113. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The Secretary, Henry A. Kissinger
  • Assistant Secretary Habib
  • Mr. Winston Lord
  • Deputy Assistant Secretary Gleysteen
  • Mr. Richard Solomon, NSC
  • Jerry Bremer, Notetaker


  • China
[Page 697]

The Secretary: I don’t really have that much to say. I have read your paper and I just won’t do it that way.2 It’s exactly the same paper you presented me last year.

Lord: No, it isn’t. The question is: On your advance trip do you make some serious effort to find their security requirements?

The Secretary: For political reasons it’s just impossible for the U.S. to go for normalization before ’76. If there’s any one thing that will trigger a conservative reaction to Ford, that’s it.

Lord: We recognize that and felt that if the terms were decent enough perhaps it’s less of a political problem.

The Secretary: I’ve got a problem with Panama and China. I don’t even agree with your intellectual thesis—that this is the right time to force it.

Lord: The last time they didn’t want to discuss it.

The Secretary: Even if they did, what they said to the Professor was for domestic consumption. You can’t hold a government to what they say for domestic consumption.3

Lord: Presumably we would make our own statement.

The Secretary: What is our legal basis for defending part of one country?

Gleysteen: There is none.

The Secretary: If that’s the case, we can’t afford to have it in a campaign.

Solomon: They have clearly indicated in seven or eight places recently their desire to be flexible. They’re afraid Ford will cancel his trip.

The Secretary: The trip is clear. They are anxious for it but I see no flexibility on Taiwan.

Lord: We recognize there is not much room for maneuverability. The only issue is whether you try to see the terms.

Habib: It’s difficult to avoid discussing during your trip.

The Secretary: But suppose they give us generous terms? What do I do then? Pocket it and say, “We’ll have no deal for two years.” Anyway can they go beyond what they’ve told this guy?

[Page 698]

Gleysteen: No, the question is what kind of relationship would they permit.

The Secretary: We can consider that when we have to sell this to Congress. What do we say then, by the way? Are we going to continue to send arms?

Gleysteen: You have to be able to say yes.

The Secretary: But do we have a legal basis?

Gleysteen: There is no legal barrier if the host government tolerates it. That’s the most crucial aspect.

Habib: They would have on a sales basis. No credit.

The Secretary: But then it is essentially within their power to stop it at any point.

Lord: We have always had this dilemma from the time we started this relationship. You have to make it clear in your unilateral statement.

The Secretary: I’m wondering where we’ll be if we go down this road. I’ll try to raise it with the President but I know the answer. Those guys over there won’t even take on Panama right now.

Lord: The paper argues the importance of doing this from our international position, and also argues that there is a need for some serious discussion when you go there in August.

The Secretary: Who said I was going in August? I am certainly not going in August.

Lord: If they give you a bad deal in return, your position would be strengthened. But if it generates an offer then I agree we have a bind.

The Secretary: What if they go to the limit?

Gleysteen: I think the chances are not very high they’d go that far. I think the terms in the pre-visit will be very tough.

The Secretary: I think we’re better off saying we don’t think we’re quite ready. We’ve told them what we need.

Lord: I think we can be more concrete and say that we cannot do it without satisfaction on security.

Habib: I don’t think they’ll give you their last position when you are there. Won’t they hold that out for the President?

Lord: No.

The Secretary: It is not their way of negotiating.

Solomon: They might make the Presidential trip conditional o something.

The Secretary: No. How would they react if he visited other countries in Asia do you think—like the Philippines and Indonesia?

Habib: If he did in on the way back, it would be no problem at all. I think that’s a good idea.

[Page 699]

The Secretary: Then it’s not a special trip to China. What about Malaysia?

Habib: I think the essential ones are the Philippines and Indonesia.

The Secretary: How about Australia?

Habib: It depends on what’s happening there.

The Secretary: Can they do Australia and not New Zealand?

Habib: It’s difficult. The New Zealanders wouldn’t understand.

The Secretary: They are the worst bores in the world.

Habib: That’s because we never have any problems with them. All they ever talk about is cheese and butter.

The Secretary: And mutton. What do I want from them this evening?

Lord: Do you want to discuss your trip?

The Secretary: They have to make a proposal to us.

Lord: Since the last time you’ve seen them, they are more nervous.

The Secretary: I noticed that whatever you said to them about Schlesinger didn’t get through. They told a group of Iranians that they thought Rumsfeld’s and Hartmann’s influence was rising over mine. That’s just stupid. Rumsfeld I can see, but Hartmann I don’t understand at all.4

Solomon: They’re fed by third countries.

The Secretary: Hartmann is slipping in the White House and certainly has no relation to me.

Lord: It should be up to them to suggest something on your trip. (Secretary is interrupted for a phone call.)

Habib: On the visit, you did put some suggested times for the President’s trip and they answered that any time was all right. I suppose you could mention a specific time now.

The Secretary: Why can’t they raise the visit?

Habib: I think they probably think that they’ve already replied to you.

Solomon: If you really want to raise their anxieties, don’t mention it at all. Otherwise, you could just mention your trip which will make them only slightly less nervous.

Lord: Or ask if they’ve had any further word from Peking.

Habib: His answer will be—“It’s up to you.”

The Secretary: I won’t go next time unless they understand that I am to see Mao. I will not go through that BS again with our press.

[Page 700]

Lord: I agree that we should not explore normalization unless we’re prepared to go through with it.

The Secretary: My experience with the Chinese is to tell them exactly what our position is. Be frank with them.

Lord: Our concern is that the relationship is apt to unravel if nothing happens in the next two years.

The Secretary: I don’t know. In my view, the relationship is based on their fear of the Russians.

Gleysteen: It is, but our people interpret it differently.

Habib: Another problem is your relationship to the process itself and to the understandings they’ve developed with you. You’re the only one left. And that has meaning to them.

Gleysteen: One point that is not made in the paper is that the period of six months to a year now is a good one in Taiwan where the people are braced for a change.

The Secretary: If we could find a step toward normalization, I’d be receptive to it. But what kind of steps are there?

Lord: Things like lowering Taiwan to a Chargé level and lowering our arms supplies.

Gleysteen: You could get into some domestic problems with that.

The Secretary: Perhaps you could strengthen the unity point and find some formula to do that.

Solomon: That is always the strongest card with them. That’s the core of normalization. I think they could be playing Teng as the front man.

The Secretary: If that’s what they want, then we can do something along those lines.

Habib: I think you want to start this afternoon anyway with a review of what you’re going to say to Gromyko and then go on the trip.

Solomon: There’s only one argument for doing something and that is that if their situation dissipates so badly there, that they were to turn to the Soviets. Doing something might enable Chou and Mao to hold their domestic constituency for our relationship.

The Secretary: Well, I’m willing to find some step short of normalization.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, KissingerScowcroft West Wing Office Files, 1969–1977, Box 5, China, unnumbered items (16), 7/6/75–7/23/75. Secret; Sensitive.
  2. See Document 112.
  3. Professor C.P. Li, after meeting with Chinese officials, informed Bush that President Ford was welcome in Beijing regardless of progress on Taiwan. Li had also asked whether, as a step toward normalization, the United States would be satisfied with a PRC statement “for domestic consumption” that would declare the PRC’s intention to use only peaceful means to reunite with Taiwan. (Telegram 155344 from Beijing, July 1; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)
  4. Robert T. Hartmann was a Counsellor to President Ford and supervised the writing of the President’s speeches.