149. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • China Policy, Firebee Drones for the ROC


  • The Secretary
  • Under Secretary Philip C. Habib
  • Lawrence S. Eagleburger—M
  • Arthur W. HummelEA
  • Winston LordS/P
  • William H. Gleysteen, Jr.—EA
  • Richard A. EricsonPM
  • David G. Brown—EA/ROC (notetaker)
[Page 936]

The Secretary: Look, what I’m trying to prevent is the mindless operation of the bureaucracy. How is Peking supposed to understand $5 million in extra money for the ROC? Just because there’s some unused money available.

Habib: Now wait, they won’t even notice. It will just disappear into the Transition Quarter monies. It’s a small…

Secretary: It’s four-fifths of what you get for Indonesia after I’ve been beating you over the head.

Habib: Indonesia wants grants not credits. We’re trying to educate them that grants are out, only credits are possible. A cable has gone out to (Amb.) Newsom already.2

Secretary: Yes, if they’re crazy enough to buy weapons rather than tractors. Are you telling me that the figure of 2200 (US military on Taiwan) is what was there?

Habib: No, the figure was 2700 or so when you went. It’s…

Secretary: Can we make it?

Gleysteen: It will be hard, but we can…

Secretary: Are you saying that having told them 1400, we won’t make it?

Gleysteen: We will do it, once we get the order issued. We can’t operate on the basis of oral orders alone.

Secretary: What is so tricky about getting the order issued?

Gleysteen: The political sensitivity of the situation. Defense knows the order is coming. They’re planning, but have not yet…

Secretary: I must have naive ideas that if the President tells the Chinese something, then it will be done.

Habib: We’ve been pushing to get it…

Gleysteen: It’s clear it’s not going to be issued until after the Convention.

Habib: We’re not the ones who have violated the President’s word.3

Gleysteen: [less than 1 line not declassified] may help us achieve it, if we force the pace of those withdrawals into this year. We can make it, if we get the order issued in August.

Secretary: This is dangerous. If I were Carter, I would say that I favored these reductions and that the administration’s inaction on them showed its weakness and cynicism.

[Page 937]

Gleysteen: Yes, we have been overly cautious recently.

Eagleburger: Why not rush to move out the 700?

Secretary: I just have difficulty understanding why the instructions of the President and the Secretary only produce palaver in the bureaucracy.

Lord: Mr. Secretary, this is true, but we talked to Brent

Secretary: When was I told? I wouldn’t tolerate Brent sitting on such an order. I wasn’t aware …

Gleysteen: In April, or March, you signed off …

Secretary: I don’t accept the position that bureaus negotiate with Brent. You could get away with that with Rogers, but not with me.

Lord: I thought you understood, that you had discussed it with Rumsfeld and Brent.

Secretary: It is insanity to hold this up. It should have been done gradually, a hundred a month, no one would have noticed.

Gleysteen: That is just the point we made with Brent.

Lord: If you were not aware of this, we were delinquent.

Secretary: I naively believed it had been carried out. As nothing was mentioned to me, I thought we were below 2200.

Lord: We are delinquent…

Habib: You were informed…

Secretary: And I’m only raising hell for the fun of it.

Habib: I reminded…

Secretary: You didn’t mention it in a way that made any impression on me, you probably just said something about a…NSDM.4 By waiting, we have made this into a problem.

Gleysteen: I agree.

Habib: We just said that…

Secretary: It is one of the few things we have to show to the Chinese—our good faith. We must be meticulous.

Lord: We will make the deadline, and we lucked out on the publicity from the Quemoy–Matsu withdrawals.5

Secretary: I’m going to fire someone who tells me he’s working with Scowcroft. I told the Chinese in October that it would be done.

Habib: …and the President reaffirmed it, yes.

Eagleburger: Why does it need a NSDM?

[Page 938]

Secretary: I don’t know.

Gleysteen: I was very disturbed by involving others. I predicted it would involve delays.

Secretary: Since 1971, we’ve been making withdrawals. Have we had NSDM’s each time?

Gleysteen: Well, yes, basically.

Secretary: Now, don’t you assume that I will accept today the NSC procedures I established while I was over there.

Gleysteen: I’m not willing to go to Defense without…

Secretary: If you want my political judgment, I assume everything leaks, and you can bet this will leak out, too, after the Convention, when it’s issued. Carter can have it both ways; he’ll be for the withdrawals and criticize the President for lack of leadership.

Gleysteen: And also, today we got a cable from Taipei pointing out that Nessen’s remarks were at variance with our press guidance on withdrawals.6

Secretary: What did he say?

Gleysteen: He mentioned there would be no more withdrawals.

Secretary: When?

Gleysteen: During the Quemoy withdrawal.

Secretary: Was it brought to his attention?

Habib: Yes.

Secretary: Well, you better start bringing things to my attention. Our China policy is operating on a thread now. The Chinese are not used to the assumption that we are irresponsible. If Nessen said it, they believe it. They may discount his remarks as election politics. But the issue is that we have always kept our word.

Habib: There have been ongoing reductions.

Gleysteen: They think it is continuous…

Habib: It has been ongoing.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to the withdrawal of U.S. personnel from Taiwan.]

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, KissingerScowcroft West Wing Office Files, 1974–1977, Box 6, China Exchanges, unnumbered items (31), 7/12/76– 7/14/76. Top Secret. Drafted by Brown and approved in S on August 24. The meeting was held in Secretary Kissinger’s office.
  2. Not further identified.
  3. On December 4, 1975, President Ford told Vice Premier Deng that the United States had about 2,800 military personnel on Taiwan and planned “within the next year” to “reduce that by 50%, down to a figure roughly of 1,400.” see Document 137.
  4. The eventual NSDM, NSDM 339, is printed as Document 156.
  5. The Quemay-Matsu withdrawal refers to the June 1976 withdrawal of U.S. military advisors from the islands of Quemay and Matsu. “U.S. to Quit Quemay and Matsu,”Washington Post, June 24, 1976, p. A1.
  6. Telegram 4659 from Taipei, July 10. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)