109. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Huang Chen, Chief of the PRC Liaison Office in Washington
  • Tsien Ta-yung, Political Counselor
  • Shen Jo-yun, Interpreter
  • Yang Yu-yung, Notetaker
  • Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
  • Philip C. Habib, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
  • Winston Lord, Director, Policy Planning Staff, Department of State
  • Richard H. Solomon, Senior Staff Member, National Security Council


  • Tour d’Horizon with Huang Chen

Secretary Kissinger: Mr. Ambassador, I haven’t seen you for a long time.

Ambassador Huang: You must be very busy.

Secretary Kissinger: We have had an active period.

[Page 666]

I thought it would be useful if we had a review of the international situation, and Indochina.

We’ve had Prime Minister Lee Kuan-yew here the last two days. Now I know so many Chinese proverbs that you had better be careful.

Would you like to start?

Ambassador Huang: I would like to hear Mr. Secretary’s views.

Secretary Kissinger: I know you are a great believer in counterattack.

Ambassador Huang: Soldiers are used to all kinds of attacks.

Secretary Kissinger: I will make a few observations. I read an editorial in the People’s Daily; there was one comment I didn’t fully agree with. It said that the United States is in a period of strategic passivity. The chief victim in the editorial was not the U.S., so I am not complaining. There are many points in the assessment with which I agree, especially regarding your northern neighbor, who was the chief target of the attack.

My main point is that we are not in a period of strategic passivity, and we will not remain passive. We now need a brief period of reassessment, but in many respects we are in a psychologically stronger period as we don’t have to debate Vietnam every week.

So, my main point is that we have absolutely no intention of remaining passive. There is absolutely no change in our assessment of the dangers of hegemony as they are expressed in the Shanghai Communiqué. That will be the guideline of our policy.

With regard to specifics: Our relationship—we maintain fully the principles and objectives of the Shanghai Communiqué. Occasional statements which may not be fully in accord with these objectives are purely due to inadvertence.

Secondly, with regard to our general approach, we will maintain close relations with Japan, and with some of our friends in Southeast Asia. We believe that we now will see an evolution of the Soviet’s Asian Security System, which we do not favor. It is up to other countries to consider their views about hegemonies within their region. On the whole we don’t favor it. But we will cooperate in preventing it where there is a reasonable chance of preventing it—but we won’t do other people’s work for them.

With respect to Korea, I want to make clear that under no circumstances will we tolerate a military attack on Korea, and a military attack on Korea will involve the certainty of American involvement. We will support peaceful evolution on the Korean Peninsula. We are prepared to discuss measures which would bring about the dissolution of the United Nations Command. And we will work to create [Page 667] conditions for coexistence on the Peninsula. But we are not prepared to accept another attack on the American presence.

In the Middle East, I see two main dangers: one, the danger of Soviet domination; the other is the danger of diplomatic stagnation. The one is related to the other. We will not accept a diplomatic stalemate. You should not be deluded by our public debate at this moment. We are organizing ourselves to have a confrontation with special pressure groups, and will insist on territorial concessions by Israel.

We have not decided whether to adopt a step-by-step approach, or to work towards an interim solution. In any event, we will maneuver so as to make it clear that a solution will have been achieved substantially through American efforts.

We will discuss—we may discuss some of these issues with the Soviet Union, but always from a position of prior agreement with the Arabs and Israel, so that the Soviets will be in a position to ratify, not to create, terms.

Your government might like to know that on the opening day of the Suez Canal a U.S. ship will be the only warship to traverse the canal—it probably will be an aircraft carrier.

So, after we have met with President Sadat and Prime Minister Rabin, you can expect significant American initiatives in the Middle East.

With respect to NATO, to Europe: As you know the President is going to NATO in order to strengthen our relations with the allies. There will be no American withdrawals from anywhere—except Thai-land—during this Administration, but especially from Europe—except for Taiwan. I am not talking about total withdrawals—

Miss Shen: What did you mean about “total withdrawals?” Did you mean Taiwan?

Secretary Kissinger: No—we will proceed as we have told you, and we will keep you informed as we proceed. This is just a general discussion.

Ambassador Huang: The sounds of “Taiwan” and “Thailand” are rather similar and are confusing to us.

Secretary Kissinger: That also happens with our public statements. (Laughter)

In Europe we have two objectives: To strengthen the defense; and to strengthen the left—as we discussed—no, to prevent the shift to left-wing parties.

Miss Shen: I got that.

Secretary Kissinger: I will meet with Gromyko in Geneva on the 19th and 20th. The purpose will be three-fold; there will be three major items: the European Security Conference, in which our basic strategy [Page 668] is to remain two steps behind our allies; the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, in which we are trying to get agreement this year; and the Middle East. We will have nothing to tell him [about the Middle East situation] until after we talk to Israel and the Arabs.

There will be no other initiatives discussed [with Gromyko].

Now we expect the Brezhnev summit at the end of September or the first week in October, but the basic outline of our policy [regarding the Soviets] is as I have discussed it many times in China. Our assessment of the Soviet Union has not changed. The major point I want to make to the Ambassador and to your leadership is that we are determined to try to emerge from this period to rally all the forces opposed to hegemony.

So one problem we will have is that—I have noticed that with respect to India your relations have cooled, as have ours.

With respect to Iran, our relations are close and will become closer.

One problem we have, as I have said before, is that we think that when we pursue parallel objectives, we should avoid peripheral confrontations. The President has asked me to tell your leadership that he is determined to pursue the course that we have discussed in the past.

Your Foreign Minister told a group of foreigners that he thought we could emerge stronger from this period. We believe this also.

So these are the main things. We would like to hear the current views of your leaders on the President’s visit to Peking, [your views] as to timing, agenda, and preparations.

Ambassador Huang: Are you through?

Secretary Kissinger: Yes.

Ambassador Huang: As for you last point, we will welcome him [the President]. This point was covered in your discussions in Peking with the Vice Premier. As for us, any time will be convenient.

Secretary Kissinger: At some point, we would appreciate some concrete suggestions from you regarding timing, topics to be discussed, and what you expect to emerge [from the visit].

Ambassador Huang: Is there any plan from your side that I can report to Peking?

Secretary Kissinger: As to date, or to substance?

Ambassador Huang: The points you just covered. Have you envisaged anything regarding your President’s visit to China?

Secretary Kissinger: Originally we thought about the period mid-November through the first week in December. And our thought, in terms of preparation was that we would work out a communiqué substantially in advance of the visit, to avoid complexities during the visit.

We would be delighted to welcome the Foreign Minister to Washington for that purpose.

[Page 669]

Ambassador Huang: As for your plan, I will mention this to Peking. As for the Foreign Minister visiting Washington, it is inconceivable that he can come. We have stated the reasons why several times. Before you left Peking you said that you would visit again for that purpose.

Secretary Kissinger: We can arrange it that way also.

Ambassador Huang: It would be better if you come to Peking.

Secretary Kissinger: What is the view from Peking?

Ambassador Huang: Just now you have covered quite a few issues; we have learned of your views. I would like simply to put things this way: We have been consistent in our principled stand on various international issues. These principled positions are clearly stated in the Shanghai Communiqué, and in Dr. Kissinger’s many conversations with Chairman Mao.

Just now Mr. Secretary has covered the Indochina question. We think it was a gross mistake for the U.S. to have its feet mired in the quagmire of Indochina. We have urged you to disengage yourself, and not to dilly dally. Now the U.S. has disengaged, and shaken off this burden. It should learn correct lessons from this experience.

Secretary Kissinger: Everyone should learn lessons from this.

Ambassador Huang: You should learn correct lessons from this.

As for the Korean question, our consistent position, all along we have consistently and resolutely supported the Korean people in their struggle for the independent and peaceful reunification of their country, for termination of the United Nations Command, and for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from the Korean Peninsula.

Secretary Kissinger: We are not asking you to change that position, but military action on the Peninsula would have grave consequences.

Ambassador Huang: And our position is consistent. As far as we know, the South Korean side, the Pak Chung-hee clique, has made provocations against the North, made attacks against them. And Chairman Kim Il-song has repeatedly stated his intention to carry on the struggle for the independent and peaceful reunification of Korea.

Secretary Kissinger: Just so he doesn’t define “peaceful” too generously. We will not permit South Korean attacks against the North.

Ambassador Huang: And Chairman Kim Il-song has repeatedly stated his position on the independent and peaceful reunification of his country. We wouldn’t necessarily accept your definition of peace. Kim Il-song’s proposals were warmly received by all the people in Korea, and the Pak Chung-hee clique has disrupted them. The fact that the South Korean side has repeatedly made provocations and attacks is inseparable from their consideration that they have the support of the U.S. side.

[Page 670]

Secretary Kissinger: We will do our utmost to prevent that [any actions by the South against the North]; but when war starts on the Korean Peninsula, it will be clear on which side of the line the troops are, and when that is known, we will take actions accordingly.

But we will take seriously what you have said.

Ambassador Huang [somewhat agitatedly]: I did not intend to come over here to have a conversation on Korea, but as you raised it, I intended to clarify our position.

Secretary Kissinger: I understand. We should understand your position. We are not objecting to your government’s position in general; we are not asking you to change it.

Miss Shen: Ambassador Huang just said to me that we are not in a position to discuss these questions on behalf of the Koreans.

Ambassador Huang: Just now you have touched on relations between our two countries …

Secretary Kissinger: China and the United States?

Ambassador Huang: Yes. Our leaders have discussed [this issue] clearly during your visits to China, in the Shanghai Communiqué, and in your talks with Chairman Mao. Our relations can only develop if the principles of the Shanghai Communiqué are carried out in earnest.

Just now you touched on the European Security Conference, the SALT talks, and your visit with Gromyko. I have nothing to say about these points. But we appreciate the statement of a senior U.S. official not too long ago that [it was] in the spirit of Camp David, the spirit of Glasboro, and détente that the Soviet Union has expanded its power.

Secretary Kissinger: Who said that?

Ambassador Huang: You should know that!.

Just now Mr. Secretary mentioned your relations with your allies and with Japan. We think this is very good. We think a powerful Europe and Japan are good. But I would like to ask how you intend to strengthen your relations with Europe and Japan?

Secretary Kissinger: I would like to say something about senior officials: There are only two who make policy, the President and myself. There are many who talk on the fringes. But I happen to agree with this assessment [of the official Ambassador Huang said he was quoting].

Ambassador Huang: You have only two senior officials in your government?

Secretary Kissinger: No, only two who make policy regarding the Soviets.

Now, how will we strengthen these relationships: First, we will sustain our policy of encouraging the Japanese to strengthen their ties with the People’s Republic. We will work closely with them in developing [Page 671] common policies on such issues as energy and food, and give them a sense of involvement in our policy making.

With Europe, we will assure them that we will not withdraw any forces during the remainder of this Administration. We will try to settle some arguments still existing between us and our European friends.

Again, for the information of your government, the French President will come to Brussels to have dinner with his colleagues. Afterwards he will meet with the President. This will be the first time a French President has participated in a NATO event.

We also want you to know that after my meeting with Gromyko, I will go to Berlin, Bonn, then Turkey, where we will have a meeting of the CENTO organization—Pakistan, Iran, and Turkey—and if the President goes to the European Security Conference, he will also stop in Berlin. This is for your private information. He also plans to stop in Warsaw, Belgrade, and Bucharest on the way back from the European Security Conference.

Ambassador Huang: Just now you are having a meeting with the foreign ministers of the Organization of American States. How are your relations with these countries?

Secretary Kissinger: Actually they are very good. This has been a positive meeting. Recent events—contrary to what the press is saying—their relations with us are important, they are improving.

Ambassador Huang: Africa. The other day I attended a reception given by the Ambassador of Senegal. I met your Assistant Secretary, Mr. Davis. He said that that afternoon you had received all the Ambassadors from Africa. How are your relations with these countries?

Secretary Kissinger: We will strengthen our relations; we will become more active. Mr. Davis is now in West Africa. In Angola, we hope that the group backed by the Soviets will not become dominant.

Ambassador Huang: I wouldn’t like to take up too much more of your time. You must have much preparing to do.

Secretary Kissinger: Yes. My schedule is that I will see Gromyko in Geneva on the 19th and 20th. Then I will be in Berlin on the 21st. I go to Ankara on the 22nd and 23rd. I come home on the 23rd, meet three days with the President, and then go to Europe for two days before the President for a meeting with the Energy Agency and the OECD. Then, I will go to Brussels to meet the President.

Ambassador Huang [as he rises to depart]: You are very busy.

Secretary Kissinger: Mr. Ambassador, I am glad you came over and that we had this exchange of views.

(At this point the conversation concluded and the Ambassador and his party were escorted from the Secretary’s office to the elevator.)

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, KissingerScowcroft West Wing Offices Files, 1969–1977, Box 5, China, unnumbered items (12), 5/8/75–5/9/75. Secret; Sensitive. This meeting took place in the Department of State. All brackets are in the original.