitation to the Chinese Communists. It
would also demonstrate that President Nixon’s Administration is
prepared to take a more conciliatory approach to Peking in
response to the shift in Peking’s line on the Warsaw talks as
set forth in its November 25 note.
- It would likewise encourage whatever more conciliatory
elements may exist within the Peking leadership.
- If this approach were not combined with an offer of strong
military presence in Taiwan, it would provide time to consider
U.S. China policy within the U.S. Government and to consult with
other countries on specific steps to implement it.
- This approach is likely to leave Japan and other interested
Asian countries jittery about a possible change in U.S. policy
without eliciting an immediate positive response from
- It may not go far enough to force any serious reconsideration
of policy in Peking.
- The specific offer on Taiwan would bring a quick and negative
response from the Republic of China, already agitated by
Canadian and Italian initiatives to recognize Peking. In
addition it raises the issue of whether we are prepared to
withdraw from our bases in Taiwan given the possibility of
negotiations with respect to our Okinawan bases.
We could pick up the Chinese reference to peaceful coexistence and
ask whether they have any specific proposals to make. We would [Page 15] not, however, take any
specific or generalized initiatives beyond indicating our
willingness to hear out the Chinese.
- This approach would emphasize our interest in developing a
stable, peaceful environment in East Asia without committing us
to any new actions at this time.
- It would cause the least concern with our allies of Asia and
in fact would probably be welcome.
- It would permit a probe of Peking intentions and emphasize
that the monkey is on its back for specific initiatives.
- This approach is less likely to elicit a positive response
from Peking, either immediately or in the longer term.
- It is likely to be construed by Peking and others as a holding
action rather than a new initiative on our part.
We could take the initiative and clobber the Chinese for past
transgressions. This approach would signal a very tough stance and
would probably close the door to any meaningful exchanges for some
time— assuming that there is any possibility under the present