72. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rogers to President Nixon 1


  • A Higher-Level Meeting with the Chinese
[Page 189]

At the February 20, 1970 meeting in Warsaw with the Chinese, they offered to receive a US representative in Peking. This was in response to our offer at the January 20 meeting to consider such a “higher level” meeting after our talks progressed in Warsaw and was consistent with their independent suggestion at the January meeting that our talks might be conducted at a higher level or elsewhere than in Warsaw.

In the Strategy Memorandum enclosed with my February 7, 1970 memorandum to you on the Sino-US talks,2 I suggested that since Peking might wish a higher-level meeting only in order to serve its own purposes vis-à-vis the Soviets, to damage our relations with the GRC and others, and to weaken support for the GRC in the UN, we should agree to such a meeting only after there were signs in the Ambassadorial-level talks that a higher-level meeting would be productive. I enclose two additional memoranda: on the general advantages and disadvantages of a higher-level meeting, and on tactical considerations in handling the question of our response to the Chinese at the next Warsaw meeting.3

A higher-level meeting with the Chinese, either in Peking or here, would be a major international event, receiving the widest public attention and with widespread and substantial international and domestic political effects. It is one of the few things that the Chinese want from us just now. I do not think that we yet have a sufficiently clear idea of what to expect from the Chinese at such a meeting to justify our playing our major card by immediate acceptance of their proposal. At the same time, if there is any chance that such a meeting might help unfreeze our relationships with Peking, we do not want to lose the opportunity which might be offered.

I believe, therefore, that at the next meeting, which I suggest we propose for March 19, we should reaffirm that we are prepared to consider a higher-level meeting but emphasize that in order to ensure a proper basis for such a meeting, the possible areas of mutual understanding, or at least those areas where both sides are clearly going to have to “agree to disagree,” should be further developed at the Ambassadorial level.

In doing this we would review the positions we set forth relating to Taiwan at the last two meetings and the positions set forth by the Chinese. We would indicate our view that a plausible basis for discussion could be found in our mutual acceptance of the following [Page 190]principles: (1) Disputes relating to Taiwan should be resolved peacefully between those parties on the mainland and on Taiwan which are directly concerned; (2) The US will not interfere in such a settlement; (3) As tensions relating to the area diminish, the US military presence in the Taiwan area will be gradually reduced; (4) The US and the PRC will resolve disputes which arise between them through peaceful negotiations; (5) It is desirable from the standpoint of both sides to expand mutual contacts and trade; and (6) The principles of peaceful coexistence are consistent with the foregoing positions. We would then attempt to see whether the Chinese would be prepared to take these elements as the basis for further discussions and, if not, at what critical points our differences will focus.

At the same time, we can see whether the Chinese may be willing: (a) to make some gesture of “good will” in terms of action on prisoners, travel, or some analogous issue in order to set the stage for a higher-level meeting; or (b) to indicate that they will make such a gesture at the time of such a meeting.

The Chinese may well refuse to discuss substantive matters in terms going beyond those they have already used at the last two meetings and insist that a higher-level meeting is the only place to advance our conversations. It may take several meetings before it becomes clear whether this Chinese position is subject to change. If they remain adamant, we would then have to decide whether to continue to insist on prior progress in Warsaw, or to agree to go to Peking, or invite the Chinese to come here. Our initial approach, however, will have given us an opportunity to test Chinese intentions further, to see how strongly they want a higher-level meeting, and to find out whether they may be prepared to pay some price for it.

Since we anticipate that the Chinese now are preparing only to hear our response to their February 20 proposal, in order to elicit some reaction from them at the next meeting I believe it is necessary to provide them with advance warning of the general approach we plan to take. This, at least, will ensure that their response at that time will have been made in the foreknowledge of our own attitude and will give us a faster read-back on Chinese attitudes.4

[Page 191]

I am, therefore, also enclosing for your approval a letter from Ambassador Stoessel to the Chinese Chargé, proposing March 19 for the next meeting and indicating our wish to discuss further in Warsaw the basis for mutually acceptable discussions at a higher level.5

William P. Rogers 6
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL CHICOMUS. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Kreisberg on March 4, approved by Green, and forwarded with a covering letter and attachments to Holdridge on March 5. Holdridge then forwarded the memorandum to Kissinger on March 11.
  2. Reference is to an attachment to the memorandum accompanying the instructions to Ambassador Stoessel prior to the February 20 Warsaw meeting. See footnote 2, Document 67.
  3. Both attached but not printed.
  4. Holdridge drafted a memorandum from Kissinger to the President, suggesting a policy designed to “meet some of State’s reservations, but which would respond positively to the Chinese on sending a representative to Peking.” Kissinger did not sign the draft memorandum but did note on the first page: “Why do we have to raise Taiwan issue? Holdridge, see me.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 520, Country Files, Far East, China, Vol. IV) Kissinger, Green, William Sullivan, Holdridge, Smyser also met on March 17 in the White House Situation Room. Green reiterated his concerns over sending a high-level representative to China and wanted to make higher- level contacts “conditional to progress at Warsaw.” (Memorandum of conversation prepared by Holdridge and Smyser, March 17; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Memoranda of Conversation, 1969–1970) Green followed up on March 17 with a 3-page letter to Kissinger stating that “Ambassador Brown agrees with me that we should first attempt to obtain some clearer idea what the prospects would be for substantive progress at a higher-level meeting before definitely committing ourselves.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 700, Country Files, Europe, Poland Vol. II Warsaw Talks 2/1/70–6/30/70)
  5. Attached but not printed.
  6. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature. A notation on the memorandum indicates that it is a “true copy” from the Secretary of State’s office. The signed original is in National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 520, Country Files, Far East, China, Vol. IV.