99. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Chinese Communist Initiative

At Tab B is the text of the exchange which President Yahya had with Prime Minister Chou En-lai and President Yahya’s comments on the Chinese reply. Chou En-lai made the point that the Chinese reply represented the coordinated position of Chairman Mao, Vice Chairman Lin Piao and himself.

At Tab A is a draft Note Verbale which would respond to the ChiCom communication and:

  • —states U.S. pleasure at Peking’s offer proffered at the February 20 Warsaw meeting to receive a U.S. representative to discuss outstanding issues between our two Governments;
  • —welcomes high level discussions seeking the improvement of relations between our two countries; and
  • —proposes a meeting of our respective representatives at the earliest possible moment to discuss the modalities of a higher level meeting.

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Tab A2

The U.S. representative at the meeting between the two sides in Warsaw on January 20, 1970, suggested that direct discussions be held either in Peking or Washington on the broad range of issues which lie between the People’s Republic of China and the U.S., including the issue of Taiwan. This proposal was an outgrowth of the consistent policy of the United States Government to seek opportunities for negotiating the settlement of outstanding issues between the two governments. The United States therefore welcomed the remarks of the representative of the People’s Republic of China at the Warsaw meeting of February 20, 1970, in expressing the willingness of the Government of the People’s Republic of China to receive in Peking a U.S. representative of Ministerial rank or a special Presidential envoy.

In the light of the remarks of Premier Chou En-lai to President Yahya, as well as the continuing United States interest in U.S.-China discussions at a higher level, the United States Government believes it would be useful to begin discussions with a view of bringing about a higher-level meeting in Peking. The meeting in Peking would not be limited only to the Taiwan question but would encompass other steps designed to improve relations and reduce tensions. With respect to the U.S. military presence on Taiwan, however, the policy of the United States Government is to reduce its military presence in the region of East Asia and the Pacific as tensions in this region diminish.

The United States therefore proposes that representatives of the two governments meet together at an early convenient moment in a location convenient to both sides to discuss the modalities of the higher-level meeting. These modalities would include the size of the delegations, the duration of the meeting, the agenda and a clear understanding on the status and amenities which the U.S. delegation would enjoy while in the People’s Republic of China.

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Tab B

Ambassador Hilaly dictated the following in Mr. Kissinger’s office at 6:05 pm, December 9:

The message was duly conveyed and Prime Minister Chou En-lai’s reply given after three days of deliberations was as follows:

“This (meaning the reply) is not from me alone but from Chairman Mao and Vice Chairman Lin Piao as well. We thank the President of Pakistan for conveying to us orally a message from President Nixon. China has always been willing and has always tried to negotiate by peaceful means. Taiwan and the Straits of Taiwan are an inalienable part of China which have now been occupied by foreign troops of the United States for the last fifteen years. Negotiations and talks have been going on with no results whatsoever. In order to discuss this subject of the vacation of Chinese territories called Taiwan, a special envoy of President Nixon’s will be most welcome in Peking.”

Chou En-lai said, in the course of the conversation:

“We have had messages from the United States from different sources in the past but this is the first time that the proposal has come from a Head, through a Head, to a Head. The United States knows that Pakistan is a great friend of China and therefore we attach importance to the message.”

President Yahya’s comments:

“I think it is significant that Chou En-lai did not accept or reject the proposal as soon as it was made and that he consulted Mao an. Lin Piao before giving the answer. This in itself reflects a trend which holds out some possibility. Further, at no stage during the discussion with the Chinese leaders did they indulge in vehement criticism of the United States. The banquet speech of Vice Chairman Tung Pi-wu also made no reference to the United States by name. These are additional indications of modification of the Chinese approach in their relations with the United States.”

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1031, Files for the President—China Material, Exchanges Leading up to HAK’s Trip to China, December 1969–July 1971. Top Secret; Sensitive. Printed from an unsigned copy.
  2. Nixon made several minor changes to the draft at Tab A, including substituting “Peoples Republic of China” for “China” in the last sentence. According to a December 16 memorandum of record prepared by Kennedy (ibid.), the message was given to Hilaly on December 16. See Document 100.