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


  • Henry Cabot Lodge’s Discussion with Mr. J. J. Derksen, Netherlands’ Minister Accredited to Communist China

Attached at Tab A is a memorandum prepared by Cabot Lodge describing his discussion with Mr. J. J. Derksen, the Netherlands’ Chargé accredited to Communist China, who visited him in Boston on January 30.2 The discussion which Lodge had with Mr. Derksen was highly significant and is described in detail in his memorandum to me. Inter alia, Derksen made the following points to Lodge:

  • —Offered to act as a channel between the U.S. and Peking Governments.
  • —Promised to preserve absolute secrecy and if we decide to use him to send nothing in writing to his own government. He would only report orally to the Prime Minister’s Office when he is in the Hague, after first consulting with us on what he should say. Derksen would not tell anything to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
  • —Confirmed that Chou En-lai is in complete command in Peking and controls and directs through five Vice Foreign Ministers with whom Derksen has easy access.
  • —During a January 13 departure call on the Acting Director of the Chinese Communists’ Office of Western European Affairs, Derksen was told about the resumption of the Warsaw talks and was assured that if the U.S. wants better relations then “everything becomes easy.” He also was impressed with the importance of Taiwan to Peking in its visualization of improving relations with the U.S.
  • —Derksen has concluded that Chou En-lai wants better relations with the U.S. and prefers the Americans to the Russians.
  • —Derksen believes that it would be extremely useful to assign him the job of getting talks started between Chou En-lai and a senior representative designated by you. Derksen believes that these talks should be thoroughly prepared ahead of time and could lead to some real improvement in relations. He also believes that meetings between Chou En-lai and your representative could be arranged at some location outside of China.

Derksen’s proposals offer some distinct advantages:

It would give a sense of security to the Chinese Communists with respect to the Soviets which is not provided in the Warsaw forum.
I suspect that the pro-Soviet factions in State go to the limits of the possible and at times even beyond in informing Dobrynin of the contents of our discussions in Warsaw, thereby affording the Soviets an opportunity to sabotage these talks by intimidating the Chinese Communists in their dealings with them.

For these reasons, I recommend that we send the memorandum at Tab B to the Chinese Communists through Mr. Derksen.3 If Chou En-lai is definitely interested, as Mr. Derksen believes, we could establish a dialogue which might lead to direct secret talks at a mutually agreed upon location outside of Communist China between him or other senior officials. In the proposed communication, I have offered either Mr. Derksen or Major General Vernon Walters, our Defense Attaché in Paris, as channels.


That you approve the attached message to the Chinese Communist Government which would be delivered to Mr. Derksen in the [Page 178] strictest confidence (probably by Cabot Lodge) prior to Derksen’s departure from the Hague.4 Knowledge of the message would be restricted to yourself, Cabot Lodge, Mr. Derksen and me.5

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 430, Backchannel Files, Backchannel Messages, Derksen, J.J.—Backchannel (Lodge Initiative) 1970–1972. Secret; Sensitive; Nodis; Eyes Only. The date on the memorandum is handwritten. Derksen’s given name was Jacobus Jerome.
  2. Not attached. A February 3 memorandum from Lodge to Kissinger is ibid., Box 823, Name Files, Henry Cabot Lodge, Vol. I through 20 Apr. 70. This 5-page document describes Derksen’s background and his offer to assist the United States in negotiating with both the PRC and North Vietnam. According to Lodge, “I believe he came [to Boston] at his own expense and that his trip may well not have been known to the Dutch Government.” Also attached is a January 23 message from Lodge informing Kissinger of Derksen’s January 30 visit.
  3. The attachment reads in full:

    “The U.S. Government wishes to continue the exchanges we have begun again through the Ambassadorial meetings in Warsaw. However, the location of these talks makes it difficult to maintain complete secrecy due to the amount of public interest which they have generated, the level at which they are conducted, and the numbers of officials involved. If the Government of the People’s Republic of China desires talks not known by other countries, the President is ready to establish an alternate channel for matters of the most extreme sensitivity. We are prepared to activate such alternate channels through either Mr. Derksen, the bearer of this communication, or through Major General Vernon C. Walters, the U.S. Defense Attaché accredited to the French Government in Paris. General Walters can be contacted in Paris at his residence, telephone number 637–4374, or at his office in the Embassy, telephone number ANJ 7460. He is in direct contact with the White House. Knowledge of such talks would be kept to a very small circle of the President’s closest advisors.”

  4. The original message, initialed by the President, is attached. According to a February 11 memorandum from Haig to Kissinger, Kissinger was to pass along the message in a meeting with Derksen and Lodge that day. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1031, Files for the President—China Material, Material Concerning Preparations for the First China Trip by HAK, July 1971)
  5. The President initialed his approval. This effort to make contact with the Chinese failed. In an overview of communications with the Chinese, Lord wrote that in April 1971 “There followed a series of messages to Haig for HAK passed through the Dutch Embassy here which are even more incomprehensible once translated than they were in code. Derksen keeps saying he is getting ready to pass [the] message and Haig keeps acknowledging Derksen’s notes.” (Memorandum from Lord to Kissinger, April 17; ibid.) In December 1970 Kissinger informed the Dutch that he had no objections to their recalling Derksen from Beijing “where he has been a disappointment to his government.” The Dutch Ambassador to the United States, Van Lynden, asked Kissinger in July 1971 if Derksen had “helped to establish contact which led to Kissinger’s trip to Peking.” In a July 17 message relayed through Haig to Van Lynden, Kissinger declared that Derksen “had no role in matters leading to the trip to Peking, that no messages were ever received through him, and that we have not used his services for some time.” Copies of these messages are ibid., Box 430, Backchannel Files, Backchannel Messages, Derksen, J.J.—Backchannel (Lodge Initiative) 1970–1972.