138. Editorial Note

On January 15, 1976, Brent Scowcroft, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, received an executive summary of a report entitled “US Policy Interests in the Asian-Pacific Area” by William R. Kintner, former Ambassador to Thailand. Kintner argued that the ideological bitterness of the Sino-Soviet conflict provided the United States with unique opportunities for creative diplomacy in the Asian-Pacific theater of the Cold War. He noted that this area was “lining up into two groups: pro-Soviet and pro-Chinese countries.” At the same time, he warned, “The evolving American relationship with Peking is complicated by the basic outlook of Chinese foreign policy. Peking has pioneered a new conceptualization of today’s international disorder. The Chinese strategy for achieving global ascendancy is based on mobilizing the Third World (most of the globe’s population, resources and real estate) against both the capitalist-imperialist power, the U.S., and the social-revisionist power, the USSR. The Chinese identify themselves with the Third World, not as a superpower, and assert that the ultimate conflict is between ‘rural’ Asia, Africa and Latin America and ‘urban’ Europe and North America. the PRC is continuing to foster the ‘hardest’ revolutionary activity in many parts of the world.”

Among Kintner’s recommendations, he suggested “continuing liaison with the PRC and case-by-case cooperation.” On the issue of Taiwan, he wrote, “Do not recognize the PRC and concurrently derecognize the ROC in a manner or time frame that could lead both our adversaries and our friends to further doubt our interest in and commitment to retaining active and cooperative security, political and economic relations with other Asian states.” (Letter from Kintner to Scowcroft, with attached study, October 31, 1975; Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Country Files for East Asia and Pacific Affairs, Box 1, Ambassador Kintner’s Study of U.S. Policy Interests in the Asian-Pacific Area)

Thomas J. Barnes of the National Security Council staff, who analyzed Kintner’s study before passing the summary on to Scowcroft, wrote that it was the “first comprehensive review of our Asian posture” since the collapse in 1975 of U.S. efforts to preserve non-Communist regimes in Indochina. Yet he observed, “While many of its judgments are sound, it reflects much of the traditional hard-line Kintner approach about the Soviet Union, which features more prominently than actual Soviet presence and influence in Asia would dictate.” (Memorandum from Barnes to Scowcroft, January 15, 1976; ibid.) Scowcroft initialed Barnes’ memorandum.