20. Conversation Between President Nixon and his Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

Kissinger: The Chinese have agreed that you can announce—2

Nixon: Thursday?

Kissinger: Thursday. Now that we’ve told them that you’re going to do it, they’ve sort of [unclear]—

Nixon: Oh, sure. Well, I [unclear]—

Kissinger: I don’t think—if you don’t have a press conference it would make it too high if you just step out—we should tell them ahead of time—as long—

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: I did tell them that you would make the announcement.

Nixon: [unclear] Sure. We’ll work it out. They won’t notice the difference.

Kissinger: We’ve got a good play out of this Downey thing.3

Nixon: Yeah.

[Omitted here is a discussion of the Vietnamese ceasefire.]

Kissinger: My view is we have to make the Japanese inability to choose work for us. We should suck them into Siberia, we should suck them into Southeast Asia for the reason that the more they frighten others, the better it is for us vis-à-vis China.

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: Again, I wouldn’t say this publicly, but we must prevent the Japanese from tying up with any one other country. The great danger is that they’ll choose China, and that their resources and Chinese intelligence are going to do to us in Asia what the Common Market may do to us in Europe. That’s why it—one reason we must lean a little bit towards China wherever we can. On the other hand, we should tie the Japanese to us where we can, but one good guarantee—that’s [Page 226] why I am not against having the Japanese active in North Vietnam. If they’re active in North Vietnam, the Chinese get worried. If they’re active in Siberia, the Chinese get worried. If they’re active in China, the Russians get worried. It is in our interests to have the Japanese 10% overextended.

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: I know that’s a cynical approach but that way they are always a little bit off-balance. And since it is impossible to make conceptual deals with the Japanese. Now I think the deal we made with Mao and Chou is going to last for 3–5 years. We don’t have to maneuver the Chinese through every little device because they understand that. I don’t know whether you’ve signed these letters—4

Nixon: No. I want to put some writing on it. I’ll have them by [unclear].

[Omitted here is a brief discussion of the Soviet Union and North Vietnam.]

Nixon: China is bigger than ending the war. Russia [unclear] is bigger than ending the war. The war was going to end. It’s a question of how, and the war [unclear]. Now the China and Russia angle—even as big as those things are, we don’t look at those as ends in themselves, which many of the jackasses in the press think. They think it’s great we’ve gone to China, we’ve shaken hands and everything is going to be hunky-dory. It’s not going to be hunky-dory; it’s going to be tough titties. So now, now that we have come this far, the real game is how do you build on these great initiatives.

[Omitted here is a discussion of Nixon’s view of revolutionaries.]

Kissinger: I think, incidentally, Mr. President, that after the Russians are here I ought to go for two days to Peking to brief them.

Nixon: Oh, of course.

Kissinger: And on that occasion—

Nixon: I understand—

Kissinger: Tell Chou En-lai he should come here, and that then you come back.

Nixon: Where would he go? the UN?

Kissinger: He can come for the UN and then he comes and visits his liaison mission here.

Nixon: Will we give a dinner?

[Page 227]

Kissinger: Oh, yeah. I’m sure that’s what’s going to happen.

Nixon: Yeah, I think you should tell him that.

[Omitted here is a discussion of the timing of the upcoming Soviet summit.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Conversation No. 876–4. No classification marking. The editor transcribed the portions of the conversation printed here specifically for this volume. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon met with Kissinger in the Oval Office between 9:30 and 10:29 a.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files)
  2. Kissinger is most likely referring to China’s approval of the announcement that David Bruce would head the U.S. Liaison Office in Beijing. On March 15, President Nixon announced Bruce’s appointment as Chief of the U.S. Liaison Office. For text of the news conference, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1974, pp. 202–213.
  3. On March 12, China released John Downey. see footnote 2, Document 15.
  4. On March 8, Kissinger gave Nixon draft letters to Mao and Zhou, which Nixon had not yet approved or signed. The letters are printed as Documents 21 and 22.