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63. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1


  • The Warsaw Talks

I described and commented briefly on the Warsaw talks in this morning’s intelligence briefing.2 Given the importance of the topic, I would like to expand somewhat on that report.

The meeting was brief (one hour). Stoessel opened; the Chinese replied, devoting almost his entire time to the Taiwan issue. From that, he moved directly to say that China “favored the use of negotiation and peaceful means to resolve disputes between the US and the PRC, and were prepared on this basis to explore and consider how to resolve the basic problems existing between the two countries.” The Taiwan issue, he said, was not an ideological one. He offered to discuss any US proposals “consistent with the principles of peaceful coexistence.” He suggested that we proceed either with ambassadorial level talks, higher-level discussions or any other mutually agreeable channel. He specifically mentioned that he would pass to Peking our proposal to send a representative to Peking or accept a Chinese representative in Washington. Beyond that, he would not elaborate. Rather than setting a date for the next meeting, he suggested that our Embassies’ liaison officers “be in touch soon.”

Ambassador Stoessel observes that:

  • —Lei’s remarks were not polemical.
  • —He restated the PRC’s Taiwan position without explicitly calling for specific US actions.
  • —He avoided reference to the 7th Fleet, “US-Soviet collusion,” Vietnam, or any ideological issues.

Stoessel regards the Chinese presentation as a serious opening of negotiating sessions to discuss direct bilateral issues and avoid ideology.

Stoessel recommends that in briefing friendly governments we not go beyond characterizing the Chinese statement as “generally dealing [Page 171]with the problem of Taiwan, restating the essence of the Chinese Communist position on the historical character of this dispute. The general non-polemical, non-ideological character of the Chinese Communist presentation might also be noted.”

Comments: The Chinese Chargé’s language is unquestionably the most forthcoming of any we have heard in the history of the Warsaw talks, except for one brief period in 1955. They want to keep on talking. Whether they want to arrive at an understanding even at the expense of compromising on Taiwan is much less certain. They certainly have not given anything away. It should be remembered that they are focusing on Taiwan, an area in which they want something from us. They are of course aware of the potential for disrupting US/GRC relations to their own advantage if they can get us to seem to make concessions concerning Taiwan.

Having said all this, it was still a most interesting and inviting presentation. Once in 1955 they seemed to hover on the point of willingness to declare that the “Bandung principles” ruled out the use of force in the Taiwan Strait; also in 1955, they suggested carrying on the talks at a higher level. They have now returned close to that style of diplomacy, and the question will arise: what use do we wish to make of the change?

We clearly have considerable thinking to do as to what we want from them, and what we would give in return. This question has been addressed before, in theoretical terms. One quickly discovers, of course, that they are not actually doing much that we want them to stop doing.

  • —we would like them to desist from material support to insurgencies in Southeast Asia, but by their lights we are providing far more support to our friends in Southeast Asia than they are to theirs.
  • —we have one collision point—the Chinese road in Laos—which could wreck our movement toward a détente.

There are some things which we would like them to start doing, but these involve our hopes for a fundamental reordering of their priorities and outlook, and are far beyond the scope of non-ideological, bilateral negotiation, i.e.:

—we would like for them to participate responsibly in supranational endeavors, such as disarmament, and to take a less hostile view of non-Communist governments.

Consequently, the areas in which we can hope to accomplish anything tend to be transitional issues, in which our purpose is not to arrive at important practical agreements, but rather to continue to shape a climate in which they will evolve in a desirable direction, e.g.:

  • —a détente in the Taiwan Strait, without sacrificing the GRC.
  • —a mutual phasedown of the hostility with which we regard each other’s actions in Asia.
  • —an improvement in communication, such as arrangements for travel in both directions, for trade, for the better exchange of books and written materials, for Chinese participation in international groups, for telegraphic clearing agreements, etc.

These are issues about which we have talked before, but encountered no Chinese response. They have insisted on settling the Taiwan issue first; they still insist on it, but they may be more flexible as to what constitutes an interim settlement. We shall probably have to accommodate them and talk about Taiwan, but we will need to move most carefully to avoid giving them a windfall by upsetting the present stability on Taiwan.

Beyond that, trade may be the most fruitful area for probing, since the Chinese may develop an interest in the American market.

As to more immediate issues, I agree with Stoessel’s concerns that we not say too much to our friends, and have asked that any proposed briefing on the talks be cleared here. We may need to be somewhat franker with the GRC about the Taiwan issue in this and subsequent meetings, however, to avoid allowing the Communists to whipsaw us by leaking distorted accounts to the GRC.

Stoessel is probably right that the Chinese are being deliberately unclear as to who should ask for the next meeting. They may hope to induce us to make the bid, for the psychological advantage of putting us in the position of supplicant.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 700, Country Files, Europe, Poland Vol. I Warsaw Talks up to 1/31/70. Secret; Nodis. Sent for information. According to a handwritten notation, the memorandum was returned from the President on January 26. A covering memorandum, attached but not printed, indicates that Holdridge drafted it at Kissinger’s request.
  2. See footnote 1, Document 62.