60. Backchannel Message From the Ambassador to Afghanistan (Neumann) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

112. 1. In view of encouragement which President, you and Secretary Rogers gave to me November 24 in Washington to look into possibilities [Page 163]of some Sino-US contacts in Kabul, I have taken a first tentative step.2

2. On December 22 before resumption Warsaw talks announced I had conversation with Yugoslav Ambassador (Vojo Sobajic) in which I carefully reviewed key points our current policy toward China and indicated as my personal view that Kabul might not be bad place for informal or formal contacts. I said that I would leave to his judgment whether and in what manner he might make use of these views should occasion arise in his periodic contacts with Chinese Ambassador in Kabul.

3. At his request I called on Yugoslav Ambassador January 14 who had meeting with Chinese Ambassador (Hsieh Pang-chih) and his interpreter January 11. Following Yugoslav Ambassador’s comments on US policy as reflected in my talk with him, Chinese Ambassador said that as far as formal talks between US and PRC were concerned it is immaterial to PRC where they are located. Talks first took place Switzerland, moved to Warsaw, but might well lead elsewhere. In order for these talks to produce any positive results, however, Chinese insist and will insist to the very end on two conditions: (1) Retreat of all US forces from Taiwan (“our territory of Taiwan”) and (2) Withdrawal of US 7th Fleet from Straits of Taiwan. (No other condition was mentioned.)

4. Yugoslav Ambassador raised question of Viet Nam, to which Chinese Ambassador replied that Viet Nam should not be raised in context US-Chinese relations. Chinese position re Viet Nam was well known, namely that US forces ought withdraw as soon as possible. But, he repeated that “this has no bearing on US-Chinese relations and should not be raised in Warsaw either”.3

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5. Responding to question of Yugoslav Ambassador regarding Sino-Soviet relations, Chinese Ambassador moved into heavy attack on USSR and said border talks had broken down and in fact were nonstarter from outset. Failure was attributed to refusal Soviets agree move forces back from border to avoid friction. He added that it would be better if no direct contact existed between Chinese and Soviet troops in this sensitive area and in view Soviet refusal “incidents were again possible”.

6. Yugoslav Ambassador said that in entire conversation only direct and personal attacks by Chinese Ambassador were against Soviets. He made no comment about me personally or our Mission. Only comment re US was stereotype characterization of general US moves, including VP Agnew tour, as “designed to deceive the people”.

7. I expressed our appreciation to Yugoslav Ambassador, both of us agreeing that his contacts be held very closely and in order to be perfectly clear reiterated my earlier statement that among available options two track discussions, formal at one place, information at another, might possibly also be considered.

8. I should add one note of caution concerning report of Chinese and Yugoslav Ambassadors’ talk. Chinese interpreter speaks English in which Yugoslav is not fully proficient. We speak in French so possibly some nuances might be lost.

9. I am of course informing Secretary Rogers of these conversations by same channel and look forward to any guidance which the President, you, or the Secretary may wish to offer, especially now that Warsaw talks have resumed.4

10. The visit of VP Agnew went exceedingly well and Afghan officials were delighted with the visit and the conversations. I hope you will come and see us one of these days.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 700, Country Files, Europe, Poland Vol. I Warsaw Talks up to 1/31/70. Top Secret. Haig forwarded the cable to Kissinger under a January 15 covering memorandum entitled “Items to Discuss with the President During Telephone Call Tonight.” This item was check-marked; however, the same item appeared on the “Items” memorandum for January 23. (Ibid.) A note attached to another copy reads: “No further dis. per AMH.” (Ibid., Box 334, Subject Files, Items to Discuss with the President 1/5/70 to 4/30/70)
  2. Rogers, Kissinger, and Neumann met with Nixon from 2:54 to 3:03 p.m. on November 24, 1969. (Ibid., White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary) No other record of this meeting has been found.
  3. During a January 15 telephone call, beginning at 6:10 p.m., Nixon and Kissinger discussed Neumann’s meeting with the Yugoslav Ambassador and Sino-American relations. The transcript of the telephone conversation reads: “K[issinger]: The Ambassador in Kabul had an interesting contact with the Chinese Ambassador through the Yugoslav Ambassador. He suggested that talks begin in Warsaw and then talk could begin about talking elsewhere. One interesting thing he said—Vietnam has no bearing on Chinese-U.S. relations. President: Whole new attitude on that. K: Have to withdraw from Taiwan. In Vietnam have to withdraw eventually. That was in your Nov. 3 speech. President: We would have no trouble getting out of Taiwan. K: We would have to withdraw our 7th fleet from the Straits but would not have to hand Taiwan over [to] them. President: Very interesting point. K: Everyone was opposed to those drones over Southern China but they haven’t hurt anything. Chinese push is withdraw from VN as soon as possible and should not raise in Warsaw. Has no bearing on U.S.-Chinese relations. Very interesting. President: Yes.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 361, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File)
  4. This potential avenue of communication with the Chinese did not develop further. No response from Kissinger was found. Neumann relayed his report to the Department of State in telegram 111. Green passed the report to Rogers through Eliot on January 16. Rogers followed the advice of Green, as detailed in his covering memorandum, and approved telegram 10412 to Kabul, January 22, which read in part: “In view of the current resumption of Warsaw contacts, we are not at this point actively planning shift in venue of talks but it is helpful to have indication from Chinese Ambassador in Kabul that Chinese are not bound to Warsaw site.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 17 CHICOM–AFG)